After being persuaded by a few work friends that Amsterdam is a lovely city to visit and it’s not all about the red light district, I booked a surprise weekend away in Amsterdam for Sam as a Christmas present. Fast forward two months and we are back from our weekend away and what a fantastic weekend it was. My work friends were right Amsterdam really is a beautiful city with lots to see.
We left on the Friday morning at 7.30am from London Southend Airport, being from Southend this was very convenient for us with just a 10 minute drive to the airport. We had a good flight with Easyjet and landed in Schiphol Airport 40 minutes later. We had decided to get the train into Amsterdam as we had heard it was easy and it really was easy, 20 minutes later we were at Amsterdam Centraal Station.
Our next task was finding the hotel however the first thing that caught my eye when leaving the station was the amount of bikes there were there was even a car park but for bikes. The walk to the hotel was only around 10 minutes probably quicker if you didn’t have to watch out for cars, trams and bikes. We stayed at the Renaissance Amsterdam Hotel. I have done a review on Trip Advisor about the hotel so I won’t go into too much detail but it was a great hotel, lovely rooms and the most helpful staff and a perfect base for a weekend in Amsterdam. We were all checked in quickly and given a brief of the local area around the hotel by check in staff.
After throwing our bags in our room we were straight back out ready to explore Amsterdam. We headed in the direction of Dam Square and walked past Greenwoods which I wanted to stop in for lunch however it was very busy so we carried on walking. We watched some street entertainers in Dam Square and carried on walking down some of the shopping streets. We stopped in the Esprite Cafe for lunch, this seemed to be a popular cafe as it was very busy but the food was good and reasonably priced. Next stop was the flower market which was just round the corner, very colourful, lots of tulips and reasonable prices for little gifts. Our next stop was the Heineken Brewery we had pre-booked our tickets for this online so when we arrived we didn’t have to queue up we could start the tour straight away. I would definitely recommend doing this as you also don’t have to select a date for your tickets, once you have printed them they are valid for a certain period of time. The tour is well worth the money, you get an insight into how Heineken is made and shipped around the world. There are a few good pit stops along the way, beer tasting, photobooth and interactive stations. When you get to the end of the tour you can use you two tokens to get free beer to enjoy in the lounge area. You can also collect your free Heineken glass at the end of the tour which is an added bonus. After a few too many drinks we headed back to the hotel before heading out on our evening pizza canal cruise. The canal cruise was pre booked at home, it was an hour and half cruise with pizza and unlimited drinks. This was a lovely cruise the staff were very friendly and also gave us a little history of Amsterdam throughout the cruise. After this we headed in the direction of Dam Square but thought we would take a little detour and see the red light district. This did put me off coming to Amsterdam however when I actually got to walk through the red light district it was nowhere near as big or as bad as I thought it would be. I was surprised to see how contained it was in a small area, it was interesting to see but not what I came to Amsterdam for. After this we headed back to the hotel and had a drink and called it a day after being up since 5.30am.
After walking so much the day before we decided to have a go at public transport, we grabbed our map and a 48 hour tram pass and we were off. The hotel staff had told us about the local market and said it was worth a visit so we caught the tram down to the market just past the Heineken Brewery. This was when I realised that Amsterdam really doesn’t come alive until late morning it seemed to be so quiet out. Anyway the market was quiet as we were so early a few people were still setting up but was nice to see a few locals around buying things from the market stalls it reminded me a bit of Petticoat Lane in London. We then walked to the Museumplein and had a few pictures at the IAmsterdam sign. We carried on walking past the Van Gough museum and towards some shops you could tell there were a lot more locals and not so many tourists around this area. I had read online about Vlaams Friteshuis being the best frites around so we headed off and found it down a little side street we did have to use Google Maps after walking round in circles for a while. We did find it eventually and they were very tasty luckily there wasn’t a queue when we arrived however it did seem to be a popular place with a queue forming as we left. We then walked to the Grasshopper Pub which is by Centraal Station, we stopped here for a few drinks and decided where we would be going next. We headed back through the red light district during daylight to see if it seemed any different in my opinion it didn’t seem as intimidating during the day as it did at night with all the dark side streets but again was interesting to see. We then headed to the nine little streets and had a walk round this area it. While walking around this area we stumbled across a place called The Pancake Bakery I had also read about this place online and decided to stop for a pancake. This is a great little place with very welcoming staff, they had every pancake you could possibly think of on the menu we both went for sweet pancakes mine being just Nutella and Sam going all out with whipped cream walnut ice cream, vanilla and amaretto sauce. It was huge, his eyes were clearly bigger than his belly because he didn’t finish it. We then walked down to Anne Frank’s House, wow the queue was big it went on and on, so we didn’t go in unfortunately but maybe next time we visit we will pre-book tickets for this. As it was so cold we jumped back on the tram and decided to go and have a giggle at the sex museum there is a €4 entrance fee. It was funny we had a few laughs walking round but it’s not somewhere you can spend hours. After this we headed back to the hotel and changed to go out for the evening. As Sam enjoys photography he wanted to get some shots of the canal lights so we went out for a stroll down the canals. We then jumped on the train back to Centraal Station and went to the Sky Lounge at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel. As we were so full up from pancakes earlier we decided to just have some bar food we ordered some nachos which were huge and chicken pieces. We sat and looked out onto Amsterdam and enjoyed a few drinks. After one too many drinks we left and fought against the wind to get back to our hotel
Last day in Amsterdam and we decided we would take a visit to Vondelpark and hire some bikes to cycle round. We caught the train to Macbike and hired some bikes for 3 hours. Vondelpark is lovely and reminded me of Central Park in New York with fitness classes taking place and people jogging and cycling. After cycling around for a couple of hours we handed our bikes back and headed back to the hotel to collect our bags and check out, luckily the hotel were happy to hold our cases while we carried on exploring. We then headed to Wijdesteeg Centrum which was a street I had found white looking at Amsterdam on Pinterest. Wijdesteeg Centrum is a street full of graffiti, this was great to see and a local guy was talking to us about the street and graffiti. We then went back to the Grasshopper for lunch food was good and very large portions. We then wandered through the Jordaan area which I loved we could see locals in little cafes and restaurants. We stopped off in a little shop called Sugar ‘n’ ice and had a caramel waffle which was very good. After this it was time to head back to the hotel to collect our luggage and fit in one final pint of Heineken before heading back to Centraal Station and getting the train back to Schiphol Airport.
We had a fantastic weekend in Amsterdam we would definitely head back to the city for another weekend maybe when the weather is slightly warmer. There is so much to see and do in Amsterdam and I would definitely recommend taking a visit.