With every justification, Amsterdam is one of Europe’s top short-break destinations. It’s a compact, instantly likeable city, that’s appealing to look at and pleasant to walk around. An intriguing mix of the parochial and the international, it has a welcoming attitude towards visitors and a uniquely youthful orientation, shaped by the liberal counter-culture that took hold in the 1960s. Also engaging are the buzz of its open-air summer events and the intimacy of its clubs and bars, not to mention the Dutch facility with languages: just about everyone you meet in Amsterdam will be able to speak near-perfect English, on top of their own native Dutch and often French and German too.
Amsterdam has three world-famous sights, the Anne Frank Huis, the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, with its wonderful collection of Rembrandt paintings. In addition, there is a slew of lesser known places to visit, from the Resistance Museum through to the Royal Palace on the Dam, though for many tourists the city’s canals are its main draw – take a cruise or a stroll around the Grachtengordel and you’ll see why. Beyond the sights, Amsterdam also boasts an unparalleled selection of drinking places, be it a traditional, bare-floored brown café or one of the city’s many designer bars and grand cafés. The city’s nightlife and cultural events have a similarly innovative edge, with offerings that are at the forefront of contemporary European film, dance, drama and music. In addition, Amsterdam boasts one of the world’s leading classical orchestras, a platoon of great clubs, and one of Europe’s liveliest and largest gay scenes.Read More
After the abdication of Queen Beatrix in favour of her son, Amsterdam saw its last Queen’s Day on 30 April, 2013. Traditionally the city’s biggest party with up to half a million people packing the streets and canals, it remains to be seen whether King’s Day (27 April) will rival it. Knowing the Dutch, the orange wigs will be dusted off, the sound systems cranked up and the city will become one big waterside disco again in April 2014 (just book ahead if you want to be there).
City canal tours
City canal tours
No one could say the Amsterdam tourist industry doesn’t make the most of its canals, with a veritable armada of glass-topped cruise boats shuttling along the city’s waterways, offering everything from quick hour-long excursions to fully-fledged dinner cruises. There are several major operators and they occupy the prime pitches, either the jetties near Centraal Station on Stationsplein or beside the first part of the Damrak. Despite the competition, prices are fairly uniform with a one-hour tour costing around €14 per adult, €7 per child (4–12 years old). The big companies, for example Lovers (t 020 530 5412, w lovers.nl), also run a lot of different themed cruises – candlelight cruises, cocktail cruises, etc – with tickets costing in the region of €32–35, though dinner cruises will rush you about €75. All the basic cruises are extremely popular and long queues are common throughout the summer. One way of avoiding much of the crush is to walk down the Damrak from Centraal Station to the jetty at the near end of the Rokin, where Reederij P. Kooij (t 020 623 3810, w rederijkooij.nl), which also has a jetty beside Centraal Station, offers all the basic cruises at cheaper prices. For other types of canal transport.
Visiting one of Amsterdam’s open-air markets is a must. There’s a first-rate flea market on Waterlooplein, several lively street markets selling everything from fresh veg to clothes, plus smaller, specialist markets devoted to everything from books to flowers.
Albert Cuypstraat market De Pijp, w albertcuypmarkt.nl. Long and slender, Albert Cuypstraat is the heart of De Pijp and it’s here you’ll find the city’s biggest and best open-air general market stretching east for over a kilometre from Ferdinand Bolstraat to Van Woustraat. There are scores of stalls selling everything from cut-price carrots and raw-herring sandwiches to saucepans, Day-Glo thongs and eccentric bygones. Check out, too, the shops that flank the market on each side, and the Indian and Surinamese restaurants down the side streets – they’re often cheaper than their equivalents in the city centre. Daily except Sunday 10am–5pm.
Bloemenmarkt Singel. Stretching out between Koningsplein and Muntplein, this very popular floating market specializes in flowers and plants, ostensibly for tourists, but locals congregate here too. Mon–Sat 9am–5pm, Sun 11am–5pm.
Boekenmarkt Spui w deboekenmarktophetspui.org. The city’s best secondhand book market, a rambling affair with many an interesting find lurking in the unsorted boxes. Fri 10am–4pm.
Boerenmarkt Noordermarkt w boerenmarktamsterdam.nl. Next to the Noorderkerk, this farmers’ market offers all kinds of organically grown produce, fresh bread, exotic fungi and fresh herbs. Sat 9am–4pm.
Flea Market Noordermarkt. A junk-lover’s goldmine with of all kinds of bargains, tucked away beneath piles of useless – or semi-useless – rubbish. Get here early. Mon 9am–2pm.
Flea Market Waterlooplein. A real Amsterdam institution, sprawling and chaotic, this is the final resting-place of ancient clothes, antique junk and secondhand records. Mon–Sat 9am–5pm.
Kunstmarkt Spui, w artplein-spui.nl. Low-key but good-quality fine and applied art market enabling mostly Dutch artists to sell their work direct to the public. Late March to Oct Sun 10am–5pm.