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How Barcelona grew on us

When we first arrived in Barcelona we hated it. Slowly the city grew on us as we remembered how we prefer to travel.

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Mercat de la Boqueria

Everyone we had talked to before we arrived in Barcelona couldn’t stop raving about it. After two months of travel in Italy and Spain we thought it would be a great way to wrap up our summer travel.

Barcelona panorama

What we hadn’t counted on was that we might not enjoy our time there.

The problem was that we were buggered. We had forgotten how hard travelling can be. Living out of a backpack everyday and being on the go is freaking hard. By the time we arrived in Barcelona we were actually looking forward to our return to Edinburgh for a bit of rest and catching up on things we had been neglecting.

Not only were we exhausted but we had also chosen to visit during the height of the silly summer tourist season. The crowds were ridiculous, pick-pocketers created paranoia, the heat was unbearable and the prices were mind boggling. I’m still not sure how booze can double and even triple in price from the west to east coast of Spain.

Wine in Barcelona

On our first day after only 2 hours on the streets of Barcelona we had already given up and retired back to our Wimdu accommodation. We didn’t know what to do. We still had 3 days left and we weren’t keen to get out there again.

We realised that we were sick of being tourists!

We had visited the tourist hot spots like Parc Gaudi but we didn’t want to be surrounded by others with no room to think. We didn’t know what to do.

Waking on the last morning with a grimace we decided to give Barcelona one last chance. After hearing that the local  farmers market, Mercat de la Boqueria, was very good and considering we love visiting local markets we couldn’t miss them.

Ignoring the crowds near the entrance we elbowed our way in. Suddenly our mood changed. We felt at ease again.

Mercat de la Boqueria

The mouthwatering smells wafting from the different stalls dragged us deeper into the gloom. Fresh produce filled the trays around us and we could browse to our hearts content.

We filled our growling bellies with a huge vegan falafel salad. Slurped down one of the many colourful freshly squeezed juices and we began to feel revived.

Falafel salad Barcelona

Our five senses had been reawakened and our passion for travel was slowly rekindled. We actually wanted to explore Barcelona. We wanted to find things to do in this city that we actually wanted to see. Not be trapped on the horribly crowded La Rambla street.

To find the hidden spots we needed to discover Barcelona’s hidden pulse. And in our opinion the best way to explore the different layers of a city (apart from reading our travel blog of course) is by joining a walking tour. After joining the Travel Bar free walking tour we can highly recommend them as well. Just make sure that at the end of you tip the guide what you think the tour is worth.

Winding through the narrow alleyways of the Gothic Quarter with our small tour group we were treated to stories of terror, love, sorrow and joy. We saw and heard things that we would never have found ourselves.

Did you know there are Roman ruins hidden in someones courtyard in the heart of Barcelona?

Roman ruins Barcelona

Instead of going with the tourist hordes or even battling against the unrelenting waves of tour buses spewing their cargo onto the streets of Barcelona we needed to get away from them completely.

Switching gears, quite literally, we headed to the beachfront on a pair of hire bikes. Cycling along the waterfront with ice creams in hand with the salty breeze whipping back our hair is how we prefer to travel. We don’t like being squeezed in to the middle of sweaty crowds on busy streets.

With hundreds of kilometers of dedicated cycle tracks around Barcelona, cycling is the perfect way to move quickly across the city. It allows you time to chill out at your destination rather than snapping the compulsory photos and moving on.

Cycling Barcelona

The final tick for Barcelona came from a last minute decision to join a paella cooking class. We love Spanish food so learning to cook one of our favourite dishes in Spain seemed like the perfect end to our few days in Barcelona.

Making our own sangria and eating piles of traditional seafood paella still hot from the dish will be remembered fondly for many years to come.

Paella cooking class Barcelona

After a month of travelling in small towns in Spain we had somehow forgotten how we like to travel in cities. Because of this we nearly gave up on Barcelona. But by remembering what we enjoy and how we like to travel we actually would return to Barcelona if we get the chance again.

Have you been to Barcelona? Did you enjoy it?

