Sunday, 20 March 2016

A Perfect Amsterdam City Break - The Best Way to Spend your Time in Amsterdam

After my short vanishing act from the blogosphere, I feel re-inspired and ready to start writing again. I'm going to be honest with you all and say that not a lot happened during my hiatus, the long dark evenings and cold weather have had me feeling more like grabbing my duvet, and hibernating until summer, rather than taking photographs of my beauty must-haves. However those of you who follow my Twitter account will know that following an evening of total spontaneity, I booked up a few days away in Amsterdam with my boyfriend - the perfect antidote to combat the winter blues! And so for the first time my blog will feature a travel post, that hopefully will be the first of many!

(P.S. The post is pretty long and image heavy, I couldn't take my bulky SLR camera with me so these are all iPhone quality images - don't say I didn't warn you!)

I'd wanted to go on a city break since forever, but it had never been quite the right time whether it be down to finances or work commitments. So you can imagine my excitement as I checked into my flights online and set to work googling the 'Top Sights To See in Amsterdam' and 'Things to do in Amsterdam' - much to the entertainment of my boyfriend who joked that I'd be scheduling in too many activities and places to see, to actually enjoy the trip.

Amsterdam is a very large city with a whole host of things to do, so if you're toying with the idea of booking a weekend away or a short break I'd definitely recommend having a rough idea of all the things you want to cover. To inspire you, I'm going to let you in on exactly how I spent my time in the city.

Inntel Hotels Zaandam Amsterdam
Inntel Hotels Zaandam Amsterdam
Inntel Hotels Zaandam Amsterdam
Inntel Hotels Zaandam Biscuit Room Theme

An early morning flight on Sunday meant that we landed at Amsterdam Schipol airport for 11am (a little annoying that since the Netherlands are an hour ahead of the UK we lost an hour, but it still meant we had nearly a full day to enjoy sightseeing.) We caught a train to Zandaam, where our hotel was based, a town on the outskirts of Amsterdam City Centre - we stayed in Inntel Hotel Zandaam which I cannot recommend enough! Each of the rooms had a unique theme, we happened to be staying in the 'biscuit themed' room which was lovely, and to top it off, we had full access to the spa facilities which were so relaxing.

Amsterdam Citybreak Canal Boat Trip
Amsterdam Citybreak Canal Boat Trip
Amsterdam Citybreak Canal Boat Trip

After checking in we headed straight to Amsterdam Centraal via train (anyone worried about using the public transport, don't be it's super easy and almost everyone speaks English if you do happen to get a little lost) and caught a canal boat tour from outside the station. We'd heard this was the best place to start to get your bearings on the city and learn about where all the sights are. The tour itself took an hour and gave us a fab opportunity to snap some photos of the incredible Dutch architecture. By the time we'd done a full loop of the city, it was starting to get dark so we decided to have a quick browse through all the touristy shops and sights before heading back to our room.

Amsterdam Floating Flower Market
Amsterdam Floating Flower Market Bloemenmarkt
Amsterdam Floating Flower Market Bloemenmarkt
Amsterdam Floating Flower Market Bloemenmarkt
 Amsterdam Floating Flower Market Bloemenmarkt

Day 2 (our only full day) we got up early to ensure we didn't waste any free time we had, and headed straight back to Amsterdam. First stop was the 'Floating Flower Market.' A short walk from the station, the market is literally constructed of greenhouses sitting along the canal. If you're looking for colourful tulips, bulbs and other gift ideas to take home as souvenirs, this is definitely the place to go! (My boyfriend picked up the funniest pair of clog slippers to take home for his Dad which he loved!)

Amsterdam Traditional Cheese Shop
 Amsterdam Traditional Cheese Shop Old Amsterdam Cheese Shop
Old Amsterdam Cheese Shop
Traditional Dutch Cheese Amsterdam
 Traditional Dutch Cheese Amsterdam

Plus we found the most gorgeous little cheese shop parallel to the market that stocked every kind of cheese you could imagine - we even got to try a few samples which made both us cheese lovers very happy indeed!

