1 Day in Venice

I have never been the biggest fan of Venice. I visited 2 years and a lot of problems with lodging, which just put a dark cloud on the whole trip. This visit was far better and enjoyable.  But I will say that Venice is worth adding to your Italy trip with a day. With one day, you can do the major sites.

Where We Stayed

Best Western Hotel Bologna

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This hotel is the perfect location. I found that it is easier and cheaper to stay outside of Venice. The room was clean and the staff was friendly. One thing that was nice is that they offer a car service pick up from the airport. It is around the same price as a taxi, (40 euro from Marco Polo). I decided to use this service because we got in around 2300 and I was worried about the buses running. The bus was still running when we landed. The money was worth it because it my mom feel special.

Getting into Venice

There are 2 ways to get into Venice, bus or train. For this trip I took Bus #2. The bus stop is right outside the train station. To buy your bus ticket, (which is only good for an hour) go to the local cafe. You can purchase a 24hour pass for €20 that covers the bus and water taxi. We ended up buying accident later on. If you only place to be in Venice for a day, just buy one ways, it’s cheaper. The bus will be packed in high season, so learn to be ok with being close to people. The bus ride was around 15-20 minutes. When you get off go to the waters edge and purchase a 1 hour pass. This will give you enough time to get to the center of the city, St. Marcos Square.

Grand Canal

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Rick Steve’s had a grand canal audio guide for the water taxi ride to the center. Make sure to listen to which taxi to take. You have to take the slower one to listen to the tour. The audio guide is worth listening to because it lets you know what you are looking at.

St. Marcos Square

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St. Marcos Square is the main attraction in Venice.

Ride on a Gondola

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It will cost you €80 but it may be worth it.  My mom loved every minute of it. There are gondola service centers where you wait forever to get on the boat. I recommend walking around the city streets. When you happen to find one, get on then. There’s no wait and you won’t be in the same herd of gondolas as every other tourist.

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I personally am not the biggest fan of Venice. The city does have not many locals. Most of the time tourists out number the locals. Venice does not have a heartbeat like other cities in Italy. Venice feels like a tourist trap in the making. But if you have never been to there, I feel that it is somewhere you have to go, for at least a day stop.

 

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4 Days In Amsterdam

We flew into Amsterdam via Orlando➡️Reykjavik➡️Amsterdam. We flew Iceland Air, which is my favorite airline to fly over to Europe. The prices are great, they have red-eyes, and their Iceland layover deal. You can have up to a 7 day layover in Iceland for free. After the layover,you continue on your journey. I did this last time I came to Europe for 2 days. I did not do it this time, but I recommend to everyone. Iceland is a beautiful, amazing country.

We landed at AMS around 1400. There are 3 ways to get into the city: bus, taxi, or train. I picked the train. If you are using a US credit card you will have to go up to the desk and get your train ticket. If you know your return date, buy it then as well to save time. The train ride to central station is around 15 mins.

Where we stayed

We stayed at the Flying Pig Uptown.

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For 3 nights it cost me €65. We are in a shared dorm room that sleeps 14. I have never stayed in a hostel before. Having the other people in the room didn’t bug me. The people that work here were very nice and welcoming. The price came with breakfast in the morning. Breakfast is just cereal, boiled eggs, juices, and bread. But that is enough to fill you up and get ready for the day. There is a bar and a smoking room to enjoy whatever you partake in. I would recommend this place if you want to be close to the museums and park, while also being on a budget.

Vondelpark

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This was our back yard for our stay. The park is a great place to go and have lunch or a snack after you go to the local market. I suggest afterwards walking around and looking for Picasso’s fish.

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Red Light District

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I can not recommend Rick Steve’s  guides for planning a trip Europe enough. He has a free audio of the red light district. While yes there are hookers and weed all around, there is a beautiful church in the center of it all.

Rijksmuseum

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Rijksmuseum is dedicated to Dutch art and history. I recommend buying your tickets online before you go. This way you can skip the line Tickets are 17.50 euro. Do not pay the audio guide. Download the free Rijksmuseum app. It is the same thing as the audio guide they are selling and does not cost you a penny. The app does need Wifi, but luckily the museum offers free Wifi.

The famous “NightWatch” by Rembrandt is located here. And of course, like any-other 20-something, I took a selfie in front of it.

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If you walk around the entire museum, plan to do this all day. It took my mom and I around 4 hours.

Van Gogh Museum

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The museum is located at the museum square, close to the Rijksmuseum. It is best if you purchase your ticket in advance online. It will give you a time that you can go in and skip the line. Tickets are 22 euro with the multimedia guide. I recommend getting the guide. There are no pictures allowed in the museum. If they see you taking one they will ask you to stop and delete the picture. Starry night is not located here, but my favorite painting is:

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Van Gogh always painted multiple version on his painting. The one above is the version  the museum has in its collection. The museum gives you a better appreciation for the troubled artist. Allow 2 hours for this museum. FUN FACT: they are open late on Friday nights and have drinks available for a cocktail hour.

Walking around Amsterdam

One of the best things you can do for yourself in Europe is download the Rick Steve’s Auto Tour. They are free. There are 3 guided walking tours for Amsterdam. It’s a great way to walk around the city and not get lost. We did the City Walk, which starts in Dam Square. The tour ended near the flower market. Holland is knew for its tulips. Tulips are in season mid-March to the end of May

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Make sure to try to herring. My mom did not like it very much, but I did not find it that bad. The dutch way to eat it is by holding the fish by its tail, dipping it in onions and letting the slippery raw fish then slide into your mouth.

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Canal Tour

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At first I was worried this would be super cheesy, and some of the jokes were, but that being said you have to see the city from a boat. I picked Blue Canal Company. The pick up site is right outside Vondelpark, near the Hard Rock. The tour is 75 mins with an audio guide that is available in 21 languages. For 14 euro, I got what I wanted, to see the city by boat. I also learned a couple things along the way. Plus my mom loved it, which made it worth every penny.

 

Windmills (Zaanse Schans)

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When you think of Holland, you think of tulips and windmills. I could not leave Amsterdam without having my mom see this. While this place is a tourist trap, it is worth seeing. To get here you will need to take the train. The easiest way to do this is to go up to the ticket office and say, “I would like to see the windmill.” They will understand where you are trying to go. Go to the platform that says it is going to “Urgeest”. The stop you will get off at is “Koog Zaadijk”. It is around a 15 minute ride. When you get off the train, follow the yellow brick road then you walk till you see a fork in the road, turn left. After a couple minutes you will see a windmill and know you have arrived. You will then cross the bridge on the right. Make use to take picture on the bridge. It has a great view of all the windmills.

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After  you cross, on the left will you the little village with green houses. There are little shops that sell little thing. The two places to go are the cheese shop and the show making. The cheese shop has free sample and so many different kinds of cheese that if you have one of each it will full you up for lunch.

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Every hour there is a demo on how they make the traditional dutch shoe. It is actually pretty simple and only takes 5 minutes. Its worth it to wait for the demo before heading back to Amsterdam.

 

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Amsterdam was amazing as always. There’s a reason I end up always coming back here. It’s more the the hookers and pot that everyone thinks of. It’s a city full of history and life. My mom fell in love with Amsterdam and said she’d retire here if she could. Amsterdam you have our hearts, till we meet again.