Monday, 9 October 2017

early autumn in amsterdam

Amsterdam - one of my favourite cities in the world even though I have only ever visited it once (now twice).

The Netherlands capital city doesn't feel like a city at all. There is a closeness, cosiness about it. It almost feels as if the cycling locals, bustling breakfast hotspots, winding canals are all contained in a bubble, and the air feels close even on a cool day. That's all part of the magic of Amsterdam though - the eccentric, friendly and somewhat rushed atmosphere made me feel at home as soon as I stepped off of the train at the Centraal Station.

The first thing that I immediately noticed (and did not remember from my first visit) was the amount of bikes - they call it the bicycle capital of the world for a reason. Locals wear everything and anything from business attire to flowing maxi dresses and holding fresh baguettes and phones as they manoeuvre their way through the busy streets on bicycles. It seems like every chainlink in the city has a padlock with a bicycle attached to it, and they flowed all around the city, against every railing and wall at the side of the canals, and on every street corner.

Bicycles aren't usually my forte, but when in Amsterdam, why not? We hired two bikes and set off, headed for Vondelpark, which is truly beautiful (in a messy way). The park is in the centre of the city, and stretches quite far with a few lakes and several fountains in the middle. Algae-green ponds and speckled greens are dotted throughout the park and a stunning canal outlined with city mansions are lined around the border of the park. Sat on the grass, looking out over the water and watching the bustling locals mix with lazily strolling tourists, its easy to imagine you are not in a capital city.

If there is one thing you have to enjoy when you are in Amsterdam, it's the food. Cafes, restaurants and of course coffee shops are dotted along the canals, inviting you in with their warm glow when evening time arrives and the city starts to cool down. On the first night we ate at Kantjil & De Tijger on Spuistraat, an Indonesian restaurant with a relaxed but quick service and great noodles. On the second night we ate at the Downtown Burger Grill on Nieumarket, and had a standard burger and fries as we watched the sun set and listened to Bob Marley covers sang by buskers in the square. It was a great final evening in the city before we headed home after an eye-opening two days.

If you are wanting to visit Amsterdam for a short break there is plenty to do, although in my experience spending any more than a few days there would leave you wandering around with a free itinerary as we managed to see plenty of sights in just two days. Below is a list of what we saw, and what we thought of the sights in the city.

Anne Frank Huis: In my opinion you cannot visit Amsterdam and not visit Anne Frank's house. Yes, it is busy with people inside and yes, the queues are upto two hours long (I strongly advise booking an online ticket to skip the walk-in queues) but the house-turned-museum is extremely moving, and the memory of WW2 is respected in silence as inside not a word is spoken. The house is very well preserved, and the conservation of Anne Frank's room is incredible.

Vondelpark: The beautiful park in the centre of Amsterdam is great for a very long stroll around the lakes and fountains, and picnics on the green in the shade of the trees. There are a few bicycle hire places close by to the park, so we hired bikes and cycled around the park a couple of times before setting our bikes down and relaxing on the grass until the sun started setting. The park seems to attract everyone - young couples, groups of friends drinking and enjoying a smoke, families, dog walkers and runners/rollerskaters.

Hortus Botanicus Gardens: Based in the quiet Plantage District, this small but crammed botanical garden features a lovely variation of plants, trees and flora. The garden also has greenhouses which you can enjoy in your own time as their are plenty of benches and seating arrangements available to you if you would like to spend all day there. One of the greenhouses is full of butterflies and moths, which I particularly enjoyed (if you stay as still as you can the huge butterflies like to land on you). Afterwards, we walked outside and onto the banking looking over the canal where ducks were lazily floating along.

Rebekah x

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