With the four-day Easter weekend looming, we were trying to decide on a city to visit. “There’s a sleeper train to Amsterdam!” the Snook offered. That settled it. Amsterdam had long been on our list of cities to visit (I have a bucket list goal of hitting every one mentioned in Paul Kelly’s ode to Aussies in Europe), and I’ve always wanted to ride in a sleeper train. Time to visit the Netherlands!


The train – and I am not kidding – is the NightJet NJ420 from Innsbruck to Amsterdam. It has normal carriage cars, and then a couple in the middle that are the sleepers (“Schlafwagens”).


We were greeted by a porter who led us down a very narrow hallway to our cabin.

Our cabin

It was about 10:30pm when we boarded the train in Munich, so the porter had already set it up for sleeping. There were two bunks, but theoretically there’s a third one that can fold down if needed.

Picking our breakfast options

Can you tell how excited I am? The first thing we needed to do was select our options for breakfast in the morning and give the bits of paper to the porter.


There is a tiny sink crammed into the corner where you could clean your teeth, but the bathroom was a shared one down the carriage. (Unfortunately there was a problem with the water on this journey, so the sink wasn’t working.)


The train pulled out of Munich, and we kicked off our shoes to relax a bit. There was a bag on each bunk with slippers, a bottle of water, a snack, and some sparkling wine. The Snook had also cleverly brought a couple mini bottles of Schnapps…


Prost! We eventually decided it was time to go to sleep. I claimed the bottom bunk so the Snook clambered up the ladder to his berth.


In terms of sleeping comfort, the bunks were just long enough that I could stretch out (I’m 5’10”, 178cm) but anybody taller would be a little cramped. The mattresses weren’t super thick, but for me the bigger issue was the pillows were very, very thin. Still, I did eventually fall asleep. The train does make a few stops during the night and the carriages aren’t soundproof, but I had my headphones playing white noise and it didn’t bother me. The biggest challenge was that since we were lying perpendicular to the train’s movement, whenever it would brake or accelerate you’d feel it. (That’s why the upper bunk has a net, to keep the Snook from rolling right out onto the floor!) Still, the sleeper was nicer than I expected and I definitely got more sleep than I ever have on a long haul flight.


In the morning we opened the window to find ourselves rolling through the Dutch countryside. The porter came by to help us fold up the beds and fold down a table for our breakfast.

We pulled into Amsterdam at 10:30am, blinking in the sunlight and still wearing yesterday’s clothes. Time to find our hotel…

Amsterdam Hbf

We had left the booking until pretty late so the only place we could get a room was the fancy Marriott W. It wasn’t too far so we had a 15min walk through Amsterdam to get there. It’s actually two buildings across the street from each other, and we were in the “Exchange” building. Reception is up at the roof level, and there’s a pretty spectacular view from the terrace.

Royal Palace

The building on the right there is the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, and the brick one on the left is the Magna Plaza, formerly the main post office of Amsterdam and now a shopping mall.


That’s the view up Raadhuisstraat, which crosses several canals. You can see the Westerkerk church spire in the distance.

On the roof terrace

Our room wasn’t ready yet so we made our plans to explore the city. We decided to skip the museums and cannabis cafes on this trip, instead spending as much time as possible outside in the glorious Spring weather.

Royal Palace

The Royal Palace from ground level. It was originally built as the Town Hall of Amsterdam but was converted into a palace in the 19th century. It’s where Queen Beatrix was announced to the Dutch people in 1980.

Dam Square

Here’s the Snook in Dam Square, one of the most well-known spots in the city. That’s the National Monument in the distance.

Beurs van Berlage

This is the Beurs van Berlage building, which the Snook really liked. I think it was the clock.

Oude Kerk

This is the Oude Kerk (“Old Church”), Amsterdam’s oldest building. Rembrandt was a frequent visitor to the Oude Kerk and his children were all christened here.


Canal!! This is the view from the Oudekerksbrug (“Old Church Bridge”).

More canal!

This is looking north towards the Basilica of Saint Nicholas, the city’s primary Catholic Church.


I was entranced by the canals of Amsterdam. There are more than 100km of them (62mi), with 1500 bridges in the city.

Cheese at the market

You know what else I was entranced by? CHEESE.

View from Blauwbrug

This is actually the Amstel river as seen from the Blauwbrug (“Blue Bridge”). There are a LOT of houseboats in Amsterdam. There were also a lot of river cruises going up and down the river and canals too.

