Back in August, two friends and myself took to mainland Europe for two weeks, travelling around some of the continent’s most famous capital cities in search of culture, beauty and nightlife. Our first stop: Amsterdam.
A city known for sex and space cakes, Amsterdam somehow manages to steal the hearts of everyone who travels there. Whether you’re looking to lose yourself in a café, boat around the canals or take in the unique architecture, it welcomes people from every walk of life with open arms and warmth. And I must admit, its modest, unassuming atmosphere is as intoxicating as it is wonderful.
Having arrived at the train station early, we dumped our bags at the hostel and made our way out into the streets for the day. Day one was to be space cake day, so we scoped out the classic Bulldog Café for a bite to eat. Inside was dark and smoggy, the vibe chilled and mellow, and lamps hung at head height adorned with paper notes from years of travellers. After an hour of chatting we decided that the space cakes didn’t work and that we would go and rent a pedalo on the canal.
How terribly wrong we were.
Ten minutes in to our scenic cruise and I suddenly found myself in a small boat with two baked versions of my friends, one who thought the feeling of the sun and the breeze on his skin was the most magical thing to have ever happened, and the other who laid sprawled out in the back of the pedalo repeating the word ‘chill’ over and over. It was, in every sense of the word, fantastic. Over the next 50 minutes on the water we crashed into a large tourist boat where pensioners openly laughed at us, got thrown free beers from a passing group of guys, and saw people sat on boat full of old sofas.
After a quick nap back at the hostel we headed out that evening on the Red Light District Pub Crawl. If you’re in the city by yourself I would recommend it, it was a great way to meet people, but it only touched the edge of what Amsterdam’s nightlife has to offer. The area around the red light district is definitely the place to be, and the streets are packed with people spilling out from the bustling bars and clubs to enjoy their drinks while soaking up the beauty and atmosphere of this agreeable city.
The next morning we decided to rent bikes to see what else the city had in store. We decided to get Dutch bikes because we wanted to embrace the culture (…they were €2 cheaper), and despite the hilarity of having no hand brakes (you pedal backwards to break), we found ourselves repeatedly flying into intersections of traffic at great speed while attempting to stop our bikes.
Once we had grasped the controls of the bikes however, we explored Amsterdam’s daytime offerings, and doing it by bike is a fantastic way to see the city. We did the obligatory picture with the Amsterdam sign, found a beautiful park where we stumbled upon live music and lay in the sun eating ice cream, took a trip to the Heineken Experience (which I would highly recommend for the unmissable views from their rooftop bar) and cycled past Anne Frank’s house.
That night we decided to skip the main night scene and took an evening stroll until we found a bar to settle for the evening with some drinks. It turns out that outside of the red light district, Amsterdam is a sleepy city that goes fairly quiet at night, and so after a while we headed to the city’s most popular gambling destination, Holland Casino. With some steep entry fees and big minimum bets, it soon became clear our t-shirts and shorts were not the most appropriate clothes choice, and after some mixed results at the tables we decided to cut our losses and leave.
We walked back to our hostel to catch some well-needed sleep before we said goodbye the next day to this captivating city. Our next stop: Berlin.