When my boyfriend and I visited Amsterdam recently I was lucky enough to be sent a guide from Marco Polo, which proved extremely useful on our trip!
This book may be pocket sized, but it’s crammed full of useful travel information, maps, things to do, dos and don’ts and walking tours. It’s split into useful sections for every kind of trip such as ‘In a Nutshell’, ‘Discovery Tours’, ‘Festivals and Events’ and ‘Travel with Kids’, and after many a night leading up to our trip spent thumbing through my new guide, I knew exactly which bits I couldn’t miss.
The ‘Insider Tips’ section was a great because it offers great insider info on everything from chocolate shops and cake to hostels and houseboats! My favourite was definitely the tip on where to find the best cheese though…
Our first time in Amsterdam meant seeking out the sights (and braving the tourist hotspots), but our Marco Polo guide had our back. Each district of the city is broken up into sections and the top spots are highlighted with a short blurb about each one, and every now and then there is a column entitled ‘Low Budget’ – extremely helpful when you splash most of your Euros on a lavish birthday meal on the first night…!
This trip was the birthday present my boyfriend and I gave ourselves and because it was special, we did splash out on a rather wonderful meal. I’d done a bit of research before our trip, but like any city there were too many restaurants to choose from and with no one to ask for advice I was getting a bit overwhelmed. But when I spotted the name of a restaurant I’d been eyeing in the Marco Polo guide’s ‘Food and Drink’ section, that was a good enough recommendation for me! De Silveren Speigel was a perfect fit and served the most amazing food – I wrote about it in a previous blog post if you want to check it out.
My absolute favourite part of the guide has to be the discovery tours. No need for crowded walking tours – these carefully thought out routes are tours you can do yourself with the book as your tour guide! Each has detailed information on where they start and end and how long they’ll take (with and without stops) so you can still plan your day efficiently to pack as much or as little in as possible. There’s also an app you can download which is super simple and leaves your hands free to take as many photos as you like!
We set off on the ‘Amsterdam for Foodies’ tour which it states should take about half a day (with all the stops at delectable looking shops!). One of the tips the book suggests is bringing a big appetite, which was definitely a good idea – starting at the train station you make 13 stops along the way at various different shops serving cheese, chocolate, cakes and coffee.
With detailed instructions keeping you on track, this tour not only brings you to the best producers in the city, but gives you a history lesson at the same time with facts on how merchants traded 700 years ago. We spent far too much money on cheese at Reypenaer and I would have loved to check out the tasting room, but unfortunately we didn’t have time. We also stopped off at Automatiek FEBO, an interesting fast food place where you select the freshly made hot snack you’d like from a huge vending machine. My boyfriend went for a meat croquette that we’d just seen be placed into the little box from the other side of the counter so we knew it had just been made!
While reading up on Amsterdam’s zoo in our Marco Polo guide, we also spotted a curious museum that we had to visit. Micropia is the world’s first microbe museum – odd, I know, but once you get up close with a few microscopes and start learning about what microbes do for us and the research the team are doing there, it’s actually really interesting. You get given a card to stamp as you go round once you’ve learned about each microbe and at the end you get to see on a big screen which microbes you’ve collected.
I’ve actually never owned a travel guide myself – I’ve just borrowed them from others or tried to download awful apps that never work. This Marco Polo guide has definitely shown me that city guides don’t have to be bulky or full of things I never find interesting. It’s crammed full of useful info and top tips and the maps are great – which is high praise indeed from an avid Google Maps user! I will definitely be looking to purchase another once I decide where my next trip will take me.
Have you ever bought a Marco Polo guide book? What are your thoughts?
My Marco Polo travel guide was complimentary for the purposes of review but all thoughts on it are my own!