11 October 2014

Where to stay in Amsterdam, and a few cool places to visit

So, we've only been there once, but based on what we saw over our four days, and a few online and offline requests here's a lightening quick set of ideas and a few tips we picked up whilst staying in late September.

Transport

Amsterdam isn't huge. See that random line I've added through the centre of the below map from the train station? The first near Bloemmarkt is about 10 minutes on the tram, and the second mark near the Vondelpark where we stayed was about 20 minutes on the tram.

Where to stay in Amsterdam, and a few cool places to visit - a visitor ap

It's a compact city with a lot packed into the centre. Knowing that I don't cycle, the best tip we had before departing was to get a 72hour tram pass (thank you Runawaykiwi!) on arrival. Basically, leaving the main train station, hook a left out of the main entrance and head for the blue and white information centre. When we visited, the 72hour pass was €16.50 for unlimited access to GVB metros, trams, and buses. We caught the tram the whole time; you just tap the pass on the scanner coming in and out. Easy peasy.



Where to stay in Amsterdam, and a few cool places to visit

Where to stay in Amsterdam
Advised to book somewhere quickly, as accommodation is usually pretty pricey, we ended up with a good deal from lastminute.com at the Park Plaza Vondelpark. Nestled on the edges of the Museumkwartier, the neighbourhood is a nice quiet  family area, with the Amsterdam Hilton (for Beatles fans) just around the corner. The hotel was fine, nothing to write home about bar the slightly strange translucent bathroom walls, but was surrounded with cluster of local restaurants and several tram lines - which for us was great.

Where to stay in Amsterdam, and a few cool places to visit

A friend of mine hired a houseboat via AirBnB in the Jordaan area, just to the east of the main train station. It's a more funky, lively area full of traditional canals, brown cafes and a short walk from Dam Square and the red light area.

What to do on a city break to Amsterdam
This is probably the $65 million dollar question! I've picked out a few of our favorites on the map above - the van Gogh musuem, a proper Dutch windmill (with great beer), the famous Bloemmarkt (the floating flower market) and the Albert Cuyp Market. Of course, you'll need to visit the Tassenmuseum - handbags and purses - and the Kattenkabinet - Cat museum). A top tip to sneak your way there is to insouciantly just wander that way, accidentally 'discovering' what you've stumbled upon.

Where to stay in Amsterdam, and a few cool places to visit; the bloemmarkt
The business end of the Amsterdam Bloemmarkt containing riotous floristry

The Anne Frank Museum is unmissable, but to beat the queues book the tickets online (I did as soon as we booked our train) or get there as early in the morning as you can! Also, the queues for the van Gogh museum were rather immense, but our hotel had a special pass available for jumping the queues which we highly recommend.

Where to eat in Amsterdam
There are funky bistros all over the city, but after our foodie tour, we kept wandering back to the Jordaan area (after our foodie walking tour - the Eating Amsterdam blog is also fabulous for tips) or near our hotel as it was so convenient.

Where to stay in Amsterdam, and a few cool places to visit

If you're going to try *ahem* special brownies, do you research beforehand and suss where you fancy going. They are usually called Coffee Houses, and have a greena and white label in the window confirming that they are licensed. Oh, and eat afterwards - the munchies can be pretty strong, so I'm told! Just ask the staff in the coffee houses if you're unsure about what to have. Rumour also has it that the coffee houses often have the best coffee and juice selections...

How to get there
It is so very easy. We caught the Eurostar from London, managing to take advantage of a super cheap upgrade (we traveled Friday morning and Monday afternoon) to business class. You transfer in Brussels to the Thalys network which were beautiful trains with wifi, a plethora of snack meals, drinks and their rather friendly staff. There are also business lounges in the station where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the main thoroughfare (and watch the Dutch version of Great British Bake Off if you're lucky...)

Where to stay in Amsterdam, and a few cool places to visit
Amsterdam Centraal Station

Top tip: do not book the last train of the day. Enroute home, the Thalys from Amsterdam to Brusssels was a touch late, making the transfer through Brussels station rather rushed. Chatting with a few regular travellers in our carriage this can happen, but they always spoke with the manager & were placed on the next train to London, usually upgraded - hence not booking the very last train, just in case. Also, when booking your seats the train staff said book the fartherest carriages from the middle of the booking page - they are usually much quieter.

It's also rather straight forward to fly - the airport has good train connections from the main station.
 Where to stay in Amsterdam, and a few cool places to visit

Overall, just wander and enjoy the laid back lifestyle.

20 comments :

  1. It's been forever since I went to Amsterdam, I now want to go back!

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  2. I'm planning to go there next year with my sis :)

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  3. Thanks for this! I'm hoping to get over there for a long weekend treat next year when I'm in the UK for a few weeks for a wedding so I'll be sure to pin this for later reference!

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  4. Great overview, I haven't been to Amsterdam but really want to get myself over there. x

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  5. My first trip to Amsterdam we stayed in a kitsch little BnB with a cat and themed rooms- I was pleasantly surprised with all the decent Indonesian grub there too!

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  6. Amsterdam is a pretty cool city. My fav thing to do is hire a bike and cycle along the canals and then out of the central city. It's a really pretty place :)
    Claire xx

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  7. You couldn't have written this post at a more perfect time for me! I'm booking my hotel tomorrow and visiting Amsterdam in just 9 days. I can't wait! I've never been before :)

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  8. Thanks so much for all the great tips! Definitely saving this post.

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  9. I went to Amsterdam when I 21 for two friend's birthday...we stayed in a youth hostel called the flying pig (before my SilverSpoon days). I'd love to return now with Mr S and see it properly...thanks for all the tips. We flew over and I loved how short the flight was.

    Lots of love,
    Angie
    SilverSpoon London

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  10. Book a trip for Spring - you know it's a great idea!

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  11. Have a wonderful trip when you do go! It's a funky little city.

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  12. It is a great mix of funky and classically pretty. And the food, oh the food!

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  13. Awww, that sounds fab! I do adore little BnBs owned by a cat! When we stayed in apartment in the South of France, it had an upstairs cat called Mamon. The owners advertised it as a warning, but it was the reason we booked there! The Indonesian food was fab.

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  14. I just wish I was co-ordinated enough to!

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  15. Oh, fantastic!! Have a great, great trip!

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  16. I can't wait to read about your trip! There's also the Heineken 'experience' and a Bolls (a Dutch spirit) museum which is meant to be awesome.

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  17. That is hilarious, though I kinda want to know much more about it now!

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  18. Oooh Emma...you don't want to know...we bought T-Shirts that said 'Good Girls go to Heaven...Bad Girls go to Amsterdam...' We were that cool...

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  19. Love it - some things just have to be done!

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