Amsterdam is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It seems like there are always new, interesting, stylish cultural locations or neighborhoods evolving, which are just as good as the historic center of town with it’s canals and old houses. In summer you can cruise around the many canals in small, rented boats, go to a festival or to the beach close by. But Amsterdam is also lovely in winter when you can admire the Christmas lights in the old streets and snuggle up with a hot chocolate in one of the sweet cafes.
Things to do
The area around the Westergasfabriek was turned into a fantastic park and cultural hotspot, where you find many bars and cafes, the Conscious Hotel and many areas to relax.
Amsterdam is famous for its world class museums. The most famous are the Rijksmuseum, which also has a great sculpture garden that you can visit for free, and the Anne Frank Huis where you always have to expect a long queue. Interesting are also the Stedelijk Museum for modern art, the film museum Eye in a fantastic architectural building and the Huis Marseille for photography. Around the Museumplein you also find the Moco Museum which focuses on contemporary and street art, as well as the Van Gogh Museum. Beautiful are also the Tropenmuseum and the botanical gardens Hortus Botanicus. Wether you’re interested in bags or not, you should also visit the Tassenmuseum, which is located in a beautiful historic canal house with a garden and a lovely tea room.
There is also a lot of street art to explore around the city, like the huge Keith Haring Mural, which was recently uncovered on a building which now is part of the central market and can be seen from across the canal.
On a warm day it’s great to rent a boat, for example with Boats4rent, and drive around the canals. You don’t need a boat license, just watch out for the bigger tourist cruises on the water.
There are many festivals around Amsterdam all year round, for example King’s Day in April, the free Uitmarkt in August, Vondelpark festival, Lente Kabinet, Dekmantel festival and the Light Festival in winter.
If you would like to see a movie, cool cinemas Fc Hyena and De Baile are great locations with interesting programs.
In summer, it’s lovely to take the car or the train to the posh town Bloemendaal an Zee or to Zandvoort and spend a day at the beach. You can be there in only half an hour, however you should go early as it can get very crowed.
Of course, Amsterdam is also famous for its (techno) clubs like Melkweg, Paradiso, De School, Shelter and De Marktkantine.
For breakfast and brunch: Scandinavian Embassy serves stylish, homemade cakes, eggs and porridge, besides great coffee. Dignita Hoftuin is located in a beautiful small park with their own vegetable garden. Bakkerswinkel has several locations, the one at Westerpark is especially nice and their scones are perfect. The interior of Kanarie Club is worth a visit alone, as it is located in an old tram depot. Other cool brunch spots are the stylish Coffee & Coconuts, Benjis, Pluk, Bakers & Roasters and Drovers Dog.
For a flat white: There are countless adorable cafes like Toki, Bar Botanique, NewWerktheater, Badhuis Javaplein, or Winkel 43 and Cafe ‘t Sluisje where you also get the most delicious dutch apple cake.
For freshly roasted coffee: Visit the coffee experts at Friedhats, White Label Coffee, Lot Sixty One or Rum Baba.
For dinner: The food at De Wilde Zwijnen is so delicious and the restaurant has a great relaxed, neighborhood atmosphere. Buffet van Odette serves simple, good food and has a lovely, light interior. For amazing over-the-top, pink interior and delicious roast chicken go to Mama Kelly. A truly enchanted place is De Plantage, located in the Zoo in an old, beautiful building where you can also sit outside under trees full of lights right next to the flamingos. Sitting here feels like being in a romantic movie scene.
Restaurant de Kas is located in a lovely greenhouse and cooks with products from its own garden, you should reserve a table in advance. Another exceptional restaurant is Vuurtoreneiland, located on a small island where you can go by boat only, also book well in advance. There is also REM island, a restaurant in an old broadcast platform on the water. Other restaurants to try that focus on high quality food are Scheepskameel, Hotel de Goudfazant, Cafe Panache, the French bistro Cafe Caron, Rijsel and Cafe Binnenvisser.
For drinks: In summer there are many great spots with patios or at the water to enjoy a drink in the sun like Waterkant, Pllek, Cafe de Ceuvel and Hangar. Nice bars for cocktails or beers are Apt., Bar Bukowski, Bar Basquiat, The Duchess, Walter’s, Happyhappyjoyjoy and the bars around Westerpark.
The Haarlemmerstraat in the west of Amsterdam is a great shopping street with small, local boutiques, like fashion stores Sukha and Tenue de Nimes. Other nice streets for shopping are Utrechtstraat or the luxurious Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat.
There are many stylish fashion stores around town, like Rika Studios and DIV. There are also many great interior and furniture shops, especially around the Spiegelkwartier and stores like droog, moooi, De Weldaad and Kitsch Kitchen.
The farmers markets of Amsterdam are just lovely, like the organic Noordermakt on Saturdays or the daily market Albert Cuyp in the stylish neighborhood De Pijp. You can also buy fresh, organic groceries at marqt. It’s also great to stroll around the streets of De Pijp where you find many interesting shops and cafes like Emaillekeizer and Little Collins on Eerste Sweelinckstraat, De Bazar on Albert Cuypstraat, or around Sarphatipark.
Amsterdam hotels are very expensive, so it can be difficult to find a nice, affordable place to stay. The Conscious Hotels usually offer good value for money rooms, there are four hotels in very convenient, central locations. The one at the Westerpark is especially lovely, with modern, simple rooms and welcoming staff. Another sweet hotel is the Times Hotel right on Herengracht, or if you’re looking for something more fancy, the Pulitzer Hotel is one of Amsterdams old, privately owned luxurious hotels. The breakfast here is amazing and you can also spot the hotel in the movie Ocean’s 12. Yet another great concept hotel to try is Sweets. They transformed many of the old bridge houses into beautifully styled apartments to rent.
Getting around: Rent bikes! There is no better way to explore the Grachtengordel (Canal district) of Amsterdam around the historic, beautiful Prinsengracht, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Singel. It’s most convenient if your hotel rents bicycles, but there are also many bike rentals like Mac Bike and Rent a Bike with several offices around the city. Otherwise, you can buy a day ticket for public transportation which includes the tram, busses, subway and the ferries. Especially the ferry ride from the central station to Amsterdam Noord is a lovely little journey.
There are many more fantastic places in the Netherlands and Belgium! See the travel guides for Rotterdam, Maastricht, South Holland, Flanders, Ghent and Antwerp.
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