Amsterdam Guide. Leisure Guides.

 

The charm of Amsterdam is hard to beat. With all the perks of a major city, but the feel of a friendly, laid-back village, Amsterdam has everything from world-class museums to characterful coffee shops, all bound up by pretty cobbled streets and canals.

Right arrow

Getting around


Walking and cycling are the two best ways to see Amsterdam. If you’re walking, choose your footwear wisely, as cobbles and stiletto heels don’t mix. Cycling is immensely popular, with thousands of bikes locked up all over the city, and cyclists have priority using the roads over cars. The city centre in particular is excellent for picturesque cycling.
 
On the other hand, if you’re on a tight schedule and need to get where you’re going, Amsterdam has a great tram system, complemented by the bus network and metro. Buy and top up the reusable OV-chipkaart to use any of these, and don’t forget to check in and out of your journey.
 
Cars aren’t ideal for Amsterdam, unless you’re making day trips from the city. Parking is very limited and extortionately expensive, trams and cyclists have right of way, much of the city centre is a one-way system, and the size of the narrow streets just makes it impractical. Taxis are quite pricey, but good if you’re in a hurry – take one from the official taxi stands.
Right arrow

Getting here

Getting here could not be any easier. We offer many frequent flights from London City Airport and plenty hotel packages. To book flights and hotels please click here.

Right arrow

Hotels


Five-star chain hotels, hostels, pretty canal-side buildings, boutique hotels and trendy, modern places – you’ll find what you’re after in Amsterdam. Bear in mind that many of the historic canal houses have narrow, steep staircases and no lifts – not for those with vertigo! Ask in advance for a lower-floor room if this is going to be a problem.
 
For a touch of luxury, try the classic 19th-century Hotel de l’Europe (Nieuwe Doelenstraat 2-14) or Hotel Okura (Ferdinand Bolstraat 333) for sleek, chic elegance. Singel Hotel (Singel 13-17) offers charm and history with a more moderate price tag. If you prefer trendiness and an excellent location next to the Vondelpark, try Hotel Piet Hein (Vossiusstraat 52-53). Booking in advance is crucial, especially at weekends and in high season.
 
To book a hotel click here
Right arrow

Nightlife

Nightlife in Amsterdam varies from traditional pubs to live music places to nightclubs. The typical Amsterdam pub is known as the Brown Cafe (Bruine), which have booths and wood-panelled walls.  These aren’t the same as coffeeshops, in which you can buy soft drugs. Nightclubs tend to open around 11pm, getting going at 1am and closing at 4-5am. Most aren’t pretentious and have little in the way of a dress code, and entrance prices are rarely high.

De Melkweg (Lijnbaansgracht 234a) and Paradiso (Weteringschans 6-8) are both very popular live music venues – be prepared to queue. At the top of the scene is Jimmy Woo (Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 18), harder to get into than most, so dress up. To get away from house music, try The Sugar Factory (Lijnsbaansgracht 238) for some soul and funk.

For something a little more cultural, look for what’s going on at the Concertgebouw (Concertgebouwplein 2-6) which regularly hosts international orchestras; or the Muziektheater (Amstel 3) houses the Dutch National Opera. 

Right arrow

Restaurants

The food of the Netherlands may not be world famous, but Amsterdam holds a surprising variety of cuisines due to the multicultural nature of the city. Affordable Dutch restaurants with large portions are plentiful, but you’ll also find excellent Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Indian and Surinamese cuisine. Dinner is the main meal in Amsterdam, so for lunch head to eetcafés for something small.

For some serious French gastronomy in luxurious 17th-century splendour, check out the Vermeer restaurant at the NH Barbizon Palace Hotel (Prince HendrikkaDe 58-72), or in the same league but more international is Restaurant Vinkeles (Keizersgracht 384) – sit out in the lovely courtyard when the weather’s good.

For something a bit more local and affordable, take advantage of the pancake scene – try the Pancake Bakery (Prinsengracht 191). Café Toussaint (Bosboom Toussaintstraat 26) in the museum quarter is good for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike; while Café Bern (Nieuwmarkt 9), near the Red Light District, is popular with the locals and does great Swiss cheese fondues. 

Right arrow

Shopping

The standard high-street fare is all to be found in Amsterdam, but you’ll find the trendier, smaller boutique shops on side streets off the main canals such as Prinsensgracht or Herengracht, and in the Jordaan area of the city.

There are several good markets in Amsterdam: in Albert Cuypmarkt (Albert Cuypstraat/Ferdinand Bolstraat) you’ll find food galore and plenty of cheap clothes; the Noordermarkt in Jordaan (Noodermarkt) is a flea market on Monday mornings and a food market on Saturdays; and for a full-on flea market experience head to Waterloopleinmarket (Waterlooplein) from Monday to Saturday.

For Amsterdam’s answer to Harrods, head to Dam Square, where you will find De Bijenkorf (“The Beehive”), a vast chocolate-box of a building dating to 1870. It is the flagship of twelve stores of this name across the country, and is definitely the most interesting. Like Harrods, shopping here is less about what you buy and more about the experience.

