After months of waiting for my first adventure abroad this year, I had a crazy dash after work to drive home. I packed everything I needed for a weekend in Amsterdam, and headed up to Manchester to meet my friends Alice and Sarah. We stayed up far too long gossiping and catching up on the months since we last saw each other. It’s hard when you don’t see each other often and are excited about a trip to the Netherlands. This was all before a wake up call that was far too early in the morning for our flight out to Amsterdam. Introducing our first day in Amsterdam.
Arriving in Amsterdam
Despite our early start, it was good to land in a city none of us had yet explored. Getting from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to the city centre couldn’t be easier There’s a train that you can hop on which takes around thirty minutes to the reach central Amsterdam.
We wheeled our suitcases across the cobbles to find our AirBnB. Located on the top two floors of a canal house, it was a beautiful place to stay. The apartment had some incredibly steep stairs up to the apartment. Think of it somewhere between climbing a ladder and the steepest stairs you’ve ever seen. We knew it wouldn’t be too much fun when we arrived back drunk!
It was lovely, clean, and modern within an iconic historical building. The perfect resting spot for three girls over the next few days in Amsterdam.
My favourite room was the bedroom, with its large windows out onto the neighbouring terracotta ceilings and chimneys. I’d love to be in bed watching the rain pour outside. What a view to wake up to!
Lunch in Amsterdam
Having settled into our lovely new canal house apartment, we ditched our suitcases and went for a wander. As our first day in Amsterdam, we wanted to get our bearings and see the best that the city has to offer.
The buildings in the city are so iconic – you can really see why New York was nearly called New Amsterdam. Amsterdam itself feels fairly compact and contained which is nice. The Netherlands‘ capital doesn’t really feel like a city as such – it’s more an inviting and familiar town.
We wandered along Amsterdam’s iconic canals, taking in the postcard worthy shots along the way. A wonderful welcome to the city.
We stumbled across the most adorable building in Amsterdam. Called Sluyswacht, it’s an iconic free-standing house that’s extremely crooked. Built back in 1695 to serve as a lockkeeper’s house, today it stands opposite the Rembrandt House museum. For the last 20 years, it has operated as a cafe and pub.
Feeling pretty hungry, we went inside Sluyswacht to stop for a drink and some food. After chatting to the guys behind the bar, we picked some tasty Dutch beers and chose most of the food menu. We went outside to grab a table and enjoy our initial views of Sluyswacht’s crooked building and of the Amsterdam canals.
Our food arrived, and we nibbled on local cheese, and a sort of raw sausage with pickles. The first bit of cheese of much more on our Dutch trip!
This was before an assortment of fried goodies arrived. We nibbled on spring rolls and arancini with our beers and chatted away.
A lovely little pickmeup at Sluyswacht before the rest of our day in Amsterdam exploring.
Sightseeing in Amsterdam
What would a trip to Amsterdam be without a little cafe culture? Amsterdam offers some of the best cafe culture in the world, and the term ‘coffee shop’ in the city is taking on a new meaning. This happens as serious bean roasters and specialty coffee shops take precedence.
We enjoyed some lovely lattes, before taking a wander outside. We came across Waterlooplein Market. It’s a large outdoor bazaar and famous Jewish flea market, famed for its second hand, vintage goods.
Here, you can pick up goods like clothing, political posters, spray paints, and vintage cameras. You can find anything from unknown Rembrantdts to old guitars owned by John Lennon. You can even get a tattoo if you fancy! It’s the oldest flea market in the Netherlands, established over a hundred years ago. If you’re hungry, you can pick up tasty Greek or Lebanese foods from the food trucks nearby.
We continued on past Waterlooplein Market, admiring Amsterdam in the April sunshine. The perfect day for a long walk.
Walking Amsterdam’s Canals
Amsterdam has an impressive network of canals that stretches over 100km in length – that’s over 60 miles! Each of the 165 canals splits the city up into a number of small islands. These in turn are connected by over a thousand bridges, the oldest of which dates back to 1648.
We wandered around just a small portion of the network, stopping to see some interesting sights of Amsterdam along the way.
Feeling a little giddy, we found ourselves near Rembrandt Square and stopped off for a bite to eat. There are plenty of cafes with al fresco seating, so we grabbed a seat outside and people watched.
Afterwards, we came across the iconic rainbow ‘I Amsterdam’ sign in Museumplein. They’re an important symbol of the city. The letters from this square have since been removed due to crowding, but you can find them still at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.
Moving on, we saw some beautifully picturesque scenes of Amsterdam. Just look at this perfect image of the canal with the symbolic bicycles in tow.
We stopped off for some classic waffles, drizzled with Nutella and topped with strawberries. The perfect Dutch treat.
Next up, we went to a rather liberal museum in line with the values of Amsterdam – the Sex Museum. In the heart of Amsterdam, Venustempel is the world’s oldest sex museum. It explores sex through the ages, through various paraphernalia. Inside, it was rather bizarre!
Teamed with a visit to a sex show, we ticked off a lot of bucket list items during one day in Amsterdam. There was, however, one more area we needed to see.
Drinks in the Red Light District
Everyone knows Amsterdam’s notorious Red Light District. It features brothels, sex shops, and museums. It prides itself on its liberal and tolerant attitude, with prostitution, porn, and soft drugs in abundance. Located in the city centre, you’ll see prostitutes in the Red Light District standing behind windows, framed by red neon lights. We went to go and see this famous area with our own eyes.
It was pretty bizarre, and fascinating in a way. The glare of the red neon lights is almost a little intimidating. You can also see the prostitutes become skinner and more attractive the further along the district you walk. It’s certainly something I’ve never seen before.
We ended up getting a table at a bar nearby the Red Light District and drank cocktails into the night. It was great fun and we met some interesting people while we were there. We eventually went to go and grab some late night food, and stumbled across the following.
Looks like Amsterdam saw us coming. Interestingly, the Hangover Information Centre is dedicated to preventing hangovers. Open until the early hours at the weekend, the centre offers a vitamin supplement called Reset, that apparently neutralises hangovers. One to try, for sure.
We crossed another very Dutch shop – The Condomerie. Famous as the world’s first condom speciality shop, it stocks a wide display of condoms.
We left the city centre in all its glory before climbing somehow unscathed up the stairs to our apartment. What a day in Amsterdam! I will share more with you on the rest of our trip.
How would you spend a day in Amsterdam? Let me know your ideas for the city in the comments below.