Long Weekend in Amsterdam
"Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin."
- John Green
I only made it to Amsterdam for a few nights, however, I was visiting a friend lucky enough to live in this vibrant and cultured city and who was thus able to provide us with loads of tips on where to go. With such a great selection of museums and cool spots to relax - whether this is brunching, the beautiful Vondelpark, the bars or the artificial beach (to name a few!) - I could definitely have spent more time in the city.
Traveling from Ireland meant that I was able to book very cheap flights through Ryanair. I only paid €100 for my flight (which included a checked on bag). However, my flight was delayed both on the way out and returning home...which was especially annoying as it was not until I reached the airport that I found out about these delays (oh Ryanair!) 😣
CANALS & ARCHITECTURE
One of Amsterdam's most famous features is obviously its canals....and the extent of which they populate the city surprised me! I did not realize until I visited that that there are more than one hundred kilometers of canals, about 90 islands, and 1,500 bridges. Just like in Venice, I felt that these canals helped to create a more relaxed atmosphere throughout the city... and they look so pretty with the numerous bridges and beautiful architectural buildings reflecting upon them too!
The pretty flowers that align many of the bridges make for lovely viewing points and pictures. I would love to visit during tulip season as I can imagine the multitude of tulips beautifully bringing an abundance of color to the city. Amsterdam has an ideal environment for growing tulips and tulip season is from around the end of March until mid-May. During this season you will find tulips aligning many of the fields in Bollenstreek (roughly a 30 min. drive from the city center). There is also a Tulip Festival that occurs each year during this season.
As mentioned, the beautiful buildings of Amsterdam are yet another distinguishable attribute of the city - they are distinct due to their architectural style which is known as Dutch Renaissance style. The crookedness of some of the buildings in the city was another feature that I was unaware of and quite surprised by....even asking my friend if I was imagining the buildings were lopsided at one stage!
BUILDINGS OF INTEREST
Some of the impressive buildings that we passed by around the city center were as follows (see above gallery for pictures of them):
* Centraal Station
* Stadsschouwburg Theatre
The former home of the National Ballet & Opera
Located near the Anne Frank Museum (about a 10 minute walk from Dam Square). For a small fee, you can climb up the steps and enter inside of the Church to see views of the city from the Bell Tower. The famous painter, Rembrandt van Rijn, is buried somewhere in here though his exact grave number is unmarked. These views consistently gain great reviews on Tripadvisor and it is definitely on my to-do list for my next visit. Interestingly, Anne Frank mentions the chiming of these bells several times in her diary and there is even a statue dedicated to her just outside of the church at Westermarkt.
* Dam Square
Located at the heart of the city center, The National Monument (1956 World War II monument) stands here. There is a great selection of shopping, food stalls and restaurants to be found in this area too. Nieuwe Kerk (see next item) is located here too.
A very popular exhibition space located in a church right in the heart of the city at Dam Square. This venue has also hosted royal ceremonies, official gatherings, and cultural events.
Located in Chinatown, close to the Red Light District, this beautiful Temple hosts guided tours providing an introduction to Buddhism / and meditation.
We tried to book this several weeks in advance but to no avail. I had also been warned that this sells out extremely fast and tickets need to be booked as soon as they become available. We still took a stroll over to see the house (see picture 7 of the gallery).
After I returned home, I was surprised to learn that this Palace is both in active use and available for the public to visit. Definitely on my to-do list for my next visit too!
This beautiful building was formerly the Main Post Office but is now a shopping mall.
DINING, CHILLING, & SHOPPING
Although you will find many shopping centers and large stores around the city, Nine Streets is more of a small hip area and really nice to wander around. It is composed of small streets where you will find many cute, quirky boutiques and eateries.
Coffee & Coconuts Interior wise, this spot was my favorite for brunch! Located in a former cinema, the interior contained high ceilings, open brick walls, plants, photography and overall it had a really cool vibe. We had breakfast here and we both went for quite a healthy option (see picture 1 of the gallery). It was super fresh and tasty; the coffee was also really good. Cocktails, beer, wine, and dinner are served here too.
Dignita The most amazing pancakes I have ever had!! However, you must note that I have a VERY sweet tooth, and so, if you are not a fan of sweet breakfasts then I wouldn't recommend this option!! I have never had pancakes with marshmallows and popcorn on top of them but somehow it works!! There was fruit on top too so it wasn't all unhealthy 😜 The juice selection here was really good and provided somewhat of a refreshing and nutritious start to our day...after the pancakes!
Drovers Dog I had the smashed avocado on toasted sourdough and it was sooo good!! The cappuccino was great too. Dinner, Australian beer, wine, cocktails, and non-alcoholic drinks are also served here.
