Our Amsterdam mini-moon was a little unplanned. We were so incredibly lucky with the weather on the wedding day – one of those freezing, clear, sunny, winter days. But come the Sunday, we woke to a foot of snow – no exaggeration. Half of our wedding guests had epic journeys home; the groom’s family had an extended stay.
We were set to fly from Heathrow the following day to Hamburg, Germany. We rocked up Monday morning to see the airport in chaos attempting to catch up on the snow disruption the day before, when many flights were cancelled.
Promisingly ours was still listed to fly, we dashed through check-in and given priority at security – we then had a mad run, Love Actually-style, to the gate. Congratulating ourselves that we’d made it, we stood waiting to board, then the dreaded announcement came over the tannoy, “No crew, flight cancelled”.
Plan B – we headed home, slept like only newlyweds can do, and regrouped. We booked three nights in Amsterdam after seeing a university friend’s wintery Dutch Instagram posts.
We stayed at the super hipster Hotel V Fredricksen, belonging to a small chain of boutique hotels, which according to our cab driver a simply springing up everywhere over the city. It is tucked just behind the Heineken Experience in the, even more, hipster area of De Pjip, very Shoreditch. It’s dark decor and open round fire in the foyer oozed hygge.
It was a good price at £90 a night (with breakfast) but the rooms were a squeeze – standing room only. In fact, that was an indication for the rest of the city. You definitely felt that space was at a premium and many of the restaurants we went to often pack in tables across multiple floors.
Pretty much straight off the plane, we headed down the road to visit the Heineken Experience. Now we’ve been to our fair share of breweries, but not one belonging to an international beer giant – it was very reminiscent of Coca-Cola World in Atlanta.
The Heineken Experience is housed in the original brewery and factory, established by Gerard Heineken in 1873. I did not know that Heineken’s popularity in the States has a lot to do with the end of prohibition. It was the first beer to be imported into the States after President Roosevelt repealed prohibition, and it was Heineken beer that citizens were swigging in all the press pictures.
It was fun to head through the vast copper mash tuns which had interactive displays showing the brewing process. The tour ends in the stables, where the dray is still taken at as part of their promotional activities. Here we clinked and shouted ‘proost’ whilst taking a few large gulps (apparently this is the official way to drink Heineken so you get the flavour under the head.) Personally, and I wouldn’t admit this to Tom, who’s a craft beer man through and through, but this was probably my favourite beer tour – simply because I liked the lager!
Rijksmuseum and brunch
We were staying on the cusp of the De Pijp area of Amsterdam, an area filled with pop up restaurants, upcycling shops and start-up boutiques. We stopped for dinner at Fou Fow Ramen – excellent ramen. Round the corner is one of Amsterdam’s favourite street markets, Albert Cuypmarkt, which runs every day, except Sunday. You will find it if you just follow the smell of stroopwafels.
At the end of Albert Cuypmarkt is CT Coffee and Coconuts – an amazing place for brunch, filled with media types. We both had the CT Breakfast which was like a tasting menu of all their top dishes – homemade granola, coconut pancake, fresh fruit. And not to sound like a complete Brit, but the tea let it down – I never understood places that serve you a glass hot water with a tea bag on the side, it just can’t brew properly…
From here it’s about a 20-minute walk to Museumplein and the Rijksmuseum. As Liz, my art history friend, says you can easily spend a lifetime in the Rijksmuseum – I suppose the Dutch equivalent to the National Gallery in London. We only had one afternoon to do it any proper justice. They have a great app available which takes you on 90-minute highlights tour through the three floors of galleries and just enough background to appreciate each piece without having a whole degree to fall back on.
Appropriately it dedicates a large part of the tour to the Dutch masters. I spent a term in my art GCSE copying the sleeves from Vermeer paintings, particularly ‘The Milkmaid’ so I was happy to see this with my own eyes. More galleries should have highlight apps. Museumplein is also the focus of Amsterdam’s festive activities with its large ice rink in front of the iconic ‘I Amsterdam’ sculpture. (We missed the Xmas market though by one day!)
Our second day, we walked through Amsterdam’s canal rings taking in Dam Platz with its huge Xmas tree outside the palace and towards an area known as ‘the nine streets’. It’s an area of smart boutiques perfect for a spot of Christmas shopping and a Dutch pancake at the aptly named ‘Pancakes!’. After a visit to In De Wildeman so that Tom could fill up his beer app with Dutch samplings, we joined the quayside for a nighttime ride through Amsterdam’s Festival of Lights.
Again, I’m not going to lie, I naively thought – festival of lights, three weeks before Crimbo – it’ll be festive. But it was less on the festive side and more on the arty side. Installations are dotted around Amsterdam’s canals, many created by world-famous artists including one of our favourites Ai Weiwei, whose red line connected each installation and represented all the boundaries in our modern lives. It’s certainly worth a trip, but I might suggest that actually for a decent picture, it might be worth checking out some of these installations on foot.
All in all, we had a super time on our first trip as Mr & Mrs Bartlett and when we got back we were certainly ready to hit up Xmas like no tomorrow!