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City Breaks Amsterdam

If you’re looking for a chilled-out city break, then look no further than Amsterdam. With sun-dappled canals and a lively bar and club scene, it’s one of the most popular destinations in Europe. Discover the city’s history at the Rijksmuseum, browse the canal-side shops and markets, and then round your day off in a cosy brown café.

5-21 °C

Amsterdam enjoys a stable climate with four distinct seasons.

1.5 hours

Schiphol Airport (AMS), around 25km southwest of central Amsterdam 
 

Alternative transport: You can also travel by Eurostar to Brussels with onward tickets to Amsterdam’s Centraal Station, via Rotterdam.

If you’re looking for a chilled-out city break, look no further than Amsterdam. With sun-dappled canals and a lively bar and club scene, it’s one of the most popular destinations in Europe. Discover the city’s history at the Rijksmuseum, browse the canal-side shops and markets, and then round your day off in a cosy brown café. Whether you like to fill your holiday with lots of sightseeing, or prefer to discover a new city at a more relaxed pace, you’ll find an incredible range of things to see and do in Amsterdam. We’ve highlighted our top recommendations to help you plan your trip, and make the most of your time in ‘The Dam’.

Museum-hopping tops the list of cultural things to do in Amsterdam. Pop across Museumplein to the Stedelijk Museum, to browse the collection of modern art and design. Then spend the rest of the day at the nearby Rijksmuseum; its treasures include blue-and-white Delftware ceramics and  Rembrandt’s celebrated painting: Night Watch, along with the world’s largest collection of work by Van Gogh; one of the greatest painters in human history. To learn all about the body and mind, visit Body Worlds; an exhibition by famed anatomist-come-artist Gunther von Hagen (if you’re a little squeamish, you may want to avoid this one though!). Throughout Amsterdam, you’ll find information points which highlight the best museums to see in the city. To skip the queues and get in early, we recommend you buy your museum tickets online before you go; they also tend to be cheaper when bought in advance.

A thought-provoking reminder of the realities of World War II, Anne Frank’s House is a definite must-do while you’re on your Amsterdam city break. In this living museum, you’ll be able to see the tiny annex where Anne and her family lived in hiding for more than two years. Secluded behind a moving bookcase in an office building at Prinsengracht 263, the family were given food and kept updated with news of the outside world by the kind staff who worked in the offices. The rooms are now empty, but you’ll be able to see photos, notebooks and Anne’s famous diary in the museum that adjoins the building. There’s also a multimedia space, where you can take a virtual journey of the house. Sign the guestbook while you’re there, and leave a comment about your experience to share with others. Anne Frank’s House is one of the most popular places to visit in Amsterdam, so it’s best to book in advance to make sure you don’t miss out.

Amsterdam’s windmills are a famous sight, but do you know they had several purposes? From acting as the city’s flood defences and grinding seeds to making mustard, they’ve played a vital role in Dutch history. Most of these windmills have now been dismantled or fallen into disrepair, but there are still eight intact. If you’d like to take a peek inside one of these windmills, the Molen van Sloten mill is open to the public. Found on the outskirts of the city, it’s a great chance to see one of these beautiful buildings in action. Don’t miss De Otter Mille in Amsterdam-West; it’s one of the best kept windmills in Amsterdam. Built in 1631, it stayed in operation until the early 1900s, and is now considered a national monument. The city celebrates National Windmill Day every year, which is held on the second Saturday in May. During these festivals, you can take part in events which are held in and around the windmills, and also learn all about how they work. Some windmills even hold art exhibitions or concerts during the festival weekend.

Wander around the labyrinth of 17th-century streets in The Jordaan District; one of the top must-do’s while you’re in Amsterdam. You’ll find it just west of Amsterdam’s Central Station and near to the western side of Canal Ring; it’s probably the most famous neighbourhood in the Netherlands. Sip coffee in a modern café and then take a wander and check out the art galleries and boutique shops that dot the area. The Jordaan is also home to Noordmarkt Square, which has a Monday morning flea market and Saturday farmers’ market. At night, the canals of The Jordaan are lit up with thousands of twinkling lights, which makes the perfect holiday snap. There’s also a popular underground music scene at Korsakoff, so if you want to experience Amsterdam’s nightlife, The Jordaan is the place to go.

