…because sometimes all you really want to do is enjoy you’re visiting!
Sounds like a silly thing to say but travel can sometimes be a lot of hard work. There’s so much planning, mapping, sightseeing and a whole host of other activities that go into it that you end up leaving your holiday needing another holiday to recover from the one you just had.
Needless to say, I know this feeling only too well, your excitement and enthusiasm for the place you’re visiting takes over and before you know it, you’re spending 18 hours of your day sightseeing with very little time in between for sleep or any actual relaxation.
Now, while I totally understand travelling this way the first couple of times you visit a destination, I totally think one of the greatest joys of re-visiting a place is the freedom that comes from knowing you’ve ticked off most of the major sights and can actually spend time now thoroughly enjoying the city.
This is the point when it’s no longer about the city bending to accommodate your plans but instead is all about you relaxing and letting the city decide what your plans are. It’s just such a refreshing change to the more active travelling and even better still, is one of the best ways to truly get to know a city, without all the pressure that comes with being there for the first time (kinda like the difference between going on a first date and after being in a relationship for a few years – everything is so much easier and natural by that point).
Anyway, why all this pre-amble? Well, as you might know, we’ve been to Amsterdam quite a few times and had so many different experiences every time we’ve visited and so, on our recent trip back to Amsterdam with KLM (which is nostalgic in a lot of ways as our very first trip, several years before even thinking of starting Hand Luggage Only was actually to Amsterdam with KLM – boy was I a lot skinnier back then…), we decided that this trip would be a relaxed, no plans, no stress, no fuss visit to Amsterdam. Needless to say, it felt very appropriate to be returning to one of our favourite cities in similar fashion to the first time, albeit several pounds heavier and with a much richer appreciation for the city.
Before I begin properly (you’re probably like “What? This post hasn’t even begun yet?!”), its worth noting that this lazy guide to Amsterdam applies particularly if you’re just looking to have a nice relaxed holiday. There are a lot of sights to see in Amsterdam and even more things to see and do but that’s not what this is about (we’ve got you covered on those in this post here and here). This is all about letting Amsterdam be Amsterdam and take you along on a ride.
You could arrive early if you like but this is a lazy guide dammit and you deserve a nice lie in! To be honest, chances are that you’re probably going to be leaving for Amsterdam after you’re done with work (like we did the first time) so you’ll leave in the evening but as Amsterdam is only about 45 minutes away, you’ll be there even quicker from London than it would take you to get to Manchester or Edinburgh (it’s also equally quick to get to Amsterdam from Manchester or Edinburgh, I might add).
You fly into Schiphol, which is a gem or is a seriously huge airport and is home to quite a few gems but its late and you’ve got enough time to explore it on Sunday when you leave for home so you head out, grab your train (or your Uber) and head into the city.
Where to stay?
We’ve stayed in quite a few places before but this time, we stayed in the Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy, a hotel, I realised later on that I’ve seen quite a few times and never really paid attention to, despite its grand Art Deco exterior, asides from making a few Lloyd namesake related jokes and comments (you know, the usual lame ones like “Oh Lloyd, you didn’t tell us you owned a hotel here…”).
The Lloyd Hotel by the way, is absolutely incredible! You step in and initially have this whole Grand Budapest Hotel meets Rocky Horror Show vibe but once you make your way through its rather eclectic hallways, you very quickly realise that this is not your average hotel.
Look at that bed for starters! How huge is that???
Then there’s the design of the different rooms and floors. As it turns out, this hotel used to be a prison and throughout your entire stay, you’ll never be able to place the hotel into a ‘category’ even when you look at its clientele. The hotel is 1* to 5* and has a wide range of rooms and prices to fit that too! I’ve never heard of this concept before and I love the whole egalitarian nature of it – everyone is welcome here regardless of your budget.
The designs are so eclectic and hard to pin point to any specific genre and there’s a surprise at every corner. And there’s the ‘Cultural Embassy’ element of the hotel which, and I quote “plays host to a variety of cultural events, introduce people to one another and give them the lowdown on Amsterdam cultural life”. It’s one of the most unique places I’ve ever stayed in and I seriously can’t recommend it enough!
Later that evening…
You’re all checked in, all freshen up and ready for anything! Seeing as you’ve had a long week, I’d say have a chilled evening, food, a few drinks perhaps and just enjoy yourself. The weekend is young and you’ve still got Saturday evening to hit the town properly – you don’t wanna peak too soon.
Dinner will be at the Hotel Restaurant, partly out of laziness but mostly because the food here is seriously good and at a very decent price too! It’s about €15 for a 3-course meal – a price that won’t even get you a decent meal in deBijenkorf these days.
Once you’re done with dinner, its your prerogative whether you want to head to a local bar for a few bevvies or retire for the evening.
Treat yourself to a good lie in and wake up fairly late. Not too late to miss out on breakfast though – that finishes at 10.30am and so you wanna be there on time, even if it’s just to grab a few pastries and a coffee.
Have a nice long bath and actually take the time to enjoy your hotel. Most times, we all make such an effort to look for the best hotels possible, only to abandon them the entire time we visit and use it just for its bed. If you’ve taken the time to make sure you hotel has a spa/pool/extra comfy beds/whatever, this is the trip to use it.
