I could, without any hesitation, pack up and move to Amsterdam. It’s the perfect city with its beautiful canals and row houses, delicious cuisine, and friendly, easy-going people. And don’t even get me started on the bike lanes! Everyone cycles here and it’s truly one of the most civilised places I’ve ever been. It’s a lot more touristy than when I visited five years ago, but I suppose that’s a testament to what a great city it is to visit and to live in.
We were in Amsterdam because Nick was doing a university course at VU Amsterdam. It’s an international university where all postgraduate courses are taught in English, attracting a huge number of travellers and expats. Nick’s course was two weeks long, so I stayed for a week and went travelling with a friend for the other week (more on that in another blog post!) We took the opportunity to settle in and properly explore this liveable, beautiful city. Our friend, Alice also visited from Berlin and the three of us had such a great time.
Recently, Amsterdam’s also become a hub for entrepreneurs and freelancers. From what I’ve heard, it’s relatively easy to get a freelancer’s visa, so who knows, maybe we’ll move here for awhile…
Where to stay:
Since Nick was studying, we secured accomodation at Hotel Jansen which caters to short-stay students. It’s located slightly south of the main tourist area near Vondelpark and the Olympic Stadium, which ended up being a blessing in disguise.
Other accommodation options:
The Hoxton: This canal side hotel on the Herengracht was once the mayor’s home! The Hoxton is known for its beautifully rooms and incredible in-house restaurants.
The Pulitzer: If we weren’t staying at the university accommodation, I would’ve certainly booked a night at Pulitzer. It’s the epitome of Dutch elegance and nearly 400 years old. We just missed Pride, but they had a massive pink deck set up for the festivities!
Where to eat:
In addition to being a hotbed for entrepreneurs, Amsterdam’s also received an influx of lifestyle bloggers and creatives who are flocking to the many photogenic cafés and restaurants scattered throughout the city. We managed to visit a handful of incredible eateries during our stay and I loved both the food and the interiors at all of the following:
The Avocado Show: If you like avocados, make sure you go to The Avocado Show in Amsterdam. Everything on the menu is made using this millennial superfruit and every dish is absolutely ‘grammable.
Little Collins: Alice and I ventured to De Pijp for the most scrumptious Aussie-style brunch (and coffee). We were both such big fans of Little Collins. It’s worth noting that they have two locations in the West and de Pijp neighbourhoods of Amsterdam.
Toki: Coffee in Europe can be hit or miss, but Toki was hands down our favourite café in Amsterdam. If we lived here, we’d probably go at least weekly. With its pretty terrazzo tables and minimalist interior (it’s a mash-up of Japanese and Scandinavian-design), it’s right up my alley. Keep in mind, coffee is the focus here, so best to come for a drink and a snack rather than brunch.
Ree7: This cute little spot is a lovely place for breakfast. If you can, grab a table outside for people watching. We ordered the red velvet pancakes and avocado toast, both were delicious.
Winkel 43: The Dutch love their apple pie and Winkel is the most popular spot (and rightly so) to indulge.
Polaberry: Speaking of treats, if you have a major sweet tooth, you’ll want to hit up this Instagram hotspot (it’s owned by influencer Polina or Polabur) for chocolate-covered strawberries and beautiful cake pops.
Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx: Dutch fries are also an absolute must. There are plenty of great options, but we loved the ones at Vlaams. There’s usually a queue, but it moves quickly.
Mama Kelly: This pink palace was high on my list of places to visit and fortunately, super close to where we were staying. They’re known for their chicken and lobster, but also have some delicious vegetarian options. We ventured here for lunch on our last full day in Amsterdam and it lived up to the hype.
Foodhallen: With a handful of eateries and bars under one roof, Foodhallen is a great place to try a wide variety of concepts and cuisines. There’s even a gin bar…
Pluk Amsterdam: Part shop, part café, Pluk was my go-to for smoothie bowls and healthy breakfast options. It’s great if you’re looking for something light after having a few too many fries, stroopwafels and pancakes. It’s on the prettiest street as well, so make sure to hang around for window shopping.
Cannibale Royale: This dimly restaurant came highly recommended by quite a few people and it didn’t disappoint. I had the vegetarian burger and it was one of the best I’ve ever tried and the sides were equally tasty.
What to do:
A city steeped in history, there’s so much to explore in Amsterdam and I always find I run out of time to do everything I want to.
First things first, hire a bike. It’s the best way to get around and even if you’re not an avid cyclist, you’ll get the hang of it in no time. Just remember to always look both ways and don’t cut anyone off. Pretty much everyone commutes to work, so stick to the right so people can pass. I suggest going with Black Bikes (they have 14 locations) or Adamfiets. I rented bikes from both while I was there.
You’ll definitely want to go to the Van Gogh Museum (I’ve been twice) and to see Anne Frank’s House (it books up MONTHS in advance, so don’t delay). Both will be busy, so try to go first thing in the morning on a weekday, if possible.
Another must-visit museum is Rijkmuseum, which is located next to the Van Gogh Museum and has the largest collection of Rembrandt paintings. We also visited the National Maritime Museum (as per Nick’s request) and both really enjoyed the space and learning about the naval history that goes back 500 years. There’s also a 50-minute tour of the old ship where you can experience life aboard and have a look inside the captain’s cabin, the galley and the crew quarters. It’s a great tour for families.
On a sunny day, you’ll want to pack a picnic and spend a few hours in Vondelpark. The public park is always teeming with people of all ages. If you have time, definitely catch the FREE ferry from Amsterdam Centraal to Amsterdam Noord. A friend recommended we check out Pllek in NDSM and it was honestly the coolest bar ever. Very similar to Smash Palace, but bigger and right on the water. Amsterdam Noord also has serious Berlin vibes. Another awesome waterfront bar is Hannekes Boom, which we visited with another Christchurch friend the following day.
I hope you enjoyed reading my Amsterdam guide. If you want to see more of my recommendations, follow me on Instagram here.
Have you ever been to Amsterdam? If so, what did you think?