Amsterdam – The City Guide

I very recently went to Amsterdam with my boyfriend and two of our friends for a five day city break. I’d been keen to go for such a long time and it really didn’t disappoint. We chose to go in January to experience the city in the winter; we were even lucky enough to get some snow which cast a frosty, white blanket over the canals, parks and 19th century houses. One constant noise you hear everywhere in the city is the jingle of rusty bicycles and old bike bells dinging as they speed along the side of the pavement. Now, I knew Amsterdam was infamous for its bikes and thought it would be quite endearing – in fact, it’s fucking terrifying. We were almost run down more times than I could count, there’s no common rules; bicycles and motorbikes will just mount the pavement and run a red light; so watch out for the two wheeled death traps!

We stayed in a gorgeous boutique hotel on the canal, called Mr Jordaan’s, from our bedroom window on the fourth floor you could see Anne Frank’s house and the church next door; we had such picturesque views, especially once it has snowed. Our hotel rooms were perfect, plenty big enough for a couple and had everything we needed. The downstairs lobby offered free hot drinks whenever you liked and the staff were so kind and helpful. The hotel also offered a free walking tour and canal cruise – we took up the offer of the walking tour, but sadly weren’t there when the next canal cruise was due to run.

Whilst we were there we did some of the classic tourist-y things ~ visited Anne Frank’s House, the Rijks Museum & Ice rink, Vondel Park, walked through the Red Light District *very quickly*, we took a canal cruise and took some cliché tourist pictures on the bridges ~ we walked everywhere taking in all the sights. All of the above are an absolute MUST if you’re going to Amsterdam any time soon.

With the weather never reaching above freezing, we also spent a lot of our time indoors eating and drinking. We found some incredible places for every meal and numerous coffee/hot chocolate stops on our wanders to warm up. I’m going to give you a rundown of all the best places we found for Breakfast/Brunch, Lunch, Dinner and the cafés we enjoyed most.


Brunch

This is an Instagrammers dream, just around the corner from our hotel. Offering everything from smoothie bowls, avo on toast, yoghurt and granola, breakfast platers and eggs benedict (+ all the variations). The building is a maisonette set up, with seating upstairs and the kitchen and small shop downstairs where you can find lots of stationary, kitchenware and little knick-knacks. We got there not long after opening so it wasn’t too busy, but by the time we had finished there were no seats available, so it’s definitely one to plan into your stay and get there early if you can. It’s a really relaxed vibe and the staff we super friendly! You even get a little taster of their cakes with your coffee.

This one’s a little further out of town, but totally worth the walk! (Or if you prefer you could always take a tram) Like most of the places we visited, we found them through searching on Instagram – Coffee and Coconuts was so much bigger than I’d anticipated, split over 4 floors. This was a very chilled, boho style café/restaurant serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner/cocktails in the evening. They have a range of seating areas including both laptop free zones and spaces for people to work, beanbags and sofas and also places for people to eat a proper meal. We were seated up on one of the top floors, able to look down and see the bar downstairs – it’s the perfect place if you enjoy people watching! We went here after visiting the Rijks museum and ended up spending quite a long time here, eating and chatting. It’s definitely a place you could spend a few hours of an afternoon.

We went here on the last day of our trip, just before heading back to the airport. It’s actually located just opposite Pluk! This was a really cool setting, decorated in a minimalist industrial theme. Again, we arrived just after opening times but it did start to get quite busy. From the menu we gathered that their ‘speciality’ is French toast *one of my all-time favourite brunch dishes* they had french toast a possible 6/7 ways. In the end I opted for the french toast with maple mascarpone and candied pecans – even more delicious than it sounds!


Dinner

We actually went here for lunch, but you could easily visit for dinner instead. This is one we hadn’t researched but instead stumbled upon in a hangry state of mind. After going on the first day of our trip, we later realised whilst walking around the city this was clearly a chain restaurant as they were dotted in a few places. I have to be honest, we didn’t have high expectations from the exterior, however the interior was really lovely. Again very minimalist featuring grey, concrete style walls. They offer a number of burgers and specials, there was something for everyone – and most importantly the chips were frigging delicious!!

