In February we went for a long weekend in Amsterdam for my husband’s birthday and I completely fell in love with the place. Aaron had been before, many years ago, but it was my first time and I was so excited. This is a very photo-heavy post so get comfy!
A Long Weekend In Amsterdam
Firstly the flight is obscenely short – it felt like we had only just got up in the air before the air steward was telling us to prepare for landing – so it’s a perfect place to go for a weekend. It’s annoying when travel eats into your weekend plans but we got an early flight to really make the most of our time.
We went straight to our Airbnb (photos and details at the end of this post, if you’re looking for somewhere to stay we would definitely recommend that place) to drop off our bags and then headed back out. Where we were staying was only a 20 minute tram ride (I flipping LOVE trams) into Centraal so we went on the hunt for food. I am a bit of a planner when it comes to holidays – I do a LOT of research into food (especially finding gluten-free places), bars, culture and sightseeing. I make personalised maps for everywhere we go so that we can stop anywhere and say ‘I fancy a drink/some food/sitting somewhere pretty’ and I can whip out my phone for a million suggestions. And the first one we tried was Vinnie’s: everything is home-made, locally sourced, organic and fair-trade plus they had some great gluten-free options. We shared this enormous pulled pork sandwich on brioche (I avoided the bread) and then had a gluten- free almond and salted caramel brownie with almond milk lattes. It was all delicious.
Even though there were a lot of places that I wanted to try on our long weekend in Amsterdam, one of the main recommendations from friends and family was just to wander and take everything in. One of the best things about Amsterdam is that there are so many tiny independent business: cafes, bars, restaurants, shops… we would stop every hour or so and have a drink or a snack and just natter. It was lovely.
Another thing that makes wandering around Amsterdam so enjoyable is the way it looks and feels: the tall, thin, wonky houses with the hooks on the gables; the colour palette (all smokey greys, burnt orange and creamy blues); locals on bicycles meandering past you; inky canals… it feels so European but so different to London and that makes it feel more like a real holiday.
We wandered all day and worked up an appetite ready for another delicious meal, this time at Season’s. This was high on our list as everything on the menu was either gluten-free or could be made to be gluten-free, plus it’s so-named because the menu changes to reflect the ingredients that are in season at that time. The restaurant was modern, the staff were friends and the food was seriously delicious. I had miso salmon with asparagus and saffron rice and Aaron had deconstructed beef wellington which he inhaled in record time. We had lots of lovely wine, chatted for hours and then took a (wobbly) walk along the canals. It was freezing for the whole weekend but after a good meal and wine, it’s easy to forget that you can’t feel your toes!
The next morning we headed out for another day of moseying and eating (always high on our list of priorities!) If you as into brunch as us, then you will love COTTONCAKE: it’s a very Scandi-esque boutique that sells lovely clothes and accessories downstairs, then has a mezzanine floor where a maximum of 10 people can eat at any one time. Aaron had buckwheat, spelt flour and flaxseed waffles with sour cream, maple syrup, homemade raspberry rhubarb compote, pomegranate seeds and walnuts. If you know Aaron, you will know he’s such a faddy eater and even he said this was absolutely delicious. I had a smoothie bowl: almond milk, banana, avocado, raspberry, spinach and dates topped with homemade (GF) granola, fresh fruits, chia seeds, hemp seeds and raw cacao nibs. Holy. CRAP. So good. All this in addition to our obligatory coffees!
To work off our brunch (and prepare ourselves for more food later…) we decided to do a bit of sightseeing. We headed for the Rijksmuseum, probably Amsterdam’s most famous and recognisable building. It houses 800 years of Dutch history and is absolutely stunning – plus, as it was winter there was a temporary ice rink outside which just made the whole thing even prettier!
The Vondelpark is basically our dream – the largest city park in Amsterdam. A place to wander where there about, on average, 9000 dogs. We wandered the whole way round the lake and pointed out every dog we saw. It was HEAVEN.
One of the favourite bars we found was Cafe Scrapyard: a tiny, graffiti-decorated bar run by a Manchester-born man who made one of the best gin and tonics I’ve ever tasted (London Dry Gin, with coriander, ginger and Fentiman’s) while Aaron had a local pale ale.
