Home Go I AMSTERDAM: Amsterdam Insider Guide

I AMSTERDAM: Amsterdam Insider Guide

by Bianca April 3, 2017 0 comment
I AMSTERDAM: Amsterdam Insider Guide

Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom.

And in freedom, most people find sin. – John Green


We wanted to go on vacation in Amsterdam for a while now. We had planned to go last year, but there was always something that made us postpone. Until now, March 17th. This waiting only made us feel more excited for Amsterdam when we finally made the decision to go.

Why Amsterdam? Because we’ve been to most big cities in Europe and we had heard so much about it that we had to see it with our own eyes.

I AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

I AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

STAY


We chose to stay at The Student Hotel West for many reasons: it’s next to train (including the one to and from the airport), tram and subway stations, we read many great reviews about it, we found an amazing price on Booking.com and we wanted to experience a hotel with young people, and made for young people! And it was exactly what we experienced.

I AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

I AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

Its location is perfect, which is a big plus when you’re a tourist – to be able to travel anywhere, fast. Located on the west side of Amsterdam, the hotel is 10 minutes away from city center by bike (for a truly dutch experience), about 15 minutes away by tram/subway from Dam Plaza and 10 minutes away from Schipol airport.

The hotel has a cheerful, new and modern look. It’s made of different buildings arranged as a resort or a campus – given that it’s aimed at students that go to college in Amsterdam. It also has, apart from bike parking and green spaces, a basketball court.

Ever since entering the hotel you are welcomed by slogans that are highly respected inside the hotel (and not only): “Everybody should like everybody” and “Smile, but not too much.” And that’s exactly how it was. Everyone staying at the hotel, tourist or student, had a dose of happiness that was inspiring. For example, the first morning at breakfast, our faces weren’t exactly the happiest because we had been partying the night before, so the traveling there + partying could be easily read on us. The barman who handed you the plate, insisted on us smiling or we wouldn’t get anything. Of course, he was a joking, he was just trying to cheer us up and brighten up our morning. So was the spirit of the hotel, no frowning faces. You are in Amsterdam!

I AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

I AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

The room we were in had a big double bed, an office with a cabinet and a wardrobe for clothes. Plus the TV, mini-fridge, and WI-FI, of course. The bathroom was very spacious, with a shower. The most important thing was the cleanliness, and hotel policy dictates cleaning ever two days. The entire hotel was extremely clean.

I AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

I AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

A great pro of the hotel was that you were never bored, not with the modern gym, reading room, table tennis, pool, late night bar, table football, and many others.

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

As for the hotel personnel: they were incredibly receptive, efficient and ready to serve.

We were ver happy with this hotel and recommend it especially for young people due to its modern concept and facilities.

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

EAT


Amsterdam does not lack in restaurants, fast foods, specialized Dutch food stores, and many others. Everywhere we went, we found places to eat.

We had breakfast every day at the hotel, for 7.25 euros a day. It was buffet style with cold meats, fruits, yogurts, croissants, butter, jam, eggs and drinks such as fruit juices, water, coffee, and teas.

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

The other meals of the day were had wherever we happened to be throughout Amsterdam.

On the first day, as soon as we arrived in the city center we had hot-dogs and burgers, and we had dinner at Bella Riva, an Italian restaurant. We chose it because the boys were dying for some pizza, and not every pizza, but Italian made pizza. The food was good. We had tomato soup, delicious lasagna, and pizza, of course.

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

On the second day, we dined at El Torado Grill Restaurant, a restaurant in the center of the city, that features beef delicacies and many others. We had delicious pork ribs with potatoes and BBQ sauce and a steak with butter and mashed potatoes. The food was amazing and the service fast.

I AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

On the third day, we tried a traditional Dutch restaurant. We went to De Blauwe Hollander close to Dam Plaza. We had meat patties with vegetables and honey mustard as starters, then a delicious tomato soup (my favorite if you hadn’t noticed), a traditional Dutch dish with minced meat wrapped in bacon, boiled tomatoes with potato sauce, salad and crepes. The food here definitely did not let us down.

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

Between meals, we stopped at different food shops here and there that caught our eyes. We had the most amazing truffle cheese at Cheese & More by Henri Willing! We also sampled a good number of other selections of cheese and got some for home as well. Not all of them made it home, however, because we “sampled” some of them at the hotel as well. I definitely recommend going into some of these food shops, at least to look around and sample a bit.

