We had one last day in Amsterdam and so much left on our to-do list. We woke up just in time for breakfast before having to quickly pack and check out. We put our bags into storage and headed over to the Van Gough museum. Having bought tickets yesterday it didn’t take us much time go get in. It cost 18 euros but was well worth the money.
I’m not a huge art lover but as part of my modernist module at uni, I knew a little bit about the rise of impressionist painting and it’s conception lays in breaking tradition and abstraction. However, I knew very little about Van Gough’s life other than the obvious (ear and suicide). The clever layout of the museum made it very accessible, walking chronologically through his life, the evolution of his style and the influences of both historical events and work of his contemporaries.
I personally found his life and the letters that he wrote to his brother particularly inspirational as I only ever thought of him as a painter and ashamedly never assumed him to be a well educated and articulate man. His way of viewing and capturing the world are well worth hearing and can be seen throughout his work. His depression and struggles are documented through his letters and is deeply moving. It’s also astounding that the bulk of Van Gough’s extensive work was done in just over a decade. Even if you aren’t an art lover I would really recommend visiting this fascinating place, I really gained a lot from it.
We wanted to fit as much as possible into our last day in Amsterdam so after leaving the Van Gough museum headed straight off to the next thing on our list. Before heading to any new place I do extensive research on what to do and especially free activities to do. One of the top free activities suggest was a secret hidden courtyard in the heart of Amsterdam centre. After walking around for a while trying to find the entrance we found the gateway to Begijnhof.
This really was a little hidden gem from the busy city this stunning 16th-century courtyard contains some of the oldest buildings in Amsterdam, with a house dating back to 1420.
It was originally a nuns sanctuary and requires silence as no tours are allowed through. It is still home to a beautiful chapel.
This incredibly photogenic wall has images depicting stories in the Bible. If you’re into photography this place really is a must-visit. If not then it’s worth walking through if you are in the area.
Having not eaten since breakfast we were now getting very hungry so decided to get chips again and actually get the Vlaamse sauce we tried to order last time. We went to one of the many stands dotted around and got a huge portion to share. The chips were great but the sauce wasn’t all we had built it up to be it kind of tasted like if salad cream and mayonnaise had a baby. It was good but nothing amazing.
Realising we still had a lot of time to kill before our train to the airport we decided to visit the NDSM island, something I have also read about it as a free activity in Amsterdam. We had heard it was an island not too far from the centre that used to be an old shipyard turned into somewhat of an artist paradise. We headed to the back of Amsterdam train station to find the ferry Port.
As we arrived at the jetty the boat had three seconds till departure so making an impulse decision we decided to get on the boat and just hope it was the right one. I would never advise doing this as of course it was the wrong ferry ( at least all the ferries are free).
While we were on the wrong ferry at least it happened to just be going across to the other bank so took 5 minutes. While we might have looked like idiots and wasted our time sitting on a ferry from one side of the bank to the other. We at least got a close up of the eye film museum. A building that was also part of free things to do in Amsterdam.
Back on the right side of the river, we waited for the correct ferry to take us to the island. It’s the 903 that you need and it’s about a 15-minute journey. something else we were rather hesitant about as we could find no information on how far away it was as we had a flight to catch.
We pulled up to one of the strangest places I’ve ever been to. Moored outside was a graffitied submarine.
As we got off the boat to a relatively deserted island Steph’s wonder aloud ‘Lauren where have you taken me to?’
I was starting to think the same thing as the island is a very strange place without any real directions and covered in random objects covered in graffiti.
Steph pointed out it would be the ideal setting for a zombie apocalypse. Steph noticed a sign for a cafe so we headed in that direction not really knowing what we were looking for on here or quite frankly why we had come.
Following this sign to the cafe we stumbled upon a huge warehouse that was a kind of artist base. Full of shipping containers that had been turned into studios and a visitors centre explaining what the island was about.
It was interesting walking around the two levels, full of bits and pieces of modern art they were working on. Steph got excited following a sign for a barbie peep show and found a container that promised a show. Putting one euro into the wall and allowing us to see into a window full of strange revolving barbies in variously inappropriate positions. Ending in a barbie above our heads ‘peeing’ on us which Steph apparently had already worked out was going to happen, so leapt about of the way leaving me to get soaked. But hey now I can say I’ve been peed on by a barbie I suppose.
After wandering around this warehouse for a while we decided to continue looking for the cafe. We were slightly confused when we arrived at a large greenhouse until we realised this was the cafe.
I would recommend a trip to the island for this cafe alone, it had been converted into a two-floor cafe with a quirky outdoor area.
I ordered a great green smoothie as Steph again baffled the waitresses by ordering breakfast tea, to receive it once again in a glass without milk. She was starting to get used to.
If you have a free afternoon in Amsterdam and are looking for something cheap and quirky then make the trip to NDSM wharf.
We weren’t sure how often the ferries were running so headed back quickly in case we were late. Once we got back to the station we decided to save time and take advantage of the tram. We realised we should have been doing this all week as it was so continent and only cost 3 euros for an hour ticket!
We collected our things from the hostel and made it back to the airport and onto the flight without much disruption. Although after rushing our flight was delayed by 20 minutes anyway.
To summaries, my experience of Amsterdam as a whole would be a place of clashing cultures, of great art, history and inspiration. The very place itself demonstrating the ingenuity of man to build a city on water. A place of no boundaries or limits and steeped in a tragic history. A place where tradition, beauty and scandal exist side by side. A place where people go to be inspired, live out their darkest desires or simply escape. But don’t take my word for it go and find out for yourself!