“Why Amsterdam?” This is a question that i’ve been asked by many people in the last 9 days.
If you are a long-time follower of my blog, you will know what I consider an ideal world to look like – Gender equality, Eco-friendly, progressive society, economic stability, fresh air, less focus on consumerism and free press. Is that too much to ask? Not according to The Netherlands! And for the ‘first world’ aspect of my ideal world, a country where the average height makes me feel right at home being 187CM. For the first time in my life I feel like I fit in! Although the first language is Dutch, everyone speaks English, so no need to worry about communication.
On my first day, I immediately became overwhelmed by all the small streets and found myself smack-bang in the middle of the Red Light District. Many people contacted me on Instagram asking for recommendations because they’re planning a trip soon, so….(I will film a YouTube video too..Inshallah 😉
Here are my recommendations:
Accommodation – Hostelle (Female Only Hostel)
Amsterdam is well-known as a tourist hotspot for ‘lads trips’ and pre wedding celebrations, and because I was travelling alone, I thought it was best to stay in female-only accommodation. Hostelle was the perfect base that met all my needs and I would genuinely recommend it – immaculately clean, urban/quirky design, safe, friendly, and affordable. They also had a fabulous kitchen with all the utensils provided, which is great since there is a Lidl supermarket 2 minutes walk away. Amsterdam is currently experiencing an explosion in the demand for accommodation, especially rentals (rents are on par with NYC prices..Ekk!) so staying in a hostel is your best bet to try make your trip more affordable. However, in the past five years I do think the quality of hostels in Europe has dramatically increased, as budget travelling is making travel more accessible.
Located in Amsterdam Zuidoost, Hostelle is 800 metres walking distance from Amsterdam Bijlmer Arena. There are direct trains and metros from Schiphol Airport and into Amsterdam City Centre. I stayed in a 10-bed dorm, which although might sound cramped, it was absolutely fine, plus as a single traveller it’s the perfect chance to get our of your comfort zone and start chatting with others. There are events organised every night of the week by the hostel – yoga, movie nights, pub crawl, drinks. It’s a very social environment, so the living room common space was always busy with girls on their laptops or making conversation.
Hostelle have a bike hire service (€12.50 per day + €50 deposit) that I highly recommend using as it’s only a 8KM cycle into the City Centre and you can pass by some beautiful local neighbourhoods. I think I cycled a total of 80KM in 9 days!
Weather: I never thought that I would find a more complex climate than Ireland, but alas, The Netherlands triumphs in this department. One week before I arrived my friend was close to melting from an unexpected heatwave whereby temperatures reached 35 degrees celsius. I definitely packed for warmer temperatures and this didn’t include a rain jacket, an essential I soon realised regardless of the time of the year. The wind is the biggest issue, so come prepared!
Museums are quite expensive and many people book tickets online in advance, so if you’re planning to show up out of the blue, you might be disappointed when everything is all sold out.
Nonetheless, I did visit FOAM (€11 entry fee) which is a photography museum focusing on contemporary art. Although the exhibitions are constantly changing, I was really impressed with the photojournalism exhibition of ‘Les Invisibles’. French photographer, Samuel Gratacap documents the journey of migrants from the continent of Africa to Europe. If you have anthropologist tendencies, this is a must-visit. I feel like many people have become desensitised to the continuous issue of migration, usually viewing it as a problem rather than seeking a viable solution to the unjust hardships that so many of these individuals encounter. This presentation of photographs brings the problem to life through numerous senses, and you cannot help but see the situation from more than one perspective. There was one quote that really stuck with – “Economic motives trump humanitarian considerations time and time again, forming the foundation of a hidden but self-supporting economy underlying the phenomenon referred to as the modern ‘migration crisis.”
EAT & DRINK
The cafe culture in Amsterdam is huge, something I have been missing terribly since living in the south of Spain. Two Dutch friends from high school recommended me some really amazing places, so I definitely need to credit them (Thank you Iris and Karla) with the majority of these recommendations.
Best Sandwich in Amsterdam – Hands down it has to be Cafe Singel 404. Located along the canals, this cosy cafe is the perfect spot to chill, read a book and enjoy a delicious fresh sandwich, which might I add could be the best sandwich i’ve ever tasted (Sorry mom!) The best part is that they don’t have Wifi and the signal is non-existent – Yes, you are forced to chat with friends without ‘checking in’ and tagging each other. Little word of advice for my fellow tall people – Watch your head going upstairs. For a county with many tall people the stairs in many of the buildings are very steep and the ceilings are very low.
Best Vegan Cafe in Amsterdam – Amsterdam is any vegan’s dream in terms of choices – healthy, fast food, raw, you name it, they have something that will tickle your taste buds. I visited DopHert near Houthavens and it serves the BEST vegan burger I have ever tasted, which could potentially be because it contains weed but nothing that will have you stoned. The girls who work there are honestly the friendliest staff I have come across in Amsterdam and I probably stayed a good 30 minutes chatting with them. You NEED to check out this cafe! Prices are very affordable and something I love about The Netherlands is that tap water is always free.
Glou Glou Wine Bar – This charming little bar is right up your alley if you appreciate a good glass of vino. All wines are sourced from only 5 suppliers from around the world and the best part is that it contains no preservatives or additives, giving it the #organic label. The staff were so friendly and helpful in trying to select the perfect glass for your taste. Since the weather was warm, there were some nice tables and chairs on the street that add to the Parisian ambiance in the Dutch neighbourhood of De Pijp.
Abraxas Coffee Shop – Okay I couldn’t complete my list of recommendations without mentioning a favourite coffee shop because this is Amsterdam after all and smoking weed is legal. In all honestly i’m not a huge smoker but as my mantra goes, ‘when in Rome’, I had to visit one. I popped my head into a few of the famous tourist coffee shops and honestly, i’ve never felt so intimidated, so I immediately left. However, a lovely new friend recommended Abraxas, located down an alleyway (sounds dodgey but trust me this city is SO safe), it is very cosy and as a somewhat newbie to the technicalities of weed and all that is available, I was given a small educational presentation about the many substances for sale.
Amsterdam is a city that has something for everyone, so although these are some of my recommendations, it is so easy to stumble upon a hidden gem of your own because the choices are endless. Your only worry should be not to spend all your money on the first day, so just like the Dutch, be savvy with your spending!
I personally found that Amsterdam reminded me New York City in many ways; the relaxed vibe, the architecture and the green spaces situated around the city. The next city on my must-visit list in The Netherlands is Groningen, which can only be described as ‘The Hobbits meets Venice.’
Like all my travel adventures, I document everything on my Instagram, which you can find in my highlights.