Van Holland Stroopwafels

We walked up the Kalverstraat, Amsterdam’s main shopping street. (Fun trivia: it’s the most expensive property on Dutch Monopoly!) There was a queue out the door at Van Holland Stroopwafels, and we made a mental note to come back later for treats.

Lego Store

The LEGO Store had a massive working windmill in the window!

More canals

More canal action! Everybody was out enjoying the Easter weekend Spring weather.


Get ready – you’re going to see a lot of tulips! There were blooming planters all over the city.

After lunch, we headed back to our hotel for a nap and shower. Then it was time to go out and meet my Amazonian colleague Anshu!

Us and Anshu

Anshu moved from Melbourne last year, so he volunteered to show us around Amsterdam. The first place he took us was Wynand Fockink, a distillery tasting room straight out of the 17th century.

We stood in the crowd and waited our turn to get to the front. They had more than 50 different liqueurs, including jenever (the Dutch precursor to gin). The attendant explained all about jenever to us and gave us a taste, and then we picked out a couple brandies to try. (I went with cherry; the Snook with sloe.) The tiny glasses are filled right up to the brim, and you’re meant to bow down to slurp the first sip out of them. Fun!


Our next stop was a Dutch craft beer bar called the Arendsnest, along one of the canals. We sat outside and enjoyed some excellent brews as the sun got lower in the sky.


Our final stop of the night was Bierfabriek Amsterdam, a brewery and restaurant right in the city. It was crowded by they found us a table tucked in the corner. Their specialty is “rustic slow roasted French farm chicken,” and who could resist that?

We said our goodbyes to Anshu and headed back to the hotel to rest up ahead of a very big Easter Sunday…

When we were planning the trip, I’d been worried that everything would be shut for Easter weekend. After all, in Australia pretty much everything is closed from Friday to Monday. We learned though that Amsterdam would most definitely not be closed, as it’s one of the busiest times of the year for the tourists. You’ll see why…

Brekkie at Cocotte

For brekkie, we headed a few blocks from our hotel to Cocotte, a little French creperie. It did not disappoint!

Bus to Lisse

Our destination for the day was Lisse, a town about 30km southwest of Amsterdam in the middle of the tulip-growing region. The main attraction there is Keukenhof, a fabulous garden where they plant 7million bulbs every year. It’s only open during the blooming season, and tickets for Easter were sold out far in advance. I had found an alternative though, so we hopped on the bus to the Keukenhof… and promptly found ourselves stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic as everyone in the Netherlands had the same idea.

Tulip Bicycle Tour

Thankfully we made it to our destination only 5 minutes late. I had booked us on the Tulip Bicycle Tour, run by the wonderful Irene and her husband. It leaves from a hotel not far from the Keukenhof, and we joined the other participants to test out our bikes and learn about the region.

Mr. Snook

Our bikes were traditional Dutch “omafiets” (Grandma bikes) with a 3-speed hub gear. They were pretty sturdy, but it was no issue as – guess what – we were not going to be climbing any hills today. 😃


Our group headed towards the center of Lisse proper, and we stopped in the plaza to learn about tulip mania. (Crypto and NFT fans would do well to learn from history.) We also learned that all the fields we would see today are not sown for the flowers themselves, but for the bulbs which are sold at the end of the season. Irene also told us that there are tulips in pretty much every colour “except black” – they’ve not yet managed to cultivate a truly black tulip.

Ukraine mosaic

Every year Lisse hosts a “flower mosaic exhibition” as part of the annual Tulip Festival, and happily we were there during the very short window when the mosaics were out. We saw several over the course of the day, but I particularly liked this one in support of Ukraine.

St. Agatha Church

Our next stop was St. Agatha Church, the “Cathedral of the Bulb Region.” Irene pointed out that the pinnacle of the tower even has a tulip bulb at the top! We parked our bikes and went inside for a look.

St. Agatha Church

Lovely! I do like the combination of the bricks with the Gothic arches.

Mr. Snook and the ceiling

Here’s Mr. Snook taking a selfie with that amazing ceiling.

A few more photos of the church…

This was the point when I finally remembered to turn on my Strava tracking. You can see here the whole route we took, with the obvious missing section between the start and end points.


We pootled down the back roads of Lisse, where there were few cars but lots of cyclists. The first field we stopped at was this one, full of butter-yellow daffodils.

Daffodil field

You can see how sandy the soil in the area is, which is why it’s particularly good for growing bulbs.

