Amsterdam was not really on my “must see” list of places to go but when the opportunity came up I decided to tag along with my husband. He was there for a few days attending a conference which meant I had a chance to explore the city by myself. I decided to discover the city by simply walking around as I really wanted to absorb the atmosphere.
What I discovered was a beautiful city filled with picturesque canals making it, for me, a must see destination.
GETTING TO AMSTERDAM
We flew in and got a taxi from the airport and thankfully the company was paying! It was around €60 which is very expensive. I think if we were travelling on a budget I would consider the train which is much cheaper (for us it was about a 5-10 min walk to the hotel from there).
We arrived at 2pm and we had requested an early check in which didn’t seem to matter as the room wasn’t ready. By the time we got to check in the lift wasn’t working so we carried our suitcases up 2 flights of stairs only to be greeted by the shoppers of H&M looking into our room! Hello H&M shoppers! (“No don’t pick that up off the rack, it’s not your colour! Yes that’s better - take that one to change rooms!”) LOL…
All this aside, the rooms are really clean and the hotel is in a fantastic location at Dam Square so there is a lot going for it in that respect. You are in the heart of the Old City making it really easy to get around. Next door is a sight-seeing company and up the road towards the central train station in the well-known “Hop on Hop off’ tour company.
Across the road from the Swissotel hotel is a major shopping center where you will find all your cosmetic needs, plus there's a few little boutique high end shops like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Hermes.
A quick 10-minute picturesque walk from the hotel and you are at the markets situated directly behind the Nationale Opera and Ballet which are filled with a variety of things. Here you will see a wide assortment of different collectible items and yes, there is an interesting selection of marijuana stuff on sale. This market stretches along the canal where you will find more stalls and one of the local food chains Bagel and Beans. They have gluten free bagels (and they ask to see if you are celiac so they can prepare it in a different environment). The quality of the food was excellent, the staff are super super friendly and the place gets really busy. The ambience is great and I found it nice and relaxing for a quick bite to eat whilst sitting there watching the world go by.
TULIP FLOWER MARKET
There's a variety of flowers on offer here including some fruit and herbs. There are many different stalls to choose from, so walk up and down and take a look before you make your purchase.
Has a variety of different pieces on display, there are chairs from Eames through to a Cezanne painting, and other pieces which are interesting.
There are lots of historic pieces from famous artists on display here like Van Gogh, Rembrandt, etc etc and I would advise getting there early otherwise you will be lining up.
I skipped seeing this one because I didn't want to wait in the line that long (note this was around lunch time so I would advise getting in early).
FOOD AND KOMBUCHA
The Organic Store Delicious Food
Here you will find super friendly and helpful staff with a wide range of organic options. They have a selection of kombucha on offer here which is great for us kombucha lovers!
We ate there twice because the food was good however what I ordered didn’t always come out, the chef decided to swap my ingredients in my salad (annoying because I can’t eat corn which was mashed through my avocado!). Both times our starters were great, twice my main was a huge letdown but my cheesecake was out of this world awesome! (yes I am GF however I didn’t eat the base and decided to deal with the small amount of flour in the cake, it was my 37th birthday and I wanted cake!). Hubby loved both mains and his dessert was 1 out of 2. The first time he ordered the chocolate cake it was stone cold, the second time round it was warmer (could have been a little warmer) but he said it tasted great. The staff are super friendly, drinks are great and the place gets packed! Would we go back again? The answer is yes - third time’s a charm right?
This place is a great steak house with great steak (I didn’t eat meat, but all the guys did) so I have it on their authority! The owners, who are super friendly, own both the steak house and pizza place (they are next to each other). The owner did say she had the best steak house in the area, and according to the locals they agree. Normally the local guys we were with wouldn’t eat at any steak house in that area, so they were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the steak. One of the waiters speaks 9 different languages so chances are if English isn’t your first language, he will be able to help you out!
MY OVERVIEW OF AMSTERDAM
People here seem pretty relaxed in general (I wonder if that's marijuana related?). You are not meant to smoke marijuana in the streets however it seems like that rule is basically ignored. The little alley ways I walked through were reeking of marijuana so I tried to avoid them – I learned that on my first night here. So if you are like me and super sensitive to marijuana and want to avoid it then stay away from the little alleys….ha ha ha. I have to say it's funny seeing other tourists who are completely wasted walking around eating because they have the munchies and with blood shot eyes, laughing and enjoying themselves, so hey who am I to say it's wrong if you are into that sort of thing.
The locals are super super friendly and accommodating, they smile and seem genuinely nice. There's no sales pressure when you are shopping which makes for a wonderful change. No one seems to be in a rush, everyone takes their time and just goes with the flow. It's just a relaxed kind of place. There are more bikes than cars in the city so make sure you don’t get in their way.
This city is so beautiful it's truly spectacular! There are canals running everywhere through the city, all of which makes it look like a picture perfect city which reminds me of Stockholm in a way. I am glad I have experienced this city and gotten to see it in real life.
We also did a day trip to Utrecht which is 30 minutes on the train from Amsterdam blog below.
Until next time I travel, I see, I share... This is Character 32 doing her best to help you!