Finally, we were ready for the first ever direct voyage on Eurostar direct from London to Amsterdam………or that would have been the plan, had there not been a little two year pandemic in the way.
Our original trip was cancelled in 2020, and so, just like that, in June 2022 , we managed to get ourselves booked for a mini break to Amsterdam. I think it was the only weekend available due to everybody wanting to stay in London for the Platinum Jubilee, so we missed out on that joy!
Thinking of Amsterdam always brings back memories of the story we were told of our late Grandfather. A loud, tall and very striking man with a full head of thick white hair, travelled there with my Grandma many years ago. They were wandering aimlessly through the streets, and he stopped outside a shop, and, genuinely, drew her attention to the price tag hanging on the sofa and couldn’t believe how reasonable the red velvet sofas in the window were!!
Clearly he hadn’t noticed the half naked woman standing behind the sofa so didn’t realise the price tag was for her and not the sofa!!!
Unbelievable I know, but if I told you this was the same man who once invited a plumber to come into the hotel bathroom to check why the hot water was not working, and when he left and my Grandma shouted at him for letting him in whilst she was STILL SITTING IN THE BATH! His response was, ‘Oh Freda, he wouldn’t have even noticed you!!!
Anyways, I digress.
Tips for the journey:
Get there early. The queues were half way down St Pancras station this wasn’t too bad, as the shops are great here, and I left the other half (OH) in the queue whilst I meandered and bought some substantial nibbles for the 4 hour journey. It was a bank holiday, but still get there 90 minutes before you depart as they advise. It’s a very small space, where lots is happening, it’s all in one small area, check in, security, passport control UK, passport control EU then you’re done. Phew!
Once we were on the train all the chaos, behind us, this was the beginning of the relaxation. Bring your own snacks, (I purchased ours from Marks & Spencer at St Pancras). It’s much cheaper, you get what you like, and unless you’re counting your steps, you have to walk to the bar, wait about 45 minutes and spend a small fortune for some average food.
Where we stayed:
We were staying at the Hilton Double Tree at Central Station, the main hub of Amsterdam. We arrived at the station, a very confusing maze of walkways, shops, exits and entrances, but managed to find the right exit with a short walk to the hotel from there.
If you’re looking for sterile but functional rooms, this hotel is perfect, not intending to spend a lot of time here, it was the perfect place to be. Not too far a walk into the centre of Amsterdam, yet also very convenient for any ferry trips or rail trips you may want to do.
The benefit of this place was it had a very trendy rooftop bar, where those not staying at the hotel have to queue to get in. As guests, you get to skip the queue and go straight up in the lift to the top floor, and to your table. More about this later.
We quickly unpacked and made our way into the centre, had a little mooch around, got our bearings, and checked out where we wanted to go over the next 4 days.
Where we ate and drank and …….
For our first drink we stopped off and sat outside at one of the bars. Nothing special about it. There are many places to stop in this area, and we chose here because it was not too full of tourists, but more locals and had spare tables on the front row, which was perfect for our favourite pastime of drinking and people watching.
With very loud music inside, I’m not sure we would have sat in there for long, we are far too old for all that noise, and there probably weren’t even seats for old folk!
We had a reservation here, which was recommended by many in my Facebook travel group, The Luxury Chic, Budget, Boutique Travel Club. It was a bit of a walk off centre, towards the Heineken factory, and this meant that again, it was frequented by locals (something we always prefer).
Cocktails here were amazing, wanted to try them all, but didn’t want to end up in bed too early. Lightweights nowadays.
The menu was Middle Eastern style tapas. Small plates apparently, although none of them were particularly small!. We chose 4 dishes between us, but actually ended up tasting almost everything on the menu due to one complimentary dish, and another dish that was brought to us in error, but we enjoyed anyway.
The place reminded us a one of the ruin bars you often find in Budapest. Loved the washroons, black toilets, black toilet paper and a steel bucket for a sink with loads of grafitti on the wall!
Van Ryn, Rembrandtplein
This place looked great for a more upmarket style after dinner drink. A bar at the other end of the square, which looked very stylish with green umbrellas and comfortable chairs, and a great atmosphere inside too. However it was a disaster. The inside appeared to look much more attractive, but not sure if the service was any better inside.
The service outside was terrible, the cocktails terrible. I spotted one of my favourite Italian cocktails on the menu, a Sgroppino, a vodka with lemon sorbet, mix, which had all the potential, but when it eventually arrived ( the first attempt wasn’t actually collected from the bar in time, so it melted), it was terrible, more lemon froth than vodka so it was sent back without being touched.
The OH went off piste with a Jamaican coffee, coffee and rum, not too hard you would have thought, but this took 30 minutes and when it came failed on every level, so we ended up with your basic Prosecco and beer! It’s probably a great place if you stick with normal drinks. If you go, let me know your thoughts.
