Awe inspiring, scenic, raw and breathtakingly beautiful – who hasn’t dreamed of an American road …
After graduating from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor or Arts last year, I decided to take a break from the city of Brisbane and explore Europe. With the money I had saved from my incredibly lucrative employment as a barista, I had set my course for Amsterdam.
These series of posts will record the best ways to explore a European city on a budget; from sightseeing, the best places to eat and most importantly coffee.
The maze of canals with lights dancing off the banks and the ambience of dark purples and browns that coloured the houses were just some of the allures of Amsterdam. I always imagined strolling along the canals brimming with blooming trees, but I also wanted to sample the culture, the relaxed freedom that comes along with a visit in Amsterdam. Whether it’s going cycling along canals or having a drink in a public park, you are free to enjoy many activities as long as they don’t hurt anyone else.
Navigating the city
Bells. Bells are the sounds you hear once setting foot in Amsterdam. The individual bells ringing from the bikes and the piecing ring of the trams. In the centre of the city, trams or cycle rides are favoured modes of transport. To ride the bikes, however, you must be be bold amongst the hordes of various obstacles; pedestrians, trams, buses and worst of all, tourists believing the best place to photograph a lovely cathedral is in the middle of the street.
Budget tip: Amsterdam is certainly a walkable city, however to grab the cheapest accommodation it’s best to stay further from the city centre. The trams run frequently to the outer city areas and a single tram ticket is 2.90 euro. If you plan to use the tram for more than just transport into the centre, you can purchase unlimited travel ticket starting at 7.50 euro for 1 day.
Anyhow, transport is not all that makes a city. The beauty of the city is the canals snaking under the bridges with a picturesque café sitting alongside the banks. The culture and food. Anything goes. It’s a city of freedom, its permanent residents, visitors and temporary sightseers are allowed to do as they please. Experiencing this freedom is the most exciting site of Amsterdam. It’s a site that cannot be seen in any other city. The slow moving canals and the lack of cars, I think, contributes to the calm feeling hard to find in other European capital cities such as Paris or Rome. And most importantly, it’s a site that doesn’t cost you; simply observing the locals enjoying the city’s freedom is absolutely free and worth every moment.
Where to visit?
To witness cultural life in Amsterdam, I recommend the Jordaan district. The district is located just outside the city centre and is home to the Anne Frank Museum, but without booking months in advance, you’ll be faced with a mammoth line.
There is plenty more to see in the area that was once the home of Amsterdam’s Jewish population. Strolling through the winding streets, there are small playgrounds, kids playing and families watching on and small niche businesses are scattered everywhere. The silence is a relief to the hustle of city centre. The old houses lined up and locked together, like if one fell the rest would follow. Simply wandering the streets, shopping (or window shopping in my case) or drinking coffee is a delightful way to spend a few hours.
Back in the city centre, Vondelpark is surrounded by the city’s most prominent museums including Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum. Each museum features wondrous collections of art and culture. The park, however, is a site in its own right. Standing in the centre of the park, looking straight at you is the striking architecture of the Rijksmuseum, to the side that of the Van Gogh and all around you there is life.
People playing ultimate disk, walking tightrope, drinking and eating. People simply doing as they please, respectfully. The sense of tourism is eliminated, everyone who is there is a part of the city, rather than a spectator.
As a full time traveller, that feeling is one you wish to achieve.
For lunch & dinner
d & a Hummus Bistro
The d & a is a lovely bistro alongside the Lijnbaansgracht canal, where the trees are in full bloom. The bistro offers a range of dishes, including hummus topped meats or vegetables. If you’re price conscious, which I certainly am, the bistro offers great value for money. With complimentary warm pita bread to smother in delectable hummus.
Ivy & Bros
Glancing at the menu, what first caught my eye was Bundaberg Ginger Beer. Craving a taste of Queensland and home it was an obvious choice. The café is set alongside a canal, in the De Wallen district. The menu offers a range of vegan and gluten free food, along with sandwiches and coffee. For me, price is mostly a deciding factor on a restaurant or café, and Ivy Bros offers delicious food for a reasonable price. With the sun blaring down and sipping on a ginger beer it almost felt like home.
Budget tip: A great website to find local food is Culture Trip. I used it a lot of find local hangout and cheap eats.
Next time, I would love to brave the streets and hire a bike, just to sample a different view of the city. Amsterdam was that kind of city you could imagine yourself living in. With the hustle of the main streets to the quiet canals, I would certainly return to Amsterdam.
AUTHOR: Hannah Tate
Images courtesy of Hannah Tate