You’ll know when you’ve arrived in Amsterdam. The constant ring-ring of bicycle bells, the wonderfully oddball Dutch humour, its mighty museums filled with eclectic treasures, cute-as-a-button canals and the occasional waft of legal marijuana single it out as a special destination within Europe.
It’s a brilliantly walkable city, delightful when just strolling past the gabled buildings – as though something out of a Wes Anderson film – but also heavy with green spaces. Plump for barbecues in Rembrandtpark and open-air theatre within Vondelpark. Eating spots creatively span traditional to super-modern, whether you’re after snacks or fine dining, and there’s no shortage of places for drinks, from cocktails to local beers.
Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most popular city break destinations, and a little extra planning goes a long way – so here’s our guide to getting the most out of a visit.
What to do
Museums, galleries and exhibitions
It’s rare to turn a corner in central Amsterdam without hitting what might be the main attraction in lesser cities. The most famous trio are the Heineken Experience, the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, as suggested by the impossibly large queues at peak times. Niche offerings stretch to a museum dedicated to hidden attic churches with the delightful Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, and even an interactive microbe exhibition, Micropia. At the bigger attractions, including the Rijksmuseum (adjacent to Van Gogh), booking timed tickets in advance is a must.
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Lounge around at A’dam Toren
A free ferry ride away from Centraal Station is the A’dam Toren, a music-themed 22-storey multi-use building in which to eat, drink, party and sleep. It’s for daredevils too: the rooftop bar, which often features live DJs, features a swing that propels you off the building.
For those who choose to, Amsterdam is the place in Europe to imbibe cannabis legally. As the longest-running coffeeshop, The Bulldog The First is a popular hangout, as is the Grey Area: the Amsterdam coffeeshop of choice for Snoop Dogg, Woody Harrelson and Willie Nelson. Owners are accustomed to novice smokers, so seek a few words of advice before getting stuck in (and opt for a pre-rolled joint rather…