Last week I popped over to The Netherlands to visit some friends I met travelling in Costa Rica this summer. The three of them live and study in Amsterdam, and I decided a quick city break would be the perfect way to relax over half term!
I flew with FlyBe from East Midlands airport, which is about a 45 minute drive from my house. The flight is super short – about an hour – and the plane was TINY. I am not the biggest fan of flying, and was pretty terrified to be on a minuscule propeller plane, but made it to Schiphol bang on time. It’s really easy to get from the airport into the centre of Amsterdam. There is a train station attached to the airport terminals, and you can use the yellow self-service machines, or go to a ticket desk, to buy a train ticket to Amsterdam Centraal Station (€5).
One of my friends met me at the station and we set off in search of coffee and cake. We spent a couple of hours catching up and drinking the most delicious lattes before another friend joined us and we headed to dinner. We ate at Boca’s on Westerstraat. We arrived early in the evening and still struggled to find a table, so I would recommend making a booking if you plan to go here on a Friday or Saturday night! We ordered a bottle of wine and shared traditional Dutch nibbles of Kale stew (mashed kale and potato, gravy and sausage), and bitterballen (a battered ball with a thick meat-gravy-thing in the middle. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s good!). After this, we ordered two platters to share, followed by coffee and spekkoek (spiced layered cake – you may have seen it on The Great British Bake-off!). Boca’s seems to be a pretty popular choice and there are two restaurants to choose from – definitely check it out.
The next day, Willemijn and I set off to explore the streets of Amsterdam. We started with breakfast at Yoghurt Barn, just around the corner from her apartment. Much like a frozen yogurt shop, you select your yogurt and then a variety of toppings, jams and sauces. It was really, really good.
We wandered the Autumnal streets, heading in the direction of ‘The Nine Streets’ – a trendy shopping area in the Old Town.
We weaved through the Nine Streets, popping into cake shops, playing in the photobooth at the Lomography store and reminiscing our summer travels. We stumbled across cool graffiti and pavement art.
By the evening, all three of my friends were free from exams and studying and we celebrated with cocktails and Tapas, before ending up crammed into a popular student bar Mazeltov – hot, smokey, but happy to be reunited with these chicks!
The next morning we kicked off with a long brunch before an afternoon of being a proper tourist: visiting the Heineken Experience and the Red Light District.
The Heineken Experience costs €18, which includes a free gift (a miniature drink glass) and two free drinks in the bar at the end of the tour (2 x 25cl, or 1 x extra cold 35cl). The tour isn’t the most fascinating brewery tour I have ever been on, but it was okay. The guides were all enthusiastic and I enjoyed my drinks in the bar at the end!
Later in the day, we headed to the Red Light District. I have visited Amsterdam once before, when I was around 12 or 13 with my family. I remember walking through areas of the Red Light District, and being slightly scarred by some of the things I saw! It was strange to return and view things with adult eyes. It’s a strange place – you are completely torn between not wanting to look and stare, but also not being able to take your eyes off the neon windows. Despite the rowdy men roaming the streets, it feels very safe even at night.
It was really lovely to visit a city and have people show me the ‘locals’ Amsterdam. Although I don’t have much blog-worthy material here, and I completely failed at taking pictures, I had a wonderful time in Amsterdam and you should definitely add it to your list to visit, if you haven’t yet! (It’s particularly nice in Autumn!)