Amsterdam had been on my ‘list’ for a couple of years before we finally took a trip there last month. I had heard so much about Amsterdam – bicycles, partying, fancy ladies and Anne Frank, so I had devised a vision of how I expected this liberal city to feel. I thought that its pulse would be loud and fast with party goers spilling out all over the streets and bicycles gently passing. I was wrong. Very wrong. For a start, sure there are places to party but I didn’t feel like high and drunk people were everywhere and in fact I rarely saw anybody who was either during our stay. The people that I did encounter were lovely, warm and welcoming to the city they call home. I felt like we really experienced the culture and were lucky to stay at a cute B&B (Helmers) with super nice hosts. They even left a basket of bread and pastries on our doorstop at 8:15am every morning. Anybody who leaves me Pain aux Chocolates is a winner in my book. Especially if they are fresh from the bakery. I’ll literally love you forever.
Anyway, my other preconception regarding the bicycles was terribly wrong. They don’t simply glide along on vintage bicycles carrying a fresh bouquet of flowers with their hair gently flailing behind them. Oh no. They whizz past in packs, like tigers looking for their next meal. Crossing the road was treacherous and I was honestly so traumatised from the intensity of the cyclists that I didn’t dare join them on a jolly bike ride (I was actually really looking forward to cycling through the city before I arrived).
The other thing that I was half expecting was to see scantily clad ladies hanging out in every other window but in fact we only saw a couple and most of the shop windows were home to many high street favourites such as Abercrombie and Urban Outfitters. Anyway we had a really lovely trip and I think that we both fell a little bit in love with this pretty little city.
Here’s what we got up to and my tips…
We were staying a short walk from Vondelpark, which really is rather lovely. It reminded me a little of Regent’s Park with fitness enthusiasts running, dog walkers and those bicycles. Although I found that they travelled at a more leisurely pace through the park. I would really recommend a walk through the park if you get the chance. It’s just nice to have some greenery and escape the city. Plus it’s free, so great if you are on a budget.
Visit Van Gogh.
I would also recommend the Van Gogh Museum. The collection of his paintings displayed there is insane and it was great to see his work in the flesh as well as more personal items such as letters to his brother. My favourite piece was a couple of tubes of paint that he had used. I think that it made me appreciate how he created such incredible masterpieces from little tubes of paint. If you do visit the Van Gogh Museum, book your tickets in advance to save queuing. It’s super easy to do via their website.
Walk around the Anne Frank House.
We also visited the Anne Frank House which I was really excited about and had been the driving force for our trip. I’ve read Anne’s diary a couple of times and have always felt so moved by her story. I think that it’s so easy to become complacent and just take our lovely lives for granted and visiting the museum was a reminder that we are so, so lucky to live in the world that we live in. Sure it could be a lot better, but we’ve come a long way and we need to appreciate that. Anyway without getting political, I would really recommend the Anne Frank house. Tickets go on sale two months’ in advance and sell out quickly. Unfortunately we planned our trip short notice and had to queue for over three and a half hours to get in. It’s prebooked tickets only between 9:30 and 3:30 and then those who are queuing can enter after 3:30pm. We started queuing at 2:30pm and were let in around 6pm. It was freezing and I felt like it took me a week to warm up again!
Embrace the Heineken Experience.
This was an attraction that pleasantly surprised me. I’m not a massive beer drinker so I was thinking that this excursion probably wasn’t going to be my highlight. However, I actually really enjoyed this. It was great to learn about the history of Heineken as well as how it it made. It’s a very modern experience with lots of things to see and do. You can even have your own special bottle printed and you get free drinks – hurrah! We booked our tickets in advance so we pretty much just strolled right in. I think that people of all ages would enjoy this – even children!
Take a canal cruise.
We went on a little cruise around the canals and it was really nice to see the city from a different perspective. It was also very relaxing and I again something that I think people of all ages would enjoy.
Visit the A’Dam tower.
We took a trip over to the A’Dam Tower which is kinda opposite Centrale Station. It’s basically a really tall building that offers great views of the city. There is also a swing on the roof top that is the highest swing in Europe and actually goes over the edge. It’s €5 a turn and I would have loved to have had a go but unfortunately I didn’t as Phil is terribly scared of heights and it was pretty cold. So I decided that it probably wouldn’t be much fun in the cold on my own. Next time though! There’s also a totally instagrammable bar to hang out in and a really fun lift.
Let’s be honest, a trip to the shops is always on our list when we are away. I like picking up bits from my favourite brands as well as discovering new ones. On this trip I spotted a really cute striped shirt by Christian Berg. I don’t know much about this brand but I’ve never seen it in the U.K. and the quality seems good so I’m quite pleased. Anyway, Amsterdam is a great place to meander around the shops.
See a show.
We didn’t see a show during our stay, but I’ve heard there are some interesting ones around as well as familiar shows that you can find on the West End.
Have you been to Amsterdam? What would you recommend?