European City Challenge (ECC2015) Continues
After starting my European City Challenge in Amsterdam's city centre, I then moved to the lively multicultural area of De Pijp. The neighbourhood is jam packed with students, ex-pats, artists and yuppy media types. Sounds like my kind of place. Right smack in the middle of it all is The Sir Albert Hotel. From here it's a perfect location to begin exploring the city's museums, markets and restaurants. Read on for my top tips on where to stay and things to explore in Amsterdam.
Stay - Sir Albert Hotel
While staying in a city known for art and design, a stay at a design hotel is a must and I recommend The Sir Albert Hotel. The hotel to this day keeps true to its roots and shows evidence of its Diamond factory beginnings. Large grand windows sprawl throughout the hotel which i was told by the manager were to allow the workers enough natural light to polish their diamonds to perfection. If you are a fan of design hotels then this is the place for you. The interior is full of class and sophistication, oozes style and sexiness and houses one of the most popular Japanese restaurants - Izakaya - in town. Check-in takes place seated on brown leather armchairs with a glass of prosseco in hand and the blaze of the open fire close by.
I stayed in one of the Sir Albert Suites. A fabulous one bedroom suite with views of the De Pijp district and the city centre. The free-standing Philippe Starck bathtub is this suite’s centrepiece that I'll have to try on my next visit. The room boasts Egyptian cotton sheets, cosy oversized robes, goose down duvets and the most comfortable bed I have ever laid my body upon. It proved to be the perfect spot to easily access the places on our 'To Visit List' and recover after a full day sightseeing.
See - The Rijksmuseum
The Rijskmuseum was my first stop after an early check in at The Sir Albert Hotel. The museum was closed for several years due to a multi-million pound refurb but now it is open to the public and chock-a-block with famous artwork from the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh. It is located at the Museum Square in the borough Amsterdam South, close to the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and the Concertgebouw making it easy to spend a day museum hoping.
Shop - Albert Cuyp market
The Albert Cuyp market is a stones throw away from Sir Albert Hotel but if you plan on visiting don’t make the mistake we did and leave it to the Sunday. It’s not on. A visit any other day of the week will reward you with a street market of fruit, vegetables, seafood, clothing and even cameras. It's also where you can pick up the famous Dutch Stroopwafels prepared fresh. The market is the busiest in all of the Netherlands and is reputedly the largest daytime market in Europe [wikipedia].
Eat - Bo Cinq
We fancied trying out a hot restaurant so asked the gent who helped us check-in at Sir Albert Hotel for his recommendations. With his insider tip, we booked Bo Cinq. Bo Cinq, we were told is the current ‘happening spot’. Its cellar like feel, exposed brick and flashy cocktails make the canal-side restaurant a must visit when in Amsterdam. The most eye-catching feature is the 24-meter long bar where we propped ourselves up at for pre dinner cocktails and a run through of the menu. The interesting French/North African fusion makes for mouth-watering dishes. Each plate is packed full of flavours triggering ooohs and ahhhs from around the room. And the bill at the end wasn’t too bad either.
Transport - Bicycle Of Course
Bike rentals are everywhere and a must in Amsterdam for getting around. The whole system works incredibly, so if you are someone who is scared of city cycling in general fear not - the streets of Amsterdam are a cyclist’s dream. Cycle lanes are abundant and it really is the only way to see the city over a weekend break.
Smell - Flower Market
Sundays in Amsterdam are for the flower market. If you are looking for traditional Dutch souvenirs or even some tulips to take home (mine are currently sprouting indoors, although October according to my father is the best time to set them) this is the place to go. From the flower market, there are plenty of boat trips close by which offer tours of the pretty canals in various languages.
Drink - Heineken Brewery
If beer is your thing, the Heineken brewery is close to The Sir Albert Hotel and they offer tours of the brewery, which brings you through the years of one of the most iconic beer brands in the world.
I ♥ Amsterdam
During a sojourn in the city, Hans Christian Andersen wrote 'The view from my window, through the elms to the canal outside, is like a fairy tale'. That very city he wrote about got my heart racing and my lips wet for what was to come over the year ahead. My gamble of centering the majority of the weekend on recommendations and tips had paid off. It is worth organising a couple of things; things that you really want to see or do, then leaving time in between to wander off leading you into unexpected situations and introducing you to sight and tastes of places no other tourist might have experienced before you. Challenge accepted and challenge completed – well the first out of 12 anyways. I HEART AMSTERDAM ☺
Amsterdam is currently a lot cheaper than a lot of other European cities so shop around for smaller boutique hotels that offer great locations, interesting interiors and staff that will help you decide on the best way to spend your time.
Decide on what museums you want to visit before you arrive and book tickets. It will help you avoid any queues or disappointment of sold out venues. We missed out on the Anne Frank museum but it might just be an excuse to go back and visit Amsterdam again in the near future.
Visit Omelegg. it's a brunch spot that will guarantee your mouth to over salivate just looking at the menu. There may be queues on the weekend but it moves quickly and is well worth the wait when you see the chilli beef omelette exit the kitchen.
Finally, if you do stay at The Sir Albert, ask when you check in about the secret speakeasy bar a few doors away. You can only get in with a secret password which they may let you in on and the cocktails are meant to be utterly divine. Again, something we have saved for next time.
A big thank you to Sir Albert Hotel for hosting me during my stay in Amsterdam and to the staff for giving me great insider tips of where to go in the city.