Wednesday, 13 July 2016

48 hours in Amsterdam

I've always been one of those people who like to start at the end be it a magazine or like this - a blog post -detailing the last stop on my 'mini euro trip', Amsterdam.

Amsterdam seems to be on most people I've talked to travel bucket list and it's not hard to see why. The draw of the Red light district and the freely available highs are what Amsterdam is most known for alongside a wealth of culture such as the Anne Frank house, Van Gogh and Rembrandt museum to name a few as well as some spectacular 16th century canal houses. It's the combination of the quaintness and the artistic history behind the city muddled with its edgier underbelly that appeals to traveller both young and old. 

We stayed at Clink Noord, a hostel just a short ferry ride from Amsterdam Centraal Station. We travelled to Amsterdam Central Station via train from Brussels but if you were flying over the train from the airport would drop you in this exact location. We were delighted with the hostel literally only being a five minute journey away by ferry and on foot as after a long few days of travelling the last thing we wanted was to venture straight into the city centre. (Tip: the ferry is a free 24 hour service! Just make sure you don't get on the wrong boat back to the hostel after a space cake or too...) 

The hostel was so comfortable, clean, and quirky. We would definitely recommend it and are already looking at returning. There are rooms with double beds, twin beds and they range up to a ten bed dorm. There are plenty of common spaces to chill with a book, play pool, ping pong, eat, have a drink and chat.

The stained glass window is a quirky touch to an otherwise very industrial building as the hostel was converted from an industrial lab. 

Our first morning we went on a free walking tour that started from the hostel. Our guide Mark was Northern Irish and had a masters in history and literature and was the perfect combination of humour and information to hold our attention on the tour. He brought us through the Red light district which isn't half as intimidating in the daylight and onto all the sights. The main places to head would be Centraal Station - the stations buildings are stunning, Dam Square with the New Church and some markets take place there also, Rembrandtsquare is the touristy square area with coffee shops and nightclubs, also Museumplein is where you will find the famous 'I am Amsterdam'  sign and a variety of museums. 

We were on such a tight schedule there is so much we didn't manage to pack in but the highlights include breakfast in De Pijp, Amsterdams hipster neighbourhood. We headed to Bakers and Roasters which was incredibly popular. We had a long wait for our food but it was delicious when it arrived. Not sure if this brunch place is a little bit overhyped  as it doesn't come cheap but the food was certainly Instagram worthy with a huge selection of brunch menu items I.e. Corn fritters, tacos, eggs benedict, bacon, pancakes, maple syrup and plenty of veggie options. 

Food wise we weren't overall impressed with the eating out options but we may have been looking in the wrong area. Definitely try some of the frites - fries with satay sauce and onions is a speciality as are the stroopwafels and mini pancakes. Herring is their main dish so if you are into raw fish give it a go. 

Our first night we headed to Rembrandtsquare as it is basically where all the clubs are. We went to Smokys nightclub which is quite well known and has a popular coffee shop by the same name nearby. Other clubs are Prime, Escape, Cool down cafe to name a few. Drinks are as expensive if not more expensive as a Dublin prices in these places so be warned. They are also quite strict on ID, and have metal detectors on the doors. If you plan on going to any coffee shops bring ID in case...

We visited the Ice Bar - you can get tickets for many of the tours and attractions in Tours and Tickets. It was 18 euro and you get three drinks included but I came out with about six! The ice bar is minus ten degrees Celsius and you are given thermal jackets and gloves to wear in. The glasses are also made out of ice hence the gloves. Don't be stupid like I was and wear open toed sandals or wedges! 

After the Ice bar we decided since it was our last night to head to the Red Light district and with a good few drinks taken six of us decided to visit a live 'adult' show... It is definitely a once off experience that is debatable over whether or not it was worth the money. Tickets were €40 or €50 with any two drinks included. 

So if you're prime reason for going to Amsteram is to try their coffee shop culture, see some of the attractions and experience the Red light district two nights was sufficient. We would have loved to fit in more and personally I would have liked to visit the Van Gogh museum and Banksy exhibition as well as get to the Jordaan district. Even though the best way to get around Amsterdam is by bike ( and not on foot - we did about 40,000 steps a day!) I'm not sure I would brave cycling around the city as it is just so busy. 

If you are staying in a hostel the free walking tour was a lifesaver. It showed us how to get around the city, the main attractions and help us meet other people staying in hostel who we ended up clicking with and spending our time there with. So don't be shy! The four guys we ended up hanging out with were all travelling on their own from different parts of the world, it definitely opened up my eyes to solo travel and it is something I would definitely consider in the future. 

***Next up I'll be doing a blog post on our time in Brussels and Bruges!***


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