Monday, 3 November 2014

Travel | A Weekend Guide to Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a firm favourite of mine, I headed there twice in 2013 and just celebrated a special anniversary there last week. There is nothing about this city I don't love- apart perhaps from the weather which echoes whatever is moving across east from the Liverpool/Newcastle areas of the UK.
Amsterdam is a very casual city. No high heels are required here, just some comfy shoes (practically everywhere that you would want to visit is accessible on foot!) and jeans. Take a warm coat for any month that isn't May-September as it can get quite chilly/drizzly. Hat and gloves are a must for winter- as in the UK! 
The first time we visited the city, we stayed quite far out- around a 15 minute tram ride to the centre. This was great price wise- I think that the lovely clean and modern Ramada Apollo was about £200 for two of us for 4 nights- and 4*! The only downside to staying slightly out was that once you were out, you were out!
The second and third trips we stayed closed to Grand Centraal Station- a focal point of the city which can be quite noisy, but you are completely in the thick of what Amsterdam has to offer, with Dam Square, the Red Light District and wonderful restaurants all within a 5 minute walk away. The NH Barbizon Palace and Park Plaza Victoria Amsterdam are both a bit pricier because of their location, but, for a short break, I'd recommend spending the extra to be central- don't get ripped off paying the 25 euro a person for breakfast though, with so many amazing food options on your doorstep... 
When Felicity went to Amsterdam last year, she stayed at the NL-Hotel Mueseumplein, which she absolutely recommends for something central, boutique yet purse friendly!

If you are looking for good main courses, then Amsterdam isn't really for you. It is a city where you will pay a premium to have variety (CAU was our favourite), so be prepared for that, or enjoy the Italian, Argentinian or Chinese restaurants around...
Breakfast and brunch food is what Amsterdam does best, so be sure to get your game face on for some amazing Dutch pancakes, omelettes and toasted sandwiches. Rene's Bakery was our favourite little dutch snackery... don't be fooled by the run down appearance of this bakery; it's just a few feet off Dam Square and offers some of the finest baked goods in the city.

Other favourites included the poffertjes at Bagels and Coffee directly next to Anne Frank House and the lovely cafe Prins Heerlijk which was our favourite breakfast stop, offering adorable wooden menus and delicious breakfast eggs!
My biggest tip is to head to the Tours&Tickets stores across the city to buy your tourist attraction entries. They are several euros cheaper than on the door, can be used any day, and often offer queue jumps or bolt on deals too! 
There are bikes EVERYWHERE, so if you fancy a cycle then this is definitely the city for you! There are a lot of bike hire companies around, and it's definitely the transport of choice here.
Love beer? I'm not fussed either but the Heineken Experience is a great way to spend an afternoon! We enjoyed learning about the history and production of the beer in Amsterdam before trialling an ice cold glass ourselves.
Amsterdam Zoo is one of my favourite zoos. Set in the more residential side of town, the penguins were my favourite part. With daily shows, a fabulous aquarium and a monkey house where the animals swing from the trees, I must urge you visit this zoo if you are in the city!
Hear me out about the Amsterdam Dungeons... from the same set up as London Dungeons, this attraction gives about an hour of interactive history on the darker sides of Amsterdam's history. It is completely in English too making it easy for us tourists to experience the terror within the dungeons!

Before you go...
The Dutch are incredibly friendly and welcoming people- the most polite Europeans out there in my opinion! Unlike other nations, they love it if you have a crack at their language, so a 'dank je' thank you and a 'alsjeblieft' please are always incredibly well received!
 Also, familiarising yourself with a god map is the best tip I can give you, practically everything you will want to see in Amsterdam (bar the zoo!) is in walking distance of Dam Square, and the way in which the canal system is built makes it an incredibly easy city to navigate. Wearing some comfy shoes and having very basic map skills goes a long way in this city.
Have you been to the Dam? Do you have any tips for my next trip?

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