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A romantic medley of tree-lined canals, pavement cafés and storybook houses, it’s easy to see how Amsterdam earned its ‘Venice of the North’ nickname. The Dutch capital exudes nostalgic charm – but this is no living museum. Home to the world’s first stock exchange, it’s a thriving hub of creativity and innovation, where galleries housing old masters rub shoulders with multinational headquarters. The city is best explored by foot or bicycle. Amble around the 17th-century Canal Ring, soak up the sun at a waterside café or while away a blissful afternoon in a world-class museum. When the sun goes down, join the locals in a downtown bar to discover why the official motto of Amsterdam is ‘work hard, play hard’.
Our top five activities
See the ‘Venice of the North’ from the water by booking a canal cruise. Reederij Kooij has cruises departing every 30 minutes from five different locations. Rokin, 020 623 3810
If you’re visiting in spring, it’s worth braving the 40km journey out of Amsterdam to enjoy a stroll in the world’s largest flower garden. Bursting with colour and variety, this 32-hectare garden is open from late March to late May only. Stationsweg 166a, 025 246 5564
Friday night skate
Don your rollerblades for the weekly Friday Night Skate, which is hugely popular with the locals and takes place year-round. Check times and start-points below
Amsterdam is home to an impressive range of courses, including the Amsterdam Old Course with its historic club house. Zwartelaantje 4, 020 663 1766
A must-do for fans of the local brew, this visitor centre offers tasting, exploration and interactive tours. Stadhouderskade 78, 020 523 9222
You’ll find Amsterdam’s main shopping streets in the area between Central Station and the Leidseplein, but for something a little quirkier and more interesting, try exploring the side streets around the main canals. The edgy district of Jordaan is the best place to look for independent stores and boutiques, and also has the greatest concentration of street markets. Noordermarkt runs on Mondays and Saturdays, and sells everything from organic fruit and veg to vintage clothes – a one-stop shop for fashionistas on a budget. Those with more luxurious tastes should head to the Fashion and Museum District, which is teeming with designer shops and interior stores.
Food & Drink
With a selection of Michelin-starred restaurants, a growing grass-roots food culture and an iconic collection of canal-side cafés, Amsterdam has a culinary scene to rival any in Europe. From Basque-style tapas at trendy Spanish restaurant La Olivia (Egelantiersstraat 122-124, 020 320 4316) to finger-licking Chinese dishes at local favourite New King (Zeedijk 115-117, 020 625 2180), cuisine from across the globe is represented. The fabulously stylish Bordewijk (Noordermarkt 7, 020 624 3899) is a great place to spend an evening – and it’s perfect for business meetings too. For something a little different, De Kas (Kamerlingh Onneslaan 3, 020 462 4562) is housed in a giant greenhouse and serves up exclusively organic dishes from nearby gardens and farms.
Spiritual home of the electronic dance scene and host of the internationally famous Amsterdam Dance Event, the Dutch capital’s nightlife is based around clubs and basement bars. If you’re a dance aficionado, head to TrouwAmsterdam (Wibautstraat 131, 020 463 7788), a former printing plant with a trendy industrial vibe that regularly hosts cutting-edge bands. For something a little more traditional, Café Belgique (Gravenstraat 2, 020 625 1974), just off Dam Square, is a cosy bar space with an impressive range of bottled and draught beers. Looking for live entertainment? Paridiso (Weteringschans 6, 020 626 4521), near Leidseplein, has been hosting the best pop bands since the 1960s, while The Muziektheater (Waterlooplein 22, 020 625 5455) is the most important opera and ballet theatre in the Netherlands.
Accommodation in Amsterdam
Thanks to its popularity with tourists and importance as a business centre, Amsterdam has a wide choice of accommodation. Hotels are concentrated in the Old Centre and in the south around the Museum Quarter. The wealthy Canal Ring hosts many of the more luxurious options. For a stark but smart budget option, try The Poet Hotel (Jan Luijkenstraat 44, 020 662 0526) in the heart of the Museum Quarter. Corporate travellers will appreciate the state-of-the-art facilities offered by the Sofitel Legend The Grand Hotel Amsterdam (Oudezijds Voorburgwal 197, 020 555 3111). If you’re looking for a five-star experience, the Dylan Amsterdam (Keizersgracht 384, 020 530 2010) has a Michelin-starred restaurant and a selection of luxurious, individually styled rooms.
Amsterdam Airport Information
CityJet Flight Routes
Amsterdam to London City
Amsterdam to Cambridge
Antwerp to London City