Amsterdam is a city I’ve wanted to visit for forever. It seems like everyone and their cousin has been there, bringing back tales of the infamous Red Light District, its beautiful canals and all of those bikes, bikes, bikes! After finally getting a chance to visit I can thankfully say that I was not disappointed. I’ve decided to compile a blog post of information on the city and its many attractions as well as to share a handful of the hundreds of photos I took. Now, where to start…
I booked my trip to Amsterdam during the tourist “off season” meaning I was able to nab flights and a hotel for little over €100, however what I saved in cost I paid for in weather. It was bitterly cold and overcast with gale force winds and sporadic showers on my last day there. If you’re planning on visiting during the early months of the year make sure to wrap up warmly. Even given the time of year that I chose to visit, the city was still teeming with tourists from all corners of the globe.
I stayed at the Ramada Apollo Hotel which is located between the airport and the city centre. Included in the price is a free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel so you needn’t worry about transfers. The hotel itself is very modern with cozy interior and exceptionally helpful and friendly staff. The rooms are small but comfortable with ensuite bathroom boasting powerfully warm showers. There is a sky lounge bar located on the 17th floor which gives you a 360° view of the city, where you can chill out in its relaxed atmosphere complete with roaring fires; perfect to unwind with a cocktail or two after a day of exploring the city. They also offer an all you can eat buffet breakfast to get you energised before a day of seeing all that the city has to offer.
Apart from the obvious attractions (which I will talk about further on down), Amsterdam also has many other things to offer to keep you occupied during your stay such as the Flower Market, the extensive collection at the Van Gogh Museum, the hilariously awkward Sex Museum and the family friendly Nemo Science centre. While entrance to the Flower Market is free the admission cost for other attractions can be expensive with many prices starting at €15. The entrance fee to many popular attractions is included with the purchase of an ‘I Amsterdam’ card, which also covers the cost of travel and offers a 25% discount off restaurants and attractions which aren’t fully covered. A three day pass cost me €75 and allowed me to save over €50 on food and travel so I definately recommend paying for one.
Food & Drink
The food in Amsterdam is fairly priced and similar to the cost of dining out in Ireland. Meals generally start at around €10.95 and pints of Heineken (the city’s local beer) start at €3.50. If you’re holidaying on a budget, Eetcafe’s have simpler menues and are therefore cheaper. If you really want to save money then you might be better off eating at one of the many Feebo’s dotted around the city, where you can pay for pre-cooked hot food from a vending machine. If you’re a Nutella fan you’ll be happy to know that they have many bakeries and ice-cream shops where you can have a tasty waffle coated in the good stuff. As I mentioned before, you can get a 25% discount on food and drink with your I Amsterdam card. I recommend Blue Amsterdam in the city centre which offers a beautiful 360° view of the city and one of the nicest burgers I’ve ever eaten.
As one of the smaller capital European cities Amsterdam can be explored on foot so you can admire all of the beautiful architecture, but if you get tired then the tram service is very regular. Also, a word of warning – beware of the bikes. They’re not lying when they say that there’s more bikes than people. There are more bike lanes than footpaths! There were a few places where we had to walk on the street to get off of the bike lane and let me tell you, I think going against cars was a safer bet. Reciting the safe cross code continuously is a must in this city. Always look left and right before crossing the road at least four or six times. If you’re feeling brave enough you can rent a bike from €7 and take a scenic ride through the Vondelpark. Lastly, I re-iterate, if you value your life at all, do not walk in the cycle lanes.
If you’re a fan of H&M then you’ll be very happy here, as there’s seemingly one for every few streets in Amsterdam. I walked down one laneway to find two H&Ms right across from one another. I’m not complaining; I love H&M. I just wish I could have taken one back to Galway with me. I’m sure they wouldn’t have missed it. Amsterdam is also home to Hemo, the love child of Tiger and Penneys that has a vast array of kitschy everyday items for incredibly cheap. For all of you geeks there’s Popcult, which sells nerdy apparel and Henke, a great little comic book shop in China Town. There are sex shops literally everywhere and if you’ve seen one dolphin shaped vibrator then you’ve seen them all. There are also plenty of high end shops if you can afford them. I accidentally walked down one street adorned with Tiffany’s, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and more. Do you know how much a pair of Cartier earings costs? Too much.
No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a canal cruise, it’s a beautiful and unique way to see the city and if you’ve got an I Amsterdam card you get one cruise for free. I chose the Canal Bus company to tour with but un-fortunately I found the service to be a bit disappointing. You’re able to hop on and off at different points throughout the tour, however a few of the canal buses didn’t play any audio information or even music which put a bit of a damper on an otherwise lovely experience. If I were to make a return trip to Amsterdam in future I would instead use the ‘Hop On, Hop Off’ tour company as I found they provided a lot of information when I toured with them during my stay in Berlin.
Amsterdam is a beautiful city with plenty of photo oppertunities waiting around every corner. Here are a few of my favourites:
- Flower market with tulips
- I Amsterdam signs at the Rijkmuseum and airport
- Photoautomat (photo-booth) at Hutspot
- Giant clogs at souvenir shops
- Canals at night
Red Light District
Wonderfully situated across from an old church and full of the most beautiful women you’ve ever seen, the Red Light District is a must see for any tourist visiting the city. Despite being one of Amsterdam’s main tourist attractions it still gives off a seedy vibe with large groups of drunken stag parties stumbling down alleyways and men in hoodies shuffling by. Other than the prostitutes the area has plenty to offer, with live sex shows performed at Cassa Rossa and the Bananabar, Peep Shows, Strip Clubs, the Erotic Museum and the Cannabis College. A live sex show at Cassa Rossa is €40 for 1 hour and 20 minutes (if you can last that long) or €50 which includes two drinks. The peep show operates at €2 for two minutes and you’re sure to see throngs of tourists counting spare change outside, hoping to get in. Lastly, do not photograph any of the women working in the Red Light District, show respect to them and to their profession. There are plenty of other photo oppertunities in the city.
If you’re looking for a quiet place to read or blog with a nice cup of coffee then I’m afraid you’re in the wrong place my friend. Coffee Shops can be identified by their pungent odour, faint reggae music and dreadlock wearing clientele. I joke, there are plenty of shops with different vibes, settings and stock so if you’re just not that into Bob Marley don’t fret. I recommend 420 (I know) for its closeness to Central Station as well as its relaxed atmosphere. They even have a cat to keep you company while you smoke. Also nearby is The Bulldog chain located in the Red Light District. Prices start as low as €3 for weed and hash and go up for pre-rolled joints. Alcohol and tobbaco are not allowed to be consumed in Coffee Shops; a sign I saw in one of the city’s Head Shops pointed out – “it’s Amsterdam, not Disneyland.”
I hope you found this blog post helpful, I loved documenting my time there. If you feel like I’ve missed anything please feel free to comment below about what you love to do in Amsterdam. Thanks for reading!
Until next time,