Amsterdam - A Hipster City Guide

by - Monday, June 20, 2016

For a reasonably conventional British twenty-something, I must say that the urge to travel has never been a huge one for me. That's not to say that I don't love a good holiday (and the thrill of sticking your out-of-office on), but while my pals have been gallivanting off on gap years and foreign treks, I've always been something more of a homebody, content to put travel in my 'things to do later in life' bracket. 

Just over a week ago I took my first flight in 6 years (gulp) for a wee week away in Amsterdam, where my boy and I had a thoroughly lovely and much-needed getaway. Seen as the last time I went abroad it was a family holiday, this was my first real opportunity to plan my own itinerary and sight see as an adult - grown up times eh?

Blessed by good weather, a reasonable exchange rate and the availability of mayo-drenched chips on every corner, we swiftly discovered that Amsterdam has a lot more to offer than the red light district. So much to offer in fact, that I thought I'd dip my toe into a little city guide. So vriendelijke groeten (kind regards) my lovely blog readers - grab yourself a stroopwaffel and a cup of tea, for this is likely to be a pretty long one...

Hotel & Flights
Our first kudos shout-out goes to Expedia, taking all the stress out of matching flights and hotels. After just a few hours of date checking and itinerary planning, we managed to snap up cheap flights from our local airport and a 5 night stay at the excellently-located Citizen M, all in one handy little bundle. Pretty impressive when you consider that at this time of year, all the hotels are expensive and through Expedia, the Citizen M was roughly around the same price as some hotels a fraction of it's 4-star rating. Check-in was super easy for both flights and the hotel - KLM facebook-messaged me our boarding passes (so millennial) and when we got to the hotel, we were able to check in via touch screens.

So now let's talk about the hotel itself. Despite a small altercation with some cheeky members of the cleaning team who seemed to think it acceptable to pinch our bedroom snacks and small change (swiftly compensated by the hotel manager plus delicious dinner and cocktails), I couldn't speak highly enough of the Citizen M facilities. The bed was the biggest I had ever seen, enabling Kev and I to starfish throughout the night without disturbing one another's sleep. There was an abundance of free movies available through the TV, Wi-Fi was fast and mood lighting and setting were all controlled via an iPad. Do make sure you're pretty comfortable with your room buddy mind - the ultra-modern shower and toilet stall don't offer the biggest dose of privacy.

I don't know about you, but food is one of my absolute priorities on holiday. And when you're doing as much walking as we did in Amsterdam, it's totally justifiable right?

Needless to say we feasted like absolute kings in Amsterdam - it's a highly multicultural city and almost all cuisines are catered for. There were a few highlights though, namely in the form of coffee shops - and not the weed-smoking kind. My absolute favourite (and imaginary new local) is Coffee and Coconuts, situated in the laid-back region of De Pijp. It was everything you could possibly want when you go into a coffee shop - three floors of super-hip decor, exotic smoothies and ridiculously good food. We ate there twice - once for dinner on our first night (Pork-filled buns and shrimp tacos), and then again on our second to last breakfast, where I devoured a Blackberry juice and scrambled eggs with feta, olives, avocado and sourdough like the true blogger I am. We also loved the DeHallen food market, perfect if you're travelling with a group who all fancy different snacks - I had a lovely flatbread and some beautiful tiny pastries.

Honourable mentions go also to Fou Fow Ramen (delicious miso and pork broth), Staring At Jacob (chicken, waffles and the most perfect sleepy Saturday vibe), and Yoepz, where I ate a Lobster, Prawn and Smoked Salmon club sandwich that I'm still thinking about now. See ya later, diet plan.

Second on my holiday agenda is always shopping. Call me shallow or whatever, but I get a real kick out of seeing how visual merchandising and trends differ abroad, and Amsterdam didn't let me down. I quickly fell in love with their 'concept-store' trend - imagine if your local Debenhams or House Of Fraser were taken over my twenty-something creatives and you'll get the gist. The HutSpot chain was a personal fave  - less pretentious that the likes of SPRMRKT and Droog, their selection of clothing, homewares and interiors will have you wanting to redesign your gaff faster than you can say Pantone guide. They also sold lovely coffee and brownies, so win win.

