City Den Museum Square: Wonderful, Family-Friendly Appartments In Amsterdam

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

We had a stupidly difficult time finding an accommodation that allowed children under the age of 12 (!???) in The Netherlands. Amsterdam was particularly challenging. What's up with that?

After looking at what felt like every Airbnb in Amsterdam and many hotels on Booking, we came across City Den*. This was perfect for us as they had options for booking with children and it was an apartment with a kitchen, which is what we prefer for longer stays.

 Easy check-in


Check-in with City Den was really simple. We called right when we arrived at the clearly marked apartment building (we could have called before, but wanted to find it first), and a staff member arrived about 5 minutes later on bike. The staff member showed us into the apartment, explained how to use everything, and pointed out some key places on a map. The crib wasn't set up before our arrival, but he did have it available for us. He was incredibly nice and check-in was really fast and easy. The only thing we had to do for check-out was to leave our key cards on the table.

Comfortable apartment


We booked the two floor "Luxury studio with one bedroom," which was large enough for our family of three. The upstairs included the kitchen, dining table, a tv, couch, and a bathroom. Although small, I really liked the kitchen and almost felt spoiled because it had several amenities that our kitchen at home doesn't have (a dishwasher and four burner stove top). There was also an espresso maker with four coffee pods, several tea bags, and sugar cubes provided for our use.

The bathroom was small but nice, with a shower, toilet, and sink. I do think it would have been helpful to have a few hooks to hang up wet towels.
The bedroom was downstairs and was decently large. I found the bed to be comfortable and I appreciated the reading lights (though only one could be used at a time because of outlets). There was also a small desk with a chair and a TV mounted on the wall across from the bed. We put the crib inside the entrance of the bedroom.

Additionally, this apartment had private access to a small courtyard, which I think would have been wonderful in the summer. A washing machine was located in a cupboard in the courtyard.

Other details


The Wi-Fi signal was strong throughout our apartment and the Wi-Fi was fast. While we couldn't hear noise from outside the apartment, the walls were a bit thin, so you could hear people coming and going in the hallway.

The Studio with one bedroom apartment cost 118 euros per night.

Why is this a perfect family accommodation in Amsterdam?

Now that I have a toddler, I feel like I'm constantly in search of playgrounds -- especially when we travel. I found three playgrounds within short distance of City Den Museum Square. The first playground was just steps out of our front door, which was wonderfully convenient. We also found a nice playground in Museum Square, which is about a 5 minute walk away (pushing a stroller), and the giant Vondel Park, with its huge kid's section, was about a 15 minute walk away.

In addition, as new parents we wake up EARLY. Perhaps this isn't true of everyone, but our little one is up and ready to go at 6 am. Sometimes we have to spend hours in our accommodation before anything opens, which really stinks. There were two cafe/bakeries that opened early (I'm talking 7 am early), so we could actually get out of the apartment and have second breakfast (we can't make it that long without breakfast ;P), so we could get out pretty early if we needed.

You can find out more about City Den apartments here*.

Amsterdam City Guide: What to do with 3 days in Amsterdam

Monday, December 19, 2016

Our first 3/4 of our Netherlands trip was spent exploring Rotterdam, followed by a quick three days in Amsterdam. First off, let me say that Amsterdam was AMAZING and I can absolutely see why it is such a popular tourist destination and a desired place to live. I wish that we could have stayed in Amsterdam for longer than we did, but the price of accommodations made us decide to spend longer in Rotterdam than Amsterdam.

My trips tend to be a bit on the relaxed side with tons of sightseeing and museum visits combined with leisurely strolls and window shopping. I don't like to make specific daily plans, rather I like to create mini city guides or lists of things I hope to do or see on the trip and tick them off depending on how we feel and the weather. For example, on one day we got coffee and breakfast at a cafe near our accommodation, then went to the iAmsterdam sign and walked through the weekend market in Museum Square. After that, we went to the Van Gogh Museum, strolled through Vondelpark, and picked up takeaway from Martinot (Italian food) and cake from Arnold Cornelis Patisserie. It was a relaxed, but very fun day filled with sightseeing and great food! So, find my tips and suggestions for things to do in Amsterdam for a relaxed three day trip.

First, let's look at a few photos of Amsterdam's canals ...

What to Do and See

Vondelpark: Vondelpark is Amsterdam's most popular park and is conveniently centrally located, making it a great place to visit. We strolled through Vondelpark for a couple of hours and found the wonderful children's section, which had several playgrounds, a cafe, and an activity center. Hours of entertainment for free!

