Student Guides

Amsterdam – a city with many faces

Okay so the title is cringy but this is the best way to sum up this amazing city. Parks, canals, a vibrant city core, cute suburbs and all the coffeeshops you could want – whats not to love about Amsterdam, especially as a student!

Photo credits to my beautiful and brilliant friend, Charlotte.

1. Museums

museums
There are tonnes of museums in Amsterdam and below are just a selection of the best (in my opinion). These are situated on Museumplein (which is worth a visit in itself) so you can dabble from one to another and do them all in a day if necessary!

  • Van Gogh Museum – pretty self-explanatory, the museum is dedicated to Vincent Van Gogh and showcases some of his best work. From ‘Sunflowers’ to ‘Almond Blossoms’, you can witness these iconic paintings in their original glory.
  • Rijksmuseum – the museum is dedicated to the arts and history in Amsterdam and the building alone is impressive. In the space of a couple of hours you can learn immense amounts of cultural history about Holland so its definitely worth a gander.
  • Stedelijk Museum – this museum is so fun! Its a modern art museum and shows a stark contrast to the other museums on the square. Situated in a stunning glass building, the museum shows off a diverse range of interesting pieces from sculpture, photography, video art and much more.

Top tip: okay so this is a bit of cheat way BUT if you get your tickets ahead of time you will save hours of your life when queuing….additionally all the museums above let 18s and under in for free and they don’t usually question it so………..just bear that in mind.

2. Vondelpark

vondel

This place is hella pretty and hella big too. Tucked away amongst the hustle and bustle of city life, the 120 acre park is rich with flowers, water fountains, ice-cream, lakes and even a shallow swimming pool! On a hot day this is definitely the place to be! Make sure you explore the whole of the park – its absolutely huge and there are plenty of places for a good photo op!

3. Anne Frank’s House

I really think that everyone must go and see Anne Frank’s House – not only is it a great tour and is racked with information, the experience itself is mind-blowing. Having read Anne Frank’s diary (which I recommend to anyone and everyone), seeing the places Anne described in real life was worth every penny. 

Top Tip: book your slot online ahead of time to avoid queuing for hours! We rocked up a couple of minutes before our designated slot and didn’t have to wait at all.

4. Red Light District

red light

This neighbourhood is wild, wacky and worth a gander. A place where the windows are racked with porn and the shops sell every kind of dildo you could think of (who needs an Eiffel Tower dildo?! What sort of fantasy could that possible acquaint to!?). This is also one of the cheapest things to do in Amsterdam (providing you don’t go to a Brothel) – just have a mooch and soak up the utter madness of the area.

5. Coffeeshops

coffeshop

Okay this is another go-to. Coffeeshops (aka Weed cafes) laden the streets of Amsterdam like a flies on cow shit. My advice is don’t just go to the first one you see, pretty soon you’ll realise there are hundreds, and I mean literally hundreds, of places to explore. BuzzFeed have an excellent article here for anyone who isn’t accustomed to the art form/ don’t want to look like an idiot when going in, so check it out! 

Top tip: Don’t buy any weed products (‘space cakes’ etc) from corner shops….they are NOT gonna get you high.

 

6. Food

food-2

In true Anna’s Avocado style, I also have some advice for getting the most out of your culinary experience in Amsterdam. When you arrive you’ll notice there are lot of takeout places and a few things in particular rack the the shelves; pancakes, waffles, Heineken and cheese. The Dutch pancake is best described as thicker than a crepe but thinner than an American pancake and there are a lot of pancake houses in Amsterdam you can try it! We went to De Vier Pilaren (which translates to ‘the four pillars’) but there are plenty of other places to try! As for waffles, literally just walk down the street and find yourself an amazing waffly creation – average prices are about €7 per waffle and they are more expensive in the city core (which is the case with most eateries and weed cafes actually). I add cheese to this list just because we went into a lot of cheese shops and tried A LOT of free cheese! I highly recommend going into Cheese and More by Henri Willig and trying the green pesto cheese…its incredible!
Also, if you haven’t yet – check out my review on the Avocado Show!

