What to buy in Holland

Блог Listen to your broccoli | сувениры из Голландии

What to buy in Holland? A lot of travelers who feel like taking a piece of the country they are visiting home ask this question to themselves.

I am sharing my shortlist for the Dutch stuff. I am not a ‘souvenirs’ person, so things I recommend are normal things that Dutch people also buy in standard Dutch shops like bookstores, Albert Hein (Dutch supermarkets chain), De Bijenkorf (‘Dutch Harrods’).

Stuff from Bookstores

  • “The Netherlands”, book by Charlotte Dematons. This book is amazing and can be stared at endlessly. It’s a book with drawings and in each picture, you can see hundreds of details and stories about the Netherlands. A truck is not just a truck, it is either full of Dutch traditional waffles or it has an image of a famous person of the Dutch literature whose name became a symbol of fair trade for former Dutch colonies. You can also find a visual representation of many Dutch traditions: for example a tradition of swimming in the sea on 1st January.


  • Books for children: these are always nice presents to bring back as they are full of images (called ‘prentenboeken’ in Dutch), so no one has to actually know Dutch to read them. The difficulty is that you have to search good enough not to get a translated book (just because then it loses the point).


  • Diaries: The Dutch are gurus of planning and their bookstores are full of diaries of any possible format. You can always find a notebook with paintings of Dutch artists, interesting quotes, cartoons and you will always remember where and how you started that year.

Souvenirs from supermarkets

My universal advice is if you do not know what, give chocolate or food as a present:

  • Waffles with caramel syrop (stroopwafels) can be bought anywhere and better in a nice colorful can. It is also possible to buy the can separately from waffles. I doubt that whoever gets this colorful can will dare to throw it away after waffles are consumed. And do not forget to educate: the waffle is to be put on the cup of the hot tea so that the waffle will become softer and tastier.


  • ‘Delicate’ chocolate from Albert Hein: with fried corn, with jalapeno pepper, with cocos, with red curry, with rice pieces, with wasabi and strawberry.


  • Douwe Egberts coffee: well, coffee is coffee what is there to say more.

Souveniers from De Bijenkorf

It is very convenient that in the main luxe shop of the Netherlands, you can buy a lot of nice Dutch stuff. So let’s visit the Dutch Harrods, called ‘De Bijenkorf’:

  • A mug from Blond Amsterdam or Pipstudio: Mugs are my weakness and looking for an ideal mug is my favorite challenge. It is even better than looking for a perfect diary.
  • A water bottle  — a very healthy lifestyle, very Dutch, very eco, very bio. Your individual bottle for water that you always have with you and will always remind you of your nice trip.
  • Rituals — body cosmetics with most aromatic smells. These retail chain is growing like mad and is everywhere and come and visit them and see what are they so successful.
  • And the blooming almond by Van Gogh is beautiful no matter where they are printed on, even it is on a shopper bag.


Dublin. What to see

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‘Old woolen wrap’ – this is a Dublin metaphor for me. A bit worn out thing, nothing special, but so close to the heart that I would want to roll myself into it, sit next to the window with a glass of whiskey and read a book on a long rainy day. And not hurry. And in the evening I would go to a pub and again, I will not hurry.

Honestly, there is not so much to ‘see’ in Dublin, in Dublin you need to ‘do‘. And there is always something to do.


  • Go to a theatre, concert, show. The fact that Ireland is English speaking is a nice advantage for travelers. That means we can go to theatres and other events for locals and enjoy them. For example, interactive theatre VaultsLive or Irish dance show in Gaiety Theatre or just go for a pub crawl and talk to bartenders. You can be strolling from a pub to a pub endlessly. And you will come across dancing, live music (Irish music or different other types).


  • Visit the new museum of emigration ‘EPIC’. This is an interesting example of a modern museum when it is not about objects but about storytelling. You are taken through a story and it feels like someone is holding your hand. As we were told by the hostess of the B&B we stayed, every Irish has some relatives in America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada who emigrated there and that’s why this museum is so relevant to the country.
Blog Listen to your broccoli Dublin

A double-deck bus in the centre of Dublin


  • Get a ride on a double-deck bus. As any European capital has tourist buses, but I am not sure they are of any need as normal city buses are also double-deck and very pretty.


