At New Year, Steve, a blogger for @OneBoro (a Middlesbrough FC blogger site) visited Amsterdam with his family and friends.
Here's his review of Amsterdam through the eyes of a football fan. A must-read for everyone signed up to the ride already or for everyone considering the London to Amsterdam Challenge.
Amsterdam has been on the list of European cities I'd wanted to visit for some time, so it seemed like a good opportunity to have a city break over Christmas and New Year.
As it's a destination that had always fascinated me, and having visited Rotterdam and Southern Netherlands earlier in the year, we decided to go ahead and spend New Year's Eve in Amsterdam.
The tram system
Along with my wife, brother and his wife, we hopped on a train from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Centraal Station, this turned out to be the easy leg of the journey.
We soon encountered the Amsterdam tram network waiting for us outside the station, surrounded by 10 tram lines and knowing no Dutch between us, it was safe to say we were out of our comfort zone!
By the time New Year's Eve evening had come around we made our way to 5&33 bar and lounge, located at the top of Martelaarsgracht.
If you’re looking for a relaxing environment to enjoy a cocktail or spirit close to the train station, I’d highly recommend here.
Following a couple of cocktails, we made our way to Oosterdok to welcome in the New Year and witness the city fireworks and various street parties. We were taken back by the number of fireworks being set off down the quaint cobbled streets and public squares - the Dutch certainly know how to celebrate NYE!
Exploring the city
The following day we agreed there is no better way to explore the city than by jumping on a canal boat cruise (Note from the editor - other than cycling it, Steve!).
We took the Blue Boat Company guided tour around the canals, discovering the history of the city, neighbourhoods, canals network and Red Light District.
For a first time visitor to Amsterdam, this canal cruise gave us a crash course insight into the city, location, perspective and background.
The main tourist attractions in Amsterdam are the museums, ranging from the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House and Stedelijk Museum.
There’s also the smaller options with cheese museums a plenty (don’t forget to try the samples), a houseboat museum and a museum dedicated to bags and purses!
With both local Amstel and Heineken beers available in most bars and cafes in the city, it would be a shame not to have one or two, however we couldn’t resist the Belgian and German beer on offer throughout the city.
We were spoilt for choice in Het Elfde Gebod, with a wide selection of tap and bottled beers all served in their own speciality glasses. I’d however recommend not sampling these beers in one go though!
Cafe de Dam
We discovered another unique cafe located just off Dam Square on Damstraat called Cafe de Dam, the self-claimed ‘smallest pub in town’.
With seating inside for around 40 people the cosy interior is decorated with football memorabilia on the walls, football scarves on the ceiling and ticket stubs forming the fittings around the bar.
With Dutch, Belgian and German beer to choose from, Cafe de Dam is certainly worth a visit. The owner of the cafe, Louis, is a Dutch Newcastle fan and as a Middlesbrough fan myself, a bit of friendly banter was expected!
Bumping into Geordies
We had a good chat about all things English football, discussing the managerial and ownership situation at St James’ Park, predicting who the next manager will be and talking about Afonso Alves, Boro’s (not so) super signing from SC Heerenveen.
It was typical that a group of Geordies were sat in the corner, but to be fair they were singing the praises of Boro this season and even admitted looking forward to playing us next season (in the Premier League of course).
A glowing review
Amsterdam is a city full of history, culture, charm and character, with its canals, merchant houses, bicycles and trams. I instantly fell in love with the city and will be booking a trip back to visit again, whilst exploring the outer reaches and more of the Netherlands.
Thinking of joining the London to Amsterdam Challenge?
We hope this gives you a flavour of what Amsterdam is all about, particularly if you've not been before, and you can appreciate once you've ridden 145 miles in the knowledge you have done your bit for men's health there will be a great night out waiting for you.
Registration is open until the end of March: sign up today and help beat prostate cancer.
Already signed up?
If you have joined the team we hope this has whetted the appetite for your visit. You can find other features around fundraising, training and working with your club on our website for this year's ride.