You know when you’re about to leave a place like home, and suddenly everything begins to get fun and makes it difficult to leave? That’s exactly how I felt leaving Scotland for my Erasmus exchange to Amsterdam.
All I had wanted since first year was to experience studying abroad, meeting new people and soaking up a different culture and all that. But when given the – last minute – opportunity, I no longer wanted it.
The first week, I felt very lost and felt like I didn’t fit in at all with anyone. I was the only student at my school who only spoke one language; I hadn’t travelled as much as others, etcetera… I was just the red head with the funny accent.
It took a lot to get out my comfort zone properly, but when I did, the home sickness vanished and I could begin to enjoy the city.
I would encourage students or travellers visiting Amsterdam, or any new place, to ride out the culture shock and understand that it’s not permanent.
My six months in Amsterdam turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life, I’m so glad I was encouraged by friends and family to give it a proper shot.
I’ve gathered a list of things about Amsterdam I loved and hidden gems I came across while I was there that I recommend you to check out – regardless of how long you’re there for, so get a proper taste of the city – there’s more to it than space cakes and museums.
I don’t have many don’ts for the city… Stay away from Dam Square area – or you’ll need a mortgage for your drinks – and download Uber, a few some horror stories of fake taxis.
The first pub I visited on my first week, with the rest of the international students at Tio. From the friendly staff and chilled atmosphere, to the rock music and interior design to the beer garden overlooking a canal, this is a must if you find yourself in the Marnixstraat area.
Hannekes Boom has to be one of my favourite pubs throughout the city. It’s somewhere you can go during the day chill out and do some work, but somewhere you’ll want to take your friends to enjoy a pitcher of Jupiler. I was lucky enough to have over 20 people come out and visit me throughout the 6 months, and I brought almost all of them here.
Hannekes Boom has reasonable prices, a gorgeous rooftop bar and beer garden overlooking the beautiful Centraal streets, NEMO Science Centre and, of course, the stunning Amstel River.
(View from the pub)
(PHOTO CREDIT: DANIEL JOHNSTON)
I didn’t come across this little gem until probably about 4 months in, but I’m so glad I did.
Every weekend, Roest have events on – amazing music, staff. And the design speaks for itself and expresses the atmosphere of the pub.
Only a 10-5 minute walk from Centraal, Roest is certainly one for your list.
I spent a full day exploring Noord (North Amsterdam) and came across Pllek on the way back to the ferry. We were lucky enough to have the sun beating down as we enjoyed drinks after our day of exploring.
I only visited Pllek on one occasion; however, since it’s only a 10 minute journey from Centraal Station, I’d definitely always make time for Pllek for when I return to Amsterdam.
A charming pub/café in the North (5 minute ferry journey from Centraal Station) is worth your time for a quick beer/coffee, it’s just off the ferry drop-off point.
Nooderlicht is a greenhouse, with a rustic vibe about it. A walk away from the EYE Film Museum, it’s absolutely somewhere to check out for some drinks and an amazing view of the back side of Centraal Station.
Things to Do and See
The highest swing in Europe. The view speaks for itself – the best high in Amsterdam.
Zaandam had the most amazing architecture (and cheap coffee), it almost seemed artificial.
I would definitely recommend this adorable town to venture around.
It is also home to Czar Peter House (Czaar Peterhuisje), where Czar Peter of Russia lived in 1697 during his Grand Embassy. The building was built in 1632 and is to this day, amazingly, still standing.
Zaanse Schans is a popular one for tourists from all over going to visit the traditional Dutch windmills and wooden houses which date back to the 17th and 18th century – some of which are still in use today.
Discover how the windmills were originally made, how they are still used in production, how clogs (traditional Dutch wooden shoes) are made, and much more.
I’d recommend putting aside a full day towards Zaandam and Zaanse Schans – hopefully you’ll get the same weather I got when visiting!
Noord (North Amsterdam)
I spent the day with my friend, Mirin, cycling through North Amsterdam. She’s another international student from Scotland, who I’d met in my home town earlier in the year, so it was perfect that we were both in Amsterdam at the same time.
This was definitely one of my favourite days during my stay; we
had the perfect weather and took the bikes Noord. We saw some stunning little villages I’d never heard of – and couldn’t pronounce – we just kept cycling and cycling until we eventually we out of Amsterdam completely.
If you’ve got a bike, good weather, spare time and a taste for something different, then I’d definitely recommend taking the IJ ferry and cycling up, up, up…
I had always wanted to study abroad, ever since first year. But I didn’t think it would be something I would actually do, until I applied for Tio University on the deadline date and by some miracle, was accepted. I’m a Scottish Marketing student going into my fourth year. I decided last year that I want to take direction of my education and focus more on the Events Management and Marketing aspect of my course, so when I saw the Hotel and Events Management course offered at Tio, I had to apply. I was so excited for a change and to experience something new.