WHAT TO DO & WHERE TO VISIT
Famous for its winding waterways and cobblestone streets, there’s plenty to explore in Amsterdam.
Cycling, Walking & Canal Tours
Whether you choose to explore the city on foot, bike or boat, there are several sites to tick off the list. The Canal Ring, a district surrounding Amsterdam’s old town, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site and home to museums, monuments and beautiful architecture. Canal cruises run daily around the waterways, with tickets available to book in advance via the tourism website. You can also rent your own motorboat to explore the canals at your own pace, while tucking into a picnic basket filled with Dutch delights.
If you’re more at home on dry land, spend an afternoon exploring the Nine Streets, an area brimming with independent boutiques and cafés, as well as art galleries and vintage stores. Those on bikes should peddle around the vibrant Oost district, before heading to De Pijp, the Latin quarter, which is full of quirky shops and rooftop bars. If you’d rather embark on a cycling tour led by a local guide, there are several available, with some even combining bikes and boats to experience the best Amsterdam has to offer. For those going solo, Yellow Bike offers bikes for roughly €12 for 24 hours. For more information on bike hire and guided tours, visit the tourism website.
Make sure to schedule an afternoon stop off in De Plantage, an elegant neighbourhood to the east of the city centre. Less built up than other districts, expect secluded streets covered by leafy canopies and quiet plazas, along with the Artis Zoo and botanical gardens.
If you’re spending a long weekend in the city, leave a day free to visit some of the nearby beauty spots. Hop on your bike and journey along the Amstel River route, which leads you through the Dutch countryside, or take the River Vecht path to catch a glimpse of some of the country’s grand castles. Cycle out to the traditional towns and cities of Old Holland, such as Volendam, Zaandam and Alkmaar. And, if you fancy it, catch the ferry from Volendam to Marken, a pretty fishing village that was once an island.
The Rijksmuseum is the most famous museum in Amsterdam. An absolute must-visit for classical art-lovers, as well those wanting to learn more about Dutch history, the impressive collection includes pieces by Rembrandt and Frans Hals. Make sure to catch a glimpse of Rembrandt’s ‘The Nightwatch’, which always draws large crowds.
A short walk away is the Van Gogh Museum, which houses over 200 paintings and 500 drawings by the influential artist. Opened in 1973, it has since been expanded into a modern gallery that welcomes thousands of visitors every year. Head there to see some of the world’s most famous paintings up close, including the legendary ‘Sunflowers’.
Modern art fans should spend a morning at the Stedelijk Museum, the largest site in the Netherlands dedicated to contemporary art and design. The collection includes over 90,000 artworks and objects from iconic artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Pollock, alongside locally famous Dutch creators.
Another must-visit is the Anne Frank House. The hiding spot of the Frank family during World War II, the house has now been turned into a museum containing an exhibition about the discrimination and persecution faced by Jews during the war. Although sombre, the museum represents an important point in global history.
Parks & Gardens
The vast 120-acre Vondelpark is one of the city’s most popular outdoor spots. Whether you choose to set up shop near the rose garden or open air theatre, you’re guaranteed plenty of space. Situated close to the Museumplein, it’s the ideal place to enjoy some peace and quiet after morning spent exploring the galleries.
Hortus Botanicus is a stunning botanical garden in the city centre. With over 6,000 different varieties of trees and plants, as well as a butterfly greenhouse, there’s also a pretty outdoor garden to explore. Get your timing right and you’ll be able to see the 154-year-old water lily in full bloom.
WHERE TO EAT
Amsterdam is home of hundreds of bars and eateries. Whether you’re after pizza or noodles, traditional Dutch cuisine or cookies, this list has you covered...
For brunch… head to Little Collins. With two branches, one in De Pijp and one in the western district, tables in both locations get booked up in advance. Once you’ve secured a seat, take your time trying some of the restaurant’s many specialities, including everything from eggs to brioches. Get one of the homemade cinnamon rolls to go, too.
For dinner…book a spot at GUTS. A local institution, it features a menu of chef's specials and seasonal dishes, as well as signature BBQ dishes with a twist. Book a table in advance and enjoy the experience in an easy going setting.
For a treat… a visit to Van Stapele is a must, whether or not you have a sweet tooth. It’s a fact they make the best cookies in the city, with both locals and tourists flocking there for a sugar fix. Be warned, there are often queues and cookies can sell out before closing time (5pm) – so be sure to get there early.
For variety… choose Foodhallen, a trendy food hall that serves up a wide range of dishes. Founded in 2014, the Amsterdam venue was once a tram station, but now houses 21 different stalls where chefs create innovative dishes while bartenders serve specialty cocktails. A highlight is Le Big Fish, a fun seafood bar with a Japanese twist.
WHERE TO SHOP
From vintage emporiums to quirky interiors, and global designer names to Dutch brands, Amsterdam is a five-star shopping destination. Here are some of our favourites…
Hutspot sells quirky homeware, as well as menswear and womenswear pieces. It started life as a pop-store in the city centre, but has since expanded into over five concept stores, some of which include beauty salons and cafés. Expect plenty of sustainable brands, Dutch designers, books and beauty products.
Head to Anna + Nina for beautiful jewellery and interior gems. From shell shaped placemats to gold rings, get lost searching through all the treasures, and be ready to leave a few euros lighter than when you went in.
If ceramics are your thing, pop your head into the & Klevering store. Stocking creative and colourful homeware, decorations and gifts, it’s a great place to pick up something special.
For big name brands and designer accessories, as well as some lesser-known Dutch designers, pay a visit to De Bijenkorf. Right in the city’s iconic Dam Square, it's close to other tourist attractions should you fancy a quick, or lengthy, browse.
WHERE TO STAY
Whether you’re going for one night or four, these hotels offer a great home away from home.
Located in the Nine Streets shopping area, and overlooking the Keizersgracht canal, The Dylan is ideally situated for a weekend spent exploring. Rooms are simple yet stylish, with four types to choose from – Loft, Loxura, Amber and Serendipity – as well as your pick of a canal, atrium or garden view. For a leisurely morning coffee or pre-dinner drink, take a seat in the hotel’s brasserie courtyard and enjoy the summer sunshine.
The trendy Hoxton is close to some of the best shops, cafés and restaurants that Amsterdam has to offer. A centuries old canal house, rooms look out over the winding Herengracht and have plenty of character. Downstairs, the lobby has been transformed into a relaxed lounge, while the resident restaurant, Lotti’s, serves up everything from brunch to late night snacks. As a bonus, flexible check in times mean you can drop your bags off with the concierge and head out as soon as you arrive.
Soho House Amsterdam faces the Singel canal and is home to one of the best rooftops in the city. Overlooking the city, and with a pool too, it's an idyllic spot for some much needed R&R. Guests can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner on the rooftop terrace, or order a sundowner come late afternoon. Rooms are available in nine different sizes, from Tiny to Monumental, all of which are decorated in an art-deco style.
HOW TO GET THERE
EasyJet and British Airways fly direct to Amsterdam from London, with the flight time coming in at just over an hour. If you’d rather not get on a plane, take the Eurostar to Amsterdam from London St Pancras. Prices vary depending on the day and time of travel, but a standard return costs around £250. After pausing journeys earlier this year, the route is now running again and takes just over four hours.
*DISCLAIMER: At the time of writing, the UK law states that passengers must wear a face mask for the entirety of their journey on any form of public transport. There is currently an air bridge in place between the UK and Netherlands, which states that tourists do not need to quarantine upon arriving in either country. Restrictions are changing daily, so please check for updates before you travel.