Last Summer we jetted off to Amsterdam for a long weekend. Himself had been before and I hadn't, so as usual, I let him get down to the planning while I searched Pinterest for "Miffy, Amsterdam" (more of that later).
Amsterdam is a beautiful city. I'd happily go back there again at any time of year but it was in the 20's when we were there and the sun definitely makes it even more aesthetically pleasing. There's also just a really good vibe there, it's one of the few European cities that I'd actually really want to live in long term. You'll find that English is widely spoken, it's very easy to get around thanks to the tram and bus services and it's no more expensive to eat out/drink than Dublin. But back to my top 10. I always think it's easier to do it this way because otherwise I'll just harp on incoherently about how much I love the place.
In no particular order:
1. Gorge Yourself on Art!
Specifically here, I'm referring to the Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum.
In the Van Gogh museum you'll find the world's largest collection of his masterpieces, which are arrayed chronologically so you can start where he started and work your way through. You'll find there's specific limited edition exhibitions on throughout the year too. From March to June of this year for example, they have "Prints in Paris 1900", which includes Le Chat Noir and posters from the Moulin Rouge, which sounds fab! Book your ticket in advance HERE to save you queueing!
Miffy Van Gogh, I mean, CAN YOU EVEN?!!
The Rijksmuseum, meanwhile, has a whole host of artists under it's roof and you could easily spend an entire day here. If you're a fan of Rembrandt and Vermeer but you also like to mix it up with contemporary art, furniture, fashion and sculpture then you, my friend are in the correct place.
Vermeer and YSL. Just an example of the wide range of art on offer here.
Outside the Rijksmuseum, you'll also find one of the massive IAmsterdam signs to pose in front of, if you can beat other tourists out of the way first. These are in other places about the city, but a word of warning- everywhere will be jammers!
2. The Anne Frank House
If you've read Anne Frank's diary, then you'll want to visit the secret annex where she lived with her family and a few others during WW2 in order to escape Nazi occupied Holland. Having re-read the book a few times, it felt surreal and frankly, quite emotional to stand where she stood and to see everything just as she described it. I would highly recommend a visit here but would caution you to queue either late in the evening or very early in the morning. While we were there, there was always a massive queue, snaking around the block with people waiting to get in. Obviously only so many people can be accommodated inside at the one time but there seemed to be less people in the evening time and we started queueing around 9pm. They close at 10pm and open in the morning at 9am. You can buy your tickets online HERE but I'm not sure that makes a difference as you have to queue to get in either way.
3. Shop The Nine Streets
This is a specific area of Amsterdam, featuring, you guessed it, nine streets, or De 9 Straatjes. Here you'll find a massive array of very lovely small shops, stocking everything from jewellery, trinkets, funky socks, vintage clothes, beauty products, cheese, art, gifts and of course, there's lots of cafes, bars and restaurants too. Even if you're just window shopping, strolling through the nine streets is a really pleasant way to while away an afternoon.
My favourite of all the shops. I bought a couple of those cutesy little fruit/moon/star lights in the window and a load of very cute postcards. Sorry to that poor woman, also in the window who is now forever on my blog.
4. Take a Canal Tour.
You can get around the city any which way you want, as I mentioned already, we did use the tram a lot and we walked a huge amount so we had already seen a good bit but it's always nice to see a city from river/canal level. You'll find there's a good few companies to choose from, several of which are down the street from the Anne Frank House.
5. Kookt Festival
This is a massive food and music festival that takes place throughout the Summer in Amsterdam. It moves location so your best bet is to check the different venues and dates on their Facebook page HERE. We went here our first night and we loved it. Such a great atmosphere, delicious food, drinks and brilliant music.
Ha. Meating Point. Get it? Cause of ALL the BBQ meat. Himself was in heaven. There he is in a hammock. That part above him there is a mini beach. We sat out and had dinner and drinks while the sun went down. Lovely. Then we ate lots of food, including some unreal churros. Nom.
