Our weekend in Amsterdam starts with a €9.99 bus ride (on flixbus) from Brussels North Station. It took 2 hours 45 minutes to get to Amsterdam (1 hour 30 minutes for those who prefer the train). The driver drops us off at Sloterdijk station, located 10 minutes by metro from the central station.
Amsterdam’s transport system is extremely well developed. Whether by inter-city train (leading to The Hague, Rotterdam and many other cities), metro, bus or tram, it seems that every corner is served! We opted for the GVB Multi-day card for 48 hours – which cost 13,50€ – mainly because the hotel we had chosen was a bit south of the main attractions.
In particular, we used public transport to get to our hotel on arrival, but also in the evening and early morning to get to the more remote areas. For the rest, in spite of the good transport system, we mainly walked in order to discover as much of the city as possible. Amsterdam is a city perfectly fitted for walkers!
Transport in Amsterdam
The Apollo Hotel Amsterdam, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel
Located at the intersection of four canals, the Apollo Hotel Amsterdam – a Tribute Portfolio Hotel was simply stunning!
We were charmed on arrival by the hotel’s retro look. From the outside, it reminded us of the 70’s with its curves, its ground level entrance before reaching the upper floors set back from the main building.
The entrance is at once elegant, subdued and modern. The mix of marble and leather with patterns on the walls and ceiling make the atmosphere both welcoming and warm.
Along the corridor that leads to the rooms are numerous varieties of tropical plants, displays with various objects, a bit like a cabinet of curiosities. Along the windows are seats in the shape of a bird cage. This warm decor gives the strange impression of being at home. One is tempted to take a seat at the tables and have a drink!
Upon arrival, we were informed that we had been upgraded to a room with a view. We didn’t expect anything, but when we arrived in the room, we discovered a large room with a huge window overlooking the canal! In the early morning of the next day, we discovered that many rowing teams were training right under our window. It was really great to watch the teams go by while drinking our morning coffee!
The room itself was quite spacious, with a small armchair in the corner of the room, a work desk as well as a queen size bed.
The bathroom was also very large with a bathtub/shower. In short, a very nice experience in itself at the Apollo Hotel Amsterdam – a Tribute Portfolio Hotel!
A city to discover slowly
As mentioned above, we enjoyed strolling along the canals and walking the streets of the city. We loved going into the many cheese shops that always have lots of samples… sheep cheese, cow cheese, herbed cheese, caramelized wafers, you name it!
The particular architecture of the city also deserves to be admired, especially the straight lines of Amsterdam’s buildings, which have many decorative elements. If many of these buildings seem to be dangerously leaning forward, we were told that the vast majority of the facades are voluntarily inclined, in order to allow using a system of pulleys installed on the facade when moving items.
Our walk allowed us to discover many places by chance. This is how we came to visit the Westerkerk church, one of the first Dutch protestant churches built after the conversion to protestantism.
The Anne Frank House
One of the most infamous visits to make in Amsterdam is certainly the Anne Frank House. The museum is very well organized and offers a lot of information, both about the background and the story of Anne Frank. We opted to do the pre-introduction tour and did not regret it. The price is quite expensive, but well worth it! On the other hand, it should be noted that the demand for tickets far exceeds the supply. You have to book well in advance and reserve your ticket to make sure you can visit.
Stroll on the canals
The previous summer I had gone to Amsterdam for a conference and was offered two tickets for a one-hour boat ride on the canals. So we took advantage of our winter weekend to discover the city in a different way!
The ride was interesting and the captain provided a lot of information about the city and especially the canals, which he knew like the back of his hand. The experience felt very commercial, however, but there are also quieter options – private and semi-private – that we will try if the opportunity arises.
Dutch national museum of art and history, it is located in the Museumplein area, close to many museums, including the one dedicated to Van Gogh, the contemporary art Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Moco Museum on modern and surrealist art. There really is something for everyone!
The Rijks is the largest and most visited museum, not only in the city but also in the country. The entrance fee is 20€ per adult and free for children and young people under 18. Although the ticket price seemed high, we really enjoyed the visit to the museum, the exhibits were interesting and the building is very nice. In short, it’s a good option on rainy days!
From the central station you can take a ferry (free of charge) to Amsterdam North, just across the water. Once there you will find the Eye Filmmuseum, a national film museum with four repertory cinemas, exhibitions and a bar and restaurant overlooking the water.
You will also find the A’Dam Lookout, a rooftop with a 360 degree view of the city, activities such as an interactive exhibition, but above all the possibility to swing above the void at more than 100 meters from the ground. The elevator ride up is enhanced by a sound and light show during the 20 seconds you go up! Finally, the whole is completed by a restaurant offering a breathtaking view and apparently an excellent 7 course menu…
Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam
The Amsterdam Botanical Garden offers three gigantic, ultra-modern greenhouses that represent three distinct climates: sub-tropical, tropical and desert. Being plant lovers, we really enjoyed the visit and absolutely must mention the fun we had eating at the little cafe that offers excellent fresh salads!
