48 Hours In Amsterdam

13 Apr 2017

If you've been following my Twitter or Instagram, you'll know that J and I came back from Amsterdam last week after a gorgeous little trip away. My mum, being the crazy generous person that she is, paid for us to have the break as part of our Christmas gifts, which was totally unexpected! We were both extremely grateful and couldn't wait to get planning. As I mentioned, we're back now and I've finally edited all the photos, so it's about time that I sat down and wrote about all the things we got up to.

Before I get started, I just want to express how special this trip was to both of us. If you've had a read of my 2016 ramble, you'll know that we spent a lot of time and money on J's naturalisation last year. When he finally had been granted British citizenship and received his first ever British passport, we got quite excited at the prospect of being able to go on holiday abroad. This trip to Amsterdam was the first time that J had ever been in a country outside of the UK (apart from South Africa, of course) and it was so amazing to be able to watch him experience it for the first time. I know he won't mind me saying this, but he was kind of like a child at Christmas. I'd also never been to Amsterdam before, so this was a totally new place for me too, so we both got to experience this together. Even we've been together for over 4 years, I feel like it just brought us even closer together, so yes, this trip was really special.
To get there, we travelled with DFDS Seaways from Newcastle, which is around 45 minutes from where we live. I'm not a massive fan of flying, even though it's quicker, so sailing was a much better option in my opinion. The journey there was extremely gentle and the sea was beautifully calm. We had a fab tea from the 7 Seas restaurant in the evening and a buffet breakfast in the morning before we arrived. All in all, the journey there was great - the only thing that let it down was that our cabin was sweltering hot. I must have only got about 4 hours sleep maximum because it was just so stuffy and uncomfortable. Poor J had to leave the room several times to go for a walk about on deck to cool down! But thankfully, it was just for that one night.
We docked up and hopped on to a bus that drove us from the terminal to the city, which took around 50 minutes or so. When we pulled up to the stop, I knew I was going to fall head over heels in love with the place. Everywhere you looked, there was amazing architecture and winding canals, and the air was filled with the sound of cheerful, tinkling bike bells. It was just so vibrant and alive, and those are the kind of places that I love to be in.

First things first, we headed to the hotel to check in and drop our luggage off. I won't lie, we did have to nip into a touristy shop to buy a map because we had absolutely no clue which way to go. We booked with Hotel De Gerstekorrel as it was located right in the centre and not too far away from all of things we wanted to see. We had no trouble finding it and managed to check in quickly! There was a little kerfuffle with our room which meant that we were moved into another room, but the staff were all very lovely about it. I 100% recommend checking out this hotel if you're looking to visit Amsterdam, but be aware that there's no elevator, so you may have to climb many flights of stairs to get to your room. But the rooms are fab and the mattresses are the comfiest things I think I've ever felt! Once we had freshened up a little and dumped the luggage we didn't need, we headed out into the city to explore.
One thing that Amsterdam is famous for is it's relaxed attitude towards drug use. Now, I'm not one to promote drugs, but one place we really wanted to visit was The Bulldog, which is Amsterdam's first coffeeshop (not to be mistaken for a regular coffee shop. Coffeeshops are where you can buy weed as well as have some food and drink). We had said that we wanted to go inside, not to smoke anything, but just to experience the environment, but when we got there, we were just a little too intimidated! The outside, though, is covered in this amazing, colourful artwork, so we didn't mind just standing outside and taking a look. We did have to try not to breathe in too much because my goodness, the smell was STRONG. It was set against a gorgeous canal, which we carried on walking along - this was where we also had our first glimpse of the Red Light District, but I'll get on to that a bit later.
We continued to explore the little winding alleyways and the canalsides, which was so lovely, particularly because the weather was on our side. It felt so amazing to fall in love with somewhere totally new and discover all of the little hidden spots. These two images above are some of my favourite that we took, purely because I think they just capture what Amsterdam is all about!
If you're looking for something free to do in the city, you could always have a hunt for some street art. There's tons of amazing graffiti all across the different districts, including this little guy that we spotted on the way to the Anne Frank House, and we just had to get a picture! There's some great resources on Pinterest if you're considering going on a graffiti hunt - I recommend taking a look!
As I mentioned, we were on our way to the Anne Frank House, which is a museum that is built into the Frank family's home. We had a booking for 2pm which I'd booked about 2 months in advance. The website release the tickets for dates so far in advance because it's such a popular attraction. Seriously, they get millions of visitors every year, so make sure you're quick with booking! The first part of the guided tour is around some of the ground floor rooms, where you're told all about Anne's early life and how she came to start her diary. It became slightly surreal when you had to climb through the doorway hidden by the bookcase, much like Frank's had to do when they were in hiding, and enter the annex where they lived for 2 years. Be warned that there are many sets of steep stairs to climb, but it's definitely worth a visit. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot! I also picked up the book from the gift shop at the end of the tour as I actually haven't read it. It's next on my list!

