“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
Amsterdam is a certainly a city of two halves but don't be put off by its stag night, weed-smoking, red light reputation, it has another less seedy side - beautiful architecture, cool, independent shops and a really friendly vibe. We spent four days there in April with our teenage son so some of the restaurants wouldn't have been our first choice (!) and it's somewhere we'd definitely like to return to as a couple.
Where we stayed
Droog is a very cool concept design store in the heart of Amsterdam with an amazing cafe and an apartment on the top floor. Furnished with design pieces and decorated in a minimal, pared back style, One and Only Apartment is the perfect base for a city break and our welcome there was a very warm one with a home made apple cake waiting for us when we arrived!
The rooftop views from the massive windows are an extra bonus and the breakfasts in the cafe every morning were incredible.
Where we ate
Pazzi - we ate here our first night when we were very tired and in need of some serious comfort food. The pizzas are made to order using the freshest ingredients and although a lot of people seemed to be ordering takeaways, we sat in the small seating area at the back.
Coffee and Coconuts - we ate lunch here on our second day while we were exploring the De Pijp district. In what was once a cinema, the decor is whitewashed, Bali surf-shack inspired and the food is mainly organic with good vegetarian and vegan options.
Krua Thai - just a three minute walk from where we were staying and pretty good thai food with very friendly service. The only thing I would say is that the owner asked if he could recommend some dishes for us which was great (and hard to refuse) but we were brought far too many dishes and the bill was extortionate! Looking on Trip Advisor, this seems like a common concern.
What we did
On our first day we hired bikes from Mac Bikes and cycled out of the city, along the river to the small town of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel (the thought of cycling through the hustle and bustle of the city streets was slightly terrifying!). It felt like we were seeing the 'real' Holland, passing farms, beautiful Dutch houses and windmills. We ate a sandwich and drank a beer in the sun before returning back to the city centre.
One of the things you must do when you're in Amsterdam is to take a boat trip. There are loads to choose from, departing from most parts of the city but we went from outside the Hermitage Museum with Amsterdam Boat Adventures. It was such a lovely thing to do on a sunny afternoon and the best (and most relaxed) way to see the city.
Because we booked our trip quite late, we were sad to miss out on tickets to the Anne Frank Museum but we managed to visit the Resistance Museum on our second morning. It cleverly gives an immersive sense of how the city felt and functioned during the war.
The Nine Streets is a great place to see some of the best independent stores and cool cafes the city has to offer.
Stop for waffles at Van Wonderen Stroopwafels
and a coffee at the Hoxton.
A visit to the botanical gardens - Hortus Botanicus - is a lovely way to spend a couple of hours away from the 'busy'ness of the city streets. I found it quite therapeutic and calming to wander around the beautiful gardens and dramatic greenhouses. There's a really good cafe and plenty of tables outside.
One of my favourite parts of the city was De Pijp - I loved its cool, laid back vibe with lots of independent boutiques and a great market. Make sure you stop for coffee and a cinnamon roll at the Scandinavian Embassy and pop into the brilliant lifestyle store, Hutspot, for beautiful clothing and homewares. I really wish I'd taken a bigger suitcase!