Last month, I was lucky enough to jet off to Amsterdam for the ultimate mini-break and today I thought I’d share with you tips and tricks for a short stay in this beautiful European city, including places to eat, hacks for getting around the city, and ideas for things to do while you’re there!
Ahhh Amsterdam – you sure did capture my heart in such a short space of time! Before I travelled to the city I wasn’t really sure what to expect. When you think of Amsterdam I’m sure the first things that pop into your head include Anne Frank, windmills, tulips, canals, bicycles, cannabis and the Red Light District and you would be right, Amsterdam is all those things (aside, perhaps, the windmills) but it is so much more! It is art, culture, beautiful architecture, friendly people, good food and drink – I could go on! If you want to find out how to spend three nights in this beautiful city then read on, but make sure you grab a cuppa because it’s a long one! I have also posted daily travel vlogs from the trip on my Youtube channel so make sure you take a look & don’t forget to subscribe!
WHERE TO STAY
We booked our holiday through Holiday Pirates (not spon but highly recommend if you’re looking for a good holiday on a budget) and managed to get a really good deal on our hotel and flights. We flew from Manchester with KLM and considering we’re both nervous fliers the trip went without a hitch. Bonus points to KLM for offering free breakfast & lunch on the flight unlike other more budget airlines.Although we could have got the hotel for cheaper by booking the hotel included in the Holiday Pirates offer, on closer inspection it was pretty far out of the city centre with not much going on around it. This isn’t a problem if you don’t mind relying on taxis or other public transport to get around but we fancied being somewhere a little more central so that we could get to most places on foot and therefore we decided to spend a little extra and book ourselves into the Park Hotel. This proved to be a perfect choice as we were so central – only a 5-ish minute walk to the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseam, directly across the river from the Hard Rock Cafe and therefore only a 15 minute walk to find ourselves in the thick of everything.
The hotel itself is a 4* and was having some renovation work done while we were there so we didn’t quite get to make the most of all the facilities however we were very happy with the comfort and cleanliness. The decor was modern if a little tired in places, but we had a very comfortable stay and I wouldn’t hesitate on booking in again. The basic room was spacious and light, the bed was comfortable and we could get Netflix on the TV (always a plus). There was also free access to the gym which I didn’t take advantage of this time around but was well equipped with everything you could need during your stay.
We stumbled across so many cute boutique hotels and more familiar chains while walking around the city so there truly is somewhere to suit every budget available right in the centre.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Ok so here’s the deal, I’m probably going to be very unhelpful with this because we basically walked everywhere but I’ll do my best so here goes:
Public transport in Amsterdam seems to be pretty darn good! We were very lazy and got an Uber to and from the airport to our hotel but in our defence we did arrive during rush hour so didn’t fancy squeezing ourselves onto a packed train with our luggage. You can get the train directly from Amsterdam Schipol Airport to Central Station for a €5.30 each way and apparently this is only a 15-20 minute journey. I believe our Uber took around 35 – 40 minutes the first time due to traffic (and dropped us off in the wrong place but that did mean we paid a cheeky visit to the Netflix European HQ and got free chocolate – don’t ask lol) and around 25 minutes on the way back. I think it was about €15 – € 20 but I can’t remember off the top of my head…
When in Amsterdam itself you can rely on several modes of transport: trams, bicycles, taxis, boats and of course your own two feet. As I mentioned above, we only really walked everywhere however we were sorely tempted to hire bikes to get around for a really authentic Amsterdam experience. We were only put off by the fact that we couldn’t figure out how the traffic system worked for bikes and after nearly getting mowed down on foot on multiple occasions we decided that maybe for us it would be best to continue walking.
One thing to consider is getting yourself an I Amsterdam card on your first day. These are available from both the airport and Central Station and come with a whole host of benefits. We bought the 72 hour card which worked out at €95 (approx £87 with the current exchange rate) and gained us free or discounted access into over 70 museums and free transport across the city. We didn’t actually use the transport perks which was a shame but the free museum entry was handy. I think really the card is only worth it if you plan on using public transportation while you’re over there as I’m not convinced we got €95 worth of museum attractions out of the card while we were there. You can also only pay by card which seems to be a bit of a trend across the city and is worth baring in mind – I had budgeted for this card in my Euros so was low-key fuming by having to put it on my card.
WHERE TO EAT
Now this is one we struggled with, I won’t lie! It’s entirely my fault – being a) vegetarian and b) a fussy eater means that I will usually do my research before I go anywhere and have a list of places to try for food, however for some reason this time around I had no idea of anywhere I wanted to eat aside from two recommendations. Stupid, I know but there we go!
There are an abundance of restaurants across the centre of the city with a huge range of cuisines – unfortunately I can’t give a good overview of them as I wasn’t particularly adventurous but if you are veggie or if you’re travelling with someone who is here are some restaurants to try that cater to your needs:
- Vegan Junk Food Bar – awesome atmosphere & great vegan junk food!
