Wow, been a while since my last post hasn’t it? But I couldn’t see out 2017 without a final travel post. So this one is about things you can see and do in Amsterdam, which I visited twice this year.
Let me first start by saying that Amsterdam is so easy to get to.
From London, the flight time is about 45 minutes. By the time you’ve burst through the clouds the air hostesses are already preparing for landing. Once you get out of the airport, you’re into the train station where you can get a train straight into Amsterdam’s Centraal Station in just under 20 minutes.
Price wise – flights in late September cost me £75 and a 4-bed room at ClinkNOORD (not an affiliate link) €108pp for two nights. Not too shabby!
The first time I went to Amsterdam was in April on a work trip. A group of us got an Airbnb in De Pijp, which was ginourmous and nicely decorated. It slept 10 and was split across 3 floors. The hosts were kind enough to leave us a bottle of wine from their wine cellar which was a nice little touch. (Free booze, almost always a win in my opinion).
Celebrate King’s Day in April
The day after the conference was Holland’s national holiday, King’s Day. This is a day where the Dutch dress in orange to celebrate the King’s birthday. There are street parties, LOTS of canal boats blasting music, and a festival at the Amsterdam RAI called Kingsland.
For anyone who loves a good haggle you will also notice that Amsterdam turns into a massive car boot sale as everyone and their grandma comes out to ‘flog their wares’. The streets are lined with people selling lots of random things including orange merchandise, clothes, shoes, paintings, cans of beer etc. Take some coins and go flea market silly…or do what I did and buy several cans of Heineken. I don’t even like beer but when in Rome…
For all my beer lovers, the windmill pub Brouwerij ‘t IJ is great for a tipple. Pay €6 to taste 5 different beers from their microbrewery
Visit the Anne Frank Huis (House)
If you only had 2/3 hours to spend in Amsterdam and I had to say do this one thing, it would be to visit the Anne Frank House. Most people have a good understanding of Anne’s story and if you’ve read the book even better. But there is something very real about being in the place that these families hid. It’s not a haunting experience like I imagine it must be to visit the concentration camps. It is however very inspiring.
Tickets for these are hard to get on the fly, with them selling out almost two months in advance. My advice is as soon as you know you are going book your tickets. You can also queue on the day but they don’t let on the day visitors in until 2pm and I have seen people queueing from 10am. Not my idea of a good time.
If the tickets are already sold out for when you are going, it’s still ok. I was told by a tour guide that the Anne Frank House release tickets every morning for the same day. Visit their website on the morning you would like to go and try your luck. It’s just such an incredible place I wouldn’t want you to miss it.
Get some pancakes from PANCAKES
While you’re in that neck of the woods you might as well grab some food. PANCAKES is right next door to The Anne Frank House and is so flipping good. So much so that I went back. And that doesn’t really happen to me because I like to try new places. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t pass up on an opportunity to have a pancake that makes you want to lick the plate – I’m paraphrasing but you get my drift.
Go on a canal tour
Amsterdam is distinct from most major cities because of its 165 canals that have a combined length of 100 kilometers. They have a cool ripple-like effect through the city like in the image above. A canal tour is one of the best ways to explore the canal system and find out some interesting facts about Amsterdam Canals. There are many different departure points across the city for you to hop on at, including near Anne Frank. Click here for a list of canal tour departure points in Amsterdam.
Red Light District
Not the first thing you think of when you think of the Red Light District is it? But this is Oude Kerk. Amsterdam’s oldest building and parish church built in the 13th century. And where better to put a church than right in the middle of the Red Light District. Curious place for a church I thought but when you put it in the context of the 13th century it doesn’t look quite so ridiculous.
Though not legal at the time, prostitution was rife and with plenty of new punters making their way through the canal network there was a steady supply of business. But this was also a deeply religious time. Men would sleep with prostitutes and then go to church the next day to confess their sins and pay what was called an indulgence. A fee to the church that would purge them of their sins and still allow them to go to heaven. And for those who were going to sin but had to be up and out at the crack of dawn, well they could buy their indulgences in advance of course.
Sexier side of the Red Light District
That was a really cool fact to learn about Oude Kerk and it’s relevance in the Red Light District. But other than churches, yes there are plenty of naked women standing in lit up windows. Some in the day but mostly at night. As a girl it’s still very safe to walk around. I’ve not heard of any tourists being man-handled by weirdos lurking in dark corners. Both times when I walked through this area there were plenty of people around just having a little noisey like the rest of us.
There are also the well-known sex shows. I visited the Moulin Rouge. It’s one of those things you do to have done it but I wouldn’t do it again. I paid around €40 for entry which included 2/3 free drinks and the show lasted about an hour. As a woman, it was odd to look around the audience and see how captivated the men were with everything that was going on on the stage. Do men find this stuff hot? I thought to myself.
Another word synonymous with Amsterdam is coffee (it’s code for weed shhh don’t tell anyone). Mary J is in plentiful supply in Amsterdam with many legal highs to be had in the many many coffee shops dotted around the city.
The one pictured here called Grey Area has been frequented by Snoop Dog so probably one for the more seasoned weed smokers.
If you’re a cheese lover, or want something to take back for your colleagues go to Reypenaer (next door to Grey Area). They do a phenomenal goat’s cheese, like literally the best goat’s cheese I’ve ever tasted.
All in all, Amsterdam is a really cool city to visit. The Dutch are super cool, there are bikes everywhere, rent one and cycle around, go on walking tours, canal boats and just enjoy