Last week I was booked on a job in Amsterdam for two days and suggested to Justin that he joins me in Amsterdam afterwards for a mid-week getaway. (One of the amazing perks of being a free-lancer)
A quick 45min flight from London and you’ll find yourself in the land of bicycles, picturesque canals and legendary architecture.
Noise pollution is kept to a minimum as the city offers a village-like kind of personality. Hardly any cars fill the streets, rather thousands of bicycles, creating a sense of serenity.
So without further ado below is my 48 hour, pretty local with a touch of touristy (just the way I like it) travel guide to Amsterdam.
My first night in Amsterdam I was spoiled to five star treatment and stayed at the Conservatorium Hotel. Personalised notes were left around my double story apartment, a shower that had a built in sauna and let’s admit it, it’s pretty cool having the New York Times and the latest issue of VOGUE delivered to your room with breakfast the following morning.
If you looking to splurge a little and spoil yourself, this is the hotel for you.
For the rest of our stay in Amsterdam we checked into the Hoxton Hotel. Complete opposite to the Conservatorium but just as fabulous.
Cool, quirky designs throughout the hotel, beautiful art deco bathrooms with exposed rose gold piping and the comfiest bed’s you’ll ever sleep on. A paper bag filled with breakfast goodies is left outside your room in the morning for you to either enjoy in bed or (as we did) to head out and explore the streets stopping along a canal to enjoy the tasty STACH deli treats that filled our bags.
WHAT TO SEE & DO:
One of the best things about Amsterdam is that you don’t have to spend much money to have a great time because the best thing you can do there is to simply walk the streets. However it’s also a city that is filled with the most incredible museums and art collections and if you’ve never seen a Van Gogh or a Rembrandt in person before it’s worth a visit to a museum or two.
For a 48 hour stay in Amsterdam here are some of my recommendations:
1.) Walk or cycle around the city as much as possible. It’s such a great way to discover hidden gems and really immerse yourself into the culture. Most of the hotels offer free bikes but if they don’t there are countless places that do bike rentals.
2.) Visit a museum. I opted for the Rijksmuseum as it offered a combination of Rembrandt’s, Van Gogh and Johannes Vermeer. We also visited the Stedeliijk Museum which is dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design.
3.) If you have the time take a cruise down the canal. We found a really cool company called Those Dam Boat Guys where you can “bring whatever you’d like to eat, drink, and smoke (wink wink) if you feel so inclined” and enjoy a casual laid-back, improvised trip packed with quirky information. Way better then those touristy hop-on-hop-off kind of tours.
4.) If you a guy reading this post, or ladies if you man has a beard, I highly recommend heading to Haar Barbaar for a cut, trim or shave. We stumbled upon Haar Barbaar and had a little time to spare so Justin decided to get his beard re-shaped. No kidding but when I tried to walk in I was told to leave and sit on the bench outside because… no ladies allowed inside! For €15 Justin had his beard reshaped while listening to old school rock n roll and drinking free beer. A real man’s den.
6.) If you feeling so inclined, visit a “coffee shop”… you are in Amsterdam after all.
WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT:
May travels are always dominated by food. I spend hours researching where and what to eat whenever I’m traveling somewhere new. Truthfully Amsterdam didn’t knock my socks off as far as food is concerned, don’t get me wrong, the food was tasty but not mind blowing. I found it was more of a what to eat rather then a where to eat when it came to Amsterdam. Be prepared for a sugar overload!
1.) FRIES! Particularly Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx topped with oorlog sauce. OMG! Best fries I’ve ever had, no joke!
2.) The apple pie from Winkel 43.
4.) Bags and bags of stroopwafels. I love placing one over my hot cup of tea or coffee in the morning and leaving it for a few minutes to heat up and melt the sticky caramel slightly.
5.) Dutch liquorice. Be warned, It’s strong and salty and doesn’t have any added sugar.
With regards to restaurants these were some of my favourite spots. Researched, tried and tested:
1.) De Kas was incredible! I owe a big thanks to Emma Jane Nation for introducing me to this hidden gem just outside of the the main city. A chic glass garden conservatory serving Mediterranean dishes made from organic ingredients grown on-site. The menu changes weekly pending what fruits and vegetables are in season. Sophisticated and classy yet completely unpretentious.
2.) Calle Ocho was recomendad to me by a few locals. A fun and festive small space that serves Miami street food, think frozen margarita by the jug, tacos and ceviche. “A place where you can take your tinder-date, grandmother or your volleyball team.”
3.) SLA salad bar. In a city full of sugar and carbs a fresh and delicious salad is gratefully welcomed. Not the best seating environment but great to grab a take-away and head to Vondelpark or the canals to enjoy.
1.) Tales & Spirits. I have never laughed so much in my entire life! We arrived at the bar a little too early for local standards, 9:30pm, and the bar was relatively empty. So we took a seat up front and centre and was served by a Scot with the driest, darkest sense of humour I’ve ever come across and a second barman that was so un-PC yet somewhere managed to get away with everything that came out his month. I kept ordering drinks to enjoy the free comedy show on offer. Also the drinks were incredible. From the good old classics to interesting mixes including popping candy.
2.) Our hotel had a great bar too, Lotti’s, with a relaxed and casual sort of atmosphere that attracted a lot of the locals. Scatterings of Persian carpets, mid-centruary sofa’s and armchairs and a marble counter. From Thursday to Sunday the bar plays host to local DJ talent.
3.) Lastly it’s pretty interesting and beautiful to walk around the streets at night. All the bridges have bistro lights covering them from one end to the next, the waters are calm and there’s practically no cars driving around. A beautiful silence filled only with the murmur of a passing couple or a group of friends.
We stayed away from the Red Light District but there were a few houses brightly lit up with red bulbs on our walks back from dinner, it was pretty interesting to see. Thank goodness those women have phones to keep them entertained now days. Must of been pretty boring just sitting there staring out the window 10 years ago or so.
Amsterdam surprised me with an array of really cool stores, I guess it’s their close proximity to Scandinavia. If you have a little time here’s some of my top picks suggested to me by locals and little stores I happened to stumble across:
1.) Maison Rika. Not only stocks one of my favourite magazines, RIKA, but also stocks a section of HOLIDAY magazine’s limited edition fashion collection.
2.) Number 9 is a 2 story building offering a collection of French and Scandinavian brand’s for both men and women.
3.) SKY for women. Offers brands like A.P.C, Opening Ceremony and Zadig&Voltaire.
4.) If you a stationery nut you must pop into LikeStationery.
5.) Property Of… offers a unique shopping experience. They sell an array of artisanal fine bags and leather goods in a very ‘hip’ (read hipster) environment yet offer service along the lines of top designer brands like Gucci or Louis Vuitton, “Sir, what can I offer you to drink?” “Would you you bag embossed with your initials?”. You can also find a selection of amazing city guides for €0.50!
6.) Mendo bookstore offers coffee table books that will have you buying an extra suitcase to take back home with you. Originally a graphic design agency that now also runs a smart, black-walled bookshop specialising in books in the creative realm. Think art, design, architecture, fashion and photography.
7.) Margriet Nannings for a men’s collection of fashion that consists of different brands with a clear signature. Similar to SKY but for men. Brand’s include A.P.C, Marni, COMME DES GARÇONS and Raf Simons.
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After spending a few days in Amsterdam I can totally understand how it was rated as one of the top 25 liveable cities by Monocle.
* All images taken by myself and Justin Polkey *