It’s always exciting visiting a city for the first time, but sometimes it can be equally stressful trying to figure out how to squeeze in all the sights to make the most of your visit in a small space of time. Here at House of Coco, our love for travel and our passion for seeking out the best and newest attractions is what we do best. So, to help you plan your next trip or inspire you to book a plane ticket, we spent 36 hours in Amsterdam covering a lot of ground (on rental bikes) to give you this guide full of galleries, bars and hotspots in the city. As the Dutch say, genieten (enjoy!)
7:00 We booked onto the 7am Easyjet flight from Manchester Airport. The flight took just over an hour, with tickets starting from £29.99 one way in January 2015, it’s quicker than getting across London on the central line at rush hour.
9:00 Arrive at Schipol Amsterdam airport.
9:20 Take the intercity train from the airport to Centraal Station. Tickets €5 for a single and are every 10/15 minutes.
9:45 Arrive at Centraal Station and walk along the Osterdokskade to Doubletree Hilton Centraal Station to check in. (Check in usually starts at 3pm, but early check ins are available on request.) Prices start from €209 for a Queen Hilton Executive Room with access to the hotels executive lounge. Perk up from your early start with a coffee in the Starbucks located within the hotel lobby to check maps and plan routes.
10:30 Explore the city of bikes, by renting one from the cities number 1 company Mac Bikes. With eight branches all over the city, their flashy red Dutch style bikes are the perfect form of transport for your stay. Rental starts from €11 for three hours, and reaches a total of €15 for twenty four hours. A €50 deposit is required per bike (refunded on return) as well as an advised €3 insurance to cover any damages/loss.
11:00 Cycle down through Dam Platz and see the 17th Century Royal Palace by architect Jacob van Campen. Enjoy the street performers within the square as you take in the beauty of the palace, tours within the palace are also available from €10. Carry on west to Prinsengracht for the tour around Anne Frank House. Queue’s are extremely long and line the surrounding streets, so pre-booking tickets is strongly advised. Explore the annexe were the Frank family lived in hiding during WW2 and read Anne’s now infamous diary, prior to their arrest on display within the museum. Tickets to the museum and exhibitions are €9.50 for adults and are available at numerous tourist information points around the city.
1:00 Stop for lunch at Spanjer + van Twist for traditional dutch sandwiches and a beer whilst sitting on the Lelie Gracht canal. The cafe bar is on the first right after Anne Frank House with the Dommelsch Bier sign above the door. We recommend the goats cheese sandwich with walnuts and honey on the campremy roll to accompany a large Jupiler beer.
13:30 Pick up some knowledge as well as bulbs in the Tulip Museum located on Prinsengracht. The museum houses many beautiful combinations of petal types and colours as well as pretty souvenir gifts.
14:00 Cross over one street behind to Electric Ladyland for a trippy museum experience with a difference. Artist Nick Padalino offers a unique psychedelic display of sculptures and luminous rocks, the only museum of it’s kind. Open Tuesday – Saturday 13:00 – 18:00, tickets priced at €5.
15:00 Rummage the Noordermarkt of Jordaan that surround the Noorderkerk housing two bazaars. On Monday’s experience a trove of vintage clothing within the stalls, and on Saturdays the stalls are replaced by local produce as well as antiques, books, LPs and jewellery. A must for you bargain hunters with an eye for a jewel.
16:00 Head back towards Anne Frank House to climb the Westerkerk tower. The first biggest Protestant church in the world, was built in the Dutch Renaisance style and housed Rembrandt after his death. The church is open to the public to explore the impressive organ, whilst the tower is available to climb in small groups (pre-book tickets on the day for €6). The descent up the tower is not advised for the chlostrophobic, as you climb five narrow flights of spiral staircases, learning about the history of the bell tower and the architectural design of the church itself. Once at the top, experience beautiful 360 degree views of Jordaan and the rest of Amsterdam, at the cities highest view point.
17:00 Relax after a busy afternoon on a canal cruise. Prices start from €15 for an adult, with some cruises offering a hop on, hop off ticket. See Amsterdam cruises offer either the purple of blue cruise; taking you through the inner city canals or the wider outskirt tour of the city venturing out to the docks onto the sea. There are plenty of cruise companies offering different packages; some provide afternoon tea or an evening meal, whilst the majority provide just the cruise trip. These are well worth the time as you experience the city from a different perspective and hear all about the history of the buildings you pass, so research which type of cruise you’d prefer.
18:00 Pre-dinner drinks at the hotel’s executive lounge and grab a quick bite to eat in the hotel’s City Cafe. Three course dining starts from €35.
19:30 Walk through the Red Light District towards the Nieuwmarkt tram stop. Along the way enjoy the darker side to the city, with the wildest bars for dancing, smoking or to enjoy the girls. There is a bar for everybody, including a gay bar with the window lined with Action Men in every different costume possible. Stick to the main streets if you feel a little vulnerable, there’s plenty (of business) to see without delving down the darker backstreets. (Note: it is not okay to take pictures of the girls in windows, many of the bigger places have strict doormen.)