Because we had spent the majority of the early afternoon walking around (in shoes that really weren't very sensible), we ended up going back to the hotel for a bit of a rest. We spent about an hour just recharging and discussing what we should do next, but decided that we shouldn't do anything too strenuous after our horrible night on the boat and achey feet. We ended up exploring the shopping streets near to our hotel and spending quite a bit of money, before grabbing some tea in a little pizzeria and steakhouse, which was delicious! By this point, it was getting close to 7pm, so we thought this would be a good time to go to the Red Light District.
Now, I was really keen to see the Red Light District, but I was so against going when it was pitch black. I've heard that when it gets dark, it turns into quite a seedy place and there are some nasty people about. After doing a feminism module in university and researching prostitution, I have quite 'controversial' views on the topic. I won't go into it on here, but just know that I think that the women in that field are stronger than people make them out to be. Anyway, it was still fairly light, so I felt safe enough to be in the area. It was a bit of a shock to the system at first because I've never seen anything like the Red Light District before and to think that it's the norm in that city felt a bit odd. Everywhere you looked, there was a woman in a window, strutting her stuff. While it was a bit of a strange environment to be in, it was actually kind of liberating! If you visit, put your cameras away because if they even get a glimpse, you will regret it. I've heard that the girls have even been known to throw cameras into the nearby canal, so it just isn't worth the risk. As the photo above says, make photos of art and respect the ladies.

After we had explored the Red Light District, we decided to have an early night. I can't even tell you how nice it was to have a nice, warm shower and be in a comfy bed after such a long day. We watched Split, which I thought was absolutely fab (James McAvoy, what an actor), then we nodded off to sleep. If we hadn't had so much planned for the next day, I think I would've stayed in that bed for most of the day!
The next day, we were up bright and early for breakfast. There was a continental buffet in the hotel, but we didn't eat too much of this because we knew we were going to end up eating little bits whilst we were out walking. It's pretty difficult not to eat a lot in Amsterdam because there are bakeries, food shops and street food vans all over the place! So after having breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and left our bags, so that we could explore without lugging them around. We headed towards the flower market, but because it was so early that it wasn't open yet, we decided to walk down to the Rijksmuseum.
Let's take a minute to appreciate the architecture, shall we? I'm not even sure if these pictures do it justice, but this building is huge and so beautiful. Of course, we had to visit the I Amsterdam letters that are behind the museum. Would we even be tourists if we didn't go see them? As we'd gone at about 8:30am, there weren't too many people about, so it wasn't too crowded like all the photos I'd seen. Next time, I'd love to have a look inside the museum itself, but because we were a bit strapped for time, we couldn't on this trip. 
After having a walk around the outside of the Rijksmuseum and seeing those famous letters, we headed towards Hard Rock Cafe, which wasn't too far away. We would've gone there for tea the night before, but it was quite some distance from our hotel and our aching feet just wouldn't permit it. We really wanted some Hard Rock Amsterdam merchandise though, so we headed to the Rock Shop and picked up a few bits and bobs, including a patch for J's new denim jacket. Once we'd spent as much as we dared, we headed back to the flower market.
Before coming on the trip, I'd expressed how much I wanted to go to Keukenhof (the tulip fields). They're only open for 8 weeks a year and I'd found out that they were open at the time that we'd visited! Unfortunately, we just really didn't have the time - it's a full day experience, but we didn't have a full day in Amsterdam, technically. It just means that we'll have to go back another time! But because I didn't get to see the flowers in Keukenhof, I was determined to see all the tulips at the flower market, and I wasn't disappointed! There were dozens of tulips, both real and fake, as well as many other flowers for sale. If I had a proper garden, I would've bought some of the bulbs to bring back with me so that I could have my own tulip fields!

