10 things you absolutely have to do in Amsterdam

25 Jan 2017

Amsterdam, city of tree-lined canals, bridges, bicycles and gabled houses, is one of the most popular city-break destinations in Europe. It's brimming with museums, hip neighbourhoods, gorgeous parks, cool bar culture and, of course, its infamous edgier side. Here are 10 things you absolutely have to do in Amsterdam.

Obvious but essential

1. Visit a museum. With over 50 to choose from there'll be one to suit everybody. The Rijksmuseum is the Dutch National Museum and exhibits works by grand masters including Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Vermeer. For modern and contemporary art head for the bath-shaped Stedelijk Museum. Then of course there’s the Anne Frank House, where you'll be transported back in time to life during the German occupation of World War II.

2. Bike it. Amsterdam is one of the most cycle-friendly cities in the world. Get your pedal-power on and get to know the city on a bicycle tour. The flat landscape, cycle lanes and traffic lights especially for bikes make it easy to get around and it’s a fun way to explore the city's canals and neighbourhoods. If you don't fancy a tour just rent a bike and do your own thing.

On the water

3. Cruise the canals. Amsterdam's impossibly pretty canal network is over 400 years old. Check out the city from a different perspective and take to the water for a canal cruise. By day you'll see the narrow merchant houses that lean at impossible angles. Look out for Amsterdam's narrowest house at Singel 7. At night the canals take on a magical atmosphere as you glide under pretty little bridges illuminated by fairy lights. Four of the main canals, Singel, Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht and Herengracht are UNESCO protected. A hop-on, hop-off canal bus combines getting around with sightseeing.

4. The Flower Market is a kaleidoscope of colour and the world's only floating flower market. You'll find the blooms bobbing about on the south side of the Singel canal. If you're visiting in spring (mid-March to mid-May) take a 20-minute bus trip out to the town of Lisse and the Keukenhof Park and flower gardens. Round off your trip by exploring the flower fields by bike for dazzling displays of rainbow-coloured tulips.


A photo posted by Lynetta Benham (@lynnny_b) on

Photo stop

5. Strike a pose with the “I Amsterdam” letters outside the Rijksmuseum in Museumplein. If you don't want to share your shot with dozens of other selfie seekers you can track down another set of letters at Schiphol Airport.

Eating out in Amsterdam

6. Stroopwafel (two thin waffles sandwiched together with a layer of sweet caramel syrup) are a must at some point. These heavenly little discs of deliciousness are best enjoyed warm and chewy with a coffee. If you don't have a sweet tooth, go for a cone of thick Dutch frites or patat instead. They come with a range of unusual saucy toppings like peanut satay sauce, mayo and onions, or a curry ketchup, mayonnaise and onion combo.

7. Cheese heaven. The Netherlands is known for its good cheese and nestled in the Nine Streets shopping area you will find De Kaaskamer van Amsterdam (The Cheese Chamber of Amsterdam). The shop is stacked high with over 200 excellent cheeses and you can try before you buy.


A photo posted by Florence Vandaele (@flosjvandaele) on

You can wash it all down with a beer at the Heineken Experience or at IJ Brewery for a quarter of the price. IJ microbrewery produces organic beer, but the best bit is that it's housed next to an old windmill called De Gooyer - the tallest wooden mill in The Netherlands.


8. Picnic in the Park. The hip and happening Vondelpark is the largest of many parks in the city. Do what the locals do; pack up a picnic or disposable BBQ and a bottle of wine and head for Vondelpark and its green spaces. Enjoy one of the free summer concerts or performances staged at the park's open-air theatre or bandstand.

The Neighbourhoods

9. The Red Light District area, De Wallen, is actually one of the oldest and prettiest areas of Amsterdam with narrow cobbled streets, historic houses and pretty, tree-lined canals. The Gothic 13th-century Oude Kerk (Old Church) makes for a striking backdrop and the plethora of canal-side cafés make it a pleasant area to enjoy in daylight hours.

10. Go shopping around the Nine Streets. Quaint canals linked by pretty little bridges make this one of Amsterdam’s most photogenic neighbourhoods. Sitting right in the middle of the canal belt it's packed with vintage shops, designer boutiques and galleries which are perfect for picking up a unique gift or souvenir. Cafés bars and restaurants line the canals - De Luwte is a nice spot for dinner and they have a great gin and tonic menu.

5 Hotels We Love in Amsterdam

Park Hotel Amsterdam
City-centre, within walking distance of major museums.
Why we love it: This stylish hotel has been nominated for a World Travel Award every year since 2011. On-site MOMO Restaurant attracts locals as well as guests, plus there’s a spa, a fitness centre and a Gallery Zone where local artists exhibit their work.
Click here for rates and availability

Hotel de Hallen
In southwest Amsterdam, close to boutiques, museums, galleries and markets.
Why we love it: This 4-star hotel is housed in a renovated former tram depot from 1902. The new design smartly blends the building's industrial design with Scandinavian furniture and a contemporary art collection.
Click here for rates and availability

Hotel JL No76
In the buzzy Fashion & Museum quarter, near Vondelpark.
Why we love it: This boutique property is housed within two 18th-century townhouses. It’s a minute's walk from the high-end shopping street PC Hoofstraat, a 4-minute walk from the Vondelpark, and within five minutes of the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. All rooms and suites have free Wi-Fi & a Nespresso machine.
Click here for rates and availability

Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht
On Prinsengracht, one of Amsterdam’s most beautiful canals.
Why we love it: This Alice in Wonderland-themed design hotel is perched on one of the city’s loveliest canals. The Anne Frank House and chic Nine Streets and Jordaan shopping districts are within walking distance, and the Rijksmuseum is a cycle ride away on one of the hotel’s free-to-borrow bikes.
Click here for rates and availability

Hotel Okura Amsterdam
Pretty canalside location in the De Pijp neighbourhood, just outside the city centre.
Why we love it:
East meets west at the 5-star Okura Amsterdam, where you’ll find Japanese flower arrangements sitting alongside antique Dutch furniture in the vast lobby, and two Michelin-starred restaurants, serving Japanese Teppanyaki and fine French food. This is the tallest hotel in the city.
Click here for rates and availability

This post was written by guest blogger Suzanne Jones, the travel writer (and Amsterdam expert) behind The Travelbunny 

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