I think I’ve finally found my calling in life. After an eight day city break with a friend, it’s apparent that I am meant to be a holiday planner.
I think I’ve finally found my calling in life. After an eight day city break with a friend, it’s apparent that I am meant to be a holiday planner. After all, I did manage to get us around two countries, two 5 * hotels for seven nights, all museums, all meals and some cool extras (Segway tour, anyone?) for an all-inclusive £700.
That works out at around £90 a day for travel, accommodation and everything else in between. You can applaud me later.
But, in all honesty, the reason we managed to get around for so little was because we had a budget, and I spent weeks beforehand obsessively researching places to eat.
Food and meals is what really adds up in Europe, particularly cities like Paris and Amsterdam, where most tourists are willing to pay twenty euros just for a coffee. I was determined not to be forced into shelling out for good food or getting food poisoning from cheap joints, so I did my homework and thus a perfect city break was born.
It is a bit tedious though, so that’s why I’ve done the hard work for you.
You can’t visit Amsterdam without having at least one Indonesian meal. Yes, you heard me correctly, because Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony so the food is out of this world.
The best value for money is a rijsttafel, translation, rice table, which is a selection of lots of dishes to try.
Any restaurant facing a square in Amsterdam is going to be pricey, around thirty euros per person, but if you head down any of the side streets, you’ll find smaller, family run places with great value rice tables.
Check what’s in them first – most vegetarian rice tables are half the price but just as delicious.
My pick: Indrapura, Rembrandtplein
This restaurant is every hotel’s recommendation and is expensive, but if you go between 5 and 8pm you’ll receive 25 per cent off your bill! The bonus is, as a classier restaurant, one standard rijsttafel gets you around 20 dishes to try, plus your own pianist while you dine.
Burgers and steak are everywhere in Amsterdam, even if you avoid the Hard Rock Café. It’s the kind of food that’s popular with those that visit the city to be able to smoke legally and, ehem, therefore get the munchies after.
Like in any city, avoid anything that looks like a kebab shop but go for all the little, quirky places down the side streets that have big luminous signs and a good bar.
Strangely, the best of these places tend to be located around the Red Light district where everything is bigger, brighter, cheaper but also well policed and of good quality.
BBQ sauce in Amsterdam is a strange and wonderful thing, it looks more like a salad dressing but will blow your mind.
My pick: Getto Burger Bar, Warmdesstraat
This tiny and funky bar is a drag queen hot spot, and names each of its burgers after one of its drag acts. The staff is friendly and warm and the quality menu is at odds with the hot pink interior. If you don’t feel like a burger, you can have home-made risotto or fresh lemonade, all written up on the giant blackboard of daily specials. The nachos and burgers are out of this world and priced at around twelve euros, and they serve food until 2am.
You’ll see the Dutch equivalent to chip shops everywhere in Amsterdam, but make sure to go for one that’s got a good reputation. Anyone can cook a chip but only several chains have got awards (yes, awards) for having the best Dutch fries in the country.
What makes a Dutch chip shop? The insane number of sauces that you’re able to order alongside. Remember that BBQ I told you about? Plus mustard, curry, cheese, mayo, piccalilli, samurai sauce and a hoard more. Vlaamse mayo is on offer everywhere – it’s got more tang than regular mayo – and is a must when ordering your fries.
My pick: Manneken Pis, Damrak
This hole in the wall has been voted Holland’s no. 1 fries, and is located right on the road from the station into town. People can be seen queueing for these chips as well as standing in the rain to eat them.
A large cone is only around four euros but could feed a family of five. The best bit is, they add sauce in the middle as well as on top, so you’ll never get a dry chip.
Not enough people know about Dutch pancakes, or the fact that pancakes are a bit of a Dutch legacy. Normally, they’re not eaten as breakfast food, but as more tourists flock to Amsterdam, more pancake places are open for breakfast.
Dutch pancakes are huge and round, like a crepe but with much more substance, and come with all sorts of delicious fillings, somehow worked into the thin pancake. Many places are now doing American style pancakes, but serve lots of them, blini size, with jam or maple syrup.
Pancakes are a great and filling way to start the day, and you’ll get a whole meal and juice or tea for around ten euros.
My pick: Pancakes! Amsterdam, Berenstraat
This little gem seats only eighteen people so there will be a queue, but people do tend to eat and leave out of respect for those outside. While you wait you can watch the little kitchen flip pancakes bigger than your head, and when you finally sit down the food is quick, cheap and delicious. If in a pair, get one savoury and one sweet and split it – they’re definitely big enough. Savoury combinations like bacon and goat’s cheese are crazy good.
Bagels seem to be the new fashion food across Europe. It’s been a staple food in the US for a while now, but we’re now the ones loving the bagel trend. Bagels and all the numerous toppings you can have with them are a great way to start the day, or make for a quick lunch.
Amsterdam has more variety of bagel than most places I’ve seen, and if you only want a light snack, one split between the two of you makes for a good breakfast.
Otherwise, grab one to take away and have a picnic somewhere during your day. With so much to do in Amsterdam you don’t want to be sitting down and ordering lunch all the time.
My pick: Bagels & Beans, several locations
You’ll see these little coffee shops everywhere, most notably around Jordaan and the Anne Frank museum. Their fresh pressed juices are amazing and have the options of added energy shots, and their list of bagels and cream cheese pairings is out of this world.
For breakfast, there’s the maple syrup, banana and cinnamon bagel, and for lunch countless selections of delicious fillings. Or, try a bagel of your choice with the sundried tomato cream cheese. Two juices and a bagel added up to just nine euros, and set us up for a six hour bike ride around the city.
Amsterdam is a cultural paradise, but can burn a hole through your pocket if you just sit down in the first restaurant you see. Be wise with your money and try places you wouldn’t normally look for.
Going earlier can often save you some money, but it’s usually the late night places that have the best atmosphere, the best grub and the best value for money.
What do you think? What would you add to the list? Have your say in the comments section below.
Image: Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia Commons