7. Markets

markets.jpg

Whilst in Amsterdam we visited two daily markets at the weekend and the flower market which is on every day of the year. If you are staying in the city on a Saturday or Sunday then these are definitely worth a gander! Market atmosphere is a cultural experience in itself (plus you can pretty much feed yourself for free on the amount of samples of bread, cheese and chutney).

  • Noordermarkt – every Saturday the Boerenmarkt (‘farmer’s market’) takes over the square where you can sample everything from sausage to bread to cheese or buy yourself fresh orange juice, coconut water, pulled pork cobs or crepes. In addition to the food, there are also various antique, jewellery, clothing, furniture and odds and ends for sale. You really get a sense for the Dutch culture here!
  • Museumplein Sunday Market – now this market occurs every third Sunday of the month so this is pot luck as to whether or not it is on when you visit. If you are lucky enough to stumble upon Museumplein on the third Sunday of the month you will find it utterly transformed from the typical tourist hotspot into a bustling, diverse utopia of craft, jewellery, clothes, food of every kind and smiling faces!
  • Floating Flower Market –  hard to miss, the flower market is situated in the city centre near Muntplein. Its a stunningly beautiful and vibrant place to walk through and, although as a traveller flowers might not be on your souvenir list, there are also plenty of magnets, t-shirts and other nicks nacks to sale.

Top Tip: take wigs to the food market to appear less conspicuous..!

8. Hired transport

bikes

If you are looking for a fast and fairly cheap way to see the city then hiring boats and bikes should be added to your list. On average, a bike can cost as little as €7 to hire for an hour (and thats from one of the big names) and I can assure you that it doesn’t take long to get your feet off the ground and navigate through the city on the clearly defined cycle paths. As long as you stay vigilant and aware, your biking experience will be fun filled. As for boating, being in canal-country it would be a huge loss if you didn’t jump on the bandwagon and indulge in the beautiful waters the city has to offer. There are lots of canal cruises and tours you can do if you want an easy ride round on the water, alternatively a cheaper (and funner) option is hiring a peddle boat. It costs €9 pp but look out for vouchers in your hostel or hotel which offer €1.50 pp off the price. I definitely think its worth exploring the canals this way – we cruised along to my friend’s throwback playlist without a care in the world.

9. Iamsterdam sign

iam

This is the most touristy thing you could possibly do in Amsterdam BUT it is also the cheapest! Located near behind the Rijksmuseum, the 23.5m wide sign has become a city icon since its installation in 2005. On average the sign is photographed 8,000 times on a sunny day! Be part of that incredible statistic, climb upon the letters and find new ways to pose with the structure.

10. Sites and scenery

sites

This is a very vague category which can definitely be separated into many, many, many subcategories but time is of the essence so I’ll sum up.

  • Canals – for the love of God I will challenge someone a thousand avocados to go to Amsterdam and NOT see a canal. Legit its impossible. But they are beautiful so its okay.
  • Graffiti – look out for the quirky graffiti and punny signage around the city. There are plenty of photo ops to get your hands on.
  • Pllek – this isn’t really a ‘site’ or ‘scenery’ but this stop on the free ferry is worth visiting on a sunny evening. You may think, upon disembarking the boat, that you have stumbled across an abandoned dock, but go round the corner and you’ll find Pllek, aka Amsterdam’s own city beach bar, and climb to the top of the Botel to get the perfect sunset shot!
  • Dam Square – GO FEED THE PIGEONS, I know it sounds gross but its great. If the rice guy is there, go over and smile politely and if you’re lucky he’ll give you some white rice and suddenly your a pigeon’s best friend.  Oh and Dam Square is pretty cool too.
Student Guides

Budapest? How about Budabest?! (sorry)

A few weeks ago I set off with uni to the happy Hungarian capital of Budapest. It is a beautiful city with a lot to offer. It satisfies every plate from the cultural enthusiast, to the foodie, to the sleep-all-day party-all-nighter, to the Instagrammer and the walker. Here are my top ten things you should try if you are a student…

  1. Go to a Thermal Spa.

Cost: Varying.

