October, 2015

We arrived in Amsterdam by overnight bus from Prague.  It was an grueling trip, that had us arrive 3 hours late after an issue with the overbooking of tickets at a stop in Hamburg in Germany. We bought some breakfast at the supermarket as we did every other day and explored around while we waited for Hugh to arrive. While both slightly fatigued and cold we had our next challenge which was sneaking me into our 2 person hotel room which was being occupied by Ebbs and Hugh. The staff were particularly strict about having friends upstairs so we had to do all sorts of tricky/climbing through fire escapes maneuvers to get me in to sleep each night. We had to book hotel because we left accommodation to the last minute and the ADE as on making all hostel accommodation for the weekend outrageously un-affordable. 

We spent the next two days scheming on how to get in and out of the building without me being seen which was both a little fun but mainly just an inconvenience. It was cold when we were in Amsterdam, the first morning was a freezing 3 degrees with an icy wind which we hadn't expected as it was mid-October.

Amsterdam was one of my favorite cities, there is something truly magical about the little dutch houses leaning over the canals and the house boats with gardens on their roofs. You'll have no difficulty walking everywhere you go, we didn't catch any public transport other than to and from the airport and to one of the warehouse parties we went to. The streets are incredibly crowded with bikes, motorcycles, hoards of tourists, cars and trams so make sure you watch where you're going. Finding authenticity in Amsterdam is a little difficult given the extreme numbers of tourists that flock here every year. The majority of the city center exists to cater to them and all the restaurants and cafes (especially near the red light district) sell gross,greasy food for all the high people wondering around.


Where to stay 

A common problem in cities with good nightlife in Europe is that hostels rise their prices over the weekend. Amsterdam was a classic example of this and we had to stay in a (still expensive) hotel room to avoid paying 79 euro each, a night, in a 14 person dorm...  The hotel room we booked cost us each about $60 a night but because we had Hugh with us I had to sneak in because it was only a 2 person room. If we had been more organised i'm sure we could have found somewhere better to stay for the weekend but I had been naive in thinking because Amsterdam was a big city (like Berlin) it would be easy to find somewhere last minute to stay. There are nearly no airbnbs in Amsterdam so don't try and fall back on that. There are a few good hostels though. After the weekend we went and stay in the Hostel Meeting Point which cost 14 euro a night pp from Sunday to Thursday.  The whole place stunk heavily of weed 100% of the time and I sensed the staff were just as out of it as the guests. Our room was average, an 18 bed dorm and the showers and bathrooms were good. It was pretty fantastically located, 2 streets over from the red light district in the heart of Amsterdam's tourism. It backed onto a canal so had some nice views from the  smoking room and had a secret rooftop that looked out over the city and was great for sunset. (Friday and Saturday the prices were inflated back up to around 70 euro per night pp). 


What to eat 

As we didn't have a kitchen in either of our accommodations in Amsterdam we found it very difficult to find healthy and affordable food. We ate from supermarkets for lunch and breakfast, mainly bread and fruit and then dinner was usually pasta from a casual pasta restaurant called Pasta Pasta that sold dishes for around 6 euro. Food is hard in Amsterdam because all the cafes cater mainly to high people so there's lots of really gross, greasy food. If you can try to find somewhere to stay with basic kitchen facilities because it will make your time here so much easier. 

What to do

We had 9 days in Amsterdam and I honestly don't really know what we did with most of our time. We were pretty tired and having difficulty adjusting to the cold. A lot of the activities in Amsterdam cost money (seeing as it is an extremely touristy destination) so that may have attributed to why we didn't do as much as I would have liked. I honestly think we just got lazy at this point of the trip. (I still had the best time ever though dw)

We did a free walking tour here and it was so cool. They start in Dam Square at 11 am (at least that is when we started ours, I think there are several a day). You can look them up easily online. We all paid a tip 5 euros to the guide at the end.  

Hire a bike! There are heaps of places to hire them from all around the city, although be weary because the streets are a little scary to ride through given how crowded they are and that half the other people on the other bikes are high tourists (who don't have fantastic motor skills). We were told buying a bike from people on the street was more affordable than hiring it and then you could just resell it back at the end of your stay, so if you're here semi-long-term that is probably a better option (because bike hire is pricey).

The Rijksmuseum is free if you're under 19 so I got in without paying. For Ebbs and Hugh though entry was 18 euros so they didn't come. Although I did spend 5 hours here I honestly didn't find this museum that exciting, it did have a few incredibly classic works of art (Renaissance paintings) that are worth seeing if you're 18 or under and can get in for free (: (But I wouldn't bother if you have to pay and aren't an art fanatic). The Van Gough museum is also meant to be good although we didn't go. Both of these museums are at the back of the city (or the front depending on where your coming from) and are where you'll find the I Am Amsterdam sign. 

One thing I regret was not going to the Anne frank House which I've heard is really fantastic (although really sad). We didn't prioritize it as entry was 17 euro and Ebbs and Hugh weren't particularly keen. I've also heard the cues can be ridiculously long, so get there early in the morning to avoid the crowds (especially in peak season). 

I actually loved the Red Light District. It is incredibly confronting at first... I had no idea that women actually sat in windows that lined the streets... but it is completely unique and a fairly eye opening experience. There is talk of the red light district being closed down/scaled down in the near future (an attempt to 'clean up' Amsterdam) so i'm really glad we saw it when we did. 

If you want weed, the coffee shop called Abraxas was really good, although if I'm being honest you can pretty much buy it anywhere and it'll be decent quality. From Abraxas, pre-rolled joints start at 3.50 euro. You can buy unrolled weed by the gram from some of the smart shops and dispensaries. If you're into mushrooms they sell awesome ones from the smart shops and you can take them in Vondelpark which is super pretty and good for picnics also!! 

We also explored a lot of small art galleries that were dotted through the streets near the Rijksmuseum. They all had free entry and were a really nice thing to browse through on a cold afternoon. 

 As the Amsterdam Dance Event was on whilst we were there our nightlife consisted of warehouse parties and events that were part of the event so we didn't get to experience any of Amsterdam normal nightlife but I've heard its not as wild as you would expect and that its mainly bars rather than clubs.