This European city has, let’s face it, a pretty seedy reputation. Red lights and weed is what a lot of people think when they picture the capital of the Netherlands. But that is far from its true claim. I was blown away by the beauty of the city, the canals and lovely cafes scattered along the many waterfronts, the museum quarter, the parks – it was all so lovely. It definitely exceeded my expectations. Amsterdam in the summer, is definitely a sight to behold!
WHERE TO STAY
There are plenty of hotel options in the city, but they aren’t all that flash. By far the most cost effective and attractive way to stay in this city – is via air-bnb. If you head for a home just outside of the inner belt of canals, you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck. We stayed HERE. It was in a hip and really cool suburb a mere 15 minutes from town. For a couple, it was a perfect set up.
WHERE TO EAT
Amsterdam has a buzzing foodie scene, and is teeming with cool, hipster, healthy – the full spectrum. Here’s where we dined!
Staring At Jakob
This was our ‘local’ in Amsterdam, literally a few doors down. It had a beautiful location with tables littering the pavement beside a canal in a quiet side street. During the morning it has a contemporary almost American style brunch vibe, and at night it turns into a super cool Japanese restaurant and bar.
Super cute and charming, with killer food. On a corner in Jordaan, this little breakfast and lunch spot has a lovely modern menu. I had the most delicious dirty chai latte – a drink not many sell over this side of the world. It was such a crowd favourite back home in Oz, and I was excited to see it on a menu.
For naughty nibbles and yummy healthy snacks, this chain is very well designed and has some drool worthy morsels including peanut butter cups and every protein bar under the sun. (Perfect for picnic dessert treats! )
De Drie Graefjes Bakery
If you’re in the mood for cake, look no further. When you walk into this cafe the whole counter is full of huge slices of freshly baked cake. The unicorn multi-color one is a crowd favourite. This is a nice cafe to sit in and watch the world go by. There is a pride of place table on the top floor that has a balcony and looks down on the street. It’s the birdseye place to be, and in summer – it’s adjourned with flowers making it extra instragram worthy…
This place is so cool it hurts. Gourmet/hipster food courts seem to be the done thing nowadays. I’ve been to some amazing ones in Copenhagen and Lisbon, but Amsterdam was also a standout. Full of everything from a GnT bar, wood fired pizza pop up and sushi stand. The decor is amazing, made even cooler by the fact its been erected in an old converted tram shed. On the weekends there’s a handi-crafts market adjoining, which has some really great local designs. I was particularly impressed by the handmade chocolate by Chove.
WHAT TO DO
Yellow bike tour
When you first get into town, this is the ideal way to orientate yourself and get a taste of all the main city spots. We did a two hour tour, and it was ideal. There are only 12 to a group and you’re given a little bit of history and a great first peak into Amsterdam. The tour guides are young and fun as well which helps! Note: go and book yourself in and then grab a bite to eat at Vinnies next door while you wait.
Getting your weed on
Now of course, one of the big tourism pulls of Amsterdam is legal marijuana use. Lots of the locals actually don’t partake, they consider it a bit uncool and a bit touristy. We went to The Bulldog which is the original ‘coffee shop’ (Note: that’s code for weed shop… no caffeine in sight in one of these). They give you a joint all beautifully packaged up, and you feel so…illegal…walking around the streets in plain sight holding it. I kept feeling like I had to hide it! Grey Area is another popular spot to get a hit, and was always teeming with customers whenever we passed.
This is the coolest area of town, and we kept being drawn back. Every street is alongside a canal, and the architecture is incredible. Tall incredibly skinny buildings with intricate facades line the streets, and because of the un-easy ground they’re built on – many are leaning at quite an angle which is quite the sight to behold. Jordaan is home to the coolest of cafes and the hippest of clothing stores – I highly recommend just getting lost amongst it.
A picnic in this lovely park is a must in a sunny day. It’s full of lakes and lush grass, and with a picnic in tow, it’s the perfect place to rest weary travellers feet.
Red light district
The red light district in Amsterdam is not as big as I expected, in fact it’s shrinking! That said, it was still eye opening to walk past little alleys full of red lights and open doors. Ladies of all sizes and nationalities stand in the windows in their underwear waiting for customers, who were mixed amongst streams of tourists who were wandering by having a gawk. There are still some sex shows in the area, we didn’t get to try any out though! I’d heard mixed reviews, apparently the novelty wears off pretty fast and it gets a bit…boring.
The main shopping strip is great in Amsterdam central! It has a lot of the same brands as London, but it’s the perfect spot to browse if you’ve got some spare time. The long winding streets are ideal for wandering.
Zaanse Schans Windmills
On our third day in town, we decided to venture into the country to check out some windmills. Now I can’t say it was the best thing I have ever done. It was worth it for the view, but it was so super touristy – which put us off a bit. The buildings were great, but it cost 4 euro to enter EACH windmill, which we opted out of. There are heaps of tours that offer to pick you up take you here, and then on to a nearby fishing town and cheese farm. They range in price but are about £50 a pop. We opted for the local bus, which was so easy – and cheap! Just head to Centraal and ask for directions, you can get a return ticket just to the windmills, or you can get a region ticket that gives you access to a few different spots.
All in all, three days was the perfect amount of time to immerse ourselves in Amsterdam. There was still plenty we could have fit in – for example we didn’t get to experience the clubbing scene in Amsterdam. We also missed out on a canal cruise, and didn’t find time to get to any of the museums (of which there are plenty!). But we didn’t feel rushed or like we’d overstayed our time, and mainly just enjoyed eating and exploring our way through this gorgeous European centre. Until next time Amsterdam, dank je!