I was lucky enough to be able to take a long weekend to visit one of my favourite places – Amsterdam! The weather was sunny, the drinks were flowing and the threat of getting hit by a bike was high. This was my second time visiting the city and I couldn’t wait to go back. It’s one of those places that has the perfect mix of culture, scenery and nightlife. It’s not boring that’s for sure.
We stayed in Coco Mama hostel, ‘boutique accommodation’ not far from the Heineken Brewery. As with any major city, you’re lucky if you can get nice, central, affordable accommodation and this one wasn’t too bad. The triple bunkbeds were a bit awkward to get in and out of but there was a cool common area and kitchen to hang out in and a big garden.
We headed out for a few drinks on the first night and found a few little pubs to chill out and have a beer. We didn’t really know where we were going at all but it was good to get out there and explore. Subsequently, the next day was spent hungover and in desperate need of food.
Luckily De Carousel (a pancake house with a carousel inside, just near the Heineken Experience) was on hand to cure our hangover with reasonably priced food. The pancakes are delicious!
The next day it was time to do some cultural activities so I headed to FOAM photography museum in the morning. Entrance was 10 Euros and while it was interesting to have a look around, it was smaller than I expected and probably not worth the tenner.
Next, I went to the Van Gogh Museum which is a must-see attraction in Amsterdam. If you buy your tickets in advance from one of the ticket offices you can get a bit of a queue jump, but be prepared for a long wait, especially on weekends. We queued for about half an hour to get in.
I do love the Van Gogh Museum though. There’s so much to see that it’s easy to spend a whole afternoon there. The collection is vast, from his self-portraits, still life’s to Japanese style paintings. As you walk through the gallery you learn more about his life and the struggles he went through – his self-admittance to a mental institution, cutting off part of his ear, and ultimate suicide. Even if you’re not a massive Van Gogh fan I would still recommend taking a look.
The Rijksmuseum is right nearby as well so you can do both in the day if you’re feeling cultural. There’s also the famous Amsterdam sign to take the obligatory tourist photo next to.
A trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Red Light District. It can be a slightly surreal experience but an interesting one nonetheless. Expect to find lots of stag dos, sex shows and general craziness. If you’re feeling that way inclined I would actually recommend going to a sex show. It’s not as seedy as it sounds, some of them are actually quite funny, and apparently it gives you the ‘authentic’ Amsterdam experience (or so I was told).
The next day we took a walk from our hostel to the Red Light District which took about an hour but gave us a chance to take in the city. The Red Light District is completely different during the day and we found this cute little cafe to stop and have a coffee (Ivy & Bros).
On the way back we stopped off in Amsterdam’s main park – Vondelpark. Because the weather was so good, people had flocked to the park to chill out by the water and sunbathe – definitely a good spot to have a well-needed rest after all the walking.
After that there was time for one last night out before flying back home. This time we headed to Leidseplein where there are lots of bars and clubs. This is a touristy area so was quite expensive but there was still lots going on, even on a Sunday night.
Amsterdam is one of those places that you have to visit at least once in your life. If, like me, you like good nightlife as well as lots of cultural things to do during the day then it’s the ideal destination. I definitely feel like I need another holiday to recover though