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Amsterdam Travel Guide: Exploring with Marco Polo Guides

 

Ok, so I only spent half a day in Amsterdam and am by no means an expert on this pretty city, but it was somewhere I had wanted to visit for AGES and I am so glad I finally got the chance to during my first time to the Netherlands back in May. The lovely team over at Marco Polo Guides challenged me to make my way around the city using their handy guide book so I hopped on a Eurostar train from London St Pancras and was en-route to Rotterdam for three nights for the annual Traverse 2018 conference, but managed to squeeze in a cheeky half day in the Dutch capital during my visit. Half a day is not nearly enough time to spend wandering around one of the most famous cities on the planet, but I definitely got a good feel for the place and managed to see a lot in my short time there. I’m already planning a return visit for the annual Christmas Markets, but when Marco Polo asked me what I got up to on my recent day trip, and what I want to do next time I visit, I couldn’t resist the chance to write about amazing Amsterdam…

 

Wander around Dam Square

 

 

After arriving by train into Amsterdam Centraal Station, which is a seriously impressive building, I crossed a couple of bridges and headed straight in the direction of Dam Square, where I met up with my friend and fellow blogger Rachel, who had been staying with her friend in Amsterdam so knew most of the sights already. Finding my way to Dam Square from Centraal Station was super easy as it’s pretty much just one straight line heading north, and within 10 minutes I arrived at my destination! We met right in the middle of Dam Square, just opposite the enormous Madame Tussauds museum, and had a wander around the square whist we said our hello’s and caught up with each other. The architecture on some of the buildings in the square is incredible and it’s a really cool place to just hang out and watch the world go by.

 

Walk along the many canals

 

 

Rach and I wandered along some of the cobbled streets, lined with tiny buildings and love-lock bridges which seemed to criss-cross over many of the iconic canals in the city. I had my suitcase with me so the cobbles were a bit of a pain, but we managed to manoeuvre our way around and found some roads which were more suitable to lugging my bags – if you want to though you can leave your suitcase at Centraal Station for the day and pick it up later after you’ve explored (why didn’t I do this?!) Anyway, wandering along the canals lets you discover lots of Amsterdam quite quickly, as each neighbourhood leads to the next and before you know it you’ve ticked off new areas without even knowing it! At one point we wandered into the Jordaan area, which was really quirky and had a real residential feel to it, so it was nice to get away from the hustle and  bustle of the city centre.

 

See the infamous Red Light District

 

 

We didn’t even mean to end up here, but our wanderings took us to the back streets of the Red Light District and we felt that we couldn’t not  pay a visit to this place… whilst in Amsterdam, right?! As you can imagine, the whole area is pretty seedy and not the nicest part of the city – it felt quite dirty, there was lots of litter on the ground etc, and the women standing topless in the windows and by the street corners were definitely a sight to behold! There are sex museums aplenty, but there isn’t really much going on in the day so I can imagine that this place comes alive at night…

 

Pay a visit to Anne-Frank’s House

 

 

I wasn’t able to go inside as you have to buy tickets online weeks in advance (they get booked up super quick) but I did see the house from the outside and stood next to the famous plaque on the wall.  Dedicated to Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank, the house is located on the Prinsengracht Canal right in the city centre. As everyone knows, Anne Frank was a young Jewish child who hid from Nazi forces with her family and four other people in a secret annex at the back of the 17th century canal house. Sadly Anne Frank died in the war, but her diary was found and published in 1947. Ten years later, the Anne Frank Foundation was born in order to protect the house from builders who wanted to demolish the block. The museum itself didn’t open until 1960, where the hiding place of Anne Frank was preserved and a permanent exhibition of her life, and of other Jews trying to survive the war, was put in place. Anne Frank’s House is the third most popular museum in Amsterdam, after the Rijksmusem and Van Gogh Museum respectively. I definitely want to visit the House during my next trip to Amsterdam and really want to go inside next time – I think it is so important and such a big part of war history, so it will definitely be at the top of my list next time I am visiting the city.

 

Take the ferry over to the IAMsterdam sign

 

 

I had some spare time to myself for an hour or so whilst Rach headed back to her friend’s house to pick up her suitcase before we boarded the train to Rotterdam, so rather than accompanying her I decided to take the ferry over to the iconic IAMsterdam sign to have a look at it up close. The ferries run literally every minute of the day and are used by locals and tourists alike to head over to the island where you’ll find a restaurant/café and a skyscraper building called the Lookout Tower. Once you reach the top, this place offers incredible views over the river and city below, and you can even go on a giant swing for that all important Insta shot! Sadly I didn’t have time to do this when I was on my lonesome, but I think it only costs around 6 euros for a go on the swing so I will most definitely be doing this next time I visit!

 

Visit the Rijksmuseum

 

 

Also known as the Dutch National Museum, the Rijksmuseum is one of the most famous in the Netherlands and focuses on history and art. Founded in the Hague in the year 1800, the museum moved to Amsterdam in 1808 and was located in the Royal Palace and then moved to the Trippenhuis. Officially opened in 1885, the building is now located in Museum Square near to the world famous Van Gogh museum. After a ten year renovation in 2003, the museum was reopened again by Queen Beatrix in 2013 and just a year later it was named both the most visited and the largest art museum in the Netherlands. Displaying over 8000 objects of history and art from the years between 1200-2000, the museum is home to masterpieces from the likes of Rembrandt and Vermeer and is a must for any art fan. You’ll also find another of the iconic IAMsterdam signs located just in front of the museum, so it’s worth the trip alone just for this!

 

As you can see, I managed to do a fair bit during my short stop in Amsterdam, but there is so much more I want to see and do and  some of the things I missed will be added straight to my bucket-list, ready for my return visit! I’m hoping to head back in December for this year’s Christmas Markets as I’ve heard winter is a great time to visit and has a completely different vibe from summer. Have you ever been to Amsterdam before? Did you love it as much as I did? Don’t forget to check out the Marco Polo Guidebook to plan your visit – it came in so handy when I was there, and some of the free tours and walking routes are super cool!

Love Jess x

NB. This post was sponsored by Marco Polo Guides but, as always, all thoughts and words are of course my own.

 

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