Monday 25th April
An early start to get to the airport in plenty of time, however, due to a strike by baggage handlers at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport our flight was delayed. This gave us time to have a nice but rather expensive bacon roll and coffee in one of the airport bars. The flight eventually took off around 2½ hours late. Once in Amsterdam, it was easy to make our way to the Central Railway station to catch a train into town, and then a number 22 bus took us directly to our hotel, the Westcord Art Hotel. In keeping with the street art vibe of our Amsterdam visit, this hotel suited us down to the ground, with murals all over the foyer and staircases and an individual mural in each room
After checking in and after a wee rest we headed out to Westergas, a creative complex at the nearby Westerpark. Once the city’s gasworks, this collection of old industrial buildings is now home to a variety of bars, restaurants and entertainment venues, We stopped off at Brouwerij Troost for some local beers and food, it was a great place to start the trip off, however, we thought it strange that the menus were all in English and almost everyone spoke English too, the food and selection of beers were very good, I certainly would recommend to anyone visiting Amsterdam.
Tuesday 26th April
A short stroll through the narrow streets of the west of the city took us to Prinsengracht on the banks of a nice canal where we stopped for breakfast in the famous Pancake Bakery, luckily we arrived before the crowds and got a table easily, the food when it arrived was spectacular and quickly became one of Jim’s favourite ways to have breakfast. We stopped on the way at the Check Point Charlie cafe, which was unfortunately closed, to take some photographs of murals by The London Police, there was another of their pieces on a gable opposite on the other side of the canal so over we went with camera in hand.
Note: I photographed so much street art in Amsterdam and at Straat that there is enough for 2 more pages, I will not mention them in this post however they can be seen here:
That wander started off what was a walking day for us (almost 30,000 steps) as we explored the city, since we had the luxury of some time to spend here we thought that it would be good to see what the city had to offer before booking any tours etc. We stopped off at the Anne Frank house and realised why it’s best to pre-book (we later discovered that it was fully booked until the end of June!), so off we went on our stroll. Including the obligatory search (successful) for Starbucks and the Lego Store we really enjoyed this way of seeing the city.
After some searches on Google for traditional Dutch food and drink highlights, we stopped for a beer in the Beer Tasting Room In The Wildeman, which is a quirky bar in a former distillery stocking over 250 beers from throughout Europe, the barman was as interesting as the bar and made us very welcome suggesting some very good beers for us. The city was filling up and becoming quite crowded as preparations were being made for Koningsdag (Kings Day), officially the national celebration of the birthday of the King, but this in reality looks like a good excuse to party hard. We decided to purchase a 3-day bus pass and after a problem with the ticket machine which charged us twice, we returned to the hotel in the late afternoon for a wee bit of R&R before heading out again to find Moeders. (Mothers), for some traditional Dutch food, we ordered the ‘Stamppot’ a real Dutch “stamppot” of mashed potatoes with vegetables served with a sausage a meatball & bacon and were not disappointed, the restaurant, staff and food could not be bettered, the mismatched furniture, glassware and crockery all added to a friendly atmosphere, reminding us of the Butterfly and the Pig back home, another feature Jim liked was the multitude of pictures of mothers on the walls, there is hardly an inch left uncovered. After dinner we followed the crowds back into the centre of the city, we enjoyed joining in with the revellers in some of the street discos before stopping off in an Irish bar for our last pint before heading back to the hotel on a late bus very tired but happy after a great day.
Wednesday 27th Koningsdag
Everyone we had spoken to told us that today was special and was going to be a bit crazy, we were told that we should visit NDSM, an old industrial shipbuilding area to the north of the city to get away from the crowds, so off we headed to the central station to catch one of the free ferries across, it looked exactly as described, old machine shops and slipways, there was even some old machinery left, it was interesting that in one of the shipbuilding sheds there was an old plate roller built by the Scottish Machine Tools Corporation, I company I worked in when I first came ashore. The area has been turned over to street artists and there is even STRAAT, a museum dedicated to it in one of the buildings, we decided to leave off visiting for a day when we had more time.
