Last month I visited the Netherlands for the first time ever. One of my friends recently moved over there, so of course we jumped at the chance to go and visit her! It was a short trip but this is what we got up to...
What I didn't realise is just how much of a quick flight it is to Amsterdam - from Birmingham it was just an hour, meaning that we were only in the air for half of that time (I barely had time to finish my brew!) The flight was fine, though I didn't rate FlyBe's service or the aircraft we had. I do really want to go back to Amsterdam at some point but I might consider forking out the extra to fly with KLM next time.
Once everyone had arrived, we went out for dinner in Amsterdam. It's always a bit weird seeing a city for the first time at night, I find, but it was a bit of a whirlwind as it was pretty late by the time we got there. We went to a restaurant called Bazar which was a bit hidden away but very reasonably-priced (Amsterdam can get pretty expensive food-wise). It was middle eastern food and there was a pretty good amount of choice for vegetarians and pescetarians, plus the portion size was generous.
We had to rush a bit to get the train back to the Hague so didn't see much of the nightlife (retrospectively, it would've been a good idea to get a hotel or AirBnb just for one night so we could fully experience the city) but we did have a few glasses of wine back at the apartment in the Hague.
We were sure to be up at a reasonable time to head into Amsterdam, as we were aware of how little time we had in the Netherlands. Our first priority was obviously food so we got pancakes at a place called Het Karbeel (what we ate), which was pretty decent. It was actually quite a sunny day, despite a bit of a chill in the air, so we took a really nice stroll along the canals, which are just as pretty and picturesque in real life. The Red Light District is also almost as active during the day as it is at night, which is quite a surreal experience! It honestly doesn't look any different or more run down than the rest of town so you can definitely end up just wandering into it and getting a bit of a surprise...
We actually booked our trip only about 5 weeks in advance and checked straight away for tickets to Anne Frank's House, however even then they were sold out! I'd really recommend booking tickets to the house as early as possible if you're going to Amsterdam. You can try and queue but with such limited time, it seemed a waste of a day for something that may not even happen. This was a real shame, as it was the one thing I was desperate to see! We considered the Van Gough Museum but again we were put off by the prospect of queuing for hours. So we narrowed it down to the Sex Museum or the Museum of Prostitution and ended up going with the latter, because it sounded more interesting and less gimmicky.
Red Light Secrets is such an interesting museum and is far from silly or seedy. It gives you an insight into the lives of prostitutes working in Amsterdam and the laws that govern their activities. You also find out different facts and statistics, both from Amsterdam and around the world and the rooms are all made up to look like different scenes showing different aspects of the business. It really is fascinating and well worth a visit for a comparatively low price.
Afterwards we had a bit of a wander, explored some of Amsterdam's trappings and went shopping before returning to the Hague for the evening. After a power-nap we headed out to dinner at a Vietnamese place called Little V in Hague's Chinatown. It was honestly SO GOOD! The cocktails were amazing, there was so much great food and the price of everything was pretty reasonable (even with this abysmal exchange rate...) Afterwards we had a few drinks and ended up at a random club in the main square, which was fun, so it turned into a bit of a late one.
We decided to stay in the Hague for our last day and we couldn't leave the Netherlands without experiencing some art and a bit more culture. We went to the Mauritshaus Museum, which is well worth seeing. It houses works by Rembrandt, Holbein and of course Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring. It isn't overwhelmingly huge but there's still plenty to see. There was also a special exhibition on that we got to see at no extra cost called Slow Food, which was all around super-realistic food-themed still life.
After a wander around the shops we went for lunch at a place called Milu. It's hard to describe because it's pretty much food from all around the world, which is largely tapas-like sharing food. It was really good and I had a great cocktail in there too before heading back to the airport for the return flight home. It was a fleeting visit but I've had a little taste of Amsterdam and definitely want to go back! I will just be making sure I book the really popular museums well ahead of time...
Have you been to Amsterdam or the Hague? Let me know what you thought of your trip!