Artis Zoo Amsterdam
Totally by chance, we stumbled upon the Amsterdam Zoo after spotting a flock of flamingos through a fence. Out of curiosity we got closer and realized that we were at the entrance of a zoo in the heart of the city! We loved it, and decided to get tickets to visit.
Once inside, we were surprised by the size of the zoo and its beautiful decor! We had fun exploring, and since we were there on a rainy day, we basically had the zoo to ourselves. We had a great time, admiring the elephants, giraffes, crocodiles, monkeys, panthers, jaguars and many other animals. We spent more than 3 hours there, and to tell the truth, we could have easily spent another 3 hours.
Visit to the Royal Palace
The former Amsterdam town hall was converted during the reign of Louis Napoleon (the emperor’s brother) and it is now possible to visit the Royal Palace when it is not occupied by the king.
The visit itself is brief, but very pleasant. You can admire the sumptuous decoration of the palace. An audio guide is included in the ticket price (10€, 9€ for students and free for children).
Outside the palace, Dam Square attracts many tourists and events! There is a lot of street entertainment and the atmosphere is festive.
Close to these tourist places, you will also find many “coffee shops”, famous cafes known for the consumption of cannabis.
Eating well in Amsterdam
While the culinary qualities of the Dutch are often reduced to sandwiches and pancakes, we ate quite well in Amsterdam.
A small chain of three restaurants, one in Brussels and two in Amsterdam, based on the theme of… you guessed it, the avocado, the Avocado Show offers breakfasts and lunches.
From avocado toast to burgers to decadent poké bowls, you’ll find something you’ll love! We loved the playful decor and the esthetics of the food. As a bonus we left with the cookbook and a solid challenge to reproduce the various recipes at home. Special mention to the “mama mango”, the vegetarian poke bowl with mango, avocado, edamame, cucumber and wakame. A delight!
One of our first food stops was the Pancake Bakery which had been highly recommended in many travel guides. The place is huge, and so is the menu. Sweet and savoury crepes are offered, as well as salads and a number of desserts.
We tried the Canadian pancake, which was a sweet and sour mix with bacon. On the tables, large jars of molasses (or something similar) were available for those who wanted some. While the experience was all in all good, it was certainly not a must-see and proved to be quite expensive.
Little Collins (de Pijp)
On the second morning we opted for the Little Collins in the very “hip” district of De Pijp. The place is small and warm and the staff extremely welcoming. We ate delectable, well-balanced dishes that combined foods and flavours in unexpected ways (who would have thought that an apple bun would be so delicious with caramelized sage?)
For dinner, we had a craving for tapas and discovered Barça. It’s an elegant and unpretentious restaurant offering delicious tapas. We loved the flavours and the simplicity of the dishes. The experience and the flavours took us back to the world of Barcelona!
Located right next to Barça (and yes, we really enjoyed wandering around De Pijp), De Tulp restaurant offers a relaxed and playful atmosphere and a variety of dishes. A mix of flavours from nachos to Argentine chimichurri to jerk chicken. The prices were decent and the place was nice.
Drinking well in Amsterdam
Here are our two best recommendations or a drink in Amsterdam.
Cocktails at the World Class Room
In a previous post, I mentioned our affection for speakeasies, those bars reminiscent of the underground places during prohibition. So we discovered this little gem by doing a bit of research. The World Class Room is definitely one of my favourite speakeasies… ever.
The atmosphere is perfect, the bar is small and can only accommodate about 15 people at a time and the bartender is a real connoisseur. After asking us what flavours we like best, he came up with two absolutely delicious house cocktails! A bit of spice in one, a little sweeter taste in the other, we were delighted! A must-try!
Beer in the Brouwerij of Eeuwige Jeugd
As far as drinks are concerned, we really liked the cosy atmosphere of this neighbourhood brasserie. You feel good as soon as you arrive and nobody rushes you if you want to spend hours there. The owner’s cat walks freely between the tables and lies down wherever he likes. Something to make everyone smile!
Notes on the city
Amsterdam is a city that will appeal to a wide range of people. Although the city center is small, there are an incredible number of activities available. From small public art galleries, to numerous art and history museums, to outdoor activities, there is something for everyone.
However, the city as a whole seemed expensive to us, although there are a lot of free outdoor activities, walks in the park, cycling, walking along the canals, etc. For those who like museums, indoor activities, we found the prices high and were disappointed by the few student discounts (18+) offered.
Nevertheless, Amsterdam is worth a visit and it is amazing to walk around and discover as many of its little treasures as possible.
Platinum Challenge at Marriott Bonvoy
This short Amsterdam weekend getaway allowed us to get our last necessary night and when we woke up, we were surprised to see on the mobile application that my Platinum status was active!