With the settling in Brussels and finding a job, the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017 have been so busy… Too busy to even plan a little weekend getaway in Europe. Which as you know, is one of our favourite thing since we came back from Erasmus. The first quarter of the new year is almost gone, and so we had to do something! One thing that I especially liked when I was living in Sweden, was the possibility to visit the areas and countries around. This time I thought “What cool capital city isn’t too far from here?” and it was Amsterdam.
We booked this weekend one month before only. We had a pretty good deal on 1st class seats in the Thalys – 3 euros more than regular. However, the accommodation is known to be pretty expensive in Amsterdam, and so we settled for a nice little private room in a hostel: ClinkNOORD. This hostel reminded me a lot of the one we stayed at in Paris with my friend Maria this summer. The atmosphere was all festive, international and Erasmus-y like I like. They have a bar downstairs with a pretty cool cocktail menu, that we got to experience during our first night there.
When we went to sleep on Friday night, the weekend couldn’t look better… Except, when we woke up the next morning, it was windy and pouring rain, kind remains of the Doris storm. So much for my first time in Asmterdam! And so we had to adjust a little bit. Here are the 5 tips that saved our weekend:
Copy the Dutch sense of style – and go shopping
As every capital city should, Amsterdam is full of nice shops and shopping centres. Some of them, like the Magna Plaza, have a wonderful architecture and some very trendy brands that I had never heard of. For all the big brands, you can also have a walk through Kalverstraat, most of the shops are open until 7. I also noticed little concept stores with the cutest items! You wanna know what Dutch style is like? Go check out this Dutch blogger: Lily Like.
Wander along Amsterdam canals – with your umbrella
Because, come on, that’s what you came here for right? Yes the wind is blowing, the rain is pouring, the pavement is narrow and the sky is grey, but so what. You came to see those dancing houses, so here you go! There is no specific area to enjoy this kind of view, but I would recommend walking around Ann Frank’s or Rembrandt’s house for the best snapshots (and if you take a selfie don’t forget to put down your umbrella, just for one minute).
If your feet are sore, and if you don’t mind spending a few euros on some touristy things, I would also recommend you book a boat cruise on the canals, it’s a romantic and effortless way to discover the typical scenery of the Dutch capital.
Be a flower among the flowers – at Amsterdam Flower Market
What would the Netherlands be without its famous tulips? Here, no tulips fields, but a lot of flower bouquets, seeds, and bulbs. You have to sort the real thing from the touristy stuff, but I think the Flower Market is definitely worth a look, especially because your eyes need to see some colours after all that brown-ish/grey-ish-ness of rainy Amsterdam!
Find dryness in the (he)art of Amsterdam – in museums
Before coming to Amsterdam, I didn’t understand how meaningful this place was in Art History. What better places than museums to truly understand the heart and history of the city?
We personally chose to visit to of these artsy places: Rembrandt’s house on Saturday, and the Rijksmuseum on Sunday.
Rembrandt’s house (1 hour)
It was so interesting to discover the actual (former) surroundings of such a famous painter, from his kitchen to his workshop. There, a professional painter demonstrates how paint was created back in the days, which was the most fascinating part of the house tour I have to say.
Rijksmuseum (3+ hours)
You might think that the entrance fee is kinda pricy, but it’s a smart investment as it will keep you from the rain for 3 hours and more!
This is basically the Dutch Louvre (how French of me to say that!). The building’s architecture is fascinating, and so is the collection. No matter how (un)well-lit you are about art, you will recognize several masterpieces from Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Vermeer, etc. It is honestly very impressive. I also liked that on the top floor, there is a more modern collection, including pieces from Yves Saint Laurent.
Also, for your information, in front of the Rijksmuseum, is the most touristy thing ever: the (un)famous IAMSTERDAM sign.
Another classical and cool option that we didn’t get to explore is the Van Gogh Museum, also on Museumplein (literally the Museums Square). Very easy to reach by tram by the way.
When all else fails: food is the answer – not Dutch food though!
Have you heard of Dutch food before? No? Well that’s pretty normal. It doesn’t seem to have anything special to it. So when all else fails, and a break from the cold is needed, just grab a bite, or coffee: Starbucks, Wagamama, Exki, you will find in Amsterdam most of your favourite food chains.