40 Before 40: Amsterdam

A good friend is off to Amsterdam for a few days so that gave me the kick up the bum I needed to gather my thoughts on last August’s trip to this fantastic Dutch city. It’s one place I absolutely fell in love with for its canals, quirky shops, and bloody amazing coffee. The Dutch have an enviable standard of living-bicycle lanes criss-cross the city in tandem with picturesque canals and lush green spaces.

That and they’re bloody gorgeous both myself and my travel companion (the lovely Dee who very kindly provided all the photos for this post) would often lapse into silence over our beers as we watched a steady procession of beautiful human beings all looking flawless as they zoomed past on their bicycles. Not a sweaty, puffing face in sight!

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Im-ma-cu-late!

Places to Stay

De Pijp

There are many great places to stay in Amsterdam but I loved this area. The Albert Cuyp Market-Amsterdam’s largest winding and colourful street market is located smack bang in the middle of it, while sites such as the Anne Frank Haus and the Van Gogh Museum are just a short tram ride away. As you know, I am a long time convert to the ways of AirBnB. This time around, though the location was amazing, the apartment we chose was basic to say the least and a certain episode involving me nearly being decapitated by an unhinged wonky door means I won’t be recommending it to you dear readers. But rest assured, there are loads of great options in De Pijp and other areas of Amsterdam via Air BnB and if you use this link, you get €30 off your first stay!

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Sites

There are rather a lot of things to do in Amsterdam and having less than 60 hours to see it all, we opted for just a few and devoted the rest of the time to chilling out over coffees, beers and (gorgeous) people watching. Here are the ones we visited and can highly recommend:

Anne Frank Haus
Heart breaking, rage inducing but ultimately inspiring, this visit to the house that hid Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis for 2 years is a must see. You can either book tickets online for visits between 9am and 3:30 pm or take your chances with the queuing system from 3:30 onwards. Queuing is never an appealing option for me, so I booked our tickets online. The website allows you to book exactly two months in advance and be advised that slots can sell out in hours at peak times of the year.

The Van Gogh Museum
Another place where I recommend the online booking feature to avoid the crowds. I’m not the biggest Van Gogh fan, but seeing Sunflowers in the flesh so to speak was breathtaking and I enjoyed learning more about this most troubled of artists. Decent value at €17.

The Look Out

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Hop on the free ferry across the bay. There, to the right as you disembark is a rather looming structure. This is the LookOut-an observation desk that gives you panoramic views of the city. Oh and some ‘sensational swing’ thing which allows you to swing out over the edge. This unfortunately was closed when we visited it. Possibly due to health and safety concerns? Who knows. What I do know is that the SkyBar serves excellent (if pricey) cocktails but the real attraction is the comfy bean bags on the roof. We spent a good chunk of the evening lounging on them as we watched the sun set on another fabulous day spent in Amsterdam.

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Food

Brunch was a highlight of our mini break away. Amsterdam does this meal exceedingly well, while the fab coffee rounds it off brilliantly. Two of our stand out places in De Pijp were:

Bar Mash
This place was super value for money. French toast, smashed avocado on sourdough and pancakes all on offer here. Handy as a stop off point en route to the Van Gogh museum if you’re heading there on foot from De Pijp.

Little Collins
This place is hands down the best brunch I have ever had in any city! Check out this for a menu. I wolfed down the Sausages and Waffles, a heaving plate of sweet potato waffle, fennel sausage, chorizo, bacon, goats cheese cream and roasted pepper. Dee had the Kulakofsky- poached eggs,pulled ham hock, sauerkraut, Béarnaise sauce, pickled chilli and toast. Unreal!!

Perfection on a Plate

Pilsvogen
This was a little tapas place in the same Gerard Douplein square as Bar Mash. Wine is lovely and cheap as is the grub-the total bill came to €52 for enough food and drink that had us waddling down the road after dinner!

Foodhallen
This is a glorious little indoor market with lots of delectable plates and beverages to be sampled including Nordes, the best gin in the world. Fact.

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Nordes and nom-noms!

Shopping

9 streets
These are the quaint shopping streets that straddle the city’s major canal-ways and they’re chockfull of quirky delights, vintage finds and cosy cafes. I could have spent a fortune here!As it was I had to settle for just a few bits and the promise that once my finances pick up, I’ll be back here to clean up!

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Telling it like it is.

Things to be aware of:

  • Along with certain recreational activities, the Dutch also seem to have a rather lax attitude towards opening times. Most shops don’t open before 10am, some only from 2pm. Similarly, some bars don’t open until 4pm.
  • Unlike its name suggests, the Red Light district is actually spread all through the city centre, so don’t be alarmed if some semi naked woman suddenly makes an appearance in the window next to you as you try to read your map. I have no idea what I would tell the minis if we were on a family trip there and they saw them. Seeing the ladies there on display as a commodity to be bought made me incredibly uncomfortable and sad.
  • Note the difference between a cafe and a coffee shop. A cafe has the lovely coffee and cakes. A coffee shop provides one of the above mentioned recreational activities! Coffee shops are everywhere to be found but be advised that some are for Amsterdam residents only and most have a designated ‘Amsterdam residents only’ section.
  • Most of the stores and restaurants we visited had a ‘no cash’ policy and took payment by card only. This was normally well advertised. At the other end of the monetary spectrum, there were one or two places that only took cash-the chip shop being one of them. If in doubt, ask before you purchase!

Disclaimer:
No monies were received from any of the businesses featured in the above blog post.

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