Amsterdam is a picturesque city of Golden Age canals, cobbled streets lined with narrow, gabled houses and world-class art museums that more than justifies its reputation as one of Europe’s best destinations for a city break.
Home to a picture-perfect 60-mile labyrinth of canals crossed by over 1,500 brides, Amsterdam – The Netherlands’ most populous and capital city – is affectionately known as the ‘Venice of the North’. The canals were built during the 17th-century Dutch Golden Age, and are perhaps the city’s most enduring legacy.
However, there’s much more to Amsterdam than just canals. The compact city centre is characterised by picturesque medieval town squares, flower-lined narrow roads and slender, gabled houses – perfect for exploring on foot, especially during the Christmas period, with the city is dressed in festive finery. When many of the city centre buildings were built, tax was based on how wide the facade of the building was, so narrow, taller houses were built to save money on taxes.
Amsterdam is known for its world-class art museums, and is home to the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the contemporary Stedelijk Museum. The Dutch capital is also the location of the Anne Frank House, a museum dedicated to the Jewish wartime diarist in the same building she hid from the Nazis in during World War Two. People-watching is a popular pastime in Amsterdam, with the city centre’s canals lined with plenty of cafés.
The city is surrounded by a picturesque patchwork of flat fields, dotted with windmills and crisscrossed by dykes, that burst into colour when the tulips bloom, around April.
From enjoying a canal cruise and wandering the city’s cobblestone streets, to browsing its world-class museums or relaxing in its large, open spaces, Amsterdam has plenty to see and do.
A canal cruise will give you a unique perspective of Amsterdam. Sit back and relax as you glide along Amsterdam’s iconic Golden Age waterways, listening as your guide regales the city’s fascinating history.
Art aficionados will enjoy looking around the city’s many museums, which are home to famous works including Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, Vincent van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night and Andy Warhol’s Jacqueline Kennedy II.
Amsterdam’s food scene is a pleasant blend of traditional Dutch fare and international cuisine. Whilst you’ll find traditional foods like herring, stroopwafel (two layers of baked dough sandwiching a layer of caramel) and bitterballen (a tasty bar snack of crispy meatballs) are commonplace, you’ll have no shortage of international restaurants to choose from. Thanks to its eclectic population, Amsterdam is home to everything from Nepalese and Thai to Turkish and French restaurants.
Coffee is more a way of life than a drink in Amsterdam, as is Amstel, the locally-brewed beer.
First trip to Amsterdam? Here are a few questions you might have.
Thanks to its location, Amsterdam has a typical maritime climate, consisting of mild summers and cold winters, with rain throughout the year. The driest time of the year tends to be between April and September, with the temperatures at their highest in July, with averages of around 20°C.
Most tourists tend to visit Amsterdam between April and September, when the chance of rain is at its lowest and the temperatures are higher. April and May are particularly good months to visit, when the daffodils and tulips bloom. Christmas is also a good time of the year to travel to Amsterdam.
In Amsterdam, they speak Dutch, although English is widely spoken. Below are a few useful phrases in Dutch:
Hello – hallo
Goodbye – vaarwel
Please – alstublieft
Thank you – dank u
Do you speak English? – spreekt u Engels?