After months of wanting to visit Amsterdam, we finally decided to book our tickets and head to Holland!
We took a 6 day trip and wanted to explore as much of the city as possible. Since we had such a great time, I decided to start a blog to share my stories.
Travelling from Edinburgh to Amsterdam only takes an hour, which is a relief considering flying isn’t my favourite pastime. Thankfully we landed without issue and even managed to arrive early. When we got out of the airport I was excited to explore, we spent an hour travelling via train and metro to the hotel which was outside of the city centre in Amstel. Getting off the metro provided me with my first new experience, I got over excited and used a vending machine to get a hot snack. Unsure as to what any of the foods actually were (this was the first place where signs hadn’t been translated to English), I chose a breaded oval which thankfully turned out to be a breaded cheese stick. It gave me high hopes for the non-instant dutch restaurant we had lined up for later.
Just a few minutes from Amstel station we arrived at Hotel V Fizeaustraat where I was greeted by the (temperamental) resident cat in the Lobby. The staff were lovely throughout our stay and when we first arrived they provided us with insider knowledge to help us visit places outside of the usual attractions. Jamie checked in while I spent some important time with the cat – until it got grumpy and I ran away. Our room was complete with a Nespresso machine (something which immediately perks me up after a long journey) and we chose to have a glass of wine and watch some Dutch TV before dinner. Turns out english cartoons are dubbed in Dutch, so we watched Scooby-Doo in a language we don’t understand while getting ready for dinner.
Outside of the hotel was a small flower shop displaying the bouquets of tulips I was hoping to see. The shop meant that every morning I was happy to be out as we walked between the tulips! That night we walked along the frozen rivers to Park Frankendael where I had booked dinner in a large greenhouse. Restaurant De Kas is a self-sustaining restaurant where the greenhouses are filled with home-grown foods. Diners eat from a constantly changing set menu. We arrived not knowing what would be on the menu, but were treated to 5 delicious courses with wine pairings. From Carrot salad to Fried duck breast, the meats were sourced locally and all fruits and vegetables were grown in the restaurant. I would recommend De Kas to anyone visiting Amsterdam (as long as you don’t mind having your food picked for you). In retrospect it was my favourite foodie experience and all of the dishes were both pretty and delicious.
We started early, with our hotel providing breakfast (amazing french toast and pancakes included), we activated our IAmsterdam cards which give free entry to over 40 attractions and included unlimited transport for a chosen time period. We took the metro to Centraal station and began our full day of tourist activities. We started at the station and walked to the Sexmuseum. For only a few euros, it’s worth a visit to see some of the bizarre collections. It only took around 45 minutes to explore the whole place. But it’s a must-visit when seeing the city for the first time.
When we had finished at the museum, I wanted to see the famous canals of Amsterdam, we walked for around an hour, exploring all of the narrow streets and ended up in the Red Light District. We stumbled upon the Museum of Prostitution which was an eye-opener. From seeing the rooms in which prostitutes work to hearing their stories first hand. It provided us with the chance to learn about why women would choose sex work and gave a real insight into their experiences. Although it was around midday, the district was already filled with tourists. We decided to leave and try a Dutch snack, so chose to visit Pancakes for some traditional dutch pancakes. I chose apple with bacon which was advertised as a ‘traditional topping’ and it was surprisingly nice, considering I wouldn’t have paired the two together myself. To make the experience even better, our waitress gave us a clog keyring before we left to remember our visit.
We were fuelled again and visited the nearby Body Worlds exhibition which displays real human specimens in artistic ways to educate the public. The exhibition was centred around happiness, starting on the top floor with the brain, we travelled through six floors of body systems. The final floor was an interactive level where people who had lived to over 100 years old shared their secrets to happiness. If you’re interested in biology in anyway, this is a place you will love. It was amazing to see human bodies displayed in and artistic way. It was fascinating and fun, but if the photo below makes you squeamish maybe you shouldn’t visit!
