Amsterdam is usually the first place that comes to mind when people think of the Netherlands. Although there are dozens of other magnificent cities in the country, Amsterdam is certainly one that is full of fun and highlights! The beautiful canals, lined by boats and colourful crooked houses, are more than enough to draw anyone in, but the countless attractions and activities are what keep us coming back!
We got into Amsterdam late Saturday after a full day of travelling home from Spain. One of the craziest things about travelling is that it certainly can be unpredictable- we ended up getting missing the last train home the night before, thus getting stranded at the airport and needing to find a last-minute hotel to take us in for the night. Although this speed bump put a big delay in our weekend trip to Amsterdam, we were determined to make the best of the one day we had there!
Such a Cool Hotel!
After taking the train into the city from Maastricht (about a 2.5 hour train trip), we took the tram for a few short stops and then checked into our fabulous, modern hotel- the CityHub Amsterdam. The woman at the front desk greeted us happily and talked us through the check in process. The cool thing about this hotel was that everything was digital- we checked in on a small machine using our reservation number, chose a wristband, and activated our wristbands using the machine. These wristbands allowed is to get into the hotel and hour rooms, and could be used to purchase snacks, drinks, and any necessary travel items from machines throughout the hotel. We authorized one bank card so that if we wanted any drinks from the hotel’s self-serve bar we could simply tap our wristbands and help ourselves!
The layout of the hotel was the most unique I have ever seen! Once you go through the door to the ‘pod area’ you can see very modern, cube shaped rooms lining the halls- something much different than a traditional hotel. There were common bathrooms with stalls for showers and toilets, which were beautifully decorated, clean, and had rain-style shower heads. When we checked in, we were able to select what pod we wanted on the machine, and choose whether we wanted a top or bottom pod. The little pod was perfect for what we needed for the night, however there definitely was not much space for luggage- so in the event of an extended trip, there would not be much space for large bags. The shelves in the pod also doubled as stairs to get to the elevated bed.
Each pod could be controlled by the CityHub app, which allows you to play music in your pod using a bluetooth speaker, set an alarm, and change the colour of the lights in your pod. Additionally, using the app we had access to our own personal concierge- who was full of knowledge about restaurants and events going on in the city. If we had any questions, we could simply open the app and send her a message.
We got settled into our pod and then decided to head out into the city for dinner. Another perk of this hotel was that we were given a WiFi hotspot to take with us to ensure we had wifi all throughout the city! This was included in the price of our stay and is fabulous for anyone travelling to avoid expensive roaming charges. We headed right into the center of the city and had some dinner and wine on a lovely heated patio at Leidseplein. We had a delicious snack board with meats and cheese, nuts, olives, and chicken wings!
Red Lights :)!
After enjoying our meal, we headed for a walk through the Red Light District- definitely a very interesting experience, especially at night when it really comes to life. The streets are lined with women dancing in windows, advertisements for peep-shows, many different sex shops, and coffee shops drawing in dozens tourists. It was then getting late so we decided to begin our walk back to the hotel.
SightSeeing in Amsterdam
The next morning, we had a quick bite to eat before heading back to the city center. Our hotel had an excellent location and was only about 5 tram stops from the heart of the city. We started the day with a little bit of shopping and a stroll through the flower market, which is located right along one of the beautiful canals. We had a coffee as we walked through the narrow streets and admired the boats and houses along the canals, and imagined what it would be like to live on one of the many houseboats seen on the water.
Our shopping journey finished right at Dam square, where crowds of people were gathered watching street performers and checking out the touristy shops. Right near here we had an amazing lunch at Cafe de Paris. Aside from the cafe’s perfect location, it had a really unique ‘uptown’ atmosphere with industrial lamps and brick walls. We started with some deliciously refreshing coconut and vanilla iced coffees, and then enjoyed a lobster roll with a creamy-lime dressing and a bacon-egg-avocado open sandwich. Both were fantastic, definitely a fabulous spot for lunch during a day in the city!
Once our bellies were happy, we continued our walk across the canals to the iconic iAmsterdam sign and the Vondelpark. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon for a walk through the park, so we did this before heading to see the sign. The warm, unseasonable weather brought an amazing atmosphere to the park- there were families out walking, people running, biking, and playing, and having picnics barbecues in the park. We sat down for a little rest near the fountain and watched the dogs running around near the water before continuing on to one of Amsterdam’s most popular photo points.
When we arrived, it was quite busy directly in front of the sign, but the time of day we were there made it absolutely perfect! We were able to get a fabulous view of the sign in the late afternoon as the sun was beginning to set, with the Rijksmuseum in the background.We snapped a few photos, checked it out from up close and far, and then continued on to the Heineken Experience.
We Feel Like Beer!
Around 5:00 we got into the museum to begin our own ‘Heineken Experience‘. This was a really interesting tour that taught us exactly how Heineken beer has been made for more than a hundred years! The interactive tour places you at the center of the experience, and makes it seem like you are the beer. One of the first stops was a multi-dimensional video that shook, sprayed, and smelled just like the beer making process. As we stood on a platform, we were taking into the world of Heineken beer making! We then got to see the tools used to make the beer, and saw many photos supporting the long history of the company.
Next on our tour we headed to the tasting room, where we were shown how to properly pour the beer to achieve the perfect amount of foam, and learned exactly why the foam is necessary for a perfect beer. One of the other rooms on the tour displayed many of Heineken’s sport sponsorships, and had simulators for rugby, football, and video games that we were able to try! There were many other interactive activities, such as simulators that allowed you to practice pouring the perfect beer, and customize your own Heineken bottle. Our tour finished at the rooftop terrace where we were able to cash in our tokens for two free beers each! We had our first beer on the outdoor terrace, overlooking the amazing evening skyline and city lights. It was truly the perfect way to finish our day exploring the city of Amsterdam!