#tbt Travel Diaries - Sex, Drugs & Rock n' Roll, I Must Be in Amsterdam
Welcome to the next part of the #tbt Travel Diaries series, as I revisit my study abroad adventures in England. After taking a few day trips exploring the United Kingdom, it was time to escape the island and start exploring other countries. I decided to make Amsterdam the first trip outside of the UK, I had heard so many good thinks about the city I was excited to learn about another whole new culture. And with my awesome class schedule it was so easy to book a cheap flight and visit during the week. So hopefully you guys enjoy coming down memory lane with me on this next one:
Original Blog Post - March 8, 2013
I feel like every time I visit a new city it becomes my favorite city (with the exception of Liverpool). Amsterdam was just amazing, I think going in with not too much expectation just made the place that much better. I was a little wary getting off the plane and finally coming to a realization that I was in another country by myself where I did not know the language (and the fact that the train ticket machine was not taking my credit card). But to my surprise Amsterdam is actually a very American friendly city. A lot of the city is actually in English and just about every Dutch person I talked to could speak English fluently, in fact the whole Heineken tour was completely in English, maps/pamphlets/menus all in English, most signs were in English, etc. etc. I had a nice conversation with one of the souvenir shop owners about the city and how they love when we come to the city and that if I needed anything to go back to his store and talk to him. The people there were seriously so nice and welcoming, definitely made fitting into the city much more comfortable and easy.
I ended up getting into the city late in the evening and went in search of the hostel. With only remembering where it was off the top of my head and using the signs with city maps scattered on the sidewalks, I found it after taking a few wrong turns. It honestly was not too hard to find but the unexpected big construction in front of the train station and the darkness had me a little out of whack. The reception for the hostel was a little confusing at first because you actually have to go through the bar (Belushi's same bar we went to in London, if you have not read that post yet, go check it out) attached to the hostel to get to it. The people at the desk at this hostel were so nice, quite different then what I experienced in London. They even give everyone a map and discounts to use at the bar, and to my surprise when I got in my room they gave us all a towel, soap, and shampoo, something I do not hear happens at hostels usually. I ended up having the whole room to myself the first night and only two others the second night (I stayed in a room for eight people). They also had lockers unlike my London hostel to store stuff as well as under bed storage and a bathroom attached to the room. Definitely would recommend St. Chris hostels (now called The Winston Hostel, but still a St. Christopher's Inn though). The photo below shows the street the hostel was on, that street on the right started the Red Light, so the hostel was right in the heart of everything.
Even though it was late, I was pretty wide awake as I at least got a short nap on the plane. I decided to go check out the Red Light District, my hostel was just at the beginning of it. And despite what many people believe its actually not as sketchy of an area, its actually pretty busy from people coming and going from the many stores and bars scattered among the…adult areas. Its really weird/interesting how the girls are just dressed in very skimpy clothing with doors that have a floor to ceiling windows, exposed to everyone that walks by and everyone just like stares as they head off to the bar or wherever. If you saw red lights above the door that meant it was the “adult area”, hence the name red light district. Also you are not really supposed to take pictures in this area so I was only able to grab a couple quick hence the crappy quality (my camera also does not like the nighttime).
The next day I got up early so I would have enough time to see the whole city since I really only had one full day to do and see everything. By suggestion from one of my friends (Hi Jenn) I was told I had to rent a bike. And I am glad I took that suggestion because if you ever go to Amsterdam this really is the way to see the city. There are just so many people that bike through the city and it really gets you around the city a lot quicker then you think. It really was incredible just cruising along the canals on the bike.
I think the best way to see the city was to just have a few places in mind to see and then just get lost finding them. In all honesty the streets are sometimes tricky to figure out but I didn’t really run into much trouble. Having researched addresses of certain places I wanted to see helped as the maps did not always label them. And the signs with maps scattered on the sidewalks really helped as they told you where all the attractions were and even helped point out where certain streets were, which helped when I could not find some of the smaller streets on my maps.
This is the Basiliek van de Heilige Nicolaas at the start of the street my hostel is on and across from the Centraal Train Station. There were churches spread all throughout the city and all beautiful pieces of architecture.
