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It’s all ‘Dam good!
6€ per pint of Guinness
*5€ per pint of local beer (Heineken)

MAY 2017 | Hello new contender for favourite destination around the world! Amsterdam really has it all in both sights to see and food/drink to consume. As we only had two full days to make the most of it, we thus suffered full-blown FOMO (fear of missing out) at every turn. For every great restaurant/bar/bakery we went into we’d then pass another five and bemoan not having time to stop there as well. Sights-wise there’s architecture, history, art for days and shopping/open-air markets many of which are open everyday not to mention of course the city’s more infamous attractions such as the coffee shops and Red Light District.

Amsterdam is one of the world’s more unique cities.

With only two days to get acquainted with this vibrant city we tried to talk to as many locals as possible to get all the best tips. The only difficulty was finding a true local sometimes, Amsterdam is very multicultural. As to the “locals” whether they were born there or settled there from all around the world, it seemed that all the ones we spoke to agreed that part of the city’s charm is to be surrounded by every possible accent and language.

Amsterdam is jam packed full of tourists no matter what the season

We happened to catch a rare gem of a warm and sunny day: 27C! Such days are known here (according to a Dutch friend) as “terrace days”: people typically take the day off from work and park up at a terrace to while the day away sunning themselves and imbibing. Obviously we had to do as the Amsterdammers do so we pulled up some canal-side terrace seats and set to work imbibing with great reverence for this excellent cultural tradition. Amsterdam is of course famed for big brand beers Amstel and Heineken, they’ve made their way all over the world. Whilst we had our fair share of Heinekens we had to also sample some new up and comers.

The quaint buildings of Amsterdam provide no end of awesome picture opportunities

Jupiler is one such up and comer that seems to be taking the ‘Dam by force. Reminiscent of a Heineken in flavour with perhaps a bit more street cred it matches up well with a young Jenever. With the company of some young person from Geneva I hear you ask? Err, no. It’s a drink of course! Jenever is a much older cultural drinking tradition than “terrace day”. Jenever is a Dutch gin, although rather than the usual juniper botanical flavour you might associate with gin this seemed to have a slightly bready note! These shots (usually served chilled) are for sipping alternately with your beer and not for shooting, as they will do enough damage even just sipped. As a charming waitress told us, when her grandpa used to drink these shots he’d lose track of how many he’d had. It got to the point that her grandmother decided to mark a stripe on his arm every time he had a Jenever during a drinking session, so at least she could keep track for him.

Jupiler and an ice-cold Jenever – drinking like the locals?

Another Dutch friend fortunately had some good advice for food flavours to help line our stomachs before the assault of the Jenevers… Stroopwafels are thin, crispy waffles filled with a cinnamon tasting syrup very popular as a snack at any time of the day. We tried ours dipped in chocolate as an extra treat. On the advice of a vegetarian we met on “terrace day” we just had to try the meatballs (bitterballen)… We were very glad we did, these are often served in bars as a great compliment to numerous beers and are a gooey concoction of meat in gooey cheesy/gravy in a fried croquette shell. We quickly saw why even vegetarians clearly couldn’t resist them…

A stroopwafel from the market is a nice, cheap treat!

In such a multicultural city with a big focus on drinking (in the city’s medieval era beer was drunk instead of water which was generally unsafe/contaminated) it was easy to find a proper on-tap cold Guinness. We found an Irish pub with not just Guinness but several other notable and far more obscure Irish beers on tap.

Wandering the streets of Amsterdam will sure leave you thirsty – these Guinnesses didn’t last long!

With only two days we walked everywhere as much as possible, as the city centre is of course incredibly picturesque. If we had had longer we probably would’ve joined Amsterdam’s largest biker gang: cyclists… Bikes seem to have right of way on the roads here, king above all, including pedestrians. Our advice is never walk out onto a zebra crossing if you can see a bike coming towards you, they probably aren’t stopping. (And neither are the scooters or SMART cars that also use the bike paths…) But if you end up with jangled nerves a beer will never be far from hand to settle them and reinvigorate your love for so beautiful and varied a city. We’ve compiled our list of top picks for the few sights we managed to see in just two days but we’d love to hear your tips as well in our comments section below.