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Trudy Florence

    August 8, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    That walking tour and the cooking class were 2 of my favourite things in Barca, also getting completely lost in the Gothic Quarter, we stayed away from Las Ramblas as much as possible, it is the worst! Also insanely expensive. There is another market over near the Gothic Quarter that I enjoyed a lot more, NO english and amazing food – perfect!

    • Cole Burmester

      August 8, 2012 at 1:31 PM

      The other market you are thinking of is probably Mercat de la Santa Caterina. We went there right as they were closing so missed out on trying the food unfortunately. Hated the crowds but glad we escaped them in a few places.

  2. Angela

    August 8, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    Glad at the end you found the way to enjoy Barcelona. I’ve been there only a day and a half on a flight stopover and really liked it. I was coming back from Andalucia though, where prices were definitely lower. Spot-on making it to La Boqueria, it’s never disappointing 😉

    • Cole Burmester

      August 8, 2012 at 1:32 PM

      La Boqueria was fantastic. We went the first time then returned every single day buying at least 2 juices a day haha.

  3. Sam

    August 9, 2012 at 9:38 PM

    Glad you found your way to enjoy Barcelona, I would like to go back myself – after all I only got to spend a rushed day and one night there, but the festival of Saint Joan was an experience – fireworks banging and popping from everywhere, never experienced anything quite like it. Bombfires on the beach. Never seen a place so alive at so late at night.

    • Cole Burmester

      August 13, 2012 at 12:40 PM

      Spanish festivals in general are absolutely crazy! Not sure I would go back unless it was the off-season. Way too many people for my liking.

  4. Carla

    August 9, 2012 at 10:30 PM

    I’m glad you enjoyed Barcelona. I live 45 minutes from the city and i enjoy everytime i go there, but i highly recommend to visit nearby towns that are fantastic like Sitges! Anyway, when you’re a tourist, las ramblas is a place to see once and never go back unless you love crowds!
    good thing you visited Park Güell, probably the city council is going to make us pay for it from september on:S

    • Cole Burmester

      August 13, 2012 at 12:51 PM

      That is crazy that they will make you pay for it. Maybe if you live there (or nearby) you will get in for free? Definitely coming back to Spain as we loved the rest of the small towns and cities.

  5. Callie

    August 9, 2012 at 11:44 PM

    I’m glad it grew on you – I love it! I think it’s such a great place to wander, and some of the festivals they have are unreal.

    • Cole Burmester

      August 13, 2012 at 12:52 PM

      We missed the festivals in Barcelona but in general Spain has some fantastic ones! We went to the San Fermin one in Pamplona this year. Mental!

  6. Carla

    August 13, 2012 at 11:03 PM

    We don’t know yet how they’re planning to do it, but since i live outside the city i will probably have to pay. hopefully it won’t be that much, and it’s not like i go every week so…
    As Callie says, festivals in Spain are awesome!:)

  7. Jo

    August 19, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    Hi Cole,

    I know the hard work travelling feeling only too well! Those back home just don’t understand!

    We too, need to give Barcelona another chance. We were there in the silly season, made even sillier by the Barca winning some futbol match – they screamed, tooted horns and played loud music ALL night for 2 nights. Our apartment cleverly absorbed ever sound. No sleep and being a little less that observant saw me fall prey to thugs in Las Ramblas…one day we will give her another chance

    • Cole Burmester

      August 21, 2012 at 9:55 AM

      Thanks for dropping by Jo.

      That is such a shame that you ran into some thugs. I hate how incidents like that can ruin your whole perspective on travelling to various places. We managed to find some parts of Barcelona that we loved at least!

  8. Jessica

    August 26, 2012 at 12:02 AM

    Parc Guell is by far my favorite park in the world! is just amazing! I love Barcelona but hate how crowd it gets. Where did you take the cooking class??

    • Cole Burmester

      August 29, 2012 at 8:32 AM

      The cooking class was run by the Travel Bar (the link in the post will take you there). Really fun and definitely worth checking out.

