Updated: Mar 30, 2018
I won a pair of Aer Lingus flights at a table quiz, so the husband and I booked Amsterdam. He'd been before and has uncles that live not far from there, but I'd never been. I thought it was going to be all weed and Red Light nastiness, but in reality saw very little of that (mind you, there's no escaping the weed smell). I found Amsterdam to be a modern, efficient and beautiful city with lots of interesting, cool areas and lots of history to explore too. I went last November and absolutely loved it. At that time of year, the weather was just like Ireland. Cold and rainy. But I still liked it, which says a lot. I'm really against rain in a big way.
Anyway, for anyone planning a trip there, here are my not-so-hot takes.
1. Use the public transport. A 48 hour metro/bus/tram ticket is €12.50 and they all run to the second, unlike in Dublin where you could wait two hours for a bus that may never arrive.
2. Don’t get caught in the tourist trap restaurants and venues around the Red Light District and Dam Square. Head to Leidesplein for bars and restaurants that aren’t completely touristy but still have a buzz about them. But like, also go to the Red Light District. I walked through it around midnight just to see, and it is mental. I don't know if that's in a good way or a bad way.
3. Definitely go to PC Hoofstraat for a look at the designer shops. Have brunch in Café George right opposite the Chanel store. The Chanel store is the most beautiful one I've ever seen, the translucent brickwork is actual art.
4. Visit the Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum, both are gorgeous as is the area around them (Museumplein). That's where you'll find one of the giant red and white AMSTERDAM signs that you can sit on.
5. Visit the Anne Frank House on Prinsengracht, it’s well worth the queue! Book your tickets in advance to avoid TOO much queueing. It's haunting but incredible, especially if you've read The Diary Of Anne Frank.
6. I stayed in the Hilton beside Centraal Station which I would highly recommend - there’s a really nice Chinese restaurant right near it called Sea Palace - get the ginger pineapple beef and NOODLES. All the noodles. Like I would go back to Amsterdam just for those noodles.
7. Our dinner on the first night was delicious, it was in The Hoxton Hotel in Lotti’s restaurant, the lamb croquettes were unreal.
8. Head over to De Pijp and go to Little Collins for incredible coffee and lovely avocado on toast.
9. There’s a gorgeous Zara Home on Van Baerlestraat, and that area is lovely too.
10. Go to the Ice bakery on Dam Square just opposite the Magna shopping centre and get a coffee eclair.
11. Don’t eat any suspicious looking cookies. Unless you’re into that sort of thing!
A massive thanks to my unofficial tour guide for Amsterdam, the lovely Katie Tsouros, for all her lovely recommendations.