What’s the perfect way to get over the January blues? A city break in Amsterdam!
A lot of my friends often ask me why i travel to Amsterdam so often and just can’t seem to see past the crazy side of this city. There’s a lot more to Amsterdam than just sex and drugs, although, you CAN explore these areas without getting too involved in the wildness.
Last weekend we visited Amsterdam in Holland. We took a coach from London to Duivendrecht and met up with friends in central Amsterdam, before staying overnight in the city and flying back to Gatwick the next day.
This wasn’t exactly a low cost trip as we decided to go pretty last minute but you can get great deals on hotels and transportation if you book well in advance.
Totals Spent for 2 people :
Coach from London Victoria to Duivenrecht : £44 – Eurolines through National express
Spending money : 170 Euros
Amsterdam lookout and over the edge for 4 people £60.95
Return Flights : £164.84
Gatwick Express tickets to Victoria : £35.90
The Journey There
We met the coach at London Victoria at 9pm on the Friday and the journey to Duivendrect Holland was so much better than i expected. I’d booked the Eurolines coach online, through the National Express website for £44. With a 12 hour coach ride ahead of us i made sure i was fully equipped as always. Sandwiches and snacks and Stranger Things downloaded and ready to go on Netflix. We also had Eastenders to catch up on 🙂
The coach was comfortable. With a decent toilet and roomy seats. The drive to Dover took around 2.5 hours.
I really like that the first part of the journey is broken up with a ride on the ferry. The coach parks up and passengers are asked to leave the coach. Theres somewhere to get food and drinks on board although we usually take the opportunity to nap!
The ferry over the English channel takes another 2.5 hours and we arrived at Eindhoven in Holland around 2am. Amsterdam is an hour ahead of London so this automatically became 3am. We slept through the 2 or 3 different drop offs and arrived at Duivendrect at 9am on Saturday morning.
Although i can’t say i had a good nights sleep on the bus, over the 6 hours i had managed to get some shut-eye and believe the £120 saved on flights was truly worth it.
The coach stops right at Duivendrect train station.
You can get train tickets from the yellow ticket machines outside the station. Tickets cost around 3 Euro each.
Once inside the station you’ll be looking for trains to Amsterdam C (Amsterdam central) and the journey takes around 10 minutes.
Our hotel of choice was the NH Carlton in Amsterdam. This trip was a last-minute decision and this usually means a hike in prices. Booking in advance really pays off as I’ve previously booked a really nice hotel room for 2 people in Amsterdam for £36 a night. Our night at the NH Carlton cost $137!
If you’re planning on booking a trip later this year, check the prices now. Especially in Europe! Flights and hotels can often be so much cheaper 6 months+ before.
I’d called ahead and asked for an early check in as the hotel only provided rooms from 3pm. We arrived at 10am but no rooms were ready. Luckily for us we were meeting up with other people and a friend left us their room key so we could freshen up. (Thanks Holly!)
The hotel was decent (3.5 on Trip advisor and 7.1 on Booking.com) but not outstanding.
Our friends room had a balcony which was a nice touch but ours did not.
The bed however was huuuuge! (these photos do not do its size justice) And so so comfy. The bathroom was equipped with everything you’d need (Good hairdryer, shower gel, shampoo, body lotion, a kettle and assortment of teas and a mini bar) and the entire room was clean excusing a stain or two on the ceiling. There is also free WiFi available throughout the hotel and the rooms.
I wouldn’t pay £137 to stay here again. I much prefer my regular spot at the hotel Cordial. You can check it out here.
For a last-minute booking it was fine. We didn’t end up spending much time in our room. We got in around 10pm and were checking out at 12pm the next day. All in all, it served its purpose.
The hotels location was good with lots of restaurants and coffee shops nearby. There’s no food or drink available after 11pm but there is a Macdonald’s opposite. If you’re a sports fan avoid the sports bar opposite and continue down the road to the right of it. A little further on there’s an Irish bar on the left that serves great food and have better positioned TV’s.
Lunch at The Bulldog Cafe Mack
We met up with our friends and headed to the Bulldog Coffee shop in the Red Light District. More specifically; the Cafe Mack Coffee shop.
The Bulldog chain has at least 3 different locations within 5 minutes of each other. You can buy weed, stay at the Bulldog Hotel, AND grab something to eat and drink whilst having a smoke at one or more of these locations. The Bulldog Mack serves food and drink, which, by chance, was just what we were looking for.
I can vouch for the Hotdog and burger combos (God i love a hot dog!), also the bulldogs own brand of iced coffee was really good. The setting is pub like and you’re able to order alcohol as well as smoke weed freely.
If you chose to experience any Amsterdam Coffee shop be prepared to part with a little cash regardless of whether weed is on your agenda or not.
Most coffee shops offer a table service and will expect you to order a round of drinks. Coffees and hot chocolates are fine, not everyone wants to get wasted.
Not everywhere serves alcohol. Generally a ‘Coffee shop’ will either sell weed OR alcohol. Also have some change to hand as the bathroom will cost you 50 cent a time.
Amsterdam is a wild but honest city. Don’t be afraid to experience it. The people are generally friendly and helpful.
If you need more help with recommendations for anything in this post just ask!
The Red light District
After lunch we took a stroll through Amsterdam’s notorious Red Light District. This place scares me.
It’s busy, and rowdy and has a lot going on, especially of an evening. If you’re visiting for the first time i always recommend visiting during the day before going at night (you can always come back). For starters there are a lot fewer people. I mean a difference of 10-15 people in plain sight during the day, verses hundreds at night.
