My sister and I always talked about jetting off together, just the two of us. Opportunities came and went, yet we never managed to arrange anything. However, Emily turning 21 last December seemed like too good an occasion to be missed and I remembered a recent conversation where, over several G&T’s, we ‘joked’ about just ‘doing it’ - just booking flights and going! So, that’s what I did for her birthday.
We had both been to Amsterdam in 2016 with our other halves, so it was the perfect city to explore some more. Amsterdam would have an air of familiarity to it, yet with so much adventure still to uncover in those canal-lined streets. After coercing my wonderful husband into agreement, I started the search for flights. Flying to Amsterdam is so affordable – it’s a great place to visit on a budget!
Emily’s birthday arrived and we excitedly began to plan our holiday. Being both the eldest and a mummy made me feel a great deal of responsibility. Not only for keeping us both safe on our trip, but also for finding a cool place to stay. My husband had me staying on a house-boat during our stay in Amsterdam (read about it here – found on AirBnb) so I desperately wanted to find something unique, yet affordable for Emily and I. I searched and searched with no result for weeks on end. It can be so frustrating trying to find that one place that just goes ‘POP’ and you know it’s the place for you. Time was ticking by and the closer we got to February, the closer I got to throwing my laptop out the window!
Then, completely out of the blue, during a search that I’d done numerous times before, I came across ZOKU. I knew instantly that it was the place for us. As I clicked and scrolled through the website, I was convinced I’d hit the jackpot. It was more than I could have imagined. The graphics/photos/website ticked all the boxes: clean design, modern, unique and aesthetically pleasing. Even the location was spot on for where we had planned to visit. A bit giddy, I selected a loft, praying all the while that the price would be within our budget … and it was! I sent Emily the link along with some photos and we booked our stay. Obviously I downloaded the handy ZOKU APP for my iphone and followed their IG account!
On arrival we used Uber to get to from Central Station to the hotel and I remember going up in the lift, feeling a mix of excitement and nerves, hoping that Zoku lived up to my ridiculously high expectations. When we stepped out of the lift and onto the top floor I knew I had made the right decision. The hallway was a beautiful glass conservatory, lined with plants, filled with music and smelt of (I can’t even describe it to you) it just smelt…incredible, spa-like and floral – just heavenly. It was late and dark when we arrived and it felt truly magical as we made our way to the community space and arrival desk.
We were greeted by a lovely member of staff who gave us the low-down, checked us in, and gave us directions to our loft.
ZOKU offers 4 types of accommodation at the hotel:
- Zoku Loft
- Zoku Loft XL
- Zoku Room
- Zoku Bootstrap
Check their website for all the deets!
Emily and I stayed in a ZOKU Loft. Seriously, we were mesmerized from the moment we opened the door. So many neat storage ideas, gadgets and spaces to explore; Emily had the hidden staircase pulled out before I’d even got into the room and was up and cosy in the bed within seconds!
We were both starving so set off in search of some famous Amsterdam chips n' sauce cones! As you can see, it was after midnight by the time we found some! But, so, so worth it!
By the time we finally got back to the hotel, we were zonked. Thankfully, in the community area of the hotel, there is always a member of staff there to help, 24/7 - so we enjoyed some complimentary iced tea and toddled off to our cosy bed! But, not until we'd had a nosy round the community space. It's full of sectioned off areas, seats around tables, cosy nooks, games room, work room and even a corner full of on-the-go snacks and little travel essentials in case you forgot to pack something!
Our bed must have been comfy as neither of us woke up until lunchtime! It was a rest that we both needed, setting us up for another busy day in the Dam! It was a grey, misty start as we headed off in search of brunch. Zoku is within walking distance of all Amsterdam's main tourist streets. Emily and I walked our way round everything on this particular day.
We headed to the top floor of the Library for our brunch, before tackling some of the main street attractions ...
We had pre-booked our tickets for the Xtra Cold IceBar for 5pm. This, again, wasn't too much of a walking distance away. I actually really enjoyed the Icebar experience. You get a cocktail and x2 shots included in your ticket price (£16) and around 15/20 minutes in the actual Ice Bar itself. You get provided with gloves and a thermal coat, it gets pretty baltic the longer you're in there! The shot glasses are made from ice, so it's a pretty cool wee experience. Honestly, I don't think I'd go back though, it's the sort of thing that once you've done it, that's enough!
Next stop was Rotisserie West for food. My husband and I had visited Rotisserie East on our last visit for Valentines Day and absolutely loved the vibe - full of locals and the food was superb! As Emily and I were eating so early, it was quiet when we arrived, but by the time we were leaving, the place was buzzing!
Then, like two wee grannies, after a busy day, we pottered back to Zoku for board games, cocktails and hot chocolate! No wild Amsterdam night for us!
On our final morning we took the opportunity to get a few photos of our loft in daylight. Both Emily and I thought the whole hotel was class, especially the bed in our loft. Being up high and enclosed away from the world in a cosy nook was just the ticket for a great night's sleep! I particularly liked the usb port and pouch on the headrest - genius! If anyone had seen us when we arrived, the 2 of us squealing every time we opened a drawer or found something neat!
Zoku is without doubt, one of the coolest hotels I've ever stayed in. I loved absolutely everything about it, the only negative was having to leave! Thankfully they have plans to roll out the hotel across Europe and the US - devastated that NYC isn't ready as Matt and I head there in Feb (still without somewhere to stay!!)
After saying sad goodbyes to Zoku, we made tracks back to the main street for breakfast. After croissants and coffee we went in search of bicycle hire and tentatively began to cycle towards Amsterdam's famous Vondlepark. I honestly don't think I've ever been so scared in my life. Between cars, trams, crazy local cyclists and tourist pedestrians - the cycling experience pre-Vondlepark was quite terrifying! Seriously bonkers! Wearing a dungaree-dress that day was definitely a mistake! Trying to learn how to back-pedal brake is no easy feat, especially in a tight skirt haha!! Once I mastered the art of braking I was in my element, especially when we made it to Vondlepark (still don't actually know how we managed to navigate ourselves to the right place!!) At one stage, when we were literally seconds away from returning the bikes, I turned up a one-way street (the wrong way) and nearly wet myself as I tried to turn around, in the middle of total chaos!! Some craic!
Our last activity before hot-footing it back to the airport was to take the free ferry out to the A'Dam Lookout Tower. Matt and I had been across on the ferry on our last visit, but the Lookout Tower was only being built at that stage - we did the Eye Film Institute that time.
At the top of the Lookout Tower you enjoy a 360° panoramic view of the city and if you're brave enough to try the swing, it swings you out over the top of the tower! I was surprisingly nervous and because we queued for so long, the nerves had plenty of time to grow! But, what an experience ... especially to share with my sis. The feeling was incredible ... swinging out over the whole of Amsterdam. A must do if you get the chance!
What a way to end our sister city break! Actually a little bit emotional after going through our pics from the trip. I am so grateful to have a sister, especially a sister like Ems. This was the perfect getaway for us both.
A great city.
A cool hotel.
The BEST company.