My best friend Dian and I decided go abroad for her 21st birthday. With rebellion in mind, we thought Amsterdam would be perfect for some unforgettable times. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how rich in culture the city really was.
We arrived at Schiphol airport after a smooth 45 minute flight and hopped on a double-decker train to Centraal station, just twenty minutes away. I instantly felt at home with the hustle and bustle, the clock tower, the Maccy D’s on the corner… Until I nearly got trampled on by a cyclist. I would recommend hiring a bicycle when out there, as they run the road, quite literally. It is dead easy to hire a bicycle for as cheap as €6 a day, which is cheaper than public transport. We went to our hotel, Floris France, a 4* beaut in the heart of it all with breakfast included, which we got on a great deal on http://www.opodo.co.uk. We ventured to our first coffee shop, Hill Street Blues. Dimly lit and covered in graffiti art, despite how it sounds, made it incredibly homely and cool. With large sofas, tasty but cheap drinks, pool tables and an outdoor area, this became my favourite place. We moved on to explore the town, which seemed very London to me, but if anything more multi cultural. I couldn’t help but stare at the variety of fascinating looking people who were visiting from all around the world. After walking around exploring for hours and stopping for ‘coffee’ breaks every so often, by time the sun set, we were pretty stoned. Feeling intoxicated and wanting a giggle, we ventured into Le Casa Rosso Palace. The Casa Rosso is a famous, well established Palace in the city of Amsterdam and we had been told by locals that it was a unique experience, not at all sleazy. Thinking ‘when in Rome…’ we purchased our tickets and soon became quite nervous about what this show might entail. To my relief, it looked like a standard, legitimate theatre, so we took our seats and waited for the curtains to rise. All I can say is I was not prepared for the things that went down on that stage. Particularly the performance by a young lady who was very experienced in banana tricks. The thought makes me cringe to this day. Buying a reasonable price ticket into the theatre provides you with four drinks and a 60 minute show, which you will never forget. Ever.
Dian woke me up at a ridiculous hour for our free buffet breakfast. Fighting the urge to shout at her (I don’t do mornings with ease) I managed to escape my fluffy duvet and got myself ready. After our short tram journey to Anne Frank’s Huis, we grabbed a homemade ice cream while we queued. Tickets were €8.50 which gave us a lengthy tour along with videos and artifacts, making it an emotional must see. Next door is The Pancake Bakery, also known as the best pancake house in Amsterdam – I can confirm that it is. We strolled down to Vondel Park next, the most idyllic part of the city; with food from the local supermarket. Vondel Park is free, fun and great place to sunbath, read, picnic and play in the paddling pool. Behind the park is a lush restaurant (I gained a lot of weight on this holiday) with an outdoor terrace and next door is Amsterdam’s Film and Theatre museum, which has a spectacular open air theatre, which you can experience for decent prices with English subtitles. Keep an eye out for events on http://www.iamsterdam.com as they also hold free ‘party in the park’ like concerts there regularly. We returned to Centraal station for a canal cruise, where you simply turn up and pay €8 to be taken on the 75 minute tour. Amsterdam has been dubbed the ‘Venice of the North’ and it certainly was a spectacular way to see the whole town. We ended the night by ‘coffee shop/bar hopping’ – every place is so different it is like going from one adventure to the next.
After another excruciatingly early breakfast (thanks Dian), we hopped on the tram to The Van Gogh museum. Even if like me you are not particularly arty, just do it to hear the truth about why he cut his ear off. It is €14 but if you are 16 – 25 you are entitled to a discount. Result. A few minutes away is the Rijksmuseum of Art and History, which is simply a once in a lifetime experience. Check out Amsterdam’s most sought after photo opportunity outside the Rijksmuseum – the ‘IAMSTERDAM’ letters. Towering at 2 metres high and 26 metres long, I attempted to clamber on top to get our photos taken with no joy, but it was entertaining to say the least! We then went to the bibliotheek (library) for lunch. I was sceptical of how good a libraries canteen could be, but with a fresh buffet of iced mango juices, salads, pizza, cake and more, it was phenomenal. Another highlight of the library was the roof top dining area, which gave a stunning view of Amsterdam. There was also free internet available which was a huge saver, as the internet cafes in the town are VERY expensive. Next door you can see the Nemo Science museum, a funky looking building surrounded by water, which is definitely worth checking out. When it was time to go to the airport, I felt I was nowhere near finished exploring the vibrant city. Amsterdam maybe a small place, but it definitely holds many, many treasures.