I’m warning you now…this one’s a long one – you might want to get a snack at the ready! A little while ago, my friend Laura and I set off on our adventure to Amsterdam. We both wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t been before, for a city break, over the long Easter weekend. This led to weeks or where-should-we-go, how-should-we-get-there, where-should-we-stay conversations. Finally, we chose Amsterdam, booked our flights and air bnb, and got stuck into our adventure research. It took us a while to gather everything we wanted to do, so let me help you out here with a few things we did (and ate) on our long weekend in Amsterdam…
Things to do…
1. Enjoy wandering
Amsterdam has some of the prettiest houses I’ve seen, which all lean forward slightly along the canals which are lined with thousands of bikes and flowers. Obviously, it is known as a great place to cycle, meaning you can see the city by bike, but – confession – this girl here cannot ride a bike. Yep, you heard that right, so we spent the weekend on foot, taking in the sights and finding our way around.
2. Oude Kerk Tower
Having originally stumbled upon Westerkerk, and found a notice pinned up telling us the church tower was under construction, we followed the directions over to Oude Kerk. Oude Kerk is the oldest building in the city at 800 years old, with the tower containing 4 bells. As the tower is so old, only 6 people are allowed up at a time with the tour guide. We rolled up (almost bought tickets for the full church so be warned – the tower tickets are just around the corner!), and put our names down on the list for an hours time. Note: the church is also handily near a pretty big department store if you’re in need of a quick browse while you wait…).
I have to tell you, I’m not usually scared of heights. However, climbing up the tower took me a little getting used to – Laura has always been the more adventurous of the two of us, meaning she bounded up the very narrow, very steep old ladders while I followed cautiously, two hands on the rails. When I say two hands, I mean it. These were stairs so steep we were advised to go down backwards on our descent.
The tower itself is steeped (ey!) in history, we looked inside the bell and saw the machinery behind it, stopping on each landing to learn something new and take a look around. Eventually, we ended up at a little door, which led to the outside platform where you could see over Amsterdam from all sides of the tower. Another warning I should insert here is that it’s pretty damn windy in Amsterdam, and the walkway was only two planks of wood wide round the tower. Cue Laura jumping up and down while I clung for dear life to the waist height railing – like I said, not one for adventure…
Only once we’d made it safely back down onto firm land did I appreciate our experience, and what a view we saw!
3. The Palace
This one was just one to tick off our list, the square outside is full of people of all kinds, and the palace itself is slap bang in the middle of the city, meaning you have to remember to look up to catch it, but it is pretty beautiful.
4. Canal Tour
There are a million and one canal tour shops along the water, but as it started to rain we dived into the nearest one. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take the smaller uncovered boat because 1. the weather, and 2. it was too early in the year. So we hopped onto a pretty big boat just in time to take an hours tour around the canals of Amsterdam. Though it was pretty (read: very) touristy, we actually found out a load of interesting things, and really enjoyed it – the weather recovered enough for us to head onto the back of the boat and take a look around too!
5. Flower market
The only floating flower market in the world is something to take a look at while wandering the streets of Amsterdam. I guess you could compare it to Colombia Road in sheer volume of beautiful flowers, but there are also all kinds of seeds, plants and souvenirs along the canal here. I wish I could have gotten those cactuses through security!
6. A little shopping
While waiting to go to the airport, we stumbled across a pretty little street near Centraal Station, full of pretty homeware shops, coffee shops and macaroons. My favourite one we found was called Dille & Kamille – with pretty things like candles and crockery, plants and stationery. I only wish pretty things weren’t so breakable on flights…
Amsterdam’s Library has a top floor which is well worth the walk up past Centraal Station. It’s quiet and appears not everyone knows about this little spot, which gives you a glimpse of the city from above. There’s huge windows and a little terrace which shows you exactly what you’re looking at in the skyline. Unfortunately for us, it was pretty damn windy the day we went, so the terrace was short lived. Not before I got a few photos of us though!
Another reason to head to the library is the cafe on the top floor. An unexpected surprise, Laura and I found ourselves in need of a full lunch rather than the breakfast we had attempted to find, which turned out to be a great decision. With a huge selection of smoothies, pastries, hot food and stir fry’s cooked to order, we chose a stir fry each. This was honestly one of the best I’ve had, inspiring to come home and make them a part of my recipe repertoire. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo, I was just too hungry…
8. Anne Frank House
In the months before our trip, this was the one thing we both said we would really like to do while in Amsterdam. We tried to prebook tickets, but they were all sold out, even in December – so I recommend booking waaay in advance! We walked past the two hour long queue everyday, hoping we’d find it just that little bit smaller for us, especially as it was pretty chilly waiting in the wind back in March. Luckily, we managed to join the queue on Monday lunchtime, and ended up waiting just over an hour to get inside.
If there is one thing you see in Amsterdam, make it Anne Frank’s house. It’s difficult to describe the experience to you, but it is definitely something everyone should go and see.
Places to Eat…
9. Lite & Dark
Noted in my pre-holiday research as a place that specialised in smoothies and gluten and dairy free cakes, this was a must do on Laura’s list. As a fussy eater who doesn’t enjoy smoothies with bits in, I opted for my fail-safe back up of a dark hot chocolate, and it was just what I needed after getting a little cold around the edges exploring. You can pick up the smoothies to take away, or stay for a pit-stop en-route which was exactly what we did.
10. Candy Freaks
This one was top of Laura’s list after doing some research into vegan places to eat and visit while away. We managed to walk straight past this shop from the outside, even though we were looking for it on the map, but once we found it, Laura’s eyes lit up and she took her time choosing from the giant selection of sweets available, especially the vegan range. The guy behind the counter was also great, fetching out sweets to try before you buy. Worth a stop if you’re in need of a pick me up and some allergy free sweeties! These kept our sugar levels right up throughout our trip.
11. American bakery
This one was a complete accident – honest! While looking for our flower market, we stumbled across this cute little bakery and I made my puppy eyes at Laura, telepathically telling her to forgive me for taking her into a non-dairy-free cake shop where she would be able to buy nada. Luckily, it worked and in I went for a little pick me up. It was so great! There was seating upstairs, but I just grabbed my cupcake and ran away, opting for the eat-and-walk, which in hindsight was not so great…(hence the sheepish face above).
How could I resist a window as pretty as this? Such pretty macaroons led me right inside to pick up some treats for the family (and myself!). Slightly different to the macaroons I think of, these were a little bit thicker and softer inside, but so yummy!
Every Christmas at uni in Newcastle, the European market would pop up, and I would be first in line at the Dutch stall for pancakes just like these topped in sugar and chocolate sauce. I was always so excited for the stall to come back, so when I put two and two together and realised I was going to the home of teeny tiny pancakes…well you can imagine my happiness! We just had to find some, and these popped up for breakfast right next to the iamsterdam sign and they were everything I wanted and more. One place I had on my list but didn’t make it to is Pancakes
. Definitely one to stop by if I return!
I hope this mini guide is helpful if you’re planning a trip, or thinking of going! It is worth going just to wander and take in the relaxed way of life here, I came back feeling pretty refreshed considering it was a weekend city break!