Amsterdam: my happy place. 

Amsterdam is my happy place. I went first in 2018 with a friend who saved me from a nearly accidental solo trip (a friend bailed last minute), neither of us had been there before. He was recently heartbroken and I had it in my head to be his wingwoman for the weekend. It had a bad start. I slept out the flight, the first and only time I have ever done this. The flight was at 11am to make it worse! Luckily I had been backdated some money owed so bought a flight on the day (try never to do this!!) and made it on time. 

The train from the airport to the city is really easy and cheap to navigate (if you’ve got google maps obvs and if not just ask someone for help) and it brings you right out into the centre so its very handy. There’s trams and machines to order your tickets at outside the main station. I know this needs saying (you know who you are!), you need to buy a tram ticket. You will get caught in Amsterdam and it’ll be mortifying. Now, you’ve been warned!

Our hostel (St Christophers at the Winston) turned out to be great, sixth floor and had a long shared balcony to sit out on and enjoy the sunshine. There’s a church nearby too that plays the bells often and lying in bed listening to them is just pure bliss. I’ve always visited during the summer months so its been sunny with a lovely breeze coming in through the sliding doors. I’ve stayed at St Christophers at the Winston 3 times now and would probably stay again. If you’re going I can strongly recommend it, specifically the 6 bed mixed dorm, top floor, the ‘lion room’. I may regret this if I can’t get a bed there next time! You get a free breakfast each morning if you book via their website, although this is very basic. Think bread roll, cheese and ham slices and free tea/coffee. There’s a lovely Irish bar a few doors up that does a lovely breakfast including Barrys tea ! The Irish really have a thing about their tea bags. This hostel is in the red light district but not on the red light strip, getting from the station to the hostel you don’t see any ‘red light activity’ if that makes sense but it’s really central so handy AF.

There’s a few rules you need to know about in Amsterdam. The first rule is that you don’t take a photo or video of a sex worker, seriously. They will come after you aggressively (and rightly so!). My first time in Amsterdam when I’d a good few drinks in me I was video chatting with a friend and swerved the camera to try to show my friend where I was. This is obviously regretful behaviour now but an important lesson, especially if I can share it here and hopefully people have a more respectful and privacy conscious mindset that I did. Like anyone and anything, consent is key.

The second rule is that these coffee shops and bars you’ve heard of? The legislation in Amsterdam means it is illegal to smoke tobacco inside but weed is allowed. This in enforced and if the bar staff smell tobacco you will be asked to leave. What I discovered the last time I was there is that weed is not actually legal in Amsterdam, it’s just not illegal. There is a very subtle difference but essentially it means the government is not legislating for its use, sale etc. The demand in Amsterdam far outweighs what can be produced in the Netherlands too so unfortunately this does mean a chunk of the supply is sourced from the black market. As someone who tries to avoid funding gangs I found this disappointing, but I didn’t let it ruin my holiday. You will get people offering you other drugs if you walk up and down the red light district, I’ve always just said no thank you and moved on, never had any issues.

Third rule, look left and right before you cross ANY road, the cyclist fucking hate tourists and its really easy to see why. They cycle fast and they will ring their bells and shout at you if they need to. Be cool, don’t walk into a speeding cyclist on your holidays yeah? 

Now on this trip it was just me and my male friend who was recently heartbroken and turns not yet ready to sample the local talent. We did some of the typically cheesy tourist stuff on our first few days. Went to the Icebar, which I’m sorry I still think is deadly. They serve Nutella flavoured vodka in a shot glass made of ice, I mean c’mon! Also two cocktails before you go in so I think most people in there are at least tipsy. They also do Heineken, if you’re into that sort of thing. Probably lucky if you do as they have the Heineken experience here too which I’ve not done for obvious reasons. I hear the Bols experience is great though, a lot of cocktail sampling and making and just good craic! We also went to the sex museum. There are several. We went to the one on the main road in front of the central station. It was hilarious, but we weren’t sober so that was probably an important factor. I’ve been to more since as a tag along and the first one was still the best. Although the one in the red light district has a sex worker window you can sit in so you can get a shot trying to sell your body if you want. 