Right arrow

Top 10 sights

Top 5 sights for first-timers

De Oude Kerk

Nothing gives a sense of Amsterdam’s history like De Oude Kerk (‘The Old Church’), which dates back to about AD1250. The name contrasts nicely with Amsterdam’s Nieuwe Kerk (‘New Church’) on Dam Square, a mere 15th-century baby. You can visit both of these in the afternoons.

Oudekerksplein
www.oudekerk.nl

Rijksmuseum

If you’re only going to see one art gallery in Amsterdam, this should be it. The fabulous neo-Gothic building from 1885 houses by far the best collection of Dutch art in the world. From Avercamp to Vermeer, the collection is extraordinary.

Museumstraat 1
www.rijksmuseum.nl

De Wallen – Amsterdam’s Red Light District

Both seedy and cheesy it may be, but Amsterdam’s red light district is one of the most famous sites in the city. The alleys that make up De Wallen are lined with full-wall windows, behind which sit the prostitutes selling their wares – looking rather bored.

De Wallen

Anne Frank House

Visit the poignant and unassuming house of Anne Frank, the German Jew who went into hiding with her family in Amsterdam and lived in a secret annex for more than two years before being discovered and sent to concentration camps. The house preserves her hiding place and is also an exhibition space to highlight persecution and discrimination.

Prinsengracht 267
www.annefrank.org

Bloemenmarkt

Famous for being the world’s only permanent floating flower market, Bloemenmarkt is on the southern canal belt and supplies Amsterdam with a large chunk of its flowers. Though the market attracts tourists, the stunning array of vibrant colours on offer is beautiful and well worth seeing.

Reguliersdawarsstraat 

Top 5 sights for old hands

Van Gogh Museum

If you’re going to visit another art gallery after the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum certainly merits your attention. The artist’s younger brother collected 200 paintings and 500 drawings created by Van Gogh, and these, along with hundreds of his letters, are all on display. Buy tickets online beforehand to avoid the queues.

Paulus Potterstraat 7 (Amstel 51 until 25 April 2013)
www.vangoghmuseum.com

Diamond Tours

Amsterdam is a known hub for exquisite diamond work and is home to several high-end diamond factories. A couple of these, including Gassan and Coster, offer free tours, explaining the cutting and polishing process from rough diamond to fabulous jewels. 

Coster Diamonds, Paulus Potterstraat 2-6
www.costerdiamonds.com

Gassan, Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat 173 - 175
www.gassan.com

Wertheim Park

Vondelpark might be Amsterdam’s most famous green space, but Wertheim Park, dating back to 1812, is the oldest in the city and the only one in the city centre. It’s a beautiful, English-style garden which is perfect for relaxing with a picnic, and it contains a very moving Holocaust memorial.

PlantageMiddenlaan 1

Willet-Holthuysen Museum

The Willet-Holthuysen Museum is housed in a building dating from 1685 and is decked out to give visitors a glimpse into luxury merchant life from the Dutch Golden Age. It is a fascinating place, and its collection of paintings, ceramics, glass and silverware are excellent. Restoration is continuous and the museum is open daily.

Herengracht 605
www.willetholthuysen.nl

The Begijnhof

The Begijnhof (Beguine’s Court) is a peaceful inner courtyard surrounded by historic buildings that were lived in by members of a Catholic sisterhood who lived like nuns, though took no vows. The courtyard includes Amsterdam’s oldest house, dating to about 1420. No big groups, and no talking when you visit.

Begijnhof 30
www.begijnhofamsterdam.nl

Right arrow

Top 5 activities

Cycling
 
Cycling is the best way to get around Amsterdam. There are several bicycle tours on offer to explore in and around Amsterdam, or just hire one from one of the many shops available and make your own way like the locals. 
 
Canal tour
 
Make the most of the beautiful canals of Amsterdam and see the city from its waterways. There are plenty of multi-language tours, or use the Canal Bus service or the Museum Boat as public transport to move between attractions.
 
Coffee shop experience
 
2012’s turbulent arguments over whether or not tourists should be allowed to buy and smoke marijuana in Amsterdam’s coffee shops (not to be confused with coffee houses, which actually serve coffee) seem to have ambled to the conclusion that, yes, they still can. Ask for advice if you need it, and enjoy Amsterdam’s liberal side.
 
Eating
 
Try the local food from street stalls and restaurants. You’ll find the rich, delicious stroopwafels made fresh in front of you in the Albert Cuypmarkt, raw herring stands throughout the city serving the fish on bread with onions, poffertjes (small pancakes) served with icing sugar and butter, and Amsterdam’s version of French fries served with mayonnaise.
 
