The sun streams down on an ever-growing line of hungry brunchers waiting to be seated at a corner café in Amsterdam. After realising that this where my phone map was leading me to, I find a place to lock my bike and join the slowly snaking queue along the cobbled path.
A smiley server makes her way down the line, asking queuers how many people they need a table for. When she asks me, the sentence I have always dreaded saying in London comes to me very easily.
“Table for one, please!”
She swiftly seats me and as I sip on my tea in the sunshine, I realise that I have no anxiety about being by myself in this foreign city. I’m alone, and I’m embracing it.
There is something about Amsterdam that makes me feel like I am meant to be here. Maybe it is the friendly people. Or perhaps it’s the open-mindedness that seems to permeate into everything here. Or it could be the fact that it’s just so easy, from using the trains to hiring a bike.
If you’re considering travelling solo in Amsterdam, here are my top tips. But if I’m honest, I don’t think I need to give you that many. Just pack up and see for yourself!
1. Book onto a free walking tour
Firstly, it’s free. And what’s not to like about that? Secondly, this way you can get to meet other travellers. We had local (and true to stereotype, very tall) Dutchman Tim show our group around, and I learnt lots of things about the city centre that I wouldn’t have otherwise known. I also met a fellow solo traveller from North Carolina, and we hung out that evening to enjoy some pancakes together.
2. Embrace being alone
The best part about going solo is being able to do exactly what you want to do, when you want to do it. Wandering around one of Amsterdam’s many excellent museums is a great way embrace alone time, and with the audio guide strapped to my ear as I drifted through the impressive rooms of the Rembrandt House Museum, I realised that I would be ignoring any companion who was with me anyway.
Strolling through many of Amsterdam’s pretty streets along the canal and trying different food is also an enjoyable way to spend time alone in the city. Try Bitterballen (Dutch meatballs which can also have vegetarian or vegan fillings), or the caramel-filled waffles (Stroopwafels).
3. Hire a bike (if you enjoy cycling)
If you don’t enjoy cycling, get used to dodging the million of cyclists as you hop out of the bike lane last minute sheepishly. There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than people, and I for one love it. As a London cyclist (but not a Lycra-clad one who uses it as a sport), I found that the cycling in Amsterdam is much more my thing: baskets filled with groceries, flowing skirts, flat lanes everywhere… cycling here is a dream.
I hired a bike from Donkey Republic which can be picked up from any of their pick-up points. All you have to do is download the app, unlock the bike and off you go! At €14 for two days it is a bargain, and there is truly no better way of getting around Amsterdam than by bike. Plus, you probably will actually feel a bit like a local.
Words and photos by Alice Bzowska