  • Visit Trinity college area and skip the Long Room library. Wherever you are trying to go in Dublin, you will end up at Trinity College. In the inner yard of the college, you can join an excursion that is organized by students of the college themselves (15 Euro). You will learn a lot of interesting stuff, but you will not get inside anything:). You will see the canteen building where the best students can have dinner for free and have a right for a pint of Guinness every evening. They say it looks pretty much like the one in Harry Potter. You will also learn that the oldest dormitory does not have heating, that to reach the showers you have to go outside and that, of course, there is a ghost that lives on-premises. Trinity College is famous for its Long Room (a library), it was also used as an inspiration for the Harry Potter movie. However, I would not recommend going inside the Lond Room. Crowded, way too crowded to enjoy anything. The same advice about the Book of Kells, do not go to see it, pointless.


  • Take photos of as many doors as possible. Dublin is very proud of its Georgian doors. They are very ‘Instagramable’. You can spend the entire day photographing them. And if I would need to tell what is the color of Dublin, I would say, it is red!


  • Drink as many different types of whiskey as possible. Even if you do not like whiskey, you will have to fall in love with it at least for a bit, if you are in Dublin. The city has several museums of whiskey, also Irish Whiskey Museum. The Irish are very proud of their tradition of whiskey production and they are very jealous that Scots got more advanced with it because they picked up some technology trick that Irish decided to ignore.


  • Visit Church restaurant and follow a self-guided excursion. This church was closed for restoration for several years and when it was opened, everyone saw that nothing has changed inside except the bar installed in the middle. In the evenings they have music and Irish dancing. There is a short brochure for a self-guided excursion that is accessible to everyone.


Even if you do not prepare your trip beforehand, Dublin is a very tourist-friendly city. Everywhere, in all hotels, restaurants, museums you will find leaflets and small sightseeing cards (one for each sight) and there are lots of them. You can create your own itinerary within 15 minutes.



Ireland. Wild Atlantic Way


Блог Listen to your broccoli Дикий Атлантический путь

If you have a week to visit Ireland, where specifically to go? These were the thoughts I was having and googling. Apparently the most popular directions are: 

  • North including a visit to Northern Ireland
  • West (Atlantic Ocean coast)
  • South (Cork)

We chose the west and the Atlantic ocean. Why? Just because the road along the west coast is beautifully named Wild Atlantic Way and this title is sooo promising. 

How to move around: by car

“You know, we are feeding them and they do not know anything about us. And we know everything about them. We watch their tv”. The owner of the B&B where we stayed for a night was talking about the British. I was quite surprised to learn that the territory of Ireland is three times smaller than of Britain and the number of people is twelve (!) times smaller. 

When you travel by car it is quite obvious that the country is not densely populated. There are a lot of stand-alone cottages. It is remarkable that all the cottages seem to be very new and modern. I have barely seen any old style cottages. According to the same B&B hostess, the Irish were very poor not so long ago and their houses were cabins. Only recently they started to have really decent houses. 

Блог Listen to your broccoli - Коттедж в Ирландии

Typical cottage in Ireland

Where to stay 

You can stay in numerous B&Bs and hotels. We tried: Bed&Breakfast, hotel in a coastal village, hotel in bigger Galway, strange cabin in the national park (see on the photo), in the most luxurious hotel of a rural town in the center of Ireland. 

Out of all of them, the most I liked was our stay at B&B. When I was searching through different B&B I saw some a bit strange photos, not glamourous so to say, but the one we chose we really like. Very friendly, open hostess. 

At every place, we stayed we spend one night and if I could turn time back I would not do it. It is too much hassle and packing and unpacking. Ireland is not that big, you can even visit most of the places from Dublin by day trips. Of course, it is not a real road trip then. So I would say spend at least two nights at a place, that would be the best. 

So what was our itinerary? 


Блог Listen to your broccoli - Ирландия

View from the wall of John’s Castle, Limerick.

This town has John’s Castle that has everything that a decent museum and castle should have.

Close to Limerick, there is a place where on the different sides of the Shannon river there are two villages Ballina and Killaloe. Beautiful sights and an interesting story about rebellious women who lost access to the river because of the new train track. As a part of the protest, they just lay down on the track. Finally, their protest worked and a special bridge was built for them. 