Market shopping
 
Amsterdam is home to some amazing street markets: Albert Cuypmarkt is the giant one, but there’s also Waterlooplein flea market; Noordermarkt in Jordaan, a flea market on Monday mornings and a food market on Saturdays; and Spui Book Market on Fridays. And don’t forget the world’s biggest and best flower market, Bloemenmarkt.
Right arrow

Top 5 events


Queensday
 
In honour of the previous queen of the Netherlands’ birthday, 30 April becomes a mass of orange-dressed locals and street parties. Vondelpark is the place to be for the really big performances and great atmosphere.
 
Date: 30 April
Venue: Citywide
 
Holland Festival
 
The oldest and biggest performing arts festival in the Netherlands, the Holland Festival is a music, dance and film extravaganza which has been running for over 60 years.
 
Date: June
Venue: Various
 
De Parade
 
This travelling theatre festival extravaganza comes to Amsterdam every year in the form of an old-fashioned circus, with many tents full of varying performances of magic, theatre, music, art and dance.
 
Date: August
Venue: Martin Luther King Park
 
Uitmarkt
 
The official opening of Amsterdam’s cultural season is celebrated by many theatres opening their doors to free shows of all kinds.
 
Date: August
Venue: Leidseplein, Museumplein and Nieuwmarkt
 
Amsterdam Light Festival
 
See Amsterdam lit up in the festive season – the streets and canals are decorated with light installations while light murals are projected onto buildings. With many coloured lights reflected in the water and illuminating the city, it’s a very special sight.
 
Date: December and January
Venue: Various throughout the city
 
 
Shopping
 
The standard high-street fare is all to be found in Amsterdam, but you’ll come across the trendier, smaller boutique shops on side streets off the main canals such as Prinsensgracht or Herengracht (otherwise known as the Nine Streets area), and in the Jordaan area of the city. If high-end designers are your thing, head for PC Hooftstraat for Prada and Gucci galore.
 
For Amsterdam’s answer to Harrods, head to Dam Square, where you will find De Bijenkorf (‘The Beehive’), a vast chocolate-box of a building dating to 1870. It is the flagship of 12 stores of this name across the country, and is definitely the most interesting. Like Harrods, shopping here is less about what you buy and more about the experience.
 
If food is a priority when you shop, there are several fantastic culinary shops selling individual foodstuffs.  Nieuwendijk and Haarlemmerstraat are both good streets where you’ll find specialists in cheese and oil, among other things.
 
 
Restaurants
 
The food of the Netherlands may not be world famous, but Amsterdam holds a surprising variety of cuisines due to the multicultural nature of the city. Affordable Dutch restaurants with large portions are plentiful, but you’ll also find excellent Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian and Surinamese cuisine. Dinner is the main meal in Amsterdam, so for lunch head to eetcafés (‘eating cafés’) for something small. 
 
An independent restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star in 2012: Restaurant Lastage (Geldersekade 29) is a comparatively informal place in a lovely canal building and is well worth a visit. For more serious gastronomy, try Restaurant Vinkeles (Keizersgracht 384) – sit out in the lovely courtyard when the weather’s good.
 
For extraordinary food in an unusual venue, try the Hotel de Goudfazant (Aambeeldstraat 10 H) in its industrial location and building; or Balthazar’s Keuken (Elandsgracht 108) with its three-course set menu and bohemian feel. For something a bit more local and affordable, try the Pancake Bakery (Prinsengracht 191).
 
 
Nightlife
 
Typical pubs in Amsterdam are known as brown cafés (bruine) and have booths and wood-panelled walls – these are different to coffee shops, in which you buy soft drugs, and coffee houses, in which you buy coffee. Nightclubs tend to open around 11pm, getting going at 1am and closing at 4-5am. Most aren’t pretentious and have little in the way of a dress code, and entrance prices are rarely high.
 
For a cocktail or two, head to Vesper (Vinkenstraat 57) for the full mixing experience or Njoy (Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 93) for sleek, plush décor and a propensity for dancing later in the night. A swish bar with a view is Twenty Third Bar, a sky bar on the 23rd floor of Hotel Okura (Ferdinand Bolstraat 333), while a good place for techno and electronica clubbing is Trouw (Wibautstraat 131), located in a former printing plant.
 
For something a little more cultural, look for what’s going on at the Concertgebouw (Concertgebouwplein 10) which regularly hosts international orchestras; or the Muziektheater (Amstel 3) houses the Dutch National Opera.

Written by World Travel Guide

Flights to Amsterdam
From £138.18
* Booking Terms Apply
4* Hotels in Amsterdam
From £47.27
* Booking Terms Apply
4* Holidays in Amsterdam
From £214.09
* Booking Terms Apply
LCY Leisure guide

LCY Leisure Guide.

Plan & book your trip grey arrow

Calendar icon

Book your holiday.

Click here now. grey arrow

Aircraft icon

Discover europe

Find out more. grey arrow

Follow Us Facebook Twitter Twitter icon Google+ YouTube icon Youtube Flickr icon Flickr

Sign up. For news on competitions, new routes and articles. Be the first to know with our newsletter.