Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities. After spending a week there, I feel like I’ve found a home away from Paris (I’m sorry London but you just don’t cut it in terms of prettiness). And boy I have so much to tell you about my time there!
Before heading to the Dutch capital, I did a lot of research, reading a pocket guidebook cover to cover and receiving a few recommendations for places to go. In truth I don’t think I’ve been more excited about a holiday: it was the first city break my boyfriend and I have been on, and after almost a year of working solidly, a week away was so appealing.
Despite being held up on our return journey, travelling to Amsterdam by train was an absolute breeze. Taking five hours from check-in to arrival, it was both mine and my boyfriend’s preferred way to go. Does anyone else find flying just so jarring? At least with a train you can sit back and watch the physical world go by, as well as know it’s a lot more sustainable. According to my guidebook, the Eurostar will be extending its service all the way to Amsterdam by 2017 (rather than a change at Brussels to a Thalys train), making it even easier to go.
This was my first time using Airbnb and I’ll be honest, while I love the sharing economy it promotes, you do have to be careful about who you go with. I had a mediocre experience, staying in a relatively cheap place that was so perfectly located, but so lacking in promised amenities. Either way, I will be using the service again, and if you’d like £25 off your first trip you can use this link here.
Amsterdam is quite a small city – especially if you’re used to London. Navigating it is easy; if you think of Centraal Station as the most northern point, and that the canals are on a horseshoe away from it, you will pretty much always know where you are. This was a new experience for me as my sense of direction is usually pretty rubbish!
Across the five nights we were there, we didn’t use public transport once. It may seem odd but everything we wanted to do was within walking distance of our apartment in Centrum, and on the days we rented bikes, we could reach everything in a 20 minute bike ride! The place really is a haven for cyclists, much like the cycle-landed Parisian streets I used to ride around, and it makes me wish I could do the same here in London. I’ll need a large dose of courage if I do so, and a cycle helmet too – I’m not as trusting of traffic as the Dutch!
You’ll have probably heard of Amsterdam as sin city; cannabis is decriminalised, and the Red Light District is one of its main attractions. While neither of these were draws for me, its open attitude compared to sex and drugs being taboos in British culture is actually something to be admired – it promotes discussion and safety measures.
Every single Dutch person we met was just lovely, conversing fluently in English and a lot of the time bringing my boyfriend and I extra things to try, such as a traditional almond cake in the first café we visited (so sweet!) We had a great time walking around the city’s largest museum, the Rijksmuseum, visiting the oldest and tallest windmill in the Netherlands, De Gooyer Molen, and dabbling with local cuisine at Chipsy King, Febo, The Grasshopper, and more. I’ll be writing about the healthier parts, eco supermarkets, and bike rentals in later posts so keep your eyes peeled!
Ignoring the dancing girls and coffeeshops, the nightlife in Amsterdam is pretty relaxed. Sipping drinks in pubs and chatting is normal, with a lot of places making exquisite drinks for a couple of euros, including milkshakes, smoothies, herbal teas, and hot chocolates. One night my boyfriend and I spent a good hour playing Glow in the Dark Crazy Golf – thank you Jen for recommending it! By midnight you’ll find a lot of places winding down (although I didn’t go in high season, so it may be different over the summer) which is great for me to get my beauty sleep!
Overall I had an incredible time, and will definitely be going back there for a long weekend or two. If you’re planning a trip, feel free to ask me any questions you may have!