Sex shows. The first two days it was just me and my friend, so we didn’t really feel comfortable going to a sex show just the two of us. But on day 3 two Canadian girls arrived in our hostel and were keen for us all to go out together so we did. Few hours later were like ‘fuck it, let’s go to a sex show’. You really are spoilt for choice and choosing a venue was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever shopped for. Are we going for quality or comedy? Quantity of time or do we want a free drink? I think we paid 15 euro and in typical Irish fashion tried to sit somewhere down the back as if ashamed to be there, even though everyone in the audience was also there for the same experience. It was basically a show on repeat. By the time we left we realised that this was no more than a choreographed naked dance they did probably on an 8 hour shift. We did manage to get (read bully) my friend up on stage for the stripper to humiliate him for our entertainment to great applause. I felt this was the right sort of gentle wing woman-ing that he needed and I’d say it’s definitely marked off his list now, things to never do again. One of the women in the group was clearly hitting on him and in his naivety he was missing all the signs. She actually said she’s love to find ‘some Irish cock’ to which he replied “Oh I know a good Irish bar actually around the corner”. Afterwards I’d to explain that she was referring to him, which he denied vehemently. Irish guys are NOT use to being hit on (in my experience, obviously this is a massive generalised sweeping statement! ) and will not get the hints, no matter how loud and clear they are! 

In terms of art museums or galleries I’ve been to the Banksy one (this moves so check if you’re keen), the Van Gough one (book in advance, the queues are insane) and the Anne Frank house. This one books out months in advance so do book ahead, remember as well its a tiny space so not many can get in at a time. You get a handheld device to listen to the history and without this I felt it would have been sort of easy just to think you were in an old house. Frank’s book is one I’ve read over and over and one I feel I get something new from each time and I left feeling the need to read it again now I’d seen it. The gift shop sells the book in multiple languages too if you’ve never read it, you really should.

The boat tour is cool and an amazing way to see Amsterdam from the water. You could in fact say, one of the only real ways to see it from the water……( I see it) Note: prepacked mass produced weed infused anything is bollocks. A guy working in our hostel recommended ‘The Greenhouse Effect’. I can recommend their slice of chocolate cake and a lovely big cup of tea. Sit by the canals and enjoy the views and people watching or get a canal cruise. You can do one of my favourite things, rent a bike and go out to Vondelpark and chill by the lake. If you’ve got a hostel balcony it’s also lovely to chill there in the sunshine and just enjoy the holidays and switch your brain off. Amsterdam is a lovely place to visit, but also a lovely place to leave if that makes sense. Also, I feel this is just common decency but it has to be said. If you’re going to consume drugs don’t do this around schools, near playgrounds, or if you’re in a park area full of kids maybe move away from them yeah? I know drug consumption is more normalised in the Netherlands but it still feels disrespectful to be blowing any kind of smoke around kids. This probably goes for just regular smoking too to be fair. 

In terms of shopping there is a seven story Pennys (Primark), you can get lost in there for hours. There’s great sex shops and places where you can buy these enormous wheels of cheese. Other than that, it’s not really somewhere I’ve explored for shopping. If you’re looking for something a bit different you can take a class (in someone’s home) to learn how to make weed infused jellies (like Haribo). I’ve also been recommended : ‘thosedamboatguys’, ‘thesmokeboat_amsterdam’ and ‘thedolphinamsterdam’. These are on insta, check em’ out. If you need to get out of the city for a while go and see the tulip fields and the windmills! Or check out Efteling. I’ve heard from a reliable source that it’s like a more magical, less packed Disneyland and I’m dying to check it out next time I’m in the Netherlands. I’d like to see Rotterdam, or Eindhoven as well. Also, I always recommend doing a free walking tour in every city you’re in and here’s no different. These trips are tipped based so make sure you’ve cash at the end to make life easier. I’d say the Dutch are like hello? There’s more to the Netherlands than the red light district! 

A holiday in Amsterdam is unlike any other holiday, you won’t eat well, you’ll eat shite, but you’re not here for the food are ya? When in Rome do as the Romans do right? You will have an amazing time though , and you’ll definitely be back.

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