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

We also did not miss any sweets shops and I can bet we ate half of Amsterdam’s waffle production. They are absolutely divine! Beside the classic waffles with Nutella, M&Ms and chocolate flakes, we also loved the Dutch Stroop Waffles. We just couldn’t have enough, we also got some for home.

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

I amsterdam City Card


Before telling you what we’ve seen and done in Amsterdam, I will tell you how we saved a lot of time and even money. I’m talking about the I amsterdam city card.

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

Where to purchase: I recommend purchasing them straight from the airport from the info and ticket point. They can also be purchased online or other ticket offices in the city center.

Price: There are four types of cards:

  • 24 h – 57 Euro
  • 48 h – 67 Euro
  • 72 h – 77 Euro
  • 96 h – 87 Euro

What it includes: This is the nice part!

  • Free subway and tram transportation (does not include train tickets to and from the airport).
  • 25% off canal cruises, bike renting and tours, at Hop-on Hop-off buses, private boat renting, 16 restaurants and a bunch of various food and drink shops.
  • Free entrance to most Amsterdam museums and attractions.

We chose the one for 72h since it was exactly what we needed from Friday to Monday. It was so easy to travel from one side of the city to the other, without spending time getting subway and tram tickets, or thinking about what we should take or when!

Although the free entrance perk does not save you from waiting in all lines – we still had to scan the card and receive the entrance tickets, some museums and attractions do exempt you from it or offer priority.

The card is so efficient and convenient and should exist in most cities with major touristic interest.

Another thing of note is that the card is a one and only, you won’t receive a replacement if you lose/forget/damage it. So be careful with it especially when going to coffeeshops, a lot of things get lost there.

I AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

FUN


ARTIS ZOO 

We started our vacation with ARTIS Zoo because the first day of our stay was the only one with sun and no rain, so we figured that we should visit outside attractions while the weather lasts.

It was Friday. We had just arrived in the city center, after hotel check-in and bag dropping. We had something to eat from street vendors and went straight to the zoo. I’m most excited when going to the zoo, although I hate that the animals are caged and wish that I could take them all home… in my room… in my arms.

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

The zoo is very varied and includes many types of animals and plants. We started with some pelicans that seemed to be on RedBull or something and made us die with laughter. We continued on to the giraffes, zebras, white wolves that seemed to be straight out of Game Of Thrones, alligators, sharks, etc. Further, the zoo also exhibits:

  • a must-see insectarium full of my biggest fears,
  • an aquarium with all sorts of curiosities and two huge crocodiles very close up,
  • a butterfly greenhouse that terrified me; butterflies aren’t so cute anymore when they’re all over the place,
  • and pools for penguins and see lions.

It was really worth the visit and I’m glad we led the vacay with it because it was truly a lot of fun (you know if you follow us on Snapchat), and gave us good vibes for the entire day.

I AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

AMSTERDAM ARENA

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

We went to Amsterdam Arena first thing in the morning on the second day since the boys were dying to go. After the Red Light District of course. We started the tour of the arena from the outside and went around it to find the entrance. No, we did not have that big of a wish to see it from the outside. But instead of turning right, where the entrance was, we turned left and encircled it to arrive at the starting point. Oh, well. We went it, got the free tickets and waited until 11:15 am when the next tour was scheduled to start.

The tour of the arena is 70 minutes and you’re led by a guide throughout all the rooms, from guest locker rooms, bathrooms, showers, to the field itself and then back through the conference room to the underground parking.

The tour is interesting, you are welcomed on the field by Ajax Amsterdam’s anthem and you’re presented with all the prep required for a game. The most interesting thing to see is the video at the end that shows you, how, in 4 days, the arena hosts a huge concert, then a national football game, how fast it turns from grass to stage and all that it entails, and vice versa.

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

Fun fact we learned: Amsterdam Arena is the only arena in Europe with a detachable roof and it takes only 18 minutes to cover or reveal the arena.

A nice and interesting tour for us all, especially for football/soccer lovers.

I AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

NEMO SCIENCE MUSEUM

One of the best visits was to the Science Museum. Although we did not know at the time, it’s a kids museum, a different kind of museum, where you learn about things by doing them.

We spent about 2-3 hours here because there was so much to do and see, and we were thinking about how these kids learn all these things from such a young age, while we had only heard of them and had never had a chance to apply them.

