Few European cities feel like they’re in such perfect harmony with the water around them. You couldn’t visit Amsterdam without traversing the canals of the city centre. They’re literally unavoidable, and also an integral part of the tourist experience in the Dutch capital. Let’s explore the place a little further.
The best way to get around is by bike. Like Copenhagen, this city feels like it’s made expressly for cyclists, with its 767 km of bike lanes. Perched on your saddle, you could head along the iconic Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Prinsengracht, among the city’s most beautiful waterways. Take the time to admire the architecture, the canals, the people strolling by. Weather depending, an entire impressionist tableau should open itself up to you.
You won’t have to stray far from the canals to see some of the city’s main sights. Start at the Begijnhof. Tucked behind a door on Spuiplein square, you’ll find this Beguine convent where the resident women were afforded a much freer lifestyle than most nuns. The last Beguine died in 1971, but the building really is an architectural masterpiece, with its chapel and adjacent houses.
Next up, head up to a very different part of town. Jordaan was for a long time untouched by gentrification. Today it’s Amsterdam‘s bohemian district par excellence. Head down the 9 Straatjes and explore its many brilliant shops, from small delis to fashion boutiques, art galleries to second-hand stores. If you happen to be in town on a Saturday morning, try heading to the organic Noordermarket.
After all that walking around, we’d recommend you take the time to visit Anne Frank’s House, where the famous diarist lived from 1942 to 1944, before being deported to Auschwitz. Her house remains a moving tribute to her, her family and all the other Jews who were sent to concentration camps across Europe. Its rooms have been emptied out, but the museum next door houses the young girl’s original diaries, as well as a whole series of objects, photos and documents that tell her story.
There are all sorts of other cultural institutions you should check out here, too. Start with the Van Gogh Museum, where you’ll find more than 200 of the artist’s paintings and 500 of his drawings, too. You’ll also find works by other artists who inspired him (and who he inspired) like Pissarro, Toulouse-Lautrec and Monet. Next, head over to the nearby Rijksmuseum, home to the very best of the Dutch masters: its 80 rooms hold more than 8,000 works by the likes of Frans Hals, Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer.
You may want a breath of fresh air after that, so wander the Vondelpark, a 48-hectare green idyll frequented by walkers, joggers and picnickers alike. Right in the heart of the city, it boasts a wonderful variety of lawns and wooded spaces. And it’s also a haven for birds, with all manner of species here from woodpeckers to storks.
Case of the hunger pangs? In the mornings, Coffee & Coconuts offers an array of granolas and fruit juice, while Winkel 43 offers something a little more upmarket. Coffee lovers will want to try Monks Coffee Roasters, which also does a mean eggs benedict. Later in the day, head to Café Binnenvisser to sample the best of Dutch cuisine (with a glass or two of something natural, too). Just as spectacular – and with a menu just as diverse – is Bar Centraal, while Breda makes for a cosy and chic place to while away an evening, with food of a rare quality and finesse. Finally, try the moreish creations of Joris Bijdendijk, a former contestant on Top Chef in France, atWils, a restaurant whose barbecue cuisine is always a treat.