I have just returned from another weekend city break in one of my favourite European cities Amsterdam, and yet again I was in awe of this magnificent city. Over the last few years I have visited Amsterdam four times, and it has quickly become my home from home. I have fallen madly in love with this city, and I love the Dutch way of life. I have already been looking at apartments in Amsterdam to see how much it’d be to live here….
I always travel with my trusty Marco Polo Travel Guide which helps me plan my weekend in advance, find the best places to eat, shop and visit, and also has a map which I can scribble on to plan our days! Keep reading this weekend guide to Amsterdam to find out where to stay, what to do, where to eat and much more….
Here is my ultimate guide to a weekend in Amsterdam….
HOW TO GET THERE TO AMSTERDAM
I booked flights with EasyJet, simply because I had nectar points I could put towards the cost of the flights, but nearly every airline flies to Amsterdam from most UK airports. I flew with EasyJet on a Wednesday to a Sunday and paid around £100 for 2 x return flights. Super cheap meaning more money for having fun! EasyJet currently have a sale on 1000’s of flights, you can book here.
WHEN TO GO TO AMSTERDAM
The best time to visit Amsterdam is between April and May or September and November – right before or directly after the summertime high tourist season. Tulip season runs from about mid March to early May, and marks the beginning of tourist season therefore April is a perfect month to visit with medium tourists, flowers blooming and a chance of good weather. I have now visited in December, March and August, and all times I had a wonderful time – you just adapt to your weather!
HOW TO GET AROUND AMSTERDAM
Boat – This is my favourite way to get around the city, and of course, with the cities 100’s of canals and bridges it can also be one of the most picturesque ways to get around. For our weekend in Amsterdam we all bought 48 hour Amsterdam tours pass with Isango, a company that run a hop-on-hop-off bus and boat. We opted for a 48 hour pass to give us the best use of time, and so we could explore the most. To find out more information about the passes click here.
Bike – Also another handy way to get around, and one me and Theo generally like to do for a few hours as it’s super quick. And you can stop where and when you like, however, as it’s a popular mode of transport, it can be expensive and if you’re not road-clever it can also be dangerous.
Walking – Or if you’d rather save your euros on food, Amsterdam is a pretty compact city and walking from one end of the city to the other doesn’t take much more than 45 minutes!
WHAT TO DO IN AMSTERDAM
Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities, and every time I visit I feel so at ease there. I love walking around the city, or jumping on a bike and heading off on a day exploring. For our 48 hours in Amsterdam we had grabbed ourselves one of the latest guides from Marco Polo Travel and throughout the weekend, we drew all over our pull-out map so we could plan our days, based around which area of the city we were heading to. We stuck mainly to the tourist attractions, but did also spend a morning and an afternoon in some lesser known neighbourhoods such as Jordaan and Amsterdam-Oost.
Amsterdam Tulip Museum – Until today, this flower remains the Dutch favorite, one of the symbols of the country. A small private museum just across the bridge from the Anne Frank House, shows the history of the Dutch fascination with the tulip and sells in its shop various bulbs of the most beautiful existing flowers.
Amsterdam Cheese Museum – Just a step from Anne Frank House, on the other side of the Prinsengracht a small museum has been organised, dedicated exclusively to Dutch cheese. It is an attractive shop with also an exhibition part and one of the sellers always wears the traditional Dutch clothes. On the ground floor when you come in you can taste the different varieties of traditional Dutch Gouda cheese. Then, if you take the stars down, it will lead you to a little Gouda cheese museum.
The Anne Frank House – The Anne Frank House is a writer’s house and biographical museum dedicated to Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank. The building is located on a canal called the Prinsengracht, close to the Westerkerk, in central Amsterdam in the Netherlands. But be warned this place is heaving, and always busy. Pre-book your tickets and either visit super early in the morning or towards the end of the day.
The Van Gogh Museum – The Van Gogh Museum is an art museum dedicated to the works of Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
The Rijksmuseum – The Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam. The museum is located at the Museum Square in the borough Amsterdam South, close to the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and the Concertgebouw.
The Sex Museum – The Sexmuseum or the Venus temple is a sex museum located in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The museum opened in 1985. It had 675,000 visitors in 2015, making it one of the most visited museums in the Netherlands.
Cycle around the city – Amsterdam: a cycling city. The narrow, winding streets of Amsterdam’s historic 17th-century city centre are definitely best navigated by bike. And with up to 400 kilometres of bicycle paths leading just about everywhere in town, it’s no wonder that Amsterdam is a true cycling city.
Vondelpark – The Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s most popular park, attracting thousands of tourists, residents and everyone in between every day. It’s home to a selection of restaurants and cafés, including the Blauwe Theehuis, Café Vertigo, Vondelpark3, De Vondeltuin and the Groot Melkhuis. You’ll also find a skate rental shop, an open-air theatre and a rose garden with more than 70 types of roses in the park.