Leaving the hotel, head out for a stroll through the city centre… but then again, this is Amsterdam. You need to get yourself a bike to explore the city with. Plus you get to sit the entire time, which is as close to lazy as we can get while exploring the city.
If you haven’t seen any specific sights before now, perhaps pop into a couple of them, but only after you’ve had a coffee in one of the many lovely cafes that are dotted all around Amsterdam.
The shopping here is pretty good too so do pop into whichever ones tickle your fancy.
Time for lunch.
I realise this now more so than the first time I visited but Amsterdam has some pretty fantastic restaurants and the culinary scene here is pretty amazing. See, this is the thing about venturing off the well trodden tourist path, the first time we visited, I was so unimpressed by the food offering in Amsterdam – its was overpriced and not particularly great. The same kinda held true for the next time.
By the time we visited the city for the third time (friends in tow), we started to discover a few hidden gems across the city and soon begun to find amazing places to eat in the city. Plus we started using TripAdvisor more to avoid the tourist traps. (I’m sorry but someone needs to tell some of those restaurants, if you’re gonna charge a lot for food, at least make the meal right – there’s just no excuse for a €25 leathery piece of steak).
Thankfully, we left those leathery steak days behind by the 3rd time we visited and have found several amazing places across the city. (Let me know in the comments or via email if you need any recommendations and I’ll rustle up a post with all our top culinary recommendations for the city).
After lunch, time for a boat tour. This is the best way to see the city and one that is perfect in tune with our lazy weekend. Amsterdam’s canals are definitely best explored by boat. You can either get yourself a private boat (which is great as you get a bit more flexibility) or you can get a more common group boat (which is great for its wallet-friendliness).
All this lazy boat touring can make you work up quite an appetite so do head over to Winkel 43 for the most famous apple pies in all the city!
Pop into a bar for quick drink before heading back to your hotel to get ready for the night.
First things first – dinner! Again, there’s so much choice on offer in the city so the world city is your oyster really! We decided to head over to Guts and Glory for what turned out to be quite the culinary delight. I only wish there was more as the meals were amazing though a tad on the light side as I was starving. The menu is dedicated to a specific place/theme and everything you get is inspired and influenced by that theme.
You get no choice when it comes to what you eat – the chef decides for you based on that theme. All you do is sit back, relax and scoff whatever comes out of the kitchen – which, now that I think about it, is perfectly in keeping with the laziness theme of the weekend.
*We had originally planned to go to a bedroom themed restaurant (the ultimate in lazy dining) called Supperclub but as fate would have it, that afternoon, they ended up with some problems in their kitchen (malfunctioning devices or flooding or something… can’t remember which) and so they had to shut their kitchen down for the evening.
The rest of the night? Dance your night away at many of the city’s amazing clubs… or go to bed. The choice is entirely yours. The weekend is yours and you have no one to answer to but yourself! 🙂
Same situation applies – have a lie in but not so late that you miss breakfast.
Head into town at your own leisure and slowly cycle through the city, stopping pretty much anything and everything that takes your fancy. You don’t even have to bother taking your camera if you don’t want to.
Later that morning, find a good place for brunch. It might seem a bit too early to eat after just having breakfast but this is brunch we’re talking about – I’m sure you’ll find a way to make sure you save some space in your tummy for it.
If you’ve still got time after brunch before you need to head to the airport, try to make your way to the museum quarter. Amsterdam’s museums are a nice and lazy way to finish off your trip, especially if you’ve never been before (if you have – skip this, unless you really want to).
You can also head over to the Sunday market at Westergasfabriek (though it does alternate between two other sites – the IJburg harbour (Krijn Taconiskade) and Roest Café (Jacob Bontiusplaats). It’s the perfect place to find little knick-knacks you neither want nor need and to while away your free time.
Time to head home.
Pick your stuff up from the Lloyd Hotel and head to the airport.
In Schiphol airport, you’ll find a plethora of amazing sights that you’d never even have expected exists here.
Like some of the world’s most expensive wines (we’re talking over €145,000 per bottle)…
Or a living clock with ‘a man inside it’… Or the Heineken Bar where you can send messages to other travellers while sipping on this historically Dutch brew… Or a kids playground (if you’ve got any) for them to while away the time… Or the library with a piano not too far from it… Or even a casino with free entry…. Or even just really comfy seats with charging point for your to juice up your phone.
The list goes on and on. You can see some in the video below – the place is a treasure trove of random fun things to find and do!
My personal (dorky) favourite is going electronics shopping here. This is where I bought one of my first DSLR cameras (the exact one I had when we started Hand Luggage Only) and since then, I always pop into the electronics store in search of a great deal on tech (I’m holding out now for that new GoPro Karma drone – it seems pretty good and so easy to travel with).
Needless to say, by the time you leave the airport for home, you’ll have been able to find pretty much everything and anything you might want all under the same roof. (Like seriously, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this airport is sooooooooooo huge and filled with endless exploration possibilities).
And there you have it – our lazy guide to have a fun yet very relaxed time in Amsterdam! 🙂