Often called the "Venice of the North", today’s Amsterdam proudly caters for its diverse population and serves as a hub for multiple industries, startups and culture. With its history going back to 13th-century when Amsterdam was a fishing village the city has evolved into one of the major European destinations offering international visitors a variety of world-class museums and art galleries, exhibitions and theatre events, concerts, chilled clubs and bars, and delightful restaurants.
Travelling to Amsterdam
I took an early morning flight out of Glasgow airport KLM to Amsterdam Schiphol airport.
After leaving the 6am drinkers in the airport bar, it was a comparatively short flight to Amsterdam on a KLM Cityhopper.
The shuttle train from the airport to Amsterdam central runs every 15 mins and costs 6.50€.
The Hotel Amsterdam was only an 8-minute walk away down Damrak. Very convenient for Dam Square (only 1 minute) walk.
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The purpose of the trip was to revisit Amsterdam after about 20 years. I worked briefly at Schiphol airport and although I stayed in the airport Hilton, I used to come into town with colleagues after work. They lived in the city, so it was useful to be with people who had local knowledge.
The Hotel Amsterdam is convenient and clean. The room was spotless and there was a buffet breakfast which was good and plentiful.
After coffee, a walk along to Dam Square and a stroll along to Oudezijds, Armsteeg 26 to Brouwerij De Prael.
This is a microbrewery and pub founded on the site of one of Amsterdam’s first breweries. The company are very socially aware and employ people who would find it hard getting a job elsewhere.
A tasting rack at De Prael
As well as excellent beer, they also have a good food selection (Chicken Satay 11€, Beer Bitterballs 6€). My favourite … a glass of ‘Johnny’ 4€.
On Thursday, Friday and Sunday, there are Beer, Boats and Bites. A 3-hour tour of the brewery, including a 1 hour 45 min canal trip with beer tasting and snacks.
The next trip was to take a 20-minute train journey from Central to the Johan Cryuff Arena for a stadium tour.
Originally the Amsterdam Arena, it was renamed in memory of Johan Cryuff probably one of the greatest Dutch footballers of all time.
The train stop is just outside the ground and there are tours every hour which are good value at 17€ if you are not really interested in football.
The tour compares favourably with Barcelona and Real Madrid with visits to the trophy room, dressing rooms and pitch. You can also visit different areas of the stadium by yourself after the guided tour.
At the end, you can visit the club shop which I have to say is quite reasonably priced compared to other places I have visited.
Johan Cryuff Arena
Trying Amsterdam chips
Back into town again and a quick snack from the Manneken Pis chip shop on Damrak. The chips are excellent, and I chose the Urbanus (450 grams) which was enough for me though there is an option of Obelix which is a kilo of Chips!
There are 22 different sauces, though my favourites are curry and satay.
Beers in Amsterdam
The next stop was a bar back towards the station, Zilt biercafe (Zeedijk 79) which boasts a ‘Red Bull and Bieber free environment’.
There is a selection of over 130 whiskies and 110 beers. There are whisky tastings from 36€ and beer tastings from 18€. Prices are not extortionate, a Bunnahabhain 12 year for 4.40€ or a Caol Ila Distillers Edition for 6.50€. There is a beer menu and a well-stocked back bar with a wide selection of the local gins.
Visiting Heineken Brewery
The next day it was a trip to the Heineken brewery. It is only a 25-minute walk from the hotel. The tour is 18€ and is self guided with 2 free drinks at the end. The bar can be bit messy after there have been a lot of visitors but is an interesting insight into a large commercial brewery. It is a pity the beer isn’t as good as the microbreweries in Amsterdam, but it was good to see they still have heavy horses to deliver beer although it is mainly for show now.
You can also combine a canal cruise with your Heineken experience. Please note that the cruise is one way only!
Heavy horses at the Heineken brewery
On the way back from the brewery there was time to visit one last ‘brown café’ and meet up with an old friend at Café Hoppe (Spui 18 – 20).
Located on the Spui since 1670, there are two rooms (sitting and standing) and an outside terrace, it is always busy with a great atmosphere.
Breakfasts are served from 8.00 till 12.00, then light lunches and bar snacks. A great bar and I will always visit when I return to Amsterdam.
Keeping the alcohol level reasonably low, it was time to get the train back to the airport and look forward to returning soon.