Since my first experience travelling properly last year I’ve become a bit of a wanderluster. I’d been on holidays before, but “travelling” is a different experience altogether. The travel bug is real, and I have well and truly been bitten by it. So when I got back from Canada in August it became difficult to shut me up about how much I wanted to go somewhere. My feet get VERY itchy when I don’t have any travel plans in the pipeline.
Dan eventually got fed up with my incessant complaining and had a look on Skyscanner to find cheap flights to ANYWHERE. We’d been saying for some time that we should go away together, and Amsterdam had come up quite a few times in conversation. Luckily it turns out that is one of the places you can fly to from Southampton quite cheaply. All the super cheap flights are from London airports (I found some to Luxembourg for a tenner), but then you spend more time and money getting there and back than you do on the actual holiday itself.
Despite having been together for nearly two years and both travelling a lot, this was actually our first proper holiday together. This was where we got to find out if we could tolerate each other in a different country (spoiler: we were fine). Amsterdam is a good place for a couple’s first holiday, as there’s so much to do. The city is so vibrant and varied that even the most argumentative couple should find something they’ll both enjoy. It’s also pretty big, so if you do need time apart it’s easy enough to do.
We stayed for four days, and saw a lot in that time. As we’ve both been before, we did leave out some of the obvious attractions like the I amsterdam sign and the Anne Frank house. Below you can find out how we spent our four fun and full days in Amsterdam.
Day 1 – arrive in Amsterdam, explore De Wallen
Our flight left from Southampton Airport at 9:30 in the morning, so we arrived in Amsterdam just after 11am. I cannot believe how quick the flight was. A few years ago I got the coach with Louise and it took SIXTEEN HOURS. Sixteen horrible hours. We could have just got the plane and taken 50 minutes. Pro tip: GET THE PLANE, NOT THE COACH!
Our apartment was conveniently located just a train and short tram ride away from the airport. We got a super good deal, because the first two places we tried to book were secretly unavailable, so we got a discount on a really nice apartment. We arrived at 2pm as scheduled, but had a bit of a hoo-ha getting into the place and contacting the host. Long story short, the wrong house number was on the information we were given so we spent a couple of hours at a loose end.
We finally got into our apartment in time to have a nap before venturing out to De Wallen – the heart of the famous red light district. Like most of the visitors, we had no intention of actually partaking in the services the red light district has to offer, but it is a fascinating place to visit nonetheless. It’s great to experience a truly liberal scene, where the vices of humans are safe, legal, and regulated.
Day 2 – canal trip, cheese museum, coffee shop
The canals are an unavoidable feature of Amsterdam. They are quite literally all over the place. You don’t need to take a canal tour to see them, but you do get to enjoy a completely different view of the city from the water. At first we looked into renting a little boat for the two of use to explore at our own pace, but couldn’t find anything within our budget. We opted for the next best thing: a guided tour on one of Amsterdam’s many canal boat trips.
The guided tours are super interesting, and full of fun titbits such as:
timber frame houses are illegal in Amsterdam after several fires devastated many wooden homes
the little hook at the tops of buildings is used to heft things into the tall, narrow houses
and most importantly: there is a cat boat on the canal that looks after homeless cats
After the tour we visited the cheese museum. As a pair of cheese fanatics there was no way we could miss this. The museum is really a cheese shop with a small exhibit in the basement, but is actually really enjoyable. The shop staff encourage you to try as many cheese samples as you like, and the store sells some really unusual cheeses. My favourite was bunker cheese, which is matured in underground WW2 bunkers, giving it a really unique taste. Dan liked the truffle cheese best, so we got a slice of each.
After our obligatory afternoon nap (god we’re getting old) we ventured back into the centre and checked out one of the many coffee shops. It’s good to do, even just to stop for an actual coffee and a snack (there are loads of snacks, of course), and soak up the ambience. Oddly it took us a while to find one that wasn’t crammed with people. We didn’t want to be part of any party scene, so we wandered until we found somewhere more chill.
Day 3 – bikes, zoo
Cycling in Amsterdam is both scary and awesome and you should definitely do it! I cycle to and from work most days, so I definitely wanted to give it a go in one of the most cycle-friendly cities in the world. It’s crazy how casual everyone is where everything cycling is concerned. Bikes aren’t always locked up, they’re left all over the place, and there don’t seem to be many rules of the road. If there are rule people definitely don’t adhere to them.
However, despite the scariness, cycling was a pleasure. Bikes were given precedence everywhere we went, and most routes had really good cycle paths. The roads were surprisingly smooth, especially compared to my usual route to work. My bottom didn’t hurt at all. I really want a Dutch bike because they’re so much more comfortable. The handlebars are slightly different, so instead of leaning forward on the bike you’re just kind of sat upright. Oh, and the FLATNESS. The only slopes were the bridges, and they were only small. Cycling to work is gonna seem really rubbish now.
Artis Zoo was amazing, of course. I’m a sucker for zoos, but this one is a zoo AND an aquarium, with a planetarium thrown in. The animals are definitely the main attraction, with lions, elephants, jaguars, giraffes – all the favourites. As well as a bird house, butterfly house, reptiles, insects, and a whole host of other animals. We spent a good few hours there seeing everything.
Day 4 – windmill brewery, poezenboot, herring
This was our last day, so we had to squeeze in all the little things we had left to do. I really wanted to see a windmill and eat some herring, but since learning about the cat boat that was pretty high up the list too. We still had the bikes for most of the day so it was easy to see and do lots of things.
We went to the windmill first, cycling across the city to the closest one we could find, which also happened to be a brewery. The windmill brewery wasn’t open when we got there, but we did still get to see the windmill from the outside which was cool enough. We stopped in the bar next to the windmill to sample some of the local produce (beers). In fact it was about as local as you can get, as they sold beer brewed at the windmill brewery.
The last thing we needed to do was get a bunch of stuff to take home to prove we really went to Amsterdam for our favourite people. Cheese shops were obviously top of the list, and then cliché gift shop… and that’s actually the whole list. There’s nothing anyone could possibly want that doesn’t come from those two shops, obviously.
Sadly that concluded our holiday and we had to get going super early the next morning. I didn’t want to go home, and I want to go back right now. Amsterdam is amazing.
Here’s a map of the places we went: