I once went to Amsterdam when I was 17 on a school trip, and decided that I have to experience it as a 24 year old too. Though I visited at Christmas, with its crooked and wonderfully decorated houses, built on a maze of man-made canals, Amsterdam is charming and festive all year round. It is a hybrid city of 17th century architecture, vintage clothes shops and liberal ideologies. I hopped on a 45 minute flight from London and soon landed in this sweet city.
Usually my navigation skills are exceptional. I've always had an inbuilt sense of direction., however, Amsterdam really threw me off track - everywhere just looks the same! Have your GPS ready, or if you want to get wanderfully lost, you can do that too! First things first, the flatness of the Netherlands makes Amsterdam the perfect cycling city. Almost everyone owns a bike, and the clear cycle lanes make it very straightforward, although people really do cycle incredibly quickly!
We hired our bikes from Mike's Bikes Rental on Kerkstraat- a great place to start. Cycle to the Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam's famous flower market, and pick up some pretty (and cheap) flowers for your bike :) If you don't like cycling, the trams, metro and buses are frequent and reliable.
It's no secret that I adore breakfast. For me, it truly is a sensational part of the day. Amsterdam really gave me some affordable and delightful breakfasts. Firstly is Pluk, a health packed food and kitchenware cafe in the 9 streets (Negen Straatjes) district of Amsterdam. I went for the Dragonfruit Smoothie bowl, and a slice of the Lavender and Lemon cake.
Probably the best breakfast I've had was at the Corner House Bakery, close to the Rijksmuseum. It truly was great and such huge portions were given. Go here for great value for your money!
We only paid £170 for 4 nights, and staying in the actual city could cheapen your stay, as the old town is a tourist hotspot. Nothing is far away so taking a bike or the metro is cheap and fast. ANYWAY, back to the breakfast! I snuggled up in bed on December 20th and watched Christmas movies with the tastiest breakfast in bed. I plan to do this A LOT more often in London.
If you're looking for a festive activity, ice-skating at Christmas at Ice Amsterdam opposite the Rijksmuseum is not to be missed. You also get a great view of the 'Iamsterdam' sign. Get there super early to avoid crowds, and if you're travelling with kids, they will have a lot of space on the rink to fall down and not trip anyone else up!
Referred to as Venice of the North, Amsterdam is a maze of intricately knitted canals. This makes for picturesque canal walks and boat rides. We were lucky enough to be there for the Amsterdam Light Festival, in which the Canal became lit up with LED art, each sporting a different social message. My favourite was length of lights that lit up when boats went past in the form of sound waves, to show how much noise pollution from boats in the sea affects sea creatures sleeping and hunting patterns.
Many of the Canal houses have Gables (those fancy looking shaped roofs). This is very reflective of the 17th century architecture when many of the canals were dug. I think they make for pretty good pictures.
I thought buying a Canal house in Amsterdam could be a feasible option; Yeah google it. We're talking millions here.
Amsterdam was beautiful in the winter (we missed the snow!), and I can imagine just how radiant it will be in the summer. If you are travelling from far way (America/Asia/Australia etc) I wouldn't recommend making this your only stop, train travel to Brussels/Germany/France is affordable from The Netherlands. Amsterdam is as expensive as anywhere else, but taking public transport will keep your purse in check. We flew with EasyJet,and book flights 3 months in advance for £45 return.