The bicycles, houseboats, and canals are a few of the things that made Amsterdam so charming for me on my trip to the Netherlands five years ago. This photo was taken on a quiet boat ride roaming through Grachtengordel, the network of idyllic canals that guard the Old Center of town. There are three canals that form the half moon shape encircling the old city and are lined with trees and cobbled streets separating the narrow houses and warehouses from the waterway.

This was on another short trip my roommates and I took while studying in Madrid. It was a long weekend in the dead of winter and much to my liking the city had a dreary, medieval feel to it. Although I was a little bummed I wouldn’t be seeing any tulips, the beautiful city had so much to offer and we had so little time.

We managed to fit in the Heineken Experience, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Anne Frank Huis like true tourists. We also visited a few coffee shops and took a stroll down De Wallen, well, because isn’t that what you’re supposed to do while in Amsterdam?

The Red Light District was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before but I can’t say it was worse than the large amount of street prostitution that is on display in the center of Madrid. The sex shops, coffee shops, and bakeries filled with munchies galore were exactly what I expected…but what made me fall in love with this city was everything that I hadn’t.