canal, boats, buildings

How to spend a city break in Amsterdam

Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, a beautiful city famous for its canals, art, museums, coffee shops, red-light district, and Anne Frank’s huis, and of course, bikes. It’s also one of Europe’s safest cities to visit. In fact, an article I read on the independent, Had Amsterdam as Europe’s safest.  

21 UK airports fly to Amsterdam in under 1 hour, and many budget airlines offer flights from just £20 pp. Eurostar is also running direct trains from London to Amsterdam, in under 4 hours.  

I booked a city break to Amsterdam as a surprise for my partner’s birthday. We had talked about going to Amsterdam for a while so I thought it would make a nice birthday surprise. 

Short break in Amsterdam

We were looking to book a hotel with a good location and close to both the city centre and the main train station, but also not breaking the bank in terms of cost. 

After a fair bit of research I booked a hotel called the Hotel Library. I had read both good and not so good reviews of this hotel but the location and price suited us. The price was  £80 per room for 2 nights on a Friday and Saturday in January which I thought was very reasonable. The location was brilliant, a short walk from the city’s main train station and 10 minute walk from the red light district. 

The room’s we had were not very big but they were very clean and they served our purpose. The staff at the front desk were very helpful and the reception area is open 24 hours. There is breakfast available at extra cost.  Overall we were all very happy with the choice of hotel.

As with most european cities, Amsterdam can be expensive, but there are ways to keep the cost down, and finding the right hotel for the right price is a good way to start.

We knew we had 2 nights/3 days in Amsterdam and planned to make the most of our stay. With so much to see and do here, we knew there just wouldn’t be enough time to see it all, so having an intnery, saves so much time and wondering what to do next.

I have put together a list of some of the best things to do while on a Mini Break to Amsterdam.

Canal boat tour.

Our weekend here was a bone-chilling -2 so we did debate going on a boat tour but fortunately, we were told the boats had heating, giving us a much-needed break from the cold. 

There are dozens of canal tour companies offering trips For around €16/£14 per person. The tours usually start from Stationplein or Prins Hendrikkade Street and start at 9 am and finish at 10 pm. Tour times will vary in season. There are a few different types of tours available including candlelight cruise, pizza cruise, burger cruise and many more.

The tour is a great way to see the city from its famous canals.Sit back and relax as you embark on a tour around this great city, viewing some fabulous Dutch houseboats, Anne Frank’s house, The Amstel River. Most tours offer a hop on hop off service, so if there is a particular site you want to see, this is a great way to do that. Upon boarding the boat you are given a set of headphones, this is so you can plug into the audio and learn about the famous landmarks you will see on your journey. Each is offered in your required language. 

The canal tour is a great introduction to the city. 

The museums.

Amsterdam is famous for its museums, and it’s museum district, there are around 75 here. As well as the art museums there are other interesting experiences, like the cannabis museum, the Heineken factory, the torture museum, film and photography museums. There is something here for all interests, even if you are not a fan of a museum. Even if you just come to the area to check out the magnificent architecture here. 

the mini break
The eye film museum

I would advise buying museum tickets online to save queuing time, as they can get very busy, especially in the summer months. 

A walk to the museum district (museum quarter) is approximately 30/40 minutes from the central train station, or if you would prefer to get a tram use line 12 to Rijksmuseum stop. To use the metro, use line 52 to Vijzelgracht. This will cost you between £1-£2/.

The nightlife.

There is no better way to end your day in Amsterdam than to sample the city’s famous nightlife. Weather your into pubs, clubs, coffee shops or eating out, there is something here for you. This city has so much more than your standard pub crawl.

Amsterdam is famous for its dance music scene, the club scene here is one of the biggest in Europe. 

Sample some of the city’s bars, chill out and have a few drinks. The bars here have a friendly and relaxed atmosphere and some will have live bands playing.  Some bars here allow cannabis smoking, although no tobacco smoking is allowed. So avoid these if this is not your thing, although it’s great to sample the atmosphere.

the mini break

The grasshopper Amsterdam

Take a walk around the red light district and see it for yourself. While there is so much more to amsterdam than the red light district, if it’s your first time here then you probably want to have a look here for yourself, especially at night with all the lights. Having had its fair share of bad press, the atmosphere around the red light district is actually pretty chilled. 

It does get extremely busy with tourists especially in the summer. With it being so busy it’s ideal for thieves and pickpockets so just beware and keep your bags closed and belongings safe. 

If you don’t want to walk round here alone, you can pay for a tour guide. This will cost approximately £17 for a 2 hour tour. 

A visit to Anne Frank’s House.

