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Summertime in Amsterdam – if you are blessed with the requisite dose of Dutch sun – makes for the perfect combination of canals, coffee, cocktails and a generous splash of the great outdoors in the form of the city’s parks and Pleins (squares). Spend your time doing as the real Amsterdammers do when the sun finally shines down on this most charming of cobbled European cities.

Start the day with breakfast al fresco at one of the numerous little pavement cafes on the streets surrounding the busy Albert Cupymarkt street market. Order a koffie verkeerd (meaning "wrong coffee", but basically a latte) and an uitsmijter (a hearty plate of fried eggs on toast topped with cheese or ham) - a Dutch staple come rain or shine - and save the crusts to feed to the ducks on the lake of the pretty little Sarphatipark just behind the market. From here spend the morning exploring the speciality shops and boutiques of the earthy De Pijp neighbourhood, then hop over on tram, foot or rented bike to the Noordermarkt square at the heart of the particularly picturesque Jordaan district where, if it is Monday, you will find a flea market. On Saturdays, it is an organic farmer's market.

Next, head over for another coffee or something stronger at the ever-buzzing Leidseplein square, where the manifold Irish pubs and little local bars will already be spilling their beer-clutching patrons out onto the square. Watch an al fresco chess match - played with oversized pieces  - on the modern Max Eueweplein square. It is then a quick cross of the road to reach the shady lanes of the Vondelpark, the city's "green lung", where buskers, cyclists, in-line skaters and newspaper-readers all convene to do their thing. Stop for sustenance on the terrace of the Filmmuseum's Cafe Vertigo, or at 't Blauwe Theehuis (Blue Tea House), whose 1936 space-ship architecture breaks free from the old-world Amsterdam city centre.

Dragging yourself away from the pleasures of the park, pick up picnic supplies at the subterranean Albert Heiin supermarket and eat between the cavorting dogs and whizzing Frisbees on the expansive grassy Museumplein square, wedged between the three great Amsterdam museum institutions: the Rembrandt-heavy Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and modern art Stedelijk Museum.

From here, head out for an afternoon relaxing and reclining on one of the city's several urban beaches. Choose from Strand Zuid City Beach (Europaplein 22, Rai), to the south of the city centre beside the Beatrixpark (a great choice in case of a sudden cloudburst, at which it can be promptly covered up), the 20,000 square-metre beach beside the River Ij at StrandWest where cocktails flow and DJs spin throughout the weekend, or Blijburg aan Zee, a bohemian-spirited beach a tram-ride from the city centre with frequent live music performances and evening bonfires.

Alternatively, for a beach with a view, climb up to BoveNEMO, an inner city beach supreme located on the rooftop of NEMO, Amsterdam's modernist ship-shape children's science centre, complete with lounge chairs, a bar and even a fair bit of sand. Or take to the cool, cool waters on a Supperclub cruise - a far cry from the usual sort of canal tour, equipped, as it is, with DJ, performance artists, stellar food and lounge spaces - courtesy of the renowned Supperclub restaurant/nightclub. Return to stroll the beautiful, hidden Prinseneiland as dusk settles, then follow the Zeedijk down to the ancient Nieuwmarkt square for a pre-dinner mojito at Cafe Cuba (Nieuwmarkt 3).

Finally, dine in hidden 17th Century splendour at Blauw Aan De Waal (Oudezijds Achterburgwal 99) in the heart of the Red Light District, where the menu is seasonal and the cheese selection nothing less than sublime, taking a table in the little outdoor courtyard for a real summertime treat. Alternatively head just a short hop out of the city centre to De Kas, a stunning restaurant housed in a 1920s greenhouse and set amid organic herb gardens - sip aperitifs on the terrace or take the chef's table right at the heart of the kitchen - either way, a fragrant finale to the perfect day in Amsterdam.

© 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘A perfect summer’s day in Amsterdam’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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