48 hours...48 hours is all I had to experience and make the most of Amsterdam and I must say I was pretty pleased with how much we got to visit, do and see in the city so now I want to pass that onto you if ever you are visiting Amsterdam.
1.) Get a tram ticket that suits you best - walking is healthy and all and Amsterdam is full of healthy people who cycle and cycle and cycle and there's nothing wrong with that but being unaware of the city's structure we found it easier and best to get the tram especially if we had to look at maps in between tram rides.
Pro: the tram station is right by the Central Station and you can get tram deals with I AMSTERDAM that lets you combine it with some trips too, so it's cheaper if you're after particular trips.
Con: you have to click in and out every time you get in and get out of the trams, which means you always have to have your ticket ready and you might have to wait a while if it's peak hours
Alternative: There are many 'Bike Hire' companies too, if you're more into cycling and don't want to wait for trams and be amongst crowd.
2.) Tourist Inn Hotel - with being students, we were on a budget and as we also wanted to do a lot of things so we didn't want to spend too much on a hotel. A friend of mine (also in the same programme as me) actually suggested this hotel. It's cheap and it becomes even cheaper if there's more of you. There were 4 of us and we each only had to pay under €40 for a night which also included breakfast.
Pro: the hotel is located near the Central Station about 10 minutes walk. One of the buildings (it's comprised of 2) is right next to a canal so you can get a canal view if you're lucky. The booking fee also involves basic breakfast of: bread, cereal, juice, hot drinks, cold meats,etc. They have free wifi and also computers in the lobby if needed for only 50 cent for 30 minutes.
Con: no lifts in their 2nd building. The 2nd building's neighbours are also red light buildings, this didn't really bother us but if you're more fussy then it might. Toilets and showers are shared with other hotel guests (again if you're fussy then this might not be for you) but they were really clean and tidy.
Alternative: Google...there are loads of hotels in and around Amsterdam so Google is definitely your best friend.
3.) Planning - I'm all up for spontaneity and all but when I only have 48 hours in a city I've wanted to visit for so long then I start to be all 'Miss Organised' and plan how I'm going to spend those hours wisely and that's for sure what I did a few days before the trip.
I looked up the main places we needed to see, the main things we needed to do. Planning your trip makes it so much easier, it saves time and energy because instead of: 'Where do we go next? Hmmm, what should we do next?' if you have a list of what you want to do or where you want to go then you can just pick and go from there and if all else fails then bring spontaneity back into the picture.
I specifically wanted to go to the museum to see 'I AMSTERDAM'. I found out that there are 2 more of the letters, 1 at the airport and another by Amstel River and both locations were a bit further than I was willing to go to so I decided to go to the museum instead. We didn't go in the actual museum due to time and money constraints.
Tip: Visit the museum in the morning or at night if you're after getting a photo with the sign and don't want the dozens of tourists also jumping and squeezing in to take theirs.
(Red Light Secrets - Museum of Prostitution)
I thank my friend, Lisa, for being interested to go to this museum because otherwise I would have never visited it during our stay. The museum is located in the Red Light District it self and the house was actually used for business before but has since been turned into a museum about prostitution.
The museum may not be like the likes of art or history museums but it was very informative especially in making people aware of why some women end up being prostitutes such as being coerced by men with false jobs, human trafficking and much more.
I definitely recommend visiting this museum as it opens your eyes and mind to the reality of prostitution and certainly makes you think twice before you judge a person, their livelihood and their life.
Tip: The museum is open until 12 midnight; it's best to visit during the night where the red light from the windows of the museum are in full blast and where you can feel like you're in one with the district as you pretend-sit by the windows.
(Van Gogh Museum)
The museum houses the largest collection of Van Gogh's work (if you didn't already know that). It's the best place to reflect back on his life before he became a legendary artist, his rise to being one of the greats, his struggle with his mental illness, his deterioration and finally his death. His artworks are that of masterpieces and to see them in person is just something else. It's like going back in time and being there with him as he finds his medium and gets his rhythm.
Tip: I'm almost sure about 85% of tourists in Amsterdam has Van Gogh Museum in their agenda too basing from the fact that it's the 2nd most visited museum in Netherlands therefore, there will be queues and long ones if you happen to stumble upon a nice sunny summer's day. Pre-bought tickets or I Amsterdam city card is your solution, with either one of these you can beat the long queues and be inside in no time.
Visit when the weather is not typically that nice as you will be inside and typically museums like these take longer to explore.
Wear comfortable shoes because you will be standing and walking a lot.
(Anne Frank House - photo is not the house but a building opposite)
The Anne Frank House was the one place we were all certain we wanted to visit when we decided to go to Amsterdam and it was also certainly the best place we visited. The visit just totally moved me and left me in so many emotions. I was sad for Anne, her family, her families' friends and the people who helped them and then I became even more sad as I thought about the millions more people who were killed in this horrible time in history. I felt so privileged and spoilt with my life right now compared to what Anne and those millions more people had 75 years ago. Then I was also happy that Anne's mark was left and that her diary was published just like she wanted it to be, that her story was told and that through her diary and words we are, even the tiniest bit able to understand how greatly unfair and injustice humanity was to their fellows just because of their religion/ethnicity. Then I was baffled because even after years of the greatest human destructive act we still to this day find the very same thing that caused it years ago: hate. Hatred of other race, hatred of other religion, hatred of people and it saddened me that it never really went away and it may never do.