You probably know the story of Anne Frank. A young jewish girl born in germany but lived in the netherlands during the holocaust. She lived in Amsterdam with her family until they were forced to go into hiding from the Nazis in 1942 because they wanted to get rid of the jewish population in Europe. During this time in hiding she kept a diary, which went on to become one of the best selling books in the world. (Some of the original diary can be viewed inside the museum). Sadly though, Anne Frank tragically lost her life during the hoolocaust. 

The house she lived in is now a museum where you can see photos, historical documents, and original objects belonging to those during the time spent in hiding. The atmosphere in the museum is authentic and subdued.

The museum is open from 9am -22.00 from 1st april until 1st november                       and from 9-am 19-00 pm 1st november until 1st april.

Admission is €10,50 / £9 adults      €5,50 / £5 for 10-17 year olds                                0-10 year olds are free as long as they are accompanied by an adult.

The house of anne frank is a 20 minute walk from the central station, or take the 13 or 17 and get off at westermarkt.

Visit one of Amsterdam’s many coffee shops.

Amsterdam is famous for its relaxed stance of cannabis smoking so if you wanted to sample some of the world famous pot then head to one of the many coffee shops. But remember, tobacco smoke is still illegal inside these places so you will either have to smoke your weed pure or with the tobacco substitute on offer. If you didn’t fancy smoking you could sample one the space cakes or hash browns. Know your tolerance levels though as these can be pretty strong. 

Even if you didn’t want to try any pot, it’s worthwhile just sampling the atmosphere of a coffee shop. 

If you wanted to avoid cannabis altogether and just fancied a cup of coffee, head to one of the many cafes in the city. Just remember, if it’s a coffee shop, then they are likely to sell cannabis, but the cafes are your places to go for a smoke free coffee.

Things to do if you have children with you.

As well as the museums and boat trips there is plenty more to do in Amsterdam with your children. 

Visit Ripleys believe it or not, a museum housing some of the most bizarre and amazing objects from all over the world. The tour here lasts about an hour so its ideal for those with children.

Admission is €19 adults and €13 for children and is open daily from 09.00am until 22.00. Ripleys is located on the main dam square.

Take a trip to the Artis Amsterdam zoo. Every child loves a zoo right! While the zoo is not the biggest, it’s still home to over 750 species of animals so you can spend a good few hours here. I would advise buying tickets online to save queuing, and you can just simply scan the barcode on your phone.

Admission prices are €23 and free for 0-2 year olds. 

The zoo is open from 09.00-18.00 from 1st march until 31st october and 09.00-1700 from 1st november until 29th february.

Eating and drinking in Amsterdam.

There is a huge choice of tasty delicacies on offer in the city, ranging from sweet treats to fast food favorites such as cheese fries in a cone. Prices for meals out vary from budget cafes and fast food outlets and vending machines to more upmarket establishments. 

Drinking is also more expensive in clubs and the bars around the tourist areas. 

Here are some foods you must try while in Amsterdam 🍴.

Stroopwafels.

My personal favorite. A stroopwafel is basically 2 wafer layers with a caramel filling. A famous dutch sweet treat that has become popular in cafes on the continent and available in some supermarkets, although these are packaged. But you can’t beat the taste of a fresh Stroopwafel from one of the street stalls around the city. If you have never tried one, you must. 

Febo vending machine. 

A very popular way in the Netherlands to serve fast food such as burgers and other high calorie foods is by a hole in the wall style vending machine. This may sound strange to tourists but it’s around here for many years. You simply walk up, choose what you want, put your coins in and open the glass slot and grab your dinner. 

Foods such as burgers, sausages and croquettes are available here, these are fairly cheap eats so handy if your on a budget (but not if your on a diet)!

Sample a Stamppot.

If you want to try some real dutch cuisine, go for a stamppot. A traditional dutch dish consisting of potatoes mashed with one or several vegetables like carrots, greens or onions. It is usually served with a sausage.  I guess it’s similar to bubble and squeak. 

This is traditionally a winter warmer in the Netherlands and is available in various places around the city, most notably, the Moeders Restaurant, known for its top notch dutch cuisine. 

Haring, or Hollandse Nieuwe.

Probably the most popular dish amongst the dutch people. They love the herring. A small oily fishy treat, so if you’re a fish lover, give this famous delicacy a try. It’s caught in the north sea between the months of may and july. 

It’s usually served with raw chopped onions or sometime in a bun. There are fishmongers around the city but if you want to try herring for the first time, head down to Stubbe’s haring, probably the most popular herring spot in the city. Its situated on the canal and about 2 minutes walk from the central station. 

Although Amsterdam is a small city, it’s difficult to sample the whole place in one trip, so have an itinerary before you go. Some careful planning can make your trip a whole lot more enjoyable. 

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