Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Top 5: Things to do in Amsterdam

Amsterdam street with bicycles and canalMornin light on an Amsterdam canal

I already shared what I wore in Amsterdam and now it's time to share what I actually got up to. First of all, why Amsterdam? Well, last year I took my first trip abroad ever, visiting Dubai for my 30th birthday. That adventure certainly gave me the taste for exploring new places, even if my bank account took a while to catch up. I made 'taking more trips' one of my 2018 resolutions so decided I wanted to spend my 31st birthday somewhere new. After the excesses of Christmas and New Year it needed to be affordable, plus my holiday partner in crime Ashley would be joining me from Northern Ireland so it needed to be somewhere we could both get to relatively easily. And so, with a little bit of flight research, we decided upon Amsterdam - somewhere that's been on my list for a while.

We spent three nights in the city, staying in the Jordaan area at the Mr Jordaan Hotel. It was a lovely area to stay in, quieter than the city centre but with plenty of picturesque canals and tall buildings. We spent most of our trip in this western canal area, venturing into the centre and to the south every now and then. We still managed to pack a lot into our trip, so here's some of my highlights...

1.) Weird, wonderful and moving museums.
The Amsterdam Tulip Museum is a surprising intresting place to visit when in Amsetrdam
There's a whole load of great looking museums in Amsterdam and I certainly did my best to fit in as many as possible. One that surprised me was the Tulip Museum. It sounds a bit lame but I had a blast checking out this small but packed space. Who knew there was so much to say about a flower! I found it really interesting learning about Tulip mania in Amsterdam and loved all the bright blooms and colourful photos.

Colourful pop art Roy Lichtenstein exhibition at Amsterdam's Moco Museum
Even more fun was had at Moco Museum. Located in a beautiful building, it featured two separate exhibitions: Banksy and Roy Lichtenstein. The latter was definitely my favourite. I loved all the bright colours and seeing the different styles and approaches he used over his lifetime. I especially enjoyed the room made out to look like a Pop Art version of Van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles paintings.

The Anne Frank House was another surprise for me, but in a different way. I hadn't been too interested in visiting this (I haven't read her diaries and thought it would just be too depressing), but it was just down the road from the hotel so we decided to give it a go. I found the experience really moving and some of the artefacts the have on display left me feeling really emotional.

2.) Shop beautiful design
Restore is one of the best places to shop in Amsterdam for modern independent design
I love finding new independent designers and beautifully curated stores and Amsterdam certainly had it's fair share. Restored was full of clean design and beautiful objects. Store Without a Home was packed with fun homeware. Verse featured sustainable design from lots of different designers, as well as some simple but striking jewellery. Young Designers United had a great selection of local designers and some beautiful footwear (I especially loved Studio Catta's fun jumpers) and then there was Universe on a T-shirt, filled with fun embroidered and printed clothing for women, men and little ones alonside a great selection of patches and pins - I may have treated myself to an item or two.

Etical fair trade design at See Me in Amsterdam a brand that helps women who have survived violence
Last, but definitely not least, I came across See Me. Unlike the other stores, I hadn't searched it out but I was very glad I stumbled across it. The idea behind it is to employ women who have survived violence and provide them with jewellery making skills. Using recycled silver they create beautiful heart themed designs in an effort to replace violence with love. Money made from selling the pieces then goes back into the programme. It's great to find brands that work differently and do their bit to make a change.

3.) Good eating. 
Our first night was spent enjoying some local dishes in Moeders. We both opted for stamppot, mine was vegetarian while Ashley went for the full meat version. This was stodgy, comfort food that definitely helped keep out the cold. The surroundings were shabby in the best way, with the walls covered in photos of people's mothers and the tables filled with mismatched tableware, all brought by diners on the restaurants opening night.

Coffee, juice and breakfast at Pluk in Amsterdam
For breakfast the next day we were hoping to get some Dutch style pancakes but Pancakes was full so we decided to pop across the road to Pluk. I was so glad we did. There were loads of great breakfast options (including a unicorn and a galaxy bowl), they had a lovely little shop area filled with pretty things and the staff were super friendly. I opted for the Pluk breakfast (an omelette, croissant with jam, juice and a coffee) while Ashley went for the unicorn bowl (it looked so very pretty). The next day we did make it to Pancakes. While the space was a bit crammed and very touristy, the pancakes were delicious. I tried to recreate mine for pancake day but it just wasn't the same.

My favourite dinner spot we went to was Black and Blue. It had a lovely relaxed atmosphere, attentive staff and a super delicious veggie curry that I can't stop thinking about!

4.) Having a wander.
Colourful pink bicycle on an Amsterdam street
Colourful and bright monster street art in Amsterdam
One thing that surprised me about Amsterdam was just how much it looked like Amsterdam! At least the area we were staying did - on the bus back to the airport we passed more places that just looked like any city but the Jordaan really did look like a postcard. I loved just walking around looking at all the buildings, checking out the houseboats on the canals and spotting colourful bicycles. I also found some fun graffiti, though I'm sure if I'd done more research I would have been able to find even more interesting street art.

5.) Combining my favourite things.
Cat art in beautiful surroundings at Katten Kabinet in Amsterdam
A few of my favourite things are art, design and cats. While I didn't find a place that combined all three, I did find a couple of places that combined at least two of these. We visited Katten Kabinet, a gallery/museum dedicated to art containing cats. There were paintings, sculptures, posters and even a 1960s cartoon featuring a crafty feline. There were also a couple of real kitties, though I only spotted one of them. It was so wonderful, as you can tell by excited face in the photo!

Stedelijk Museum provided another great combination, mixing contemporary art and contemporary design. There were so many rooms to get lost in. I particularly enjoyed Stefan Tcherepnin's The Mad Masters exhibition containing some amazing sculptures and a beautifully sad video piece.

Westerkerk Bell Tower in Amsterdam

There you have it, my top Amsterdam tips! I hope this helps give you some inspiration if you're planning a trip. Already been to Amsterdam? Let me know your favourite things so I can add them to my list for next time.

No comments:

Post a Comment