This is definitely worth the money. On our second day, we got up and trotted, rather hungover, to the PARK, suited up and dipped into the beautifully refreshing thermal bath. With temperatures of 28 degrees, the outside pool was just the ticket we needed and deeply relaxing. We all agreed we could have spent the entire time playing chess and sleeping in the sauna if our bodies had allowed us.buda9

  1. Buda Castle.

Cost: FREE to look round, Budapest History museum cost is 1000 HUF (£2.72) for under 26s

Situated on the ‘Buda’ side of the city, Buda Castle is a stunning piece of historical architecture that you literally cannot miss. I challenge you to try and avoid it! There is a museum to satisfy the tourist amongst you, but its also equally beautiful to stroll around the castle, take a few snaps and visit the nearby market.

  1. Ruin Bars.

Cost: Mood dependant.

There are numerous ruin bars located around the city – mostly in the Pest side of the river. Top recommendations include Instant (which is more of a club but is free entry and DEFINITELY worth going to if you are looking for a night out) and Szimpla Kert, which is more of a bar but both very reasonably priced.

  1. Shoes on Danube Bank.

Cost: FREE.buda1

This memorial is discreet and near the Parliament building so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled. It is definitely worth a visit though. The memorial plaque doesn’t contain an awful lot of information so follow this helpful link, to find out more.

  1. St Nicholas Basilica.

buda5Cost: FREE (they ask for a very small donation)

The outside of the building is magnificent and is very awe-inspiring as you turn the corner see it standing there in front of you. A true ‘oh wow’ kind of moment. I would definitely recommend going inside the church – it is free besides from a small donation and the interior is as stunning as the exterior, the guides are helpful and will answer any questions and there is information dotted around about the history of the church.

 

  1. Try Goulash!

Cost: Cheap as chips, only beefier.buda2

This wouldn’t be Anna’s Avocados without some mention of food in the guide. This is my foodie recommendation for Budapest. I also tried Lángos, a sort of pizza/doughnut thing and palinka, just down it and don’t think of the consequences, which I recommend you trying too. Goulash, on the other hand, is one of the national dishes of Hungary and is extremely hearty, nutritious and tasty. Kind of like a beefy paprika-y soupy stew and you can find it in most traditional Hungarian restaurants around the city. We had it in Kazimir, which I would fully recommend to anyone after delicious Hungarian cuisine, affordable meals and a warm atmosphere.

buda7. Markets

Cost: FREE unless you spend.
There are two markets I would recommend you look into – the Central Market and also the much smaller antiques market. The Central Market has everything from souvenirs to paprika (a massive deal in Hungary apparently) and the antiques market is down Gozsdu-udvar area (also a fabulous place to have dinner and go for a karaoke sesh in Blue Bird Café).

  1. Boat Party

Cost: Website

I am not one for the whole Zante boat party/skinny dipping/horny teenagers/shots galore/high intensity drinking games kind of vibe. Therefore if I thought this experience contained any resemblance to the latter then I wouldn’t recommend. However, the boat party with Budapest Boat Party, was extremely fun and a fabulous way to see the city at night. The tickets got us not one, not two BUT three free drinks on board – which was enough to get me wellied in an hour and a half, not to mention getting some rather embarrassing snaps and meeting some interesting people.

9. Walking

Cost: Your legs.

As the cost clearly states, there’ll be no need for leg day this week after visiting Budapest. This is because the Hungarian city is so beautiful you will have no need to take a taxi or a bus. I am a massive fan of places you can just walk around and soak up the city (which is one of the reasons I love Copenhagen so much) and Budapest definitely does this. Places I recommend walking to are the Citadella (a kind of fortress built in the 1800s), down the Danube, walk to Vajdahunyad Castle and then the must-see Chain Bridge – which you can’t really avoid. buda4

  1. Shopping in Pest.

Cost: FREE….providing you don’t buy anything.

Finally, I would recommend looking around the commercial Pest side of the city just because it is such a stark contrast both to Buda and also to other European capitals. It is surprisingly calm, quiet and magical in a way. Window shopping is a must and just walking down the main high street Vàci Street, is worth a gander.