Specifically, the museum exhibits:

  • The Machine – features a machine on which you become a logistics expert and learn to manage all logistics processes,
  • Innovation Gallery – where you learn how the technology that we all use on a daily basis evolved – from phones to vacuum cleaners,
  • Water Word – where you learn how to use technology in order to purify water and create your own drinking water,
  • Energetica – here you learn to capture energy generated by wind, water and sun and what you can do with it,
  • World of Shapes – discover mathematics in the world around you,
  • Constructions – you learn how the tallest and biggest buildings in the world are build and the basic principles that are used to create such giants,
  • Teen Facts – the place where you finally find out the cause for your reactions during puberty,
  • Journey Through the Mind – a kind of Lie to Me, you discover how our faces convey emotion and feeling, and how the human brain functions, and finally,
  • Smart Technology – an exposition that shapes the alternative to our polluted way of life and how we can be less damaging to the environment in our daily activities.

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

 AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

I loved this museum and it saddens me that in Romania we don’t have anything close to it, at least in the bigger cities. It was full of useful information and explanations that you gather while you have fun, laugh, and play.

I AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

CENTRAAL STATION 

The central train station in Amsterdam is impressively huge. You can barely capture it all in a photo! It’s an impressive building, very grandiose and very busy. You have to see it for its architecture, it’s so beautiful you might mistake it for a palace.

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

CANAL CRUISE

From Centraal Station, we went on a cruise. We cruised Amsterdam’s canals, admired the city and its architecture, the houses along the water and the multitude of bikes on the bridges, while we were told about the history of each location.

The cruise is 75 minutes long and you can choose a covered ship when the weather is bad or an open one when the sun is on your side.

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

HEINEKEN EXPERIENCE 

On the third day, we went to the Heineken brewery. An amazing tour of the brewery, interactive and fascinating. We saw how beer is made and what ingredients are needed, we found out new things about Heineken, we played table football and sampled some long awaited cold beer.

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

At the end, you’re offered beer and other information about how it should be properly consumed, after which you’re invited to the lounge. In addition, at the souvenir shop, you can engrave you own pint or glass of Heineken on the spot, which seemed like an awesome souvenir to have.

I AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

RED LIGHT DISTRICT & RED LIGHT SECRETS

The Red Light District is among the most sought after attractions by tourists, because, ultimately, when you tell someone you’re going to Amsterdam, the first things you hear is about the prostitutes in the brothel windows and the legal drugs.

In the Red Light District, you can walk along the canals, take in the views, and the bridges. In the daytime.

In the evening it’s full of tourists, locals, young and old, and also during the evening, the red lights are on everywhere. We walked through the district every evening, we looked at the girls in the windows and admired the freedom and energy of the place. There’s nothing vulgar, nothing to be scared of and nothing bad to say.

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

During the daytime, we also visited the Red Light Secrets or Museum of Prostitution. In this museum, you’ll find a bunch of information – not exactly necessary, but more like curiosities. You’ll see how the prostitutes’ rooms look like, you’ll listen to one working girl’s story and you’ll find out how it feels to be in one of the windows.

We found out how much the rent of the windows is (150 Eur/day, for whoever’s interested), how many girls are in the windows (over 800 if I remember correctly plus 2000 more working from home), how many clients a successful girl handles (16/day), and the average duration of this type of job (5 years). Besides these piquancies, you’re also educated about sex-trafficking and about the women forced to prostitute, because it is still a huge issue, and also about the crimes that have happened behind the curtains.

A small museum, but full of this type of curiosities.

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

In addition to the windows, in the Red District, you can also find the Live Sex Theater, a theater were actors play live on rotative stage and where the spectators can watch as if they were in your usual theater. This is the most expensive kind of theater. There are cheaper alternatives where you can watch through a camera, but you can choose2 or 10 minutes, without knowing what stage of the act you’re going to see. We did not attend the theater, but it’s there as an option for everyone.

As you’ve probably realized, you’re surrounded by a lot of sex and sex toys and so on. But, I’m not sure why, there was nothing disturbing about it and everyone was perfectly normal and not at all sketchy.

The Red Lights District impressed me very much because there you truly see Amsterdam’s freedom, without any vulgarity or repulsiveness.

I AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

COFFEESHOPS

Another attraction of Amsterdam are the coffeeshops. It is well known that cannabis and its derivatives, as well as mushrooms, or truffles, to be exact, are legal. However, you can’t purchase them everywhere, legally speaking, but only in specialized shops.

The shops that carry cannabis are called Coffeeshops, and the ones for truffles, Smartshops. They look exactly like normal cafés, only smaller. You should know that these types of shops don’t sell alcohol or cigarettes.

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

I AMSTERDAM SIGN

It was one of my big wishes, once in Amsterdam, to take a memorable photo at the I AMSTERDAM sign. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing hard and my “photographer” takes pictures just as well as a cat barks… As you can see.

