So a couple of wee weeks ago, I did a mega post allll about Paris, the first stop on myself and my boyfriend’s lil European adventure. Now’s the turn of the latter half of our journey: Amsterdam. A culture like none other I’d experienced, Amsterdam has a laidback way of life (that goes beyond the weed you can smell on every street corner u know) and the locals are some of the friendliest strangers I’ve encountered. There’s no hustle and bustle like other major cities; just the serenity of an incredibly green city whose people welcome you with open arms.
Call this my lil guide to Amsterdam, if you will. I hope it inspires you to visit the Netherlands’ capital soon- it’s one to tick off that extensive bucket list.
how we got there, where we stayed, what we did
Here’s hoping you’ve joined me where we left off in my last travel post, because Amsterdam greets a bedraggled, sleep deprived and a tad grumpy (I get like that when I’ve not got my 8 hours) Maddie at 9am on a slightly drizzly Wednesday morning.
Our alarm woke us at 4am; we packed our bags and said goodbye to beautiful Paris at 6; and we were on our way to the Netherlands. But wait- how did we get there?! Well, you will not believe this – but catching a high speed train between Paris and Amsterdam, across countries, costs just 35 euros. That’s cheaper than a return to bladdy Bristol from Birmingham. The UK transport system is a wee joke.
Anyway, we prebooked our travel tickets to Amsterdam through Trainline EU- and we boarded the Thalys high speed train at 6am, from Gare du Nord. The train journey was beautiful- we passed through Belgium on the way, and I got to see many a wonderful French field. I also saw some z’s because yo gal napped a little, too. Travelling via the Thalys train is such a good way to get between France and other neighbouring countries, as the travel time was just shy of 3 hours and the train was the swankiest thing I’ve been on. Those plush red seats were as good as any bed I’ve slept in- almost.
So we arrived to Amsterdam Centraal Station (if the name doesn’t give it away, that’s the main station in Amsterdam) at 9am, with a whole day of exploring ahead of us. Shame that we weren’t exactly feelin’ exploring at that point, sleep deprived and physically knackered from 3 days walking around Paris non-stop- but it also seemed the weather wasn’t up for our exploration, either. It was raining quite a lil bit, which was a massive shock from the 30 degree heat we’d experienced during our whole trip in Paris. Thank gawd I had my Primark teddy coat with me.
Our first port of call was our hotel. We stayed at Hotel de Looier, which is in the Prinsengracht area of Amsterdam: near one of the most famous canals. A 12 minute walk from the Anne Frank house, and a 15-20ish minute walk from all the other attractions, we really couldn’t have been more central- unless we wanted to pay a hefty price, that is. We found our deal on Agoda, and the rooms were reasonably priced. Breakfast was also included, so ya know, that’s a bonus.
After lugging our luggage to the hotel, we were sadly informed that we couldn’t check in until 2pm. My lil heart sank, as I realised that meant no nap was possible until the afternoon- but luckily, we could leave our luggage safely in the hotel, so we set back out to explore sans heavy cases.
First stop was some lunch, in a lil cafe I couldn’t even tell you the name of – I was ridiculously tired, and ridiculously hungry. We wolfed down some beautiful foccacias and then made our way to our first attraction of the holiday.
Now, I feel like this is something everyone’s got to do when they visit Amsterdam for the first time, but I gotta tell ya, I didn’t think it was worth the 5 euros, particularly as we were starting to get a lil skint by the time we reached the Dam. We visited the Sex Museum.
I mean, there’s some hilariously shocking things you’ll encounter on your way round the place, but once you’re past that shock factor, it can get a lil borin’. But hey ho, it had to be visited and it’s a good way to quickly become acclimatised to the kind of culture Amsterdam is offering ya.
Still incredibly shattered, we half-heartedly explored the Centraal area of Amsterdam: from the gift shops that sell weed-related memorabilia (why? I ask), to the bakeries selling a delectable assortment of the famous waffles. We even saw the famous lil classic houses that lie at the canal’s edge. But my lil head was super sleepy and Sam was also starting to wane, so as soon as 2pm came around we rushed back to the hotel, checked in and had a GLORIOUS nap on the comfy bed.
Soon it was time to be getting ready for an evening out, so I popped on my gladrags (sans fringe because yo gal just could not be bothered with the faff of doing her hair) and we made our way to the famous Hard Rock Cafe for some food. And the food was maybe the best thing I’d eaten since that pizza in Paris. It. Was. Divine.
From the restaurant, we could see the sun setting over the canals and boats making their way across the water, ferrying to and fro excited tourists. It was the most beautiful sight. I felt incredibly lucky to be sharing this moment with my favourite person, over a good ol’ burger and fries- and I was a happy lil bunny.
After Hard Rock, the sun had set and we did a lil walking tour, exploring some of Amsterdam’s main sights. We visited the Amsterdam sign at the base of the Rijksmuseum- and of course, we had a wander in the Red Light District. Again, it was a culture shock and again, it’s just something you’ve got to visit in the Dam- it was eye-opening, that’s got to be said.
And thus closed our first day in Amsterdam- we headed back to the hotel relatively early for a good old kip- because we were 110% knackered.
Some tips from today:
TO BOOK CROSS COUNTRY TRAINS: Trainline EU
HOTEL DE LOOIER: website here
HARD ROCK CAFE AMSTERDAM: website here
cyclin’ like a true Dam citizen, soaking in the culture, a moving and emotional evening
You know, our second day in Amsterdam might just have been one of my absolute favourite days on this holiday. We woke up all cosy at the hotel, grabbed some breakfast and spent a few minutes perplexed about what actually we were going to do with our day. This being because we were slowly but surely running out of euros. Gulp.
So no expensive attractions for us, then. Luckily we’d already prebooked the Anne Frank House for the evening (which imma tell you now you have to prebook at least a month in advance, because the tickets sell out SO quickly) so we didn’t have to spend money there. The sun was finally shining, it was a beautifully mild day and I’d always had a vision of Sam n I riding some bikes through the park in Amsterdam, so Vondelpark is where we headed, pronto.
On arrival at the park, we asked the tourist information office where the nearest bike rental place was, and they gave us a 10% discount for A-Bike. Just outside the park, A-Bike allows you to rent bikes for anywhere between 1 hour, to multiple days. You can ride them anywhere in the city- but if you know one thing about Amsterdam, it’s that the bike traffic is absolutely terrifying and the locals cycle like maniacs- so we avoided the cyclepaths, and stuck to Vondelpark.
We hired the bikes for 2 hours, and it was the most relaxing, wonderful lil thing to do. We cycled throughout the entire park, sat down by the water, cried over a lil sausage dog puppa and smiled A LOT. It was just the nicest lil way to spend our morning. I felt so relaxed afterwards.
We had lunch at the park from a lil street food vendor (I had a hotdog, it was divine) and then we took a trip to the shopping district, famously the Kalverstraat, and accidentally ended up buying the most BEAUTIFUL boilersuit I’ve ever laid my eyes on. I also bought Sam a leather jacket as an early birthday present. Then we headed back to the hotel to get ready early for the most wonderful evening.
Now, if you know me well, you’ll know that Anne Frank’s diary is the first book I took out the library when I was a little one. I read it in one sitting, cried, adored her and her ambitions of becoming a writer, and then I read it again. I watched the BBC TV dramatisation about her life and her family. I just really felt for her story and as a young girl who too wanted to be a writer, I felt her passions, too. And ever since I was young, all I’ve wanted to do was visit the Anne Frank House.
So queuing up outside the famous house early on Thursday evening, I felt so grateful to be there. I won’t go into the specifics of exactly what you find in the exhibition, as I don’t want to spoil it for any of you that are thinking of going, but just know that it is the most moving, yet beautifully inspiring and somehow still uplifting experience. The young girl’s story is just something else, and the fact that her family wanted to shout her story to the world and bring us all in to witness the absolute horrors of the war to make a change for the better in this world, it’s just wonderful. You need to visit at some point – I’m telling you.
After that, we found an adorable pizzeria not far from the house for dinner, and we had a beeeautiful pizza. I felt incredibly contemplative after the experience of visiting the house, and we both felt so grateful for the lives that we do lead. It was definitely an eye opening evening.
And on our way back to the hotel, we stopped by a bakery and picked up two chocolate-covered waffles, which we gobbled up happily in bed.
Some tips from today:
A-BIKE: website here
SHOPS ON KLAAVERSTRAAT: Everything from your H&M, to your Bershka, to your Zara
ANNE FRANK HOUSE TICKETS: website here
a mornin’ with Banksy, a v English foodie experience, a final moment of sightseeing before home
After another hearty breakfast at Hotel de Looier, we sadly packed up and left our wonderful lil room. However, we were lucky in that we could leave our luggage safely at the hotel, and even luckier that we had a whole day ahead of us explorin’ before our flight home later on in the eve.
Our first stop on our last day in the Dam was the visit the Moco Museum, a contemporary art museum on the Museumplein in the city. With a stunning view of the Rijksmuseum and the Amsterdam sign from inside, that view was enough to make ya stop in your tracks. But what we witnessed inside was the most incredible exhibition I’ve been to, to date.
After my stint as a PR and Marketing intern at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery a few months back, I’ve become obsessed with museums, and particularly how they are marketed to audiences- especially to young people, like myself. And Moco have got it JUST right. The millenial pink of the leafleting and tickets had me HAPPY.
The exhibition just so happened to be allll about the elusive Banksy, who is said to have been born in none other than Bristol, where Sam is at university- so this was right up both of our streets. We both find Banksy’s story fascinating, and it just so happens that Sam’s first year university accommodation was literally opposite one of the most famous Banksy artworks in Bristol, an artwork that we both liked to visit when I came down to the Bris.
I cannot describe how fascinating it was to hear all about Banksy’s story and see some of the most famous artworks right there in front of us- such as the iconic Girl With Balloon and the incredibly disturbing Mickey Mouse installation created for Banksy’s made-up theme park, Dismaland.
I felt v cultured leaving the Moco Museum, and also incredibly hungry as it was lunchtime. Now v low on euros, we ended up having a very British, very cheap snack of none other than Wok to Walk. It was my first time noodlin’, but Sam adores the restaurant, and I was v happy with my choice. Noodles, chicken and teriyaki sauce. Mmmm.
We spent the rest of the afternoon explorin’ for free- visiting sights such as the Bloemenmarkt, the floating flower market that is BEAUTIFUL, we headed back to Centraal for a wander and also saw Amsterdam from above from Centraal Library. What a day.
A quick pit stop to the equally British (and equally cheap) McDonald’s for dinner, and it was time to check out of the hotel and wait for our taxi to pick us up for the airport. We said goodbye to the city at 6pm, and arrived at Schipol Airport to a delightful delay of an hour. Coulda been worse. Amsterdam, you’d been a treat.
Tips from today:
MOCO MUSEUM: website here
THE TRANSFER COMPANY WE USED: Rideways
Our little European getaway to Paris and Amsterdam was the closest I’d done to travelling, as I’d never visited multiple countries in one trip before. I 110% got the travel bug, and I can’t wait to get away to explore other parts of our wonderful world as soon as I can. Paris still holds the same romance and sheer magic that it did the first time I visited, and I can honestly see myself with a lil home of some sort there in the future. As for Amsterdam, I adored the winding streets, the beautiful canals and the fact that sometimes the city is silent, purely because there are no cars around. It’s bliss. I hope you’ve found some travel inspiration from these lil guides to my favourite cities, and I hope you’ll want to get visiting them soon. xxxx