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The Amsterdam City Guide

Beers, bikes and amazing brunch spots

Our friends relocated to Amsterdam late last year, and since then we have visited twice, with our next trip already on the cards. Although it sucks when mates move away, it’s an opportunity to have some cracking city breaks, some quality time and a chance to ‘live like a local’ whilst you’re there. We ADORE our weekends in Amsterdam and it’s hand-down one of my favourite places to drop into for a long weekend break.

Now our first visit there was a little different. We went during our first year of University and stayed in a hostel that was deemed one of the ‘dirtiest in the world‘. Nice. I ended up having the contents of my bag stolen and then spent the rest of my time there trying to work out how the hell I was going to get home thanks to being passport-less. Yes, it wasn’t exactly idyllic, but that wasn’t exactly the intention of 50+ just-turned-students who rocked up for the weekend. Sure that scene still exists, but our most recent visits have been so darn relaxing and uncovered a city that’s utterly beautiful – like so beautiful that I regularly say to mates ‘Can you believe that you live here?!’ and want to take a picture on every single bridge. There’s so much to do and see, incredible places to stay and if you too fancy a chill city break that’s practically within walking distance of the U.K, here’s the city guide you need…

How To Get Around

Aside from getting to see our friends, here’s the other reason we love it. We live a 30 minute train ride from Gatwick Airport. The flight to Amsterdam is 45 minutes. The taxi journey from the airport to the centre of town is about 20 minutes. If we time it right, we can get to Amsterdam quicker than it takes us to travel to Birmingham to see Mark’s family. It’s so quick and easy and we usually find some cracking deals on EasyJet for über cheap flights. We’ve fiddled around with public transport to get to our accommodation, but I’d recommend just grabbing an Uber. You’re looking at about €20-25 to get you into the central area and if there’s four of you, it works out the same price as the train and the tram would be (kinda). Once you’re actually there we tend to get everywhere on foot. CityMapper is a must as per usual, but everywhere is pretty walkable within about 45 minutes, so make sure you’ve packed some comfy shoes. Of course if you truly want to ‘live like a local’ then you can hire bikes. The going rate is about €10 a day.

The first time we visited this year we stayed in a cracking Airbnb this one – which was absolutely massive and located in a trendy area of town, just south of the Vondelpark. It looks like it’s currently unavailable, but there are so many cool ones to pick from and any in that area or De Pijp are going to be close to central, but in the cool part of town with plenty of places to eat and drink. This time round the guys at the Pulizter Amsterdam put us up and wow, what a hotel. It’s a pricey option, but you get what you pay for and the location is stunning (especially if you can bag yourself a canal-view room!). We made use of the bike hire the hotel offers (€16 a day) as it meant we could drop our bikes back late at night and at the front door of the hotel. So easy.

Where To Eat

There are a tonne of super Instagram-able brunches places that will fill you up for a day of museum-stalking; Bakers & Roasters is one that we’ve been to before, although Little Collins and Coffee & Coconuts come highly recommended. If you do end up staying at Pulitzer Hotel then opt-in for the breakfast – it’s outstanding.

Where Amsterdam really excels is in the snack (and usually sweet) food department. Winkel 43 is a favourite for the apple pie – which is the only thing they sell – and is well worth the hype. On a Saturday till 4pm there’s a Farmer’s Market on the patch next to it, which is great if you fancy picking up something savoury before (I can vouch that the fries are insane). Speaking of sweet treats the cookies at Van Stapele? Well. They only allow each customer to buy seven cookies. Save yourself queuing up again and just get the full seven at first purchase. For a whole host of cuisine check out the Food Halen, which is a happening spot with vendors cooking up food from all around the world, from noon until late.

Our friends are kind enough to have us round for dinner a lot when we visit, so we haven’t sampled much from the dinner menu that Amsterdam has to offer. We did have dinner at Jansz (the restaurant in the Pulitzer Hotel) one night and it was glorious – Mark even tried an Oyster for the first time. My DM’s always get full of suggestions to visit Sotto Pizza and Eddy Spaghetti, but I’ve heard that there are a tonne of more traditional Dutch places to visit and some great Asian spots too. Feel free to fill up the comments with any recommendations you’d like to add. Of course I have to add a beer recommendation too; we’ve visited a few bars, but Brouwerij’T IJ is one of the most memorable as it’s slap-bang outside a windmill AND I actually enjoyed the beer (I’ve probably drunk beer about five times in my life). Top marks.

Where To Explore

There is so much to do; Amsterdam is basically museum heaven. We’ve now visited three times in total and there’s still more on our list to see. The Rijksmuseum is the big one and is well worth the admission (find the secret library room, it’s so cool), of course there is the Anne Frank House, the Stedelijk Museum which is home to a large collection of modern art, Foam Fotografiemuseum is a great photography museum and don’t sniff at The Canal Museum which is actually very interesting (it was Mark’s idea and we were all pleasantly surprised by how good it was!). I still really want to visit the Museum of Bags and Purses (yep that’s really a thing), and my friend is desperate to take me to the CHANEL store – but only to see the outside as it’s won architectural awards for it’s design.

Of course Amsterdam is just a beaut of a place to wander around. Go for a walk, get lost – you won’t be disappointed. De 9 Straatjes is a beautiful part of town (see below for my friend’s shopping recommendations), and I highly advise the Vondelpark – either on foot or on bike. If you do fancy a bike ride, our mates took us out to Amsterdam Forest which probably took us around a 30 minutes to get to; where we cycled on the tracks and had lunch at the Goat Farm in the centre.

Where To Shop

Whenever we visit we always opt for hand-luggage only, which is pretty much always packed to the brim. So the idea of buying anything, even a pair of pants, would most probably result in me having to wear 50% of my belongings on the plane journey home, just so I could close my suitcase. However, I have enlisted my mate – who has excellent taste can I just say? – to give me her top picks.

We actually have popped into Hutspot before and they do a great mix of fashion, interiors and local art, but they place to visit is De 9 Straatjes (The Nine Streets), which is absolutely chocker with independent boutiques and vintage places. My friend recommends Fabienne Chapot, who is a local designer. She also says it’s worth popping into District 10|71 which does womenswear, menswear, coffee AND cookies. Finally, Skin Cosmetics Amsterdam is where you want to head if it’s beauty you’re in the mood for buying.

Photos by Mark, taken on a Canon EOS 33

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