6. Take a Stroll Through the Vondelpark.
The Vondelpark is the largest park in the city. You can do a bike tour or you can just take your time and walk through, stopping to look at the sculptures throughout or go directly to the open air theatre which shows music and dance performances during the Summer. When we were there, there was a reggae show on so we got some drinks from the bar and chilled out in the sun. Lovely!
Chilled wine in 24 degree heat + David Meowie tee = happy Chloe.
7. De Hallen Market
This is a converted industrial building in what's known as the trendy part of Amsterdam. Inside you'll find a massive indoor food hall, selling everything from sushi to burgers with bars and whole stalls dedicated to cake in between. There's also some stores, stocking; vintage clothes, vinyl records, local art and sculptures and lots of very cool hipster type gifts. We didn't venture into the nine-screen art deco style cinema, purely from a time perspective but that looked cool too.
8. Get a Beer And Sit Outside a Nice Bar
…and, people watch! Honestly, Amsterdam is just the loveliest place to sit outside and take it all in. If you can, order some Bitterballen too. These are little Dutch meat (usually chopped beef or veal) based snacks that are served with a mustard dip. Quite delicious with an ice cold beverage!
9. Get a Slice Of The Greatest Apple Pie in The Entire World.
I've tried and have loved many's the apple pie. In fact, when I told my sister that this was the best she reminded me of the apple tart from the Bunratty folk park (which is unreal) and I had to tell her that this was better. She's still sceptical but she's wrong!! My friend Colleen advised us to go to Winkel's, where we would probably have to queue for a table but that it'd be worth it.
She was not wrong! There are raisins in it (the devil's own shrivelled snack) but they are easily picked out and then you're left with a buttery, crumbly pastry, perfectly sweetened apples, a hint of cinnamon and a whack of cream on the side. If I go back to Amsterdam for no other reason, it'll be for Winkel's apple pie alone. Come, drool with me.
10. Visit the Miffy Shop (optional)
There's also a Miffy museum, but it's a bit outside of the city and we didn't really have the time. I have a major love for the little Dutch rabbit, Miffy ever since I was a lttle'un. Obviously I'm still slightly obsessed but what better city to be in than the home of the miffster him/herself.
It was a tough inner battle not to buy the nurse & doctor miffy's but the price tags put me off...
There's plenty of other Miffy merchandise to buy and that's the only attraction there really, except for the lifesize Miffy to pose with…
- So, you may have noticed that the red light district isn't among my top 10 things to do. For me, it's one of those tourist things to do that you wouldn't recommend but that people still do anyway. Like Temple Bar. It's not particularly fun or pleasant but there's no harm in strolling through to see what it's all about.
It's completely packed with people on both sides of the canal, lots of garish lights, and obviously lots of women in windows. Not high on my list.
- Buy a 4 day travel pass, these should be available in the train station. I can't remember how much this cost but we used this constantly on the trams and the buses, and it worked out to be really good value.
- I recommend stopping at Lot Sixty One for coffee- it is genuinely excellent coffee and people seem to flock to it.
- Food recommendations! Mook pancakes are wonderful and very filling. Start with a savoury and finish with a dessert pancake.
That's bacon, cheese, onion and maple syrup on the left and strawberries, blueberries, chocolate and coconut on the right.
The waffles from the Metropolitan Deli are also well loved; you can get whatever toppings you want, so we got fruit and ice cream. You can also get poffertjes; little Dutch pancakes. That's them being made on the left. They are a thing of wonder. We got them covered with milk and white chocolate (behind the waffle).
We also had a really good (non dessert) meal in Mata Hari, a restaurant near to the red light district. Excellent cocktails too (that's a rather lethal Long Island Iced Tea).
And that's that! Get yourself to Amsterdam, you won't regret it!
Have you been to Amsterdam?
Where's next on your travel wish list?