Last weekend, for Lucy’s 30th, I took her for a break to Amsterdam. It’s apparent winning combination of culture and beer as well as Lucy’s desire for a little adventure made booking the trip a simple decision.
I used Last Minute to book everything and flew with Flybe who were both reasonable and also professional; the flights in particular got in early both to and from Amsterdam. Word of warning for people who travel as infrequently as I do, twin prop aircraft and gale force winds are an uncomfortable combination so if you hate flying, try and go in the summer and not November.
Once we arrived in Amsterdam Schiphol Aiport I was impressed with its practical layout. We’d ordered some I amsterdam passes to make the trip as cost effective as possible and finding the desk was pretty straightforward. Everyone speaks English and pretty much every sign was written in English too (we really are spoilt). Armed with the passes we grabbed a (cheap) train to the city centre and proceeded to disembark at Amsterdam Central.
Coming out of the station was a grand moment. A familiar looking western city except for the cables, tram lines and bikes absolutely everywhere. I’d heard about the number of bikes in the city but the public transport network was both vast and absolutely brilliant. Our passes made using the trams hassle free and we waited no more than 10 minutes at any time. and normally less than 2.
For a major European city I heard one minor argument, 3 sirens and only the occasional horn being tooted. Apparently people are either really nice or highly tolerant of each other. The city seems to be booming, affluent and full of positivity, multicultural bars and restaurants and none of the tired looking shops that I’d expected. Basically there wasn’t a Ken’s Kebabs or Chicken Cottage right next to a run down pound shop and an estate agent. Instead there were boutiques, art galleries and clothes shops. It was truly refreshing to see.
Our hotel was excellent but I’d booked one way out from the town centre. It wasn’t a huge problem but it would have been nicer if we’d been a little more central. My bad but Lucy was fine with it. One nice note is that even out in the suburbs we noticed the same level of affluence and a positivity that seems to be lacking in the UK.
The Friday was spent mostly chilling at a bar and planning the next day based on a map and my desire to get out moneys worth from the passes. It was great to sit at a bar near a busy street and watch the bikes, cars and pedestrians weave between each other without a single angry exchange in two hours of people watching. We also ate at a really nice restaurant (picked from the many options available thanks to the orange candle holders outside). We headed back around ten thirty to get a good night sleep.
Saturday was the grand mission. We got to the Van Gogh (and Edward Munch) museum early to beat the queues. The museum was as impressive as you’d expect but, truth be told, I was more interested in the architecture which had captivated me since arriving in Amsterdam. There are some impressive fusions between old and new and our next museum was a fine testament to that.
The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, was full of both interesting and utterly bizarre artworks. I’d recommend going to it whether you’re into modern art or not – you’ll find something brilliant inside I promise.
Next up we hit the free canal tour included in the pass. You must do this. It was perhaps my most enjoyable hour and a quarter in the city. We even had a pretty awesome dog to hang with thanks to the two friendly Germans who sat with us.
After a mooch round the Vondelpark, we grabbed some lunch, and then a tram to the city zoo and Micropia. The Zoo was great if a little tired in places. We felt sorry for the Lions in particular but other areas were excellent. Micropia was the surprise of the trip considering it was an experience all about microbes and bacteria.
We had intended to fit in Anne Franks house but after getting off the tram we realised we needed food asap. We tried a few restaurants and they were fully booked. We traipsed back to a different part of the city being battered by wind and rain and eventually settled for a pretty average place. By this point we decided to call the museum tour quits and just chill for the rest of the evening. We found a cozy bar and just relaxed for the rest of the night.
Sunday was literally a case of packing up and leaving and it was sad to say to a country that we only got a tiny glimpse of. We will definitely return and explore the rest of the country. The Dutch are an awesome bunch of people. You will be pleasantly surprised even going to Amsterdam with high levels of expectations. Cost were pretty reasonable for a capital city and thanks to the travel passes you really can make you money go a long way. I literally have no criticism of Amsterdam and will be back!