Nothing goes as planned when you travel during a pandemic- yes that’s our story! That’s how my husband and I ended up spending 3 months in Amsterdam when the Indian government banned all international flights to India, while we were on our honeymoon in Europe. Due to the COVID restrictions, we were unable to check out the popular touristy spots of central Amsterdam or visit the popular museums, but ended up living like a local in a residential locality in Amsterdam Zuid (South). Here’s more about my experience and observations about living in Amsterdam.
Response to COVID pandemic
When we first arrived in Amsterdam in the month of March, we had heard about the devastation caused by COVID-19 in Italy & France and the growing number of cases all across Europe. With no clarity on the return date to India, we were scared for our health and sustaining our finances. But in contrast to other European countries where people were virtually housebound, the Dutch government merely advised people to stay home and keep 1.5m of social distance. The citizens were free to go out whenever they wanted, provided they followed the preventive measures. Even when the world was falling apart, the Dutch were pretty chill. People were often seen running and cycling around, while maintaining social distancing, even during the peak of pandemic in Europe. Businesses adapted to the new normal and the supermarkets ensured that people sanitized their hands and carried a cart to maintain the distance. The people in general were very cooperative and probably this could be one of the main reasons why the “intelligent lockdown” worked really well for the Netherlands.
City infrastructure- promoting healthy living
One thing I loved about living in Amsterdam (or Netherlands in general) is how the city is equipped with an elaborate network of cycle lanes and footpaths. Bicycles are the most popular mode of transport even among the elderly. No wonder why the Dutch looked so fit. Yes, we barely saw anyone who was obese during our stay. Needless to say, cycling is the most environment-friendly way to get around.
Not just that, the overall city infrastructure revolves around making healthier & greener living spaces for the people. Apart from cycling lanes, there were multiple paths where the running routes were marked within every 400m with signs on the streets. We often found people running on the sidewalks especially in the residential parts of the city. The availability of this infrastructure ensures that people take health & fitness very seriously.
The picturesque canals & parks
The famous dutch canals that we see in pictures are definitely worth all the hype. Initially canals were built as passages to drain out water into the sea and reclaim the wetlands for human settlement but today they are the center of attraction, making the city look so scenic. Even in residential areas, we often found people hanging around & socializing near these canals. On sunny days, people would gather around near the canals, with their bottles of wine and spend hours chilling there. As the pandemic slowed down in the Netherlands, these sights became even more common and we often saw canals and parks become crowded during sunny afternoons.
Speaking of parks, the city boasts of over 30 huge parks with trees, ponds and flowers, perfect for someone who loves nature and green surroundings. We went to the two popular ones- Vondelpark (Central Amsterdam) & Amstelpark (South Amsterdam) and it was a delight to see the beautiful flowers in full bloom. We also up-skilled and tried our hands at macro photography and captured some wonderful shots.
Also check out – Best parks in Amsterdam
Sunny spring season is the best time to be in Amsterdam due to the favorable weather. The Dutch seemed to be very outdoor loving, in general. When it was sunny outside, people would pack their snacks & drinks and claim a spot in the park and soak up the sun for hours while following the rules of social distancing.
Friendly & fashionable people
Amsterdam had an infectiously feel-good vibe. The people would ask how we were, wish us a good time, ask if we needed help, or try to make us laugh. I remember walking up to a souvenir store and the lady instantly started chatting with us. She was surprised to hear that our country had locked their own citizens out of the country and gave us a small souvenir for free with our purchase, wishing us good luck.
The people were not just friendly and tolerant, but also had a great sense of style. We didn’t see anyone looking like they just rolled out of bed. Most people were all well dressed even when they were out for grocery shopping. Their fashion sense was quite impressive – at least to my standards .
Cold & windy temperature
Definitely not a big fan of the weather! I had a difficult time dealing with the continuous temperature fluctuations within a day. On some days, the temperature dropped close to 10 degrees at night and I had woken up feeling cold and feverish. The weather for me was pretty much cold and windy even during the spring season. I realised that I don’t do well in windy conditions – maybe that is to do with living in Delhi for most of my life. Apart from the erratic weather, the daylight always had me confused about the time of the day as it was always bright outside, even after 9 PM. Coming from India, I didn’t realize I was so used to the sunrise and sunset timings.
However – it was not too bad. We did step out of the house to enjoy the bright sun with temperatures soaring above 24 degrees; weather I can get used to.
From the canal houses in central Amsterdam, to the sleek contemporary masterpieces in Amsterdam Zuidas, there’s no dearth of beautiful & innovative structural designs in the city. The whole city is a real eye-catching pleasure with a mix of futuristic projects, luxurious canal houses from the 17th century and charming facades. Even though I’m not an architecture nerd, I surely fell in love with Amsterdam and its stunning cityscape.
To wrap it up, we had a wonderful time living in Amsterdam even during the pandemic, as it became our home away from home. We were lucky to witness the city in its true element, without the tourists, which wouldn’t have been possible had we stayed only for four days. I would love to go back once the situation is back to normal and do all the touristy things that we missed this time ☺
Also Read: Work and vacation in the mountains: Travel in the new normal
42 thoughts on “Living like a local in Amsterdam during COVID-19 pandemic”
Ooooh extended honeymoon huh? That doesn’t sound so bad! I think it’s pretty cool how Amsterdam makes it easier to be physically active. Seattle was also really great about bike lanes.
What an incredible experience! I was ‘locked’ in New Zealand and it gave me the same opportunity to see a different side of the country that a tourist would never get to experience. I’m so glad you got to experience Amsterdam like this!
Jamie Boucher | Bristolian Abroad
Great blog post and pictures. I enjoyed your insight on how you navigated your time in Amsterdam. I visited a few years ago and hope to visit again someday.
I guess everyone was busy talking about how they couldn’t travel, but I never really thought about the people who ended up stuck somewhere that wasn’t home. I’m glad you made the most of your time and were still able to get out for walks and to discover a new place. I was supposed to go to Amsterdam this year but have to wait a little longer now, but it looks nice
Interesting making the best of the pandemic and experiencing the real Amsterdam. I didn’t associate the Dutch with being stylish so that was good to learn
Thanks for sharing your experience! I got stuck too while traveling in Peru for 10 months. I agree, it was kind of cool to see many of these places without the hoards of tourists and it really does become your second home. Glad you were able to enjoy Amsterdam during the pandemic and are now home safely.
I bet it was interesting being in Amsterdam though, at least you can walk around and see the other less touristy parts of the city.
Wow. I’ll bet a three month extension on your honeymoon was quite a surprise. What an adventure though and something you may be telling your grandchildren about someday. I love Amsterdam. As you said, it’s such a beautiful place. I spent just three days on an extended layover there several years ago and have always wanted to go back. I’d love to see the flower farms in bloom. Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience.
Thanks for reading Nancy.
Haha yeah! It was an adventure of a lifetime 😀
What an amazing place to be marooned. Congrats on making the best use of your inability to return home, and finding the silver lining on the experience.
This is actually pretty amazing. While it wasn’t what you planned, the chance to really explore and learn about another country had to have been a silver lining. And I love how the Dutch already had an attitude that was intent on caring for their neighbors, which made it easier for them to transition into precautions as opposed to shut down.
I love that Amsterdam promotes being outdoors and active. This was a great post, thanks for sharing.
What a silver lining! It must have been amazing being able to see the city and take pictures without having to jostle with throngs of people!