ARRIVING IN AMSTERDAM
We hopped on the train from Paris to Amsterdam. Unfortunately when we arrived in Paris we were told that we had to do three changeovers to reach Amsterdam instead of the usual one way trip. However, this was our fault as we didn't reserve our seats early enough in advance (over a week). We were pleasantly surprised by all of the trains. We chose to buy first class Interrail tickets as the price difference was very small. Although be warned with your Interrail pass you have to pay a surplus for every train. All of our trains except Paris to Amsterdam were less than €3 each but this train was €30 (we were not impressed!!). The first train was the best, it was unbelievable and then we had a quick stop over in Lille and then a changeover in Brussels. The train journey flew as we were writing our blog posts about Paris and Disneyland.
We arrived in Amsterdam Central in the evening and got our route to our hotel Best Western Blue Tower Amsterdam. We purchased our 72 hour public transport tickets for €17 which gave us unlimited transport on every form of public transport. Our hotel was a 20 minute bus journey and so this was worth it for us!! We walked a lot the city but it was still worth €17 for us.
We had just become accustomed to the metro system in Paris and were a little confused when it came to the system in Amsterdam. We were warned that taxis in Amsterdam are extortionately priced and so heavily relied on public transport. In Amsterdam there is a good tram and bus system but it takes some patience and working out.
WARNING: Cyclists and cycle lanes are EVERYWHERE. We nearly got knocked down on numerous occasions. Bikes are everywhere, we wanted to rent bikes but unfortunately the rental place was shut when we reached it.
When it came to booking a place to stay for Amsterdam we checked all our usual go to websites but were shocked to see it was 87% booked out!! Amsterdam is booming and super busy so maybe think about booking in advance. Although keep an eye as a lot of travel agents do fantastic cheap deals.
We booked the Best Western Blue Tower Hotel which is a 20 minute bus ride from the central station which is bang in the centre of the city. The bus route we used was 21 or tram 14. This was very handy when we got used to it.
The hotel was amazing. It was so luxurious for the price. On the outside the hotel does not look great it is bright blue and does not reflect the inside decor which is lovely. Our room was spacious and the beds super comfortable. The main highlight was the bathroom which had the best bath and shower facilities. We would highly recommend this hotel however for those who would like to stay very central this may not be suited to you. There are not a lot of bars and restaurants situated around the hotel but as we ate in the city we didn't mind. There were supermarkets very close by which was great grabbing water and snacks (budget friendly).
Where do we start about the food in Amsterdam? It was UNBELIEVABLE. Lukas was spoilt for choice with all the different types they had to offer. We are really foodies and with the food priced so cheaply we availed of it at every opportunity. The standard of food in Amsterdam is amazing and with such competitive pricing the options are endless.
The first night we arrived we ate at the hotel as there was very few options in the surrounding area. It was great quality but slightly over budget.
Every morning we travelled into the city and ate in the same cafe Pasta Bar. They offered a full Irish breakfast for €4.95 and Dutch pancakes for €3. The food was fresh and surpassed Lukas' standards.
During the day we usually tried a few local snacks. They have the best garlic chips which are definitely worth a try. You will see them everywhere and so make sure to grab a poke for €3.
There is an area beside the Red light district with loads of Chinese, Asian and Thai restaurants which we adore! We tried the Bird Thai Restaurant which was beautiful. The chicken thai green curry was delicious! The next night we found ourselves around the Hard Rock Cafe area which hidden behind it has loads of food restaurants at a much more reasonable rate. We found Restaurant Peppino which was so cheap and served the best Italian food. The pastas and pizzas were only €5!!! You couldn't beat it - it was absolutely beautiful.
Eat up in Amsterdam the food is delicious. They love pancakes, crepes and Nutella nearly as much as Kate and Lukas. Those with a sweet tooth will find it hard to resist the treats at every corner.
Of course, we've heard about the coffee shops in Amsterdam but seriously if you want a coffee do not go looking for a regular coffee shop in Amsterdam. If you ask where a coffee shop is, the locals will quickly enquired as to what you are looking for. There are coffee shops at every single corner with a distinct smell lingering outside. Alcohol is quite expensive in Amsterdam we noticed. Although we weren't drinking when we were there it was noticeably expensive. Kate compared it to Dublin prices as it was very similar which is something to keep in mind if you are visiting.
They are EVERYWHERE!
Amsterdam is a buzzing shopping city. Unfortunately it wasn't within our budget to shop when we were there, it has every shop you could wish for from high street to high end luxury. We had to visit PRIMARK when we were there (tanning mitt issue). Dam Square is very close to Amsterdam Central station and leads on to the main shopping districts. There are lots of Make Up Studio shops in Amsterdam so makeup lovers be warned.
RED LIGHT DISTRICT
The famous and infamous Red light district is definitely an eye-opener. We couldn't go to Amsterdam and not see it. It was shocking, almost unbelievable! It really is just as people say EVERYWHERE. We actually went to a museum Red Light Secrets on our second rainy morning to pass time inside as it was only €7. It was surprisingly interesting about the history of prostitution in Amsterdam. Kate was very interested in the Law on the subject. Some interesting/not so interesting facts:
- It costs €150 to rent a window for a ten hour shift
- Prostitutes pay taxes
- The figure is not exact but the majority are forced into prostitution by pimps/lover boys
- 70% are married or in committed relationships.
