My best friend and I went to Amsterdam for my 22nd birthday last month, and spend most of our time walking around the canals of Jordaan with friends, eating cookies and looking for cute cafés where we could hide from the cold.
Amsterdam is the most bicycle-friendly capital in the world, and to experience the city like locals, we spent half of day one cycling. I will be honest and will admit that this wasn’t my favourite part of the trip. Why? Well, I am not the best cyclist, and I’m easily scared (of cars and other cyclists), which made the ride from our friend’s flat to central Amsterdam bumpy. What I discovered was that most of the bikes in the city don’t have handbrakes, because they get ruined by the rain. Instead, they have coaster brakes, which terrified me, because I had never been on a bike like this. You should hire a bike only if you’re a confident cyclist, because it is a serious business to ride it there! Don’t forget you’ll have to find a place to park your bike and remember where it is – there are more bicycles in Amsterdam than people, and you might end up thinking your bike got stolen, (like my best friend and I did) when you just forgot where you parked it.
After my little horror on a bike, we decided that we can walk and use the public transport. Which was a great idea – Amsterdam is very walkable, and when you get too cold you can always jump on a tram! If you download CityMapper, it will help you navigate through the city, and save you from getting lost.
November is cold, which is a good excuse to hide in cafés – two of which I absolutely loved! Lot Sixty One – it’s tiny, but the coffee and the staff there are great, and they even have their own coffee roaster! We went there on my actual birthday, and because we couldn’t find where to sit, one of the lovely girls from the staff helped us make an improvised seating area, where we could hang out, enjoy our coffee and warm up.
My other recommendation is CT coffee & coconuts. A former cinema built in the 20s – called the Ceintuur Theater has been converted to a café, where you can work, while enjoying good coffee and a fancy coconut drink, or melt in one of the bean bags on the top floor and have some cake. We went there on our last day, which the perfect way to end our trip.
I did mention cookies, didn’t I? There’s a little shop in central Amsterdam, which specialises in making one single type of cookie. We went to Van Stapele Koekmakerij on our first day, and ended up going back two days later, because we needed more chocolate happiness. If you wanted to get a big box to take home, the lovely girls from the shop will even give you instructions about how to warm up its contents to get the best taste.
Museums are a big part of the Amsterdam experience. As we only had three days there, we limited our museum time and only went to the Rembrandt house, which was impressive, and the Moco museum, which is currently home to more than 80 pieces by two modern art icons: Andy Warhol and Banksy. The exhibition will be there for another month or so, so make sure you go if you’re in town.
On my birthday, we also went to Bierfabriek – for someone who doesn’t like beer I was hesitant to go, but ended up loving the place. Its interesting industrial style interior immediately caught my attention, and there was enough prosecco for me and craft beer for my friend. Because drinking on an empty stomach is bad, we got some bitterballen – deep fried meatballs, served with mustard, which are a typical Dutch bar snack. And oh, they were yummy.
Amsterdam was lovely, even if very cold. I would definitely like to go back in the summer, when the city is covered by tulips.