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I had the worst hangover of my life in Amsterdam — here’s how I cured it

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Those bruin cafés are dangerous… (Credits: Getty Images)

As my eyes opened against the harsh daylight, I flailed my arms out for a glass of water, to no avail.

Then came the pounding headache, the self-loathing and the realisation that I was about to embark on easily the worst hangover I’d had in my 30s, thus far.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. When I arrived in Amsterdam the night before, the first thing my friend and I did was climb aboard the Starboard Boats’ Canal Booze Cruise, where we were served cheese and (unlimited) wine on the city’s famous canals.

Two hours and countless glasses of red wine later, and our night had only just begun.

Next stop was one of the Dutch capital’s famous bruin cafés (or brown bars). Similar to a British ‘old man’ pub – only much more lively – the Dutch pubs are a quintessential part of the city’s culture.

We opted for Cafe De Tuin, in the Jordaan district, which was bursting at the seams, packed full of locals and booze.

Almost at the point of no return (Picture: Kristina Beanland)

And… that’s where the memories get hazy. I can recall pouring my own measures behind the bar, and refuelling at Mr Haz Taco Bar, a Mexican that offered delicious jerk chicken tacos, and even better cocktails – for €10.50, the El Diablo was a must.

Apparently there was a nightclub involved, the details of which are lost in the recesses of my brain, never to be retrieved again.

Whether you’re feeling boozy or not, this is a great way to see the city (Picture: Starboard Cruises)

Before I knew it I was waking up in my bed at YOTEL Amsterdam, cursing my poor life choices.

When would I ever learn?

But with only one full day to experience Amsterdam, I couldn’t wallow in bed watching Netflix, as any self-respecting hungover person would do.

I had to get out, and be a tourist, despite the constant urge to vomit.

And, spoiler: I lived to tell the tale. And, if I can cure a 10/10 hangover in Amsterdam, so can you.

Here’s how I survived…

Sleep

Yes, you want to get out and explore, but you need some semblance of sleep in order to do so.

The reclining bed was a dream (Picture: YOTEL)

I rested my head at YOTEL in Amsterdam Noord, in the northern part of the city which has an edgier feel – a bit like Shoreditch, but less annoying.

YOTEL has a young, fresh vibe, with a minimalist design. With the hangover raging, it took true willpower to peel myself out of the bed. Not only was it huge, but it reclined and elevated at the touch of a button – I didn’t even have to lift my own weary head to watch the smart TV.

Enjoy a cocktail at the waterfront restaurant (Picture: YOTEL)

YOTEL offers a breakfast with hot and cold options at their waterside restaurant, The Deck, which also serves cocktails and street food.

I admit, while I did pile my plate high, I was in no fit state to eat (although was reliably informed by my pal that the brekkie was delicious) and promptly went back to bed.

YOTEL is also great value for money, with rooms from just £130 a night.

Greasy food

By about 11am, the initial shock of the hangover had worn off, and I used this small window of opportunity to get myself washed, dressed and out of the hotel.

Next, I needed food. While I’m sure avocado on toast would have been the healthy option, at this point I wanted carbs, and that’s where Amsterdam’s famous bitterballen come in.

The perfect hangover food (Picture: Kristina Beanland)

While not touted as a breakfast food, bitterballen are deep-fried balls of meat covered in breadcrumbs. The Dutch cousin to an arancini ball or potato croquette, if you will, but with a more Bovril-esque taste. We ate ours at House of Fries, where we got a portion of six balls for €6.

You can also try the bitterballen offering at FEBO, a Dutch fast-food chain where they serve the snacks via a vending machine. Go, even if it’s just for the novelty.

The famous Dutch mini pancakes (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Alternatively, if you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’re in the right place for pancakes. These aren’t crepes, but a mini and denser Dutch version – and just as delicious. Head to the Pancake Bakery for some of the best in the city.

If it is a more traditional millennial brunch you’re after, locals we spoke to raved about Anne & Max, which also has plenty of vegetarian and vegan offerings, while Badeta is the place to go for coffee.

Fresh air

Amsterdam is a perfect place to wander around – it’s all cute cobbled streets, quaint buildings and canals. So, when your stomach can’t quite take an open-top bus tour, this was the perfect way to see the city.

Smiling through the pain (Picture: Supplied)

Reguilersgracht is often dubbed one of the prettiest streets in Amsterdam, and it’s where you can see seven of the most famous bridges – stand on one, and you can see all the others in the distance.

There’s also Lindengracht, a cute street in the Jordaan district (the scene of my hangover crime), which is home to lots of shops and restaurants, as well as a weekly food market that takes place every Saturday from 9am to 4pm.

The Lindengracht Market is held every Saturday (Credits: Getty Images)

When the weather is good, head to Vondelpark, the city’s most visited green space, where you can take a mooch around, hire a bike (do as the Dutch do), or even hire a boat and spend some time on the lake.

