Amsterdam is a city that celebrates individuality, encourages extravagance and revels in difference. It has a long history of wealth and rebellion. The glory days of the 17th century, the über-cozy 1800s, the counterculture explosion of the 1960s: they’ve all left marks along Amsterdam’s canals: opulent gables, Rembrandt and Van Gogh, barrel-lined cafes. , gardens of rare flowers, ‘coffeeshops’ selling marijuana and Miss Marple bicycles.
Now Amsterdam is entering a new Golden Age, leaving a new mark with galleries, chic shops, award-winning restaurants and hipster cafes. Bristles of bold architecture have sprung up around the city’s edges, but the web of gable-lined canals still lingers at its heart, with funky shops in the crisscrossing alleys of Negen Straatjes, new galleries to the west on the Jordaan, world class stores. chic museums and boutiques to the south around Museumplein, a market and another foodie haven at De Pijp, and hot new neighborhoods opening up all the time.
And here are our other Amsterdam guides, providing inspiration for hotels, restaurants, shops, bars and cafes, attractions, and free activities (plus the best hotels near Amsterdam airport).
Start at Central Station with a coffee (or just to admire the decor) at Café 1e Klas, the period-perfect 1880s former first-class waiting room tucked away in Platform 2b.
Next, head out on a Stromma Canal cruise on a glass-roofed boat from one of the moorings in front of the station; It doesn’t look like a tourist trap but a quick way to get a feel for the place, get the perfect angle of the city decor. pediments and watch Amsterdam come alive.
If you have time to spare before the next ship, take a walk along the Brouwersgracht west of the station. The pretty bridges mean it’s justifiably the most photographed canal in Amsterdam. When the cruise is over, grab a quick lunch at the cafeteria at the top of OBA, the public library near Central Station, where there is a rooftop terrace with a spectacular view of the old and new parts of the city.
Back on the ground, stroll through the Oostelijke Havengebied (Eastern Docklands) to admire some of Amsterdam’s newer architecture, then down the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, one of the oldest parts of the city, to the former Oude Kerk parish church, where avant-garde contemporary art. exhibits compete with centuries-old treasures for your attention.
Almost next door, Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is a beautifully restored 17th century canal house, with a surprise when you reach the top via some narrow wooden stairs.
Back outside, traverse a crowded corner of the red-light district to De Waag, the medieval city’s weight house on the Nieuwmarkt, then stray away from the bustle along the Recht Boomsloot and Krom Boomsloot, quiet canals that take you cruising by Amsterdam. famous flea market on Waterlooplein. Browse for vintage trinkets (brass bowls, antique china), bicycle parts, secondhand leather coats, vintage jewelry, silk scarves, Peruvian knitwear, and vinyl galore.
Return to Hanneke’s Boom, a shack-like cafe with a cozy open hearth on a strange island in the Eastern Docklands, for a drink, dinner and maybe some music and dancing later on.
Or kick back at your hotel, freshen up, put on your merry rags, and prepare to be wowed by one of the best chefs in town at Spectrum. Sidney Schutte cooks with finesse and flair, putting a strange and surprising twist on a local ingredient, like crispy tulip bulbs or a dessert of white asparagus.
Today is the day of the three great museums of Museumplein. It’s an early start at the Rijksmuseum to avoid the crowds – best time to arrive is 9:15am, after the initial surge when it opens at 9:00am Enjoy the major Old Masters in the Gallery of Honor, but also look out for the 18th-century dollhouses (not toys, but showpieces for wealthy merchants’ wives) and visit the exquisitely curated Asian collection in the basement. So time for a break.
It’s a 10-minute walk to the trendy De Pijp food and cafe district, and the Albert Cuyp Market (Albert Cuypstraat) for hot, sticky stroopwafels, colorful fabrics, bargain clothing, and all sorts of take-home treats. The streets that lead to it are full of delicatessens and cafes. Try Little Collins for a kimchi toastie, or some other delicious lunch from the inspired Australian and Dutch owner-chefs.
Return to Museumplein and the Van Gogh Museum (reserve a slot for the afternoon online in advance). Allow time not only to immerse yourself in the colors of the tragic artist’s paintings, but also to explore his delicate drawings and lettering that reveal so much about the man. Then, if you’re not interested in museums, head over to the Stedelijk Museum next door to catch up on the latest in international art and design.