Блог Listen to your broccoli Мост в Баллине, Ирландия

Bridge over the train track which was demanded by women who could not access the river. 

Cliffs of Moher 

This is Instagram must have (see the first photo of this post). But! The weather might spoil all the pleasure. Then no beauty and it can be even dangerous. This logically ties back to the recommendation to stay more nights in one place. If you have several days you can choose a day with the best weather for your visit to the Cliffs of Moher. 

Our day was perfect, we did not walk all eight km along the cliffs, but we managed to reach a point where they barely any people. And we could sit there alone, on the cliffs and watch the birds and fall asleep in the sun. I was thinking about why we did not take lunch with us so that we could stay longer. 

Aran Islands and sweaters

Aran sweaters are named after these Irish islands that are close to the Cliffs of Moher. There are three islands and each of them gives a reason to visit. There boats going back and forth. 

The islands are famous for the sweaters and for the fact that they preserved the culture and way of living due to the isolation. Children are sent there to learn the Irish language and during their stay in these language camps, they are not allowed to use English. We visited the smallest island which is inhabited by 249 people. 

These islands were used as locations for several movies. For example, the bar from the movie Leap Year and some other scenes were filmed there. 

Блог Listen to your broccoli Острова Аран

The smallest from Aran Islands and the Atlantic Ocean


Connemara is a beautiful area with low green mountains, lakes, cliffs, and stones on the coastline. We were not ready for all this beauty and did not know where to go and how to see. But thanks to the itinerary that the owners of the place where we stayed we had a five km walk along the coast. All the French visit Connemara because of the song of Michel Sardou. 

Kylemore Abbey

Not so long ago (the 2000s) this was a boarding school organized by nuns. Girls from rich families and even Indian princess studied here. Nuns are still living in the abbey, make chocolate, spices, look after the huge gardens. I liked to look at the abbey from the bridge and think about how the lives of former schoolgirls shaped up. 

Блог Listen to your broccoli Аббатство Киллемор


Galway has the best pubs, funny musicians and the two most famous songs with the same title: Galway Girl. One by Steve Earle (this song is also used in the movie P.S. I love you) and another one by Ed Sheeran. Why Sheeran created a song with the same title, but different? His answer was that he tried many other options (Cork Girl for example), but it did not work out. 


Ireland seems to be soaked in whiskey. There are a lot of whiskey distilleries that have museums, tours etc. We visited Tullamore Dew on the way back. Even people who cannot stand the smell of whiskey will start to like it a bit after Ireland. 

What to bring from Ireland? Well, whiskey cubes from Connemara stones, what else:) 

Save post on Pinterest not to lose it:

Ireland Wild Atlantic Way



Antwerp. What to see

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During my previous visits, I remembered Antwerp as a city of oysters. You can buy them at a stand at the Saturday market and consume right there and accompany by cold white wine or champagne. This time I will remember Antwerpen as the city of fragrant linden and a city that was built on the river and has no bridges.

What should you visit in Antwerp if you have a couple of days? I suggest the following (I have written already similar posts about Berlin, Utrecht, and Minsk):

  • Visit and see what they are going to open in Het Steen (remainders of the medieval castle). Maybe by the time of your visit, the city will finish the renovation and you will see the beautiful quay and tourist information point in the castle. This place was originally a castle, then a prison, museum, children cultural center and now it will be something new.


  • Get under the ground in the museum De Ruien. The walk in the underground city in rubber boots and in 15 C no matter what is the season will be unforgettable. Rats and darkness will be there as well.


  • Find the medieval courtyard in the center of Antwerp (Vlaeykensgang street, entrance new Popoff restaurant). You will get to know the story of architect and entrepreneur Alex Vervoordt. He was walking in Antwerpen in 1969 and saw forgotten old houses, bought them, renovated them and this way preserved the memory of 15-16 centuries, right in the centre of the city.  


  • Visit St Paul’s Church that is only open 3 hours a day. The church belonged to Dominicans. It worth a visit because of four paintings of Rubens and Calvary that are outside the church (see the photo below).
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Calvary, St Paul’s Church, Antwerp

  • Walk the tunnel under the River Scheldt. The city has no bridge but has walking and cycling tunnel under the river. You can get down there using escalators that are partially made of wood.