We were torn between the Ice Bar and Heineken Brewery. We felt that it wouldn't be worthwhile doing both. In recent years we have done the Guinness Brewery in Dublin so we felt that the Heineken one could be quite similar and opted for the Ice Bar. It's worth noting that the Ice Bar is €16 before 6pm and as you can imagine gets busier as the day progresses.
We went around 4pm. We got tokens on the Hop on Hop Off bus that offered us an extra free drink (3 free drinks in total). We jumped off the Hop on hop off bus and headed for the bar. When we went to the ticket booth we exchanged our tickets for gold and silver coins. We entered the first bar which thankfully is at normal temperatures. It was a cool bar with great music and a fab cocktail list. With one gold token we were able to avail of one free drink ranging from wine, cocktail or a beer. You must note your ticket time because you don't want to have to rush your free drink. We decided our time a lot was too close and waited to be taken without the drink.
A bar maid dressed as a pirate rings a bell and asked all the customers to come around a large screen to watch a video. The video challenges the audience to brace the cold temperatures. It's light hearted and fun. Then you are taken to another area where you are asked to take a coat and gloves. She turns the lever on the Ice Bar door and welcomes you inside. As we entered the sub zero temperatures, we immediately knew that summer dreads were not appropriate. You get two free drinks at this bar but not everyone could finish them in that temperature. The options are shots of vodka, beer or orange juice. You are only given one glass, so If having a shot, take it first and then the beer. The music is great and there are some good photo opportunities. We tried our best to stick it out. We came out for a break to the heat and returned again. When we left the Ice Bar we have to check that all toes were still intact. The session probably lasts around 20minutes and you have no service inside. When we left we went out to the bar and had our free cocktail. It was beautiful and we couldn't leave without buying the obligatory picture at €5.50.
HOP ON HOP OFF BUS
We bought tickets for this in advance from Viator at around £18. This is unnecessary as there are sales offices everywhere. The service is fairly poor and the queues were awful. I'm still glad we did it as we learned lots of information as we passed many of the main attractions. However, one day really is enough when you can use the tram or bus. We sat on for the whole tour as you had to queue when you got off to get on again. The whole tour is 1.5 hours.
I AM AMSTERDAM
We got off at the Reik Museum to see the I AMSTERDAM sign. We have seen so many people get these pictures and really wanted to do it too. It's a very busy area with bikes everywhere and people queuing for their picture. We looked around and decided which letters we would hop on. The letters are much higher than it looks and we had to help each other out giving a foot up to them. We heard a pound, bang and clatter at one point where a girl had fallen off. We thought there was only one sign but we actually passed one daily on the way to our Hotel.
A highlight of our trip. Lots of people were availing of the river cruises but we had noticed pedal boats and wanted to give them a go. It was €9 each and they fit four people. If there are four people you get the fourth free. You have to pay a €20 deposit which they give back when you return. If you don't return from the port you took off from you have to pay €5 to come in to another. We had so much fun on this because we were trying to follow a route, steer the boat and avoid collisions. We laughed as one boy climbed out of his boat onto a bridge ran to the other side and dropped back down on to the boat again. We cried with laughter and pedalling is a a lot more exhausting than it looks. We took the pedal boat from the tourist information centre at the Reik museum which is also beside the Hard Rock Cafe.
ADAM LOOKOUT (Swing)
We had seen pictures of this on Facebook and Instagram. For those of you that don't know it's a swing that goes over Amsterdam. You walk through the central station and get a ferry over to the A'DAM Lookout. The Ferry is free and it's literally a two minute service. When you arrive you buy your tickets. Lukas and Kate didn't want to do it for different reasons but SarahJane did. It's €12.50 to go up to the top deck and then an additional €5 to go on the swing. Even if you don't want to go on the swing it's worth going up to see the views. The lift up has a light show and it zooms to the top. There's a very cool bar at the top that offers cocktails and nibbles. You then go outside and it was very windy the day we were up. The music was pumping and SarahJane queued for the ride. The ride only lasts for possibly 3 minutes. You sit on the seat, you are strapped in from behind. We were quite surprised that there was only one strap across the waist. Then a machine raises the swing up and the hydraulics allow it to swing back and forth. There are two swings and they hold two people at a time. It was so fun and it quite short but I would still recommend it. Kate tried to talk me out of it and sat inside as she couldn't watch while I was on it but all in all very memorable.
If you are planning to go to the Anne Frank House make sure to book more than 2 months in advance we tried to book 6 weeks ago and the slots were completely filled. You can also queue for more than 3 hours after 3pm but we didn't have the time for this.
The weather in Amsterdam is changeable. We had a rainy day when we were there and were so glad of our warmer clothes. Make sure to bring a rain coat/warm jacket even if you are there in summer.
We loved our time in Amsterdam and would definitely return. It was very relaxing in contrast to Paris. The city although slow paced was super busy. The smaller city was easy to navigate through with a little help from google maps. Everything is in walking distance if you are prepared to walk a mile or two. It was a really enjoyable place to visit and like nowhere we've ever been before. Amsterdam is certainly unique and worth a visit.
SarahJane & Kate x
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