Canal Boat Cruise – The history of Amsterdam is intimately connected with water. Its 165 canals were created over the centuries to stimulate trade and transport and reclaim land to expand the city. They continue define the city’s landscape and in 2010 Amsterdam’s canal ring was recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site. When I visited we bought a 24 hours pass with the hop-on, hop-off boat service. It’s the perfect way to experience all the highlights of Amsterdam. With the in total 7 stops you will visit the famous sights such as the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh museum and the Heineken Experience.
Heineken Experience – The Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam doesn’t just brew beer for the general public but is also a sensational interactive tour through the dynamic world of Heineken – the Heineken Experience. Whilst in Amsterdam last year I enjoyed an immersive, behind the scenes guided tour of the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam and explore the old brewery where Heineken was first brewed. Then the best bit, following the tour, a Heineken connoisseur takes you to an exclusive bar where you get to sample 5 premium beers, served with a fine selection of Dutch cheeses and traditional Dutch ‘bitterballen’.
The Red Light District – It’s what many go for, and what many try to avoid. But it is undeniable that Amsterdam is famous for it’s red light district. If you’re looking for sex, drugs and/or rock ‘n’ roll, you’ll find all you need for a lost weekend in Amsterdam without much preparation. The Red Light District (known locally as De Wallen), sited in an approximate triangle formed by Central Station, Nieuwmarkt and the Dam, is at the very root of the city’s international notoriety. It also is home to the first ever coffee shop The Bulldog, Cassa Rosso and the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum. Remember: You cannot take photos of the women in the illuminated red doorways (it’s illegal).
Sky Lounge – From SkyLounge Amsterdam on the 11th floor, you will have stunning views over the historic city and the IJ River from one of the most exceptional lounge bars of Amsterdam. Enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, fine cocktails, specially selected wines and luxurious food. Located in the DoubleTree by Hilton Amsterdam Centraal Station.
Bars and Nightclubs – When it comes to nightlife in Amsterdam, there are venues, dance festivals and club nights to suit every taste! DJs keep the crowd going with everything from techno, dub step and trance to hip-hop, funk and deep house. Amsterdam has so much to offer from boutique cocktail bars to a killer rave in a warehouse. You choice!
THE BEST WAY TO GET AROUND AMSTERDAM
The best way to get around Amsterdam is by boat! I’d recommend buying a 48 hour pass with City Sightseeing on their Hop on Hop off bus and boat. You can enjoy a flexible sightseeing tour of Amsterdam that includes a boat trip that takes you to some of the major Amsterdam attractions! You can also listen to audio commentary in 16 languages as you visit some of the major Amsterdam highlights such as iconic destinations like Anne Frank’s House, The Van Gogh Museum, The Royal Palace, Heineken Experience and many more. I love travelling by boat on a canal cruise along the postcard-perfect network of waterways. Prices are from £ 21.78 per person.
WHERE TO STAY IN AMSTERDAM
Every time I go to Amsterdam, without shadow of a doubt I always stay with Yays! Yays is an apartment rental company with 100’s of apartments in Amsterdam, alongside another newly opened building in Barcelona. Yays is a new travel and stay concept located in unique neighbourhoods, offering you a home from home whilst you travel.
Yays offer concierged-boutique apartment living at its best, in historical buildings that have been restored to the best of their ability, in line with local districts, and that are hosted by local personnel. In a Yays apartment you can really feel like a local whilst you explore the city. The apartment becomes a home from home, allowing you to relax, cook and enjoy time with friends and family, whilst away, but in more luxurious settings than in a hostel. Yays have three different locations in Amsterdam: Yays Oostenburgergracht – in the East of the city and Yays Zoutkeetsgracht and Bickersgracht in the north of the city.
On our third stay with Yays, I was still really impressed from the moment we walked through the door. Our apartment was on the first floor and was described on the website as a two-bed apartment, with two separate bedrooms and open-plan living space (sofa, TV, bathroom, dining table and kitchen) all together.
The 24/7 concierge staff are also brilliant, offering you tips for getting around, advice on where to eat locally, and information on events happening in the city. Make sure you grab a map from them, so you can map out your routes.
READ MORE: My stay at Yays Bickersgracht
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK IN AMSTERDAM
FoodHallen – Only a 20 minute cycle ride from the centre of Amsterdam is Food Hallen, an indoor food market, perfect if you are hungry but don’t know what yuo fancy! There are lots of stands selling all sorts, including burritos, burgers, sushi, Thai and traditional Dutch food such as Bitterballen. There a great buzz inside with people dining socially, and drinking lots of beer and gin!
