This time last year, I was just getting back into the swing of things at home following a long weekend away in Amsterdam with three friends that I hadn’t seen in a while.
Aside from being a brilliant chance to catch up, our weekend away together in Netherlands’ capital city was the ultimate culture trip.
After an hour-and-a-half flight from Southampton to Schiphol, we caught a quick train to Sloterdijk Railway Station, located five minutes away from our hotel, Meininger Amsterdam City West.
Anybody who opens a tab and searches Meininger at this point will find out that, despite its name, it is in fact a hostel. And, knowing that hostels often get a bad rep, I’d like to take a second to say how fantastic this one was.
The location was great first of all. Not only was Sloterdijk Railway Station just a five-minute walk away from the hotel but there was also a bus station 10 minutes away that offered regular services into the city centre.
The staff were incredibly friendly and helped us with any information we needed, including how to navigate the city’s potentially deadly tram service. And, the rooms were clean, stylish and equipped with everything you’d need for an enjoyable stay.
There was also a trendy bar downstairs to meet other travellers over a pint of beer, which is exactly what we did on the night of our arrival.
We all wanted to visit the Anne Frank Museum as soon as possible, and so on our first full day in Amsterdam that’s exactly what we did. As soon as we got off the bus, we headed in its direction, stopping only for breakfast at a quaint corner café.
Had it not been for the long queue outside of its door, the four of us would have walked straight past the museum. Like all of the houses that line the streets of Amsterdam, it was narrow with a gabled façade, and set just a few feet back from one of the city’s many elaborate canal systems.
Inside, everything was almost perfectly maintained. Narrow hallways and steep stairs link the exhibits in each room, which included photographs, videos and writings in Anne Frank’s own handwriting.
Safe to say, it was a very moving and in some ways humbling experience – and definitely worth queuing for.
For the rest of the first day, we explored the nearby streets, and ducked in and out of shops of all shapes and sizes until we stumbled across the Magna Plaza, a historical shopping centre located behind the Royal Palace. It included more than 20 stores across four floors, plus an exhibition space at the time of our visit.
After we had explored every corner of the Magna Plaza, we sat down and had dinner at one of the restaurants on its top floor before we caught the bus back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
Our second day also happened to be National Tulip Day in Amsterdam, and so, to celebrate the official start of tulip season, Dam Square had been transformed into a bright and beautiful picking garden by a group of local tulip growers.
Anybody was allowed to go in and pick tulips for free, but it was too busy for any of us to want to try. Instead, we looked on as others meandered around the garden, picking out and arranging their own bouquets to take home or give to loved ones nearby.
The city was also celebrating its annual Light Festival while we were in town, whereby breath-taking artworks of light are installed at various locations around Amsterdam for 50 days straight.
We had heard that the best way to soak up the illuminated scenes was from the water, and so we booked tickets for The Water Colours Cruise, a two-hour evening canal cruise that gets up close and personal with the artworks hanging overhead.
It was a great experience, and truly magical to see the whole city under such a cosy and romantic spell.
Our final two days in Amsterdam were filled with visits to the terrifyingly fun Amsterdam Dungeon, the wonderfully fragrant floating flower market and the Red Light District – the latter by accident, believe it or not! We also managed to spot a few clogs and take photographs with the infamous IAMAMSTERDAM sign.
Safe to say, we managed to pack a lot in and each of us returned home from Amsterdam feeling satisfied that we’d managed to get a well-rounded view of the city.
A visit to the Van Gogh Museum would have been the cherry on top I expect, as well as a cheeky bike ride along the city’s 400km cycle path, but we’ll save both of those for my next visit.
Check out a quick video I put together of our trip below: