… With no mice in windmills unfortunately.
Back in January myself and one of my close friends decided to take a spontaneous trip to explore Amsterdam, talk about kicking the post Christmas blues! Heres what we got up to…
We stayed in waterloo near rembrandt house and the Amsterdam music theatre for 3 days this was an ideal base as everything within the city centre was within easy walking distance (well once you get to know the layout of the city) I must admit we got very lost on the first night trying to find our hotel after popping up at the wrong waterloo metro, turns out we were just a minutes walk from our hotel. If walkings not your thing you could always take the tram system around the city but bear in mind this is the most confusing system ever but after asking a few locals we eventually figured it out (you pay on the tram by the way).
I knew it was going to be chilly with it being early January but I was without a doubt the coldest I’ve ever been. With temperatures reaching minus 5c I was not prepared for the numbing sensation I would come to feel deep into my bones. But lets push that aside and explore some of the fantastic things this wonderful city has to offer…
The Museum Quarter
As you can probably guess the Museum Quarter is home to Amsterdams favourite museums and galleries including Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk museum, and the Van Gogh Museum. The Van Gogh Museum was high on my list of things to see in Amsterdam but exceeded even my expectations. Displaying over 600 of Van Goghs paintings and drawing – including Sunflowers, The Bedroom and many, many self portraits. The museum displays works from his earlier years of mimicking other artists (not my favourites of his work) through to his very last pieces whilst also managing to tell his troubled story. You will also get a chance to see letters sent between Van Gogh and his closest family and friends in some of the darkest periods of his life. I would highly recommend a visit and pre purchasing tickets to all of Amsterdams main attractions you want to see to avoid any long queues (and I mean loooooong).
Whilst you’re in the museum quarter don’t forget to get your classic selfie in front of the I Amsterdam letters ( I won’t make you look at mine don’t worry!) If you want to get a decent photo opportunity here you will have to get up early, and I mean REALLY early to get there before the crowds.
The central square in the city here you will find Madame Tussauds , the national monument, and the royal palace of Amsterdam, where you can take a tour, if you’re lucky enough to visit when its not closed to the public for state visits. Daily walking tours depart from the square too, unfortunately they need a group bigger than five to depart so we decided to head down to central station.
Here you will find central station, where you most likely entered the city from the airport train, as well as the tourist information centre where you can purchase tickets to see Amsterdam the way it was designed, from the water. We took a canal cruise trough the city and learnt alot about the cities history and architecture. For example did you know they still use the hooks at the top of canal houses to move furniture in as the staircases are to narrow. You may also get to see inside one of the cites famous houseboats.
Jordaan just to the west of Central Station and Dam Square is where many of the locals live and definitely my favourite area of the city. You could spend hours exploring the tiny streets and canals as well as some of the cities best independent cafes and bars. On a Monday morning Westerstraat market is also held here.
Jordaan is where you will find Anne Franks house on the banks of Prinsengracht, an unmissable experience for anyone visiting the city. Make sure you book online to avoid the longest queue I have ever seen. A visit to the museum is a moving experience in which you feel truly connected to the family and their story, you even get to see the original bookcase that concealed the family for two years. The house remains unfurnished on Otto Franks request to symbolise “the void left behind by the millions of people who were deported and never returned”. No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a trip around this museum.
Amsterdam Lights Festival
We were lucky enough to be visiting during amsterdams famous light festival and it was stunning. Every winter Amsterdams streets and canals are illuminated by more than 35 installations of light by artists from across the globe. The artworks can be viewed from various canal cruises every night or you can follow the walking route, but be warned you may get frostbite.
Things to eat
Whilst you’re in the city there are a few treats you just have to try (you’re on holiday right?) First up, Poffertjes, you may have seen these making an entrance in British food markets recently but native to the netherlands these puffed up pancakes are a must try. We had ours at Café de Prins, named after Prinsengracht canal you can find this cafe just opposite Anne Franks house. Don’t be put off by the decor, a little beyond rustic for my taste and sporting some lets say interesting artworks, this place is said to serve the best poffertjes in Amsterdam.
Next freshly made Stroopwaffles and let me tell you they are far superior to those long life ones found at your local Starbucks. Why not head to Banketbakkerij Lanskroon, (don’t ask me how you pronounce that) a cute corner bakery on the Singel canal, widely regarded on trip advisor as serving the best stroopwaffles in Amsterdam, for a nice hot coffee and stroopwaffle to thaw your bones (I know I said we were putting that aside but it was REALLY cold!).
If you have more time don’t miss these out
If theres one piece of advise I could give you it would be to make a plan before you arrive if you want to see everything Amsterdam has to offer in a short amount of time, we had to miss a few things out to catch that blooming return flight home.
Rijksmuseum is said to be bursting with culture and well worth a visit, though it may take you a good few hours to see everything it has to offer. Also in the museum quarter you have House of Bols a must have experience for all you cocktail lovers out there. And why not head over to vondel park ( if the weathers nice) to relax in this massive open space.
You could also visit some of the unique dining experiences amsterdam has to offer such as restaurant de las – a restaurant in a green house in Frankendael Park a short way out of the city centre serving “whatever is in season”. Or if you’re braver than me there is even a restaurant where you eat entirely in the dark with a surprise menu, Ctaste Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is a fantastic city with something for everyone, you could easily spend at least a week here if you have the time I loved it. Have you ever been to Amsterdam? What was your favourite thing there? I’d love to hear about it.