This will be my third visit to Amsterdam having been once with my partner, once with a group of friends and once with my sister when I was thirteen – each as enjoyable (except for being aged 13 and mortified at the red lighted windows).
Amsterdam is one of the easiest and cheapest places to get to. Using most budget airlines or KLM you can get there from most major airports. From Norwich it only took me 25 minutes – to be fair it takes me longer than that to walk to the local. For someone that is a bit scared of public transport in foreign places and will ALWAYS default to a taxi, the trains from Schipol to Amsterdam centre are amazing – slick, efficient and clean – costing £3.90 for a single.
There are always three main aspects of any trip I need to cover when I go away – food, culture and shopping (of the vintage kind) which I will cover in this article as fully as possible.
In terms of where to stay, hotels in Amsterdam are notoriously expensive as the city attracts lots of business travellers. I find there are fancy hotels and then the sort that would have so many stains on the mattress that someone probably died there or you could get pregnant/scabies from laying on it but nothing in between. These days air bnb is always my ‘go to’ when in Europe. Depending on your needs/fancy then I would head for the apartments in Jordaan for a more luxury choice – Jordaan is the arty district and full of lovely restaurants and cute shops. If you want to be amongst the tourists close to the red light then stay as close to the train station as possible so you can walk to the red light and the popular cafes. Jordaan is my preferred choice but it is a good 20 minute walk from the red light district and remember there is limited taxi access in the city so you’ll be walking lots (unless you spot a rare tuk tuk).
Amsterdam, much like Berlin and other European cities is THE place for brunch. Nobody rises early (possibly sleeping off a hangover) so head to places like platform (a converted railway arch) that offers an american style brunch menu or Omelegg that serves eggs in 100 different ways. Make sure the ‘cafe’ you walk into is actually a cafe that serves food as most cafes are just for coffee and smoking.
The best way to see the city is by cycle as you can stop off at all the main sights – either do this on your own or via a guided tour such as Mikes cycle tours. For the less fit there are many great bus tours that all depart from central station. I love a bus tour as it allows me to see all the city and plan where I want to revisit or you can hop off and hop back on there and then.
If you love art and culture then Amsterdam has some of the best museums in the world. The Van Gogh museum gives a poignant insight into his life and the Rijksmuseum houses some of the most famous art in the world. If you decide to go to Ann Franks house then be prepared to queue as it can take forever in peak times. For the more fun seeking tourist then the sex museum or torture museum are brilliant!
Evening meant a lovely canal side walk into Jordaan to a beautiful Italian restaurant called Assaagi. It’s hard to go wrong with food in Jordaan but do be prepared that it won’t be as cheap as central Amsterdam but the quality is incredible.
Day two saw a lovely breakfast of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup at Pancakes! We then ambled canal side and decided to hunt out some vintage shops. Many are located in the nine streets district. Some of my favourites were :
- Laura Dolls – carrying 20s to 90s clothing with a good wedding dress selection
- Wini – new vintage repro and vintage – mainly 50s and 60s.
- Waterloopin market – Monday to Saturday for bargain buys
- I love Vintage
- Belle de Chic
Don’t expect any bargains. These sellers know their vintage so expect to pay british vintage shop prices (and maybe a little higher) in these stores. For real bargains, on the first weekend of every month there’s a huge flea market in the north of Amsterdam (the ferry behind Amsterdam Central Station will take you there) at the NDSM Wharf. Count on a good few hours to check out all the stalls.
In the afternoon we were going to do a canal cruise but decided instead to hang out at some of the bars in central Amsterdam. We considered (after a few beers) to take in a sex show although dismissed it in favour of more beers. Any of the bars in and around Amsterdam have a great vibe. If you want rowdy then head to anything Irish sounding. If you want sophisticated then there are a few like Vesper, Porem and Oldenhoff but these are in Jordaan and nine streets.
I can’t talk about Amsterdam and not mention smoking the funny stuff. In cafes you can smoke and it is quite easy to do. Just go inside and ask for a menu. If you’re a first timer then go for something weak and pre rolled. If you fancy a muffin then just eat a quarter, wait a bit and then wade in for more. The muffins are delicious but remind yourself to go easy!
My last night was spent in Supper Club in Amsterdam which was amazing. It is a bar/club/show where you get to recline on beautiful white and try exciting food concepts, while listening to exhilarating music, and viewing provocative performances and artistic visuals. It’s an amazing experience. It is, maybe a little awkward to eat while lying down on a bed and a bit off putting to have some mad performer in a gimp mask pawing at you during your starters but it is a one off. If you don’t go you will regret it. Food was mediocre – a 7/10 for a ten course tasting menu but the wine, cocktails and spectacle more than made up for it.
Amsterdam never gets old.