I would like to start off this blog post by stating the fact that this is my first written blog post of 2016. I have had a seriously bad start to the new year (I won’t go into details right now but believe me, it was a shit storm) and I just didn’t have it in me to write anything positive on this blog.
However, I am just back from a four day break in Amsterdam. So I decided that my first blog of the year will be a fun little travel blog about my experiences in the Netherlands!
I booked the trip as a surprise getaway for my boyfriend Our birthdays are a day apart and we usually always try to do something special to celebrate our birthday’s together. So I saved up my pennies (literally!) all year and booked us flights to Amsterdam. I researched affordable hotels online and came across a quirky little hotel called the Conscious Hotel, located in Vondelpark.
The hotel uses renewable sources and provides an eco-friendly hotel experience, which can be good or bad depending on how you look at it. The bed sheets were never changed during our three night stay, I am assuming this was to cut down on electricity and potentially save water? It wasn’t too bad, but one of the best things about staying in a hotel (in my opinion) is the feeling of sleeping on fresh sheets every single night of your stay. Also, the bed sheets were paper thin. Which wasn’t exactly great, considering the weather in Amsterdam was pretty cold. However, the hotel itself was charming, staff are very friendly and the hotel was in an ideal location, between Schiphol airport and the city centre.
The hotel lobby had a great vibe to it, very chilled and relaxed. There is a quaint selection of books, adult colouring books and board games for visitors to enjoy. Eoin & I played a game of Monopoly one rainy evening in the lobby and had a really nice time laughing and remembering the rules of the game. There is a tram line directly across from the front door and trams are very frequent. The prices of tram tickets are a little steep. The price of a 24hr ticket is €7.50 and a 48hr ticket costs €12.50. Make sure you get the most use out of your ticket and take advantage of the tram service. Tram lines can be a little hard to navigate but once you get a handle on what tram lines you’ll be using the most, you will be fine.
As I’m sure you know, one of Amsterdam’s biggest tourist attractions is the legalization of Cannabis. There are Coffee Shops where smokers can purchase different strains of cannabis or consume edible cakes or treats that contain the drug. Before travelling to Amsterdam, I was curious about these special coffee shops and what they must be like. I can safely admit they are just like regular coffee shops, except unlike most European countries, you can smoke inside the shop. Although, the smoking of tobacco is usually permitted within these coffee shops.
Of course, some coffee shops are nicer than others, the first coffee shop we visited was La Tertulia Coffeeshop on Prinsengracht. I must admit, my reasons for visiting this coffee shop are somewhat embarassing! I am a huge fan of the reality show The Real House Wives of Beverly Hills (don’t judge me) and in a recent episode of the show, the housewives tried a space cake this particular shop. Hey, if it’s good enough for the housewives, it’s good enough for me!
The space cake (weed brownie) cost €6 and was homemade by the owner of the shop. I don’t smoke weed (or anything else for that matter) but I decided I might as well try an edible treat while I was in Amsterdam. The effect it had on me was quite numbing, it wasn’t a horrible feeling but quite honestly, weed is just not for me. I was thinking about recording a story-time video about my weed brownie experience in greater (and more hilarious) detail.
So, if you would like to hear that story, let me know, haha!
La Tertulia has a very chilled environment. It has a shabby-chic vibe to it and is more relaxed than some of the more mainstream cafes in the city centre. It’s nothing fancy but it’s a nice little spot to check out if you are a fan of homemade brownies or RHOBH! 😉
The next coffee shop we visited on our travels was called The Bulldog. The Bulldog is a popular chain of cannabis coffee shops, this particular shop is located in Leidseplein, directly opposite the tram stop. The venue is always busy and alive with people, which makes finding a place to sit is pretty difficult. It isn’t exactly the most charming of shops! I can admit that I thought it was a bit of a dive but it was authentic and they were never short of keen customers. I bought my second (and last) space cake there, it cost me €7 and tasted really good. It came sealed and in a cute little box.
Amsterdam is such an interesting place to visit, it has the feel of a small village and the vibrancy of city life. If you’re not interested in the cities cannabis culture, you can take advantage of the wonderful selection of museums and attractions the city has to offer. I visited the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, which both cost about €17.50 each. Which is a little pricey, so make sure you have time to take full advantage of your visit and really appreciate the vast amount of artwork on display. The Rijksmuseum is HUGE and there is a lot to see. My boyfriend & I didn’t have enough time to see everything on display due to time constraints, but used the museum map to choose which exhibits we wanted to check off our list before leaving.
One place I would highly recommend visiting, is the Anne Frank House. I purchased tickets online for €9 each and was given a specific time slot to arrive at the house. Waiting time was minimal and when we entered the house, it was truly surreal to witness the living quarters of the Frank’s and to see Anne’s diary in real life. I was shocked by the condition of her diary, it was like new. I imagined it being incredibly frayed but then I stopped to think that Anne Frank’s story happened not so long ago, when you really think about it. That in itself is mind blowing, to say the very least.
One of the last things we did on our trip to Amsterdam, was visit the Heineken brewery. I recommend buying your tickets on the Heineken website. The online tickets cost €16 per adult and allow you to avoid waiting in line and you save yourself €2 in the process. Now that I think about it, I recommend buying all your tickets in advanced/online if possible, it saves a lot of waiting around and hassle overall. The Heineken experience is a must see for all beer lovers out there! My boyfriend really enjoyed seeing how the beer was made and there was a lot of fun and interactive parts of the brewery that allowed you to learn about Heineken in a fun way. At the end of the tour you are allowed to have two glasses of Heineken and thankfully (as someone who cannot stand the taste of beer) I was able to avail of two free Pepsi’s instead! Woohoo!
I really enjoyed my time in Amsterdam. Honestly, at first I wasn’t sure what to expect but I left the city feeling more appreciative of the cities culture and the laid back attitude of the locals. It is a wonderful place to visit and I honestly think a four days is more than enough time to experience what this tranquil city has to offer. I tried a weed brownie, viewed some fine art and ticked some important boxes off my bucket list.
I think John Green said it best when he wrote:
Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom.
And in freedom, most people find sin.