In the build up to Christmas, Kyle and I got to tick another city off our bucket list and spent the weekend in Amsterdam with two of our nearest and dearest friends, and we honestly had the best time. The architecture, the food, the history, the people – it was the perfect combination for the short time we had to explore all that the city had to offer.
Given it was the first time I was stepping foot in Holland my research began way back in October as to what the best tourist attractions were, must try restaurants and the best way to get around. So with a jam packed itinerary in hand we set out on the beautiful cobbled streets.
ANNE FRANKS HOUSE
Having very little knowledge of WW2 I was very intrigued to go on the Anne Frank tour. We pre-booked our tickets the morning of and were pleasantly surprised that there was still availability as the recommendation was to book in advance. On arrival i didn’t really know what to expect and even if we were in the right place as the entrance is this big modern museum esque foyer/reception which leads into the house itself. However, i did like this as it gave you an instant sense of uncertainty for what you were about to experience.
The house itself is unreal – its like nothing you could ever imagine the size, configuration of living spaces and overwhelmingly the emotions you feel I simply cannot explain. As you go along the tour learning about how the family lived during those years and seeing all their possessions still in the places they left them is truly heartbreaking.
For me the most poignant part of the tour was watching the post war videos of her father and people she had met at the concentration camps talking about their memories of her and what she was like. The hardest fact to swallow was learning that Anne and her family were those on the very last train to the concentration camps and the realisation that for so many years had hidden so patiently for their fate to be so unfair.
It’s so important to visit these kinds of places and recognise pivotal points in history. What I took away most from the experience was that Anne ultimately wrote her own destiny, her biggest aspiration in life was to be a famous writer and here her journey, along with all the millions of victims of the Holocaust will live on forever.
RIJKS MUSEUM ICE RINK & FOOD MARKET
When visiting Amsterdam or any city for that matter at Christmas time its only right that you go ice skating and feast on the market stalls. We were very lucky in our hotel was next door to the Rijk Museum which is where the Ice Skating rink is located so this was our first port of call. The ice skating was good but very overcrowded, there was so many people that you struggled to make your way around the rink but nevertheless the experience was worth it. They have a bar with a DJ playing music which is echoed throughout the market stalls and really gave us the Christmas vibes, and well the food was just amazing.
BIKE RIDE ACROSS THE CITY
One of the most iconic parts of Amsterdam has to be the bikes, a fun fact we learnt whilst out there was that there are over 1 million bikes in the city with a population of 1.1 million that’s a high ratio. But by far this was the quickest way to get around the city
THE FLOWER MARKETS
My top ‘must see’ pick of the whole trip and i was slightly disappointed. There were two stalls that really wowed me which luckily were what we went to first but these rest was a bit of a let down. I imagine it’s something which comes to life more in the spring/summer months but i would recommend a visit as the smells are amazing and the flowers are too pretty not to take a million pictures.
We absolutely loved the Heineken Experience, it was very similar to the Guinness factory in Ireland learning about how the alcohol is brewed and stored, the history of the family who invented the beer and all the company has experience throughout its history. The best part is the sizeable amounts of Heineken they give you during the tour, when you enter your given a bracelet which has 2 drinks tokens to be used on the last stop of the tour but at certain points they offer you more alcohol in such cute mini Heineken glasses (it was so tempting to steal one). Would definitely recommend visiting there was so much to do and learn and if like us you wanted to escape the cold was a very good way to kill 3 hours.
RED LIGHT DISTRICT
What an experience is all i can say here. The Red Light District is a total culture shock on every level. Lets face it we all knew what was coming but nothing can prepare you for what you see, the accessibility of women and normality of it all is crazy. Everywhere you turn I didn’t know where to look, we stopped in one of the bars along the street (18 euros a round – ouch!!) and witnessed one sex worker have 4 different men with her in the space of 20 minutes – that to me is insane.
A’DAM LOOKOUT & LIGHT CRUISE
What a load of S**t. Excuse my french but there is no other way to describe it. OK so let’s give this come context, when researching top things to do in Amsterdam A’Dam lookout was always at the top of the list. And it’s unfair for me to bracket the two together because in actual fact the A’dam lookout was amazing. You have a 360 view of the whole city which at nighttime was spectacular to see. However, we booked the A’Dam lookout combined with a Night Light Cruise through the city. The concept of the light cruise was bringing up and coming artists to exhibit their work across the city. Well the verdict – absolute waste of money. It was so awful that we didn’t even bother to take any pictures and spend the whole 60 minutes with our heads on the table fast asleep.
FOOD & DRINK
When it comes to food we are partial to a taster menu, and one of the top restaurants on Trip Adviser was Senses – a fine dining restaurant with various 4, 6, or 8 course taster options. We chose the 4 courses as we booked the table for 8pm, the food was delicious i chose the fish options and the flavours and smells were stunning. There was four of us and although i loved the food the boys weren’t too fussed on some of the dishes but if you are looking to splash out one night i would highly recommend giving it a try.
There is a lot of food options in Amsterdam however, for someone who doesn’t eat meat it did prove to be a bit of a challenge with copious amounts of steakhouses around every corner. Eating out kind of became a game of Russian roulette as we would just see what was close by that catered for all of us.
We did however have a spectacular breakfast experience which again was Trip Adviser recommendation (what would we do without it). Bakers & Roasters – this was a bit of a walk from our hotel and we did have to wait 20 minutes as the whole place was filled with people, but the food was so worth it. Pancakes for breakfast are always a good idea.
Amsterdam is one of those places i’m glad to have ticked off the bucket list, but probably wouldn’t be rushing back to anytime soon. Don’t get me wrong it’s a beautiful city filled with history, architecture and culture but i feel like I’ve done all that Amsterdam has to offer – for now that is.