With the four-day Easter weekend looming, we were trying to decide on a city to visit. “There’s a sleeper train to Amsterdam!” the Snook offered. That settled it. Amsterdam had long been on our list of cities to visit (I have a bucket list goal of hitting every one mentioned in Paul Kelly’s ode to Aussies in Europe), and I’ve always wanted to ride in a sleeper train. Time to visit the Netherlands!


The train – and I am not kidding – is the NightJet NJ420 from Innsbruck to Amsterdam. It has normal carriage cars, and then a couple in the middle that are the sleepers (“Schlafwagens”).


We were greeted by a porter who led us down a very narrow hallway to our cabin.

Our cabin

It was about 10:30pm when we boarded the train in Munich, so the porter had already set it up for sleeping. There were two bunks, but theoretically there’s a third one that can fold down if needed.

Picking our breakfast options

Can you tell how excited I am? The first thing we needed to do was select our options for breakfast in the morning and give the bits of paper to the porter.


There is a tiny sink crammed into the corner where you could clean your teeth, but the bathroom was a shared one down the carriage. (Unfortunately there was a problem with the water on this journey, so the sink wasn’t working.)


The train pulled out of Munich, and we kicked off our shoes to relax a bit. There was a bag on each bunk with slippers, a bottle of water, a snack, and some sparkling wine. The Snook had also cleverly brought a couple mini bottles of Schnapps…


Prost! We eventually decided it was time to go to sleep. I claimed the bottom bunk so the Snook clambered up the ladder to his berth.


In terms of sleeping comfort, the bunks were just long enough that I could stretch out (I’m 5’10”, 178cm) but anybody taller would be a little cramped. The mattresses weren’t super thick, but for me the bigger issue was the pillows were very, very thin. Still, I did eventually fall asleep. The train does make a few stops during the night and the carriages aren’t soundproof, but I had my headphones playing white noise and it didn’t bother me. The biggest challenge was that since we were lying perpendicular to the train’s movement, whenever it would brake or accelerate you’d feel it. (That’s why the upper bunk has a net, to keep the Snook from rolling right out onto the floor!) Still, the sleeper was nicer than I expected and I definitely got more sleep than I ever have on a long haul flight.


In the morning we opened the window to find ourselves rolling through the Dutch countryside. The porter came by to help us fold up the beds and fold down a table for our breakfast.

We pulled into Amsterdam at 10:30am, blinking in the sunlight and still wearing yesterday’s clothes. Time to find our hotel…

Amsterdam Hbf

We had left the booking until pretty late so the only place we could get a room was the fancy Marriott W. It wasn’t too far so we had a 15min walk through Amsterdam to get there. It’s actually two buildings across the street from each other, and we were in the “Exchange” building. Reception is up at the roof level, and there’s a pretty spectacular view from the terrace.

Royal Palace

The building on the right there is the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, and the brick one on the left is the Magna Plaza, formerly the main post office of Amsterdam and now a shopping mall.


That’s the view up Raadhuisstraat, which crosses several canals. You can see the Westerkerk church spire in the distance.

On the roof terrace

Our room wasn’t ready yet so we made our plans to explore the city. We decided to skip the museums and cannabis cafes on this trip, instead spending as much time as possible outside in the glorious Spring weather.

Royal Palace

The Royal Palace from ground level. It was originally built as the Town Hall of Amsterdam but was converted into a palace in the 19th century. It’s where Queen Beatrix was announced to the Dutch people in 1980.

Dam Square

Here’s the Snook in Dam Square, one of the most well-known spots in the city. That’s the National Monument in the distance.

Beurs van Berlage

This is the Beurs van Berlage building, which the Snook really liked. I think it was the clock.

Oude Kerk

This is the Oude Kerk (“Old Church”), Amsterdam’s oldest building. Rembrandt was a frequent visitor to the Oude Kerk and his children were all christened here.


Canal!! This is the view from the Oudekerksbrug (“Old Church Bridge”).

More canal!

This is looking north towards the Basilica of Saint Nicholas, the city’s primary Catholic Church.


I was entranced by the canals of Amsterdam. There are more than 100km of them (62mi), with 1500 bridges in the city.

Cheese at the market

You know what else I was entranced by? CHEESE.

View from Blauwbrug

This is actually the Amstel river as seen from the Blauwbrug (“Blue Bridge”). There are a LOT of houseboats in Amsterdam. There were also a lot of river cruises going up and down the river and canals too.

Van Holland Stroopwafels

We walked up the Kalverstraat, Amsterdam’s main shopping street. (Fun trivia: it’s the most expensive property on Dutch Monopoly!) There was a queue out the door at Van Holland Stroopwafels, and we made a mental note to come back later for treats.

Lego Store

The LEGO Store had a massive working windmill in the window!

More canals

More canal action! Everybody was out enjoying the Easter weekend Spring weather.


Get ready – you’re going to see a lot of tulips! There were blooming planters all over the city.

After lunch, we headed back to our hotel for a nap and shower. Then it was time to go out and meet my Amazonian colleague Anshu!

Us and Anshu

Anshu moved from Melbourne last year, so he volunteered to show us around Amsterdam. The first place he took us was Wynand Fockink, a distillery tasting room straight out of the 17th century.

We stood in the crowd and waited our turn to get to the front. They had more than 50 different liqueurs, including jenever (the Dutch precursor to gin). The attendant explained all about jenever to us and gave us a taste, and then we picked out a couple brandies to try. (I went with cherry; the Snook with sloe.) The tiny glasses are filled right up to the brim, and you’re meant to bow down to slurp the first sip out of them. Fun!


Our next stop was a Dutch craft beer bar called the Arendsnest, along one of the canals. We sat outside and enjoyed some excellent brews as the sun got lower in the sky.


Our final stop of the night was Bierfabriek Amsterdam, a brewery and restaurant right in the city. It was crowded by they found us a table tucked in the corner. Their specialty is “rustic slow roasted French farm chicken,” and who could resist that?

We said our goodbyes to Anshu and headed back to the hotel to rest up ahead of a very big Easter Sunday…

Read more →