Only an hour from the UK and with flights from many regional airports, Amsterdam is a perfect city break destination. As well as the frequent flights there is now a direct Eurostar service to Amsterdam from London.
Although there are a few remnants of Amsterdam’s druggy and sleazy past close to Dam Square this is a far-removed from the relaxed, picturesque and cultural city Amsterdam is today.
Amsterdam is actually one of our favourite cities in Europe if not THE favourite.
Getting to Amsterdam is quick, cheap and easy, staying there is not the cheapest. The hotel rooms in those pretty canal houses can be quite small and the prices have increased steadily over the years. On the plus side, this has helped reduce the number of stag and hen do’s. One of our favourite hotels is the Hotel Pulitzer as seen in the film ‘Ocean’s Twelve’
Visit The Museums
For the culture lovers, Amsterdam has an excellent variety of museums and galleries. We highly recommend a visit to The Van Gogh Museum. It houses the world’s largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s work and features many of the artist’s most famous pieces such as the Sunflowers.
Next to the Van Gogh museum is the Stedelijk Modern Art Museum which features an eclectic collection from a range of artists such as Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso.
In the same Museumplein area is the impressive Rijksmuseum, the Dutch national museum dedicated to the arts and history of Amsterdam and the Netherlands. They have a useful and informative App which helps guide you through the collections.
For children, the Nemo Museum is an excellent science museum and for the grown-ups, visit the Heineken Experience where you can find out about the history of the drink and also try a sample or two.
Take A Canal Cruise
One of the best ways to get a feel of Amsterdam and orientate yourselves without getting run over by a bike or tram is to take a canal cruise. From the viewpoint of a canal boat, you can clearly see the beautiful architecture of the bridges and narrow canal houses and often, their strange angles and ‘wonkiness‘.
It is also a great way to just relax and watch the world go by.
The canals are also home to the many pretty houseboats. In days gone by the poorest people used to live on the houseboats as they transported goods up and down the rivers and canals. Now, these trendy boats are very desirable and home to a hipster or two. They are also now worth as much as some of the local flats and houses.
You must experience the Febo vending machines. Looking like they’ve come straight out of a 1950’s sci-fi film as a bizarre vision of the future these machines dispense Dutch fast food best enjoyed when heavily intoxicated.
But don’t worry there’s more to Amsterdam food than greasy chips with mayonnaise. There are a number of cool organic cafes which sell delicious salads, juices, cakes and sandwiches. Why not try a piece of warm apple pie with ‘slagroom’ (whipped cream) whilst people watching in a pavement cafe.
Amsterdam is famous for Indonesian food due to their former link with the country, try an Indonesian rice table or Rijsttafel whilst visiting the city.
There is also a great sophisticated food scene in Amsterdam, with a number of upmarket and Michelin starred restaurants, for those who like their food stylish and refined.
Amsterdam At Night
Despite commenting on Amsterdam’s former reputation for drugs and sleaziness you still must take a walk around the famous The Red Light District known as ‘de Wallen’.
Although relatively safe during the day, watch out if you are going at night for the usual drunks and pickpockets.
Once you’ve got de Wallen with its stag and hen parties out of the way there are plenty of really good pubs and cocktail bars around the city where you can get a decent drink in relaxed surroundings.
It’s not all cheese and clogs although there are plenty of places to get these if you want.
Take a walk around the historic Negen Straatjes canal district, the area of the Nine Streets. This area of nine narrow streets has an interesting array of trendy independent shops and cafés.
Visit the floating flower market the Bloemenmarkt on the Singel Canal. Despite the increasing presence of ‘touristy souvenir tat’, there are still plenty of flower-covered stalls selling colourful bunches of tulips and bulbs. If time allows, visit on a sunny day to really appreciate the colours and the scent.
So these are our top 5 things to do in Amsterdam. Do you fancy visiting Amsterdam or if you have been, what are your recommendations?