Amsterdam: a cultural cocktail shaken up with one part urban panache, two parts history, and a dash of notoriety.A visit to Amsterdam is no fleeting romance. You’ll fall head-over-heels in love with the city’s striking blend of 17th Century architecture, contemporary cultural flair, scenic canals and cobblestone alleys.
There are works of art around every turn, from the masterpieces that fill the Rijksmuseum to the captivating canal houses of Grachtengordel.
Amsterdam has come a long way from its fishing village origins but still has a compact, quaint feel in the city centre. The laneways are ready to ramble and the locals are ready to talk. While away the hours in a traditional brown cafe (named for the wood panelling) and take the scenic route by bike or boat. It won't be hard, as more than 1,500 bridges criss-cross this so-called 'Venice of the North'.
Movie buffs should visit...
- Magere Brug (Diamonds Are Forever)
- Coffeeshop De Dampkring (Oceans Twelve)
- Delft (Girl With a Pearl Earring)
Amsterdam's attractions are numerous but it's arguably most famous for its extensive artistic heritage. This tradition is proudly on display in the Rijksmuseum (translates as State Museum). Once you've taken in all that has to offer, artists, history buffs and families shouldn't pass up the chance to visit the Van Gogh Museum – containing around 700 paintings and drawings by Vincent and his contemporaries, including Gauguin, Monet and Toulouse-Lautrec.
Amsterdam is also home to the Anne Frank Museum, where Anne hid with her family during the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands. On a lighter note, taking a canal cruise through its extensive waterways is a rewarding way to see the Dutch capital.
Art lovers get their kicks at...
- The Van Gogh Museum
- Museum het Rembrandthuis
Where to Eat and Drink
Cheese lovers love Amsterdam. You can find an excuse to eat cheese at any time of the day here. Gouda is Holland's favourite, developing a more intense flavour the longer it's aged. Find a selection at the markets, try a cheeseboard at dinner time, or just order cubes with mustard for dipping to accompany a drink. (By the way, Belgium isn't the only one around these parts to make fine beer; a host are made in Amsterdam.)
When you're hungry for non-cheese food groups, you'll find Michelin-starred restaurants, vegetarian and organic restaurants that accompany an array of global cuisine. For old-fashioned and modern Dutch food, try these Amsterdam restaurants: Moeders, Haesje Claes, Loetje, Greetje and De Silveren Spiegel.
Don’t leave without tasting...
- Patat (hot chips with toppings)
- Stroopwafel (waffle cookie)
- Chocomel (chocolate milk)
Looking for out-of-the-ordinary accommodation in Amsterdam? Try a stay on a houseboat – a floating hotel, fully equipped and well located for city exploration. If you're a female traveller and budget accommodation is on your list of things to find, Hostelle is a female-only property, 15 minutes from the city centre by train.
f you've got a hankering for luxury that's featured in a Hollywood movie, Hotel Pulitzer was in Oceans 12 and overlooks one of Amsterdam's prettiest canals. Or check in to the Hilton Amsterdam to be on the scene of former Beatle John Lennon and Yoko Ono's week-long stay in bed to promote world peace. Otherwise, you'll find all the usual budget to luxury hotels in Amsterdam. We recommend you book in advance - it's a popular town.
Amsterdam shopping includes the Nine Streets (De Negen Straatjes) – literally nine narrow streets, in the historic canal district – dotted with art galleries, jewellers, vintage stores and boutiques. The most exclusive shopping street is the P.C. Hooftstraat; art and old wares aficionados should go to the Mirror Quarter (Spiegelkwartier) a collection of more than 70 antique shops and galleries.
If you'd like to take Dutch design home with you, don't miss Frozen Fountain or for larger items, try Moooi. Are markets your style? Amsterdam's well-known flea market is on the Waterlooplein six days a week; the Singel flower market is beautiful; and the Sunday market at Westergasfabriek is fun for all.
Amsterdam like a Local
Do as the locals do and explore on two wheels, cycling around the Old Centre and through the rural farmland in the north, or see the city from a new perspective on a canal cruise. There were more than 800,000 bicycles in Amsterdam at last count and cyclists here don't stop for pedestrians – two-wheelers have right of way. Bike lanes are normally marked by red or purple tiles their colours wear, especially along canals.
When all the cycling or walking has wearied your feet, make like an Amsterdammer and check out the free classical concerts held at the stately Concertgebouw – a beautiful concert hall opened in 1888. Even if you're not into classical music, the architecture is worth admiring.
Raise your glasses at...
- Cafe Belguique
- Cafe Luxembourg
- Brouwerij ‘t IJ