Why you should put this city at the top of your mini-break list
Make sure you pack your comfiest shoes, because you won’t want to miss a second of sightseeing in Amsterdam. With its cobbled streets and stunning canals, this Netherlands city has so much to see and do, no matter what time of year you choose to visit.
Just a stone’s throw away from the UK, the flight to Amsterdam is a short and sweet hour long, and it only takes 15 minutes to travel by train from Schiphol Airport to the city’s Central Station, where you’ll be greeted by vibrant hustle and bustle. Watch out for the bikes, though – they have the priority over pedestrians here.
See the sights
Explore Amsterdam by foot or, for a few euros, buy a hop-on-and-off day pass for the trams. First on your agenda must surely be the Anne Frank House in Jordaan, but make sure you book tickets well in advance, as they sell out quickly.
Take a ride on the ferry for free from Amsterdam Central Station to Noord, where once every month you’ll find the IJ-Hallen flea market, offering everything from designer clothing and fine china to hidden treasures. Don’t forget to leave some room in your suitcase!
If you’re not scared of heights, pay a visit to the nearby A’dam Lookout, where you can gaze out across the city from a sky deck. Or, if you’re really daring, have a go on the “Over The Edge” swing, which dangles 100m above ground level and is the highest of its kind in Europe. There’s even an outdoor and indoor bar on-site, where you can calm your pre-swing jitters with some literal Dutch courage
The district of Haarlem, which is another short train ride from Central Station, is known as “little Amsterdam” because it has the same feel as the main centre, only without the thousands of tourists. Here you’ll find small boutique shops selling clothes, chocolate, tea and gifts. The cross-shaped Grote Kerk church in the centre of Haarlem is the best place to soak up some Dutch history and marvel at the beauty of the stained glass windows – all for a minimal fee.
Vondelpark is the largest city park in Amsterdam, and a great place to visit during spring and summer. Rent a bicycle, pack a picnic, and take yourself on a ride around the paths, or you can take a guided bike tour for just a few euros per person. Free concerts are held in the open-air theatre during the summer months, too.
Restaurants and sweet-treat shops are plentiful in this city, so you’ll never be left feeling hungry. In need of a quick sugar hit? Grab a stroopwafel, which is made from thin layers of baked dough and has a sticky caramel filling. They are sold all across the city and are well worth the calories. If you’re more of a savoury fan, the award-winning Manneken Pis restaurant sells the best-tasting fries around. And, with over 20 different sauces, you’re sure to find the perfect condiment to go with them. There’s usually a big queue, but the chips are definitely worth the wait. The 5&33 Bar & Restaurant is a great place for an evening meal and drink before you take a late-night walk through the city. They offer a wide range of food and sharing plates, but we strongly suggest the black truffle tagliolini.
Staying in the centre of the city will make exploring that bit easier. Park Plaza Victoria Amsterdam is the perfect place to unwind after busy days out. The hotel offers state-of-the-art technology in all bedrooms, Egyptian cotton sheets and grand bathrooms – perfect for a long hot soak after hours on your feet. There’s also a 24-hour gym, indoor pool and sauna, use of which is included in the room price.
Need to know
English is spoken everywhere in Amsterdam, so there shouldn’t be any language barriers. However, learning the basic greetings in Dutch goes a long way with locals.
We stayed at the lovely Park Plaza Victoria Amsterdam, where superior king rooms start at £156 per night, excluding breakfast. (Parkplaza.co.uk)
It can get pretty chilly during the autumn and winter months, so make sure you pack plenty of layers.