Van Gogh Museum: When you visit Amsterdam, you have to go to the Van Gogh Museum. The collection of Gogh's art, letters, and personal items was impressive. I also loved seeing the art that inspired Gogh or artists who were inspired by him. If you are visiting with kids, be sure to stop on the 1st floor (not the ground floor) near the gift shop and bathroom area. There are recreations of Van Gogh's most famous works that you can touch! My toddler absolutely loved this!

Another thing to note about the Van Gogh Museum is that strollers are allowed, so you'll be able to keep your child in their stroller throughout the visit. We purchased our tickets at the external museum shop and ticket booth near the iAmsterdam sign because the line was a bit quicker. 

Foam Museum: If you are interested in modern art, Foam Museum gets some pretty cool rotating exhibits. We visited the Foam Museum to see the

Nine Streets: The Nine Streets is a set of three parallel canal streets. The Nine Streets area was one of my favorite places in Amsterdam to wander around. The streets were filled with little shops and cafes, and the canals were beautiful in this area. 

De Pijp: When in the de Pijp neighborhood, do yourself a favor and pick up the beautifully illustrated free map called Undiscovered Pearls of de Pijp. I picked up my copy in Kolifleur (see below) and used it to check out the shops and eateries. There was a ton of construction in de Pijp, so it made it difficult to find the Albert Cuyp Market stalls.

Anne Frank House: I really wanted to visit the Anne Frank House, but unfortunately I tried to buy tickets too late. Don't make my mistake and buy tickets early online!

Museum Park: If you visit the Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmuseum, you'll certainly stroll through the wonderful Museum Park. Here you'll find the iAmsterdam sign, a small playground, and a wonderful weekend market with food and antiques.

Where to Eat

Stef's Bakery: Stef's Bakery had AWESOME double chocolate cookies. I'd absolutely recommend a stop here for a delicious baked good to fuel wanders through the canals and winding streets. You can find Stef's Bakery on Nieuwe Spiegel Straat 62 B

Bakers & Roasters: This New Zealand cafe and brunch spot that we stumbled across in de Pijp was packed! J popped in for a coffee and cake, and I must say that both were very tasty. I'd suggest planning ahead and adding Bakers & Roasters to your itinerary for a big brunch before wandering around de Pijp. You can find Bakers & Roasters at Eerste Jacob van Campenstraat 54. See their menu on their website.

Martinot: Martinot is an Italian restaurant with reasonably decent prices as far as Amsterdam goes. We ordered a margherita pizza and a plate of sweet potato gnocchi to share and everything was delicious. The total price for our meal was 23 euros. You can find Martinot on Moreelsestraat 3.

Frnzy: This Vietnamese street food restaurant was a cool stop in the De Pijp neighborhood. We ordered bahn mi and bun and both were really delicious. Keep in mind that this restaurant was hopping during our meal, so if you really want to eat here, you may be in for a bit of a wait. You can find Frnzy on Eerste Jacob van Campenstraat 27 and follow them on Instagram at @frnzyamsterdam.

Arnold Cornelis Patisserie: This patisserie was located right near our accommodation (City Den; review coming soon) and sold incredible cakes and pastries. We ended up purchasing a hazelnut cake and a caramel cake. Yum! You can find Arnold Cornelis at Van Baerlestraat 93.

Corner Bakery: Corner Bakery was also conveniently located near our accommodation and had simple breakfasts and great coffee. The interior was really cute and the staff were really friendly. You can find Corner Bakery on Johannes Vermeerstraat 40.


Where to Shop

Carre D'artistes: This art store's motto is "Art is for Everyone!" and their prices and huge selection certainly reflect this belief. I strongly believe in supporting local businesses and artists both while traveling and at home, so I make it a priority to visit art stores and small designers while traveling. Though I have a very limited budget, my favorite souvenir from any destination (and from home!) is an original work of art. On this trip to Amsterdam, J and I stumbled upon Carre D'artistes, which is an affordable art studio selling works from artists around the world. They also have an online store with a HUGE selection of original works that I find very tempting indeed. If you'd like to support an artists and purchase works from Carre D'artistes, stop by one of their four stores in The Netherlands or check out their website.

Tinkerbell: This 25 year old toy store located on Spiegelgracht 10, has a huge selection of cool toys for babies through to school aged children. Learn more on their website.