Amsterdam is well-known for its café culture, and what better way to relax and take in the sights, sounds and aromas of the city than enjoying a drink in a pavement café. Spend your morning sipping coffee and eating pannenkoeken (pancakes), or grab a cone of patat (chips) smothered in mayonnaise for a quick afternoon snack in a café in Dam Square, while enjoying the buskers, street performers and great views of the Royal Palace. While you’re in Amsterdam, make sure you visit a brown café. These traditional Dutch pubs are named ‘brown cafes’ due to their cosy dark wooden décor and tobacco stained wall paper. You’ll find brown cafes around most neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, and they all have friendly staff and refreshing Dutch beer on draft. One of the oldest brown cafes in Amsterdam is Café Karpershoek. Dating back to 1606, it also holds the oldest liquor license in the city.  

AMSTERDAM IS BEST FOR...
 

Couples: Cycle along the canal and enjoy a cosy evening in a traditional brown café.  

History lovers: Learn more about Amsterdam’s rich past at the Rijksmuseum. 

Bargain hunters: Pick up trinkets and vintage clothing at one of Amsterdam’s canal-side markets.

FAST FACTS

Language: The language spoken in Amsterdam is Dutch

Currency: The currency used in Amsterdam is the Euro (€)

Local time: Amsterdam is 1 hour ahead of GMT/UK time

Fly to: Schiphol Airport (AMS), around 25km southwest of central Amsterdam 

Alternative transport: You can also travel by Eurostar to Brussels with onward tickets to Amsterdam’s Centraal Station, via Rotterdam

Flight time from UK: 1.5 hours

Tourist Information: Further Amsterdam tourist information can be found at www.iamsterdam.com

Visa & Health: Before your holiday to Amsterdam, visit http://gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/netherlands for recommendations and advice on visas and health


WEATHER AND CLIMATE

Temperature: 5-21 °C  

With the weather hovering in the mid-teens (°C) between March and May, spring is a great time to explore Amsterdam's cosy cafes. Summer is always a popular time to visit the city, thanks to warm highs of 21, and up to 11 hours of sunshine a day. Book your holiday for autumn or winter to take advantage of fewer crowds, or to enjoy the city’s legendary Christmas markets.


GETTING AROUND

Cycling: Amsterdam is very cycle-friendly. There are plenty of bike rental shops as well as a great network of cycle paths. You can even join a bicycle sightseeing tour to help you get your bearings.

Boat/barge: Taking a trip along the Amstel River is a great way to see the sights, especially on the hop-on/hop-off Canal Bus.

Tram: The tram system is ideal for travelling around the centre. Conductors sell tickets on board, though you might find an OV-chipkaart or an I Amsterdam City Card more convenient if you’re using a lot of public transport.


EVENTS

High Fashion: Young and upcoming designers showcase their work every January at Amsterdam International Fashion Week. You can expect fashion-themed museum exhibits, art exhibitions and lots of parties. 

Celebration time: The Netherlands gets into party mode on Konigsdag, the day after King Willem Alexander’s birthday in April. It’s particularly popular in Amsterdam, when an estimated 750,000 people travel to the city for a big open-air celebration. 

Musical spectacular: August’s Grachtenfestival features 10 days of jazz, blues and classical music. Enjoy a grand performance at a concert hall, or alternatively, a cosy blues jam in a local resident’s garden.

Van Gogh in bloom: See a spectacular annual display of millions of tulips and other pretty flowers at Keukenhof, the largest flower garden in the world.  Open from March-May, the colourful 32-hectare gardens will share the inspiration of Vincent van Gogh’s life and works, 125 years after his death.


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