Once I'd taken in all of the flowers and snapped a bunch of photos, we headed to our next destination, the Sex Museum. When in Amsterdam, right? We got a bit lost trying to find it, which meant that we ended up in an area of the Red Light District that we hadn't seen the day before and then in a pizza shop to use their wifi. It turns out that we'd gone in the opposite direction completely! It was only 5 Euros each to get in and it's one of the young tourists hotspots, so we just couldn't resist! It was pretty bizarre and, if I'm honest, I wouldn't go back. It's one of those things where if you've done it once, you really don't need to do it again. There were lots of strange things to see - my favourite was the Victorian pornography - and some very weird animatronics. We both had a little giggle, but then it was time for us to hop on to a little boat for our canal cruise.
Despite having explored a lot of the city on foot, doing it by boat was a totally different experience. We saw lots of things that we hadn't seen earlier, including the bench from the movie 'The Fault In Our Stars', and learned a lot too, like why some of the buildings are crooked and about the most photogenic spot in the whole of the city. It was also really relaxing, so J and I were pretty much falling asleep! We booked our cruise with Lovers, which is one of the highest rated canal cruises in Amsterdam on Tripadvisor, so I definitely recommend it!
We had a decent amount of time until the bus came to pick us up to take us back to the ship, so we had a lovely walk back to our hotel to pick up our bags. We thanked them profusely for the lovely stay and promised that we'd come back soon before heading to the pick up point. We managed to get a good spot on the first bus, so we weren't having to stand and wait for another. It felt so good to give my feet a rest! Again, the journey took about 45 minutes to get back to the ferry, but we were both so pleased to just chill out for a while.

Our crossing back to the UK was so much better. Whilst the sea was quite choppy, which I'm not great with, the cabin was actually a good temperature, so we both managed to sleep! I'm still suffering from sea legs after all the rocking the boat did, but I'm so glad I actually managed to get a little bit of shut eye. I was sad to be leaving the city though, as I really had fallen in love with it. J and I have both said that we'd love to go back and do all of the things we didn't get to do, like eat a real Dutch pancake. For real, we were so busy rushing about that we didn't get chance to have a pancake! Such a travesty!

Have you ever been to Amsterdam? What did you get up to? Give me some suggestions for when I'm planning our next trip there!

Whould you like to comment?

  1. It sounds like you had an incredible time! All of your photos are stunning, and it sounds like you really made the most of everything! Great post!xx

    Hannah | luxuryblush♡

  2. Ah so jel you got a nice break away! I really need one, I've never been Amsterdam but hear there's so much to do there, I'd love to do a bike ride and go on a boat along the canals, it looks great! x

    S x

    1. It's such a gorgeous place - ideal if you're looking for a fairly cheap city break! Ooooh a bike ride would be amazing! I'll have to bear that in mind if we end up going back x

  3. I loved visiting Amsterdam! I've been a couple of times and it's been great - it has such a great vibe and I love wandering by the canals!

    Jasmin Charlotte

    1. Oh fab! Have you been to see different things each time you've been or do you have a specific area that you love to visit? The canals are stunning! They make me wish that my town was filled with them too! x

  4. Loved this post! I went to Amsterdam with my friend 6 years ago but perhaps we didn't spend enough time there as I didn't seem to to get this great vibe that everyone else does. We were actually staying in a place called Utrecht and we visited Amsterdam for the day. We also went to Keukenhof for the day although I don't think the tulips were quite in full bloom but it was still a lovely place.
    Amy at Amy & More

    1. Ahh the place was probably a lot different 6 years ago to how it is now. I definitely think you should go back and explore a bit more! I'm so jealous that you got to go to Keukenhof - I bet it was beautiful x

  5. What a special trip! It's so lovely that you both got to experience a new city together. Next trip...South Africa (I hope).

    Not seeing the tulip fields gives you another reason to go back, one day!

    Lovely photographs, Olivia!


    1. EEEEEK I definitely want to go to South Africa at some point! We definitely need to save up quite a bit first though. Thanks for your comment, Steph! x

  6. We're heading back to Amsterdam in a few weeks, so I was interested to find out what you'd done there! I wrote a blog post about one of the things we did during our last visit - if you like cheese, this might be something for you to do too: https://unseen-beauty.com/2017/01/15/cheese/
    (we ddid a boat trip as well!)

    1. Ooooh I hope you have a fab time! Cheese tasting sounds right up my street - I'll have to add it to the itinerary for next time! x

  7. So lovely of your mum to give you this trip as a present! Like you, we're not smokers but we'd love to feel the ambiance of the bulldog, hopefully we'll have a little sit down there! We've also booked to go to the Anne Frank House not too long ago, and we're not going until July!

    Jessica & James | foodandbaker.co.uk

    1. Ahh it was a good idea to book the Anne Frank House so early in advance. I've never seen queues quite like it! I do recommend having a look at The Bulldog, and maybe even go inside if you're braver than me! I have you have a fab time :) x