 

Student Guides

Copenhagen on a budget

How to have an inexpensive time in one of Europe’s most expensive cities!

Ah, Copenhagen. A hub of Scandanavian culture. Where every street is an Instagram opportunity and where the bike to person ratio is 2:1. Its also hella expensive. Because of this small but important fact, it is often overlooked by backpackers and inter-railers as a destination. However, I am here to prove you to that IT CAN BE DONE moderately cheaply – IF you know where to go and what to do!

  1. Visit the Little Mermaid.WhatsApp Image 2017-04-09 at 17.40.23
    Cost: FREE
    Its a lovely walk along the Inderhavnen from Nyhavn to the Little Mermaid and well worth the trip, considering it will cost you literally nothing. The mermaid commemorates Copenhagen fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen (surprise surprise he wrote the Little Mermaid) and is rather unimposing and has an interesting history. Having been decapitated twice and dressed up in various outfits, she’s certainly been through a lot. To find out a bit more about the history check out Visit Copenhagen‘s post.
  2. Go for a walk in the park(s).WhatsApp Image 2017-04-09 at 19.08.55.jpeg
    Cost: FREE
    There are tonnes of beautiful parks in Copenhagen such as King’s Garden (Kongens Have) where you can admire Rosenborg Castle, sit amongst the locals and listen to some music. Nip to the nearby Aldi and grab a couple of tinnies and relax! There’s also the Botanical Gardens and Østre Anlæg which neighbour the King’s Garden.
  3. Visit Christiania.WhatsApp Image 2017-04-14 at 16.05.10.jpeg
    Cost: FREE.
    The free town of Christiania is definitely worth a visit! Its located on the opposite side of the river in the borough of Christianshavn. Its fairly easy to find and you will know when you get there! Think of the most antithetical version of Copenhagen and you’ve got Christiania. Vibrantly painted buildings, interesting hipster shops and a street of casual weed sellers – this is definitely worth a trip to see!
  4. Designmuseum Copenhagen.
    Cost: FREE to students or under 26s. (100DKK for adults)WhatsApp Image 2017-04-09 at 19.10.15.jpeg
    The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday and is definitely worth looking at! It holds the best of Denmark’s design; architecture, fashion, product design, you name it! You can do the museum in a couple of hours and its located directly between the Little Mermaid and Nyhavn. Also have a go on the big chair! Check out Visit Copenhagen‘s website for more details.
  5. Promenade down Nyhavn.WhatsApp Image 2017-04-09 at 17.41.12
    Cost: FREE.
    This is a must-see. Its the classic image when you think of Copenhagen! The beautiful coloured buildings and boats overlook the river as you promenade down the road, pretending you are on your way to meet your Danish lover. Or maybe that was just me?
  6. Go on a Boat Tour. 

    IMG_0747Cost: 40 DKK (around £4.50)
    Netto-boats offer a very reasonably priced boat tour which lasts for one hour and is presented in English, German and Danish. As far as tourism goes, this is one of the cheaper options and a very good way to see the sights and learn a bit about Copenhagen’s rich history. For more info, go to the website.

