"Some people think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom people find sin." Long-tarnished by a seedy reputation (you know the one) it's easy to think Amsterdam is only good for groups of guys (and girls!) looking for a rowdy weekend away. The time I spent in Amsterdam however highlighted how this couldn't be further from the truth.
We headed to Amsterdam on a chilly January weekend and it was the perfect way to banish those post-Christmas blues. I presumed it would be cold however I hadn't quite prepared myself for the bitter temperatures that met us as we stepped foot off the plane, it's safe to say I hadn't really packed for the weather. That being said, wandering along the canals bundled up against the cold was pretty magical and I'd fully recommend heading over in the winter months- although learn from my mistakes and check the temperatures before you pack!
Amsterdam Canal Ring
The canals are perhaps one of Amsterdam's most famous ‘landmarks’ and we’ve all seen the pictures of the endless canals, bridges and barges that snake round the city. I can assure you they are just as picturesque in person. It’s easy to get lost in all the winding streets as let’s be honest they all look the same but you’ll be sure to uncover some hidden gems along the way. If boats are your thing then there are various canal tours that take you along the canals allowing you to sit back and absorb the views including the Hop-On Hop-Off canal boat meaning you can get from one side of the city to the other via the waterways.
The Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House was the one thing that was a ‘must-do’ before I’d even got on the plane. The Holocaust and in particular the story of Anne Frank fascinate me so I was keen to go. Here you can enter the building that Anne and her family hid in for so many years and see various artefacts and pictures from the time. Popular with tourists I recommend booking your tickets online in advance to avoid the queues and ensure you get in. Now unfurnished, it’s a surreal feeling walking around the famous annexe behind the bookcase and you can really feel the history of the building. It’s a self-guided tour meaning you can spend as long as you like taking in each and every element of the compelling tale that is so well-known.
The Heineken Experience
Don’t be put off if you’re not a beer drinker, this brewery tour is one of the best ‘museums’ I’ve ever been to and was potentially the highlight of my trip. The title doesn’t lie and this is definitely more of an experience than your usual museum. Again this is self-guided and it tells the surprisingly interesting history of Heineken and how it’s made as well as giving you the opportunity to get involved through the ‘turn yourself into beer’ simulator and an interactive competition to pour the perfect pint. You also get 2 Heinekens included in your ticket price which you can enjoy on the rooftop bar overlooking the city.
The Pancake Bakery
If you like pancakes then there’s only one place to head to. There are pancake houses and cafes on every corner but a quick google search will tell you that The Pancake Bakery is the place to go. Dubbed ‘the best pancakes in Amsterdam’ I’d heard before I went that there were normally queues out the door therefore I wasn’t holding out much hope of us getting in. It seemed however that it was our lucky day and we were straight in. It’s super cosy inside and the options are endless; there’s sweet, savory, fruity, chocolatey the choice is yours. I went for the Dutch Pancakes (I think!) and they came with cinnamon ice cream and were filled with little tiny stroopwafels. The Pancake Bakery is a must visit for any pancake lover. A side note- it is literally hidden along what looks like every other canal street so make sure you’ve got a map!
There are more bikes in Amsterdam than people, or so the rumour goes. It’s true that they line every single street and the sheer volume of bikes parked up outside Central Station is mind-blowing. As you wander around the city the bikes are what you need to look out for. I lost count of the amount of near misses I had with bikes and they don’t seem too happy when you step out in front of them- who can blame them! There are loads of places across the city that you can hire bikes from and it’s the one thing that we didn’t get to do that I wish we had (there will definitely be a return on the cards so I’ll be sure to do it then.) The roads can be a bit chaotic with bikes so if you’re not used to the area I would recommend taking your bike over to the famous Vondelpark where there’s less chance of an unfortunate collision!
We spent some time in Dam Square which is full of little shops and street entertainers (Amsterdam's Madame Tussauds can also be found here) so this could be a good shout location for kicking off your bike ride.
...and the rest
I realise that I have now rambled on and on (congratulations if you’re still here) but I could probably rave about Amsterdam for hours. If you do decide to take a trip then getting about couldn’t be easier. Their tram network is a marvel and it’s super easy to figure out which tram you need to get to where. You can buy a travel card before you go which is a great idea if you’re there for longer but as we were on a whistle stop tour we simply purchased a 48 hour travel card at the station and bob's your uncle we could go on any tram we liked.