20:30 Head up towards the Heineken Music Hall for the biggest names in music. We were attending the Libertines highly anticipated reunion show, with the venue housing the likes of Ed Sheeran, London Grammar, The White Stripes and Frank Ocean this year. It is Amsterdam’s biggest music venue, and located just 10 minutes out of the city centre so the tram is essential – the 54 tram from Nieuwmarkt/Waterlooplein will get you there quickly and easily, bringing you out to an outdoor shopping/dining complex next to the arena.
23:00 Back in the city centre, we decided to catch late last orders at our hotel bar – SkyLounge Amsterdam. Located on the 11th Floor of the Doubletree Hilton Centraal Station, you are greeted with stunning views of the metropolis and surrounding canals. Either sit inside the stylish bar, or take your drinks outside onto the rooftop garden terrace to enjoy the views with a cosy blanket. The view of the city at night is something magical, and an experience the bar staff like to bring to the highest standards whether you are drinking or dining. The SkyLounge is open from 11:00am daily, until 1:00am Sunday toThursday, and until 3:00am Friday & Saturday.
8:00 Down to the main restaurant within the hotel for breakfast. Everything from french toast, mini chocolate chip pancakes, salmon to Miso soup and sushi is available. Use the unlimited coffee supply to plan the rest of the day.
10:00 After check out, leave your luggage with the hotel concierge to make the most of the day bag free! Take out a rental bike again to reach the cultural university districts further south of the city.
10:30 Park up and take a breather walking around the Bloomenmarkt, the only floating flower market in the world located on the Singel canal between Koningsplein and the Muntplein. Open daily until 17:30pm, the Bloomenmarkt is a sea of flowers, rainbow colours and fragrant scents. Stock up on little souvenir clogs with bulbs inside ready to plant, or witness their Christmas tree displays in December.
11:00 Continue on further south towards Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s equivalent to Hyde and Central Park. It is located within the old southern university district, filled with beautiful buildings and bursting with museums. Grab a picture next to the Instagram-friendly ‘I Amsterdam’ sign before heading into the impressive Van Gogh Museum, designed by Gerrit Rietveld. Tickets are €15 for adults, but well worth it for the world’s largest collection of works by the artist. The tour takes you through the troubled mind of Van Gogh as you begin chronologically exploring over 200 of his canvases. Queue’s can be long, so either prebook or take advantage of the I Amsterdam card benefits, with fast pass queue jumps. The museum is also open late Friday evenings, serving drinks and hosting cultural events.
14:00 Take a relaxing stroll through Vondelpark amidst the dog walkers, joggers and cyclists. Find a spot next to one of the lakes of by Tulip Island to enjoy a sandwich in the picturesque park whilst the impressive manor houses peek through the leafy trees lining the outskirts of the park.
15:00 Cycle back uptown to explore the Red Light District during daylight. The cobbled back streets resemble a different world during the day, or head to the stylish Nine Streets for some retail therapy in the designer boutiques and concept stores. We recommend United Nude located on Molsteg Centrum. The flagship store houses the abstract footwear brand, founded on originality. Expect to see carbon fibre heels alongside injection-moulded shoes housed within the black store, lit up like pieces of art on display.
17:00 Grab a quick early dinner before heading to the airport at Pasta Pasta, a ‘fast food’ bar that uses wholesome, fresh ingredients. Decorated with exposed brickwork and funky stools, it is a cute place off one of the main streets in the Red Light District. The menu allows you to choose your type of pasta (using Italian semolina to make it fresh in the restaurant), sauce of choice and then add either veggie or meat toppings. It starts at €5.95 with reasonably priced beers, wine and soft drinks it’s a place you’re guaranteed to get a good meal without breaking the bank. Food arrives within 5-10 minutes, so it is ideal if you’re stuck for time.
18:00 After returning our bikes back to the rental store and collecting our bags from the hotel, it’s back to Centraal Station to take the Intercity train back down to the airport. The train can get busy with city workers heading back out to the suburbs during rush hour, but the trains have two floors so there’s always plenty of space – no crowded Northern Line situations here! Airport trains usually leave from platform 14a or 15, but always check before boarding.
18:30 After checking in for our flight back to Manchester it’s time for a much needed pre-flight glass of wine and to look back on the photo’s of the crazy 36 hours we’ve just had. If you’ve still got any euros burning a hole in your pocket, the Schipol Airport has a rather impressive selection of shops, including Victoria’s Secrets and some great souvenir shops if you really can’t go home without a Dutch Windmill or a Netherlands football shirt.
Amsterdam you’ve been fun, I’ll miss you, but now I need my bed. I’ll be back.