  9. Christina

    August 29, 2012 at 9:28 PM

    I’m glad that Barcelona did grow on you in the end. I love Parc Guell! I didn’t try any markets when I was there, but I just loved wandering around, doing some shopping, going out with my friend at night. And the big bus tour, as Barcelona is quite big actually, so that I could give my feet a rest!

  10. Aggy

    September 2, 2012 at 12:31 AM

    I know the feeling of being tired especially with the intense summer heat, I had that whilst in Rome. But I’m glad you enjoyed Barcelona at the end. It’s my first time here today and had an extremely slow and lazy day with picnic at the Montjuic castle, I have to say that I love love Barcelona 🙂

  11. Laurence

    October 5, 2012 at 1:15 PM

    I loved Barcelona, but have to agree, it’s a busy city. We visited in April, and the tourist hotspots were crazy busy even then. We had to leave Parc Guell fairly quickly because the crowds were just too much to make it an enjoyable experience. The beach is always a great way to escape – and it was practically deserted during our unseasonably cool visit – which was nice! Pleased you had a good time in the end 😀

  12. Caanan @ No Vacation Required

    October 5, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    Barcelona is one of those weird cities that didn’t really resonate with us until our third visit. Once we “got” it, we couldn’t get enough. Despite having our iPhone stolen in the subway, I would return in a heartbeat.

    • Cole Burmester

      October 5, 2012 at 6:06 PM

      We obviously need to get back. It is like London I think, in that it slowly gets under your skin, and then you cannot get rid of it haha.

  13. Jade - Ouroyster.com

    October 8, 2012 at 1:23 AM

    I love Barcelona when I visisted but I was with a big group who was just on a city break from studying – which definitely puts you in a different travel mind set. The markets are great though – we got so many cheap and delicious meals there

    • Cole Burmester

      October 8, 2012 at 9:05 AM

      We drank so many of those juices at the market! So tasty and nice on a hot day. I think we will have to give Barcelona a second chance sometime.

  14. Lillie - @WorldLillie

    October 12, 2012 at 3:25 AM

    Ahh, I relate so much to this! Well done!

    • Cole Burmester

      October 12, 2012 at 9:32 AM

      Cheers Lillie. We might have to head back and really get under its skin to see if we end of loving it completely.

  15. Abby

    October 12, 2012 at 9:47 PM

    I’m obsessed with Barcelona — but I also met her in a very different way! Isn’t it amazing what a market and wandering can do. This was a good reminder that sometimes it’s best to give ourselves a break and just go have a beer or something. I hope you made it back to Edinburgh!

    • Cole Burmester

      October 13, 2012 at 9:18 AM

      Back in Edinburgh, but we do miss the sunny weather of Barcelona! Nothing like a good food experience to cheer us up 🙂

  16. Stephanie - The Travel Chica

    October 14, 2012 at 4:19 AM

    I would LOVE to learn to make paella!

    • Cole Burmester

      October 14, 2012 at 11:26 AM

      We have done two courses now, and I still suck haha.

  17. Ali

    October 17, 2012 at 6:34 PM

    Timing can play such a big part in why you like or don’t like a place. If you’re tired and experiencing travel burn-out, it could easily change how you view your next destination. I’m glad you were able to find a few things you liked about Barcelona though. We enjoyed being there in August despite the heat because we decided to not worry about being tourists.

    • Cole Burmester

      October 18, 2012 at 1:39 PM

      Once we figured out that we didn’t want to be tourists then it definitely worked in our favour. Just took it slow and relaxed. Turned out not too bad in the end 🙂

  18. Liz

    December 4, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    Barcelona is crazy in the summer…uff. It’s a great city, but I’ve never fallen in love with it like a lot of people seem to. No doubt it’s beautiful, but there’s so many tourists. The best time I had was when I met with a friend and he took me to a tiny plaza with tons of young people drinking. Bought beer from a guy selling them on the street and enjoyed the night!

  19. Petra

    December 16, 2013 at 3:08 AM

    I wish I had read this post before I visited Barcelona! I only had one day there but unfortunately didn’t get past the tourist traps and therefore didn’t overly enjoy my time there.