There’s also Kersenblosempark, about 20 minutes outside the city centre, which was recently voted the best place in Europe to see cherry blossom.

A green oasis right in the city (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Of course, you may also want to venture to the famous Red Light District, otherwise known as De Wallen, which dates back 800 years.

So entirely different from anything we have in the UK, as a female traveller, it’s a culture shock to say the least, but it’s worth remembering that sex workers in Amsterdam benefit from the same basic rights as other workers in the country: they receive health benefits, have a workers’ union and a get access to free and unlimited STI checks.

Lunch

Now, this is where my day really turned around.

We’d been recommended the sandwiches at Zero Zero by our boat tour guide the night before, and they did not disappoint.

Queuing for these sarnies was a low point – I was hungry, hungover, and genuinely questioned whether I’d finally, this time, taken it too far.

The sandwich the saved the day (Picture: Kristina Beanland)

But the chunky sourdough sandwich, made in front of me using fresh ingredients, including Mortadella and stracciatella cheese, was my saviour.

The staff at Zero Zero were friendly, and genuinely seemed to be enjoying their jobs too. I’d have happily paid double the €11 it cost me to take the edge off my hangover.

Take in some culture

Reenergised, it was time to do some sightseeing. Of course, in Amsterdam, you’re spoilt for choice. A city rich in history, from the Anne Frank House to the Van Gogh Museum, there is so much to see and do.

The pretty Rijksmuseum (Picture: Getty Images)

Our first stop was the Rijksmuseum. Tickets to enter cost €22.50, and it’s completely free of charge for anyone aged 18 and under.

While it’s recommended to book in advance, we booked and paid for ours online as we waited in the short queue.

A quiet museum was exactly what my headache needed. While I wouldn’t say I’m much of an art buff, even I was impressed by some of the famous works of art, from Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, to Van Gogh’s Self Portrait and, of course, the truly jaw-dropping The Night Watch, by Rembrandt.

Then, we took quite the gear change, and headed to the Sex Museum because, well, how could we not?

A must for art fans (Picture: Kristina Beanland)

Now, if you’re taking a trip to the Sex Museum in the hopes of some actual information about how sex has evolved throughout history, it may not be the place for you.

However, if you’re immature (like me) and fancy a giggle at the X-rated dioramas and the many, many, many statutes, figurines and pictures of genitalia, it’s worth a quick visit.

The most PG photo I could find from the Sex Museum (Picture: Kristina Beanland)

Grab a ‘coffee’

Of course, one of Amsterdam’s USPs is its unique coffee shop scene. For those not in the know, this isn’t the place you go to for a flat white and a croissant, but rather, they’re licensed cannabis cafes, where you can pick from their often extensive marijuana menus.

While I, of course, wouldn’t dream about smoking cannabis – much less write about it for my employer – some swear by lighting up to treat a hangover.

If you’re that way inclined, Free1 is a small shop with a friendly guy behind the bar who will offer recommendations to make sure you get just the right amount of stoned.

There’s window seating, a great place to people watch, or you can go downstairs and chill out in the relaxed lounge area. An ideal spot for a first-timer.

If you’re after somewhere a little more exciting, head to Grey Area, probably Amsterdam’s most famous coffee shop, which has served the likes of Snoop Dog and Willie Nelson.

A fancy dinner

As the evening closed in, the thought of another night in a brown bar left me queasy, so instead, we opted for some posh grub.

Staying close to the hotel, we ventured out into Amsterdam Noord. While this neighbourhood is a little away from the city centre, it’s easy to get to, with a free ferry (yes, completely free) running from Buiksloterweg (the port in Amsterdam Noord) to Amsterdam Centraal Station every few minutes.

Each course was as delicious as the last (Picture: Kristina Beanland)

Amsterdam Noord has everything you’d expect in an edgy, up-and-coming area. There’s the Oedipus Brewing Taproom, the art space SEXYLAND World, and Tolhuistuin, dubbed as a ‘cultural hotspot’, which offers pretty much everything a creative might want, from food and drink to art, dance classes and weekly parties.

And of course, there’s great food to be had. We managed to grab a table at CornerStore. The restaurant looks like a minimalist loft, with a bar, DJ and an impossibly cool clientele and waiting staff.

But it doesn’t just look good, the food is amazing too. All the plates are designed to share, and the starter of brioche with goat butter was simple yet oh-so-delicious, and only left me excited for what more was to come. The half duck confit and cold noodles with sesame and kohlrabi were also highlights of the menu.

It was a little on the expensive side, comparable to London prices. Our total bill – with starters, dessert and wine, came to £116.40 for two. But if you’re forgoing a night out for a delicious meal, it’s more than worth it.



Need to know

  • Eurostar tickets from London St Pancras to Amsterdam Centraal start from £63 one way in April.
  • Rooms at YOTEL Amsterdam Noord start from £130 a night.
  • Admission to the Rijksmuseum: €22.50, but free for ages 18 and under.
  • Admission to the Sex Museum: €9.

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