One of the so-called highlights of Kings Day is the flea markets across the city, the rules allow anyone to settle down anywhere and sell all their unwanted goods, the one at NDSM was huge and mainly seemed to be families selling off all their old children’s toys and books.
After a weird kind of fusion Dutch/Indian lunch, we returned to the city centre and witnessed the madness begin, we watched as over 800,000 people from the outskirts of the city descended, arriving at the station as we returned on the ferry. It all started off well with us following a marching drum band down the street into a sea of bright orange..
From there on in it was a case of trying to get through the crowds, at almost every street corner there were people selling beer, giant speaker systems were set up and the biggest crowds we have ever seen, drinking and dancing at every street corner, the partying spilt over onto the canals with loads of boats going up and down filled with revellers (and sound systems). At times we were lifted off our feet and carried along in the swell, it was almost as if everyone in Amsterdam and the surrounding towns had arrived and were wanting to make up for the 2 years of partying they had missed. This mayhem continued well into the night and we had great fun being a part of it, the only difficulty we encountered was that most restaurants were closed so dinner was a problem, we ended up in a taverna which was a bit disappointing, we were glad to catch a late bus back to the hotel, thankfully it was relatively quiet compared to some of our earlier tram rides.
Thursday 28th April
After liking it so much, we returned to the Pancake Bakery for breakfast before going on a cruise through the canals on one of the Circle Line boats, which was a very enjoyable and relaxing way to see a different side of the city. We then headed to the Museum Quarter to visit the Rijksmuseum where we had some fun in the gardens before visiting the Van Gogh museum followed by Moco, a boutique museum focused on modern and contemporary art with a collection of unique works by Banksy, Damian Hirst, and many others.
Whilst in Moco, I was reminded of a mural of SWG’s GazMac painted by Smug somewhere in the city, after a bit of google research we discovered that it was in a housing estate in the southeast of the city not too far from where we were, tram ticket in hand off we went and were not disappointed with the 10 large scale murals which graced the ends of 5 apartment blocks, there was also a good piece by D*FACE nearby. We returned to the city for dinner trying for the second time to get into HAP-HMM, to no avail, it was booked for almost as long as the Anne Frank House, so off we popped back to Moeders for another visit to sample more of their traditional Dutch fare. We then returned to the hotel for a late beer to finish off another great but tiring day.
Friday 29th April
We took a bus into town and after a light breakfast we took the 15-minute ferry ride across to NDSM to visit STRAAT, a museum/gallery space dedicated to street art, it almost felt as if we has saved the best till last, it is a spectacular space, NDSM in Amsterdam North; was once Europe’s largest shipbuilding area, is now a place where its industrial heritage meets modern architecture. NDSM is a place where street art and graffiti are a big part of the culture with plenty of ‘legal walls’.
The STRAAT museum opened its doors in 2020, and houses over 150 artworks by 130+ artists from 32 different countries and really is a wonderful place to visit. I will pop a page full of images of the pieces in STRAAT later so watch this space.
On leaving STRAAT we had a wander around the area, we also had a nice chat with some crew members of Tres Hombres, a 3 masted sailing ship which trades between Holland and the Caribbean moving cargo such as rum, coffee, and chocolate, it looked like a tough job as they had no engines to help them out.
Back in town and after a couple of beers in the Wildeman before heading to another part of the city to sample more traditional Dutch food in the highly-rated Pantry, we were not disappointed as the food was very good indeed. We returned to the hotel pretty worn out like every other day here we walked loads and were on our feet for most of the day.
Saturday 30th April
After going to bed on Friday night I became a wee bit ill and woke on Saturday feeling rather rough and not up to very much. We decided to wait until lunchtime to check out of the hotel before heading into the city centre. After a quick brunch and on hearing the news of massive queues and delays at Schipol Airport we made our way there. There were indeed long queues to get through security and passport control, but once through those, we had plenty of time to relax and prepare for our flight home.
The flight left on time and we were back in Glasgow and through Passport control in no time at all, we picked up the car and returned home tired but happy after a great week away in a wonderful city, I’m sure we will be back at some point, next time though we will book our visit to the Anne Frank House and Hap-HMM well in advance.