How To Spend A Weekend In Amsterdam
WHERE TO STAY
For a relatively small city, Amsterdam has an impressive number of boutique hotels, canal-side properties and stylish Airbnbs. For a luxury trip, The Dylan is at the top of our list because of its enviable location in the Nine Streets shopping area, which overlooks the Keizersgracht canal. Rooms are simple and modern with four types to choose from, as well as your pick of a canal, atrium or garden view. For a leisurely morning coffee or pre-dinner drink, head to the hotel’s brasserie courtyard when the sun comes out. New this month is Até, a chef’s table restaurant headed up by Filip Hanlo.
Pulitzer Amsterdam was also made for special trips. Created by the team behind London’s Sea Containers, this five-star hotel is set across 25 linked canal houses within the Unesco-protected Canal Ring. Aside from its enviable location, one of the main draws is its art collection, dotted around each room amid vintage furniture and antiques. The Pulitzer is also home to destination restaurant Jansz as well as a swanky champagne bar. Soho House is a short walk away, as is W Amsterdam, both of which have rooftop pools.
On the other side of central Amsterdam, you’ll find Hotel Arena, tucked away in the beautiful Oosterpark. Rooms are light and bright with original 19th-century features and minimalist design. Staff can advise on the best parties and events across the city, and you can hire bikes for weekend exploring. If you’d rather skip the hustle and bustle, Inn on the Lake is ten minutes away from Amsterdam’s central station. What was once a vicarage is now a private guesthouse overlooking a lake in the pretty village of Broek. Guests can take a dip in the lake before relaxing in chic rooms with freestanding baths.
For a more affordable city break, we love rental platform Sonder, which has a range of accommodation options, including Park House in the upmarket Oud-Zuid neighbourhood. Choose from single, double and deluxe rooms, all of which are light and bright with simple décor. Volkshotel is another great option with a buzzy rooftop bar and community feel – ideal for solo travellers. There are music studios and a nightclub in the basement, and the hotel hosts regular events, from art shows to vinyl fairs. Then there’s Conscious Hotels, a eco-friendly hotel group with five sites across the city – we like the Westerpark site with its organic shop and glamorous bar.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
The Dutch capital doesn’t disappoint when it comes to food. In and around the city centre, you’ll find Michelin-starred restaurants beside casual bistros and traditional cafés serving some of the country’s finest exports – stroopwaffles and Dutch apple pie, for example. For fine dining, book into The Duchess which holds one Michelin star. The venue is opulent, as is the Mediterranean menu. Bougainville also holds one star, offering views of Dam Square and unusual flavour combinations that combine eastern and western cuisines. Then there’s Flore, the most celebrated restaurant in the city, which holds two stars plus a green star for its eco credentials. It showcases the very best of Dutch produce: ingredients come from biodynamic farms and the kitchen doesn’t use any dairy to minimise its carbon footprint.
De Plantage in the chic Plantage neighbourhood is a lovely lunch spot, especially during the warmer months when diners can sit in the courtyard or light-filled atrium. Expect open sandwiches, pasta dishes and OTT desserts. Interior lovers should make a beeline for Marie, an upmarket brasserie inside Hotel De L’Europe with plush pink seating and an impressive art collection. Southern French dishes are best enjoyed with a glass or two from the restaurant’s extensive wine list. For equally delicious food but in a more relaxed setting, Bak is housed in a former warehouse with views over the IJ river. Lunch is served at the weekend, and dinner is available Thursday through to Saturday. The menu changes daily and there’s always something interesting on offer.
For great steak, you want French bistro Petit Caron. Sit outside on its Parisian café chairs and go classic with steak frites. Sister property Café Caron is also worth a visit. If you’re after a casual spot, head to the Docklands with its industrial buildings and waterside restaurants, like Wilde Zwijnen which serves three to five-course meals supplemented with oysters or cheeseboards. The chefs use seasonal produce to create modern dishes that have made it a favourite among locals, who know how to make the most of its spacious terrace on brighter days. To the north of the city, Stork has a similar vibe. What was once an abandoned industrial estate is now a buzzy riverside food hub specialising in seafood. Visit for the shellfish platters and catch of the day, cooked in lashings of butter, and stay for the sharing puddings and ‘liquid dessert’ cocktails.
