Travel Writer Hannah Lay shares her favourite places to spend a wintery weekend in EuropeWritten by Hannah Lay on 15th February 2019
48 Hours in Amsterdam
Travel writer Laura Botia shares her quick trip to Amsterdam
As it usually does, boredom and exam stress led me and two friends to trawl the internet in search of something to look forward to. With Amsterdam offering the cheapest flights and a difference in culture, it became a great choice for a post-exams break. This is how I ended up in one of Europe’s most remarkable and famous cities.
Upon arrival at Amsterdam Centraal (the train station that connects the airport to the city), we had to find our hostel to check in and gear our surroundings. Dragging our suitcases around the cobbled streets in search of this hostel, we soon realised that things weren’t going to be as straightforward as we originally thought. The canals and narrow side roads meant that reading a map is fairly difficult as everywhere looks the same! To our relief, we eventually managed to find our hostel and check in. Situated in Amsterdam’s Red-Light District, our location soon became one of the most interesting parts of our trip.
On our first day, we decided to go exploring with no idea of what we were looking for. I would highly recommend simply walking around Amsterdam, it is such a small city that public transport is not necessary, and you really get a feel for the beauty of the canals that interweave the streets that you otherwise wouldn’t. By four o’clock I had already racked up 20,000 steps on my Fitbit and decided it was time for some dinner. At this point, we were tired and hungry so we googled where was best to go and settled on somewhere called Pancakes Amsterdam. Trying to find our hostel that morning we had come across an obscene amount of pancake houses and quickly grasped that pancakes are the food of Amsterdam – it would be rude not to embrace the culture, right? I ordered a bacon and mushroom pancake which was absolutely divine, and we even got a little keyring with a clog on it as we were leaving – clogs also being renowned in Amsterdam.
After dinner, we went back to our hostel and agreed to meet some friends in the evening. As we left our hostel that evening, the Red-Light District that had just looked like an ordinary street during the day, lit up. I had heard stories of the infamous Red-Light District, but it was nothing like I thought or ever could have imagined. The street was littered with people, drinking and enjoying themselves, whilst the colourful signs lit up the canal.
We didn’t stay for long before moving on to explore the rest of Amsterdam at night and after wandering around for almost 3 hours, we decided to call it a night and retire to our hostel.
The next day, we had to get up bright and early to go to the Ann Frank house, which we had previously booked tickets for, as these typically sell out two months in advance. Like the Red-Light District, the Ann Frank house was another aspect that I had heard lots about but couldn’t ever be prepared for. Walking through you get a sense of the conditions that the family were in; the small rooms and narrow staircases make it very claustrophobic. It’s something I can’t explain, even to this day, but walking through the house both my friends and I were overcome with emotion – it really strikes you how brutal the second world war truly was.
After the emotional turbulence of the Ann Frank house, we decided to wander around a little more and take in the last of Amsterdam before dinner and our flight home.
Amsterdam is top of my recommendations for destinations in Europe, as the culture is so different to that of the UK and nothing that I have ever experienced before. Birmingham boasts a canal network, however, nothing can compare to the beauty and serenity of the canals that intertwine the streets of Amsterdam. This serenity contrasted with the bustle of city life and the illuminating nightlife of the Red-Light District truly makes Amsterdam one of the most captivating places I have ever been to. 48 hours in Amsterdam opened up my mind and exposed me to an astonishing place that, in my opinion, is often overlooked due to its reputation.