Today’s post is a bit of a flashback to a trip that Christina and I took with friends a couple of years ago on a weekend city break to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam often conjures up thoughts of sex, drugs (and rock ‘n’ roll?!) but it is so much more than that and offers the chance for a beautiful short break escape. I actually visited Amsterdam when I was a teenager and my family and I visited friends in Holland. I remembered it being picturesque and quirky but when our friend moved out there for a six month secondment we jumped at the chance of visiting.
Our lovely resident Amsterdamian, Sammie, was the perfect host and tour guide so it is very much thanks to her that I can share with you my five top tips of things to do in Amsterdam:
1. Visit a pancake house
I vividly remember the wonderful world of the pancake house from the first trip to Holland. You can keep your ‘coffee shops’, this is where the real magic happens! In the UK we often fall foul of only indulging in a pancake feast once a year. The Dutch know how to do it properly with pancake houses with an array of savory and sweet fillings that all sound so delicious you will wish they did a taster platter.
We went to the Pancake Bakery – a cute basement style establishment with an open kitchen so that you can see your breakfast / lunch or dinner coming into fruition.
The staff are really friendly and helpful – we were even treated to an (unintentional) serenade from one of the chefs, who belted out his interpretation of Alicia Key’s Girl on Firein the faceless safety of the back kitchen, much to our amusement front of house.
2. tour the canals
My grandparents live in a village where the grand union canal and the Oxford canals cross, so I have always had a bit of soft spot for the calming influence of a canal-side walk. But in Amsterdam the canal is book-ended by row after row of town houses. Not the sort of town houses that all look the same, each one has a different character. It’s really enchanting. I spent most of my time in Amsterdam picking canal-side houses for my next abode. It changed every five minutes.
We chose to tour some of the canals in a horse and carriage, a really quaint way to take in your surroundings. You can pick these up in Dam Square and cost us around 30 Euros. We managed to squeeze five of us into one carriage (squeeze being the imperative word, the three of us wedged into one seat did wonder if we would ever be able to leave).
If I went back again, though, I would definitely try and find a canal tour by boat, a perfectly fitting way to view the city.
3. Visit a local market
Whenever I visit a European town or city one of the first things I want to do is visit a local market. It is a great way to get a grasp of the culture and pick yourself up some fresh local produce if you are staying in self catered accommodation.
I wonder if tourists have the same view of English markets?!
We visited the Albert Cuypmarkt – reportedly Amsterdam’s largest and busiest market. It was great to see Holland’s best floral, culinary and fashionable offerings. You can check out the various markets available in Amsterdam here.
4. Anne Frank museum
Now, I should confess that this isn’t something that we did on this particular trip – simply because of time and most of our group had visited previously.
However, even though I was quite young when I visited the Anne Frank Museum, I remember the whole experience was deeply moving. I thoroughly recommend you include this in your list of things to do in Amsterdam…but definitely book your tickets in advance online. And read her diary in advance if you have time, it’ll make the experience even more poignant.
If you go back far enough in the guest book, you might even find my 13 year old thoughts on the experience!
This isn’t a place to visit, it is more something to do. I am a huge fan of picking up mementos from the places I visit so that I can look at them to trigger great memories. It seems an obvious thing to say but with all the sight seeing, souvenir shopping is often something that gets forgotten.
In my case, my penchant is for jewellery. I have rings and necklaces and bracelets from Spain, to Italy, to New York, to Devon. In Amsterdam I added a new stacking ring to the collection, courtesy of Ti Sento Milano, but there are loads of shops to tempt you whatever your chosen treasure.
So, there you have it, my top five round-up for Amsterdam. There are lots of other things you can do so if you have any suggestions please share them below in the comments box.
I didn’t want to dominate my top five with more than one food focused recommendation (which is difficult as me and my foodie loving friends did an excessive amount of eating during our weekend there) but I will drop in a couple of food based bonus tips at the end.
In addition to the pancakes, you should also make sure you try Bitterballen during your time in Amsterdam. This delicious meat-based treat is a great lunchtime snack – we shared a platter with a glass of Prosseco (mean as we were on holiday) and the combination of minced beef and perfectly seasoned roux mixture is something I am still dreaming of now.
We also went to a fantastic- and great value – all you can eat Sushi restaurant for our evening meal. Not traditional Dutch cuisine, agreed, but the quality of the food was amazing so I would wholeheartedly recommend Sumo, Leidseplein.
Make this one of your yeses
Follow the links above to find out more about my recommendations, or to hunt out more of your own on Last Minute Amsterdam