I am pretty sure you can all guess where I have just been. There is only one place that is so famous for red lights and canals and I recently found myself enjoying the city for a few hours. Ok ok so I purposely planned to layover in Amsterdam as opposed to Doha, simply because my wonderful British passport (Thank you Queenie) allows me to come and go out of European cities as though I own them. I’m pretty sure my layover won’t go down in the history books for being the most epic layover ever but I definitely enjoyed my 12 hours that I had. It’s not the hardest city to navigate and with so much to do you are spoilt for choice. Sadly my student lifestyle means that these days my budget is getting even tighter so I limited myself to a grand total of €12 but I still managed to have an absolute blast. I am starting to think I am getting quite good at this travel malarkey, I even found myself guiding some fellow British travellers down the side streets and showing them the sights that this lively city has to offer. They thought I did this for a living… Of course I passed on my blog details so I hope you are reading ☺
Anyway thanks to so many suggestions from my friends I had a sort of rough idea of what I wanted to see before I arrived. I am not going to lie, in my sleepless state as I left the airplane all I wanted to do was find a bed and snooze until my next flight, to make matters worse it suddenly dawned on me that I don’t speak Dutch (lack of sleep obviously playing tricks with my mind… Dutch people do speak English too. Duh!!) Anyway after a small and really silly panic I braved the outdoors and jumped on the train in to Amsterdam Central. And how easy it was! I went to the information office, picked up a very good and easy to follow map for €2.50 (totally worth it) then went to the machine, bought a ticket and also managed to find the right platform all without speaking a word of Dutch. Some very friendly people then announced to me when I should disembark and that’s where the fun really started.
Initially I got a bit lost; I am not going to lie. For some reason I didn’t really follow the map or my sense of direction and decided that it was all about the adventure and it didn’t matter if I got a little lost, I had a 12 whole hours to spare before my departing flight! Amsterdam is laid out quite nicely, good job people who designed the concept. If you have a little common sense as well as a sense of direction there is no way you can get lost in the jungle of canals. I only used the map as it told me what the buildings were, and where the museums were. It also proved helpful in finding some hidden treasures too.
I had earmarked the most important things I wanted to do: Red light district because it’s the done thing, the DAM square, again it’s the done thing and I simply needed to have my photo taken with the large letters that everyone is so familiar with. Anything on top of that was such a bonus.
I pretty much covered the whole of the town minus going in to a few museums, largely due to the lack of funds. I spent a grand total of €12 – €2.50 on a map, €9 return train ticket and the rest on lunch. Not bad considering how much I saw really. If I had had the time I would have paid to go and see the Anne Frank house as well as the Rijksmuseum but I wasn’t sure how well I would see them if I rushed through. In all honesty unless you are in to that I don’t think you need to pay to go in. There is no point spending the few Euros when you aren’t going to enjoy the viewing. Amsterdam has enough on offer to tickle anyone’s taste buds I really do believe it is a city that can be visited on budget and in a few hours. From walking around alone, you soak up so much Dutch culture it’s almost an overload. From the ladies in the windows to the hilarious novelty souvenirs in the gift shops there is something to look at and laugh at until your belly aches.
As you all know I am a sucker for awesome architecture (told you I had to find something new to talk about) and Amsterdam definitely excels in this department. The amount of houses and buildings that held so much character was astounding. Everywhere you looked even down the little alleyways your eyes were always busy. I always tell my readers to look up when walking around, if you don’t look up when walking around Amsterdam you miss out on so much. Peer round every corner and look through every open doorway, there is so much going on you will get dizzy with excitement.
If your feet can no longer carry you around then stop in at one of the local cafes. You can smell the ones that bake the naughty brownies so if you feel like a little more excitement then pop in to one of those otherwise you will find there is food just about every other step of the way.
One of the suggestions given to me was to sit and eat waffles and watch the world go by and what the perfect suggestion it was. People watching is another big love of mine and Amsterdam is great for that too. If you find somewhere near the Red Light District all the better. I’m not saying that gawking at semi naked ladies in the window is the most PC thing to do and I am actually not sure how I feel about seeing nipples over lunch but it is a part of Amsterdam and actually quite a shocking thing to see that you can’t help but try to understand it. Anyone who has been to Amsterdam will know that there are always 2 questions people ask you when you have left: 1. Did you go to the red light district and 2. How are the hash brownies? If you don’t indulge in this naughtiness even a little, you are definitely visiting the city all-wrong.
As mentioned before there are heaps of museums to go to, and all seem pretty fair prices. It’s not far to walk between them so no need to worry about transport. There are plenty of other things to do other than walking so for those of you feeling a little less energetic have a look for the canal boat cruises that go on. For those who want to go around a little faster than walking and don’t mind some casual exercise, Amsterdam is the city of bikes so hire one out and get pedalling! Mind out for the traffic and the trams though, even as a pedestrian I came close to getting run over more than once.
I am also only going to suggest doing Amsterdam if you have over 4 hours, possibly even 5 to spare. Getting around and seeing enough things as well as getting back through the airport is risky to do it in any less amount of time. Even if you did make it I am not sure if it would be worth it. If staying in the airport bores you to tears don’t worry, Schiphol airport is actually one of the best. Loaded with shops, bars and even a museum you can’t get bored in 4 hours! I actually spent a great deal of time in the airport myself because I had heard it was one of the best.
It was an exhausting few hours to say the least and I really could have used some sleep (I had been up for nearly 24 hours) but it was so worth it. I know I say this about every place but I definitely will go back to Amsterdam and explore a little more. I still have the museums to go to and of course those brownies to eat. I haven’t seen or done it all yet… I know there is a lot more naughtiness to experience and I can’t wait for the next instalment of cheeky adventures. Plus I just so happen to know a lot of Dutch people too so next time it doesn’t necessarily have to be just Amsterdam. I for one can’t wait, have you not seen those tulip fields and the cheese market?! Told you it was awesome. ☺