Amsterdam is a place of contradictions. On the one hand, its tranquil canals and grand houses have changed little since the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century. On the other, it’s known as a progressive city, famed for tolerance and all the vices that go with it.
With the largest collection of Van Gogh works in the world, the Van Gogh Museum
consists of more than 200 paintings and 500 drawings by the artist. There’s
also a clam-shaped annexe that hosts exhibitions (Paulus Potterstraat 7;
Despite often being overwhelmingly busy, the Anne Frank Museum counts among Amsterdam’s
most moving experiences – the focus of the museum is the secret area where Anne
hid from the Nazis (Prinsengracht 267; admission £8).
Once a working-class stronghold, Jordaan is one of
Amsterdam’s liveliest regions, with old townhouses and boutiques arranged
around a grid of narrow lanes. The 17th-century Calvinist Noorderkerk hosts acclaimed concerts on
Saturday afternoons (Sep-Jun).
House Museum occupies the building where Rembrandt van Rijn once lived and
ran the Netherlands’ largest painting studio in the 17th century – until the
artist went bankrupt (Jodenbreestraat 4; admission £8).
Set in Amsterdam’s Latin Quarter, De Pijp, the Albert Cuyp Street Market is the city’s
largest market. As well as trading in everything from flowers to an array of
cheeses, vendors tempt passersby with waffles and herring sandwiches (admission
A traditional tasting house, Proeflokaal Wynand
fockink has been serving jenever (Dutch gin) since the 17th century. Try
the house speciality boswandeling – a vivacious combination of jenever, herb
bitters and orange liqueur (Pijlsteeg 31; tours and admission free).
Vleminckx is a hole-in-the-wall takeaway that has
served portions of frites to the denizens of Amsterdam since 1887. The classic
option comes smothered in mayonnaise (00 31 20 624 6075; Voetboogstraat 31;
frites from £2).
Odette is not a buffet at all, but a sit-down café trading in simple dishes
such as pasta, omelettes and steak sandwiches, compiled using organic
ingredients and injected with a dash of culinary creativity. The café has
recently moved to new premises on the Prisengracht canal (Prinsengracht 598;
lunch dishes from £7).
One of Jordaan’s best eateries, Balthazar’s Kitchen is housed in a
former blacksmith’s workshop. The byword for the single set menu is ‘whatever
we have at hand’ (Elandsgracht 108; set menus £25).
A long, often graffiti-covered hallway in the Red
Light District leads to Blauw aan de Wal,
a restaurant housed in an old 17th-century herb warehouse. Many of the dishes
carry a French accent, with some Spanish and Italian flourishes (Oudezijds
Achterburgwal 99; set menus £45).
Located in the De Pijp district, Bicycle
Hotel Amsterdam is a casual, green-leaning hotel with basic but comfortable
rooms. The hotel also rents bikes and serves organic breakfasts (van
Ostadestraat 123; en suite rooms from £50).
A convivial townhouse situated in the Western Canal
district, Maes B&B has
cosy interiors with wooden floors and exposed brickwork. There are continental
breakfasts available, and guests are free to use the communal kitchen (Herenstraat
26hs; from £95).
Set on the Reguliersgracht – one of Amsterdam’s most
attractive canals – The Seven
Bridges is among the best small hotels in the city. Eight elegant rooms are
kitted out with oriental rugs and antiques – Room 5, which has its own private
balcony, is the most coveted of these (Reguliersgracht 31; from £110).
A short stroll from Nieuwmarkt square, the eccentric
Misc EatDrinkSleep has six Sleep
individually styled guest rooms, ranging from a Moorish chamber to a room
inspired by the Dutch artist Rembrandt. Rooms with views of the canal are the
most expensive, but those overlooking the garden are charming in their own
right (Kloveniersburgwal 20; from £120).
Set across the street from the Royal Palace, the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky was one of
Amsterdam’s first grand hotels, and dates back to 1865. Rooms are compact yet
elegant – the 19th-century ‘winter garden’ dining room, with its soaring steel
and glass roof, is something of a national monument (Dam 9; from £125).
With miles of dedicated lanes, Amsterdam is ideal for cycling. Mac Bike is one of a number of firms that lease
out bicycles (day hire from £8). Central Amsterdam is served by trams, with
buses and the Metro serving the
suburbs (day tickets £6).
Amsterdam can be visited year round. A highlight of the spring is Koninginnedag on
30 April, celebrating the Dutch queen’s birthday with flea markets and
patriotic street parties.
Amsterdam Schiphol has flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and London City on BA
(from £95) and a dozen other cities in the UK with KLM
(from £95). Direct trains run from the airport
to Amsterdam Centraal (from £3). Eurostar also serves Amsterdam
via Brussels (from £100).
The article 'Mini guide to Amsterdam, Netherlands' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.