Time for the most photo-heavy post ever as I’ve just returned from Amsterdam! We had a brilliant time trying to get a good alternative Amsterdam experience that isn’t just getting high or visiting the tourist traps. Here are just a few main points on the things I found the best (and the worst) from the little cross-section we got.
As always all my own opinion – unsponsored and completely biased.
From checking into our hotel we got stuck straight into the shopping District to the west. “The 9 Streets” were a great start with beautiful boutiques and quiet lanes to stroll down. We accidentally walked straight into the touristy area and jeez, could we tell the difference!
We quickly dashed into the tulip museum which sold certified tulip bulbs (so you can take them abroad). It smelled so beautiful… Aaaand then we headed to the cheese museum a few doors down. It was so strong I almost walked straight back out, despite enjoying cheese!
One thing I learned from the initial day was that pretty much everyone speaks English and also they say bikes are very common here but that is an understatement! You’d not be in Amsterdam if you didn’t see a bike in every direction you look or nearly get run over by one at least twice…
Room Mate Aitana
We didn’t end up going out that evening; the hotel was so lush! We initially thought we would head down to the restaurant but then realised we were exhausted. We ended up ordering room service instead and enjoying the perfect views from the windows from the luxury of the queen size bed. Definitely the right choice!
On the first morning (and every morning after…) we ate at Bagel and Beans opposite our hotel on the river IJ. It had a beautiful view and a lovely atmosphere with awesome veggie and vegan options. A great way to start the day!
So we planned to give the smaller museums of Amsterdam a chance rather than the larger (tourist trap) museums, we headed out early hoping to beat the crowds. All these museums were situated in and around the Red Light District which was very quiet due to the time but we wanted to see it in contrast with the evening.
By midday we had already visited the Erotic Museum, Torture museum and Red Light Secrets (Museum of Prostitution) – of course, the only way to spend a morning in Amsterdam! The Erotic museum was very seedy (as expected) and the torture museum was very small for the price and mostly made me suck air in through my teeth a lot! Eesh.
The best museum I would say not to miss is Red Light Secrets. This one gives a real insight into what it’s like making a living from the ‘oldest profession’. It kind of takes any romantic feeling out of it portrayed in the movies and it hits home what these women (and men) do on a daily basis and how dangerous it is.
Shamelessly drunk in the daytime…
Before heading off for lunch we went to the Ice Bar which is basically like sitting in a freezer while you drink. The whole thing had a pirate theme and was quite bizarre… but definitely a novelty for stag dos! The ice bears were pretty impressive though!
I wanted to compare the experience with the Ice Bar in Soho and I wasn’t as impressed. Although, unlike the frankly overpriced London IceBar, we did have three shots included in the price of the entrance… before lunch. So I wandered around woozily to a square where we had Mexican food. Not before a little AmsterDAB.
Moving on, we walked back up through the Red Light District in the early evening and the atmosphere had changed dramatically. The pubs were overflowing, smoke filled the air, the lights were glaring and the ladies were out in force (it wasn’t even 6-pm). Of course, there were no pictures allowed but I have to say it should be on everyone’s travel bucket list!
By this point we realised just how much money we were spending… 15 euros here… 30 euros there… It had been pretty damn expensive thus far! So the aim of Day 3 was to do as much free stuff as possible, ending up near our pre-booked Canal Cruise in the evening.
We began with a ferry trip to the Eye Museum which was advertised on “Top 10” sites everywhere. It’s free to enter the permanent exhibition if you buy a ticket to the seasonal one… boo. But it is a beautiful building so we sat there for a while!
We also went on the other free ferry to NDSM which is a converted dockyard turned artisan quarter. When it’s not in season, it’s just a docks (although there is a hell of a lot of cool graffiti). Off to a bad start activity wise but at least we were enjoying the views!
Killing Time Highlights
We saw the outdoor chess board in tribute to the famous Dutch Chess Player Max Euwe with a little group playing chess in the sun.
We stopped by a little fast food place called Febo where you can get croquettes. They were served from vending machines and they were super tasty. Kinda like pie filling in breadcrumbs. Mmmm.
We visited the IAmsterdam sign and the Modern Art Gallery gift shop which was full of amazing art and design literature. It made me realise we need a bigger library…
The moral of today is that you can’t really do a lot around Amsterdam without money… but of course, you can just soak in the atmosphere.
A canal cruise was definitely worth doing but it’s very commercial. My tip for you is head to the south and get one of the cruises near the Max Euwesplein. The cruises are not really romantic, but it’s not a bad way to see the city for sure. You hear an interesting audio tour of the city and get seated on tables of 6 so it’s good for meeting other people!
Today we met our Dutch friend who travelled to see us in the capital. We ended up wandering around the east side of the city. Unfortunately, we spent so long in the science museum we didn’t get time to visit the zoo!
The science museum was spectacular and I loved it! It’s aimed at kids and parents but the exhibitions were loads better than any UK science museum I have been to. There were whole interactive exhibitions on mental health, psychology, sex ed, motion, ecosystems, *takes a breath*, electricity, astronomy, materials AND a full chemistry lab and workshop for families!
It seemed really well funded and directly addressed some real core issues which I admired. There is too much stigma in the UK when it comes to discussing things like mental health, hormones, alcohol effects etc directly with children. I feel it’s best to just be honest with them to help them understand how it may affect their later lives.
Overall it was great to spend a few days in Amsterdam but now I am thoroughly exhausted! Even when we had no plans for the day we were exploring and crowds just take it out of you.