The first time I went to Amsterdam was a couple of months ago (late in life, I know), to speak at a tech conference, and I only saw the city by accident. Fly in one evening, out the next, every second accounted for. Until, a friend, who’d moved there on a whim and stayed for love, suggested we meet for a pizza at La Perla in the Jordaan district. Without a clue where I was heading, but with my smartphone, I jumped on a tram and, 20 minutes later, I was besotted. Partly, it was the canals – so much water (although not as stately as Venice), and then there was the sky (so much sky, no skyscrapers). And the bars (so relaxed). And the bikes (I wanted one!). And the awesomely easy transport system (of which more later). And the atmosphere: relaxed, but not quiet; safe, but not sleepy. I was instantly at ease.
I confess I'm the kind of person who likes the familiarity of previously loved holiday haunts, but I'm not alone. According to research* by American Express, one in four Brits have returned to the same place for the exact same reason. In this case, not only was I keen to see Amsterdam again, but my other half, Jon, has a passion for cities on water. He loves Paris because the Seine is its heart, Venice because there’s more water than land – I knew he’d love Amsterdam.
By the time I’d been home 48 hours, I’d persuaded him to swap his birthday trip to Paris in favour of four days in Amsterdam.
Just 50 minutes in the air, and then 20 minutes into Amsterdam Centraal by train for a mere €5.90, and 10 minutes on the No.2 tram to Rijksmuseum, and we’re checking into JL No76 (a small friendly hotel in the same boutique chain as The Vondel, which had been recommended by friends).
(And, while we’re on the subject, Amsterdam’s transport is great. Not only is the airport train a bargain, €7 buys you a whole day on all Amsterdam’s super-efficient, fabulously painless metro lines, trams and buses. If you’re there for three days, you can buy a pass for €17 and whizz around the city.)
I have friends who are big planners – every second of a weekend away accounted for with restaurants, museums and shows. That sounds like hard work to me. Jon and I are pretty free-form. Our weekends are all about walking, eating, drinking, reading, talking and a teeny bit of sightseeing to make ourselves feel like we’ve, you know, made an effort.
Armed with a guidebook which we largely ignored once we’d got our bearings, we had very few must-dos, other than aimless wandering, but one of those was brunch at Bakers & Roasters (recommended by resident foodie Lauren Bravo), which, as luck would have it, was less than a 10-minute walk from our hotel. The brainchild of a New Zealander and a Brazilian, you’ll soon find out why there’s a queue. Enormous portions of brunch favourites with a twist – from Eggs Benny to B&R special, which is eggs and bacon with added waffles. So much so that we had breakfast there every day.
De Pijp is a thriving residential district full of restaurants, coffee shops and a brilliant market on Albert Cuypstraat that’s well worth a visit. We loved it so much that, despite wandering all over the city during the day, we ended up back there every night
B&R is on the edge of a De Pijp – a thriving residential district full of restaurants, coffee shops and a brilliant market on Albert Cuypstraat that’s well worth a visit. We loved it so much that, despite wandering all over the city during the day, we ended up back there every night. Restaurants worth checking out include Los Feliz for Cali-Mex (owned by the Bakers & Roasters team), truly the best Thai (and hottest sambal) I have eaten in a long time from the unassuming and inexpensive Siriphon (Eerste Jacob van Campenstraat 47), Vietnamese street food at FRNZY, on the same street, or walk a couple of blocks to Gerard Douplein and choose from burgers at Thrill Grill or Brut de Mer for seafood. If you want a spoiling night out, take a tram to Mr Porter on Dam Square, which has a lovely rooftop bar. Don’t let the weather put you off – it’s well-equipped for the chill.
Because rain was forecast for our second day, we did most of our moseying day one, meandering across the city through the new town, before winding along the central canals, past the Amsterdam Tulip Museum, and finishing up in Jordaan, the district I discovered on my first trip. On returning to the area on this trip, we worked out that Jordaan is the area to hang out in if you care about the quality of your coffee. There’s also an eclectic selection of shops – we bought Emmental and hard goat’s cheese in a cheese shop on the corner of Droogbak, then walked down Prins Hendrikkade towards the new town, loaded up on Tony’s chocolate in a passing supermarket and made our annual addition to our Christmas-bauble collection in Sukha. Also worth a look is We Are Labels, a small chain of boutiques scattered all over the city.
Day two, the weather app was bang on – it poured. The morning, we spent hidden in the frankly astonishing Van Gogh Museum, before getting drenched anyway walking across town to the Anne Frank House on Prinsengracht only to discover that only ticket holders are admitted before 3.30pm and the queue for non-ticket holders had started building (yes, in the rain) at 10.30am. Unfortunately, I’m not organised enough to have pre-booked tickets but, next time I visit Amsterdam, it will be top of my agenda.
Then it started to hail, so we took it as an excuse for me to introduce Jon to the delights of La Perla for pizza and a beer – and, yes, they do cook on one side of the road and run across the street in the rain to serve it to you on the other, but don’t let that put you off…
So we staggered back to the hotel – treated ourselves to beer and peanuts from the honesty bar in the lobby – before getting dry and heading out again to De Pijp for supper. Yes, more food.
But don’t let all those meals worry you because, on day one, we managed 23,000 steps, day two 20,000. It was a one for you/one for me kind of mini-break.
If reading about Sam’s trip to Amsterdam has inspired you to explore or rediscover a favourite city, the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card could help you get there. Collect 1.5 Avios for every £1 you spend on purchases on the Card, and 3 Avios for every £1 you spend on ba.com, and you can turn your everyday spending into an amazing adventure by converting your Avios into reward flights to hundreds of destinations like Amsterdam or New York. What’s more, you’ll receive a 2-for-1 Companion Voucher, a reward that entitles eligible British Airways American Express Cardmembers to a complimentary second seat for a companion on a British Airways reward flight, when you spend £10,000 or more on your Card within an anniversary year. To find out more about the Card and to read more adventures of rediscovery in some of the great cities of the world click here.
British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card. Representative Example: Representative 76.0% APR variable. Based on annual fee of £195 and assumed credit limit of £1,200. Interest rate for purchases: 22.9% p.a. variable.
If you’d prefer a Card with no annual fee, an alternative option is available: the British Airways American Express Credit Card which comes with a 5,000 Avios welcome offer when you spend £1,000 or more in your first three months of Cardmembership.
British Airways American Express Credit Card. Representative example: Representative 22.9% APR variable. Based on an assumed credit limit of £1,200. Interest rate for purchases: 22.9% p.a. variable.
Applicants must be UK residents, aged 18 or over. Approval is subject to status and Terms and Conditions apply. Terms apply to the earning and redemption of Avios and to the 2-for-1 Companion Voucher, click here to find out more.
Promoter: American Express Services Europe Limited has its registered office at Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9AX, United Kingdom. It is registered in England and Wales with Company Number 1833139 and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority
* Research conducted by OnePoll for American Express from a representative sample of 2,000 adults (02 March 2017 – 06 March 2017)