Amsterdam in 7 bullet points:
- Canals for days
- Bicycles EVERYWHERE
- Friendly locals:)
- Streets so clean you could almost eat your dinner off the floor (but obviously not)
- Coffee shops (actually cafes where you can smoke marijuana, not a place to take granny for a cup of tea)
If I’m honest, before the trip I was thinking how a city just an hour’s plane ride away could really be so different to England. Was this really going to feel like a holiday when I was so close to home?
The answer? Yes!
Amsterdam impressed me. We were lucky with the weather (considering we visited in February) because for the full 3 days we had to explore, it was mostly sunny. I particularly loved how almost everywhere you went, you could see the canal water glistening in the sun. However, although sunny, it was blooming cold and I’ve heard that this is more or less the case all year round.
Places we visited
The Vincent van Gogh Museum
-You don’t have to be an art lover to appreciate this museum. It was well worth the €18 entry and if you’re to buy one thing whilst you’re in there, make it the Multimedia tour. At €5 it adds massively to the experience.
-Takes about 1hr and 30 minutes to get round and do properly.
Canal boat ride with Tours and Tickets
-‘Tours and Tickets’ stands are everywhere in Amsterdam and they enable you to book experiences then and there and often at a reduced price – especially if you buy more than one. For example, we booked a canal ride and the Heineken experience as a package and received a small discount.
The Heineken Experience
-We were actually pleasantly surprised with this. We’d heard that the Heineken was a very touristy experience and potentially overrated. However, for €16, each person gets 3 drinks + the tour which I personally found informative, interesting and interactive.
-However, having said this, it is not worth the huge queue so make sure you book in advance so you can jump to the front!
-People had told me that I mustn’t avoid the Red-light District, despite its reputation – ‘It’s a tourist attraction!’ – ‘It’s an experience!’ they said. It certainly was.
-I almost felt as though we were in a movie because it was just so bizarre. To put it bluntly, the Red-light District is a series of streets in which you can find small rooms with red lights above the doors. Standing the other side of the transparent glass doors are heavily made-up women wearing very little clothing. In some of the rooms, if you peered behind the lady standing in the doorway, you could see the bed.
-The whole concept, the fact that it was/is so open, shocked me. As I said, I felt like I was in a movie. These ladies almost looked like dolls. I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole thing. However, despite my indecisiveness, I would definitely encourage anyone to visit and see it for themselves.
Vondelpark and bikes
-One of the reasons we chose the hotel that we did was because it provided bikes that you could hire out for the whole day. One day, we did just that, cycling to Vondelpark and then around the city.
-Cycling is by far the best way to explore Amsterdam. There are large cycle lanes next to all the roads and cyclists even have their own traffic lights. Cyclists seem to rule the road and certainly, if you know where you’re going, you’ll get around very quickly.
Recommended: When we visited Vondelpark we stopped off for refreshments in Groot Melkhuis – a cafe in the middle of the park. This was a great place to catch a breath. There was plenty of room to secure the bikes outside and it was prettily situated on the waterside, the food was good too. However, you do have to pay 50 cents to go to the toilet!
Anne Frank House
-If you’re thinking about visiting the Anne Frank house before 1st June 2018, it’s online booking only due to renewal work. Make sure you book early because it’s an extremely popular attraction and we were lucky to get a slot booking 5 days in advance.
-I can’t re-create this experience in words because to be honest, it left me speechless. It’s one that you’ve just got to do yourself because it will pull on the heart strings and make you seriously think about life and appreciate what you have, and what you haven’t had to go through.
Recommended: Go for a drink, hug your travelling companion, embrace your freedom, do something happy after this experience, but don’t forget that Anne Frank was an absolute inspiration.
- Wrap up warm – it’s cold!
- Buy an Amsterdam Travel Ticket from the station in the airport when you land. It’s valid on all trams, buses, metros and ferries operated by GVB (only GVB – do not jump on an R-net bus and expect your pass to work like we did!) and will be your transport in and around the city. We paid €26 each for a 3 day travel ticket – it was worth it.
- Be aware of pickpockets. Out of all the cities I’ve visited, this was probably the one where I felt most vulnerable to pickpockets. It’s busy and some of the people you walk past are under the influence of drugs (marijuana) and are thus, perhaps, easy targets.
- It’s expensive. Like most cities, price tags are big and Amsterdam is no exception – take extra money because you’re charged by most ATMs and currency exchange shops to convert more.
- Hire a bike. It will make you feel free and you’ll experience Amsterdam like the locals:)