Explore the city of late night secrets and artistic culture with me.
Amsterdam is so close to home that it’s the perfect choice for a weekend getaway or the start of a eurohopping adventure. It’s not only a ‘lads on tour’ destination but great for couples, solo travellers and girls holidays. I will admit the smoking culture is unavoidable so you can either indulge or suck it up and deal with it (not literally of course) but this shouldn’t be what you judge the destination on, it’s a city steeped in history with so many things to see and do.
Travel and Check In
You can either fly or catch the Eurostar to Amsterdam (or drive if you feel so inclined) I would personally shop around to see which is the cheapest. We flew with EasyJet, it was a slightly turbulent journey – and I’m not just talking about the flight, delayed trains, signal failures. It’s safe to say I relaxed only once I was on the plane. Gone are the days of waking up disgustingly early for a flight so we arrived in Amsterdam late afternoon. Whether you touch down on the runaway or trundle in by train you’re not far away from the city center and as soon as you leave the Centraal Station the amazing atmosphere hits you. We headed straight to our hotel – The Lancaster, in the Plantage District. It’s about 30mins walking out of the center but unless you’re an 18-year-old lad or on a stag do you’re probably going to want to be a little further away from the infamous red light district. It’s somewhere between a boutique hotel and a chain hotel but it was clean, the staff were friendly and they had cruelty free toiletries in the shower so I was a happy girl.
Dinner and Initial Exploring
Once we had settled in to our room it was time for an initial exploration. The Mr has been before so I let him lead the way, pointing outs bars and coffee shops he’d visited on his last trip and already getting excited for the next few days. Amsterdam is a late night city so I wouldn’t worry about arriving late in the day, whether your first stop is to indulge in the cities coffee shops or grab a drink in a bar I have two recommendations for you. Bluebird and Cafe du Sluyswacht. We strolled through the town before our stomachs started to rumble. Turning on our heels we headed back to our hotel for dinner at the conveniently situated Bird House right next door to The Lancaster. It’s fairly new with a uber cool vibe, from the outside you could mistake it for a cocktail bar. We took a seat in the window and browsed the small but varied menu before ordering our standard gin & tonic and beer combo, followed by creamy beef bourginon for the Mr and the puffed pepper with pearl couscous and ratatouille for me. Feeling less fatigued after fuelling up we swathed ourselves in layers and headed to explore the nightlife a little more.
The red light district is not for everyone. It’s a rather surreal experience even in the daytime however it does dominate quite a lot of the nightlife. Although we didn’t enter any of the bars we ducked into Red Light Secrets to learn the history behind the place. Our hotel had a handy discount voucher (for quite a few attractions) so if you can get your hands on one of those just present it at the entrance. It’s a quirky little museum but genuinely interestingly. It finishes up with reading people’s sex confessions which is always a good laugh and if you feel like confessing your own ‘sins’ then pop into the confession booth and scribble away. If the red light district isn’t on your agenda then why not just hit the hay and get an early night ready for the next day!
Breakfast and Botanical Gardens
I’m never one for hotel breakfasts always choosing to try to find somewhere local to get my caffeine fix. Just across the road from our hotel is De Plantage, I was recommended this by a friend as a dinner destination but it didn’t quite fit into my plans so decided to have breakfast there instead. It’s a huge place but apparently can get packed for dinner so if you’re considering it I would book. We strolled in and ordered a croissant for myself and an oeuf en brioche, simple but delicious before relaxing into our seats and enjoying the sunshine, despite the cold temperatures outside. Caffeinated we set off for our first activity of the day: The Hortus Botanicus, we all know how much I love a botanical garden!
Top – H&M (similar)|Skirt – Mango (similar)|Boots – Timberland.
It’s probably not your first thought of where to visit but even in the winter it was a fantastic way to spend the morning, especially the slightly wild glass houses, I imagine in the summer it’s twice as glorious.
It would practically be a crime not to visit the ReijksMuseum when in Amsterdam so we headed over to take in some culture. The Rijksmuseum first opened its doors in 1800 it had more than 200 paintings and historical objects on display they now have over a million items in their collection with the vision to link individuals with art and history. If you’re not the biggest art fan it’s worth just heading to the gallery of honour to see some of the more popular pieces or you can take on all 3 floors on either a whistle-stop tour of all the gems on display or take your time and while away an entire afternoon, whichever you decide make sure you pick up a waffle from the Van Gough waffle stand outside the museum!
Dinner and Cruises
We headed across the water to Amsterdam Noord for dinner, a slight detour but when I set my heart on eating at a place nothing is going to stop me! Stork is situated on the waterfront accessed via a ferry. It serves phenomenal seafood which was one of the main reasons I was excited! We settled ourselves down by the window to watch the boats go by before turning our attention to the menu, we were eating fairly early due to our evening plans so we were stuck rather in the tea time limbo that doesn’t exist outside of the UK. We just managed to order from the lunch menu before the cut off time so if you fancy going don’t book between 4-5 because only their specials are available. The Mr opted for the fish stew and I went for the crab burger, both were excellent, the Mr’s being slightly more sophisticated than mine but both equally delicious. If you’d rather stay on the ‘mainland’ I would recommend De Plantage or Cannibale Royale.
We happened to be staying during the Amsterdam Light Festival so this recommendation is unfortunately seasonal generally from the 29 November until 20 January, however if you are there when it’s on I would highly recommend booking a canal tour to see the light installations from the water. Wrapped up in cosy rugs and clutching cups of glühwein we drifted down the canal while our guide explained each art work to us. The perfect way to spend an evening. We headed back to the hotel, stopping for a quick drink at my new favourite pub along the way. Feet slightly humming from the 30,000 plus steps we had walked that day drifting off to sleep that night was a breeze.
Freakshakes and Last Minute Sights
The 48 hours is almost up, we arrived late afternoon and our train to the next destination isn’t far off (if you’re not euro tripping like we are this could mean that the journey home is beckoning) we checked out and headed in search for the Instagram famous Ree7. The perfect brunch place we greedily ordered a freakshake each. On a pretty big sugar high we wandered the lanes of Amsterdam stopping at bridges to look at all the bits we hadn’t explored and vowing to come back. We had planned to cram in another activity either the Maritime Museum or The Artis but we were busy enjoying our surroundings that before we knew it the time had come to pick up our backpacks from the luggage storage and head off. Amsterdam is definitely on my list of revisits, the perfect destination for both a flying visit or a full week of adventure.