  20. Wesley R. Mullen

    January 8, 2015 at 11:57 AM

    Barcelona is a beautiful city, but I’ll never go there again. ten minutes after arriving there, my suitcase was stolen with all of my possessions, leaving me with the clothes on my back and (fortunately) my passport. Paranoia traveled with me the rest of the week.
    BTW, I went in September, 2014, and yes, you now have to pay to enter Park Guell.

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Adventure Travel

Walking the Camino de Santiago Photos

These are my favourite Camino de Santiago Photos from my pilgrimage along the French Way in March. A truly beautiful way to spend a few weeks.

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Puenta La Reina Bridge Camino Arrow

El Camino de Santiago kicked my ass. Well technically it kicked my feet. Turns out my minimal preparation for the Camino de Santiago was terrible. After a miserable effort of only 4 days, the doctor in Legrono told me that I wasn’t allowed to go on until me feet healed. I had walked just over 100 km’s and my feet were bloodied and blistered.

To be honest, I was relieved.

The thought of putting back on my shoes made my shudder. For the last 9 km’s I had stumbled along in jandals and socks. One of the travelling fashion sins I vowed I would never break.

Jandals on the Camino de Santiago

Jandals on the Camino de Santiago

So while I have unfinished business with the Way of St James (an upcoming post), I did want to share with you some of my favourite photos from the Camino de Santiago. Because I had yet to reach some of the more “unsavoury” parts of the Camino that Sherry Ott had discovered, every step of my pilgrimage had been beautiful.

Puenta La Reina Bridge Camino Arrow

Puenta La Reina Bridge – Camino de Santiago Arrows

There is no way you can get lost on the Camino de Santiago. Arrows, scallop shells and signs point you in the right direction at every bridge, road crossing and intersection.

Camino de Santiago Scallop Shell

Camino de Santiago Scallop Shell

Reaching the top of Alto Pedron gave views back the way I had come from Pamplona, as well as views to where I was going. The rocky path on the way down proved to be my ultimate downfall, as my too small shoes caused my toes to smash into the front.

Alto del Pedron Camino de Santiago

Alto del Pedron Camino de Santiago

Metal Pilgrims on Alto del Pedron

Metal Pilgrims on Alto del Pedron

There were so many beautiful old churches along the Camino de Santiago. But since I was walking in early March, it seemed that most were yet to open for the busier summer season.

Church of Obanos

The Church of Obanos

And between every small village the well-maintained pathways of the French Way wound across the spectacular Spanish countryside.

The French Way - Camino de Santiago

The French Way – Camino de Santiago Photos

Puenta La Reina

Puenta La Reina in the evening

Puenta La Reina has one of the most amazing bridges I have ever seen. It was also the 1st village I had the pleasure of sleeping in after busy Pamplona.

Puenta la Reina Bridge and Sunrise

Puenta la Reina Bridge at sunrise

Most mornings I was up and walking before the sun began to sprinkle across the horizon.

Spring flowers on the Camino de Santiago

Spring flowers on the Camino de Santiago

Pilgrims approaching Cirauqui, Spain

Pilgrims approaching Cirauqui, Spain

Every village and town was built on a small hill. Sure it looks beautiful until you realise you have to go back up again to go through them all!

Church of Santa Maria - Los Arcos

Church of Santa Maria in Los Arcos

While there were only about 20 pilgrims walking each section every day, it wasn’t uncommon for you to encounter them all. The people I met along the Camino de Santiago were some of the most inspiring and remarkable people I have ever spoken to. They are the ones that make the pilrgimage so special.

The endless French Way

The endless French Way

Irache Wine Fountain - Fuente del Vino

The free flowing Irache Wine Fountain or “Fuente del Vino”

Hay bales along the French Way

Hay bales along the French Way

Every village had at least one ancient church and it wasn’t uncommon to find them dotting the landscape in remote locations either.

Ermita de San Miguel

Ermita de San Miguel

Iglesia de San Andrés de Zariquiegui Church

Iglesia de San Andrés de Zariquiegui Church

I have travelled through Spain in the past, including cycling in Costa Brava and surfing in San Sebastian with both independent planning and a vacation planner. But having the opportunity to walk at my own pace through some of the most beautiful scenery in Spain on the Camino de Santiago has so far topped them all.

