Amsterdam: Top 10 highlights

Cobbled streets, narrow canals and an abundance of pancakes. We spent 4 days in Amsterdam and explored the entirety of the city by day and night. Here are my top ten highlights.

10. Van Gogh Museum. The dutch painter has his artwork displayed across the globe but in Amsterdam you can experience all the different versions of the ‘Sunflowers’, the works of Van Gogh’s friends and a deeper understanding of his life. Tickets are absolutely free for under 18s and €19 for adults, but make sure to reserve your places online beforehand as the museum is extremely popular.

9. Albert Cuyp Market. The largest market in Amsterdam that stretches across an entire alleyway. Just a 10 minute walk from the museum quarters, Albert Cuyp consists of hundreds of market stalls selling everything from electronics and jewellery to fresh fish and traditional dutch desserts. We tried everything from raw herring with pickles and onions to freshly made stroopwaffles run by a father and son. The market sells everything you could imagine from as little as 50 cents.

8. Bike rentals. The most obvious thing to in Amsterdam is rent a bicycle and join the locals on the roads, but we were torn between which rental company to use and whether to hire a tandem or not. As we were walking through a market, we saw a sign for bike rentals and discovered that the shop had an option for a four person bicycle. The bike consisted of 4 sets of pedals and one steering wheel. At just a cost of €20 for the hour (€5 per person), we rented it out and rode around the famous Vondelpark. It was the most spontaneous thing we did on the trip and by far the most fun we had. Just a word of warning though; don’t take a sizeable four person bicycle down the middle of a busy market on a Saturday afternoon. We did not please anyone..

7. Anne Frank house. This is a must-do when visiting Amsterdam. Anne Frank house remains as one of the most important buildings in the city, containing a mixture of historical and cultural values. The museum is €10 for adults but hurry, its incredibly popular with tourists so tickets must be bought at least 2 months in advance.

6. Electric ladyland Located just a 10 minute walk from the Anne Frank House, Electric ladyland is essentially a fluroescent museum in the basement of rock collectors. At €5 per person, you can spend an hour in a magnificent display of fluorescent lights as well as a tour of the couples jaw dropping collection of paintings including works from Leon Hendrix.

5. The pancake bakery. It may look small on the outside but the pancake bakery stretches far back into the shop, but not once failing to keep the smell of freshly cooked pancakes out of reach. The menu consists of everything from American pancakes to sweet and savoury Dutch crepes. It’s a little pricey but one of the best ways to discover the Dutch culture.

4. Hortus Botanicus. Spend a nice afternoon away from the busy tourist hot spots and visit the botanical gardens of Amsterdam. Tickets cost just under €10 and with that you can explore 3 different greenhouses, home to 1000s of species of tropical and temperate plants. You can also enjoy the butterfly garden as well as the pond which hosts giant water lilies. We also spent a significant amount of time in the gift shop, admiring the intricate hand crafted wooden sculptures.

3. Boat Tours. Make the most of the open canals with a boat tour around the city. Don’t be fooled to take a cramped, commercial boat tour where you essentially have no space to breathe. We were recommended the friendship boat tour which was about €16 for just over an hour. We were given blankets and there was even a bar, but most importantly it was an open roof.

2. NDSM. Just a 15 minute free ferry ride away from Amsterdam Centraal Station lies an undiscovered hipster territory. We spent an evening exploring the small town and its astonishing graffiti. There was also a large vintage market and a beach but we walked about 10 minutes further from the busy areas into the realms of container homes, where we enjoyed pizzas at a local cafe.

1.The windmills. Take a day trip outside of Amsterdam and visit the countries iconic windmills at Zaanse Schans. The train ticket cost just €7 and we spent an entire morning walking around a picturesque cocoa scented town. The town is home to more than 600 windmills and there are options to tour most of them. There are also many cafes which pride in making the best hot chocolates in the Netherlands.

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Rush Hour Crush

I got caught in the midst of rush hour on Thursday. The worst time of the day when you’re in London; crowded trains filled with business people or tourists. Everyone receives a fair amount of pushes, shoves and the occasional elbow to the rib. All in all, we just want to get home.

Somehow I got onto the tube in one piece. Holding a large shopping bag, wearing my backpack over my thick winter jacket and headphones in, a must, whilst listening to heavy metal to drown out the noises of crying babies and enthusiastic tourists. There I was, looking like a right sort. I was tapping my fingers on the pole to the beat of the music when I saw him. I must have been loud because he saw me tapping and smiled. He was standing about an arm’s length in front. But of course, having been rush hour meant that there were at least 3 people inbetween us – like the wall of Verona separating Romeo and Juliet.

He wore a charcoal grey suit jacket and an unbuttoned baby pink shirt. No tie – which I don’t blame because of the humidity. I couldn’t see his shoes but I presumed they were somewhat smart. He had an olive skin tone but it was his hair that had struck me the most. Locks of brown glossy hair, curly and remained at the scalp yet dead straight on the edges.

He got a seat after a herd of people got off at the train at Turnpike Lane, leaving me still standing. I thought it’d be a good idea to bluetooth him a picture of what I was listening to since he had cared enough to smile. He didn’t appear on the Airdrop list. To my unfortune, nothing came up with his image and instead I accidently sent the image to ‘Danielle’s iphone’ – boy I bet she was confused. A few stops went by and the seat next to him became available. A message from the heavens. This was my chance. I sat beside him and took off my headphones and adjusted my hair using the help of my reflection in the window opposite. He smelled strongly of a freshly applied JPG – a smell which was fairly familiar to me.

The remainder of the journey was a quiet one. We both left the train at the same stop via a different set of double doors. He smiled again when I turned to look around for him. Is he just polite or playing with my feelings?

The train jolted to a stop. I ran out through the doors and up the escalators to catch my next bus in time. This was it. Time for the love of my life to run up behind me and ask for my number so we could stay up all night and talk on the phone. Tonight was the premiered night of many that we’d spend together and live to have a life of four children and live in a country home and own the biggest farm. Tonight –

“Excuse me?”

I stop. Eyes wide open in shock. Heart pounding against my chest. Legs turn to jelly. My prayers just keep on getting answered today. The angels are by my side.

That’s when my farce o’clock struck. I turned around to find it wasn’t him. It wasn’t him at all. I knew who this person was though. He sat diagonal to me on the train I had just been on. Gym bag, jogging bottoms, baggy t-shirt, expensive trainers and wearing AirPods. He was probably one of those exercise people – oh no – a personal trainer. He’s not going to ask if I needed any help did he?

“Yes?”

“Would you mind if I had your phone number?”

I politely declined and walked away, still searching for my twilight tube man. He was gone and so was my bus ride home.