This was such an amazing find, again, thank you Instagram… we have these kind of things in the UK – London springs to mind specifically. It was essentially a food hall, with a variety of different stands selling different types of cuisine – there’s so much to choose from! There was Indian, Thai, Chinese, Pulled pork, Vegan, Smoothies/smoothie bowls, Pizza, Hotdogs and so much more. In the end I went for the pulled pork sub and some of the others went for Indian street food. This again is such a nice place to hang out for a couple of hours, we very much enjoyed the respite from the snow. There was also a few shops next door to have a mooch and a browse in.

  • La Perla Pizzeria

This one was recommended to us by our walking tour guide, Dennis. A very cute local pizzeria, which was jam packed when we arrived, but their kitchen/takeaway is opposite the actual restaurant so we were able to pop in there and wait for a table to become available. This was one of my favourite meals out; we drank wine, ate delicious pizza and masses of tiramisu and laughed until we cried. Then walked precariously back to the hotel trying not to fall on the icy roads nor get hit by passing bicycles. I would really recommend this little spot if you’re staying close by.

These are ‘sister’ restaurants known for their steaks. We were supposed to all be going to Black and Blue on the Wednesday evening, however Harvey didn’t feel very well, so we ended up staying at the hotel whilst Georgia and Harry went out for dinner. They came back raving about the food, and said we had to go and try their sister restaurant ‘Bleu’ another evening. So we planned ahead and went on a canal cruise on the Thursday evening followed by dinner at Bleu. This was probably the fanciest dinner of the week, if you’re looking for a romantic ‘date night’ vibe this is the place to go. Steaks cooked to perfection or as I had a steak burger in focaccia – with all their mains you are served double cooked chips and salad, which they will keep replenishing. We then had delicious desserts, big enough to share, which of course we didn’t. I really would recommend paying a visit to one of their restaurants if you can.

On the day we went to Ellis Gourmet Burgers for lunch, we wanted something small-ish for dinner so opted for an Amsterdam classic – chips in a cone. There are loads of stands throughout the city that sell ‘Frites’ you choose your size and then you choose your sauce (from a huge list of about 50!!). My favourite thing to do is mix ketchup and mayonnaise when I have chips, but they have an already made ‘cocktail sauce’ which was my obvious choice. I thought the small portion would be too small, so went for the medium size – mistake, I couldn’t quite finish them all.

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Coffee

Another Instagram find, Toki. I was drawn to this hotspot purely because I’d seen they have tortoiseshell spoons – sad? But worth it. This was again just a really relaxed coffee shop, they didn’t serve food as such but there was a selection of cakes to accompany a hot drink or juice.

We stumbled upon this little coffee shop after walking through Vondel Park, we were so cold and needed a hot drink to warm us up. This was perfect, we just popped in and had a coffee or hot chocolate then headed out again – the staff were incredibly friendly.

Although I’ve listed PLUK, Coffee and Coconuts and The Libertine as brunch/lunch spots you could also just head in if you wanted a hot drink.


Lastly, my three top tips for planning a city break ;

  • Book tickets to attractions online prior to travel – it’s generally a little cheaper and you can skip long queues.
  • Use Instagram to do your research! You can find so many amazing hotspots just by searching hashtags and this saves you time and hassle whilst you’re away.
  • Although it can be tempting to get buses/tubes/trams etc around a city, if you can, walk around as much as possible to take in all the sights and discover hidden gems that’s aren’t typically tourist-y.

That’s everything, I think! I hope you enjoyed today’s post and little insight into our trip to Amsterdam, hopefully you found it helpful if you’re planning to go yourself or just generally planning a city break elsewhere.

If you have any questions or can recommend a city for our next weekend break, please leave me a comment below.

Speak soon,

Em x

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