I Amsterdam: City Break

A couple of travel posts coming up soon, but first instalment is about my recent city break to Amsterdam with my mother.

Surprisingly before this trip, I had never been on a break with just me and my mum! We were looking for a city close by which wasn't too expensive and luckily there was a 2 night deal on Lastminute.com so we went for it!

What language is spoken there?
Dutch but almost everyone can speak English to a very good standard and signs and menus are usually in both languages.

What is the currency?
Euro. At the moment, it's around 1.3 Euros to the Pound

How do I get around?
Amsterdam is the easiest city to get around! I found it easier than London (and I'm a Londoner!). Trams, buses and trains are all easily numbered with maps to help you know where to get off but a lot of the central part of the city is easily accessible by foot or bicycle. We bought the I Amsterdam card for 2 days which gave us unlimited travel plus free entry or discounts to some attractions. See their website for more information.

We spent two days in the city which I thought was a decent amount of time to see most attractions, although there are so many different museums from the Van Gogh to Anne Frank Huis to the Cow museum! If you wanted to visit them all I think you'd be there for months!

Here is what we got up to:

Day 1

Van Gogh Museum

Top attraction in Amsterdam according to the Lonely Planet. Like most museums in the city, just turning up without a discount card or pre-booked ticket could result in hour long queues. Our I Amsterdam cards gave us free entry to the museum so we had to queue for a mere 20 minutes or so. 

We didn't spend too much time in the museum, it was quite crowded especially around his most famous paintings such as the Sunflowers and the collection wasn't too extensive and it included a whole section on his life and family as well as artists who were influenced by his style.

Heineken Experience

This was probably the attraction I enjoyed most in Amsterdam. Even if you're not a massive beer drinker I would still go. As well as showing you how the beer is made and the history of the company, there were parts that were focused on the events and sports that Heineken sponsored (see the picture of me and my mum 'winning' the Champion's League below). 

There was an interactive 4D motion ride and you are taught how to drink the beer in the correct way as well as how to pull your own perfect pint. The ticket admission included 3 drinks of Heineken (or a soft drink) and there was plenty of cool memorabilia at the gift shop at the end!

Winning the Champions League!

Twenty Third Rooftop Bar

After our few beers we decided to find a rooftop bar and we stumbled on one at the top of the Hotel Okura. Drinks were London prices but the cocktails we had were yummy and they gave us some well needed bar snacks to nibble on whilst overlooking the city. You can see all the planes landing into Schiphol airport too so we got a great view at sunset (despite the rain!). 

To see more, take at look at their website

Day 2

Canal Cruise

Our cards also included a canal cruise with one of the many river cruise companies. There were plenty of cruises that you can choose from: beer and burger cruise, hop on and off cruise, cocktail cruise. We went on the 1 hour cruise around the city. 

We chose to sit inside the boat (it was pretty chilly outside) but you still saw plenty and it was a good way to get your bearings of the city. 

View from the cruise boat of one of the many canals

Artis Royal Zoo

Another attraction included in our card, this zoo situated in the middle of the city used to a botanical garden and it's a very unique zoo. It does feel like you're strolling through a park and not a place full of cages. There are a big variety of animals from lions to penguins as well as an impressive aquarium, planetarium and insectarium. You could probably spend a whole day there if the weather was good.

To see more, check out their website

Red Light District

You can't visit Amsterdam and not check out the famous Red Light District! We walked through the area in the evening so it wasn't that busy and there weren't a lot of girls in the windows (remember no photos unless you want your camera thrown in the canal!).

There are several museums in the area related to the history of Prostitution in the country and the surrounding area is full of Coffee shops and China town is also just around the corner. On some days you can get guided tours through the area and there are pub crawls that go through the district most nights. 

The area is a good place to visit for souvenirs, cheese shops and patisseries selling waffles and macaroons.   

Have you been to Amsterdam? Any places you would recommend? Please leave your comments in the section below!

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