Half way through the trip, I was loving Amsterdam and wished we had longer to explore! When we arrived I made a list of places we really wanted to visit, but there was no way we had time to complete it. We tried to prioritise since we didn’t want to spend our days rushing across the city.
This far into the trip, we wondered how we had managed to avoid a cycling related accident. We hadn’t actually rented a bike, but we didn’t understand the rules of the road! Cyclists were joined by motorbikes and tiny cars on the pavements. People could travel in any direction and even though we tried, we were never sure which way traffic was travelling. I had taken to running across roads (particularly since motorcyclists seemed to ignore red lights) and when it was raining/snowing I would put up my hood and trust Jamie’s judgement.
Thankfully, we took out travel insurance so we didn’t have too much to worry about..
On our fourth day we decided to visit a new area, we took the tram and arrived at ARTIS Royal Zoo. Along the way we had the opportunity to see the more residential areas of Amsterdam. If anyone wants to travel outside of the city, I would recommend the tram, it’s clean, fast and you get to view the scenery (unlike the metro which is mostly underground).
We made it to the Zoo and were immediately greeted by camels and llamas. No glass or mesh separated us from the animals, just a small moat of water. This meant nothing obscured our view making us feel closer to the animals. Our first stop was the Forest House where uncaged animals climbed trees around us, I was amazed! Small monkeys, lizards, bats and birds were loose. Over our heads tiny monkeys were climbing, the temptation to touch them was crazy especially since they were so cute!
As we walked further into the Forest House, it became the Aviary and we reached the tropical bird sections. Desert owls were sitting on cacti and one bird took a particular dislike to us and patrolled his ‘area’ any time we got close to him. I couldn’t believe how close we were to these animals and the best was yet to come!
The layout of the zoo doesn’t make for easy navigation but we used the map to make sure we didn’t miss anything. We visited various monkeys (my favourite), lemurs and deers all living on islands surrounded by water. Then we reached Lemur Land, as you can see from the photo below we got to sit with the Red Ruffled Lemurs! Each of them were jumping around and seemed quite comfortable among the humans. We loved being so close to such a cute animal and the staff were happy to tell us more about them. My favourite was a grumpy Lemur who sat alone and refused to look at cameras!
Towards the back of the park we visited the wallaby walkway. We hadn’t expected it, but we could walk inside the enclosure to see the wallabies eating and relaxing up close! This was next to the butterfly pavilion where as you might have guessed a building was filled with butterflies free to fly past us.
From elephants to penguins, we saw all animals I could think of. There were so many interactive and up-close encounters at the zoo, we left loving our experience! I still can’t believe how close we were allowed. At the time we commented that the staff seemed to trust visitors not to get too close (something which doesn’t happen in the UK) which made us enjoy the visit even more. I would love to go back since we didn’t get time to visit the aquarium. The zoo grounds were huge and there was even a planetarium show included in the entry price. We could have easily spent the whole day here!
Once the zoo closed we walked next door to Micropia, this was one of my favourite places to visit. We were transported upstairs and greeted by bubbling flasks, electron-microscopes and cultures of microbes. Micropia cultures its own microbes and bacteria to showcase to the public, if you love science, you will love this place. From Fungi to viruses, we were able to use microscopes and view live cultures.
Each microbe had its own station were we could view cultures, use microscopes and collect a stamp which would be useful later. There are even more interactive exhibits once you’ve seen the cultures and the lab where they are grown. There was a machine which reads how many microbes are on your skin (not sure how accurate that is!) and if you visit with someone else, you can kiss and see how much bacteria is transmitted (not sure how this is worked out either, maybe the amount of time you spent kissing?).
After seeing how much bacteria was living on me, I felt like I definitely needed a shower. This wasn’t helped by an exhibit which swabbed everyday items such as toothbrushes, bus hand rails and pet paws. The microbes from loads of everyday objects were collected and you can see just how dirty everything around us really is. We were amazed/disgusted by how many microbes there were – even on washed hands!