  • Go to a museum. Almost in every city, there is at least one museum worth visiting. In Antwerpen, you can visit Butcher’s Hall which is, in reality, musical instruments museum and looks like a church actually, a new museum on the river MaS (Museum aan de Stroom), Plantin-Moretus of book printers, chocolate museum (Chocolat Nation) or the Rubens House. 


  • Have a dinner or a special beer in Elfde gebod. This restaurant has everything: sacred icons, sculptures from churches, history, funny name (“the eleventh commandment”) and it’s own beer called the same way.


It is important that you try Antwerpen beer de Koninck and red chocolate that came on the surface just a couple of years ago (called ‘ruby’ chocolate).

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Berlin. What to see

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What I will remember about Berlin? Long distances, few cars and a lot of green. When you are in a city just for a couple of days you need to make choices of what to see and what to skip. My advice on what to do in Berlin:

  • Get out of Mitte (the central part of Berlin). Berlin felt like a big city. So it is unlikely that just by strolling around you will find yourself in the places that you wanted to see. I felt quite a contrast compared with Paris where you can just walk and walk and visit everything you need. And indeed, it appeared that Berlin is eight times larger than Paris. So it makes more sense to plan your route beforehand and to use public transport.


  • Visit a museum. And not necessarily the most famous ones (Neues Museum, Pergamon Museum,  Bauhaus Archive / Museum of Design), but select the one that matches your mood of the moment. In such young and lively Berlin, I longed for some luxury and oldness and went to Charlottenburg Palace. Only the story of the museum director, who after the war just moved to live in the museum in order to avoid it diminishing is so remarkable. Or go to the cinema museum and see Berlin Walk of Fame with movie starts names under your feet (I did not recognize anyone except Til Schweiger from famous German movie “Barfus”).
Блог Listen to your broccoli Шарлоттенбург

Park of Charlottenburg Palace (not ticket needed to enter the park)

  • Buy tickets for a concert in Berliner Philharmonie. My friend who is a good judge and lover of music had this place on his bucket list among Sydney Opera and Carnegie Hall. And his evaluation of the experience was very good (mine also, but mine does not count that much). And again there is a place, there is a story. A story of how important the choice of the main conductor of Berliner Philharmonie is for the city. The choice is discussed and anticipated. Can you imagine such a city?
Блог Listen to your broccoli - Берлинская филармония

The concert hall of Berliner Philharmonie. The stage is round, surrounded by the audience from all the sides. 


  • Go up to the rough of Reichstag. You need to sign up for the visit in advance, you need to have your passport when you come there. On the roof, there are stands and posters that tell a story of Reichstag. There I saw that Soviet soldiers directed their attack to this building by mistake. Well, then I thought I am also here by mistake, just following their story after years.


  • Use one of the many possibilities for swimming. There is a lot of water in Berlin. For example, here are the options:
    • The city swimming pool was renovated into a hotel, but still with the same swimming pool. Anyone can come there to swim (according to the timetable and by paying a regular fee).
    • Swimming pool in the center on the quay.
    • Liquidrom is a sauna and swimming pool in the center of the city (Potsdamer square) with music and lights underwater and DJs.
    • And if not swimming pools, then you can try lakes. For example Wanzee


  • Feel the story of the Berlin Wall. The more time will pass, the more unreal the story will seem. Now thirty years have passed from the time the wall fell and its story feels so strange already. Cut off transport connections, closed metro station which trains were just passing by, successful and unsuccessful escapes, people from the West Berlin coming to climb the viewing tower in the hope to see their relatives.


  • Learn what Biergarten is. I never thought I will recommend something like biergarten (a place for drinking beer in the open air), but when I came there, I did not want to leave. Summer, river, cold beer, simple tables, benches near the water, warm evening, boats on the river.


  • See what you can do out of an old brewery. Kulturbrauereu, a cultural brewery in Prenzlauer. This is an old industrial complex which is now a cultural center. And culture does not go without a beer in Berlin. Concerts, festivals, exhibitions, and Christmas Market is all here as well.


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Always check out the hidden courtyards in Berlin, you will find nicest restaurants and cafes and breakfast in the city is mandatory. There are a lot of nice breakfast places and you can even have it during lunch:). My place to visit for breakfast is “Pasternak”. And the last thing to do is to take a photo of Berliner Weisse, look at this Instagramish color.


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