Kolifleur: This cozy store located in De Pijp neighborhood sold women's clothing, shoes, and accessories, but what really caught my eye was their unique pottery. I especially liked the pieces by Studio Ineke van der Werff. Kolifleur is open Tuesdays through Saturdays 11-7 pm and Sundays from 1-5 pm. Check their website for more details.

Blender Kids Concept Store: We kept missing the opening hours of this store and cafe, but it looked awesome! At Blender, you can find cool toys, children's clothes, and play area/cafe for families. You can find Blender at Ruysdaelstraat 11I.

Other Tips

Getting to Amsterdam: Getting to Amsterdam from the airport or train station is simple due to the wonderful public transportation. Just keep in mind that if you have an early flight out of Amsterdam, you'll likely need to call a cab to take you to the airport. Note that cabs in Amsterdam do not have car seats for children.

We stayed at the CityDen apartments near Museum Park and it was wonderful! I'll have a review coming soon, so check back if you want to learn more :)

Have you been to Amsterdam? What did you love doing there? What else would you add?

Photo Diary From Vilnius, Lithuania's 2016 Christmas Market

Friday, December 16, 2016

The winter in Vilnius is dark and cold, so when Christmas time comes around, the lights really help to brighten up the city. This year, the Christmas market in Cathedral Square is surprisingly beautiful, easily the nicest one that I've seen. The stores in the market feature gifts and food such as bubble waffles, dried meats, Dutch pancakes, and more. 

It is great go go for a stroll through the market after dark (3:30 pm!) for a great view of the lights strung up from the tree to the market stalls. It really looks great!

In 2016, the Christmas festivities in Vilnius run until December 29th, so you still have a bit of time to plan your visit! 

Take a look at the Christmas markets from 2014.

What is your local Christmas market like? Does it change year to year?

I'm linking up with #farawayfiles number 11 with Suitcases and Sandcastles

Tallinn's Medieval Christmas Market

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

During our first year living in Vilnius, J and I hopped a bus to Riga to wander the Christmas market. Each year we've had the pleasure of enjoying the Christmas markets and festivities in Vilnius, and this year, our last year in Vilnius, I really wanted to experience Tallinn's Christmas market. Tallinn is possibly my favorite capital city of the Baltics, and I knew their Christmas market would be special.

Unfortunately, I caught the nasty stomach bug that had been going around (or food poisoning?) and only got to see the market on the first evening when we arrived! I'm still SO bummed about it. Nonetheless, what I did see was magical, so you should really add Tallinn's Christmas market to your Christmas travel itinerary for next year -- I certainly know that I need a revisit.

In Tallinn's old town square, you'll see a massive, real tree, sparkling Christmas lights, and numerous stalls selling mulled wine and gifts. It really was a beautiful market. Because I didn't get to see a ton of it, J's given me a tip to share with you. He said to skip purchasing ornaments from the Christmas market and instead, head to one of the surrounding ethnographic stores to purchase something slightly more unique.

Tallinn, Estonia's 2016 Christmas market

Tallinn, Estonia's 2016 Christmas market in old town

This year, Tallinn's Christmas market runs until January 7, so you have plenty of time to plan your visit. If you are looking for a nice hotel near Tallinn's old town, I really like the affordable Tallink Express Hotel*, which is near the port and about a 5 minute walk to the old town. You can read a review of my stay and see photos of the room here. During this specific trip, I stayed in St. Olav Hotel*, which is located directly in Tallinn's old town. The location is convenient and the hotel is nice, but keep in mind that the property doesn't have an elevator.

Have you ever gotten sick while traveling? What is your favorite Christmas market in Europe?

I'm linking up with #citytripping number 57 with Wander Mum and Mummy Travels.

Community Discussion: What To Do With Car Seats?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Hello everyone. Today I wanted to have a little discussion because, honestly, I'm stumped. What do you do about a car seat while traveling?

Let me give you some background...

When Baby ISO was younger, he had a car seat that attached to his stroller, so this was no problem until he outgrew this attachment. Over the summer, we switched to a "big boy" car seat (Diono), but it is so large and heavy that it is an incredible hassle to bring with us when we travel. Here are some scenarios we've faced:

  • We ordered a cab with a car seat in Vilnius to take us to the airport for our trip to The Netherlands. Unfortunately, the car arrived without a seat, so we grabbed ours and ended up storing it at the airport for 50 euros. We figured we wouldn't need it in The Netherlands because of the great public transportation. This was almost true until our early flight back to Vilnius from Amsterdam, as we had to leave before the trams started running. So, we took a cab without a car seat (no cabs had car seats), and arrived fine, but I was panicking the entire way.