Alternatively, head downtown via the Spiegekwartier arts and antiques district for one of Amsterdam’s greatest delights, a stroll through the Grachtengordel district; the concentric rings of the great canals established in the 17th century are here.
The best view? The point where the Prinsengracht and Reguliersgracht meet. Zigzag your way up Negen Straatjes to shop in the alleys of hip and quirky shops that crisscross the main canals, then west to the Jordaan’s galleries and cafes.
Dinner is at Koevoet, a café that harkens back to the days before Jordaan’s gentrification but where, among the dark wood paneling, Tiffany lampshades and assorted trinkets of a traditional Amsterdam ‘brown café’, a talented Sicilian family offers homemade dishes. pastas and sausages and other flavors of southern Italy.
Later, a drink in an old café in the Jordaan district: De Tuin. There are ten beers on tap, plus bottled, and the wine is drinkable. Try an Oedipus beer or one of Amsterdam’s other microbreweries.
Reserve online for the Van Gogh Museum and visit after 4:00 pm for a less-crowded view of the famous paintings. An imaginative hang (with personal touches, like family photos) brings you closer to the man and how he worked.
Buy a Museumkaart of the main museums and you can get free entry to museums in the Netherlands for a whole year. They cost €64.90 and it is better to buy them in quieter establishments, such as the Allard Pierson museum.
Pick up haute couture and quirky gifts from the specialty shops, flagship boutiques and concept stores on Negen Straatjes. There’s Laura Dols for vintage glam (especially from the 1950s) and chic, sturdy, stylish and miraculously roomy bags from Dutch designer Hester van Eeghen.
Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam has a garden courtyard full of secluded corners. It’s a quiet retreat in a hectic part of the city. There is also an excellent restaurant and the staff are relaxed, courteous and unobtrusively efficient.
did you know
Many canal houses have spectacular rear gardens, hidden from public view. Some canal house hotels and museums let you take a look, like the Van Loon Museum or Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam.
Where to stay
Hotel Pulitzer Amsterdam is an independent hotel that spans 25 houses, between two canals. Many rooms have beautiful views, and all feature a brief history of whatever canal house you’re in. Modern art from the hotel’s collection also finds its way into the rooms.
From £450 per night.
Seven One Seven is a sumptuous canalside mansion with the ambiance of a grand private home – the place to be if you really want to indulge. Comfy modern beds and sofas blend seamlessly with antique furnishings to add contemporary comfort to old world romance.
From £438 per night.
The former offices of De Volkskrant newspaper have been given a vibrant and stylish new life as the Volkshotel, an affordable hotel with a DJ on weekends, rooftop hot tubs and even artists-in-residence. The rooms are carefully designed and seem more spacious than they really are. A rooftop bar-restaurant offers adventurous New Dutch cuisine.
From £60 per night.
When to go
Folk songs say that spring is the time for tulip picking, but in reality any season in Amsterdam has its attractions.
At the slightest hint of good weather, the chairs and tables are turned off on the terraces of the cafes. On the downside, expect rain or Tupperware gray skies any time of year, but then there’s more than enough at the front of the museum to keep you entertained inside. Summer can be a heady time for long evenings on outdoor terraces, autumn for invigorating canal walks, winter ideal for curling up with a good Dutch beer in a cozy wood-paneled cafe.
Know before you go
Embassy: British Embassy (00 31 70 427 0427), Lange Voorhout 10, 2514 ED, The Hague
Emergency services: dial 112. For non-emergency police matters dial 0900 8844
Tourist and information office: He AmThe sterdam tourist information center (iamsterdam.com) is located inside Central Station. Open every day, from 10 am to 7 pm There is a second office in Arrivals Hall 2 of Schiphol Airport, open every day from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm
Badge: Euro. Few establishments accept banknotes over €50 and prices are rounded to the nearest 5c (1c and 2c coins are not used in the Netherlands).
Time: +1 hour
Travel times: Flight time from London to Amsterdam is just over an hour. A direct Eurostar train takes just under four hours; trains with transfers in Brussels take about six hours.
Local laws and etiquette
It is not true that “anything goes” in Amsterdam. Public drunkenness, rowdy, and street drug smoking meet with severe, if silent, local disapproval.