I can’t believe this is my first travel post and to think this trip was unexpected. Luke and I wanted to take a short getaway for MLK weekend and figured why not leave the city? When we were searching for flights, we had no idea where we wanted to go but we knew it was going to be out of the country. Domestic flights are overly priced these days, so it was worth going to visit somewhere on our bucket list.
We ended up booking flights to Amsterdam through Norwegian Airlines and paid $450 round trip. We had enough leg room to sprawl out for our 6-7 hour flight and although no food, we were able to bring snacks on the plane. Norwegian charges you extra for your seat so we decided to wait until we arrived to the airport. They ended up seating Luke and I next to each other, so we were glad we didn’t spend the extra on seats. They did however charge us extra for luggage (which was about $80), but considering we dodged the bullet on paying for seats, we didn’t really mind.
Amsterdam is such an amazing city with so much character. From their beautiful canals, bike-friendly streets (beware when crossing because they come out of nowhere), stunning architecture, and amazing waffles…theres’s so much to do, and it’s definitely manageable within 4-5 days.
After we landed, we took a 15 minute drive from Schiphol Airport and headed straight to our hotel. I’ve been a huge fan of boutique hotels lately because they feel more intimate and the Apollofirst Hotel felt like we had the entire 3 floors to ourselves. Located in Oui Zuid, it’s conveniently walking distance to Vondelpark, Van Goth Museum, and you can get a taste of the Heineken experience too.
Our room had the cutest balcony overlooking the backyard garden which was perfect for a morning cappuccino. My favorite part about staying at the hotel was the decor. Built in the 1930’s, it had such Dutch charm and a unique style and character. It definitely helped that Luuk, at the front desk, was such a gem and he made us feel right at home.
We made sure to become familiar with the area and ended up in De Pijp a few times during our stay. It’s a cute little neighborhood where the locals hang out, and because we were lucky to have really good weather, we sat outside while dining for most of our trip and felt like we experienced the real deal. Like most of Amsterdam, De Pijp has a strip of cafe shops and brunch spots, and there was plenty of shopping too. I came across Kilostore, a really cute authentic vintage shop, and bought a pair of high wasted black denims for $20 (score!) We also found a waffle Dutch stand, and the waffles were filled with Nutella and Carmel (they were so yummy!) Because marijuana is legal in Amsterdam, I would recommend going to Katsu. It’s a cool experience (even if you aren’t a smoker), and I’d have to say our favorite shop in the city.
The next night we decided to splurge and head to a fancy dinner at Cafe Restaurant De Plantage. I started the night off with a Moscow mule, which was pretty delish. Their ravioli was filled with pumpkin and ricotta which was on point, and I’m not a huge fan of ravioli either. After our meal, we decided to hit up another spot for some drinks and music. We stopped at Café De Duviel, a low key bar that plays old school hip-hop with a mix of visitors and locals. Honestly I don’t remember much after that, LOL, but what I can tell you is that there’s a strip of bars and nightclubs in Grachtengordel, so you’re bound to have a good time wherever you go.
After our “big night out” we had a couple more places on our list to check out for the next few days. We made reservations at Escobar (also in De Pijp), a really cute and cozy bar-restaurant inspired by Latin cuisine. If you’re looking for tapas, then this is the spot. Their dishes are less conventional where you can find a variety of ceviche flavors and tacos. Our favorites were (and unfortunately not pictured) their tacos, which were a must, and their green (shishito) peppers…you know I had to order those! We also ordered the oriental ceviche, which to be honest I wasn’t a fan of, but they had other flavors and I just think we made the wrong choice.
After dinner, we headed to the City Centre and Dam Square which was Amsterdam’s main attraction and known for its traditional architecture, canals, shopping, and more coffee shops. The Bulldog Cafe, which is popular amongst the tourists, was a bit rowdy and wasn’t what we were looking for so we migrated to Cafe 420 and felt a lot more relaxed. The Red Light District was pretty interesting to say the least. With a mix of sex shops, bars, and prostitutes standing behind windows in their own rooms, it’s like nothing you’ve seen before. But despite what you might think, the Red Light District has a very friendly atmosphere and didn’t feel dangerous at all.
The next day was spent in Amsterdam Noord, which is located across the water behind Central Station. There’s a free ferry that can take you there in minutes, so I highly recommend exploring during the day and hanging out by the waterside terrace. We ended up grabbing lunch at The Butcher Social Club, an all-in-one business center, easy-going coffee spot, and casual restaurant and bar. We were glad we stopped by unexpectedly because their food was surprisingly delicious. When I say surprisingly, I mean that only because we ordered their crispy chicken wings and chicken avocado salad and I normally never rave about salads but this one was super fresh. If you can, I would make a reservation to Moon. It’s a another restaurant in Noord with revolving seats and looked pretty sick but unfortunately we couldn’t get a reservation in time.
After spending the day at Noord, we went back to the hotel to freshen up and had our last meal at Gauchos, a modern grill serving European and Argentinean cuisine. We started off with their empanadas, which were just ok, but their churrasco and classic chimichurri sauce were the bomb. The sauce had a unique taste and I’m assuming it had to do with the basil, coriander, and peppers…super yummy! Last stop for the night was Hotel Okura. Luke did some research and read they had a great view of the city at night so we went to check it out and I’d suggest you do too, even if it’s for a drink. I’m glad I did because I kid you not I had been searching for a Dirty Martini throughout our entire trip and NO ONE could make me one. Could you believe that?! But they finally did here, and it was slamming so I guess it was worth the wait and after all, a perfect ending to an amazing last minute trip that we’ll forever cherish.
Hope you enjoyed my post on Amsterdam, and that it gave you a better idea on what to expect if you ever decide to plan a visit. But let’s be honest…you totally should!
If you have any questions at all, please leave them in the comments below 🙂