  • We lugged our car seat with us to Tallinn to find that almost all cabs in Tallinn have car seats (but we needed one for our transport in Vilnius). 

My big complaint is WHY don't cabs have car seats available. It is unsafe and against the law to drive without a child in a car seat in most countries -- except for in cabs.

This leads me to the question, what do you do when traveling? Do you lug a car seat along or do you leave it at home? Do you have some sort of magical car seat carrier that makes it less cumbersome to transport to your accommodation?

I would really appreciate if you'd share what you do in the comments --> help a traveling mom out, I really need the advice!

My Favorite Travel Items

Monday, December 5, 2016

9 travel essentials for traveling with a child

J, Baby ISO, and I travel a fair amount. With all of this traveling, I've certainly had my fair share of mishaps -- luggage wheels breaking, packing incidents, lost luggage, and electric outlet sparks. However, these troubles have been becoming less and less frequent because I've found my favorite travel items, or shall we say my new travel essentials.

I also realize it is Christmas list and shopping time, but I didn't feel like doing a traditional shopping list as everyone is so different to buy for. I thought that this list of my essentials could act in the stead of the Christmas list and hopefully help you to avoid packing mishaps.

Le Sportsac Luggage*: I've taken my Le Sportsac luggage to nearly 30 countries now, and it is still in perfect condition. I'd highly recommend their luggage for durability and ease to find on the luggage conveyor.

Eagle Creek Pack It Cube Set*: Eagle Creek packing cubes and envelopes are awesome! The packing envelope keeps all of your nicer looking clothes carefully folded, while the cubes are great for keeping smaller items like baby clothes. I'm currently thinking about buying two additional medium sized cubes are currently on my shopping list. I think they would be great to keep Baby ISO's clothes organized and separate from my own.

Stroller: If you have a young child, I'm sure that strollers are also a travel essential for you. We have a Baby Trend stroller, but I wouldn't say I recommend it, because pieces broke off shortly after we purchased it; however, it is great in the snow and on cobblestones. What stroller do you have?

BOB Weather Shield for Strollers: Though I wouldn't necessarily recommend our stroller, I would recommend the weather shield we use. It is slightly too short for our huge Baby Trend, but it does fit, and is excellent at keeping Baby ISO dry during even the worst weather. Though Bob products are really expensive, being able to be outside in bad weather is pretty essential for us since we mostly get around on foot (and it rains/snows a lot in the Baltics). I'd like to also note that we did try a cheaper weather shield (it was only 5 euros), but it wasn't secure and it broke soon after we purchased it. All in all, I'd say that spending the extra money on the Bob Weather Shield was really worth it.

Car Seat: The thing I do love about our Baby Trend stroller is that the car seat attached to the stroller, which made it great for traveling. Now that Baby ISO is too big for the infant car seat, we use one by Diono, but it is very heavy and bulky (and also the safest on the market), making it difficult to travel with. I'm actually still trying to figure the car seat + traveling situation out.

Skip Hop Portable Changing Station*: Clearly, this didn't become an essential until having a baby. I've found that the vast majority of restaurants and cafes don't have changing tables and instead of putting Baby ISO on the gross bathroom floor, I just open up this changing pad. I honestly don't go anywhere without it.

Travel Adapter, Worldwide*: Don't be caught with drained batteries because you forgot to pack an adapter -- or even worse -- pack a not universal adapter and travel to somewhere it doesn't work! This universal travel adapter (I have it in white) is seriously awesome. Mine is always connected to my laptop plug.

Headlamp*: This one might sound funny, but stay with me here. Head lamps make my list of favorites because they are essential for adventure travel, but also really helpful when moving around a dark accommodation while trying not to wake up Baby ISO. They are also small and easy to pack. I use one of J's head lamps.

Umbrella: During my time spent living in China, I got in the habit of carrying an umbrella everywhere. This was a good habit since it rains and snows a lot in Vilnius. Now, I just throw an umbrella in my bag or luggage every time we travel, just in case.

If you want to read more about my travel favorites, check out this post from 2014, which I wrote while preparing for a honeymoon in China. What are your travel essentials and favorite items to pack?