Tip: Anybody who's visiting the city will have Anne Frank House in their list and it's a guarantee that it will be among the top 3 therefore it's shouldn't be a shock when there are long queues even when it's raining, snowing or freezing. You can buy your tickets online before visiting to beat the queue but you will definitely pay more about €5 more, if you're wiling to.
Pro: A very moving and emotional visit. One of the best museums I've ever visited in my life.
Con: No elevators and the house has very steep stairs so unfortunately it will be very hard for people with mobility problems to get in and around the house.
It's no secret that Amsterdam has an abundance of canals and bridges in it's keepsake so a canal cruise is one of the most obvious things to do in the city. Although I wanted to hire our own canal boat/canal bike so we can explore at our own pace and wherever we wanted to, it was not made possible with the cold and gloomy weather that the city had that day.
Instead, we went on the more common glass window and roof canal boat tours. We saw more of the city that we haven't visited, the rivers of Amsterdam and learnt about some of the buildings and history of the city.
Tip: I Amsterdam card also offers discount on canal tours. Doing a canal tour is also best done when it is sunny so you can definitely see more. Choose a canal boat tour company that doesn't have much people so you can sit by the windows and see clearer, take better photos without interference of unwanted photo bombing. Try and hire a canal boat or canal bike so you can go at your own pace and explore the smaller canals more.
Pro: Glass boats are good for when the weather is gloomy. The trip will show you the areas that may be too far for you to visit yourself and also harder to access like the rivers and the Southern part of the city.
Con: Depending on which boat company you choose you may not see much of the attraction like Anne Frank House, Rijkmuseum, etc from the tour but other companies may have it in their route. Doing a glass boat tour on a rainy day may also result to rainy and blurry photos. If it's busy you are also likely to not get a window seat.
(O'reilly's Irish Pub)
I know, I've told myself a dozen of times too. O'reilly's is Irish and I should've tried Dutch cuisine being in Holland and all but we found it so hard to decide where to go and being tired and hungry we just ended up going for what we already knew.
We have visited O'reilly's in Brussels before so we knew that the food will be averaging from decent to good. It was a Sunday and I was so hungry and I had the Sunday roast back in Brussels. It was delicious so it wasn't a surprise that I had to have it again in Amsterdam.
My friends got typical English meals too like: bangers and mash and fish and chips. They said they were okay.
The pub is cosy and warm and also they show football so if you want a little entertainment with your food. The prices are decent and average and just how you would expect from a pub.
Pro: It is easy to find, it's located near by the Royal Palace. It's an easy option/alternative if you're after comfort food and are not very adventurous with trying out new dishes.
Con: If you're not a fan of football and noise then this pub isn't for you because if there's a major match then you may find yourself jumping every time somebody goals.
Red Light District, canals, bridges and bikes...these are just some of the things that Amsterdam is famous for but there is one more thing that the city is known for and that is that marijuana is a legal drug in the city. Upon a few hours of arriving in the city we got greeted immediately by someone so high he thought 2 of us were Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. The experience was both funny and weird. As we proceeded to go about the day, the smell of weed bursting from here, there and everywhere became common and eventually I got used to it.
So I am not going to lie, one of the things we wanted to do in the city was also to smoke and that we did. Baring in mind that the drug is legal and that we are all of legal age.
The Bulldog is a good place to smoke among the 10s of coffee shops in the city where you can also smoke. The Bulldog is apparantely famous and they have 3 cafes all in one street. They also have a hotel which is convenient if you're after resting straight after.
They offer a menu of the different types you can buy. They also sell grindrs, pre-rolled paper that is handy if you don't know how to roll. You can also get free paper and herbal tobacco from them as you are not allowed the usual smoking tobacco inside. Drinks are also sold in the coffee shops but 1 of them do not sell alcoholic drinks. Special food are also sold such as hash lollies and space cakes.
Tip: Be responsible when smoking. Smoke with friends especially if it's your first time smoking as you may not know how you will react and your friends can be there to assist. Have a drink and preferably not alcohol as this will intensify the effect and/or can just make you feel no effect from the weed instead you just get drunk. Normal drinks such as fizzy drinks, smoothie, tea, etc is best as your throat can get dry.
Pro: It's a cosy place to chill and smoke with friends. It's located the next street by the Red Light District so visit the district and then smoke.
Con: The place can be very busy (all 3..yeah it's crazy) especially at night and if there are more than 4 of you then it may be hard to find a place to sit. Normal tobacco is not allowed so you have to use their herbal tobacco which has a stronger taste and can leave a distasteful after taste in your throat.
No touristic, famous city is complete without it's souvenir shops and Amsterdam is no exception.
You can find souvenir shops everywhere you go in the city and that is handy if you are after last minute souvenirs. The best place to go to for them is in the floating flower market. We didn't actually got our souvenirs from there but we walked the market and the street is lined with stalls of them and also stalls selling flower and plant seeds. The shops have the same items in them and some will just have a slight variation in prices such as €1-2 difference.
Tip: Visit the floating flower market and compare prices between shops, it's easy enough to go back to the cheapest shop.
Pro: Your typical souvenirs are in every shop: the Dutch shoes (clogs), magnets, figurines, shot glasses, clothes, key chains. Some may also have special food such as cookies and lollipops.
Con: Every shop offers the same items.