Downstairs we were able to see how microbes are used in industry and how dangerous diseases are spread. There was also an exhibit where food was allowed to decay in jars (I know this sounds weird). Foods from over a year ago had been sealed so we could see how they broke down over time. Turns out a pineapple from last February is now a yellow blob whereas McDonalds fries from a year ago look just like ones I could buy today. Think that says a lot about the quality of some food!
Before we left we used a machine to see how many stamps we had managed to collect on our visit. We did pretty well (24/30) so if you go, see if you can find more! We left Micropia just as it was closing, going in the early evening meant there was never a queue for the microscopes or interactive exhibits which was great. We could have done with an extra half hour to read everything though!
For dinner, we chose to visit Moeders to try out some traditional dutch food. Moeders is dedicated to Mothers, with every inch of the wall covered with photographs of mum’s! When you visit you can even take a photo of your own mum to add to the collection!
We loved the decor (which needs to be seen in person to be fully appreciated) and had a great visit. From the mismatched plates (which were brought to the restaurant by the first guests) to the tin of biscuits you are given with your coffee, Moderes feels like home.
We ordered the Dutch Ricedish (20 euros per person) which was a combination of different dishes to try and share. Stews, mashed potato, cabbage and apple sauce were all included and we were surprised by how much we enjoyed the traditional foods. I loved how unique the restaurant was and the staff were really friendly. We will definitely be back again!
Since this was our last full day to explore, we travelled to Amsterdam Centraal and chose where to visit once in the city. Turns out this was also the first day of half term which we realised once we arrived at the NEMO Science Museum. We walked up to the first floor where all of the exhibits were interactive and decided to go get a coffee in the cafe instead – the place was unexpectedly filled with children on holiday.
On the top floor we found the main cafe and were able to go outside to a viewing point. Outside it was peaceful and the views of Amsterdam were amazing. We happily had a break here before inside where there were too many children running around.
Although busy, we had lots of fun at the Science Museum, from strange exhibits about puberty to getting to surround ourselves with bubbles. I think the museum lets you unleash your inner child while you actually do learn some new scientific facts. We spent about 3 hours at the museum before we decided to head for our boat tour.
Included with our trusty IAmsterdam city card (promise I don’t work for them) was a free boat tour. There were a couple of companies you could choose from and we chose Lovers Canal Cruises since we had seen them around the city over the past couple of days.
We walked down to the dock and waited for Nemo to arrive. The tour even included an audio guide which told us about lots of different attractions along the cruise. Our guide was funny and made the experience more enjoyable, so this seemed like a good company to choose. We cruised for over an hour along the canals and saw some beautiful places we had missed when walking. I’m still surprised the boat didn’t get stuck in some of the small canals!
We were booked in for dinner back at our lovely hotel, so just had time to grab some stroopwafels before we headed back. These pretty ones were from Van Wonderen (be warned if you are looking for this place it is only small so you may walk past it a few times like us!)
I was sad to leave so soon and was already planning where I would visit on my return trip! We took advantage of our last hotel breakfast and filled up before packing away our room. I said goodbye to the resident cat (who can just be seen on the chair in the photo below) while Jamie checked out of the hotel. From Amstel Station we took the Metro and Train to Schipol before boarding our flight. We loved staying at our hotel and would recommend it to anyone who is happy to be slightly outside of the city. I loved the decor so had to share a photo!
We realised once we made it through airport security that we had not tried McDonalds whilst in Amsterdam (cue us rushing up the escalator to see if there was anything new or weird on the menu). Aside from 3 different beef burgers we didn’t see anything different, but were excited to try an unknown dipping sauce with chicken nuggets. Somehow chicken nuggets taste better in Amsterdam, i’m not sure if it’s a different recipe or just the excitement of trying food in a different country? I like to think the McDonalds bridged us back to British culture slowly, from days of fresh Dutch cuisine to the lazy fast food we would want after flying back home.
We relaxed in the airport loungers and watched the planes as we waited. When I boarded the plane I had mixed feelings, sad to be leaving but happy about the amazing experiences we had. I hope these two posts sum up our trip to Amsterdam well, we had the best time and I can’t wait to visit again!