Pluk You will find such a cute selection of accessories for sale here (eg. stationery, kitchen & living accessories). It is worth a wander into even if you are just passing by and not intending to stop for food. It is located in the shopping friendly area of Nine Streets (mentioned above). I had a lovely cappuccino and the acai bowl - it was really tasty though not too filling.
Ree7 - also found on Nine Streets. We didn't make it inside as we were already having brunch close by, however, we could spot their milkshakes from the other side of the road! A sight to behold, their milkshakes have donuts and other sweets stacked up on top of the mug (and make for very Insta friendly pictures). Check out their Instagram page to see evidence of this! If you have a sweet tooth then you should try one of these!
Hotel Pulitzier We were lucky to somewhat stumble across this hotel while strolling around the city center and in need of a rest. When you walk through the main hotel reception area there is a lovely garden area that you can sit and relax in. It was a perfect spot for us to enjoy a glass of wine before continuing to explore the city - the wine was very well priced too.
W Amsterdam Hotel This hotel has a VERY cool rooftop bar area!! Its interior is modern and contemporary and provides great views of the city. The bathrooms are very cool... though difficult to see in as they are so dark (see gallery pictures) 😂
Sushisamba It is located just across the bridge from where you can buy cruise tickets and where they depart from. It's thus a great spot to sit outside along the canal watching the boats go by and enjoying a cocktail while you await your canal boat tour.
Artificial Beach & Crane Hotel
Pllek: This cool spot is built from old sea containers and also features a man-made beach overlooking the city. There is food and beer available here and there was even an outdoor stage with musicians playing when we visited (see my Insta video of it here). It is a very cool place with quite a hipster feel to it and located only a few minutes from the city center by the free ferry from Centraal Station (just remember to check the time for the last ferry back!).
The Crane Hotel is located out by Pllek too (see gallery picture). And yes, this is an actual hotel located in a crane!
We also caught sight of the A'DAM Lookout on the ferry ride back from Pllek (see gallery picture). You can take a ferry, also from Centraal Station, out to the observation deck located here. This observation deck features the highest swing in Europe and you can admire a view out over the city from here. I was definitely not brave enough to attempt this!
Mama Kelly: If you like pink then you need to visit here! It's quite a unique venue where the majority of the interior is pink and where various other eye-catching features pop up throughout the restaurant. It makes for a very Insta friendly location! We had dinner here; its main dishes are lobster or chicken and so it is not very vegetarian friendly, however, there was a vegetarian dish available which was quite nice. They also do a lunch menu.
Foodhallen: If you are looking for somewhere to eat that is quite casual then Foodhallen is ideal. With such a wide variety of stalls to choose from, there is sure to be something here to suit everyone. It's an indoor food market with a bar too (both reasonably priced). We visited on a Friday evening and it was buzzing with people and a DJ was playing too. It was quite loud on the Friday night and so it's an ideal spot for starting your night off on the town, however, not so ideal if you just want to relax over a meal.
MUSEUMS & HEINEKEN TOUR
I could have spent my entire holiday on museum trips in Amsterdam; the caliber and abundance of great museums is amazing! As a lot of them are located close together, on Museum Square, I managed to fit in trips to the Van Gogh Museum, Moco Museum and the Stedelijk Museum all in 1 day...and none of them disappointed! I took so many pictures and video clips when I visited these museums and Heineken, however, my phone broke a few days later and my google photos had failed to automatically back up!!! So disappointed!
I had been so inspired by the Banksy and Roy Lichtenstein exhibition that was on in the Moco Museum when I visited that I had literally taken a picture of everything on display but alas, I lost it all! I had actually not planned on a trip to the Moco Museum but the prettiness of the building alone was enough to tempt me in....and then when I saw that there was a Banksy exhibition on in it I just couldn't resist. I really loved this museum.
This Museum was so much bigger than I had imagined and it was a stark reminder of just how talented Van Gogh was. I had finished the 'Van Gogh & Japan' exhibition and was just about to leave before I noticed that I hadn't even entered the permanent collection of the Museum! This permanent collection was split up in order of Van Goghs development stages and it provides a great overview of his different stages as an artist.
This Museum is located right beside both of the above Museums (the Moco and Van Gogh). It features contemporary work, which is a style that I love, and so I visited here too. Studio Drift was one of the exhibitions that was on show during my visit and I thought it was fantastic. I loved the lights used throughout the space as part of this exhibition.