You have to see the sign, take some photos, and walk through the park next to it.

You can find the sign between the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum.

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

VAN GOGH MUSEUM

The Van Gogh Museum “benefits” from one of the longest ticket lines of this entire city. Nowhere did we wait more than 10-15 minutes in line, but at this museum, ever since we got there, we were told that the waiting time from that point was 2h30min. Of course we didn’t wait, and we were advised to come the next morning at opening time, at 9:30 am, and when the lines are short. And that’s what we did. The next day at 11am, not 9:30am, because we’re not at all early birds, we were at the museum. It took about 10 minutes to get the tickets and enter.

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

The museum starts with a supreme narcissism on Van Gogh’s part, specifically his self-portraits. On the left, there was Van Gogh with a hat, next to that, there’s Van Gogh without a hat, on the right, there’s Van Gogh with a glass of water, and so on. There are other paintings as well, still self-portraits, but as backgrounds, they had the portrait of another painter, then the portrait of another painter, and again another portrait of another painter. Confusing. I know, I know, it’s Van Gogh, it’s art, but my mind was wondering all over the place in order to not get bored, so I was amusing myself this way and for sure we’ll remember them.

On another floor, there are more elaborate and diversified paintings and even letters that Van Gogh sent to his brother, sister or parents that you can listen to in English. Interesting.

Van Gogh’s story is interesting as well, how he cut up his ear with a razor after a fight with his friend or how he contracted syphilis from prostitutes and how he ended shot in the chest.

It’s a must-see even if you’re not passionate about art and painting, but just to understand the story behind the artist and then you’ll have a different perspective on his works.

I AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

RIJKSMUSEUM

Dedicated to arts and history, the Rijks Museum is the most popular in Amsterdam. In addition to valuable Rembrandt works, there’s also a rich collection of Asian art. It’s grandiose, not unlike its name which translated means “Regal Museum” and it’s comprised of three floors. The second floor is the most interesting, with famous paintings and Asian collection objects, while the third floor presents modern art, more or less some chairs and dots on white background.

It needs to be seen to be understood. Maybe I don’t seem that impressed, but it’s not my first visit to an art museum, and after you’ve been to the MET in New York, you get less excited each time.

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

I AMSTERDAM - Amsterdam Insider Guide

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

FOR NEXT TIME:

Besides all these, there were also Anne Frank’s House, Amsterdam’s Catacombs, and other small museums like the Diamond Museum and Cheese Museum, but our vacation was ending. We hope to return soon to Amsterdam, and hopefully in the summer.

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

WEATHER


We followed the weather ever since we booked our stay, and it was always changing. So we were lucky enough to have good weather the first day, Friday, with sun and 53°F. Saturday it rained a little, but we saw the sun a bit too, but after that, it was windy as hell. Sunday – all day rain and a bit of sun. Monday – super winds, the weather app was showing 24 miles/h winds and it rained all day.

All this, however, did not stop us from visiting, having fun and walking around, but we were dying for a sunny 70°F day.

The weather in Amsterdam is generally unstable. There’s sun in the morning, rain on lunch time, storm in the afternoon, and then sunny again. I guess that ultimately it’s not that bad.

We intend to return during the summer and take advantage of beautiful weather and enjoy a vacation without wearing 20kg of clothes.

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

CONCLUSION


Finally, I can tell you that I love Amsterdam, I would live in Amsterdam and I would go to all Martin Garixx concerts and would stalk him all the time… ahem.

Seriously. I loved the city, the freedom everyone is blessed with, people’s openness, their modernity, their focus on the younger generations. I liked Amsterdam’s cleanliness, the way the city is organized from any point of view, the super fast and modern mass transit, its food and diversity. I liked that no one looked down on other people for smoking pot and even saw people over 40-50 years old that were doing it over coffee. I liked that people smile and convey positive energy and how helpful they are. And, most of all, I liked that an incredible number of people use bikes.

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

EXTRAS


  • The most important thing that you can do is to buy city cards and not stress about transportation.
  • Another thing that I actually never follow myself (don’t quite know why) is to buy all the tickets online. By buying them online, you can skip lines and it can save you 1-2 $/EUR.
  • Regardless of the season, do not forget to have: sunglasses and raincoat.
  • Visit Amsterdam in the nighttime, you’ll like it.
  • Finally, forget all your prejudgments and have fun.

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

I AMSTERDAM - Amsterdam Insider Guide

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam Insider Guide

Questions, comments or concerns? Leave us a note below or contact us, we’d love to hear from you!

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