29 – 31 AUGUST 2016:
Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ capital, known for its artistic heritage, elaborate canal system and narrow houses with gabled facades, legacies of the city’s 17th-century Golden Age. Its Museum District houses the Van Gogh Museum, works by Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum, and modern art at the Stedelijk. Cycling is key to the city’s character, and there are numerous bike paths.
Full disclosure: Our holiday in Amsterdam started with a hangover that included vomiting on an airplane at 6am….
My friend Amanda and I had been partying all night celebrating a friend’s birthday. At 3am we jumped in a cab to Gatwick to catch our flight. I spent the whole flight (although it was only an hour) with my head in a bag. Clearly I had consumed way too many shots of Jack Daniels earlier that evening. Big mistake!
First stop….in need of sleep…hotel!
INNTEL – ZAANDAM
In an eclectic canalside structure made of 70 stacked houses, this striking hotel is a 2-minute walk from Zaandam train station and 10 km from the Anne Frank House.
The hotel we booked is located in Zaandam as opposed to the city centre. I had debated about whether we should stay in the centre but I’m quite glad we didn’t as this hotel was reasonable value and located next door to Zaandam train station. Around €5 (return) and two short stops later, you are at Amsterdam Central Station. Unfortunately the trains back to Zaandam seem to stop running around 1am so that’s something to be mindful of if you want to party all night.
You can also get from Amsterdam Schiphol airport to the hotel very easily by going via Amsterdam Central station. It’s well worth doing that as we paid for a cab and that set us back €80 when we could have probably got there for €20. That was money not well spent, although after an hour of vomiting in to a little bag I was desperate to get to the hotel in the quickest method possible.
The hotel itself is pretty modern and had a little spa area with sauna, steam room, gym etc. The room was average, no major complaints. It was decorated in a local theme, and featured designer furniture and a colourful mural. The location of the hotel was the best part though! Not only is it located next to Zaandam train station but it has an array of shops pretty much outside the hotel – high street brands, restaurants, supermarkets etc. They are right on the doorstep!
Once we finally recovered from our hangover, we ventured out for a walk around the city. We stumbled across the Sex Museum so thought ‘why not?’. I even managed to sit on a huge penis! Not something I get to do every day!
The museum is quite interactive and informative with things that will poke out unexpectedly and also lots of visual aids. Entrance was only around €8 per person so it’s worth a visit and will only take up an hour of your time.
Afterwards the Sex Museum we went to one of the smoking cafes to experience the act of legally smoking weed in a bar! We weren’t exactly sure how to order it but finally realised there was a separate counter and the lady there was very helpful. Amanda did not enjoy the buzz and worried she may have suffered from some type of permanent brain damage, so I strongly doubt she will ever try that again…
HOP ON, HOP OFF
Day 2 in Amsterdam was pretty busy. We decided to book tickets for the Hop On, Hop Off bus tour so that we could venture a bit further out and get a real feel for the city. The tickets were €28 each and included the bus route and also two boat routes. We started on the bus and then did the boat tour afterwards. We managed to stop off at Museum Square so we could have a drink and take some photos by the ‘I am Amsterdam’ sign! A big tourist attraction.
ESCAPE THROUGH TIME
One activity I had been particularly looking forward to was Escape Through Time.
I’ve done many Escape Rooms before but this one had great reviews and seemed to offer something slightly different and more interactive.
We were meant to meet at Cafe Onder de Ooievaar 30 minutes before our mission time for the warm up puzzles. We didn’t get there 30 minutes early, more like 2 minutes early! We had all day to get to the meet up address for 6pm but as always we didn’t plan properly and didn’t realise how long it would take for the boat tour to reach the required stop.
We had to jump off at an earlier stop and basically run just to get there in time. When we finally reached the cafe, heart racing, heavy breathing etc, we were given an envelope with some puzzles and an address of where to go next.
We knocked on the door of the mysetery address and got greeted by a mad scientist looking man. He gave us the scenario briefing and took us to a room. Then something strange happened…in fact nothing actually happened which was what was strange. Mr Mad Scientist had to then take us out of the little room as apparently there was a fault. He asked if we would wait outside until it was fixed. I thought this was all part of the act, but after 20 minutes of waiting outside I realised it was genuine. Apparently they had experienced technical difficulty so we were unable to do the activity and would get a refund instead. I was gutted! The reviews were so good so I really wanted to try it. Oh well….
RED LIGHT DISTRICT
When in Amsterdam…I feel you have to at least try some of the adult entertainment. The Red Light District is so iconic that you have to at the very least walk down the strip. I found it to be quite upmarket, not a dingy backstreet which I had imagined. With the canal running down the strip it was actually quite scenic. The prostitutes all have their own windows so it actually looked very classy, and a little surreal.
De Wallen or De Walletjes was the largest and best known red-light district in Amsterdam and consists of a network of alleys containing approximately three hundred one-room cabins rented by prostitute.
One very busy attraction down that road was the Cassa Rossi Live Sex Show!
We paid €40 per person to go watch the show – It’s an awkward but interesting experience. It’s set up like a mini theatre with a stage and basically you watch a 90 minute show of people engaging in many types of sexual activity. You can drop in at any time and still see the full show as it’s a repeating cycle.
I felt uncomfortable for about 10 minutes at the start but then found it weirdly mesmerizing. Definitely something you don’t see in England. I would recommend it but it’s not for the faint hearted! Another thing ticked off the bucket list!
Next stop along the Red Light District was the Prostitute Museum.
RED LIGHT SECRETS
The Museum of Prostitution was very informative and interesting. Admission is €8 and takes about 1 hour to walk through. They have a few layouts of what the prostitutes’ rooms look like too. They also offer an audio tour (only €1.5 extra) which gives the insight of a local working girl. It’s very interesting to read all the stories from former and current prostitutes. The museum has great exhibits and gives a comprehensive understanding of the business. You can take photos and even have a photo of yourself in a window posing as a prostitute.
The best part was the wall of confessions where people right down their naughty secrets! So funny!
This museum is worth a visit as it makes you see the girls in a whole new light….
I believe there is also an Erotic museum and a Torture museum located somewhere in Amsterdam, although we had seen enough sex exhibits and felt we should soak up some culture instead. Therefore on day 3 we headed to the Anne Frank House.
ANNE FRANK HOUSE
The Anne Frank House is a writer’s house and biographical museum dedicated to Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank. The building is located on a canal called the Prinsengracht, close to the Westerkerk, in central Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
Tip: Book a ticket online in advance otherwise you will be subjected to very long queues….
The house provides a very moving tribute to a remarkable girl and her love of life despite the horrific injustice she and her family endured. The museum is interactive with lots of visual aids in multiple languages. There is also a gift shop located at the end where you can pick up lots of different versions of her diary and other related books.
We loved Amsterdam as there was plenty to do, however 3 days was a sufficient amount of time for us to do everything we wanted to. There are a few Burrito restaurants/takeaways and oh my goodness they were fantastic!
Amsterdam is very well catered towards cyclists as it offers an easy way to get around the city. However, as a pedestrian I was constantly scared as the cycle paths were everywhere and bicycles were coming at us from all directions!
Would I go back to Amsterdam? Probably not, it’s interesting and quite unique in it’s legal offerings, although now I can say I’ve been there and done that!