I couldn’t believe the number of bikes on arrival at Amsterdam Central; if you’ve been to Cambridge, this is totally on another level. The cyclists have their own lanes, traffic lights and all sorts and I’m surprised I didn’t get hit down by one! You really have to be careful. Cycling is the best way to see the city, but only if you are used to the roads, there’s no way you’d have seen me attempt it – by foot, bus or canal was the best for that! One of our guides said that tens of thousands of bikes are stolen every year, which will probably explain why none of them looked very nice (I was expecting proper lady bikes with wicker baskets and the whole shebang!).
I saw a real active windmill! We got a 48 hour pass for the hop-on/hop-off bus and boat and one of the first stops was the Windmill de Gooyer. Despite being destroyed a number of times, it’s the largest wooden mill in the Netherlands. Although we didn’t get off the bus at this point (a shame, as it would have been nice to have a closer inspection), it looked pretty impressive from where we were sat and was one of the first typically Dutch things I saw.
Guess who went to the Heineken brewery even though they don’t like beer... *insert hands up emoji*. I’ve been to breweries before, in the UK and abroad so totally know the whole brewing process now. There were many interactive areas, which added to the Heineken experience. These included selfie booths, computer games, cycling karaoke and rugby/football shooting practise. There was even a ‘bottle your own’ section, which cost an absolute fortune but seemed very popular! At the end, you could trade your coupons in for a pint, I traded mine in for a half of coke... oops!
Museumplein was always a must – translated to Museum Square, it’s home to the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh museum and Museum of Contemporary Art. Of course, it’s also home to the famous Iamsterdam sign, which was absolutely heaving with people taking photos and climbing all over the lettering. I could have easily spent hours here, visiting the museums as well as exploring the nearby side streets. Instead, we just stopped for lunch, before heading back on the bus. The sunflower memorial for the 125th anniversary of Van Gogh’s death was absolutely beautiful too – it definitely helped brighten up a fairly miserable day!
Cruising the River Amstel was an excellent way of seeing the city from a different perspective. It was remarkable that boats manage to make their way through narrow canals – even more impressive when our boat managed to do a three-point turn to go under one of the bridges! Passing so many beautiful pieces of architecture made me want to go and examine them up close though (next time, I promise). In particular, I loved the Royal Palace with its domed roofs – and the tallest clock, the church tower at Westerwerk. I also enjoyed cruising under the Skinny Bridge and the story about its beginnings is quite funny too (you have to look it up!) – I guess it’s just an old wives’ tale they tell the tourists!
Of course, no visit to Amsterdam can be complete without a visit to Anne Frank’s house and it was well worth the queue (there are limited tickets available online in advance but when I looked it up, they were sold out for the next SIX weeks! And so we queued for close to two hours). Walking round the rooms was a real eye opener to what it would have been liked in cramped spaces and although it wasn’t as harrowing and hard-hitting as some of the places I had seen in Berlin, it really brought the situation to life – and was still pretty emotional! I would definitely return in a heartbeat.
There are so many things I’d love to do and experience on my next visit, including the museums, Red Light District, Diamond Museum, Ice Bar and Flower Market. But keep your eyes peeled for my two restaurant posts coming soon – I ate like a queen!
Love, Lucy xx