This is the entrance to the Anne Frank House Museum. I did not do, do not know why, probably would have if I was in the city for a few days but looking back now I 100% should have. Part of the reason I think was because I did not do my research on the museum and thought it was just a gallery they built next to her house and I really just wanted to see her house. I tried figuring out which building was where she stayed but there was nothing on any of the buildings pointing it out (that I could find). Apparently it was a couple doors down from the entrance to the museum and if I actually did proper research would have know I could have went in the house via the museum (I am so stupid).
The Westerkerk church is another beautiful piece of architecture next to the Anne Frank House Museum.
Could not visit Amsterdam without seeing at least one windmill (this is the Molen De Otter, I think one of the only ones in the city).
Time to do the Heineken tour. I think I am making it my goal to tour all the famous brewery’s over here. The tour costs about 20 euros and you got two free beers and a free gift as part of the tour (although not sure if you get a free gift anymore as part of the ticket). The experience was pretty cool and large, you could do a 4-D ride, meet the local horses, train to be a DJ, learn to pour a Heineken and had a tasting bar as well as a spot to customize a bottle.
I headed to Rembrandtplein area after the tour to get my free gift from the Heineken brandstore (RIP) and get lunch. Decided to check out the monuments in Rembrandtplein on the way.
I finally found some authentic pizza at New York Pizza since pizza in England is gross, especially since literally the only pizza place there is Pizza Hut, and its on every corner. Three months without pizza is a long time. Plus Amsterdam has found the amazingness of Buffalo Chicken (I am looking at you England...).
Stopped outside the Rembrandt House Museum. Did not do this museum, not a big art museum person. You can probably tell where my priorities are, Breweries>Museums.
I did not take any pictures of the Waterloopleinmarkt which is actually just on the other side of the museum. It is a very famous market where you will find tons of stalls selling everything from food to homemade and second hand goods. You can find the market out there pretty much every day so definitely recommend roaming through and checking it out.
After the market, I biked my way over to Dam Square. Dam Square is a large plaza in the center of the city (and just down the road from the hostel). In the middle of Dam Square is the Nationaal Monument.
This is the only picture I got of Nieuwe Kerk, another beautiful church that makes up one corner of Dam Square.
The main piece making up Dam Square is The Royal Palace. Embarrassing story time, after this photo was taken I went to unlock my bike only to knock over the entire row of bikes I was next to (which since everyone in Amsterdam rides bikes, this was a lot of them). Then as I was putting those back up I ended up knocking the row of bikes on the other side over. All in the middle of Dam Square where it was crowded with people to see this embarrassment. Lets just say it was not my best moment.
My last place I wanted to visit before returning the bike was Vondelpark, basically the Amsterdam version of Central Park. The park is beautiful with the paths weaving all throughout with tree and water lined paths. As the rental place was closing soon, I slowly meandered my way back to the shop.
I did one other thing to finish the daytime activities that I was told to do, a canal cruise. The cruise gave me a little talk of the history of the city as we cruised through the canals. The sun even came out for a few minutes on the cruise despite having just misted not too long before. Disadvantage of coming during early spring time and rainy season. You can catch several canal cruise companies outside of the Centraal Train Station. The one I took looks to be out of business or sold out but there are plenty others to choose from.
This is the Dampkring “coffeeshop” from Oceans 12. I put coffeeshop in quotations because these are more like hooka/pot bars then what we normally assume coffeshops to be, you can still get your fix of coffee though just with a side of bud too. Because I could not smoke, I decided to pass on going in and checking it out.
As night fell I was also suggested to visit the Magere Brug or also known as the Skinny Bridge and the Bridge of 15 Bridges at night. They were pretty cool, I think I expected a little more maybe because I expected all the bridges and tunnels to be gleaming with light packages but they were a bit more subtle and timelessly decorated. I wish I could take pictures that really show Amsterdam at night because it just has this classic, old feel to it with the warm streetlights illuminating the old buildings like I was in a classic movie.
This was the skinny bridge. But despite its name probably one of the biggest canal bridges I actually crossed over and definitely the most lit up of all of them.
I was not sure if I was on the right bridge, but basically the view from a bridge in the area of the 15 bridges. You are apparently suppose to be able to stand in this one spot and be able to see 15 different bridges crossing over the canals.
All in all Amsterdam was amazing and I would have no problem returning again if I was ever offered the chance again.
Have you been to Amsterdam before? What are some of your favorite places to visit and go in the city, have you been to any of the places I went? I can not wait to get back here, maybe some time soon???
See you in the next adventure.
-The Wandering Pro