Amsterdam, heart of the Netherlands; with a population of 820,000 and with over 3.5 million visitors a year, it doesn’t quite seem like the best place to go for a break from the hustle and bustle of working life. However, it has always been a dream of mine to visit there, I was forever crying with jealousy after hearing all the exciting adventures my friends had when they were there. Thus, when I was presented with the opportunity to visit Amsterdam for a few days back in early June 2016, I leapt at the chance. The moment the holiday was booked, I spent every waking hour trawling through online tourist guides, trying to find out where the best places were to go. I found them such a fascinating read, that I just had to compile my own list, and share some of my experiences from the trip. These aren’t necessarily in order, but they are the top four places I suggest you should check out!
Now, I will be the first to admit that I am not the most adventurous drinker, in fact, I would even go on record to say that I am probably the least adventurous drinker. Much preferring to stick with a safe vodka lemonade, rather than having a cocktail. Initially, when my friend said how much he wanted to visit here, I hated the idea, I do not like cocktails and I would certainly rather not stand about learning about how one is made. However, despite not being a huge cocktail fan, I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed my visit here. Located in the beautiful Museum district, the House of Bols is a journey through what it takes to make a cocktail, as well as the history and heritage of Genever. With interactive smell and taste tests, the opportunity to get hands on with what goes into the drinks, and a free cocktail at the end of the tour, it is certainly not to be missed. The tour is not all that the House of Bols has to offer, with a variety of workshops and tastings, there truly is something there for everyone. With tickets starting at just 15 euros it really will not break the bank to give the place a visit. Did I mention you get a free cocktail and audio tour with that ticket as well?
Vondelpark was where we spent our last few hours in Amsterdam, and under the blistering Dutch sun it was a wonderful way to end our holiday. It truly was beautiful, photos of the park really do not do the place justice. There was a wonderful atmosphere, partly due to the breathtaking scenery, but also due to the people that were there. There were thousands of tourists and residents alike, however, the place did not feel crowded in the slightest, it was a place that was so full of energy but at the same time very peaceful. Asides from the nature aspects of Vondelpark, there is also restaurants and cafes, a skate rental shop, and an open air theatre. It is no wonder that it is such a popular tourist destination, plus it is free entry, although the after sun you might need to purchase if you spend hours out in the blazing sun without any suncream won’t be!
There are actually two bars here, although only one of them is actually made of ice. The first one is rather lovely, and you do get a free welcome cocktail or Heineken beer upon arrival. After some time relaxing before the next ‘tour’ begins, you will be directed to get a thermal jacket and gloves. Trust me when I say you will most definitely need them! At -10 degrees Celsius the XtraCold Icebar really does live up to its name. Practically everything in this area is made of ice, as the name suggests, and even the glasses are made of ice. You also do get two free drinks in this area, be it a beer or a vodka. However, do be warned that the vodka will be a straight shot! Also, it is recommended that you go for a beer first (if that is what you are into) because you will only get the one glass! Tickets are 18 Euros but considering you do get three drinks included, as well as a truly unforgettable experience, it is a bargain! Although do be aware that you do need to book a time in advance, you can not just show up and gain entry right away, although you can make a booking on the door.
Look, I know there is a bit of a running theme with this top four list, but hear me out. The Heineken Experience truly lives up to its name, explore the brewery, take part in a taste test, and get the opportunity to go on a fun interactive trip where you get to experience just what it is like to be a Heineken beer! I am not a big beer lover, in fact, I would even go as far as saying I hate beer, despite this, this was actually a great experience! Albeit the queues are pretty long, so be sure that you have quite a few hours to spare for this, but it is really fun and interesting. Tickets begin at 16 euros for an adult, and 12.50 euros for a child (children are of course not allowed to try any of the alcohol!). and there is surprisingly a lot to do. Asides from the alcohol, there is also some fun interactive games, like Heineken hero (which is a bit like a DJ version of guitar hero), the opportunity to play Pro Evolution Soccer, and some great photo opportunities along the way. It is a bit out of the way compared to the other places on this list, but the journey is definitely worth it. There is also an option to take part in a VIP tour, for that truly behind the scenes Heineken Experience.