Beerfabriek – This is one of new favourite places in Amsterdam and it’s 3 euros for a beer! A brewery and restaurant in one; at Bierfabriek, they brew their own beer and serve rustic dishes. The star of our menu? Their free range, slow roasted, chicken. The most important thing for them is that their customers feel at home and we really did feel relaxed, despite it being super busy on a Saturday night in November. You can drink their draft beer, eat their chicken with your hands and throw the peanut shells on the floor.
Brouwerij ‘t IJ – Brouwerij ‘t IJ is a small brewery in Amsterdam, located in a former bath house named Funen, next to the De Gooyer windmill. The brewery was opened by Kaspar Peterson, a former musician, in 1985 and was one of several small breweries that opened in cities around the Netherlands in response to consumers’ dissatisfaction with beer brewed by the larger companies. It brews eight standard beers and three seasonal beers, besides limited edition beers. It is the place me and Theo go every time to grab a beer, and a slab of cheese and sausage.
Bagels & Beans – Bread and coffee chain Bagels & Beans was founded in 1996 by Ronald Bakker and his wife Ninande Thio. It is now a 100 percent franchise chain with 72 branches and the concept is on the verge of a foreign adventure. The secret of Bagels & Beans according to Bakker: cordiality and healthy food. At Bagels & Beans, different rules apply. You feel it as soon as you walk through the door. The atmosphere, the people and the tranquillity, whilst small, is still an amazing little cafe where you can grab a bagel or two and a coffee. Their products are often organic, always fresh and prepared with care.
Pluk – I was drawn to Pluk immediately when I saw the words ‘raw’ and ‘healthy’ due to my recent weight loss programme, of which I am not 6 weeks into. I didn’t want my trips this summer to mean I took 10 steps back with my weight loss, therefore I opted for the healthiest food whilst I was away too. Pluk serves anything full of goodness with nutritious benefits, this includes sandwiches bursting with protein and leaves, or the odd acai bowl with banana and granola. And they also serve a large selection of healthier cakes, such as their divine raw carrot cake, and homemade banana bread. You can read my review here.
Door 74 – Door 74 is the first speakeasy style cocktail bar in The Netherlands. They have the requisite hidden door, antique barware, tin ceiling and sophisticated atmosphere, plus delicious and perfectly balanced creations from Timo Janse and his team. It has no sign on the door or anything that would hint that a bar is based there. Entrance is only possible by making a reservation on the day that you intend to visit. Once behind that door, you enter a chic looking bar that wouldn’t be out of place in Hong Kong, Melbourne or Singapore.
Lucca Restaurant – We dined here on our way back to the apartment one evening after a long day wandering around Amsterdam. Located in a more local neighbourhood, Lucca Restaurant is a quaint family business set in an intimate setting. The lasagna is amazing, as is the linguine and shrimp, and the ravioli Mozzarella di bufala. The staff were super friendly, and they served amazing traditional Italian food.
Pancakes! Amsterdam – They have so much good food here including pancakes, peppermint tea and everything in between. You can opt for sweet or savoury pancakes, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. What could be better?
READ MORE: Top 10 Places to Eat in Amsterdam
WHAT TO PACK
On my most recent trip to Amsterdam and in order to pack accordingly to weather I decided to head to my local shopping centre MK1 Shopping Park in Milton Keynes to search out some of this season’s best trends. MK1 Shopping & Leisure Park is one of my favourite and most regular places to shop, offering free parking (always important) and an amazing selection of shops including top fashion brands such as M&S, Primark, River Island, H&M and Outfit, making it one of the best retail parks in the region. Keep reading to find out what my favourite pieces from this season…
You can buy all of these items (excluding ASOS) at MK1 Shopping Park
Primark Teddy Coat – £25.00 / Vans Old Skool via ASOS – £50 / Primark Black Jewelled Hat – £3.00 / Primark Leopard Print Shoulder Bag – £10.00
Primark Cream Jumper Knit – £10.00 / Primark Black Ripped Jeans – £12.00 / ASOS Bonjour Jumper – £25.00 / Primark Cord Wide Leg Culottes – £10.00
Converse All Star via ASOS – £43.00 / Marks & Spencers Blue Denim Jeans – £20.00 / Primark Black Ripped Jeans – £12.00 / Primark Checkered Long Coat – £25.00
By spending 48 hours in Amsterdam you will start to get a real feel for the city which will hopefully leave you wanting to come back. As Amsterdam is quite an outdoors city, I much prefer visiting in the spring and summer seasons over winter, therefore, would recommend your first visit is during a warmer season. Amsterdam really is one of my most favourite places on earth and I can’t wait to return once again…