Last week my husband and I spent two days in the wonderful city of Amsterdam. I have had the pleasure of visiting Amsterdam on numerous occasions, but this was my first time as an adult and I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I was younger all we did was cycle around the city - we never went in the museums and of course I didn't get to experience the nightlife. This time round I was able to absorb some of culture, appreciate the beauty of this city and do more 'grown up' things like a cheese and wine cruise on the canals.
We flew out from Manchester Airport and I was shocked by how quick the flight was. It was a 55 minute journey - quicker than going to London for me and a really nice journey. We flew via Easy Jet and for both of us the flights came to around £200, the main cost of that was my large suitcase I insisted on taking and now regret. I vow next time to try this whole mini break malarky with nothing but hand luggage - I doubt it will end well as I never pack light, but it would save me so much money in the long run. £50 to take a whole of lot of clothes you probably won't wear isn't always worth it.
When we landed in Schiphol airport, we went to the tourist information centre and booked our hotel transfers and the city bus tour, as well as picking up our iAmsterdam cards. The airport hotel transfers were around £16 per person and dropped us off right outside our hotel. These can be booked in advance or on the day. The cheaper option is to grab the metro where a ticket to the city centre would only cost approximately five euro, however my husband and I decided that the airport hotel transfer would be quicker and stop us from getting lost - we were lucky that our flight landed at 9am in the morning so we had a full day in Amsterdam to look forward to.
The iAmsterdam* cards are great for those who have never been to Amsterdam before and want to explore the city and the museums without breaking the bank. The iAmsterdam cards can be purchased from any tourist information shop and cost 49 euro for 24 hours, 59 euro for 48 hours and 69 euro for 72 hours. The pass includes: Unlimited public transport for that time period, a free detailed map, a free cruise along the river, free entry to many of the cities Museums (excluding Van Gogh, Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank House) and discounts in many restaurants - as well as a few freebies that can picked up in various places in the city.
Once we checked in our hotel (a review will be coming later), my husband and I set off to find Museum Square just that was just around the corner from where we were staying. Museum Square houses Amsterdam's top museums such as the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum as well as the renowned 'I Amsterdam' sign where many tourists queue up to take photos. When we arrived my husband and I decided to visit the Rijksmuseum to see some of Rembrandt's artwork and the world famous painting 'The Night Watch'. I loved the Rijksmuseum. It was full of beautifully preserved antiques and artefacts, lots of breathtaking paintings - many of which were from the Renaissance era that I love and the Rijksmuseum building is absolutely stunning and has gorgeous gardens to walk around. It was a bit foggy when we went, but I can imagine the gardens would be wonderful to visit during the summer. The entry free to the Rijksmuseum was an affordable 12.50 euros and for those who cannot bear to be without their phones, there's free WIFI in the museum as well as an app you can download to guide you along and give you more information.
After our visit to the museum, James and I decided to go for a stroll around Amsterdam and climb aboard the 'hop on, hop off' sightseeing city bus for a little tour. The bus costs 26 euro for 24 hours and you can choose to go on the sightseeing bus or boat or both for a little bit extra. If you have time, it is cheaper to book online before you go as you could save up to 10%. My husband and I opted for the bus and if I'm honest, it was a little bit disappointing. For a start, it was very difficult to find the stopping points for the bus. If you have ever been on a sightseeing bus in London for example, a lot of the stops have sign posts saying that it is a sightseeing stop and usually there's a rep trying to sell tickets. In Amsterdam you are given a map of the bus route and you have to match up the pictures on the map to try figure out where the bus is going to stop next. Another thing I disliked is that we were given earphones and the audio tour was through a radio rather than a person speaking to us and telling us about Amsterdam. I always thought in person tour guides offer a lot more character to the service and it's always great to be able to ask questions. I do understand that Amsterdam is a busy city and as so many people visit from different countries, there may have been issues with language barriers, hence the audio tape instead. On a positive note though, my husband and I learnt a lot about Amsterdam through the bus tour and it helped us identify different places we wanted to visit for the duration of our stay.
After our bus tour we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our evening cheese and wine cruise. We purchased these tickets online ahead of our visit and got on the nearest tram to central station where the tour departs. It was so lovely seeing everywhere lit up and the boat was so cosy with candles and romantic music playing in the background.
The cheese and wine tour came with unlimited wine of your choice - red or white and an authentic dutch cheese platter to share. The cruise started at 9pm and lasted two hours, going along most of the main canals in Amsterdam. It was lovely seeing all the buildings and houseboats lit up at night and the boat had a lovely ambience - everyone enjoying themselves, all relaxed. The cheese was superb, I could have three times the amount and it was nice to try the different pickled accompaniments even though I'm not a fan of mustard. The cheese and wine tour was a fantastic end to our first day in the city and put us in a fantastic mood for the next few days.
Have you been to Amsterdam before?
*I was kindly gifted an Iamsterdam card during my stay in the city