The highs and Lows of 72 hours in Amsterdam

As I write this, my skyscanner tab is open looking for flights to return. I loved Amsterdam too much. Last weekend the five of us (with a new addition, shout out to Alex) flew to Amsterdam for 72 hours. With no idea what to expect other than the luxury of free accommodation ( I am learning most of the good stuff in life is a lot of who you know, as much as I try to deny it) and knowing full well that the weekend would be spent in tears of laughter that is an absolute guarantee when I am with my four.

Instead of staying the three nights we decided to book Friday to Monday and make the most of every hour without needing to use extra holiday. Apart from the weekend blues and saying goodbye to Fliss on Sunday night, it was plenty of time for a weekend away in January.

The concept is very Kardashians but whilst we are on holiday we always do the High and Low of our trips. It has become a little tradition and one I try to name my travel posts instead of writing another travel blog that has been covered before. So these are the Highs and Lows of our 72 hours in Amsterdam.

The Lows

In the past my only lows of holidays have been around extortion (so every day in Ibiza) or something ruining my appearance. We went into Amsterdam prepared for the cold weather and with the number of layers I was wearing appearance did not matter, so it was all rather cheery. However, these are my lows. 

Flybe

Let us start with Flybe (although this has nothing to do with Amsterdam and I almost feel bad the airline threatened to taint the trip). Their ‘zero tolerance’ (although not really zero it just depended on who you were) to their hand luggage size was a travel nightmare. Many of us flying out were stung by their £50 charge at the boarding gate for our standard cabin suitcase now  2 cms too big. Their customer service was rude and incompetent. They managed to mistakenly let two of our group through with the same boarding pass twice even though one name didn’t match the passport because they were too preoccupied trying to charge every passenger. I understand they are for sale and are probably trying to make themselves look more attractive but it was honestly the worst flying experience I have had from start to finish both ways. It cost us £72 each for hand luggage which was more than I paid for my seat. I would opt for Ryanair out of the two if I had to, at least because of the media Ryanair are slightly more transparent. 

No making reservations

My one only criticism of our time in Amsterdam and I don’t think this applies to Amsterdam alone is the lack of reservations restaurants and eateries take. It was difficult to plan 72 hours of eating and drinking in places you have been told to go to when nowhere allows you to book. I know with reservations restaurants and bars run the risk of you not turning up (which I don’t agree with) but it would have been so much easier to plan our weekend if we could have put a deposit down on places. In the end, it didn’t matter our weekend was the perfect balance of ticking a few places off whilst chilling at home. We tried to make sure we had a Plan B for all the places we wanted to go in case we couldn’t get in. The places that were ‘no bookings’ were often very busy.

The hangovers

Again this is no fault of Amsterdam but the consistent Low of the holiday either came from being hungover, feeling too ill to eat from a hangover or preempting how awful a walk was going to be because of a hangover, so yeah the hangovers were pretty bad and should be approached with caution.

Time to squeeze it all in 

We booked Friday to Sunday because it was January, it was going to be cold and it would mean only taking one days holiday from work. I had visited the main museums before, and whilst I think they are good if you are staying in a hotel and need to be out we didn’t want to do them again. As we were predominately going out and drinking by Sunday night I was ready to go home and crawl my sorry state into my own bed but 72 hours go so fast. If you are going for the same amount of time I would encourage you to make a rough plan of how you are going to spend each day. We went a little off track, added a few extra naps in but having a little idea of what we all wanted to do each day meant we avoided wasted time.

The Highs (not Amsterdam style)

Location 

We were so fortunate with the location of the apartment we stayed in. The apartment was perfectly situated for nightlife, food and walking wherever we wanted to go. I am still not entirely sure the district/ neighbourhood we stayed in (ten guesses as to why I have never made it as a travel blogger) but we were situated right by 9 little streets, famous shopping district (which unfortunately we did not get around to seeing). The location allowed us to keep popping back to the apartment for pre-drinks, naps and food which saved us so much money.

The city 

I visited Amsterdam with a group of friends when I was 20 for a (male) friends 21st Birthday. As you can imagine we experienced much of the male side of Amsterdam. It was cold, seedy, and I didn’t enjoy the trip. Throughout the 8 years since the visit and the power of social media, I have seen photographs and blogs boasting how wonderful this city really is. I was excited to see a new perspective. Within the first day, I saw more of the city than I did during my previous visit. We made a conscious effort to walk as often as we could to take in a lot of the city for free. The canals and unique houses look beautiful all year round and the people in Amsterdam are the friendliest, from helpful taxi drivers to friendly cocktail waiters, partiers and strangers we made friends with. One of the friendliest places I have been since Disneyland Orlando (and I’m sure you have to be paid to be that chirpy). There were a few things we missed off such as hiring bikes and visiting galleries but hopefully if we return in the summer we can make time for these.

