Of course summer is the time that people usually want to book to go away on holiday or on breaks and it's with good reason - who doesn't love to walk around taking in the sights of a new place in the sun with a t-shirt and sunnies on? However, going away in winter can also be really great for a number of reasons: there are different things to do, you can see that particular place in all of its Christmas glory and a lot of the time it can be cheaper. Jess and I went to Amsterdam last week and although it was absolutely bloody freezing and it poured down for most of the time, we managed to have a fantastic time and we did a lot of things that I didn't do when I went back in the summer. Here are a few of the things you can do in Amsterdam should you decide to go in winter!
S E E S O M E OF A M S T E R D A M ' S A M A Z I N G A R T
Amsterdam is renowned for it's collection of art galleries, whether they're the big, famous ones like the Rijksmuseum or small independent ones that you come across whilst walking around the city. When it's pouring down outside, the galleries can give you a little bit of a refuge whilst also offering a taste of culture and history and going into the Van Gogh Museum was simply brilliant. It tells the story of Van Gogh's life and boasts some of his most famous paintings, including Sunflowers, his many self-portraits and Almond Blossom, a painting which is a personal favourite of mine. It also has some beautiful artwork by many other artists, including Edward Munch's The Scream, a painting I'm sure even those of you who aren't even interested in art have seen before. The Rijksmuseum is one that's for those who really love art and have a real passion for it and is home to so many masterpieces, including pieces by Rembrandt, and although I myself have never been inside I've heard so many great things about it.
V I S I T T H E M O R E U N C O N V E N T I O N A L M U S E U M S
As you can tell by my face in the above selfies, these museums are not for the faint hearted. If you're a prude, the Sex Museum is something you should probably steer clear of but I find it hilarious. This was the second time I visited but it was no less shocking or less interesting (for want of a better word!!) and although this type of museum is no where near as cultural or inspiring as the serious museums, they're still a good laugh and I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I didn't see what it had to offer. The photos above are actually of the tamest parts of the museum, the rest being a bit too explicit to take a photo of without feeling weird so be warned, you will never be the same again should you decide to enter. There are loads of museums like this around the city including The Red Light District Museum and even more unconventional ones like Tulip Museums, so there's plenty of things to keep you...ahem, entertained throughout the rainy days!
T H E A M S T E R D A M I C E B A R
Want to feel like it's not actually that cold outside anymore? Then the Ice Bar is definitely the place for you! This was such a fun experience and even though I'm usually rubbish with the cold I'm so glad we did this. We went and bought tickets from one of the many tour offices around the city and managed to get the Ice Bar tickets and a canal cruise for $30 so it's really not a bad price either. Of course we were late for our slot so had to wait until afterwards for our cocktails but when we arrived we were greeted by some absolutely hilarious staff dressed as pirates who welcomed us into the Ice Bar where we stayed for around 20 minutes. I don't want to state the obvious but it was absolutely bloody freezing (lol) and was minus 13 degrees inside but so much fun. The ticket included two drinks in ice glasses and we opted for vodka and orange (although you could also have Heineken) and afterwards we got our cocktails, which were also included in the price. I'm not a big drinker and don't drink at all at home but this was such a great thing to do!
W A N D E R A R O U N D T H E S H O P S
Amsterdam is home to a huge variety of shops, all located really close to each other in the Dam Square area and a lot of them are stores we don't have a lot of back in England, especially up North (I know how lucky you Londoners are with having amazing stores!) There's Forever 21, Pull & Bear, Kiko, Urban Outfitters, & Other Stories, ZARA and so much more, it's a really good place for the fashion lovers like us. A warning though - they had so many amazing things in there I could have literally spent a fortune!
I C E S K A T I N G A T T H E R I J K S M U S E U M
Starting from the end of November up until the end of February, the Rijksmuseum is host to the ICE* Amsterdam skating rink, right next to the IAmsterdam letters, making it the perfect backdrop for ice skating. The skating rink is quite big and only cost us €10 for a day pass for skating, which is a really fantastic price considering there is no time limit. You can't buy tickets in advance you have to just go on the day but we got on the rink straight away. I can't imagine a more perfect place to ice skate in Amsterdam and if you go during the winter months it really is a must! There's also a little cafe next to the rink so if you get a bit of a chill you can go and have a cuppa in there to warm up a tad but be sure to wrap up warm - gloves and a woolly hat are a must.
T R Y S O M E O F A M S T E R D A M ' S S W E E T T R E A T S
Amsterdam is absolutely jam packed with amazing street food and if you've got a sweet tooth you will never want to leave. Every other shop is a little cafe full of Nutella and crepes, with baked goods like cakes, cheesecakes, waffles, macaroons and whatever else you can think of all on display. What's better than sitting in a cafe with a cup of tea and a slice of delicious blueberry cheesecake when you've been walking around in the freezing cold all day?
A M S T E R D A M L I G H T F E S T I V A L
Between November and January, artists from all over the world contribute their pieces to the Amsterdam Light Festival and light up the dark nights with their amazing creativity. This year, the theme was friendship and all of the pieces were based around the concept of meeting new people and building relationships, something which I thought was a lovely idea. Jess and I got a boat cruise at 8:30pm (as I mentioned above with the Ice Bar tickets) and it lasted around an hour and a half, meaning not only did we get to see beautiful Amsterdam by night, we also got to see all of the artwork and have it explained. If you're from the North East of England, it's a little bit like the Lumiere that Durham is host to every other year and you'll know how beautiful the pieces can be.
H O P O N A T R A M
Amsterdam is famous for its trams and they are literally everywhere. It's a huge city so if it's raining you probably don't want to be walking outside for longer than necessary so be sure to hop on a tram and test it out for yourself! On the maps, the tram lines are labelled by numbers and all of the tourist attractions have the number tram you need to get labelled next to them. We spent most of our time of number 5 and number 2 but they won't get you everywhere you want to go so make sure you check your destination! Also, make sure you get on the tram going the right way. We naively assumed that we'd just end up back at Centraal Station whichever tram we got on and accidentally ended up right out of Amsterdam! Wooops. Anyway, the trams are another great way to see more of the city without ending up looking like a drowned rat in the rain.
A N N E F R A N K ' S H O U S E
Anne Frank's House is another must see whenever you're in Amsterdam. It's such a powerful place, full of emotion and sadness but it tells Anne's story from start to finish on the self-guided tour around the house. The feelings you experience walking around and learning more about how Anne lived in the Secret Annex and how they were caught are indescribable and seeing her actual diary at the end fills you with emotion. I would recommend booking in advance no matter what time of the year you go. Last year in the summer I queued for three hours (!!!) to get in and although there was no queue at all this time, it's still better to be safe rather than risking standing outside for that long in the freezing temperatures.
R E N T A B I K E
Amsterdam is absolutely full of bikes and it's strange to see more bikes than cars on the road. Renting a bike was the only thing Jess and I didn't get to do that we wanted to so next time I go back to the Dam it'll be the first thing I do! Even in the cold, it would be a great way to see the city and all that pedalling is bound to get you warm in no time but be warned that the roads can be lethal and trams and cars seem to appear out of no where so unless you're confident on a bike, it might not be a great idea!