Weekend trips around Europe are quickly becoming my favourite kind of breaks.
They require minimal effort (no visas, hand luggage and short flights), cost less (flights for £80 – whaaaaat?) and require minimal time taken off work.
For my recent trip to Amsterdam, we didn’t need to take a single day off work. A super early morning flight out there and a late afternoon flight back meant that we had a sufficient amount of time for our weekend away but also had time to relax at home on Sunday evening.
So, what’s it like to spend 48 hours in Amsterdam, and how can you make the most of it?
Our trip to Amsterdam was my birthday treat so I didn’t have anything to do with booking flights. But from looking online, and other people’s past experience, you can get pretty cheap flights from England.
Skyscanner lists flights for as little as £91 at a weekend, for a return from Leeds Bradford to Amsterdam in two months time.
I guess it goes without saying that the further in advance you book, the better the deals are. Not to mention, it is cheaper to fly midweek rather than at weekends. You could bag yourself a £50 bargain mid-week!
Once we got off the plane, we took the underground train from Schipol airport. It took 15 minutes to get to the centre of Amsterdam and it cost 6 euros each for a train ticket. So don’t waste your money on a taxi. The train will take you straight into Amsterdam Central from the Schipol Airport.
We stayed at the Dream Hotel, which was a pretty central location. We were able to walk everywhere during our stay. So once we were in the city, we didn’t pay for any travel expenses. Although my feet were killing by the end of a very long day of walking around in heeled boots… (Note to self: weekend breaks require flat boots.)
Our hotel was pretty much just the room and didn’t have communal facilities or anything fancy, but the room itself was beautiful. The room was simple but beautifully decorated, with a kind of tribal theme; Moses baskets as bins and a mosaic canvas above the bed. Plus a random rope ladder, cos ya know, why not?
The room had a huge bathroom with a glass wall, so it made the room feel even bigger. Plus, you can perve on each other in the shower! Just kidding, there’s a blind to protect your dignity.
We definitely made use of the large bath in the room. Sometimes you need to take a couple of hours during a city break to nap and relax in a bath before heading out exploring again.
There was a receptionist working 24 hours, so we had help when we realised we had forgotten toothpaste between us for our trip. Rookie mistake!
Since we got such an early flight, we were in the city centre just after 9am. Which meant we desperately needed breakfast.
Thanks to Trip Advisor we discovered Greenwoods Keizerscracht, a cute brunch spot on the very bottom floor of a small building alongside the canal. It was already busy when we rocked up at 9.45am, which is obviously a good sign.
Luckily, we were seated straight away and indulged in a luscious breakfast, strong coffee and a brunch cocktail for myself. The menu was pretty big and everything sounded amazing. From Full English breakfasts to vegan alternatives, to Eggs Benedict, to pancakes; it was all on the menu.
I ended up going for the veggie breakfast, purely because it had halloumi on it.
Museums & Attractions
Of course, when we first think of Amsterdam, we think of the Red Light District, smoking weed and the Ann Frank Museum. Or is that just what I automatically think of?
Sadly, we couldn’t get tickets to the Ann Frank Museum. You have to book them in advance online now; you can’t get them on the door. So be prepared for this!
I tried to buy tickets for the museum a few days before we arrived and it was already sold out for the whole week. So if you want to visit the Ann Frank Museum, buy your tickets at least a week in advance.
Another museum we really wanted to visit was Bodyworlds – the museum where real human bodies have been donated to medical science and then preserved and put in a museum to teach us all about the human body. The museum has six floors full of exhibits about what is going on inside our bodies.
The theme this year is ‘happiness’ and how it affects the workings of the human body. It was really interesting and, because of the positive theme, it really had me paying attention and wanting to learn more.
Don’t worry though! Even if you’re a bit squeamish, the museum isn’t gory. The preservation process almost makes the bodies look like plastic so it kind of doesn’t feel like they’re real. But it’s madness that everything in the museum is an actual human body. You never really know what is going on under your skin until you see it in person!
Tickets were 19 euros each and, by purchasing them in advance, we were able to walk straight through the barriers with a bar code instead of queueing up to get in. We weren’t restricted to a time frame either, we could go in at any point during the day. I recommend going in the morning to avoid the bigger crowds later in the day.
Take A Canal Cruise
The huge allure with Amsterdam is the many canals that run through it. There are over 1000 bridges crossing the canals of Amsterdam. So, of course, it is mandatory that you take a canal cruise.
On the Sunday, we hopped on a canal cruise close to the train station. It cost us 11 euros each and it lasted approximately one hour. It was the perfect way to rest our feet and learn a bit more about the city before we headed on a train back to the airport.
It was also really nice to see the houses and canals from a different angle. The buildings and railings lined with bicycles look even more stunning from down below on the water. We also passed a lot of houseboats that were massive and looked so cool! I now kind of want to live on a houseboat in Amsterdam…
On that note, watch out for the bicycles!
Everybody rides a bike in Amsterdam so keep an eye out while walking about. We nearly got run over more times than I care to admit because we couldn’t differentiate between paths and bike paths. Plus, we couldn’t see or hear the bicycles as we crossed roads – they come out of nowhere and they take no prisoners. It’s a free-for-all!
We’d have loved to rent bikes if it hadn’t rained all weekend. So if you are lucky enough to get pleasant weather, I’d definitely recommend renting a bike to get around. You’ll feel just like a local!
After a bit of walking around, looking at restaurant menus, we came across an underground restaurant at the side of a canal called Bistro Bonjour. From the outside, it didn’t even look like a restaurant but looked like a regular drinking pub. (That probably wasn’t helped by the strange drunk guy stood outside it.)
But when we peered through the window, it actually was a really nice cellar restaurant boasting French cuisine.
We sat at a candlelit table in the back of the busy restaurant, surrounded by medieval decor and wooden beam ceilings. The food was typically French and was very nice. The chef even came out of the kitchen to speak to me when I informed the waiter that I had an allergy, which was really nice and reassuring.
The Red Light District
I think it is pretty mandatory that you visit the Red Light District while in Amsterdam – the place where prostitution is legal and women stand in shop windows to advertise themselves.
When you think of it like that, it sounds pretty awful. But the area isn’t seedy per se, it just feels like the norm. The women seem pretty chill about it, there are police cars patrolling nearby areas so it feels safe, and they look pretty glamorous in their red illuminated windows. At first, you’re absolutely fascinated and are too afraid to look. But after a while, it just becomes normal.
The area is perfect for your night out on a Saturday. There are plenty of bars along the canal and they are all buzzing with people. There are fast food takeaways for your end of the night kebabs (what more could you need). And if you fancy a cheeky sex show as your entertainment, believe me, nobody is judging you in The Red Light District.
Just don’t even attempt to take photos of the women standing in the windows. I watched as a woman nearly kicked down the glass door when she spotted a girl trying to secretly take a photo on her phone. You don’t want a bouncer coming out and throwing your phone in the canal… or you with it.
So, where to next?
Sometimes we don’t get that much holiday time off work to go to all the places we want to visit in the world. That’s why I love weekend breaks! You don’t have to take time off work, they’re cheaper and it’s such a fun way to break up your month.
We’re very lucky here in England that we are only a short flight away from many beautiful countries in Europe. So we should make the most of it! Brexit Schmexit.