I recently spent four wonderful days in the buzzing city of Amsterdam. As an Amsterdam virgin, I had no idea what to expect – especially with its wild reputation. However, we delved into the experience with an open mind, that is myself, my partner (Scott Tisson – Intrepid Escape) and our two friends who were taking a well deserved trip abroad since becoming first time parents. Where better to venture to than Amsterdam?
We found a quaint apartment with two double rooms and at £100 each it was a perfect retreat, with self catering facilities to boot. We were located in the neighbourhood of ‘De Pijp’, a vibrant up and coming area just a 10 minute cycle from the city centre. All in all, we had everything we needed to begin our Amsterdam adventure.
One of the most efficient ways to get around Amsterdam is by bicycle, both environmentally friendly and a fantastic way to see as much of the city as possible. At about 12 euros from ‘Danny’s Bike Shop’ for 24 hour hire, it’s inexpensive and the roads are so well made to accommodate the popular mode of transport. Maps and information centres are easy to find, if you need them, though we found it simpler to follow the canals or even the tram lines to navigate our way around this enchanting city. If cycling isn’t for you, trams are also a great way to get around; tickets cost just 12 euros for 48 hours of unlimited use.
There is so much to see and do in Amsterdam that I would recommend planning your time well, so as to make the most of every moment. We had the luxury of doing things as a group but also took time as couples to experience the city. A must-do is without a doubt the canal tour, taking this tour at night provides sensational views of the beautiful city in a spectacular array of different coloured lights. Amsterdam is also home to some incredible museums, even if it isn’t your thing, it’s worth visiting Anne Franks House and museum, if only to soak up the atmosphere of the stunning local area and the abundance of history. With queues for the museum often tailing around the block, its worth getting there early to avoid the busier periods. If art is something that you wish to see then you cannot miss the Van Gogh Museum, a huge towering building just off the main square and Royal Palace in ‘The Dam’.
Something on my to do list was to experience the city at night, we enjoyed one of the many bars in ‘The Dam’ and took some stunning photographs of the Royal Palace. Even on a Sunday night it was buzzing with locals and tourists alike, drinking and dancing under the stars. I would definitely recommend a visit to the well known Red Light District. It’s quite a shock to cycle past a middle-aged half-naked woman dancing in a shop window at midday on your way to find some lunch! However, it is part of what makes Amsterdam the city it is. Once you get past the stag do’s and ‘lads on tour’, you’ll notice that very ordinary people, young and old are all curious to take a look at the main strip. Every window has young or old ladies in nothing but skimpy underwear or even just a ribbon covering their modesty. There are numerous lively bars on the strip as well as sex shops and sex shows all at around 50 euros for an hour long show including drinks.
When looking for something to eat, there is no shortage of restaurants. There are also an abundance of patisseries and café’s lining the canals. For me there is nothing better than to sit and enjoy delicious pastries and watch the barges motor past. We found a perfect restaurant (Het Karbeel) and kicked off our holiday with a delectable three cheese fondue, enjoyed with warm bread and vegetables, and washed down with local beer and wines. The one thing you must try when in Amsterdam is the pancakes and waffles. Around every corner you’ll find a waffle house, a great stop to get dessert when exploring at night. As we were there in one of the colder months the chocolate and fruit crepes and waffles were a great excuse for warming up at any time of day! Another thing we loved were the cheese shops! Dotted all over the city, they were easy to come by and held a whole host of different cheeses to taste and buy alongside sweet pickles and warm bread.
Amsterdam has so much to offer, and its not somewhere that parents should be worried to take children as it is easy to avoid the areas hosting the ‘ladies of the night’. It is full of parks; Vondel Park for example is a great area with lots of greenery and lakes, perfect for cycling and enjoying picnics while surrounded by wildlife. Whether it be a romantic trip with your partner or a getaway with a bunch of friends, Amsterdam caters to everyone’s needs. It’s also a place that I (a 22 year old girl) felt safe, even at night I was happy and felt confident enough that I could find my own way around if necessary.
On the whole, I discovered that not only was there a lot more to do in Amsterdam than I had originally anticipated, but that it is a place that I would happily return to in order to see and do all that this fantastic city has to offer.