So the first stop on our travels was to a city I had actually previously visited but not for many years, and figured we may as well see what all the fuss is about! Although I had remembered it being very pretty, older Madeleine had become aware of a lot of people visiting purely for the weed and the sex – neither of which I was interested in! But boy were my worries proven wrong!A friend had told me about a transport pass you can get for 15euro for 1 day (For clarity: This does NOT mean 24hrs!) so from Schipol airport that was our first purchase. We then got the train and a metro to our hotel; The Student Hotel. Oh my goodness you have to stay here, its amazing! I was sold when they gave us a StroopWaffel (its like a caramel biscuit) when we first checked in. The hotel has a definite student vibe, with black corridors and bold writing on the walls, and our room was huge!
For breakfast I would 100% recommend Bagel and Beans. Hands down the best food! The first morning I had yoghurt with walnuts, banana and maple syrup and it was beautiful! The menu (like a lot of things in Amsterdam) comes in English as well which saved a lot of guesswork and awkwardly waving over the poor waitress to translate! We also grabbed a hot chocolate to go which although richer than what you would find in the UK was the perfect walk and talk kinda drink. The next day I decided to try out the cafes namesake bagels, and I had the BLT bagel topped with a mayonnaise dressing and pine nuts. Check out the company and the menu here: http://www.bagelsbeans.nl/en
We tended to just grab food on the go for lunch as we found ourselves wanting to see and do so much, however one place I would highly recommend that is a little hidden away is a little healthy cafe called Dr Blend. When we walked in we got a free juice shot that was amazing, and we finally chose two wraps, I had apple and jam – which although sounded weird intrigued me and was worth the risk – YUM. It’s also very good value for money with the wraps costing 4-5 euro each.
Without a doubt the best decision we made was to sign up for a free walking tour of the city. Different companies do them in different languages, a lot seem to be in English however. We had a guide called Lisa who was actually from England but had travelled round 30 countries and been a guide in most of them so we knew we were in good hands! However Lisa was only about 5 foot so we assigned a tall member of the group to be the “leader” so we could all see where we were going. I would really recommend this as especially in a city like Amsterdam you can just get lost wandering round and missing some really beautiful areas. We also would have missed certain little things such as these little metal squares outside houses which are little memorials to the former residents of the houses that died during the holocaust.
An obvious attraction is the Anne Frank House, but I have a few tips! The tickets cannot be prebooked, they go on sale at 9am on the day and then any remaining ticets will go on sale throughout the day, usually at around 1pm or 2pm. Tickets are timed so we found 2 tickets for 1:15-1:30 so pay attention to the times and make sure you can actually go! If you don’t buy tickets online you are allowed to enter after 3:30pm however people start queuing here at around 10am and the queu was around the block when we arrived at 1pm! It is best just to keep refreshing the website, as some time slots may not get filled. Photos aren’t allowed in the house itself, but let me tell you it is a strange, haunting experience but one I would highly recommend as even my friend who had studied the holocaust as part of her history degree learnt so much.
Now I am no cyclist. I have been *cough* blessed with a pear figure which means bike seats are very uncomfortable and just no flattering! However when in Amsterdam it is instantly apparent this city was made for bikes, and so we felt we wouldn’t be real tourists unless we hired some bikes and took the city views in from two wheels. Luckily our hotel hired bikes for 9euro for 24 hours which was a little cheaper than the city companies, but generally its a very inexpensive way to see the city. As neither of us were cyclists we were a bit apprehensive getting on the bikes at first, however the city is made for bikes with bike lanes being more popular than pavements! And its safe to say we loved it! It felt a little bit healthier and we definitely felt safer cycling home from restaurants in the evenings rather than walking!
Accommodation was one thing we were super careful about whilst planning this trip; price, location and safety were all key factors! Airbnb was our first choice, however my travelling companion then found a hotel called The Student Hotel that was even cheaper than some of the apartments we were looking at! And we were not let down. Think less room, more suite!! First impresiions were great, close to the metro, modern hipster interior and the best bit – free Stroopwaffel (local biscuits – very yummy!) on arrival! The hotel had a really cool social area bit with table tennis, pool tables, reading sections and even a TedTalks hub which we loved. The hotel also has its own bike rental scheme which we found to be cheaper than the city companies and was convenient being able to just cycle to and from the hotel. There are two Student Hotels in Amsterdam, we stayed at the City (see https://www.thestudenthotel.com/amsterdam-city/ ) but there is also the Student Hotel West.
Have you ever been to Amsterdam? Let me know in the comments!