A Weekend in Amsterdam
My post this week takes us over 400 miles from Bath, so grab a small suitcase and your passport, because we are off to Amsterdam for the weekend!
But, instead of checking-in at the airport, we will be travelling to the Netherlands direct from London St Pancras. All aboard the Eurostar please (which only launched this direct service a few months ago) for a hassle-free, four hour journey.
Amsterdam, it's a city that's long been on our bucket list of places to visit in Europe. As long as you remain vigilant looking to your left and right before stepping across the many canal-woven streets (cyclists rule the roads here, let me tell you!) then you will enjoy soaking up the laid back atmosphere and exploring all that the Dutch capital has to offer...
Fuelled by Pret a Manger lattes, buttery croissants and creamy porridge from our journey (their porridge is hands down the best!), it wasn't too long before we arrived into Amsterdam Centraal Station.
But first, a few quick interior shots of our room, as much for the memory bank as for my blog post!
We chose to stay at Hotel Pulitzer, mainly due to its prime location. It's only a short walk from the Anne Frank House, a 10 minute tram ride from Vondelpark and the city's museums and art galleries, as well as ideally nestled in the heart of the Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets) shopping quarter. It's 25 linked canal houses, which date back to the 17th century, reside between two picturesque canals. On the canal that is adjacent to the hotel entrance, you will find the hotel's very own beautiful canal boat, launched in 1909. It famously welcomed Winston Churchill on board in 1946, and, it's said that he would most likely have taken a seat at the rear of the boat in the open air, smoking a cigar! (But, more on our canal cruise shortly)...
Our room sadly didn't come with a canal view (although we had crossed our fingers at check-in!), but, nevertheless, it was clean, cosy, quiet, and filled with nice touches such as welcome bottles of water, Dutch caramel waffles and generously sized toiletries...
The coffee was good too!
Where were we? That's it, back outside and into the blazing sunshine (what fantastic weather we had all weekend, thank you sun Gods!)...
... For a canal cruise in the classic salon boat, which is decked out in polished teak and brass. At a cost of €39 per person (or €19 for a child between the ages of 4-12 years), we would really recommend spending those extra pennies to experience Amsterdam from the water. The boat runs trips twice a day.
Coffees and water were included (there are soft and alcoholic drinks available too, but at a charge) so it was time to sit back, relax, soak up the sun's rays, as well as find out about the culture and history of this pretty city!
Our tour, which was hosted by our captain, lasted about 75 minutes, journeying through some of Amsterdam's iconic landmarks, including the famous Red Light District. Our captain pointed out that the main street was home to brothels as well as a children's crèche!
We discovered that Amsterdam has a population of c.850,000 residents in the city, and, there are said to be enough bikes for two per person! You only have to look across at the train stations to see platform edges crammed with bikes!
After a fantastic tour, we were in need of something substantial. A tip for fellow foodies, take a visit to the Foodhallen to sample some classic Dutch dishes... Here you will also discover an array of food stalls serving up everything from hotdogs to poke bowls, dim sum to burgers, oysters to nachos...
Then stop by Pluk for something so fabulously sweet and pretty, it's made for Instagram!
Packing in as much as we could over the weekend, we walked many miles on foot! A great suggestion we received prior to our trip was to add the Rijksmuseum into our itinerary.
Dedicated to the arts and history of Amsterdam, this popular Dutch museum is home to a vast collection of Dutch masters, including famous works by Van Gogh and Rembrandt. ‘The Night Watch’ is well worth a visit!
After 3 hours or so perusing the art, it was definitely time for something sweet. Frothy coffee, a cold chocolate and a nutty brownie to share, coming right up!
Sadly, we didn't get chance to visit the Anne Frank House, tickets sell out months in advance (which unfortunately, we discovered all too late!), but, all the more reason to book another trip soon!
My post today has pinpointed some of the highlights of our recent weekend in Amsterdam. However, I thought it might be helpful to list our top tips which we gathered prior to our trip from various online sources and personal recommendations too. This is by no means an exhaustive list (given it was our first time in the city) but, here it goes...
Eurostar - direct train to Amsterdam Centraal Station, but note you have to make a change at Bruxelles-Midi (Brussels) on your return journey...
Brasserie Ambassade - fantastic French classic dishes and our favourite meal over the weekend. Try the 'Parmesan Risotto with Lemon and Rosemary' - it's absolutely delicious!
Ron Gastrobar - an urban gastro bar with a lively atmosphere and a large outdoor terrace. Worth the trip for their bread basket with whipped brown butter (seriously tasty!) and the 'Cheesecake of Scallop with Zucchini and Vadouvan'.
Foodhallen - for a great variety of cuisines and local flavours.
Original Stroopwafels - although the Albert Cuyp Market was unfortunately rather uninspiring, it's where you'll find the city's much loved caramel stroopwafels.
Pluk - lured in by those unicorn cupcakes!
Things to do:
Rijksmuseum - you'll easily while away a morning or afternoon here. Great for a rainy day too, and, stop by their café, the homemade chocolate brownie was top notch!
Canal Cruise - as previously mentioned, we took our canal cruise via Pulitzer Hotel's own vessel, but, there appear to be lots of cruise options to choose from.
Vondelpark - take a stroll through this picturesque city park, but be mindful of all the cyclists!
I Amsterdam Sign - another photo opportunity, one for the archives!
Anne Frank House - as I said, we didn't get chance to visit (much to our disappointment!) but a lesson to learn that you can only book online and tickets sell out up to two months in advance.
Until next time, Amsterdam :D