For New Year’s Eve 2018/19 we spent a whirlwind 36 hours in the crazy capital of Amsterdam. Nat has been away for every New Year’s Eve since 2014 and now refuses to spend a New Year’s Eve without a wild array of fireworks and mad street party, sampling the likes of Berlin, Brussels and Edinburgh.
For our first New Year’s Eve as a couple I was not going to settle for local drunken pub antics, so I grabbed Joe, and a mere 45-minute plane journey saw us ready to experience all that Amsterdam had to offer.
Everyone knows that the Dam is mostly famous for its picturesque network of canals, rich history & culture, endless bars serving ice cold Heineken, relaxed attitudes towards exploring your sexual fantasies and an abundance of herbal remedies. However, what most people wouldn’t think is that Amsterdam is also an excellent destination to ring in the new year!
New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam is celebrated outside, where people pack the main squares, canals and streets with glasses of champagne and the skies above the city are lit up with impromptu fireworks displays.
Read on for how we spent a couple of days in the Dam over the New Year festivities…
Welcome to Backpacks and Beverages!
Hi there ! We're Joe and Nat.
We both share a passion for drinking around the world and our aim is to explore as many countries as possible.
All major UK airports have regular flights to Amsterdam Schipol and deals are easily found if you aren’t too picky about when you fly.
From the airport getting to the centre could not be easy, either take the 20-minute train ride into Amsterdam Centraal (costing around €5-6) which then puts you in walking distance of Amsterdam’s hot spots or take the bus which costs around the same, although the journey is slightly longer. The bus does have more stops than the train, which typically only stops at Central station, this might be a better choice if you are staying downtown as the bus will be able to drop you off near your accommodation if you want to drop off your bags.
Day 1 - New Year's Eve
We know everyone says the best way to get around Amsterdam is on a bike and we agree the image of gracefully biking along the canal network, stopping at numerous bars along the way sounds like a dream.
However, the sheer volume of people in the city for the New Year’s break made the idea more daunting than dreamy so we voted with our trusty feet instead. This also gives us a reason to go back in the Spring and I mean another city break can never be a bad thing, can it?
You will easily be able to cover a lot of the central rings around the city centre on foot straight from Central Station. The first place you will come to, only a 3-minute walk away, before you’ve even reached a Mcdonalds is Sexmuseum de Venustempel.
This is a light-hearted adult tourist attraction, that’s fun for couples and groups of friends. It is the largest sex museum in the city and only €8.00 for entry.
If you want that photo with the giant penis you've probably seen on social media, this is the place!
After an early wake-up of 4am we had landed and were ready to explore Amsterdam by 9am.
Nat was prepped and ready for the potential 24 hours awake with the strongest coffee the Dam had to offer from the café not the coffee shop, careful there’s a difference. Not a bad view for a morning coffee though 😉
Speaking of Mcdonalds, and specifically fries. You must try Manneken Pis which is only a 2-minute walk down from the Sexmuseum.
Their Dutch fries have been named the best fries of the Netherlands 5 years in a row. Now as this was my (Nat’s) first time to Amsterdam I can’t vouch for that but as myself and Joseph have tasted a fair few fries in our time we can honestly say they were some of the best.
If you like peanut butter, try the Oorlog sauce, a lightly spiced mayo with onions and peanuts. Delish!
We then walked a minute around the corner (see the bike would have just got in the way really) to The Grasshopper, a steak restaurant with an outdoor terrace that overlooks Damrak canal and boasts picturesque views of the dancing houses.
It was finally time for our first beer on Dutch soil (hurray!) we ordered two Heinekens and waited patiently in the un-seasonal winter sun. Unfortunately, that ice cold Heineken didn’t quite meet our *high* expectations.
On we went further into the Dam in search of more beer opportunities, we also managed to stop at Dam Square along the way. Dam Square is home to the church Nieuwe Kerk, the impressive Royal Palace, National Monument and apparently Darth Vader.
If like us, you want to avoid the hustle and bustle of the typical tourist cafes and bars around Dam Square then you must try Beertemple an American style craft beer bar, only a 5 minute walk away from the square
The focus here is not on local beers but on American ales and lagers, they have a HUGE selection of 35 draft beers, and over 200 more in bottles and cans. Which with us planning our California road trip in May came in very handy 😉
The bar has a relaxed atmosphere and the friendly staff are more than happy to advise if you want to try something new.
A few pale ales and sours later, we were both merry and ready to drop! At this point we still hadn’t worked our way down to our hotel, so we decided to drop our bags, have a power nap and get ready to ring in the New Year.
One thing that completely slipped our mind was to make reservations for dinner, who knew Amsterdam would be crammed full of tourists on NYE, pair of idiots!
