Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Travel | Amsterdam, The Netherlands


1st-15th of June I went interrailing where I travelled to 5 different countries by train. I will write a post about each place I visited in the order that I did them. 

Flight & Getting to the Hotel

To reach Amsterdam, our first destination, we flew from Bristol. Amsterdam seems to be very cheap to fly to so would be a great idea for a weekend away! Our flight was late afternoon and only took an hour and a half. When we got there we took a taxi to our hotel which was rather expensive. It was the fanciest car I had ever been in! It was an automatic and had a huge screen in the front for things like SatNav, the internet and reversing. Despite the price the driver was very kind and made sure we got to the front door of our hotel safely.


Because we were travelling we wanted a budget hotel. We stayed at a hotel called Hotel Amsterdam City Centre Inn. As the name suggests, it is situated in the centre which we wanted as we needed it to be walking distance. On the downside it meant that it was noisy all through the night so bare this in mind if you can't sleep with noise! The hotel has no lift and the dreaded Dutch stairs were the only way up. Dutch stairs are very steep and narrow so be careful! The room was fairly small and basic with a tiny bathroom; the room was clean and the mattresses were rather soft. The window overlooked a part of the canal which was nice. If you're looking for luxury then you won't want this hotel but if like us you need budget and won't be spending much time in your room, then I'd recommend it.


There are various ways to get round Amsterdam. Our main mode of transport was a Sight Seeing Bus which we booked beforehand. Sightseeing buses are ideal if you want to be a proper tourist as they will take you to all the noted sights and landmarks which you can hop on and hop off all day. It's easy enough to find the stop nearest you and then work things out from there. It's also nice to just sit on the bus for the whole tour and see all of the sights. Additionally they give you a map of Amsterdam, the routes and an audio or live guide of the city. It was very handy!

As for public transport, there are trams everywhere in Amsterdam. We used the tram multiple times and you can buy a ticket on board then get to your destination with ease. Bicycles are also EXTREMELY popular and you have to make sure you don't get ran over by them because they won't stop for you! We didn't personally travel by bicycle but you can rent them in plenty of places. The other way to travel is by boat through the famous canals. We didn't go on any as I have a fear of boats but there is a boat ride as part of the City Sight Seeing Bus. On our final day in Amsterdam it was very sunny so the canals were full of both tourists and locals on all kinds of boats. It was fun to sit on the edge of the canal watching them go by and pointing out all the interesting looking boats.

Things To Do

On our first evening/night there we decided to look round the centre. There are lots of shops to look at, some we recognised and some we didn't, so it nice to just wander around. Whether you have expensive designer taste or like shops such as Lush and H&M, there are plenty to look at. On our last day we found ourselves going in to a couple of these shops including an American and British sweets/food shop. There are of course also all of the canals to look at wherever you go and you can watch the boats go by. 

Arguably the most famous thing to do in Amsterdam is to visit the Anne Frank House. You have to book a ticket beforehand which we did on Expedia and you have a set time to go to it. It was a very meaningful experience and the part that got me the most was seeing her magazine cuttings stuck to the wall like posters, really emphasising the fact that she was just a young teenager just like you or me have been going through a terrible time. They also have her actual, genuine diary there which was incredible to see. I do think you should take a visit if you go to Amsterdam as it does leave you feeling all kinds of emotions. Word of warning though: the steps through the house are steep and narrow Dutch stairs again so be prepared for those. 

My favourite thing that I done in Amsterdam has to be visiting Kopjes which is...wait for it...a CAT cafe! It was actually on my bucket list to go to a cat cafe and I knew there was one in Amsterdam so we booked a table before we went. The cafe is completely cat themed with cat themed games, books and cushions to name a few! The walls are covered in things for the cats to play in, climb on and hide in which were constantly used by the 8 felines who live there. You get to play with them and stroke them which I loved and we ended up spending 2 hours there. To get there we caught a tram to Marco Polostraat which is the name of the road that it is on. The staff are also super friendly so I do think it is worth checking out if you are a cat lover like me!

Whenever I see photos of people going to Amsterdam I always see them standing beside a large 'I Am Amsterdam' sign. We found this in a beautiful area where there is a large water feature and a well-kept area of grass where people seem to go to chill out and lay out with their friends. This can be found at the back of the Rijksmuseum (a Dutch history museum). We didn't go inside the museum but we did have a walk around the courtyard. It is such a beautiful area and nice to hang out on on a warm summer's day.

The funniest thing we done was visit the Sex museum. It was my idea as I had seen pictures of people visiting and it was, quite frankly, hilarious. Explore the history of the Red Light District and just the history of sex in general, from sculptures made up of stone penises to how porn has been displayed through time. They also have an area about Marilyn Monroe which seemed popular and many other life size models they've built that move around doing acts or wearing certain 18+ costumes. This certainly isn't for prudes! Also, be wary of the room at the back: the photographs are NOT for the faint hearted!

