I had some holiday to take at the beginning of the year and I didn’t want it to be wasted on watching Netflix in bed. I’ve also been really good at saving so thought I should treat myself and head to one of my favourite destinations – Amsterdam. I went before – back in 2016 – and I had been keen to return as soon as possible after such an amazing trip. I will get round to writing about it at some point.
I wanted to try travelling by myself, somewhere other than Ibiza, so I got to work on researching the perfect February getaway. I wanted to see places and take part in activities which I hadn’t experienced before so found watching vlogs and reading blogs before going super handy. I created myself an itinerary along with a list of cool places should I find myself with some free time. I decided that I’d rather save money on a hotel and spend it on experiences/food so booked myself into a traveller’s hostel in the centre. This was such a great idea as I never needed to use taxis/trams or buses to get around as I was so close to the train station/main attractions.
I was dropped off at airport in the evening, still frantically checking the Easyjet app because many flights had been cancelled due to bad storms. Luckily, the high winds only propelled my plane faster which meant I landed in Amsterdam within 40 mins of take-off. A terrifying thought but I was grateful as I hate flying and the less time spent in the air the better for me and my nerves. After landing in the airport, I walked to the train station which is attached to the terminal. Instead of booking an expensive taxi/shuttle bus, I went on the Trainline app and bought a return ticket to Amsterdam Centraal, a five minute walk from my hotel. I remember this being around 8 euros which is an absolute bargain compared to the other options and brilliant if travelling alone.
After arriving at the station, Google Maps took me to my hostel – “The Flying Pig – Downtown” which was super easy to find. There was a competitive game of beer pong taking place, loud music and fellow backpackers dotted all over the reception, drinking or reading books. In the back, a smoking room which was covered in a haze and swinging chairs. The staff were super friendly and told me I could put my bags down and join in with the games but I politely declined. Cheap jagerbombs are not my cup of tea. Admittedly, I felt like a grandma. My 16 person dormitory was through a corridor and down some stairs, decorated with selfies of all the employees and their fun facts. My roommates were all already in bed which was such a relief! I was so worried that I’d be in the company of party animals when all I really wanted was a few quiet days to myself.
Waking up early, I wrapped up warm and headed to the Tourism office to pick up my canal cruise and “Body Worlds” tickets which I’d booked in advance. It was bitterly cold so without hesitation, I headed straight to “The Pancake Bakery” which I’d seen many YouTubers rave about. I was prepared for it to be busy but luckily as it was so early in the morning, I didn’t have to wait very long to be seated. Funnily, I wasn’t allowed to be by myself and had to third-wheel a couple and sit opposite a guy my age. The restaurant reminded me of an old British pub with lots of dark wood and low lighting, along with the fact we were all crammed into a small space. I ordered a crepe with bananas, melted chocolate and whipped cream with a latte on the side. This would be the most expensive but delicious pancake I’ve ever bought. I couldn’t even finish it because it was so rich although I tried to get my money’s worth.
Next, I walked over to the “Lovers Canal Cruises” station where a boat had just arrived for us to board. I was amongst couples, families and solo travellers but the vibe was very relaxed so I didn’t feel awkward sat opposite strangers at a plastic table. Everyone was provided with earphones so you could plug in and listen to commentary in your language. The guided tour took us on a very informative trip through Amsterdam on several canals, playing traditional music and telling us about all its history. I love being on the water so even if I hadn’t been paying attention, I would have had a great time.
The cruise came as part of a package deal with my ticket to the “Body Worlds” exhibition and I’m glad I chose this option. The exposition was just down the road on Damrak – one of the main streets in the centre – actually where the tourism office was. This is not an experience for the faint hearted because it is essentially a building full of human and animal remains that have been preserved via plastination. We aren’t talking about mummies but very obviously real, naked people on display. There are more than 200 bodies to look at which just blew me away because I’m a bit weird. You learn about what makes us happy and how we can improve our health, including lots of interactive activities. One of these was a body composition test which in hindsight I wish I’d not taken on my first full day as it put a dampener on my ‘eat lots of delicious food’ holiday.
Then I went for a long walk – ended up averaging 20,000 steps a day on my trip which was ideal. Sometimes, I’d just head in one direction and get lost on purpose before using Google Maps to get myself home. I went to “Easy Times” which is a popular coffee shop, a bit further out of the centre. Coffee shops sell hot drinks but their primary product is marijuana. You can pick whatever you want from the menu, either pre-rolled or in a bag. They play house and r’n’b and there are screens showing music videos all over the venue so it feels like you are at a relaxed nightclub, drinking coffee during the day. I felt like a nerd, getting my book out and sipping my latte alone. If you aren’t very confident sitting in restaurants/bars by yourself then I wouldn’t champion this experience but it doesn’t bother me.
I became very aware at how hungry I was by this point and headed to the nearest “New York Pizza Co.” There are a few of these all over Amsterdam and they specialise in large slabs of delicious pizza. It’s 2 slices and a canned drink for 7/8 euros which I’m more than happy to pay because it’s really great. After scoffing it down, I went back to the hostel for a drink in the bar and sleep.
Another early morning as I’d booked a timed slot for “Moco Museum” which is a modern art gallery in Museumplein – next to the Van Gogh, Stedelijk, Artexpo and a concert hall. This was a 40 minute walk in an area that I’d not yet explored so I had planned to take my time on the way there. I really enjoyed myself here for a number of reasons. I was introduced to some amazing artists, saw lots of Banksy’s famous pieces in the flesh and lots of crazy sculptures which I’m most interested in. In the basement there was an immersive experience consisting of lots of coloured lights, mirrors and rooms to explore. They even have a free app that you can download to interact with the art on display. Did I mention that their whole branding is pink-themed? This definitely ticked a box for me.