In this bar, even the pigeons looked high! They didn’t move very fast, and sat on the ground for a lot longer than I’m comfortable with. The only reason we stuck around was because we had arranged to meet my lovely nephew and his imaginary girlfriend, who I’d heard so much about but since Covid never actually met. They were very coincidentally in Amsterdam at the same time as us, and I’m sure he was delighted to have his Aunty looming around every corner :). Anyway, the atmosphere in the bar was great, just don’t arrive thirsty and have a few hours to spare. PS: the girlfriend was delightful.
Don’t be put off by the on-street toilets all over the city, often right opposite the bars, no doors, (obviously not for women) standing pods. We weren’t sure at first if these were water fountains for the thirsty tourists, but a few minutes passed and we realised they weren’t. Thank goodness we weren’t thirsty!
If anyone did want to partake in the well-known Amsterdam frivolities, according to the locals, the best place to buy edibles and other things is here. They don’t sell actual coffee but they do sell upmarket products, of a much higher quality than the souvenir shops, with a price tag to go with it, but at least you know you’re buying quality. The servers behind the counter were dressed like the Chippendales but with clothes, white shirts, black aprons and bow ties, and the produce packaged in beautiful white boxes, just like luxury cakes and biscuits!
Along the narrow alleyways, there’s food for everyone, Chinese, Thai, Argentinian, Italian. We didn’t once come across the red light district so all that is easy to avoid if you’re with your family.
We discovered this tiny Thai place which had long queues outside the first time we passed, and was just closing the second time we passed. Third time lucky. It’s called Bird. Make sure you ask/wait for a table upstairs, by the window, overlooking one of the canals. Very pretty.
The food was very good, we love Thai food and would like to think we can tell the difference between a good meal or an average one.
We stopped for pancakes, there are many pancake/waffle shops, but you’ll find the best ones have the queues out the door. I only stopped to photograph the window display, not the name!
This was one of our favourite places we just happened upon It was a beautiful lounge bar, the jazz band had just packed up so it was very busy, art deco style. Delicious cocktails. We didn’t stay for bites, but wished we had!
As I mentioned above, this can be found at the top of the Double Tree Hilton near Central Station.
It gives an air of exclusiveness by making people queue in the lobby before they can go up to the top in a direct lift. Security barriers, men with ear pieces etc. As we skipped the queue and got up to the top, we got there just before closing time at midnight. It was a Monday night (or maybe it was Sunday). DJ still playing some great tracks, we didn’t taste the food, but think it was sushi style, but the cocktails were great and so was the atmosphere.
For our last meal of the trip, we ventured over to this place. We had tried to get into their oriental branch, but it was fully booked, but so glad we booked this one in advance. It was a taxi ride away, sadly the great weather didn’t last so we had to sit inside, the outside was so pretty though. The inside decor was also beautiful, and it was very busy for a Monday lunchtime.
A bit like The Ivy chain if I was going to compare it to anything in the UK, but the food and drinks were a lot better and attention to detail and presentation was off the clock. Probably my favourite as you can tell from all the photos!
What we did:
I felt like I had got the golden ticket and got an insight into the factory and the vending of your own bars was my most favourite thing I did this trip! We didn’t spend enough time in here as I really would have liked to have created my own chocolate bar, but I did have enough time to pull the handle and dispense 16 of my very own bars in a variety of flavours never seen before, to take home and share with all the family of course!
Pre book this one month’s in advance, I had booked it about 8 weeks beforehand and could only get an 8.30pm slot on a Monday night! It was so well kept and presented and was such an insight into her diary and the time she spent there.
Take a tram here and take some time to visit. We did this the last time we visited so didn’t feel the need to go again. But remember it being worth it.
This was a ferry ride from Centraal station over to the North side of Amsterdam, NDSM. An upcoming area of the city. The museum is really great, with a lovely shop of course, and there’s a great bar as you get off the ferry (which is free, the ferry not the bar) for before or after you visit. IJ Kantine.
We didn’t have time to do this one this time, but wished we had as the last time we did it it was great fun. A small crowd on board, individual tables, and a lovely brunch menu, whilst you sail up and down the canals seeing Amsterdam from the water.
Do the Heineken Experience, we walked past one day and wished we had booked it and made time for it! But it gives us another excuse to go back again!
For crossing the road, anywhere at anytime: Look left, right, left, right, left then right then left again and then run!!!!!!
Look out for all the stag and hen do’s. You can’t miss them! The one who won our vote for originality was the hunting party, and their fox! We did see them a little later on and one of the hunters was passed out and being carried home by the fox. Quite ironic really!
Uber eats is available if you’re a late eater and everywhere seemed to close quite early including the hotel bars and restaurant.
This man that you pass on the street is not real, we saw him at night, locked in the shop where he was originally standing outside. I honestly thought he was real.
Don’t just take photos of things and places that look interesting, go inside, you’ll be surprised at every corner.
Be prepared for all weathers, we had rain, wind and sun!
Look out for items of clothing that have lost their bodies!
Leave space for pancakes, cakes and waffles!