Natural arches - Camino de Santiago

Natural arches on the Camino de Santiago

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Adventure Travel

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

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Trekking through the valleys of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys with Middle Earth Travel feels more like the set of a Star Wars movie than a historical region once carved out and lived in by humans. Churches, homes and pigeon houses are scattered throughout the valleys, all waiting to be explored. The best part is, Middle Earth Travel know all the hidden secrets.

Standing at the top of Cappadocia

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

On the 26th of July (which just so happens to be my birthday!) Middle Earth Travel took us on their private and guided Top of Cappadocia day trek. From Pasabag, along the top of Cappadocia and down through the Gulludere Rose Valley to Goreme, we trekked 15kms in one day! (We recommend getting your bearings with this map)

Upon arrival to the Middle Earth Offices, we were warmly greeted by our new friend Atil whom we had met a few days earlier while mountain biking through the Kizilcukur Red Valley. We were then introduced to our guide and given a briefing regarding the day. Normally, the Top of Cappadocia tour would start from Çavuşin, however, since we had already explored Çavuşin Castle, they adapted our tour to compensate ensuring we would explore new terrain!

With charged cameras, plenty of water and our running shoes on, we were driven to our starting point of Pasabag. We wandered through the fairy chimneys, coming across camels and markets – then the true hike began.

Pasabag in Cappadocia

The police station in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

It was a slow and gentle incline. With no trees to provide shade, I quickly realised why our tour guide had chosen to wear fully covered clothing! As the sweat quickly set in (a waterfall in Moss’s case) we snapped away with our cameras and enjoyed the entertaining shapes of Imagine Valley and the amazing view. We also passed a lot of rock piles, which according to our guide mean ‘father’ and are built to help lead the way.

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Middle Earth Travel, Cappadocia

Making our way to the top of Cappadocia

Father leading the way (rock pile)

Father leading the way (rock pile)

The higher we trekked, the more breath taking the views became! As we walked along the summit of Bozdag mountain (the Top of Cappadocia) we could see EVERTHING – Pasabag, Çavuşin Castle, Kizilcukur Red Valley, Gulludere Rose Valley and Goreme. We were on the Father of Valleys! After a quick nod of agreement to the guide, we pushed ourselves the extra distance and made our way to the flag, as this HAD to be the highest point and was definitely worth a photo and a selfie or two!

View from the top of Cappadocia

View from the top of Cappadocia

Flag at top of Cappadocia

From the flag we looked down upon Aktepe Hill which is known as a popular destination for watching the sun set and could spot Kizilvadi Restaurant, our destination for lunch! Kizilvadi Restaurant is an attraction of its own. With its own historic winery and Grape church, plus some Middle Earth Travel treks even stay there for the night! After having a massive feed of soup, salad and pasta plus a surprise birthday cake, we made our way down into Gulludere Rose Valley.

Kizilvadi Restaurant

Kizilvadi Restaurant

The scenery is amazing, with strong colours visible in perfect layers on the chimneys, you would wonder what an artist was thinking, had it been a painting. Also, hidden to the side of the track we walked across a little bridge and not expecting anything to be there we were wowed by the massive church carved. It was absolutely huge and hard to believe that its most recent use has been as a pigeon house!

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Church in Gulludere Rose Valley

Hard to believe this Church is carved inside a fairy chimney!

