Amsterdam is often listed among the European cities that are most suitable for short breaks. Whether you’re visiting for the atmosphere, the shopping or some good old fun, here’s how to squeeze it all into two days (don’t say I didn’t warn you, taxiing in an airplane along the airport runways and walking through the terminals and security checks at Schiphol might take up a third of your time).
Bocca Coffee was my first stop after getting up at 4 a.m., driving to Zagreb and then flying across Europe to finally reach Amsterdam, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The afternoon caffeine kick far exceeded my expectations and it is safe for me to say this was one of the best coffees I have ever tasted. No wonder, really, as they won the Allegra European Coffee Award for Best Artisan Roaster in Europe in 2014.
As it turns out, Bocca have been roasting coffees for years for other cafes but only in autumn 2015 opened this incredible flagship store and training space in the Spiegelkwartier neighbourhood. It is a huge, bright space with a large counter that is home to some of the best equipment out there. The shabby chic interior plays with vintage pieces in a modern, fresh setting.
My best friend and I tasted their single origin coffees from Ethiopia and Columbia, sipping them from adorable blue cups, placed on a wooden tray next to a bouquet of fresh flowers. The aromas were developed to perfection with each cup proudly showing off its personality. The staff are clearly coffee geeks of my liking and it was easy to forget our time in Amsterdam was scarce, chatting with them about coffee and picking out a bag of beans to take back home with us.
Canal Boat Hop On, Hop Off
If you’re short on time but don’t want to miss out on experiencing the romantic atmosphere of the Amsterdam canals and don’t really mind not having to take the crowded public transport, one of the best ways you can travel around and see the sights is from a canal boat. I like my boat tours to have the option of me hopping off when I see something interesting and then continuing the tour later, so I always choose the hop on, hop off tickets. 24-hour tickets are priced reasonably at 24 Euros (21,50 Euros if you buy online) and include unlimited rides on two lines that get you to most of the attractions in the city.
I Amsterdam Sign
No visit to Amsterdam is complete without a selfie session in front of the huge red-and-white I Amsterdam sign, located at the back of the Rijksmuseum that provides an incredible background for your photographs.
The Flower Market
To us, the Netherlands equals flowers – tulips to be precise. When you don’t have the time to actually visit the fields or the flower auction, a walk through the flower market can give you a taste of that. From freshly cut flowers to tulip bulbs for you to grow at home, it is a truly colourful place to visit. It’s also a great opportunity to stock up on souvenirs – or cheese in our case. What makes it unique is the fact it is the only floating flower market in the world with the stalls placed on houseboats.
For some quick retail therapy, visit this beautiful department store, located at the Dam square. You’ll find leading international beauty, fashion and interior brands, such as Burberry, Michael Kors, MAC, Bobbi Brown, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Gucci and Chanel over six floors in a store with 140 years of heritage.
The Red Light District
No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a visit to The Red Light District. We were disappointed to see most of the famous windows empty with only a few women seductively posing in their cabins, but it does give you a taste of what the neighbourhood of guilty pleasures looks like. It is said around 500 million Euros are earned by the sex workers here every year, so it is no wonder the prostitutes even have their own union and an information centre for the visitors.