Another wonderful discovery was the Plan B Pool Club. It’s set back from the street and would be easy to miss, but I’m so glad we found it. It’s a 2-storey building, with 13 full-size pool tables and huge TV screens (plus you can smoke upstairs!) We had some drinks, tried bitterballen for the first time on Beverley’s recommendation (MY GOD SO GOOD – Aaron described them as ‘a Sunday dinner…but deep fried!’ in case you need any more encouragement to try them) plus it’s only €7.50 per hour for use of the pool table during the day. Such a fun way to spend an hour when you just need to defrost for a bit!
That evening we went out for Aaron’s birthday meal and we chose Belgische Lieve Restaurant because it sounded so unusual. It is a restaurant that contains three different ways of dining, with the tables decorated and laid out to represent the different styles. We went for the Mrs Bubbles menu: choosing four dishes each from the extensive menu. I think I enjoyed the food a lot more than Aaron, but I’m a gannet and he’s very picky so that’s fairly typical with us!
Our final full day in Amsterdam (which also happened to be Valentine’s Day) was absolutely freezing. We needed a stodgy breakfast to help us start the day right, and Pancakes Amsterdam is pretty famous when it comes to amazing breakfasts. Just look at this photo. Aaron had American pancakes with bacon and enough maple syrup to drown a man. I chose the (GF!!) Dutch pancakes with banana, almond and chocolate sauce. These were seriously incredible and the atmosphere is wonderful. You can’t book, so you have to queue so get there early – by the time we left there were about 20 people waiting!
After pancakes, we wandered through the red light district – it has to be done – and then did some shopping: I picked up some H&M beauty bits (you can read my review HERE) and some clothes.
And then it started snowing. Which sounds very romantic and pretty and exciting, but in reality it was freezing and made wandering around sightseeing very difficult! So we escaped into a bar – Metropolitain – for bellinis. The food looked absolutely incredible but we were still full from breakfast so didn’t get to sample it.
Our plans for the afternoon revolved around De Foodhallen – the most amazing indoor food market I’ve ever seen. On one side of the huge building are some independent shops selling clothes, art and knick-knacks. But the other side…oh the other side. There were about 25 stalls selling every kind of food you can possibly think of. We wandered round the whole building about 3 times trying to pick what we wanted…but all I could think about was more bitterballen! I chose 3 options: beef, bouillabaisse, and goats cheese. And they were incredible. Aaron had a fancy hotdog that was as big as his face. Standard.
Our plans for that evening were what our whole long weekend in Amsterdam revolved around: we bought tickets to see City and Colour and chose Amsterdam because London always sells out super fast and it was quite a lot cheaper, so we thought we’d combine seeing them with a mini break. City and Colour are ‘our’ band and the gig was absolutely wonderful. They were playing at the Paradiso which is an institution in Amsterdam and is a really lovely venue: very intimate and pretty. Lucy Rose was supporting, and she’s bloody wonderful as well so the whole evening was just the perfect ending to a great long weekend in Amsterdam.
We are desperate to go back, as there are so many things we didn’t get round to doing, so please leave your recommendations in the comments below!
If you’d like to read about our Airbnb which was AMAZING then there are loads of pictures below.
I organised this Airbnb flat as a surprise for Aaron and I’m TERRIBLE at keeping secrets so I was very proud of myself. As soon as I saw this apartment I knew it was perfect for us: retro, homey and full to bursting with musical instruments. We didn’t spend much time in the apartment as we did so much wandering, but I think we are now Airbnb converts: there is a totally different vibe to staying in someone’s house as opposed to staying in a hotel. You feel more like you’re at home so I found I could relax easier and therefore felt more rested when we came to leave.
The bedroom was small and had a curtain instead of a door, but that didn’t bother me. The instruments were put to good use by Aaron, and there was also a very complicated coffee machine which was there for our use but we were far too scared of it! The apartment was in a great area: a few small supermarkets, cafes, restaurants and bars and just round the corner from a tram stop. Perfect!
If you’d like to book this apartment, you can do so HERE.