24.4.17

WANDERING AROUND; AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS

Never have I ever (no, we're not playing that game!) traveled to somewhere which has really touched me and left me with as much intrigue, inspiration and encouragement as Amsterdam has. And for that, I feel this place is very special indeed. Back during my university years, I heard people nattering on about 'Dam, and how they were going to visit and immerse themselves in all the things you can't do in the UK. This lead to my naive and goodie-two-shoes self dread the idea and so I spent many years thinking I would never visit. This being said, as I grew older, I began to see the beautiful photography and learn a small amount of history in the city, I thought less of the aforementioned naughty things and so Alex and I booked a 5 day break and boy did we explore.
We headed from Bristol airport and landed shortly into Schnipol. The moment we stepped out into the city, the atmosphere hits you. At first, it's all very commercial and busy, fairground rides and advertisements everywhere, but that's expected in any city as well known as Amsterdam. Get yourself lost amongst the canals and the narrow streets and the beauty instantly comes through. Around every turn is something photo worthy, no building is less than breathtaking and the locals ooze a cool you can only be born with.
I did a small bit of research before heading to Amsterdam, there's so much going on that you really can't come that prepared. I've compiled some tips which i'll certainly be reminding myself of when I come back, hopefully sooner rather than later!
- Give yourself a whole day to wander. We had a few day trips planned however the first day was purely exploring and I'll be doing this anytime I visit. There is so much to get lost in and the further you go, the better it gets. Imerse yourself in the locals and you cannot go wrong! The entirity of Amsterdam is not that big, as long as you have a basic map or drop a pin on your Googlemaps, you'll find yourself back at your hotel quite easily.
- Do brunch. We learnt the hard way that early eating is the best. We originally planned to make the most of hotel breakfast and snacks during the day and have nice meals in the evenings however we soon realised that all the food spots we wanted to go to were heavy on breakfast and brunch but closed around 4pm. We were left with Dominos for the first few nights as we had no other options in the area we were staying. 
- Keep a scarf at hand. We went in April, i'm sure it does get warmer but I have read a few times that Amsterdam is not known for its heat. The sun was out for us but the wind picked up and got very chilly, so you'll be glad of a layer or two.
- Use the public transport. We used the trains, buses and trams and they were all so easy, and clean! Our feet were throbbing after all the walking each day, so we could of utilised this a little more. We opted to not spend on a travel card encase we didn't get the use, but I think for next time we probably will. We found some amazing little local haunts in areas further out, so don't stay central!
- Have your eyes on the road. I know everyone goes on about how crazy the bikes are out there, and they're not lying. They have their own roads, don't pay attention to the zebra crossings and are generally insane. Just keep your ears out for the bike bells ringing behind you!
- Have a debit/credit card with you. We found that alot of places didn't take cash, especially little food stalls in the Foodhallen. Luckily we took a card each as back up and we had to use them more than we thought. 
- Keep your camera on at all times. There is no street I walked down that I didn't want to photograph. Take photos everywhere you go and do all the tourist shots on bridges and at the Iamsterdam sign, everyone else does! If you want a good shot, i'd advise to go early, we got to the sign at 8:30am and it was already busy with people everywhere.
- Holland Pass or Iamsterdam Card. Both available online and provide you with free entry and discounts to certain places. We opted for the Holland Pass and found it brilliant, we certainly saved money and the little guide you get free was super handy. Definitively worth looking into!
Whilst in Amsterdam we tried to fit in as much as possible, and I think we did a pretty good job! Over 28,000 steps a day really took it's toll! Here's some bits we got up to and my thoughts:
Amsterdam Zoo 4/5
Alex and I love a zoo, and we have visited one in every city we have explored together so far, so naturally we had to go. The zoo was really lovely, clean, spacious and plenty of animals to look at. At the time we went, we were lucky enough to see a baby elephant and a baby giraffe, super cute! We headed to the zoo for around 10am and it was reasonably quiet and very easy to get in. I would advise to take snacks and the cafes are quite pricey and the variety isn't massive. My favourite part was the butterfly house, although the humidity fogged up my camera too much for photos!
Amsterdam Dungeons 2/5
Personally, I wasn't into the dungeon. I was tense the whole time however it was over before we knew it. It did have some funny parts and was certainly spooky but the storylines were hard to follow as the acting was so over the top. 
Canal Cruise 5/5
I loved the canal cruise! I didn't think I would so much as we went on the last day and the weather was pretty overcast however I didn't want it to end. Amsterdam intrigued me so much that I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the history and the background to the beautiful place. The cruises leave every 15 minutes from the Centraal Station and there's plenty of seats on board so all was very easy.
Amsterdam Museum 1/5
There were museums in abundance in Amsterdam however with the Holland Pass we purchased, we had free entry to this one. Perhaps this score is a little unfair as i'm not the biggest fan of museums anyway but it felt dull and didn't flow well. 
We also had two day trips to Keukenhof and Zaanse Schans, but there's posts on these to follow!
As i've said, there's simply so much to do and see in Amsterdam and within our four days (two were partial due to travelling) we fitted in as much as we could. I already have a long list of things I want to do on my next visit. I'm undecided to head back in the colder months or try and get a time a little warmer, just to mix things up a bit! 
Let me know if you've ever visited and what your favourite spots were.
I've got a few posts to follow, including foodie spots and day trips, so keep an eye out for those!
J x
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