Rijksmuseum and I Amsterdam Sculpture

Sticking to our route we headed towards the Rijksmuseum, which is where you can find the iconic 'I Amsterdam' sculpture outside, we didn't actually visit this particular museum, but the sheer scale and beauty of the outside of the building was worth the trip in itself. Instead we chose to go to the Van Gogh museum, which is literally adjacently situated in Museum Square. It was amazing to see all the paintings he created during his life, I didn't actually realise quite how many he'd produced until I saw the various floors of the gallery! As incredible as the museum was though, I was a little disappointed to discover that the infamous 'Sunflowers' painting had been temporarily removed to be restored. Before heading to our next destination we stopped for a quick snack in the museum cafe, which had a gorgeous selection of fruit juices and smoothies and gave my poor feet a little rest from all the walking!

Amsterdam Architecture
Amsterdam Jewellery Store
Amsterdam Jewellery Store
Amsterdam Jewellery Store

We took a leisurely walk from Museum Square back to the town centre, taking in all the delights of the Art and Antique districts and the beauty of all the canals and buildings. Sadly we decided not to visit the Anne Frank Musuem, when we'd passed it on the canal boat tour, we saw the queue of people winding down the street and decided it would eat into too much of our time in the city - I'd recommend booking tickets ahead of time if this is a 'must visit' for you! As we headed towards the town centre we decided to visit the Red Light District (when in Rome!) - it's an unsavory destination during the hours of darkness, but during the day many people use it as a cut through to China Town so it's super busy and safe.

We'd managed to visit and do everything on the list I'd made so I was extremely happy and particularly exhausted from all the walking by this point and was happy enough to head back to the hotel for an evening of relaxation and spa-time. I've got to hand it to my boyfriend for his navigation abilities and map-reading skills, I'd definitely have been lost without him!

When it comes to cuisine, Amsterdam isn't best known for it's dishes, the city centre is packed with every fast-food joint possible, and there seems to be an overwhelming passion for their delicacy of chips covered in a special mayonnaise-like sauce, which even the Mcdonalds out there cater for! If you're not up for a few 'cheat days' in your diet, you'll have to dig a little deeper to find some vegetables or a salad!

Zaanse Schans Village Netherlands Zaanse Schans Netherlands Windmill
Zaanse Schans Netherlands Windmill
Zaanse Schans Traditional Chocolate Making
Zaanse Schans Antique Shop
Zaanse Schans Antique Shop
Zaanse Schans Antique Shop
Zaanse Schans Sweet Shop 
Zaanse Schans Cheese Shop

Our final day started early again too, taking the opportunity of our location in Zandaam to catch a quick train over to Zaanse Schans - famous for being 'the place time forgot' scattered with original windmills, cheese shops and everything that's traditionally Dutch! This was the bit I was most excited about because it was a chance to experience the country's history and culture first hand. We even got a chance to go inside one of the windmills and climb to the top, an experience which terrified me due to the old, rickety wooden ladders and the force of the building moving from the blades of the windmill outside - not ideal when you have a fear of heights and just looking out of a top floor window makes your head feel fuzzy! Before we left though I made sure I tried a fresh Stroopwafel and visited the Chocolaterie, both of which were delicious.

From start to finish the trip was perfect and everything I could've wished for from a citybreak, and instead of buying into the tourist souvenirs whilst I was there, I've marked the memory with a little windmill charm to add to my Pandora bracelet. I'll hopefully be able to visit other places in the next year or so and I like the idea of adding mementos to my bracelet from each location - Paris & Rome I've got my eyes set on you next!

Here's my top 5 tips for anyone planning on visiting Amsterdam:

- If you're not a fan of walking everywhere, book a hotel in Amsterdam city centre and use the various tram networks (or cycle if you're brave!) to get from A-Z.
- If you're going to be travelling by train, make sure you have change to use at the ticket machines, they don't accept notes and there's a small charge for credit/debit cards.
- Pack comfy shoes, if you're walking about your feet are going to ache, I just lived in my Roshe.
- The weather in Amsterdam is unpredictable one minute it's sunshine the next it's raining, thankfully we never got caught in a shower but it's best to pack an umbrella or light mac to avoid looking like you've fallen into one of the canals! I've heard the best time to visit is April/June when the tulips are out and the sun is shining, the city is supposed to be gorgeous.
- Make sure you book tickets to any attractions you'd like to visit in advance to avoid long queues and missing out.

I hope you enjoyed reading my post, maybe you guys could suggest the next city I should visit in the comments below - I'd love to hear about the exciting places you've visited!

Until next time..



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