The city of cyclists, the land of tulips & home to the most relaxed Europeans out there. . .
a m s t e r d a m.
When? 4th - 6th November 2021.
With? Jack! Stayed at? Hotel Arena.
Highlight? The food, the buildings & most unexpectedly. . . the Heineken Experience!
Improvement? To add an extra couple of days.
After keeping it a secret for a little over a year due to global restrictions, seeing Jack's face at Heathrow Airport, sleepy eyed at 6am, it was worth every moment of keeping my chatty mouth shut just for that little moment of him guessing into oblivion at the departure board for where it was we were heading for his 23rd birthday. . .
But Amsterdam it was & Amsterdam is where we went! So with an extra hop, skip & a jump from the departure board through Gordon's Plane Food, a tingle of the Champagne bar & unexpectedly spacious 50 minute flight on an A390 airbus, we arrived in one of the liveliest airports around. (Note: Lots of flights at the moment are being cancelled & adjusted to fit fluctuating capacities so take this into account if you are planning on jetting off anytime soon.)
Now, first things first if you have never been to Amsterdam is nothing is too far away! It was only a 20 minute cab ride to where we were staying at the historical, sustainable & beautiful Hotel Arena, Oosterpark, Amsterdam - where we got to leave our luggage securely whilst we explored the city before check-in.
Where to Stay
Hotel Arena is truly one of a kind, located on the edge of the Old Town & built in 1886, from the staff's wonderful welcome & arrangement of balloons, fizz & a bar on Tony's Chocolonely when we popped out on Jack's birthday (if you have not already tried Tony's Chocolonely - it is a Dutch must & the advent calendar this year is fab!); to the fresh mint water at Reception, the intricate staircase, walk through shower & sky high ceilings in the bedroom - they even plant a tree if you skip fresh towels one day! So where to stay is this incredibly unique place & with our list of things to go back to Amsterdam for - it includes going back here.
To book: Hotel Arena | Historical hotel in a green environment (It is a little pricey but in Amsterdam it is the price you are likely to pay for any kind of hotel so you may as well make it a special one, hey!)
What To Do
In a 'brief' overview of places we visited - the Sex Museum honestly was not all that it cracked up to be - it was still fun with a cheeky machine stripper upon entrance it was good but I probably would not recommend for you to rush there. However, the Red Light District on the other hand is of course the most iconic district of Amsterdam so is therefore a must see, right! The difference between day & night is significant though so visit on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night to see it truly buzzing, but if you are with your family then during the day is probably the better option. . !
Getting on the trams & metro is the best way to get around, super easy, smooth & efficient & at only €8 per day for unlimited rides (priced in November 2021) it works out well. This is how to get down to the Johan Cruyff Arena - the Ajax Stadium - which is a little bit further out from the centre but is worth the visit & I am not a football fan but this is a great stadium. It is so clean as if is literally freshly painted every day & knowing that the Ajax bench has heated seats whilst their opponents is cold was quite fun to try out.
Other things to do include the Heineken Experience (honestly 11/10 for a true experience - they make you feel like a physical bottle of Heineken!), wondering the shops & going along the canal (go on the smallest/most private tour that is in your budget - there are a lot of commercialised 'canal trip' companies & they are exactly that, commercialised), they are all great things to do in the city.
Where To Eat
Wow, wow, wow. The food here is something I was truly amazed to find - how fresh, tasteful & good it all was. From the juiciest olives & meatiest mushrooms I have ever tried at The Lobby (Hotel V | The Lobby Amsterdam | Restaurants & Bars in Amsterdam) with the widest range of fancy 'carrot' & richest chocolate tarte at The Moon (Restaurant Moon - Revolving Restaurant in de A'DAM Toren) - the evening meals in themselves blew me out of the park but then we got on to the best meal of the day & it became the 'Poffertjes' on top! Traditional Dutch pancakes for breakfast with buckets of icing sugar & chocolate & quite simply the lightest, fluffiest, airiest pancakes that have ever tickled my taste buds both from the brilliantly fun De Carrousel Pannenkoeken (De Carrousel – Pannenkoeken (decarrouselpannenkoeken.nl) & from Hotel Arena themselves.
So all in all, Amsterdam awaits you just 50 minutes from London (with similar prices once you are there!) & with an air of fun, freedom & Dutch feel good fantasy, it is a great city all year round. A 365 day kind of city.