I’d always wanted to experience the Red Light District more than just strolling around and in 2016 i found something i could do that didn’t make me nervous as hell….
The Sex Palace
Trying to build up the courage to attend a sex show just wasn’t happening so when i discovered the Sex Palace i was eager to share it with my friend. She too wasn’t too keen on the whole prostitution to your left and full-blown erotica to your right.
Amsterdam’s Sex Palace is a peep show. It’s not creepy or sordid. I’m not saying it’s somewhere i want to spend a lot of time but please remember I’m speaking from a females point of view. Some people may find the red Light District degrading.
You enter through the open main entrance and to your left there’s a bunch of doors. A red light above the door means the booth is occupied. Green means its vacant.
Signs outside the booth doors say only one person can enter at a time; I’m not telling you to break the law here but i have always gone in with someone else and never had a problem.
To the right of the doors there’s a plastic screen with a guy sitting behind it. He’ll change-up a note for you if you don’t have any. 2 Euros will get you 2 minutes in a booth and you need either 1 or 2 Euro coins.
Grab a friend and find a door with a green light. Behind the door you’ll find a tiny room that looks like the inside of a photo booth (the kind you get your passport photo taken in) and to your right a slot to put your coins into. The window in front of you will remain frosted until you enter your first 2 Euros. As soon as you put 2 Euros in, the window will clear and you’ll see a lovely lady being somewhat entertaining, on the other side.
The more money you put in the longer you can stay. I’ve never stayed in longer than 2 minutes (as a straight female it’s not the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen).
Do not expect big things from this encounter. It’s a great way to privately experience a part of this wild district especially during the day (before 5pm) when you’ll share the palace with no more than 15 people. At 8pm there will be people crowding around outside waiting to get in.
We did come back to the red light District in the evening. We were at Amsterdam central station so walked from there back to our hotel in the South of the city and it really is beautiful.
The Red Lights illuminate the streets and canals. There’s plenty to see but please be careful when taking photos. Tourists are not expected to take photos of the girls in the windows.
Before our evening stroll we’d taken a FREE ferry from Amsterdam central station over to Buiksloterweg (You can board the ferry just behind the station, the ferry ride takes 2 minutes). Here we visited The A’dam Lookout.
Over The Edge
The A’dam lookout is an observation tower behind Amsterdam central train station. It costs 12 Euros to go up to the viewing platform at the top of the tower and the views at the top are spectacular.
We arrived at the lookout at 4.30pm and enjoyed the beautiful sunset at 5pm.
For an extra 5 Euros we then took a ride on the highest swing in Europe. Over the edge is located at the top of the tower and is one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced.
I looooove rollercoasters and with a speed similar to a snail and the entire ride only lasting 3 minutes i thought it would be a piece of cake. Oh how wrong i was.
It was freezing by the time we’d got on the swing and as soon as it started my palms were super sweaty. The ride IS scary and certainly not for the faint hearted! It was however, such a fun experience to have with our friends and one that we won’t forget in a hurry
Side note : If i could do anything differently i would have planned to arrive earlier at around 3.30pm and do the swing first, as everyone had had a similar idea to us and had arrived to see the sunset. It wasn’t too busy but as soon as the sun went it got so so cold and everyone started lining up for the swing. We were lining up for an hour in the cold! So as a word of advice; arrive at 3.30pm, have your ride on the swing (there’s a bar to grab drinks if you have time) and then catch the sunset just before leaving.
We spent our evening in Bar regular and Jack which was opposite our hotel. Our friend supports Tottenham Hotspur (Booooo!) and this place has Tv’s showing the game. The cocktails here were amazing! Although the setting let it down a little as we were unable to order any food and were squashed into a corner by the door.
Once again, if i could go back i would have continued down the side street that this bar is on and gone to the Irish Pub. St James Gate as the TVs are so much bigger and the environment is just more welcoming
The Morning After
The next morning we actually had breakfast at the Irish pub which was delicious!
There’s a coffee shop nearby that is really chill and great to gather yourselves before your flight home. After breakfast we spent an hour in Smokeys (they sell brownies ♥) before requesting an uber and heading to the airport.
The Journey home
We flew home with British Airways (a budget airline will do just fine as the flight is so short) at 5pm Dutch time and arrived and London Gatwick at 5pm London time. Time Travel!
We took the Gatwick express train straight into London Victoria. This journey only takes 30 minutes and is so convenient for us as we only live 10 minutes from Victoria Coach station
Google maps and Uber
Before heading to Amsterdam i recommend you have access to the following:
- Google Maps – Amsterdam is the most confusing city I’ve ever visited. There are canals everywhere! It’s really beneficial to have google maps on your phone before you go. There is WiFi available everywhere so its easy to stay connected. As a rule the canals really help with navigation. When pin pointing where you are and where you need to get to on the map, count the number of canals you need to cross and this will really help keep you on route.
- Uber – I use Uber most places i go but Uber in Amsterdam is great. Don’t get me wrong, you do not need to get taxis in the city. I always walk, I’ve never even been on a tram! Everything is easily accessible. If you do however wish to venture outside the city, UBER is your best option. We paid only 25 Euros to get to Schipol airport from our hotel and it only took 16 minutes!
If you’ve not used UBER before here’s my code : rebeccar174ue
Use it and get £15 off your first ride!
If you have any questions about this post get in touch or leave your best Amsterdam Tip in the comments below.