We walked around the Spiegelkwartier area for about 2 hours trying to find a restaurant that would take us before finally stumbling upon Villa Maria Steakhouse.
If like Joe you’re a sucker for a big slab of juicy beef, this is the place for you! Even the rump, the cheapest cut on the menu was cooked to perfection and went down even better with an ice cold pint.
By this time, we were looking to find a spot to ring in the New Year. New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam is celebrated outside.
Crowds of people will begin gathering in Dam Square, Leidseplein, Rembrandtplein and Nieuwmarkt from around 9/10pm to get the best spots, but by midnight all of the streets and canals around the central district will be packed with revellers ready to have a good time.
We had been warned about the Dutch firework tradition, to simply take all your fireworks out into the street and set them off wherever you like. The number of fireworks being set off was unbelievable, literally everywhere, even in the narrow streets so please be careful especially with younger children. It was also really fun and the bright colours illuminating the skies all over the city was something like we had never seen before.
Day 2 - New Year's Day
A well-earned lie in was in order after our nearly 24-hour New Year’s Eve! Luckily the rest of Amsterdam were also sleeping off their hangovers, so most places weren’t open till after 10am. When we eventually surfaced, we headed just a short walk from Museumplein square to The Avocado Show, well known for pretty, avocado themed eats.
If you are an avocado aficionado (who isn’t?!) this is the place to go. You will however need to arrive as close to opening time as possible, it’s very popular and you can wait a long time for a table.
FYI – there is no indoor waiting area, people queue outside so be aware of this if it is throwing it down outside.
If you’re not too hungover on New Year’s Day, you’ll want to check out some of Amsterdam’s numerous museums. Our personal picks are the Van Gough Museum, showcasing the work of the world renowned nineteenth century artist, and Anne Frank House, situated in the same secret annexe where she wrote her famous diary of life in hiding during World War II. You will need to book tickets in advance as these are two very popular tourist attractions, especially Anne Frank House. Tickets are released two months in advance, routinely sell out fast and are now only available online. We know so many people that have missed out by not booking so PLEASE book early to avoid disappointment!
Another Amsterdam must-do near the square is The House of Bols, an interactive experience which takes you through the history of Jenever (dutch gin) and your €16 ticket includes a cocktail in the bar. Make sure you double check the opening hours as we were very sad to learn (after knocking on the door for 15 minutes!) that it was shut on New Year’s Day.
As if to add insult to injury, the IAmsterdam sign, famously located in front of the Rijksmuseum, has been permanently removed by the city council in December 2018, so no IAmsterdam selfie for us ☹
Our alternative option was exploring the city by canal cruise. Most canal cruises take around an hour, in which you'll explore Amsterdam's UNESCO World Heritage Site canal ring and discover plenty about the city along the way.
Boats leave from jetties all over the city and prices start from around €16.00.
Or, you can just explore by foot, getting lost walking the canals was one of our favourite Amsterdam experiences.
By now it was definitely time to get back to the beers! Most people will tell you that you absolutely must check out the Heineken Experience, located in Heineken’s original Amsterdam brewery. We’ll be honest, after sampling a few Heineken’s the day before, we were a little disappointed. So, we decided to skip this in favour of hunting around the city for more delicious Amstel!
We didn’t have to wait long, stumbling on Hoppe Bar, a small café/bar on Spui Square. This was our drink highlight of the trip, sitting outside on the small tables, watching the bikes and trams roll past. Turns out Amsterdam can be a pretty romantic city as we re-created our very own Amstel advert -minus the risk of falling into the frozen lake.
But the Dam isn’t all about beer contrary to popular belief! There are plenty of bars around the city if you would rather get your lips around a fancy cocktail, and if prohibition style bars are your thing, you should check out Door 74, the Dam’s first speak easy bar. There are some pretty wacky cocktail creations behind the hidden door entrance just a short 10 minute walk from Dam Square, but you will need to reserve a spot via their website (http://www.door-74.com/).
By now New Year’s Day in the Dam was drawing to a close. But one area which we wanted to explore before heading home was the Red-Light District.
At night, the Red-Light District becomes a bustling hive of activity, with plenty of bars and coffee shops to explore, it is a strange yet revealing experience not to be missed creating plenty of funny and (maybe) uncomfortable moments.
There’s plenty to see by just having a wander around but if you really want to delve into history and culture there are several walking and audio tours available with local guides from €15.00-30.00.
All in all our New Years in Amsterdam was one we will certainly never forget, especially as this was our first New Year’s Eve together as a couple.
With Amsterdam being only a 45-minute flight away, we have a feeling we will be returning to see the tulips in full bloom.