Amsterdam was the first city I ever travelled to alone. I’d done a lot of travelling before that – two years in Australia, a year in New Zealand, a bunch of smaller city breaks to Ireland and Poland – but it was in Amsterdam that I finally got to stretch my solo travel muscles.
I fell for Amsterdam hard on that first solo trip. Really hard. So it came as a surprise to literally no-one when I jumped at the chance to visit Amsterdam again with Ice Lolly, then again with Sophie and Sam. And, despite having been to Amsterdam three times now, I know I’ll still end up visiting again in the future.
Why I keep going back to Amsterdam
It was the first city I travelled to alone
There’s something special about that, I think. Because that first trip to Amsterdam wasn’t just another city break for me, it was much more than that. I was still building my confidence as a solo traveller, trying to get used to doing the whole sightseeing thing alone, eating in restaurants alone, being alone. I look back on that trip and remember pretending to be brave, when inside I felt anything but, so it’s nice to visit the city again as a much braver, much more confident traveller.
I wouldn’t say I’m a massive architecture buff, but I’ve always had a fascination with old buildings and their history, and my favourite thing to photograph is interesting structures, archways, and houses. Amsterdam, unsurprisingly, lends itself very well to this little hobby of mine. You can’t walk anywhere in the city without seeing a row of gorgeous houses, often leaning slightly forward, slightly left or right.
I love the little doorways that open directly onto the streets, the steep staircases leading up to colourful front doors, the buildings that seem to almost rise up from the water below, in some places.
Walking around Amsterdam, that first time, it’s a wonder I didn’t find myself falling face first into the canal I spent so much time just looking up. And, sure, I’ve seen a lot of the buildings in Amsterdam now. I know what they look like. But I’ll still keep going back for more.
Oh my god, the FOOD. Can we take a moment to appreciate Dutch food? To marvel over how delightful those little hot, buttery poffertjes are? To imagine how great a pint of beer with a side of bitterballen and mustard would be right now? To think about deliciously sticky stroopwafels? Not to mention Dutch fries, gouda, raw herring with pickles and onions, and the amazing brunch options that I wrote about (at length) here.
Dutch food reminds me of the warm, filling, German-inspired food my Grandma would make for me when I was little. It’s homely and comforting.
That’s not to say you can’t find amazing non-Dutch food in Amsterdam, though.
Like in any other large city, there are restaurants offering every kind of food you can think of. One of my favourites is a place called Little Thai Prince in the Red Light District and, of course, you can’t go to Amsterdam without visiting its Foodhallen, an indoor food market with cuisines from all over the world (plus beer and cocktails, because of course you’ll need to wash all that fab food down with something.)
The memories I’ve already made there
There’s something really pleasing, I think, about walking around a city you’ve already visited or lived in and having memories come flooding back. I love that I can walk past pubs in Amsterdam and think I went for a pint there when I travelled here on my own. I love that there are cafes I can visit that I once ate in with Sam and Sophie. I love that I once spent a sunny Saturday sat on a canal boat with a glass of bubbly in my hand listening to a group of strangers from a food tour I’d been on singing Happy Birthday to me.
The view from the SkyLounge
It was my friend Jo who first took me to SkyLounge. We’d met each other while we were both living in Auckland and as she was now living just outside of Amsterdam, decided to meet near the train station and go for a drink. SkyLounge just happened to be closest and, she said, had some amazing views, so we hopped in the lift and made our way outside to find a seat.
We drank cocktails, wrapped ourselves in red blankets as the night turned cool, watched the sun sink lower and lower in the sky. I shared a photo on Facebook, not wanting to share what felt like a secret but also wanting my friends to see what I was seeing. Amsterdam’s buildings became silhouettes soon after that, and then it was just the twinkling lights of the city in the dark.
When Sam, Sophie, and I went to Amsterdam together I knew I had to show them the view. So, before dinner one night, we made our way over to the Hilton Hotel, got in the lift, and (to my relief) emerged to find it was exactly the same as I remembered. Although this time they had heated seat pads which we marvelled at for about half an hour to be honest because HELLO, we’re British and can more pubs with outside seating have heated seat pads please.
It feels like home
It’s difficult to put why Amsterdam feels like home into words. It’s just…a feeling I get when I’m there. I think it’s probably a feeling of familiarity; I still get lost, still can only speak a few words of Dutch, still have so much to learn about the city, but it feels safe and easy and comfortable. And that’s a nice feeling to have when you travel on your own.
Have you got a favourite city you keep going back to?
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