Amsterdam – one of the finest cities in the world. A city everyone wants to visit at some point in their life (for different reasons). From canals to coffee shops, from parks to museums, booze to cannabis the city caters to everyone’s needs. We have both had a chance to visit Amsterdam at different points in time (both on solo trips somehow) and have had a pretty different but equally amazing time!
His Amsterdam Story
So mate you are going to Amsterdam, yeah? asked a guy I met at the pub on my last day in London. “Yes! I am so excited, I have heard so much about how beautiful the city is” I replied. Ah well, have a nice one. Check your cakes before eating them.
I had a late night bus (I was traveling cheap) the same day so I bid farewell and head towards Victoria to catch it. The bus took about 12 hours but wasn’t the most uncomfortable one as I slept half of the journey. I reached Sloterdijk (Amsterdam’s bus station) at around 7 in the morning, with a full 3 days to look forward to.
Strolling (& cruising) around the canals & exploring the Coffee Shops
I love spending the first day in a new city just walking around and if there ever is a city made for walking, this certainly is. I would definitely recommend the Jordaan area which is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods of the city, famous for its colorful streets, shops & cafes. Winkel 43 serves some of the best savories you will ever have (Apple crumble pie being their speciality).
A lot of people like cycling (and it is certainly something I would recommend too) but the canals offer the chance to see the city through its waterways. There are many companies which offer great canal tours. I have listed them down here. It takes about an hour and a half which you can spend listening to the guides or just admiring the pretty sights of the city. Even if you don’t want to take one, I would definitely recommend strolling along the canals. Brouwersgracht is certainly the most picturesque canal to walk around.
Biking is a way of life in Amsterdam, so while it is good to hire a bike for a day, bear in mind that locals often bike to work, so don’t stop in the middle of a cycle track, to take a selfie or something as you will be get quite a mouthful.
Amsterdam, to no one’s surprise, has a great nightlife. It’s (in) famous coffee shops (that serve cannabis legally) are open late (I liked the vibe of Bulldog) and the Red Light District is buzzing. Well, if curiosity gets the better of you, do come down at night and you would be amazed how it’s not the dangerous, shoddy area of the city you thought it would be.
Football Stadiums and a trip to Zanse Schans
Football has always been something I am passionate about. I love going to Football stadiums (check our blog on football stadiums we have been to). How could I come to Amsterdam and not visit the birthplace of Total Football!
The tour tickets to the Johan Cruyff arena can be booked online and are around 18 euros for an adult. It is a must visit for all football lovers as the tour covers Ajax’ glorious history, plenty of photo ops of the inside of the stadium, the player’s changing room and the impressive trophy room.
The tour lasted about 90 mins post which I decided to take a short trip to Zanse Schans (the windmill village). The nearest railway station is Zaandijk – Zaanse Schans. This station can be reached by local train from Amsterdam Central Station in 17 minutes. From there its a 15 minutes walk to Zaanse Schans. You could easily spend the entire day exploring the area, learning about chocolate making and tasting some amazing cheese.
Heineken Brewery & a half day trip to Giethoorn
I have always preferred a pint of Stout over a Lager (and I am happy that Ireland has it’s fair share of amazing stout) but I had heard rave reviews of the Heineken Brewery. I decided to book a tour which costs about 18 euros and can be booked online. The tour is about an hour and a half where they take you through the brewing process, the history but the best part is the Heineken Zone where they use VR to cause an effect to seem you are inside a brewing cylinder which I found quite cool (it was almost like a Universal Studio ride). You get 2 pints at the end of the tour and I can vouch that it’s the best Heineken you will ever drink. I could have had more butt I had booked a day tour for myself to Giethoorn.
This is a village which operates primarily on waterways. It is a lovely half day-trip from Amsterdam and also one of the most beautiful villages you Reaching Giethoorn can be a bit tricky but it’s worth it! From Amsterdam Zuid/Centraal station, take a train to Steenwijk. There are direct trains available but if you find a connecting train via Zwolle, just hop in. It will take around 90 minutes for a one-way journey. Once you reach Steenwijk, get out of the train station & reach the bus station next to it. Take the bus no. 70 & get down at Giethoorn village bus stop. This journey from Steenwijk to Giethoorn will take about 30 minutes.
Once you reach you can choose to take a boat trip and just laze around. I spent the best part of the day there.
Reluctantly, I picked myself up to head back. I would treasure Giethoorn for the rest of my life.
Amsterdam is a beautiful city and there is so much more to do. The past 3 days had gone in a flash. I swear I could have spent a week but Munich & Oktoberfest was waiting for me. Perhaps next time?
“I am not going to spend New Year’s alone! I know what I am going to do. I am going to book a ticket to Amsterdam and celebrate it there!”
I was excited but equally nervous as I had not been to a European city alone before. Amsterdam had been on my bucket list for ages and I was glad I had finally booked it. Here are the top things I loved and would recommend to do :
1. Cycling in Vondelpark:
Vondelpark is one of the best parks in Amsterdam and it’s so fun to just take a bike and cycle around
2. Explore the Museums
Rijkmuseum (one of the most famous arts & history museums) , Van Gogh Museum (famous works of Vincent Van Gogh), Anne Frank House (a writer’s house dedicate to the famous Jewish diarist from World War 2) are all relatively less crowded and you get too explore them without many pesky tourists around but I would still recommend to book online prior.
3. Shop at the Winter Markets
Germany may known for its Christmas markets but Amsterdam is a city transformed for Christmas. Some of the best Christmas markets are Haarlemmerstraat Kerstmarkt as well as the Funky Xmas Market at Westergasterrein
4. Eat the best fries in Europe
Sorry Belgium, Amsterdam makes the best fries. The Manneken Pis makes crispy golden brown fries to tickle your taste buds and want you to crave for more
5. Swing over the edge at the Amsterdam Lookout
Fancy some adventure? The Amsterdam Lookout is a unique way to get a panoramic view of the city as you swing over the edge of a 100 meter tall tower
6. Try the Oliebollen
Try the famous Dutch treat Oliebollen. It’s a deep-fried dough ball dusted with sugar as a topping. A delicious, tasty, and welcome sider to your cup of hot chocolate.
7. Take a daytrip to Zanse Schans
I agree with my partner. Zanse Schans is just really pretty to be missed!
8. Attend the Amsterdam Light Festival
An annual event, the Amsterdam Light Festival (ALF) illuminates the city with brilliant works of light art. You have the option to do this over a boat trip as well (how cool is that)
9. Go on a Winter Wonder Walk
The streets of Amsterdam are not as crowded as they are over the summer. Take this opportunity to stroll around just about anywhere.
Amsterdam is certainly one of the most interesting cities we have been to. One might be excused for dismissing it as just another touristy city at first, but like the effect of a space cake , Amsterdam takes it time to grow on you!
P.S. Massive shout out to Amit Rathi and his partner Anamika for being excellent hosts and local guides to both of us on our travels to their beautiful city. We can’t wait to come back, this time together!