During the last weekend of my Carnaval holiday, I decided to take a trip to Amsterdam! I have been before but it was a very brief trip (for 3 days, back in July 2010). I did a lot of the touristy things on my first trip- toured the Anne Frank House (recommended at least once), toured the old Heineken Brewery aka the Heineken Experience, visited the Van Gogh museum as well as the Rijksmuseum (another art museum), and did a canal tour. So on this trip to Amsterdam, I wanted to stray away from the touristy things a bit and just explore the city!
Amsterdam is a very vibrant city, even when it’s surrounded by the dark, gloomy February weather. The trip to Amsterdam was pretty spontaneous which is always fun. My new Dutch friend, Xander, and I caught the train from Eindhoven to Amsterdam which takes an hour and a half. As soon as we arrived, we got to exploring! The main concern was to find our hostel- since I hadn’t actually reserved a room. It was a bit of a challenge. We finally found the Amsterdam Hostel Leidseplein, but they didn’t have any vacancies left! Luckily, the staff was helpful and directed us to another hostel, Hostel Orfeo, and ended up with a private room so that was nice- I thought we’d be sleeping in a room with 8-10 other people!
Once we’d confirmed we had a place to sleep that night, we hit the city. Our hostel was near Leidseplein, a street with a lot of pubs, clubs, and restaurants…there was plenty to do. Even though Xander lives in Holland, he hadn’t actually visited Amsterdam in close to 10 years so he wanted to see the Red Light District. As expected, the Red Light District is pretty amusing. It’s also always kind of strange to walk to the Red Light District, because it’s not really a defined area (like Leidseplein is)…you just have to wander around in the general vicinity until you see, yes you guessed it, red lights.
Amsterdam is filled with tourists, even in February. Most of the English speakers that were visiting were from the UK. It was almost reverse culture shock, because suddenly people were immediately speaking English to me, instead of first saying lots of things in Dutch to which I always reply “Engels?” (English? in Dutch). So that was kind of nice but it also made me feel like people who visit JUST Amsterdam and say they’ve been to Holland didn’t really get the full experience. There’s more to the country than windmills, cheese, and tulips!
After walking through the Red Light District, we went to get some dinner and drinks. This is harder than you would think, actually. We were probably just in a touristy area, but there wasn’t much variety in the restaurants. We ended up eating a Greek place with terrible service (just don’t eat at Mykonos in the Leidseplein area…it might be the name of a really good song by the Fleet Foxes, but it is NOT a good restaurant). After dinner it was time to enjoy the Amsterdam nightlife! Our favorite pub we ended up at was an Irish pub, also in the Leidseplein area. At one point we ventured over to another popular spot at night, Rembrantplein. This area was good for clubs but that wasn’t really mine or Xander’s scene. It was still fun to walk around though, because it had a huge square in the middle and there were lots of people about.
One great difference between Amsterdam and Eindhoven was the opening/closing hours of all the stores and bars. There were stores open well past midnight and the bars/pubs were open until about 4 or 5am. This is quite the opposite in Eindhoven, where stores close at 6pm and bars close at 2am. Another favorite spot of the night was a Sports Bar (I’m pretty sure that was the name, actually…) also in the Leidseplein. It was clearly catered towards tourists because it had the best deals on food and drinks! All in all, it was a pretty good Saturday night in Amsterdam, with lots of entertaining people. It’s impossible to get bored there because there’s plenty of people-watching possibilities.
For breakfast, I finally ate what everyone gushes about when they come back from the NL…a giant pancake! I got strawberries on top and it was sooo delicious. That day, we had more daytime to explore the city so we walked through the Flower Market (soooo many tulips) as well as all of the hot shopping streets. I didn’t buy anything on this trip, but I took notes for next time 🙂 We did another typical tourist thing and visited The Bulldog, to try a fancy cocktail. The Bulldog is apparently where Snoop Dogg and all the other celebrities who visit Amsterdam hang out. The fact that they have an 800 euro bottle of Dom on the menu is proof.
One other place that we walked through multiple times is the Dam. It’s a huge square in the middle of the city and the buildings surrounding the square are just beautiful. There are also lots of street performers at the Dam. So, if you’re ever in Amsterdam, you probably need to check out the Dam as well!
I’m glad we took a trip to Amsterdam because as it turns out I’m going back there this coming Sunday! The lovely Allie Woodward is leaving her humble Swedish abode and is visiting me here in the Netherlands for the weekend! I will be showing her around Eindhoven on Saturday and then we’ll take a trip to Amsterdam together on Sunday. I can’t wait!