Drinking/nightlife 

We had a long list of cocktail bars we wanted to try, Thanks to our Amsterdam recommendation provider JON and our endless research before we went.  Sky lounge, Mr Porter in W hotel, Door 74 (you need a password to get in here, it can usually be found out online or by text), Vesper bar, the Hoxton and Suppa club were a few. The only real cocktail bar we visited was Tales and Spirits which was a short walk from the apartment. This bar was a recommendation from a very friendly taxi driver. We stayed in Tales and Spirits for hours on the saturday night. The bar staff were friendly, very knowledgable and the cocktails were delicious. We also ordered some bar food here as well which I would recommend. The best part of this bar was our cocktail which arrived in a ceramic bathtub. The cocktail is no longer on the menu because it comes with a whole song, umbrella and Barbie’s boyfriend Ken in it, so be sure to ask for it when you are in there. They will know what you mean. Again we were so fortunate with the apartment location we did a lot of pre-drinking there. The prosecco at Albert Heijn (the supermarket at the end of the road) costs just 4 Euro. We ended up consuming about 13 bottles of this instead of bar hopping. This made the evenings unintentionally cheap but also resulting in us not out trying other bars.

On the first night, we went to a club called Disco Dollys, a very cheesy brit music (we did go to the spice girls night) venue. I would recommend if you like cheesy 90s classics with a bit of 90s RnB. Also if you don’t mind small dark clubs, and being at least 15 years older than other customers. The only other club we went to was one we arrived at about 3 am. It was one of the only places allowing people in. The criteria being we were female and we were not allowed to take men in with us. It was a Dutch club playing Dutch music other than one random Abba song and the one David Guetta song we requested (don’t ask). Despite the absolutely crazy music, we managed to spend another 3 ish hours dancing in there. It was super chilled, no one cared, we were happy, it did the job and again everyone was so friendly in there.

The food

There were a number of places we wanted to try for food, however, again we found that eating and drinking in the apartment was easier. My favourite of all the places we did visit was Foodhallen. We arrived at Foodhallen early Friday evening, all hungry. Foodhallen was perfect. It is made up of a number of different food stalls, from street food to Oysters with bars and cocktails to choose from. I loved everything about Foodhallen. I would recommend squeezing it into your trip no matter what time of day you go. On Saturday morning we took a long walk over to one of the Bakers and Roasters for brunch. We chose the Centrum Bakers and Roasters which was a bit of a walk but meant we could see a lot of the city. A great idea until we arrived around midday and there was an hour and a half wait so instead we got an Uber over to De Pijp (or De Pip as I called it all weekend). De Pijp from what I could see was a rather hipster area of Amsterdam. I loved the endless choices of cool bars and eateries. This is where the other Bakers and Roasters is located, the Avocado show and the Vegan Junk food we went for. We had planned to eat at Vegan Junk food on the Sunday, but judging from how we all felt on Sunday I am so pleased it all worked out this way. Vegan junk food is a definite must even if you are not vegan. It’s different to anywhere else and the food is delicious. Yes of course as someone pointed out to me there are better places to eat in Amsterdam but with vegan food so far behind in the UK it was great to see how inventive this bar had been. After a slow wander back through the streets, via the Floating Flower Market we stopped at one of many pancake/ waffle shops for pudding.

Sunday morning after arriving home around 6 am we made the decision to stay up and beat the queues this time to Bakers and Roasters in De Pijp. A decision I was so smug about at the time when we landed the last table that morning. Had you asked me again that night when I was flying home having not slept since Friday night I am not sure I would have been as smug? Alas, the recommendations were right, Bakers and Roasters do a great brunch, their menu is extensive, it is very instagram-able and they serve alcohol if you are looking for somewhere to have a bottomless/ drinking brunch. I felt it was also very reasonably priced. It is quite English though so if you are looking to get a bit of Amsterdam culture in than I probably wouldn’t go here.

