Getting to Amsterdam by train is very easy, and having fun in this unique city is a breeze too.
A city full of contrasts, canals and culture, anything goes in Amsterdam. Everyone goes too, so time your visit well. Although there are plenty of ways to escape the crowds. Read our top tips for a visit to Amsterdam.
There is no better way to discover the Dutch capital than by bike. This is how all the local people do it and you’ll feel left out if you don’t try. From the minute you arrive at Amsterdam Centraal station, you can rent a bike (MacBikes is the one at the station). If you haven’t been on a bike for a while, join a guided cycling tour to start with and then just rent one after that. Yellow Bike Tours are the most popular, taking you not only around the city but across the river into Noord Amsterdam. It is also very easy to access an impressive network of countrywide cycling trails from the capital.
Explore by canal
Seeing Amsterdam from water level really helps you learn about how this land was reclaimed, appreciate the iconic gabled houses that line the water’s edge, the flower-covered and bike-filled bridges, and take in the superb engineering that went into creating this watery maze. With a lot of the boat trips you can hop on and off, giving you time to explore the city’s heritage highlights from flower markets to bruin cafés (or traditional Dutch bars).
Anne Frank House
One place that you can’t miss in Amsterdam is Anne Frank House where there is now a museum. The queues are long, but shorter earlier in the day, and once you have visited it you will realise that having to queue for a while should not really be an issue for anyone. It is an extremely poignant experience and, after enjoying the city for a few days, you can’t fail to be moved by Anne’s diary entry on 24 December 1943: “I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle, look at the world, feel young and know that I am free”. The Jewish Museum is also beautifully curated and another important reminder of the history of this city.
Enjoy the city’s art scene
Amsterdam’s art heritage is world renowned and aficionados need no introduction to spots such as the Rijksmuseum, home to renowned Rembrandts and the Van Gogh Museum which is as packed as the great master’s field of sunflowers is with his creations. The Rembrandt House Museum, once the artist’s home, has a selection of his paintings and sketches. Moving from classic to contemporary, the Stedelijk Museum is home to major works by Mondrian, Kandinsky and Malevich and FOAM Photography Museum or Huis Marseille are the places to go for contemporary work in this growing art genre.
Savour slow food
Amsterdam’s a leader in the slow or locally sourced food scene but you do need to know how to seek it out. For ‘farm to market’ street food, such as freshly battered calamari and mackerel, head to the Saturday Noordermarkt with plenty of organic options on sale too. Restaurant De Kas, located in Frankendael Park (take number 9 tram from Central Station and get off at Hogweg stop) is one of Amsterdam’s secret gems, located in a former city greenhouse with some of the most gorgeous kitchen gardens you could hope for. Picked in the morning, served in the afternoon is their motto. Instock restaurant is all about creating super meals from food surplus - waste to some, wonderful to foodies at Instock.
Take a ferry across the River Ij
There is a free ferry which crosses the city’s River Ij leaving from just behind Amsterdam Centraal station over to Noord Amsterdam. This is home to the city’s green belt, perfect for cycling through at your leisure and far away from tourists, but there is also a former port area which is becoming a very cool part of town. One example of this is Pllek, which you can access at NDSM Werf, one of the ferry stops. From here it’s a short walk to a collection of shipping containers which have been converted into a waterfront bar with an artificial beach and DJ usually close to hand.
The best time to go to Amsterdam for a big party is during music festival season. DGTL Amsterdam is the sassy sibling of DGTL Barcelona, taking place in April so ahead of the festival scene for many, and it is also an award winner for its green practices. Awakenings Festival in June is a vast techno treat in the Amsterdam suburb of Sloterdijk, just 6 mins by train from Amsterdam. Another festival not to be missed in Amsterdam is King’s Day, or Koningsdag, on 27 April. Celebrating the King’s birthday, the whole country turns orange. People dress up in orange, enjoy local festivals, family-run flea markets and generally party big time.
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