I recently (February 2019) spent two nights in Amsterdam with some friends on a girls’ weekend away. It was my first time in Amsterdam, and after a great weekend I am determined that it won’t be my last.
A weekend isn’t enough to see everything but it’s plenty to take in the laid back vibes and beautiful architecture of the city. Before we went we chatted (on the trip whatsapp) what everyone’s priority was so that we knew what the weekend needed to deliver to keep us all happy (mostly beer, gin, sleep and uninterrupted conversations). That gave us a focus for our sightseeing and we put a bit of a loose plan in place for the three days and two nights, with enough room for impromptu hot chocolates and wine in the hotel room.
Here’s how our Amsterdam trip turned out, in the form of highlights.
Anne Frank House Museum – It’s sombre, and eerie, and so worth visiting. No words can explain the profound effect that this museum will have on you as you imagine the life and death of its inhabitants. It’s worth setting a diary reminder in your phone to book tickets (my friend Jennie kindly looked after this for us from the USA). 80% of tickets are available online at 12 noon on the day exactly two months before the visit, the rest from 9am on the day you want to go. We did the museum self guided which cost €10 per adult and used the free audio tour there. Allow time afterwards to gather your thoughts.
Nine Streets – This area has pretty shops to browse in, very instagrammable, a lovely slow wander.
Moak Pancake House – We had been told to make sure to have Dutch pancakes and we found this place, between our hotel and the Anne Frank Museum on tripadvisor. We loved it so much we came back the next day for breakfast too. Moak has another outlet in the museum area too. The pancakes are amazing, the portions are generous, the interior is minimalist cool.
Canal Cruise – Rest your feet and watch the world go by on the water. Look at online deals as you may save money, or try to bargain with the agent in the ticket booth. We paid €20.50 for a 24 hour hop on hop off ticket with Stromma (the ticket office agreed to match the online price as we were buying 5 tickets). We joined the cruise outside the Anne Frank House. It’s warm inside and covered and you’re looking up to see out. An enjoyable rest from all the walking and something different to do.
Foodhallen – Sooo chilled and achingly hip Foodhallen is a fancy indoor food court, with options from vietnamese to mexican and drink options to match. No reservation necessary, and you don’t need to all eat the same cuisine, get your food and meet your friends at the seating in the centre of the Foodcourt.
Museum- MOCO We’d promised ourselves that we would do something “cultural” while in Amsterdam, and when we saw the posters in the airport for Banksy exhibition we were sold. MOCO is bite-sized culture, a small contemporary museum with paintings, sculptures and installations. Amsterdam has no shortage of museums so try to fit one We booked online, tickets cost €13.50 online or €14.50 at the door.
Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution – When in Amsterdam you’ve got to do something seedy, so this was our nod to that. We booked online beforehand to get a discount. It costs €12.50 entry and you tour a former brothel in the heart of the Red Light District. There audio tours available telling the stories of sex workers, a sex confession wall, scenes from a brothel and photo props for the photo that is included at the end.
We used trams and Uber to get around. You can buy a 24 hour tram pass for €8 on the tram. Tickets are sold on the tram, you have to board at the middle carriage and you tag off at the other exits. It took us a few goes to learn this, top tip is to watch where the locals board and follow them!
Flights: We flew Aer Lingus from Dublin to Amsterdam Schiphol, booking 5 months in advance our tickets cost €80 each. Flight times were good, we left at 10am Saturday morning and returned at 7pm Monday evening.
Hotel: We stayed at Ramada Apollo Amsterdam. It’s reasonable price wise (we paid roughly €100 per person for two nights room only), is clean and nicely decorated. The hotel operates a free hotel shuttle from the hotel bus stops outside Arrivals at Schiphol Airport. Except that their buses both broke down the day that we arrived and we waited 45 minutes at the bus stop before noticing the sign that said they weren’t running. We ended up getting a 7 seater taxi for our group of 5 that cost around €50 (Extra because it was a seven seater). Kudos to the hotel when we complained about the lack of bus service they gave us free return trips on the airport shuttle (usually €7.50 per person) and didn’t charge us for the extra bed in one of our rooms, saving €80 I think) I was very impressed with this and lots of hotels and businesses could take a leaf out of their book, acknowledging the inconvenience, apologising and providing meaningful compensatory gestures immediatlely. Nicely played Ramada Apollo.
The bar on the top floor of the hotel has amazing views and delightful cocktails.
The one drawback for the hotel is its location. While it’s very close to a tram stop and the centre is a 15 minute tram ride away with a big group it’s often handier to be in the centre of things to make it easier for one or two of the group to split off and go home early etc.
What else do you need to know?
Amsterdam smells like hash. Your Irish nose recognises this smell as illicit but in Amsterdam it is everywhere. Only “coffeeshops” can sell it, you’ll find them by smell, they’re all over.
There are cheese shops that sell different coloured versions of the same cheese. (They are different flavours too)
Tony’s Chocolate is overrated, it’s everywhere and you think it must be an amazing Dutch specialty and buy it but no.
Bring home Stroopwafel )caramel biscuits instead (the supermarket ones are fine, there’s a supermarket just past MOCO that has a great selection). Yes, I know you can get them in Lidl but this are the real thing.
DISCLOSURES: None required, this trip contained no freebies or ads, no paid-for-trips, no special invitations to anywhere, no discounts, no “technically don’t have to disclose it” debates, no ads, no sponsorship, no brand ambassadorship and no product placement. If it had any of the above I’d have told you from the outset, like I always do.