So 2016 was a big year for me in my relationship with my husband; we hit a major milestone of 10 years since we first started dating. He proposed on our 5 year anniversary and I decided I wanted to do something special for the 10 years together so booked a trip away to Amsterdam. It’s a place on both of our travel wish lists and wanted to explore this city I had heard so much about from friends who have previously visited.
We spent 3 nights in Amsterdam staying in the beautiful Hoxton hotel, I can not recommend this hotel enough. We had previously watched one of Casey Neistat’s vlogs where he visited the city and stayed at this hotel and I couldn’t believe my luck that I managed to book a room in the same hotel as a surprise for my husband. Our room was beautiful and very grand, I booked a canal view room and this was particularly beautiful at night with all the twinkling fairy lights in the trees. It had tall ceilings and the décor was quirky yet modern, it reminded me of the Ace Hotel we stayed in while visiting New York, everything was well thought through with even the mugs in the room having little quotes on the inside. The room had a minifridge in it with fresh milk and water and this was replenished daily along with a free breakfast bag that is placed on a little hook outside your room each morning. We had the breakfast bag once which came with granola, yogurt, banana and orange juice but it wasn’t to my taste and we ate out the other days instead.
We arrived around lunch time so got to explore the city on our first day there, we took the opportunity to do the walking route for the light festival the city holds each December. It was very cold but thankfully it stayed dry so we just wrapped up and headed out, we saw quite a bit of the city and it was a great way to get our bearings while seeing some beautiful light installations. The city is very easy to navigate on foot once you get your head around the canal layout and none of the main tourist sites are too far to walk.
Our second day we had an early start to visit the Anne Frank museum, I never really learned much about English history in school but obviously was aware of the significance of her story. We booked on the earliest available slot and this meant that while wandering around the hidden attic rooms we had the place to ourselves; it was great to see how she lived. It’s a real reminder that this was not all too long ago people were persecuted and treated this way and how quickly, especially in the current world climate this could happen again. There was a great quote at the end from Emma Thomson who said “The only thing we have to remember is: all her would-haves are our real possibilities”. Put this on your must do list while in Amsterdam but do try and turn up first thing while its empty, it’s worth the early start I promise.
We took one of the canal cruises during the day time that allowed us to relax and take in the sights of all the houseboats and grand houses that line the side of the canals. We stopped off at the Rijksmuseum museum although we did not go inside as the kind lady on the ticket booth explained that it was likely too late in the day to see the whole museum and recommended we came back another day. We wandered around Vondel Park where we came across some surprise parakeets and then wandered back to the museums to warm up with a chocolate waffle and drink.
While in Amsterdam we took in the sights of the zoo which is currently undergoing a new extension on the elephant enclosure, this is required due to the recent new arrival of the baby elephant who is one of the cutest things I have ever seen. Our time in the zoo flew by, it is well worth a visit, especially if you have children as it can easily take up a whole day for them. From here we went to the Botanical Gardens, this in my opinion was overpriced and does not need to be on your Amsterdam to-do list, maybe it’s nicer in the summer? I don’t know but I was very disappointed with what I saw.
We visited the Van Loon museum on the way home which is a traditional Dutch canal house as it would have been in the 19th Century. It didn’t take long to go around but felt like a real bit of history, there’s a surprising coach house and garden in the back making this house well worth a visit.
The last night was spent on one of the canal cruises around the Amsterdam Light Festival, this is an extremely popular event and you would benefit from booking this in advance to save on stress and ensure you get a cruise at a suitable time. There is loads to see from the boat that can’t be seen on foot plus it’s a lot warmer in the boat than walking around. Of course yes some of the things you see from the boat can also be seen on foot but it’s great to see them from a different perspective.
Would I go back to Amsterdam? Maybe in summer yes, but honestly I felt the whole city seemed a bit disappointing. It was full of British people either walking on the streets or working in the bars and cafes which took a lot away from the general atmosphere of the place, I have previously been elsewhere in Holland when I was younger and this was not the country I remembered. Do not misunderstand, I had a lovely holiday and Amsterdam is a beautiful city but I’m just not sure I really get the hype.