Amsterdam is one of the most popular city break destinations in Europe and it’s easy to see why. It’s small enough to walk or cycle pretty much anywhere you want to get to go, but it possesses the buzz of a city much bigger than its modest presence. Whether you’re after a culture packed trip, a weekend of partying or a laid back escape to explore the canals and coffee shops, Amsterdam certainly won’t disappoint.
Why go to Amsterdam?
As one of the most diverse and inclusive cities in the world, Amsterdam gives off a beautifully welcoming and uplifting vibe to visitors and boasts an unrivaled selection of bars and restaurants, including one of Europe’s largest gay scenes.
On top of the vibrant nightlife, the city offers an abundance of world famous museums and galleries to explore, not to mention the picturesque network of canals that are a delight to walk around.
The canals are one of Amsterdam’s biggest assets, criss-crossing their way around the heart of the city, stitched together with picturesque bridges and walkways. With 100km of canals, the city is simply made to be seen from the water, so why not hop on one of the river cruises for a convenient way of exploring the city’s sights?
Alternatively you can head along the banks on foot or do as the locals do and hop on a bike to check out what the city has to offer and to stop off at some of the shops and cafes dotted along the water’s edge.
The museums and galleries
Some of the most renowned attractions in Amsterdam are the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, however there are plenty of other lesser known gems to check out.
If you’re a fan of art, it goes without saying that the Van Gogh museum should be on your itinerary, with the permanent exhibition homing 200 paintings and 500 drawings completed by the world famous artist. The Rijksmuseum, however, holds the country’s largest collection of art and artefacts, including 40 Rembrandts and four Vermeers, as well as a huge variety of photography, fashion and most famously, the collection of Golden Age jewels such as Rembrandt’s Night Watch and Vermeer’s Kitchen Maid and Woman Reading a Letter.
The city is steeped with history and there’s plenty to check out around the city. The Amsterdam Museum takes you on a trip through Amsterdam’s past, using archaeological finds, works of art and quirky displays. The Anne Frank house is also one of the city’s most popular historical attractions. Here you can explore the attic rooms that the Frank family hid in during World War II, hidden through a door behind a hinged bookcase.
If you’re after a lively nightlife, Amsterdam is the place to go. The city’s squares are full of busy coffee shops, restaurants, bars, comedy clubs and music venues to suit every crowd, as well as a thriving club scene outside of the usual tourist spots.
Dam Square is one of the most popular locations among the tourist population, offering a lively selection of drinking holes and of course the notorious Red Light District, demonstrating a seedy, though intriguing display of the city’s infamous prostitution industry.
Some of the other main areas for nightlife in the city are Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein and with such a variety of places to visit, you can have as low key or wild a night as you please. The ‘coffee shops’ located around the city have played a large roll in Dutch culture since the 1970s and are a place where tourists can buy and enjoy weed, hash and marijuana in a pleasant and safe environment.
Amsterdam is a truly diverse city and provides music and entertainment of all kinds, however the Electronic Dance Music scene is particularly huge, boasting some of the most highly regarded clubs and world famous dance festivals, including ADE, DGTL Festival and AMF.
Where to go:
For a quiet pint: Brown Cafe – An ultra-civilised old fashioned pub where you can sip on a proper Dutch draught beer.
For cocktails: Vesper Bar – An elegant cocktail bar decorated with kitsch James Bond memorabilia sandwiched between fine liqueurs and pop art prints.
For a laugh: Boom Chicago – A famous comedy club offering a regular cast of expat comedians performing in English for international audiences.
For live music: Bourbon Street – A bustling jazz club with a vintage feel
To party the night away: AIR – A large city centre house and dance music club with a varied selection of music to suit all tastes, from techno fridays, to more a more commercial mix on a Saturday.
What to pack
The climate in Holland is much like that over here in the U.K. so it’s usually safe to use our weather as a guide for how to dress on your trip. Although July and August offer the warmest weather, these are also the busiest months and the city is a great place to visit all year round, so you may actually prefer to plan your visit outside of peak season. If you want to see the tulips, mid-April to early May is the time to go.
Though what you should take with you will vary between seasons, we’ve put together a rough guide of must haves for a visit to Amsterdam in the coming months.
A warm coat
You’re likely to be doing a lot of walking around the city, so it’s best to take something that’ll keep you feeling snug when the temperatures drop. A fur trimmed parka is perfect for throwing on during the day and it’s so laid back in Amsterdam that it’s ideal for carrying you through to the evening too. For a slightly smarter look that will go with everything, a simple woolen design in a neutral tone works a treat.
Wrapping up warm in some cosy knitwear is just as important, so make sure you pack a jumper or two when you head off on your travels. A roll neck looks really stylish on its own or worn underneath a sleeveless dress for a quirky layered look, making it the perfect item for daytime and evening dressing.
As mentioned before, it’s likely that you will be on your feet for long periods of time when exploring the city, so make sure you have some comfortable shoes with you that aren’t going to cause any trouble. Flat boots or trainers are probably your best bet.
A versatile jacket
It may get a bit chilly when you’re out and about seeing the sights of Amsterdam, so you’ll want to have a warm jacket or coat with you on your trip. Choose something that will suit daytime and evening wear to safe space in your suitcase.
A trusty pair of jeans
Jeans go with just about anything and they can be worn during the day and later on if you choose to go out for dinner or drinks.
Save yourself the baggage allowance on your flight over by travelling light with a carry on bag. When visiting the city for a long weekend there’s no need to too much with you, as it’s pretty laid back and you can usually make your daytime looks work in the evening.