Vintage shopping is also plentiful in Amsterdam. Naturally as the manager of the UK version I was pretty intrigued to see how Kilo Stores work overseas, and I was really happy to see how well the concept is doing in the Netherlands. The clothing wasn't quite as affordable as we sell with our brand (smug face), but the quality and selection was great and I had to work pretty hard not to overflow my luggage allowance with brightly coloured jeans and sportswear. The We Are Vintage branch at Kinkerstraat (nearest the Vondelpark) was probably my fave - run by super-friendly ladies and full of great pieces.

From what I could tell there are two other key vintage brands operating in Amsterdam - Marbles and Episode. Marbles was a little too typically twee for my tastes, but Episode really won my heart - stocked floor to ceiling with competitively-priced and on-trend clothing and footwear, I went into the changing room with nearly 15 pieces and could have done a small cry trying to sort through them all. I eventually snapped up an immaculate baby pink ADIDAS jacket for just 20 euros - a fraction of the price you'd pay in the UK.

If you're a record lover, you can't go far wrong with Concerto Records. Put simply, it's ruddy massive - every genre you could possibly think of with more than a few cheeky bootlegs - we found dodgily photoshopped copies of both Beyonce's 'Lemonade' and Kanye's 'Life Of Pablo'. Also catering for the hip-hop lifestyle was Sneaker District, a crazy-cool little emporium in central Amsterdam stocked with all the trainers you could possibly want. We raised a good giggle at the 17th century mural on the wall, doctored to add sweet kicks to all the gentry.

Right across the road from Sneaker District is where I found my spiritual home. Everyone I know had warned me about how much I would love Kitsch Kitchen, and they weren't wrong - full of loud and technicolour plastics, retro home pieces and general good vibes, it might have been the happiest shop I have ever seen - one day that Frida Kahlo bead curtain will be mine.

Sights & Getting Around
If you're a confident cyclist, I would say that you'll find yourself pretty at home in Amsterdam. Bikes are very much the preferred mode of transport and are well catered for with specific lanes all over the city. If you're still mourning your year six cycling proficiency fail like me, don't despair - there are so many parks and rental places around that it's the perfect opportunity to get back in the saddle. We got our bikes for free rental from our hotel, and while I wasn't feeling confident enough to do more than a few laps of the park, it was nice to feel like a local for an hour or so.

We didn't manage to pack a canalboat tour into our itinerary, but I must say that I didn't feel like I missed out too much. The tram and train system is pretty cheap but really, I'm all about the walking - there's so many cool little shops and cafes we would have completely missed if we hadn't stumbled across them on foot. Both my boyfriend and I have been so busy recently that it really made the holiday just to have so much time to amble around and chat. In terms of sights, we opted out of the more typical Anne Frank Huis (I'd been before on a school trip) and Van Gogh museum (never seen queues like it), but instead ended up at Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art. Costing just EUR 7.50 for admission if you're under 30, it's got a similar vibe to the Tate Modern, but with an extra dose of provocative and starling imagery - this is Amsterdam after all. Pack up a picnic and spend the whole day in the museum district - you can even pop over for your selfie with the classic 'I Am Amsterdam' sign for full tourist points.

Phew! So there's my guide to all the fab places we happened upon during our week in Amsterdam - we're already itching to go back! Let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions or recommendations, I'd love to hear them. And stay tuned for my Amsterdam post part 2: all the outfits I wore on holiday...

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  1. Such a lovely written post! If you go back to Amsterdam (or the Netherlands in general), definitely try poffertjes because they are the best food ever!! x

    1. Thanks Hannah! I'm desperate to go back so will pop that recommendation on my list :) x