- The Pantry – possibly our favourite food from the entire trip, it’s very traditionally Dutch, very well priced and had possibly the best service we experienced the entire holiday
- Hard Rock Cafe – we ate here on our first night because we were exhausted and had very little imagination when it came to what we wanted to eat. The veggie options were pretty thin on the ground but it was your typical Hard Rock affair – nothing special but pretty consistent.
- Bagel & Beans – such a cute cafe offering an awesome selection of healthy bagels! I really loved this meal, it was tasty, light and healthy too which was just what I wanted!
- Middle Eat – we stumbled across this place by accident on our third day and it turned out to be just what the pair of us wanted. It had a great selection of Middle Eastern dishes that were so full of flavour and really reasonably priced! (Sorry I haven’t linked the website for this one, I couldn’t find it!)
We also grabbed lunch at an Irish pub on the second day – this wasn’t perhaps the best food we had the whole stay but you can’t go wrong with a cheese toastie!
For those with a sweet tooth, you must try the Stroopwafles from van Wonderen – I don’t normally like Stroopwafles as I’m not a huge caramel fan but these were honestly incredible. 10/10 would eat every day.
WHAT TO DO/WHERE TO GO
Ok guys, we’re nearing the end now so congratulations if you’ve stuck with me this far! I actually think this might have been the longest blog post I’ve ever written. Too long? Let me know in the comments!
We managed to pack quite a lot into our time in Amsterdam and when I look back on it I’m actually pretty impressed with everything that we did. If you want to see more of what we did in detail, make sure you check out my Youtube channel where I’ve uploaded daily travel vlogs from our trip.
On the first day we didn’t really have much of a plan of action, we just wanted to wander and absorb the atmosphere of the city. We did end up accidentally walking into the European Netflix HQ thinking it was our hotel when the taxi dropped us off outside (in our defence there were no signs so for all we know, it could have been!). The lady on reception looked very confused when I asked if we could check in but after we got over the initial embarrassment she was very friendly, printed us off a map to get us to our hotel on foot and sent us on our way with a bar of Tony’s chocolate each (you need to try the coffee one omg).
We did pick up our I Amsterdam cards on the first day from the station, and this gave us a great opportunity to wander the streets and get our bearings a little. We were more adventurous on the second day, packing in a trip to the Van Gogh museum, drawing in our favourite little cafe Locals Coffee, and a river cruise (another free perk from the I Amsterdam card), before heading out to the Vegan Junk Food Bar for dinner and a wander through the Red Light District. While we were there we had a wander round the Prostitution Museum which was eye opening to say the least. It changed my whole perspective on the Red Light District and I would highly recommend visiting. We also went to the Erotica Museum which was a few doors down and held a collection of very weird and wonderful erotic objects. I can’t say this was my favourite one but it was worth a wander round anyway. If you plan to visit the Red Light District I’d suggest going with an open mind and of course be respectful of the women working. The general consensus is no photography of the girls, and of course no laughing at them/ridiculing although I feel like this would go without saying.
On the third day, I wanted to check out the flower market so we made our way over there in the morning and then headed over to the Holocaust Museum which was another eye opening experience but in an entirely different manner. We also went to the Artis Zoo which I wasn’t a huge fan of – I’m used to Chester Zoo which is, as zoos go, pretty great in terms of conservation work, the size of the enclosures and the general treatment of animals. Unfortunately Artis Zoo lacked most of these aspects with small enclosures and I just didn’t feel happy walking around there. We were going to head to the Red Light District again that night but we were both pretty tired after another day of lots of walking so instead we got Stroopwafles from van Wonderen and headed back to the hotel to change for dinner.
We didn’t have much time to explore on the last day as our flight back was in the afternoon so we wandered the nine streets area for the last time, popped into a few shops and grabbed a coffee before heading back to pick up the luggage. The weather was pretty rubbish on the last day so neither of us minded not exploring too much!
We really wanted to go to the Anne Frank museum however it turns out that you have to book quite far in advance of your trip to get tickets. They do hold back 20% of tickets to sell on the day however you have to be pretty on it to get the tickets when they’re released at 9am and unfortunately we missed out!
All in all it was a pretty amazing trip and I definitely fell in love with the city in ways I never expected. I want to make a return trip in the summer to see the city in all its glory as I imagine it’s truly beautiful by the canals in the summer. If you’re after the picturesque I can highly recommend a wander round the main streets and side streets in the nine streets area – they are truly beautiful (and highly instagrammable!).
Next on the agenda is a birthday trip to Paris in a few weeks so please do let me know if you liked this post and would like more travel round-up posts on the blog when I’ve been somewhere new!