When we arrived in London we hadn’t pre-planned any further travel in Europe – mainly due to the fact that we were jobless, homeless and very low on funds! But when our friends asked if we wanted to join them and a group of friends for Easter in Amsterdam we thought why not?! Luckily by the time it rolled around we were comfortably set up and everything had fallen into place in our London lives.
So Amsterdamage weekend begun!
We flew out on Friday afternoon after indulging in another session at the airport lounge, stocking up on free snacks and a few cheeky drinks. Our buzz quickly wore off after we had to endure an hour long flight stuck in front of a group of four young lads off for a good time in Amsterdam. They were so arrogant, loud and obnoxious, practising their handshakes, taking swigs from a big Jager bottle and basically pissing off everyone around them. The boys ended up getting into an argument with these tossers after Andrew calmly called them a “bunch of c***s” and let them know the whole plane hated them. We saw the funny side of it all though and was a laughing point of the weekend.
We rented an apartment in the Southern Canals, within easy walking distance of some of the top attractions like the Rijksmuseum and Heineken Experience, and about a 30-minute walk from the Central Station. Since we booked our accommodation relatively late there wasn’t a lot of choice and we thought we were getting a small studio with bunk beds. To our surprise we ended up with a roomy 2-bedroom flat with a big living area, stoked! On our first night we didn’t stray too far from our place in search of dinner and some drinks. TripAdvisor directed us to Stoop & Stoop – a Dutch pub/restaurant where we had our first try of the deliciousness that was bitterballen’s (deep fried Dutch beef croquettes) and it was Wiener Schnitzels all-round for mains.
Saturday was our main ‘tourist’ day where we actually managed to squeeze a lot in. We headed out in search of breakfast and ended up at the Albert Cuyp Markets (just beyond the Heineken Brewery). Over 300 stalls line the street selling everything from fruit, vegetables, cheese and fish to clothes, bedding and cosmetics. We were on the hunt for more traditional Dutch cuisine and found a food truck making poffertjes – small, fluffy pancakes served with butter and icing sugar – amazing!
We wandered along the canals to the Rijksmuseum and discovered the infamous ‘I amsterdam’ sign, though you could barely see it as it was crawling with tourists. Though this museum is the #1 attraction we wanted to make the most of the fine weather and thought we could leave this for another day (but we never made it back!). After walking through the Museum Square we arrived at the edge of Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest and the Netherland’s most famous park which welcomes 10 million visitors every year. At 45 hectares we only managed to see a small portion of the park but it was excellent for a lazy stroll, people and dog watching, and climbing trees apparently. Next stop was the amazing Foodhallen, in Amsterdam’s hip Oud-West neighbourhood. Foodhallen is an indoor food market in a converted industrial building serving a range of high-end street food from a huge range of cuisines (foodie heaven). I chose the most delicious and possibly the best mince and cheese pie I have ever had from Wild Moa Pies – the only authentic New Zealand/Australia meat pie shop in all Amsterdam. And to top things off another serving off those delicious bitterballen’s.
Before our trip we had pre-booked tickets for a one-hour canal tour + the Heineken Experience. The canal tour was quite interesting and a great way to discover the city’s sights. Amsterdam has 165 canals which were created over the centuries to stimulate trade and transport and they continue to define the city’s landscape. The architecture is also a highlight of the city, I loved the tall, narrow canal houses which are distinguished by large windows and decorative gables and are more than a bit crooked. After enjoying floating through the multitude of canals we headed south again and lined up for the Heineken Experience. This interactive tour takes you through the Heineken’s first brewery – their history, the brew process and most importantly the tastings.
That evening we met up with a kiwi mate, now living just out of Amsterdam, who we hadn’t seen in over two years. It was great to catch up and hear about life outside of the main city, which he actually hated due to all the tourists! If we were to go back to Amsterdam I would definitely want to venture out from the tourist trap and would also love to visit the tulip fields – apparently best in April/May. After a few more beverages we wandered through the Red Light District which was absolutely humming. It was definitely a sight not to be missed, and have heard from friends about amazing walking tours through the district. We stumbled across a little gem – Café Zilt – the “Best Whisky and beer bar in Amsterdam” the sign on the front window says “No Justin Beiber, no red bull, 52 beers and 102 whiskys”. Andrew was well impressed with their selection! Our group had reached the general consensus that while we didn’t particular want to go to one of Amsterdam’s famous sex shows it was something that we felt we had to do – when in Rome and all that. Well I won’t delve into specific details here but it was definitely an experience that none of us would repeat. The highlight was that one of the guys in our group got pulled up on stage (very hesitantly!) and was given a lap dance, this had us all in stitches and was a good end to the night.
Sunday morning we were feeling a bit dusty so after a bit of a sleep in we tracked down a pancake house down the road where we indulged in an assortment of savoury and sweet pancakes, apple pie and liquids. We didn’t really have much planned for the day so walked up through the Jordaan neighbourhood which we had heard good things about. We ended up at a pub on the canal right next to the Tulip Museum (which smelt amazing) and the Cheese Museum (which didn’t, but had so many free tasters on offer). After our indulgent cheese feast we walked and found another bar to chill at for the afternoon. We came to a crossroad decision – either continue drinking or do something touristy… we ended up inviting everyone back to our house to continue the festivities.
On Monday one of the boys had booked us all into Upstairs Pannenkoekenhuis from a friends’ recommendation – “the most authentic pancakes of Amsterdam”. What a cool place! It is the smallest restaurant in Europe with just 4 tables. We all had our luggage with us and had to carefully climb the extremely steep staircase to the restaurant on the second floor of the typical Amsterdam house which dates back till 1539. There are more than 100 teapots hanging from the ceiling and the walls are covered with paintings and portraits of the Dutch Royal Family. I went for the ‘King’ which was topped with fresh dutch strawberries and cream – unreal! Recommended to anyone going to Amsterdam – you must make a reservation.
After our pancake fix we decided to visit Body Worlds, an exhibition of more than 200 preserved real human bodies and body parts that are prepared using a technique called plastination. It is the only exhibition in the world to be based on a donor programme. Spread across six different levels you are taken through the theme of Happiness and its effect on the human body. To be honest I didn’t really get the concept but it was pretty fascinating to see the bodies on display, maybe not the best decision when you’re feeling a bit hungover, but well worth a visit.
Amsterdam definitely exceeded my expectations – it is a truly beautiful, relaxed city with so much on offer. We had a gouda time!