Until next time, proost! (Cheers) Erin and Ryan

Our top picks for Amsterdam

Accommodation seems to be in demand and thus short supply in Amsterdam and you don’t get a lot of bang for your buck. We stayed on a houseboat which was essentially a floating hostel in the Oosterdok (East Dock) and our room was quite possibly smaller even than those cube concept hotels now springing up everywhere… On a nighttime excursion via a free ferry from behind Amsterdam Centraal Station to Amsterdam-North we discovered the extent of our folly. Next time we would grab a bigger room on the north side for cheaper. The north side is an ex-industrial area now undergoing a gentrification transformation with hipster and entrepreneurial concept bars and restaurants springing up in what feels like a post-zombie apocalyptic wasteland. The free ferry (from NDSM) directly to Amsterdam Centraal Station takes only 5 minutes, a shorter commute than our daily 25 minute walk from the east. The mentioned bars and restaurants here have excellent selections of the many up and coming beers from Amsterdam’s vibrant craft beer scene. Also recommended to us on the north side was a trip up the A’dam Tower for a 360 panoramic view of Amsterdam and for thrill seekers a swing off the side of this twenty-storey high building…

Don’t be fooled, up Noord way, these sea containers are actually a really cool restaurant with some amazing food…

Of the four museums we visited these two were our favourite: The Rijksmuseum houses a large collection of national treasures including art from the masters and collections of historical artifacts. It is housed in a stunning building and grounds of architectural note. The exhibits are beautifully presented and there are information sheets in multiple languages to help your understanding of the master artworks such as Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch”. Rembrandt House (Rembrandthuis) is a museum of the artist’s actual 17th century house furnished with his actual possessions and collections of his work, particularly his etchings. The staff of the museum still use some of his copper etching plates to make prints of some of his etchings allowing visitors to see how the process is done and purchase their favourite prints. The Van Gogh museum is also good for fans as there is not much of his work on display at the Rijksmuseum. We felt that the Amsterdam Museum with a rather confusing layout could have been given a miss. There is SO MUCH MORE art to be seen though if you’ve got the time.

Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” is certainly a popular addition to the Amsterdam art collection.

Although you’ll cover the canals walking/ biking around the city we were strongly urged by a Dutch friend to see them from the water. There are all sorts of canal tours to suit everyone’s style. We did a quick hour tour and enjoyed the commentary covering some of the historical sights around us. This tour cleared up for us the burning question we’d had from our first moment seeing the city’s 16th century narrow houses: why do they lean forwards? (Hint: it’s not due to age/shoddy building!) Depending on how many museums/attractions you plan to visit and whether you will use public transport the “I Amsterdam City Card” can be better value than paying the individual admission rates of usually around 15-20 Euro per adult, per attraction. This card also comes with a free canal tour to sweeten the deal.

On the canal tour, you’ll see various Amsterdam landmarks, like the “Skinny Bridge” from James Bond from a unique perspective.

If you have time, be sure to walk/bike through the Red Light District by both night and day. This shouldn’t be hard to do as the Red Light District is right in the middle of Amsterdam city centre and is a part of the city’s oldest and most beautiful area. We actually walked through it by day by accident and it took us quite a while to realise where we were. (The coffee shops make for a good clue…) Returning by night almost defies belief: that the shop window views are so markedly different. Seemingly out of nowhere hundred of windows light up red at street level marketing in underwear the wares of the world’s oldest profession. We didn’t have time to visit The Red Light Secrets Museum and were sad to have missed our chance to sit in a red-lit window ourselves, the only such window where photography is permitted. (Open daily until midnight).

Despite the conotation, the Red Light District is a very beautiful area of the city.

Have you been to Amsterdam, or want to go? What face of the city do you prefer? The seedy underbelly of the Red Light District, or the art lover’s paradise? Let us know in the comments below!

Want to know specifics?
If you’d like to read more about any of the places we have stayed, ate, drank or partied, check out the Reviews link in the main menu at the top of the screen.

Ryan & Erin
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Ryan & Erin

Founders at Downbubble Travels
Erin Hardie and Ryan Platten are teachers, travel writers and photographers/web admins from Perth Western Australia. A mutual love of travel and trying new flavours brought them together (til death do they part!). They have created this blog after having each travelled to over fifteen countries individually before joining forces. They now seek to bring a little taste of the places they go to the walls of others (please pin us!) and to share information with other travel lovers!
Ryan & Erin
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