Middle Earth Travel Review

  • The team at Middle Earth Travel were extremely knowledgeable and certainly know Cappadocia’s hidden secrets. They have friendships with local tea garden owners which is also of benefit as it gained us entry to locked churches and hidden rooms that we would not have otherwise seen.
  • We covered a lot of ground, however we did not feel rushed. The whole day focused on showing us the region, therefore we had as much time as we needed to explore each church and to take ‘just one more photo’.
  • It wasn’t all about trekking. With a whole day and 15kms to cover, there were a few silly poses (especially in Imagine Valley), and we learnt a lot about the myths, legends and way of life in Cappadocia.
  • In conclusion I highly recommend Middle Earth Travel if you wish to go trekking or mountain biking in Cappadocia.
  • Cost: Day treks with Middle Earth Travel range from 50-90 euro, depending on the number of people taking part. This includes lunch, guide, vehicle transfers and entrance fees to historical sites, but excludes alcoholic and soft drinks.
  • Middle Earth Travel are outdoor enthusiasts and offer multi-day over night treks, mountain biking, abseiling, or custom made itineraries, in multiple regions throughout Turkey.
  • www.middleearthtravel.com

Disclaimer: We were provided with a discount for the trek with Middle Earth Travel, however, as always our thoughts on our adventure travel blog our own.

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Europe

Amsterdam Food Guide

If you think of Amsterdam you don’t think of food. However if you try the food here in our Amsterdam food guide you might get lucky.

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Amsterdam Food Waffles

We are total foodies and our travelling has allowed our passion for food to grow considerably (not to mention our waist lines)!  We love trying new food when we visit foreign countries and always make a huge effort to eat the local cuisine. Check out some of the food we ate below in our cheap and delicious Amsterdam Food Guide.

Amsterdam Food Waffles

We had heard from a number of people that the Amsterdam food was nothing to rave about. To be honest food was not really our main interest in visiting but then again neither was an Amsterdam Peep show and we ended up enjoying that!

However we were pleasantly surprised. I think the people whom we had talked to had it wrong. Sure Holland doesn’t really have a local cuisine but once we got over this fact we realised there is still some damn good food to be had from the various Amsterdam Restaurants.

Amsterdam Food

The best meal we had was actually next door to the Red Light district in Chinatown. Crossing the canal to the east away from the neon lights your nostrils are attacked and your mouth begins salivating from the delicious smells wafting along the narrow cobbled streets.

As we walked into Bird Thai restaurant the enticing aroma hit us instantly leaving us drooling in anticipation. It was definitely up there with some of the best Thai food we have had. We went for the classic Green curry, fried rice and duck combo.

The Green curry was so flavoursome with the richness of the coconut milk blending perfectly with the traditional spices.  The duck was cooked to perfection and for the first few minutes of the meal all you could hear was the crunching of the crispy outside layer as we devoured the duck in minutes. Needless to say the fried rice was a taste explosion too!

Cheap and delicious Amsterdam food is easy to come by. With hangovers and munchies affecting your hunger it is no surprise that there are an abundance of Fast Food chains and takeaways in Amsterdam. In fact it was actually more the way that the fast food was served that surprised us as you could buy it out of massive vending machines at Febo!

Amsterdam Food Febo

Hidden workers stand behind the vending machines churning out burgers, fries and sausage rolls so all you has to do is insert a Euro and “hey presto” you have a hot meal in your hungry hands.

Then there were the frites stores which seemed to be on every corner. The first thing you noticed about these was the tantalising smell. There is nothing like the smell of chips straight out of the fryer and covered in salt to get you tummy rumbling. Served in a triangle cardboard carton and covered in mayo which meant that that you couldn’t reach the chips at the bottom without covering your greedy fingers in sauce. Just a tad annoying!

But there is nothing like hot chips to warm you up on a cold day.

Finally, while hot chocolates are not typically food I feel they still deserve a mention especially because the usually come paired with waffles! Ahhhh the perfect breakfast.

Amsterdam Hot Chocolate

We loved nipping into a cafe or bar like Cafe Bar Eddy in Amsterdam to warm ourselves up with a hot chocolate. It literally tasted like they had melted chocolate down and added cream. Heaven in a cup. And the choice of waffles was daunting as you could have whatever you wanted. Fruit, chocolate, syrups, cream or all of the above!

If you are heading here then don’t expect to find an array of traditional Amsterdam food. Instead treat yourself to a hot chocolate and waffle for breakfast, grab a quick bite from a vending machine and sample some of the different cuisines found near the Red Light District.

If you stick to this Amsterdam food guide then your taste buds will have a great holiday too!

If you have visited before then what did you think of Amsterdam food?

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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