Tony’s chocolonely

A massive high of the weekend was the unexpectedness of Tony’s Chocolonely, an ethical chocolate brand currently only available in Netherlands, America and a few other places which are sadly not the UK. We were greeted at the apartment by a bar, chilled in the fridge which we devoured in a matter of minutes and subsequently then went straight out to buy more. The bars are all wrapped in bright vibrant wrappers which look like they’ve just landed from Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Instead of having squares of chocolate you get a maze of different shapes and they come in a myriad of flavours. After a lot of googling to see how I could get more delivered to the UK, I did read that the brand should be launching in the UK this year. So keep your fingers crossed.

How little I spent 

I didn’t feel we even tried to watch our spending this weekend. We ate when we were hungry and we drank, well most of the time. Yet I still only spent £170 ish for the whole weekend (not including Flybe charges) this was an average *good* day in Ibiza. I know two different holidays but I was surprised at how much we did, ate and drank without spending a small fortune.

Our other recommendations

(all more Instagram than nice gourmet food FYI)

As we were there for only 72 hours and my recommendations above are a little thin on the ground because we got so much use of the apartment (did I mention how great it was) I thought I would share with you our other recommendations we had noted down.

Culture 

Van Gogh Museum this was our rainy day option. Remember that tickets are 20 euros and you can only buy online and not on the door. Rijksmuseum Museum, Heineken Museum (good even if you don’t like beer), Sex Museum for a bit of the red light side of Amsterdam are also good if you are staying in a hotel and need to fill your day. The Anne Frank Museum, I have visited before. It is insightful and harrowing, a story that should be heard by all but do not feel guilty if you don’t want to go. Often Amsterdam is about the nightlife and rightly it doesn’t leave you feeling good.   The Red Light District, I have been twice, the second visit was just one walk thankfully. I don’t like it and don’t think it should be how you view Amsterdam. I know it is the City’s history but they have so much more to offer than men pretending women are eyeing them up behind a window.  I would say worth a look so you can see what it is about but don’t make an occasion of it. (Do go to Tales and spirit bare if you are in the area.)   The Floating flower market, we wandered through the market as it was at the bottom our road. It is beautiful, the flower arrangements are amazing and I am rather jealous of how cheap flowers are in Amsterdam. Vondelpark, we were hoping to walk through this park but we didn’t get the chance. It is definitely on our to-do list if we visit again especially in warmer weather.

Bottomless brunch

Our initial idea was to book in for bottomless brunch on Saturday, which after Friday night I am rather pleased we didn’t. Nowhere but Dubai, obviously the original place and England seem to really be behind this whole bottomless craze. Fliss pointed out that it is likely because they are the only two places that are unclassy enough to be behind this drink, drink, drink culture of drink until you can’t drink any more. We had a look and there were a few I found that either did a bottomless ish brunch or served cocktails and drinks with their brunch menu. Gs really nice place, Teds an American breakfast menu, good cocktail list. Staring at Jacob is another American brunch bar and Bakers and Roasters the place we went for brunch. It is nice, has good cocktails, but it is a very generic brunch bar you could get in any city in the world but also very nice food and good menu options. 

Rooftop bars and views 

Sky lounge, this rooftop bar was literally recommended by everyone but we completely forgot. If I am honest I think you get more from these places in the summer or in the day time when you can see the view but the weather was very grey and my outfits were never very formal or without timberlands so we didn’t visit. If you like rooftop bars these two are for you. The second was the rooftop bar called Mr Porter which situated in the W Hotel. Lastly for a view or a crazy swing on the top of a building over the river is The lookout. You can get drinks here or just go to the lookout for a view.

Vegan Junk food bar

Casual places 

FoodHallen I mentioned above but thought it should get another little mention because it was so casual and laid back I loved that we could all get our own food and still eat together. Beerfabriek we didn’t go here but it is supposed to be really casual, they brew their own beer etc. Waterkant – cool drinky half outdoor by the canal again didn’t go but this was one of Fliss and Jon’s recommendations we would do in the summer.   Butcher Social Club – you get a (free) boat over and it has sixth form area vibe but with a DJ. BSC is also open really late. We talked about this so often I don’t know why we didn’t go.  The Hoxton This hotel is the same as the other Hoxton’s around the World very cool vibe, Fliss went and her food looked amazing. 

Health/ breakfast/ alternative places

Coffee and coconut – amazing smoothie bowls, The avocado show – nailed the millennial / Instagram market. Sticky fingers this place is not healthy at all. They are sweets, desserts and puddings etc but cute vibe. Pluk  – another nice healthy brunch and breakfast spot, they have a nice nordic homeware shop as well. 

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