Museum Square is a nice spot to visit for a walk - even if you are not planning on visiting any of the Museums. It is located in the city center and has a large pond in the middle of the square. The L'Amsterdam sign stands at the end of the pond and this is a very popular spot for pictures to be taken while visiting the city. Many other buildings are found along the square and it is here where you will find the popular Rijksmusem Museum. This museum is one of the most visited in the city, however, I am more into modern and contemporary art and this is why I chose the other three museums to visit for my museum day. The building alone seems impressive though and so I did end up wishing I had more time to visit here too.
Other Museums / Tours
This was enjoyable, however, it was pricey enough and I'm not sure why they need real horses in cages for entertainment purposes in the middle of the tour 😞 I was on my own when I visited here and it is the type of tour which you would enjoy more if you had company as it has interactive features throughout the tour. You make your way through the building exploring the different sections (there's interactive sections, a bar, plenty of photo opportunities, table football and other games to enjoy while on the tour). Parts of this tour were very 'Insta friendly' - in that there were lights, random gadgets, booth areas for pictures, a lot of advertising, and it featured 4D shows. It goes through the history of Heineken, however, other sections liven it up so that it's not just a boring historical tour. Obviously you get free Heineken at the end of the tour which is a bonus! It was not overcrowded on the day that I visited, however, I have read many other reviews stating that they found over-crowding during their trip.
As previously mentioned, we tried to book this several weeks in advance but unfortunately to no avail. I had also been warned that this sells out extremely fast and tickets need to be booked as soon as they become available. We still took a stroll over to see the house while wandering the city (see gallery picture).
As mentioned earlier, the A'DAM Lookout is where you can admire a view of Amsterdam city from the highest swing in Europe. I was not brave enough to attempt this!
I was hoping to visit here too but there's just not enough time on a long weekend!
Some other links that may be of interest:
In a land of canals, I was surprised by the size of this beautiful park! It stands on 45 hectares making it the largest park in Amsterdam. The park is located close to Museum Square. There is also an entry point into the park from just opposite where you find the leaving point/ticket sales for some of the most popular canal cruises (just off Stadhouderskade street).
I definitely recommend a walk or cycle around this park. I only had a few days in Amsterdam but yet I returned here for a second trip to wander and relax. If you're visiting during the Summer months then keep an eye out for the free concerts that take place during this season. The park hosts several cafe/bars (such as the popular Blauwe Theehuis) and three sculptures; including one called 'The Fish' by Picasso. The park also contains water features, a large pond, a rose garden, playgrounds and views of some impressive buildings which surround the park area!
Close to Vondelpark and Museum Square, just along Stadhouderskade street, is where you will find the leaving point and ticket sales for some popular cruises - see City Canal Cruise and Blue Boat Company. If there's a particular cruise that you want to book then I would suggest booking it early to avoid disappointment - especially if the weather is nice. We were unable to book the initial cruise that we wanted to take on the day, however, I still really enjoyed the one that we did end up booking.
Sushisamba and The Hard Rock Cafe are just opposite where you take these cruises from on Stadhourderskade street. If it's a nice sunny day then Sushisamba has a really nice seating area outside, along the canal, where you can sit and sip on a cocktail as you await your cruise.... which is exactly what we did 😊
The cruise we took lasted much longer than I had expected and it provided a great overview of the city. Audio was available to listen to while on the cruise. Some sights we passed by included the beautiful Hortus Botanicus (Botanical Gardens), the dome of Ronde Lutherse Kerk and the impressive 5 star Amstel Hotel (which looked amazing from the water - see gallery for pictures). It also provided opportunities to view a large selection of the architectural Dutch Renaissance style buildings found around the city.
HIDDEN CHURCH (RED LIGHT DISTRICT)
This heading may seem quite absurd but yes it is correct! The popular hidden church of Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (sometimes known as The Museum of Our Lord in the Attic) is tucked away in a large house in The Red Light District. Upon entry, you have the option to select free headphones to take a self-guided informative audio tour of the building. I must admit that I skipped through some sections of this audio, however, the audio is set so that you can easily just select the sections that you wish to listen to and skip over other sections. It was was interesting and admirable to hear how these dedicated Catholics went to such lengths to practice their religion in secrecy.
As you can imagine, the locals/workers in the Red Light District don't take too kindly to you taking pictures around this area and so I did not get snap-happy here! Taking a wander through this district I found that it was in some ways exactly how I imagined (eg. I saw a few ladies standing in the windows, sex shops, etc.), however, I was shocked by how nice the area is in terms of the Dutch Renaissance style architecture, the cleanliness and the small cobbled streets with pretty bridges overlooking the canals. If you are interested in a history of the evolution of sex throughout the centuries then the Sex Museum would be a good stop off for you. It is one of the most visited museums in the Netherlands!
Thanks for reading,
*** Click here for photo blog of the trip!