Everytime I am abroad, I love going to the massive markets selling all sorts of clothes, food and accessories. I headed for “Albert Cuyp Market” which was a 15 minute walk, because I’d heard it was super busy. To be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed and I’ve definitely been to better. It might just have been the time of year but there wasn’t a lot of choice and I didn’t feel drawn to purchase anything.
I skipped breakfast because I knew that I wanted to try “Vegan Junk Food Bar” for lunch after seeing their colourful pictures on instagram. They are well known in the food community for their pink and blue buns, rainbow fries and fantasy themed cocktails. I went for the Daddy McChick’n burger which has a vegan patty and bacon inside, and a Fanta to wash it down. I’d have liked to have tried the waffle fries and some of the sides but as I was by myself, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. My experience was excellent.
I bought some snacks from a supermarket to keep me going as I realised that I had not been eating enough. I picked up some iced tea, Tony’s Chocolonely salted caramel, barbecue crisps, black olive tapenade and 1 litre of Chocomel. Health is wealth people. I have highlighted the two brands that you must try if you haven’t yet. I’ll come back to the chocolate later.
After an afternoon of window shopping, I went to the “Red Light Secrets” exhibition in…you guessed it, The “Red Light District.” I was handed a talking guide that I needed to scan around certain parts of the museum to activate the commentary. There are also interactive activities and photo opportunities all over. This experience was great and I highly recommend it if you’re not educated on prostitution in Amsterdam. I came away from it learning a lot and having a different opinion on the job. The message is delivered in both an amusing but straight to the point way. You also get to take away a photograph of yourself sat in a window whilst wearing bondage gear. This is where I really conquered my anxiety as I posed by myself in a bunny mask in front of a queue of people.
Before heading to bed, I grabbed a portion of “Vlaamse Friete”, which are tasty chips, served in a cone and covered in your choice of sauce and red salt. I went with garlic – duh. Again, these vendors are all over the city and priced well for the portion size.
The following day was my last full day and I had intended to make it a slow one but it didn’t really work out that way. I wasn’t able to get tickets for the “Anne Frank House” because you need to purchase in advance. When I tried to get some online, there was over 1,000 people in front of me in the queue. However, I did make my way there to see it from the outside. I didn’t know what I expected but I couldn’t get over how normal it seemed and if it wasn’t for the line of people waiting to go in, you would walk straight past it. Make sure you book well in advance of your trip because you cannot just camp outside and wait, you must purchase online.
Right across the road is “Pancakes Amsterdam” and I was desperate to have another one following my delicious crepe a few days prior. I ordered a dutch pancake with lemon and sugar + a cup of english breakfast tea. You can take the girl out of England…It was absolutely scrummy and if I was rich, I’d order another one. When I paid my bill, they gave me a wooden clog keyring with the receipt which was so cute.
My friend recommended that I go the top of “Nemo Science Museum” for the view so I went. It was roughly 45 mins away from me so I thought ‘why not?’ I had to climb a colossal amount of steps but it was definitely worth it to get a great look at Amsterdam from a height, for free! You don’t need to buy a ticket, you just walk around the building and climb the stairs. There is even a cafe at the top so I ordered a latte and read my book in there for an hour or so.
On the way back, I popped into “Tony’s Chocolonely Factory.” This was completely by chance as it’s not far from where I was staying. You can try every flavour of chocolate bar for free and also see how it is being made. A fun fact about Tony’s is that it’s Fairtrade and Slave Free as all the chocolate is made by him and his team. I’m happy to support that! Not to mention how it’s utterly delicious.
In the evening, I went on another canal cruise because I had enjoyed the first one so much. This company was called “100 Highlights Cruise” and once again they provided you with earphones and an informative commentary. They even stopped for photo opportunities which was a nice touch. If only I’d have had a decent camera with me.
I had the idea of going for a lovely Italian meal to celebrate the end of my trip but the restaurant that I wanted to go to was completely full. I stumbled upon a different one and after a quick flick through TripAdvisor, I decided to go to it. HUGE MISTAKE. I wish I could remember which establishment it was so that I could poo poo them online but unfortunately, I’ve erased it from memory. I was the only customer as everyone else got up and left about five minutes after I arrived. My pizza was soggy and salty. I couldn’t even lift a slice from the plate without it falling apart. I plugged my phone into a socket and it blew the fuse in the restaurant so all the lights went out. I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.
I picked up two bags of Stroopwafel for my family and boyfriend from a supermarket before traipsing back to the hostel. You can get these everywhere and they are the most moreish snacks ever. I still regret not bringing back some Tony’s chocolate though. I’ll have to buy some online. Knowing that I had to wake up at 5am to make my train made it quite easy to wind down and get to sleep quickly.
Overall, Amsterdam is one of my favourite places in the world. I felt like I didn’t stop moving enough to relax and read like I intended to. However, there is so much that I haven’t seen or experienced. Although, I really enjoyed travelling alone and doing whatever I wanted to do, my next visit there will be with a group of friends. I could really picture myself drinking cocktails and frequenting coffee shops with my gal pals. Having said that, Amsterdam is one of the safest places to travel solo. Everyone is friendly by default, there is security everywhere, everyone speaks English and it is easy to navigate.
If you have any questions about travelling there, hit me up. I love gushing about this holiday as I had the best time.