A town most commonly known for its red light district and legal cannabis, a visit to Amsterdam’s beautiful streets and winding canals will show you that it has so much more to offer.
Flying with British Airways our trip was off to a great start. Scoring ourselves emergency exit seats, we were happy travelers with that much desired extra leg room. My first time flying with the airline, I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable the flight was. As a frequent flyer I have had my fair share of the good and bad when it comes to airline comfort and British Airways is definitely at the top of my ‘good’ comfort list.
Breezing through the airport upon landing, we caught a train to Amsterdam Centraal station. A quick 20 minutes later, we made our way out of the station and were immediately hit with a unique blend of rich history and a modern vibe. Very few cities are able to accomplish this like Amsterdam and I think that’s why it’s so appealing to so many people.
When Luca and I travel, whether it’s for two days, a week, two weeks, we always like to take the relaxed approach and let the city decide what our plans are. We find it’s the best way to get to know a place, without all the pressure that comes with being somewhere new for the first time. We often have a few points of interest that we want to visit and then afterwards we just walk and explore.
Amsterdam was no different. On our list of places to visit we had the iconic IAMSTERDAM sign, the street art in Wijdesteeg and Kukenhof Tulip Gardens.
We arrived at the iconic sign around midday and it was total chaos! I’ve never seen so many people in one spot getting their photo taken. People climbing and jumping all over the sign for that perfect Instagram picture. No wonder there was medics stationed so close to the sign! I’d advise getting here early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
I didn’t realise at the time, but a recent fire in the area has destroyed the famous ‘graffiti art’ street. Previously it was a vision of colour and contrasting artwork with multi-coloured cobbled stones to complement each wall. Now only two walls remain intact. What we saw was great, but we’ll have to plan another visit when it’s been restored.
Kukenhof Tulip Gardens
The largest tulip festival in the world. This had been on my bucket list for years and I was so excited to be finally ticking it off! We landed at Schiphol Airport around ten in the morning and from the airport caught a bus straight to the gardens. There was a slight queue for the bus at this time of the morning, however nothing compared to when the bus dropped us back at the airport around midday. The queue we saw was insane! Estimated waiting time was around three hours! So if this place is on your bucket list too, I highly recommend getting there as early as possible. The gardens were beautiful. So many different colours of tulips everywhere you turned. Most of the tulips were blocked off by rope to avoid visitors damaging them, however we managed to find a few hidden spots that weren’t roped off and got some great pictures. We stayed a total of two hours and that was adequate time in our opinion. Some people stay all day, but after a while, all the flowers started to look the same to us.
Now that we had those checked off the list it was time to explore! Watching the cyclists tactfully navigate their way through the main streets and endless crowds of pedestrians, we opted to walk and take a more scenic route, exploring the quieter side streets.
And I’m so glad we did! We came across the most beautiful areas and canals with hardly anyone around.
Whilst exploring we found ourselves in an area called De Pijp which is so different to the canal district but just as beautiful. Walking the tranquil streets, we noticed benches out the front of every house. Chatting to a local, we discovered that the idea behind this is to turn the streets into one large outdoor sitting room. A place for people to get to know their neighbours, mingle in groups, have a tea party, music session or a relaxed chat. I loved the idea of this! We even saw the cutest little old lady sitting on her bench, pencil and notebook in hand, sketching images of the tree lined streets that surrounded her. She was incredibly talented too.
As we walked through the area of Jordan, we were surrounded by such vibrancy. Filled with a multitude of cafés, restaurants and bars, it’s the perfect place to get amazing cuisine, relax and take in your surroundings. Markets along the canal, boutique shops, music in the streets, I can understand why it’s the most popular area in the Netherlands.
Vondelpark is one of my favourite places in Amsterdam and I’m so glad we stumbled upon it. This place really comes alive in the spring/summer and it’s one of those hidden gems. We already had some snacks with us, so we set up a mini picnic by the water, soaked up the sun and watched the ducks and swans swim by.
No matter what you’re after, whether it be partying, relaxing, adventures or something scenic, Amsterdam offers something for everyone. And of course with my sweet tooth, I just had to have one of Amsterdam’s famous red velvet cakes. Purchased from Bake Shop (Amsterdam Centrum), this was a slice of heaven! For all those Nutella lovers out there like Luca, after warming up the cake the shop assistant poured a bit of Nutella on it giving it that something extra. For me, I’m not a fan of Nutella, which makes me a minority in the Netherlands (and probably all of Europe) but the cake was still delicious.
Staying at Park Hyatt, the location was great. A free shuttle bus to the airport from the hotel, then a quick train ride from the airport into the city centre. Clean, simple rooms with everything you need and it’s affordable. Alternatively, if you’d like to be in the heart of Amsterdam and are finding it a bit pricy, you could always choose to stay in an Airbnb.
*All opinions are my own*