When you think of Amsterdam what do you think of? Windmills? Clogs? Pretty bikes with flowers in their baskets? These are the stereotypical things we associate with this wonderful city. And yes, they are a lot of the reasons why I myself decided to book a short break away with my mum. Of course the very top reason was to visit the world renowned Keukenhof to see the gorgeous arrays of tulips they display each year. More on that ‘delight’ later… But for now I shall with you the top sights to see in 48 hours (or more like the top sights to TRY and see in 48 hours, if our story is anything to go by…).

I’ll skip the formalities of getting from the airport as we’re so short on time… Our hotel was slam dunk in the middle of everything – 5-10 mins each direction we were all set up with sights galore. First on our list was a stroll around nearby streets taking in some of the stunning architecture including WESTERKERK and ANNE FRANKS HOUSE which was just around the corner. I remember reading her diaries at school but not truly understanding the immensity of the situation. This ‘tour’, if you want to call it that, changed all that and it was really quite horrific seeing exactly the what the families went through. TOP TIP: don’t get stuck in the queues at ANNE FRANKS HOUSE – we rocked up 45 mins before closing time and walked straight in, not one person in front of us.

STREET ART is a common sight around the city, with the usual trash graffiti popping up frequently enough to ruin the lovely scenery. That said we did stumble upon this most amazing road FULL of street art. And GOOD street art at that. I always sway more towards this kind of creativity – it just seems more ‘real’ compared to galleries and museums.  TOP TIP: Make sure you spend some time just wandering aimlessly around the streets, getting lost and discovering the ‘real’ Amsterdam. It’s the best way to see a city and if we’d caught buses and trams around we would have missed a lot.

As well as opting for the less typical art viewing spots, I also like to seek out the INDIE RETAILERS to do my shopping and browsing. I found 2 very lovely gift and homewares shops. One GUUS, which I can’t seem to find online to give you a link, and another KITSCH KITCHEN. Both stocked wonderfully quirky and unique homewares, some very retro, some very creative. TOP TIPS: Ask around for shops like these, they add a new kind of experience to a trip and if you love interiors and have a thing for indie shopping you can pick up some really unique gifts.

Now I know I said I wasn’t much for big galleries but having studied Van Gogh a fair bit at school it was definitely on the list to see the real thing. We took a nice walk by VONDELPARK to the VAN GOGH MUSEUM . . . only to find it’s contents had been temporarily moved whilst they were doing some restoration. And they were now right back in the direction we had come from! Alas, timings meant we would never have made it back before closing time as they’d also shortened that. No fear we thought, we’ll default to to the RIJKSMUSEUM. Nope. We did not have Lady Luck on ur side – also closed for renovations. Hmmm . . . We may not have gotten to see the real Van Gogh but we did get to stop by this delightful cafe instead (left).  TOP TIP: Sadly even after mentioning to our hotel manager he did’t inform us of these changes so it’s always best to do some research yourself, or go to the local tourist desk JUST IN CASE they decide to do something crazy like shut the 2 most popular museums at the same time. Madness.

Of course one thing you simply can’t escape when you’re in Amsterdam (not that you should want to) is the ARCHITECTURE. It’s everywhere and it’s fabulous. Tall and skinny, short and decorative, somewhere in between with lots of windows . . . the buildings come in all shapes and sizes, all styles and all propped up next to each other. And this is what makes the streets so visually appealing. They have so much personality, and it was a delight to draw them. One thing we didn’t do was to take a CANAL BOAT TOUR. We were a little tight for time but was also enjoying seeing the buildings at street height and thought we may miss out being ‘all the way down there’ so much we opted to stick with walking. Despite our choice I have been told the canal boat tours area  fantastic way to see the city. And of course you get to be up close with all of the wonderful house boats and perhaps even manage a sneak peek inside!

The next morning began bright and early with a stroll around the FLOWER MARKET set alongside one of the canals. Stall after stall of bulbs, fresh flowers and my favourite trashy holiday treat – magnets! I pick one up from every trip as a little memento and this was the spot I chose my Amsterdam one. Being in amongst all of these flowers was the perfect warm up for our last stop – one we were very excited (if not a little concerned) about – our trip to KEUKENHOF. And we had very reason to be concerned…the winter had been a harsh and although we were visiting mid-season there was still no guarantee of seeing field after field of tulips as is advertised. And guess what? There were no tulips. Notta one. The bulbs had been planted but the frosts had kept anything from growing. We were simply greeted with masses of empty muddy flower beds. Awesome! I’d share a picture of it but it’d just be a sad lump of dirt, so instead here’s how we’d HOPED it would’ve looked…

But we walked around the grounds anyway, saw the windmill, and took a look at their inside exhibition. I have to say, I was quite disappointed. I have seen far, far better displays at Kew Gardens and Hampton Court Flower Show so if that is what you’re after then go to one of these instead. I’m sure I would have had a better overall view had there been some tulips in the ground!

Despite our rather unlucky streak we had a fabulous time and would most definitely visit again, perhaps not getting our hopes up so much to tick every sight off our list! TOP TIP: 48 hours is a bit of a squeeze so allow 3-4 days to truly be able to soak up the city without having to rush from one place to the next constantly.

The above illustrations are all available as art prints, postcards, greetings cards, tea towels and coasters from my online shop. I will also be selling these at my local fairs – find my full events line up here, or sign up to my mailing list to hear about them first!