26 April 2015

A Modest View of Amsterdam

Dutch poffertjes - they are basically pancake mixture
cooked in a metal cake pop. You have to try them!
In mid-March I went to Amsterdam with my mum for her birthday (hence the modest part) - this trip did not include any of the raucous stuff that normally comes to mind when you first think of Amsterdam. I'm not going to give you a day by day account, partly because I've forgotten a lot of it already and partly because we spent most of the 4 day trip in museums.

This post is going to be part 1 of 2 on trips abroad I've done in the last 6 weeks. I tried to do it all in one but it got way too long. The next post (which I'm planning to have ready for tomorrow) will be about my trip to Madrid last weekend to see Charlotte (a.k.a Sully), a close friend from university who is working out there at the moment. This was also a short trip but we did quite a lot so it definitely justifies having it's own post.

An 'English Breakfast' in Amsterdam..
Chips? Lettuce? 

I should also say that I'm using this is as an opportunity to share some of my photos. I feel like Facebook isn't the right place and with Instagram I would probably fill all my friends' feeds for the day which wouldn't be popular either.

Hopefully this will just be a short, informative read with lots of interesting pics to scroll through.


Look at all those waterways! That's a lot of bridges..
Well I'm probably going to look pretty stupid saying this but I did not know before I went that Amsterdam is a canal city. Once there I felt it was quite similar to Venice - bridges everywhere and not much traffic at all. Come to think of it I can't remember if there were any cars in Venice but there really aren't many in Amsterdam.

I don't think this city could be any more of a contrast to London. Instead of hustle and bustle with suits and hipsters at every corner, there streets are lined with cafés and bicycles of all kinds. For someone who can't ride a bicycle, I found this a little unnerving. That and the fact that no one seemed to wear a helmet. Amsterdam has cycle lanes built into its roads as well as a tram service that runs through the centre. The reduction in noise pollution as well as normal pollution is just unbelievable. The population difference between London (8.3 mil) to Amsterdam (779 K) obviously makes a big impact. I'm not sure if London could function without it's buses, cabs and cars - there wouldn't be enough Borris bikes for everyone to ride - but I'm just saying it was a really nice change. You could sit outside a café, relax and watch canal boats go past all day. 
The back of Bloemenmarkt (a flower market right in the city centre)


Outside the world famous Rijksmuseum
 by the iconic I amsterdam sign
I've got to say I was shocked by how many museums there are in Amsterdam. It's such a small city but they've certainly got tourist attractions covered. Perhaps it's because we were tourists but it definitely felt like a place to visit not to live. I actually lost count of how many museums we went in to but I think it was around 12 in total.

The Rijksmuseum is arguably the most famous museum in Amsterdam, even the building itself is outstanding. The British equivalent to this is probably the V & A museum (except it's not free). The museum is split into different periods of history and holds a fantastic number of Dutch artefacts from the Middle Ages to the present day. This is definitely one to look up before you go. You would never be able to see it all properly in one day so make sure you have a plan first. 

A massive academic library sits at one end of the museum
It reminds me of Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast'
Women (not children) in the late 17th and 18th century had these ornate dolls houses built as a declaration of their wealth.
Everyone says you have to see Anne Frank's House but in my opinion it was spoilt by the number of people viewing the exhibition. Everything felt like one massive queue. A queue to get in, a queue around the house and then almost a queue to get out. I'm a somewhat patience character (okay maybe not) but I think a good museum allows you to enjoy the exhibition in your own way and this one certainly didn't. If you're desperate to see it get there first thing (it opens at 9am). 

A highlight for me as a fan of art was the Van Gogh Museum. This was really quite amazing and told you so much more about his life and how he developed his style than the work in the National Gallery in London. Also the museum is hosted inside a really modern but plain building which emphasised the art rather than detracting from it. This is an absolute must for anyone visiting Amsterdam in my opinion. (I wasn't allowed to take pictures though..)

Oude Kerk 

It's hard to get a good picture when it's enclosed by so many buildings.

The only bit of the notorious 'red light district' we did enter in to was to see the Oude Kerk (old church) situated annoyingly in the middle of it. This church is really quite bare and spectacular, and it's really interesting to see how the church has stood the test of time among the immorality surrounding it. If you're feeling brave enough it's definitely worth seeing and there is a really nice café attached (sounds like a spend a lot of time in cafés - who doesn't like tea and cake though?)

Canal Tours

One of the few places you can see 7 bridges all lined up
Finally, I'd definitely recommend doing a canal tour. We bought a pack which had this included and although the cheesy, Americanised audio guide was quite annoying it is definitely the best way to see all the sights and admire all the architecture Amsterdam has to offer.

One last tip, if you're going to go all out with the museums like us, get an I Amsterdam card - the discount is really worth it. 

If you're interested in knowing more about Amsterdam get in touch in the comments section below.

Look out for my 'Escapades in Madrid' post coming next. 

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