Amsterdam

If you haven’t already been to Amsterdam then I’m not quite sure what’s stopping you. For a low-cost flight that lasts no longer than an hour, you’ll be there to sample the famous dutch pancakes in time for breakfast! Bargain flights, art galleries galore and hipster neighbourhoods have given Amsterdam the green light for weekend jet setters. A city full of charm, coffee shops and cool hang-outs built upon a crisscross of canals, regularly a buzz with tourists being ferried back and forth. Evenings in Amsterdam can be spent either getting romantically lost under the street lamps as you wander bridge after bridge or partying the night away in one of many hidden gems that go on into the early hours. I mean, seriously, what is stopping you. Have I not sold it you already.

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For our trip we enjoyed a 3 night stay at the Tire Station Hotel, located south-west of the centre and just  a 10 minute walk/cycle ride via the beautiful Vondelpark. After checking in early we had the day to go off and explore. The hotel itself is a Conscious hotel. A green, sustainable and eco-friendly hotel built on the foundations of recycle, reuse, reduce. Literally don’t be surprised if your desk is made out of recycled yoghurt pots and the roof a hive for bee’s. It’s just all in a days work for Conscious Hotels. Our room was simple yet stylish, the location was ideal and the staff obviously love the hotel and what it stands for which is a credit to the establishment.

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Hungry from an early flight we headed into the centre for lunch. Having both been to Amsterdam before, I was much younger visiting family who lived here and River having visited for a ‘boys break’ we had a sense of our surroundings and the familiarity of the city came flooding back to us as we walked closer in. It’s hard to not be distracted by the pure beauty of the city, the endless bridges and dainty cobbled streets that are tucked round each corner, we did finally stumble across Zeppos for a bite to eat. An enchanting restaurant covered in flowers and over-grown ivy, a wonderland that served traditional dutch dishes mixed with more european favourites. As I mentioned, the Netherlands are famed for their pancake houses, and opposite Zeppos is Upstairs Pannenkoeken. This 16th Century house is home to Europe’s smallest restaurant with only 4 tables. Once up the extremely steep staircase to the second floor there you will find arguably the best pancakes in Amsterdam – be sure to book though as you can imagine with only 4 tables it is always pretty chokka.

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We are fortunate to have friends dotted across the globe and a good friend of ours moved to Amsterdam last year. The joy of travelling is being able to tie in seeing friends with our trips. We met up after dinner to spend the evening together. Somethings never change no matter where you are, a boxing fight was on that evening and our friends had found a bar to watch it. The atmosphere was great and the drinks were flowing, it was a great start to the night. Later we headed to Maxim piano bar which I highly recommend. Give your coat to the door man and slip through the velvet curtains to what feels like a different era. If you’re after an opulent night of cocktails and class then definitely head here. As the night went on we fancied a dance so ventured over to the Jazz Club on Bourbon Street, it’s open until 4am on weekends and with live bands, dancing a must and a fun loving crowd you’re guaranteed a good night! 3am and exhausted we hung up our dancing shoes and headed for bed. TAXI !

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After a relatively lazy morning, it was Sunday after all, we were en route to the beautiful Pillows Anna Van Den Vondel Hotel. A stunning 19th century Amsterdam town house turned luxury boutique hotel. We were invited for breakfast and what a delight that was. Situated at the back the townhouse over looking a courtyard belonging to the hotel and gardens all meticulously groomed and presented. The sun was shining through the trees and all I could smell was coffee …heaven. The breakfast menu offers a choice of a la carte options or a complete breakfast served afternoon tea style with a selection of pastries, breads and cheeses, fruit and yoghurt and eggs served hot or cold. I opted for my fail safe – smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Much to my delight the breakfast is cooked by your server turned chef in the living space where you are seated. If you wish to have extra continental accompaniments, you can head up to the breakfast bar where you can watch your eggs being cooked whilst choosing which salami to sample. I could have sat there all day, drank coff…cocktails and read a book but the weather was so lovely we just had to go out and explore.

From Central Station you can catch a free ferry over to the north (Noord) of Amsterdam, it commutes back and too every few minutes and takes bikes, motorbikes and passengers by foot. The ferry ride takes no longer than a minute itself and leads you to a very different part of Amsterdam entirely. Here you will find a direct contrast to central Amsterdam. Vast green spaces dotted with charming little villages and the most striking architecture. The Eye film museum and the A’DAM tower are two magnificent buildings set right on the waterfront. Here also boasts the quirky, bohemian hangout; Cafe de Ceuvel, a great place to grab a beer in the sun looking out over the water and central Amsterdam. We were enticed over here not only by all of the above but for a swing. Yes. ‘Over the Edge’ is Europe’s highest swing found on the sky deck of the A’DAM tower. Tickets are extra for the swing and queues unsurprisingly can be long, however the view from the roof alone are superb it is worth the light show in the lift up there to experience the city from a birds eye view.

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Heading back over the water we walked for hours, one luxury of being away is the irrelevance time plays in your day. We had drinks early and lunch late, meandering through, round and across  the city. Bridge after bridge, taking in the famous red light district, central shopping streets and discovering tucked away cafes and bars. A day very well spent. As we headed back through Vondelpark to our hotel we stopped at the very popular Groot Melkhuis. A chalet style cafe serving lunch, drinks and ice-cream, with decking out over the water it is the perfect place to sit and unwind.

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For dinner we decided to try a different part of town. We stayed west of the centre and headed for the well known Foodhallen. Our friends had recommended going, the variety and atmosphere is the key here, you’re guaranteed a good night. Just next door is Filmhallen – no prizes for guessing the dutch word for cinema, but you truly can make a whole night here. Only open since late 2014 its aim to be one of the famous indoor food markets similar to Borough market in London and Torvehallerne in Copenhagen. Housing over 20 different stalls ranging from Michelin star to street food, I challenge you not to find something you enjoy here. In-fact choosing just one is the challenge, we had starters, mains and deserts from multiple different stalls just to sample as many of the cuisines on offer as we could. A definite must – joined by the addition of live music every Friday and Saturday, it’s a great night to be had.

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The following morning was our last day in Amsterdam, a late check out meant we enjoyed a lie in before embarking on The Breakfast Club Amsterdam. Familiar with the Breakfast Club’s across London we knew we were in for a treat. I opted for pancakes.. when in Amsterdam an’all, and River the typical all in big breakfast to set us up for our last day. The decor is contemporary yet cosy and made roaming across Amsterdam for breakfast worth it. Bare with the service here as the food is yummy once you receive it. May have just been a busy morning when we were there so as long as you have a good hour or so to just relax and enjoy breakfast then definitely hit this one up.

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One final stroll into the centre and we headed to Anne Franks House. Once a scene of terrifying and extraordinary bravery now a house visited by thousands each year to pay respects and learn how one girls diary transformed her pain into a memoir that has gripped millions. If you hope to see inside and be part of the tour then booking tickets online is a must, otherwise you can get there early and queue but be warned you can’t purchase tickets on the day until after 3.30pm. Buy online the day before and head straight in, a must whilst in Amsterdam.

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Picking up our bags from the hotel concierge we hopped on a short tram ride then the direct train from central station to the airport, all in all taking no longer than an hour. What a wonderful weekend, only a short flight away but a city that is worlds away from anywhere else. The vibe, the beauty and the diversity makes this city one that will constantly draw us back.

Amsterdam, you’ll be seeing us.

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