Amsterdam City Breaks
Amsterdam city breaks. Criss-crossed with peaceful canals that are lined with trees and seventeenth century houses, the outdoor seating of quirky cafes and the bizarre shadows cast by modernist sculptures, Amsterdam is a city that blends history, art and urban modernism together perfectly.
As you walk the cobbled streets, you’ll note that bikes and boats are the most popular methods of transportation - and there are plenty of bike rental shops should you feel the need to join the hordes. There are numerous ways to explore the canals too, from open topped canal boats to rowing boats.
One of the most pleasurable ways to explore Amsterdam is by simply walking the streets - taking in the Old Town, the UNESCO listed Canal Ring and the South of the city which is home to the museum quarter and the Vondelpark.
Along the way you’ll find hidden lanes and lively quarters brought to life by colourful bars and intriguing works of art, colourful gardens, monasteries and shops selling everything from Jenever Gin to orange Amsterdam themed souvenirs.
The city is well served by air and rail - though as the airport is actually one of the busiest in the world - so prepare yourself for huge crowds and long queues. Though you’ll have your choice of flights from the UK to Amsterdam, as British Airways offers multiple flights from London and the rest of the UK. Easyjet and KLM also offer a growing number of flights to the city.
Holidays to Amsterdam are popular for a variety of reasons - mostly cultural weekends and stag and hen parties - and it’s when you bump into Amsterdam’s numerous bars and clubs that you’ll begin to understand why. You’ll find an unparalleled mix of venues - from live music bars, traditional bare-floored cafes, designer cocktail bars and state-of-the-art clubs with clientele to match.
There are hundreds of great restaurants too - with an eclectic collection, which spans Dutch cuisine through to Asian and Surinamese. There are plenty of tourist traps in the centre - avoid these, as they are at best overpriced fast food joints with steak house menus, try a local speciality such as Ossenworst (raw beef sausage) or one of the many locally produced Dutch cheeses, instead.
The most viewed attractions in Amsterdam are undoubtedly its canals where you’ll see hundreds of boats (throughout the city) navigating the narrow waters under curved brick bridges and past lively squares, as well as parked canal boats and even the odd canoe.
For those not wanting to spend too much, but would like a trip in the canal - the free ferries behind the Centraal Station are perfect, but the open air canal boat cruises are the most scenic. When it comes to art - Amsterdam delivers. The Van Gogh Museum has the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh’s (a native to Amsterdam), while the newly restored Rijksmuseum houses works of art from the likes of Rembrandt and Vermeer.
The best place to head to visit the museums is the Plantage district where you’ll find, amongst others, the Jewish Historical Museum, The Hermitage Amsterdam and the botanical gardens. The streets are another good place to see art in Amsterdam - as you can’t walk a mile without bumping into a masterpiece - whether in the form of architecture or sculpture.
The Old Centre is the most visited district in Amsterdam; known for quaint traditional architecture (there are more than 7000 registered historic buildings), a network of canals, a plethora of cafe’s that sell a potent collection of Marijuana as well as coffee, and lots of opportunity for shopping.
The Old Centre is also the home of the infamous Red Light District - and though you may be tempted to take a picture or two of the inhabitants of the famed street side windows - don’t - as it’s a surefire way to get your camera confiscated by over-zealous security. The area is also rife with pickpockets, so be on your guard - especially at night.
Elsewhere in the city you’ll find the Jordaan district which is now home to many up and coming art galleries, boutiques and lively restaurants - generally popular with younger crowds, and the Canal Ring, mainly a residential area, popular with Dutch celebrities and home to a few high-end nightlife spots - mostly found in the Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein areas.
It’s a beautiful neighbourhood to ramble in - taking in the mansions and waterside homes that have stood since the 17th century. You’ll find the cafe’s and canals that Amsterdam is known for in most central locations throughout the city - though if you want to venture to some of the outskirts - then it’s recommended to take a taxi or a tram, as although the city is a pleasure to explore on foot, some areas are less safe than others - and there is plenty of it - so it can take hours to walk from one attraction to the next.