Amsterdam

A holiday in the Netherlands wouldn’t be complete without paying a visit to its capital. Amsterdam is a very friendly and historic city known for its beautiful canals, bridges and characteristic ‘gingerbread’ houses.

It is easily accessible from London by either plane (flying to Schiphol) or by Eurostar, which has a direct train line from St Pancras International to Amsterdam. The total journey is about two to three hours, just as long as it took us to drive there from Zeeland, in the South West of the Netherlands (where I’m staying this summer).

The centre of Amsterdam is easy to navigate despite its narrow streets and many bridges. I would recommend starting your journey at Centraal Station, as it is right in the middle of the city centre.

From there you can walk past the cute ‘gingerbread’ houses of Damrak, towards Dam Square and on to Kalverstraat – which is the biggest shopping street in Amsterdam (although thankfully not as packed as Oxford Street in London).

If you want to try the famous Dutch stroopwafels, I can really recommend popping into Van Wonderen Stroopwafels on Kalverstraat. They are very famous and have home made stroopwafels with sprinkles or marshmallows on them.

However, they are a little bit expensive (about £7.50 for a stroopwafel!). Since we are Dutch anyway, and basically know what they taste like, we decided to skip them. Besides, I prefer stroopkoeken anyway. They are highly underrated and much more buttery (I’m actually eating one as I type this post).

Places I visited were the very touristy Bloemenmarkt (flower market), which is a very unique market in the city centre at the end of Kalverstraat, near the Munt Tower. What makes the market so unique is the fact that most of the stalls are floating in the canal.

However, the content of the market isn’t that impressive. The stalls basically all sell fake flowers, flower bulbs, and touristy items and so I doubt the flower bulbs really sprout flowers, as the market primarily seems to be a tourist attraction rather than a real flower market.

If you want to buy real Dutch tulip bulbs, I’d recommend visiting a garden centre – e.g. Intratuin – before tulip season (March – May).

Then a long walk past the beautiful canals of Amsterdam and back to Damrak for a boat ride over the canal, which is always highly recommended as well.

Exploring Amsterdam through the water gives a very unique perspective of the city.

At Damrak, right across from Central Station, there is a wide variety of companies offering boat rides through the canal for different prices, so you can get yourself a good bargain. Most of the time you do not need to book.

But if you prefer something less touristy, there’s also other ways to explore the canal by boat. For example you can rent yourself a boat.

Most of the centre can easily be navigated on foot. But if you wish to travel further, there are trams, undergrounds or the most popular form of transport in Amsterdam: bikes! I personally am not a big fan of cycling in big cities, but if you’d like to blend in with the locals, I’d give it a go: everyone seems to do it.

As it was a lovely sunny day, I decided to mainly stick to outdoor activities. But there is so much more to explore in Amsterdam!

For example, there is the Rijksmuseum, which has a beautiful collection of famous Dutch Masters, such as Rembrandt. I have not yet visited this museum, but as I took a course on ‘17th Century Dutch Painting’ in university, it has been on my list for years. 

There’s also the Anne Frank House, which I think is a very touching and emotional experience. I have visited the house when I was a teenager and thought it a very humbling experience, especially because at the time I was about the same age as Anne when she used to live in the small attic with her family. Suddenly all my normal teenage problems seemed to be insignificant. Nowadays, however, a visit to the house needs to be booked at least 4 months in advance, so keep that in mind.

Apart from it’s cultural experiences, Amsterdam is a very cozy place to go out for dinner as there’s a wide variety of small cafes, restaurants and bars of different types of cuisines. My dad recommended a restaurant right across the road from Centraal Station named Loetje.

It’s a wonderful location and I’m surprised that they weren’t full. However, they have a beautiful outdoor terrace with views over the canals, which was fully booked that day.

Therefore, we were seated indoors (which was almost completely empty).

Loetje is a great restaurant for meat lovers as it’s specialty is steaks, and it’s famous for its gravy. However, there’s also vegetarian options, if you want (I saw a vegetarian curry on the menu, but you can find the full menu here). 

However, the steaks are a real recommendation. When you ask for steak, you really do get a steak! They are enormous and very filling. You can also choose to have them with different sides such as chips, mushrooms or applesauce.

Also their starters are really good. They have a soup of the day, which was onion soup, but I chose a beef carpaccio.

Also their desserts are simply lovely. They have a specialty of the day named Toetje van Loetje (which is funny, because it rhymes). This was vanilla ice-cream with strawberries and cream. I chose the oreo cheesecake however.

I really enjoyed my visit to Amsterdam. I had only been there about twice before in my life, but I’ll certainly come back for more.

Would you ever consider visiting Amsterdam? Or have you visited? Let me know your experiences or recommendations in the comments.


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