Mr. Snook

Our guide Irene told us all that the farmers were tolerant of the tourists, but we were not supposed to go out into the fields (where we might trample the flowers or hurt the bulbs). So we contented ourselves with photos from the sidelines.

Mr. Snook

The Snook enjoys taking close-ups of flowers and insects.


And there’s his photo!

Hyacinth field

Our next field was full of pink, white, and purple hyacinths. In the distance you can see a child whose parent let them run out into the flowers. Naughty child! There were signs up everywhere to stay out of the fields, and our tour guide had to tell several clueless Instagrammers to get back to the edges.


Thought we looked cute here.

Selfie, and taking of the selfie…


Close up of the hyacinths. The smell was amazing.

De Tulperij

Time for refreshment! We stopped at De Tulperij, a flower farm with a show garden and cafe. We wandered up and down the rows, checking out all the different tulips and other blooms.

In the Spring it’s all tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths, but apparently in the Autumn the dahlias take over. That would be nice to see.

View across the fields

A view across the fields.


Trying out some wooden clogs… 😂


We grabbed a coffee, stroopwafel, and spice cake in the cafe.

Bulbs for sale

De Tulperij also sells the bulbs, though in Spring there aren’t many available. If you see flowers you like, you can pre-order the bulbs and they’ll mail them to you at the end of the season.


The next field was full of classic red and yellow tulips.


You’ve never seen such colours in your life.


It’s intense.


I remember riding down those roads with my best friend on a perfect day, surrounded by fields of glorious colour, complete with wooden windmills turning in the distance, and feeling incredibly lucky. I’ll never forget it.

Castle Keukenhof

Our final stop on the tour was Castle Keukenhof, a country house from the Dutch Golden Age.

Castle Keukenhof

Then we had a final ride back to our starting point, where we said goodbye to the tour group. I can’t recommend Tulip Bicycle Tours highly enough. Irene told us that they had launched the business right before Covid, so 2022 was the first year they had proper tourist groups. She and her husband were friendly and knowledgeable, and I wasn’t even sorry that we couldn’t get into the proper Keukenhof Gardens. If you are in the area in the Springtime, you should definitely look them up.


We headed back to the Keukenhof to catch our bus back to the city. There were still crowds, though it wasn’t nearly as busy as it had been earlier in the day.


This is what it’s all about! 🌷

Brouwerij ‘t IJ

Back in the city, we headed for Brouwerij ‘t IJ. This taproom is located right next to Amsterdam’s largest windmill! We found seats at the bar and sampled a couple beers along with some local farmhouse cheese.

Snook on the water

We ended our day with a long walk back through the hotel along the canals and through the red-light district.

I didn’t take any photos in the red-light district. It was SO PACKED, and while I support the rights of sex workers, I was stunned to see families walking through with their kids next to packs of roving Euro-bros pointing at the prostitutes in the windows. This ain’t Disneyland. 😳

The next day, we weren’t flying home to Munich until the evening so we had plenty of time to explore Amsterdam some more.

Wonky houses

I had heard that there were crooked houses in Amsterdam, but I was still surprised by just how wonky some of them are. Some lean forward into the street, while others list to the side. Turns out there are lots of reasons.


After breakfast we headed to the Vondelpark, a big urban park to the southwest of the city center. I didn’t take many photos there, but we enjoyed soaking up the sunshine.

Canal tour

Then it was time for our main activity of the day – a canal tour! Rather than go with one of the big groups, we had booked tickets with Those Dam Boat Guys. Our guide was knowledgeable and laid-back, and we spent a couple hours going up and down the many waterways of Amsterdam, checking out more wonky houses and houseboats.

I’m not going to try to caption all of those, but you get the idea. Here’s a special one…

Singel 166

Behind me there is Singel 166, one of the narrowest houses in Amsterdam. It’s the red one with two windows stacked vertically. However, it’s only the entrance that is narrow (1.80m wide). It’s actually a triangle, and at the back it’s 5m wide.

After the boat ride, we headed back to the hotel to pick up our bags. Along the way we did a little shopping… and made our long-awaited stop at Van Holland Stroopwafels. 😍

There was no queue today, so we chatted to the gentleman as he made my Stroopwafel. After ladelling batter into the iron and cooking a large, thin waffle, he split it in half and filled it with caramel. Then he sandwiched it back together and covered it with my choice of chocolate and hazelnuts.


It was warm and crispy and gooey and delicious.


And with that, we grabbed our bags and headed to the airport to fly home. Perfect ending to a perfect weekend!