  7. Go up the Round Tower.WhatsApp Image 2017-04-09 at 19.09.05.jpeg
    Cost: 25 DKK (around £2.80)
    Take a trip up the Rundetaarn, located in the city centre. The tower was built in 1642 by Christian IV who built it as an astronomical observatory. The tower consists of an equestrian staircase (gentle slopes that were built to allow horses to access the tower) and also contains the Library Hall (now used as a gift shop and cafe). Its definitely worth the money and is a spectacular way to view Copenhagen from above. For more info.
    IMG_9609.jpg
  8. Walk to Nørrebro
    Cost: FREE.
    This region of the city is located across the lakes and gives you an opportunity to see yet another side to Copenhagen. Its very off-the-beaten-track and a must-see for th hipsters among you! There is a variety of great cafes and restaurants (including Grød – porridge cafe!) and small, independent shops. There is also the Assistens Cemetery, which homes some of the final resting places for famous Danes. This diverse and multicultural part of the city is definitely worth a gander if you have a free couple of hours. Check out Visit Copenhagen‘s extensive guide to the region.
  9. Eat at Torvehallerne.
    Cost: FREE.WhatsApp Image 2017-04-14 at 16.36.57.jpg
    This is a food market like no other! Situated in two glass buildings, the market boasts a variety of eateries from all corners of the culinary spectrum. From cheese, to marmalade, to wine, to chocolate, to pizza and also to Copenhagen’s chic food craze of Smørrebrød, visiting Torevehallerne is an absolute must for any foodie. With numerous free samples on offer, this is cheap way to try some of the best food Copenhagen has on offer. The prices of the food are also decent compared to the expensive inner city restaurants. We picnicked here on one of our days and it turned out to be the yummiest and cost effective meal we had!
  10. Go Shopping (or window shopping).WhatsApp Image 2017-04-08 at 16.51.08.jpeg
    Cost: FREE…..kinda.
    Well this is a free activity if you don’t buy anything… Just window shopping is an experience. I recommend going to Sostrene Grene, which has a fireman’s pole and a slide as the exit! There are numerous big shops as well as cute, artsy furniture shops and department stores that are definitely worth looking round. Even if you don’t spend a thing, it will feel like you have immersed yourself in Denmark’s edgy, chic, popular culture.
Student Guides

Dublin in a Day – The Student’s Guide to this Irish City

Following my last post on the The CheapSkates’ Guide to Dublin, here is a little list of the best places we visited, whats worth a trek for the money and all the free things you can do…

  1. General Post Office:
    The GPO is definitely worth avisit, even if you just pop your head inside. The Witness History exhibition is €7.50 to enter and was very informative and useful in getting to know the history of the 1916 rebellion. This is definitely something for everyone no matter your historical interest!img_7090
  2. Dublin Castle: 
    On the South side of the Liffey there is Dublin Castle. It is a beautiful building which is
    free to enter and take a few snapshots and costs €6.50 for students to enter the State Apartments and have a look at the stunning rooms.
  3. img_7078Trinity College:
    Just take a look around this beautiful University if you have an hour spare! Its stunning architecture and wonderful academic atmosphere is worth engrossing yourself in.
  4. St Stephen’s Park: img_7134
    Take a stroll around
    St Stephen’s Park, admire the pretty lake and greenery amongst the city. You can even download a free audioguide for the history of the park
  5. Stephens Green Shopping Centre:
    We went in here and just stared. Because its beautiful. Even if you go here and don’t spend a thing, it is worth the visit.
  6. img_7183Custom House: Take a stroll down the river to Custom House, ‘a masterpiece of European neo-classicism it took 10 years to build and was completed in 1791’. This stunning piece of architecture looks over the River Liffey with pride and glory. There is also a free visitor’s exhibition about the history of the house and its role in the 1916 Rebellion.
  7. Science Gallery: The science gallery is basically what it says on the tin. Its a free exhibition presenting some very interesting and unusual pieces of art which take science as their mode of presentation. Its adjacent to Trinity College and is definitely worth popping in whilst in the area.
  8. National Museums: img_7229Who doesn’t love a good national museum?! They are always guaranteed to be filled with the best of the country and Dublin’s 3 museums are no exception. The Archaeology and Natural History museums are on the same block, whereas the Decorative Arts and History museum is towards the West of the city. They are free to enter and are 100% worth visiting.
  9. img_7200Temple Bar Food Market: This is for people visiting exclusively on a Saturday. The food market is substantially cheaper than the rest of the food in Dublin and it provides you with a real authentic Irish city dining experience. Choose from a whole host of foods from vegetarian soup and sandwiches to a hog roast!
  10. WALK AROUND: Especially at night. The city is stunning so why not do the cheapest thing you can do and explore the city yourself! We found all sorts of nooks and crannies whilst just walking around including the 1916 Rebellion Surrender Spot, The Huguenot Cemetery and also the coolest little independent bookshop where a live band was playing!img_7322