A trip to Amsterdam isn’t complete without a few pitstops at its bakeries and cafés. One of the best spots is Flo’s Deli on Elandsgracht for sandwiches and bagels stuffed with savoury treats like bacon and scrambled eggs or cream cheese and smoked salmon. Little Collins is an excellent brunch spot for French toast and hash browns with eggs, while Bakkerij Wolf is where you’ll find tasty posh Danish pastries. Grammes is worth a visit for its chocolate-filled croissants and cinnamon buns – or just grab a bag of madeleines to enjoy by the canal.
WHERE TO GO OUT
Amsterdam’s Red Light District is a fascinating spot, where medieval buildings sit alongside the city’s infamous sex shops. If you’re after something more refined, some of the best bars are tucked away in hotels around the city, like Lotti’s at the Hoxton. For a relaxed vibe, Door 74 has made it onto The World’s 50 Best Bars list thanks to its cool art-deco interiors and innovative cocktails. There are also regular takeovers from other bars on that list, including Barcelona’s Paradiso. If you want to go out out, Pllek is a cool restaurant in the day and vibey bar at night. There’s even a manmade beach for summer film screenings and live electronic music. Elsewhere, De School, housed in a converted schoolhouse, is a hotspot for techno lovers. It has a 24-hour licence and hosts some of the city’s best DJs at weekend for high-octane warehouse raves. Then there’s Shelter along the marina, one of the world’s best nightclubs. The subterranean venue has gained a loyal following since opening a few years ago beneath the A’DAM Tower. You’ll find DJs covering a range of genres there.
WHAT TO DO
Hiring a bike is the best way to explore the city– and you’ll be in good company as the Amsterdam has more bikes than residents. Explore Amsterdam Centrum (the central neighbourhood) before venturing to surrounding areas like Nieuwmarkt en Lastage, surrounded by an industrial harbour; Westerpark, one of the greenest parts of the city; Oud-Zuid for its world-class galleries; Amsterdam-Noord (the east London of Amsterdam); and De Pijp for cool restaurants and cafes. Haarlem, a medieval town that’s a short train ride away, is also worth a visit.
Amsterdam is home to some of the world’s most famous galleries, including the Rijksmuseum which has the country’s largest collection of art. As well as 22 pieces by Rembrandt, it recently opened the most comprehensive exhibition to date on Vermeer, the baroque painter behind masterpieces like ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ and ‘The Milkmaid’ (open until June 2023). In Museum Square, you’ll also find the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum (modern and contemporary art), and the Royal Concert Hall. Once you’ve hit the big names, check out some of the city’s smaller independent galleries like Madé van Krimpen, Annet Gelink Gallery and Moco Museum, all of which have rotating programmes of contemporary art and photography.
A canal tour is another great way to see the city. Look out for various pick-up points in town, or book ahead with Get Your Guide to visit specific sites and neighbourhoods. One of the main hop-on spots is by the Anne Frank House, a harrowing but important historical site. Visitors can enter the secret annex where the teenage girl and her family hid from the Nazis during the Holocaust. From there, it’s a ten-minute walk to the Nine Streets where you’ll find vintage shops and womenswear boutiques.
You could easily spend a whole weekend exploring Amsterdam’s parks. The most popular is Vondelpark, with its scenic lakes and rose garden. Westerpark is equally attractive and hosts outdoor gigs and music festivals in the summer, while Amstelpark is a tranquil haven with its manicured botanical gardens.
NEED TO KNOW
Flight time between London and Amsterdam is 75 minutes, and the Dutch city is one hour ahead of London. You can also get a direct Eurostar from King’s Cross to Amsterdam, which takes just under four hours.
Temperatures peak between June and September, reaching an average high of 23°C.
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