And of course, we had to take a walk down the Red Light District. How can you go to Amsterdam without even taking a peek? We walked down it during the day time which I recommend if you don't want to see too much and don't want to be surrounded by pervy men. It was actually rather intriguing to see all the doors that are like booths where women stand in to lure the men and pick them. We didn't really see any women standing in the door ways, only a couple, and they just stand in corsets and underwear pulling seductive poses. There are also clubs where you can pay ridiculously cheap prices to see shows and dances. Not my cup of tea but maybe for some of the people who visit Amsterdam!

Food & Drink

As a vegetarian I found Amsterdam had the best range of vegetarian food I've ever found whilst going abroad. I really recommend using Trip Advisor to find places to eat as it will tell you places nearby and cater for what you fancy or your budget.

  • Breakfast- The first breakfast I had in Amsterdam we were actually in a rush so we made a quick stop at a bakery. There are lots and lots of bakeries dotted around in Amsterdam which I was thankful for. I had a croissant filled with Nutella and it was stuff made of dreams. The next two mornings we went to the same place called Cafe George which seems to be cafe/restaurant by day, bar at night. We had brioche french toast with fruit and maple syrup which was incredible! I loved it so much I have tried to recreate it at home which isn't nearly as sublime.

  • Lunch- For lunch we didn't really go out for meals as part of our way of saving money. A lot of the time we bought snacks from the supermarket to keep us going during the day. On the first day I ate my own bought food whilst my friend had food that she enjoyed at Cafe Illy. It was a smart looking cafe and it had a cool fixture with teacups all over it! On the next day we visited the cat cafe that I mentioned in my 'Things to do' Segment where I had a brownie and hot chocolate. On the last day I went to a crepe and gelato parlour where I ordered a large pancake with Nutella ice cream to take out. That was amazing!

  • Dinner- On our first night we found a little fast food place nearby called Maoz Vegetarian which did pitta bread with falafels in or salad with falafel in. You then get to choose what toppings you want in it and sauce as well as having the option of sweet potato fries. I thought this was a great idea and I wish we had them near where I live! Other nights I found delicious vegetable pizza at New York Pizza and nachos at a restaurant that I can't remember the name of. Another amazing meal I had was at another fast food place called Wok to Walk. Similarly to Maoz Vegetarian you get to design your own meal, but this time it was noodles! I chose egg noodles with vegetables, pineapple and sweet and sour sauce. We loved it and it tasted delicious.

  • Alcohol- As someone who hates beer but loves cider, I was happy to see that I could find cider in Amsterdam. It was really expensive to drink alcohol in Amsterdam but I did have a Magners cider one night at a bar and Strongbow cider in the day at a pub where we sat and played cards. I really recommend that if you're planning to come to Amsterdam for drinking that you bring a lot of spending money! If you're more of a beer fan you will find Heineken EVERYWHERE so you need not worry!

Our Train Catastrophe!

To leave Amsterdam we needed to catch a train to Duisburg (Germany) to then catch another train to our destination, Berlin. However, whilst we were on the platform waiting for the train to arrive, someone who worked at the station came and collected us and some other people waiting to board the train. Apparently the train we were all going to get on left an hour early! We were all so annoyed and immediately my friend and I were worried: how were we going to get to Berlin? Our train from Duisburg to Berlin was a sleeper train that had been booked, how were we going to make that? The people working at the train station were very rude and unhelpful so we had to try and fix this ourselves. I looked up the trains and the next train to go to Berlin was at 7:01 AM the next day. It was about 9pm at this point. Whilst I emailed the train companies involved demanding our money back my friend tried to look up hotels that we could stay in for the night. Unfortunately it was a Saturday night so all the hotels in the centre of Amsterdam were full. After walking around numerous hotels and getting turned down, one hotel did kindly help us by telling us there was a hotel out of the centre that had rooms free. We then had to get a tram out of the centre and try and find this hotel. Eventually we found it and it was a posh 4/5* hotel so we had to pay £200 just to sleep for about 5 hours. Then we had to get up early to get a tram back to the train station at 05.53 for our train. It was such a nightmare and thank god for our emergency funds! This also meant that we missed out on half of our first day in Berlin. As of now the train company has agreed to refund us our money which will thankfully make up for the money we had to spend on the expensive hotel.

Final Thoughts

Overall I really enjoyed Amsterdam. I had wanted to visit Amsterdam so much so it was great to finally achieve that. It lived up to my expectations and I can see myself going back there for a long weekend whether it be with a friend, my mum or my boyfriend. However, I will not miss all of the cyclists! As for the elephant in the room: yes there is weed there. I had been told by other people that you can smell weed everywhere but I didn't find this to be the case. Yes, I could smell weed but it was only when I walked past certain groups of people or stood close to a cafe that sold it. The cafes that sell food with weed in will normally have a weed symbol outside so you know if they do it or not. The smell of weed was certainly was not everywhere, which was a relief for me! If you go to Amsterdam you will have to make a decision about whether you want to try it or not.

Have you been to Amsterdam? Also, look out for upcoming travel posts: the next one will be Berlin.

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