Well, as promised, I did it – off to Amsterdam! Here are the highlights:
Bagel & Beans.
Highly recommend the bagel place on the way to Westerkerk. We stopped here on our first day and had the best lunch, they have lots of options for a really decent price – it was probably the only food place I’d actively seek if I ever went again.
‘Lovers’ Dinner Cruise – pizza and unlimited refills (what more could you want?).
Well worth the 40 euros and really glad we did it as the free cruise with the city card was rubbish. It’s not only for ‘Lovers’ and my friends and I had the best time – you get free drink refills and a pizza cooked for you on the boat, as well as a live tour guide. It was probably the best memory of the trip.
The Skylounge in Amsterdam was an unexpected bonus, my friends decided we should try it and we ended up chatting to loads of locals and having a fantastic time! Luckily, the price of the clubs curtailed our excursion further but we had a great time and it was an evening to remember – despite the hangover the next day. Tip: drinks are expensive (8 euros for a glass of wine!) go there last as a treat to round off the night, and get plenty of pictures of the view.
Van Gogh Museum
We got here much later than I expected as we were a little hungover from the night before, but this was a really great museum. Seeing the Sunflowers was very moving, and I found other pieces of art I really enjoyed as well as learning more about Van Gogh. It wasn’t too busy, but there were still plenty of people – I suspect the earlier you get there the better. A note of warning – the iamsterdam card does not let you skip the queue.
Flower market and apple cake
The flower market and the apple cake we had on there was frankly the highlight of the trip. It’s definitely a tourist trap, but it was so much fun to browse the ‘tat’ and indulge in a bit of tourist shopping.
Canal tour (meh)
The Canal tour that comes with the Iamsterdam card is not worth doing. I suspect we had a particularly bad experience with rude staff thrown into the combination, but spend the extra money for the dinner cruise and have an actual tour guide rather than a recording, and some nice pizza too – it’ll be worth it I promise.
The Red Light District
Calling this a ‘highlight’ is a bit of a misnomer, but this is what we chose to see on our Saturday night as curiosity got the better of us. It was an uncomfortable experience and lead to an interesting debate afterwards – is it even right this should be a tourist spot? We didn’t linger but I will say that it is not somewhere that feels unsafe, surprisingly, even on a Saturday night. However, a place that has bars directly across from women in windows is not exactly somewhere I wanted to stay.
Rembrandt house museum
This was the best museum by far, very small but hugely informative – when you eventually find it (get the tram!) make sure to stay for one of the demonstrations.
As hesitant as I was to go to the zoo – you can go to the zoo anywhere! – it was a great experience. It is one of the oldest zoos in the world and it was a really lovely way to spend an afternoon. Despite the sunburn.
Not gonna lie, was just a bunch of flowers – as it was included in the iamsterdam card, we didn’t linger!
Anne Frank’s House
We queued for 1 hour 40 for this, and I am really glad we did. You leave feeling hollow, with the memory of Anne’s posters that remain stuck to the wall haunting your mind, but it is a very moving and worthwhile experience.
We rounded off the day by heading to the Ice Bar, which was hilarious. My friend who suggested it had been to the one in London, which is apparently a totally different experience – not pirate themed anyway. The drink selection is poor and it’s not really worth the price as you simply can’t stay inside the room for that long, but if you fancy a laugh give it a go.
I found it disappointing, to be honest. Once again we encountered some rudeness which spoilt it a bit, and the room featuring the Rembrandt’s and Vermeer was very crowded (to be expected but make sure you go early). The museum was fine, but I didn’t find it the most engaging, would recommend Rembrandt’s House over it.
Overall, I actually didn’t have the best reception in Amsterdam. I don’t know why this was, if we were missing some social norm that we should have been doing or if it was simply too easy to mock a British accent (gets old very fast, just FYI) but I did enjoy the trip. I loved being away with my friends, and them pushing me outside my comfort zone – normally I don’t go out for late evenings on holidays, nor do I take it slow, or go out on my own. If it hadn’t been for them I would not have gone to the SkyLounge or the Ice Bar, which were some of the highlights of the trip. So, whilst I am not as enamoured with Amsterdam as I was with New York, it was a really fun trip with some fantastic people. Next up…Prague!