Once leaving Body Worlds we decided to explore the shops and canals as we wandered west to the Anne Frank House. Our time in the Anne Frank House was different to everything we had experienced in Amsterdam so far. Once inside, no cameras were allowed and an audio tour meant most people were silent through the exhibition. Walking through the front of the building we heard about the start of the war and laws implemented to limit Jewish activity. Through the bookcase and into the Annex, we saw the rooms in which Anne, her family and others were confined to for two years. Hearing about their ultimate deportation to Auschwitz and movement to other camps was particularly sad after reading how a young child like Anne saw the world. In spite of the sadness, it was empowering to see how the words of a young girl were able to change the world. I think the Anne Frank House is widely known to be a great attraction, my one tip for visiting the house would be to book tickets online! The attraction was unbelievably busy and due to renovations, only online reservations are accepted.
After hours and hours of walking we decided to find a restaurant. Restaurant Anna was a modern central venue we happened to find as we searched for food. The menu was small, but the open kitchen made us want to try everything! We enjoyed watching the chefs at work while we got to rest with a Dutch beer. The food was fresh and the wine list was extensive, so we loved every minute.
After a busy day, we were somehow still awake and decided to see the Red Light District at night. There were more people than I had seen in any area of Amsterdam that day. The lights were bright and groups of friends were laughing and cheering. There were lots of couples which made us feel comfortable and we decided to truly experience Amsterdam by visiting Casa Rosso. This was a busy sex show, with a large seating area and one stage. It felt like you were at a normal concert until the acts started. The seats were full, again lots of couples laughing at the acts. Groups of men and women were also there with two free drinks on entry enticing larger groups. We stayed for 1.5 hours with the shows repeating after that (we saw each show once and the cycle begins again). From seeing women smoking cigars to volunteers eating bananas we saw a number of shows I didn’t need to see twice. I’m glad we went, but by the end I felt desensitised to everything!
After a packed day yesterday, we decided to take our third day at a slower pace. We were booked in to jump the queue at the Van Gough Museum at 11am (thanks to our IAmsterdam cards) and spent a few hours learning about the man who famously cut off his own ear. We learnt a lot, in particular I found out that Jamie doesn’t appreciate art as much as me. By the second floor he was aimlessly looking around as large crowds gathered around the most famous artworks.
The hours of walking resulted in us resting in Museumplein, the park in front of the infamous Rijksmuseum. We saw first hand how busy the IAmsterdam sign is. There must have been 100 people crowded around the sign trying to take photos and climb over the letters. The park was beautiful and I was dogspotting as always. The ice-rink had just been removed with small chunks of ice still in the rink. We got lucky as the sun came out for a while, we were able to get a short break from the sub-zero temperatures.
We didn’t have anything else scheduled until Dinner that night, so decided to walk to the Heineken Experience. We hadn’t pre-booked so had to queue for around 45 minutes in the freezing cold. But thankfully the experience was worth the wait. We had a great time learning about how the beer is brewed, its history and how to correctly pour a pint. We were taught how to taste beer correctly (with our first free drink) and were led through lots of interactive exhibits, photo opportunities and got to record a karaoke video on a bicycle! Even if you don’t enjoy beer, I think the experience would still be fun! The brewery tour ended with a trip to the in-house bar to claim two more glasses of heineken each. The bar was fun with lots of free drinks being handed out, the staff interacted with visitors and encouraged us to pour our own drinks.
After filling up on beer, we had booked dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe which was a short walk from the brewery. We arrived early and took advantage of the bar, then explored the memorabilia around the restaurant. Once seated, we ordered burgers and were lucky to get a table with a canal view. At this point Jamie had decided he couldn’t stray from heineken so I tried a few cocktails for the both of us.
Once we left it had begun to snow, although cold, the city looked beautiful and we decided to explore the lit up canals, looking in shops and getting lost in the streets. It was nice being slightly outside of the main city, it was a Saturday night but we managed to avoid the large drunk crowds. It made for a much more romantic evening out!