A few weeks ago myself and Brian made a last minute decision to take a trip somewhere. We had five days off and were on a bit of a budget so we decided to use Google Flights to see what the cheapest flights were for our dates. Amsterdam ended up being the least expensive so it was the obvious choice! We got them for €150 each with Ryanair – although it was the August Bank Holiday so they were probably more than usual.
How to get there and where to stay:
Our flight from Dublin was at around 7pm on Wednesday evening. The flight time is only 1 hour 10 minutes meaning we arrived in Schipol airport just after 8pm and had that evening to explore. From the airport we got a train to Central Station (it costs about €5 and only takes about 15 minutes). From Central Station we got a tram to Waterlooplein which took less than five minutes. If you plan to use the metro a lot then you should get a weekend ticket however Amsterdam isn’t actually that big and we ended up walking everywhere as our hotel was quite central.
We were staying in the Hampshire Hotel in Rembrantplein – a lovely hotel, very central, beside the canals and flower markets and right beside Rembrandtplein (which is a big square with lots of bars and outdoor seating). The only downside of the hotel was that our room had a glass wall and door surrounding most of the bathroom, which was a bit strange. I don’t think all the rooms are like that and thankfully we didn’t really mind but I could imagine it being awkward if you were a new couple! Other than that we had no complaints – it had good wifi, great air-con and the rooms were cleaned everyday.
What to pack:
While we were there the weather wasn’t great. It was dry (most of the time) but it wasn’t warm so I pretty much lived in jeans and a denim jacket (bringing the 80’s look back, very badly) and even though I brought a dress and heels I didn’t end wearing them as everyone seems to be really casual (and I wish I had saved the suitcase space as the shopping there looked really, really good but I didn’t want to torture Brian or completely deplete my bank account – but if you plan on doing some then you’re in luck!). If the weather does happen to be nice while you are there then consider packing a bikini as apparently there are some nice beaches.
What to do:
For the first time ever, I didn’t make a schedule of things to do while on holiday. I’ve found that whenever I have a list or a plan, if things don’t go to plan then I get narky – so nowadays my plan is just to go with it and enjoy myself. We pretty much did a lot of walking, drinking of beer and eating of pancakes and we loved every minute of it. So if you’re looking for a super chilled out city break then Amsterdam is your best bet (there’s definitely something in the air over there…). However, a friend of mine who has been to Amsterdam a good few times gave us a few suggestions for things to do so I’ll add to the list here and pass it on to you!
1. Canal Boat Cruise
A canal boat cruise is the perfect way to explore the city and learn a bit of it’s history. There are so many different options to chose from ranging from hop on hop off, candlelit, booze cruise, pizza, cheese and wine and loads more. We just went for a 1 hour cruise which was perfect. It brought us around some of the main canals, the tour guide was great and I got some great photos! We used this company. The boat leaves regularly from near Central Station and costs €16 per person.
2. Heineken Experience
One of the mornings we woke up to rain which was forecast for the entire day so in between showers we headed down to the Heineken Experience. It’s a similar setup to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. It costs €18 in and includes two glasses of Heineken up on the rooftop bar.
3. Red Light District and Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution
I imagined the Red Light District (“De Wallen” on Google Maps) to be a creepy, seedy and uncomfortable area however we actually stumbled upon it one day and before we knew where we were we were commenting about how nice this new canal was! Walking down the street is nothing like I imagined – it just feels like any other street apart from the ladies in the windows. At night time it was packed full of tourists but there is definitely a rowdier vibe. I would highly recommend visiting the Red Light Districts Museum of Prostitution. When my friend suggested it I was like “eh, what sort of museum?” but it’s actually more of an educational thing where they are promoting safety, awareness about trafficking, describing what life is like as a prostitute etc. I found it really interesting and you can actually sit in a window and look down at passersby on the street. It’s only €8 too.
If you go down to the district in the evening then we found a really nice little bar/restaurant called Mati Hari which I’d recommend. We sat outside by the canal and just had a few drinks and some finger food but there was a full restaurant inside that looked really nice.
4. Visit Anne Frank’s House
We didn’t actually go there on this trip as I had been there before and Brian wasn’t too pushed to que. I would highly recommend it if you are interested BUT make sure you get there early as the que is usually massive and you could be waiting a long time.
5. Check out the Food Hallen
While I was there I got a recommendation on Instagram to go and try out the Food Hallen – which as the name suggests is a big food hall. It’s about a 30 minute walk from where we were staying but if you like food then it’s worth it! There’s everything from Spanish, Indian, Greek, Italian but obviously we immediately went for the Korean fried chicken sugar doughnuts. I still don’t know if they worked or not flavour wise but give them a go for yourself! We also tried hot dogs and this really nice Greek mezze plate.
6. Eat. Everything.
I don’t know what a typical Dutch diet is but we ate a lot of pancakes, waffles and Argentinian grill (I don’t know why but there are more Argentinian Grills in Amsterdam than pubs in Irish towns). One evening we were eating late so we ended up trying one called Rancho as it was the only non-fast food place still serving – they close at 11pm, we got there at 10.59pm and they stayed open for us. To my surprise it ended up being one of the nicest meals I’ve ever had (we even went back a second time to double check and it was just as nice!). I rarely, if ever, order steak in a restaurant because it’s always disappointing and over-priced but the rump steak (the cheapest on the menu) was the leanest and tastiest I’ve ever had! The actual restaurant isn’t that fancy, it’s got no frills about it but the food was lovely and at €20 for a steak, chips, side salad and chimichurri sauce (choose that sauce) I would definitely go back a third time.
Another thing you have to try if you are there are these Dutch pancakes called poffertjes . A few years ago there was a stall at the Galway Christmas Market selling these and I was back queing day after day. I haven’t been able to find them since! They come drenched in butter and icing sugar and are just little bites of delight. Waffles are also a big thing, as is nutella and we stumbled into a nice little bakery just off Rembrandtplein which did table service of coffee and waffles at 1am.
There are a lot of fast food places around the place (we found it hard to find a nice place to eat for dinner but it might be because the area we were staying in was more of a nightlife area). The first night we arrived it was late and we ended up going to this burger bar called Burger Bar which did amazing burgers and was full everytime we passed for the rest of the weekend. If you like sushi then check out one of the all you can eat sushi restaurants, I went to one on my first trip to Amsterdam and loved it. Another thing you might see on the menu in some places are Bitterballen – I got them not having a clue what I was ordering and still not really knowing while I was eating them but they were darn tasty.
7. Visit the Flower Markets
Netherlands is famous for it’s tulips and a trip down to the flower market is said to be a must. However, it mustn’t have been tulip season when we were there (start of August) as the stalls were just filled with thousands of bulbs. However, it is nice to see and it’s a good place to pick up some souvenirs or presents to bring home.
8. Stroll along the canals and stop for a drink
Honestly, even though there is a lot to do in Amsterdam as a tourist, my favourite thing was just walking by the canals and finding new little side streets and places to stop for a drink. My favourite place was a little bar called Haven van Texel. The outdoor seating was at the T-junction of two canals so we just sat and watched boat after boat go by. It also has free WiFi, which is why I remember the name of this place.
So there you have it! My tips for a short break in Amsterdam. If you’re the type of person who likes to do a lot of sightseeing then you could definitely pack a lot more in. However, we really just wanted a relaxing break on a bit of a budget and it turned out to be one of the best trips we’ve had! I already want to go back!
If you’ve been to Amsterdam and have any other tips then leave a comment and let me and others know!
If you’re heading there and have any other questions then tweet me @aisling_harris or check me out on Instagram @the_superfit_foodie.