Amsterdam. The city of canals, Van Gogh and quaint coffeeshops? But outside of these obvious draws, this lovely city has much more in store for your perfect weekend break in the Netherlands.
Act like a local and hire a bike to find your way around the Dutch capital. Numerous rental companies are situated throughout the “cycling city” which offer several bike types ranging from touring bikes to tandems and children's bikes. Specially designed cycle paths and route maps are available, but if you lack confidence, participating in a guided tour is also a great way to explore the city.
Canal cruises, canal hoppers, canal bikes and dinner cruises are just a few examples of the large selection of boat tours the city has on offer. Seeing the beautiful houses from the picturesque canals is definitely a must-do for everyone undertaking a luxury city break to Amsterdam.
Parks and gardens
The Vondelpark is central Amsterdam's largest park. These are favourite grounds for locals and tourists alike, with perfectly mowed fields, landscaped gardens, ponds and canals. There are four restaurants situated within the park, including a teahouse and the Vondelgarden. Free concerts and theatre performances are on the program during June, July and August in the open-air theatre.
Additionally, next to the Vondelpark you can find the PC Hooftstraat, the up-scale shopping street boasting every designer label you can wish for. Prefer somewhere quieter? Then visit the Hollandsche Manage, the indoor riding school that dates back to 1882. The design is inspired by the renowned Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Visit the cafe upstairs where you can gaze at the horses and beautiful architecture while enjoying a soothing cup of tea.
A must-see are the famous ''Hofjes.'' These inner courtyards are surrounded by beautiful little houses dating back from the 14th and 15th centuries. Once home to women who were of the Dutch Reformed faith, the 47 still existing ''Hofjes'' are well-worth a visit as you find yourself travelling back in time. The Begijnhof is probably the most prominent of them all. This postage stamp-like home was once inhabited by the Beguines; women of a Catholic order who were unmarried and who cared for the elderly. Included in the courtyard are the Begijnhof chapel and the English church.
Founded originally as a medicinal herb garden in 1638, these three buildings hold one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, dedicated to thousands of plants, flowers and trees. This oasis of tranquillity is an ever-changing environment and also features an orangery dating back to the 19th century.
The Rijksmuseum is home to the work of the greatest painters of all time, but you already knew that. Are you also aware of its beautiful garden? The garden was designed by the same architect that designed the museum, P. Cuypers. The Rijksmuseum garden ensures visitors an enjoying walk in the sunshine while being able to admire a variety of flowers, plants, fountains and sculptures. Even ruins from all over Holland are on display and show details from the local cultures and the development of architecture. Perfect for a leading heritage break to the Netherlands!
Albert Cuyp market
Definitely the largest and most varied market in the city is the Albert Cuyp market in the Pijp neighbourhood. Experience this sensory-overload of smells, sounds and tastes while wandering around and exploring nearly 300 stalls. From fruit and vegetables to clothes, accessories and even bikes, one can find just about everything at the Albert Cuyp.
Die-hard flea market shoppers as well as farmers market enthusiasts will be delighted visiting the Noordermarket, situated on its namesake square in the Jordaan neighbourhood. On Mondays, you will find the flea market here featuring wares ranging from records and fabrics to antiques and second-hand clothing. Every Saturday the square is being transformed to one of the best farmers’ markets the city has on offer.
Want to bring some famous Dutch flowers home? Visit the city’s famous flower market. The only floating flower market in the world, it offers all sorts of blooms which are all ready for export.
Without a doubt the Jordaan district is the most sung about and described neighbourhood of Holland. This former working-class area has become a popular place for students, artists and young professionals. Packed with quirky shops, sumptuous restaurants and typical Dutch bars and houses, it makes the perfect place to stroll around. The Jordaan is also home to The Nine Streets, with fancy designers, vintage stores, art galleries and gift shops.
Westerpark is full of energy with trendy cafes, appealing eateries, extraordinary galleries, a cinema and a popular club all situated here. This area is a meeting point for locals, but also perfect to spend some time while on a break. Relax at the Westergas terrace with its wonderful pond or learn about the Amsterdam school style of architecture at museum Het Schip.
Oostelijk Havengebied (Eastern Docklands)
The Oostelijk Havengebied is situated east of the Central Station, featuring a wealth of modern architecture and design, as well as historic storehouses. Attend concerts at Muziekgebouw aan t' IJ (Music Hall on river IJ), walk over the python bridge or enjoy more contemporary architecture and canals on Java Island.
Amsterdam with kids
Artis Royal Zoo
Discover more than 900 species of animals living in beautiful natural surroundings in the heart of this bustling city. The 19th century Artis Royal Zoo boasts one of Amsterdam's finest architecture with an aquarium, butterfly pavilion, planetarium, insectarium and plenty of playgrounds and restaurants on offer.
Nemo is the largest science centre in the Netherlands. Every exhibition in the museum has to do with science and technology. All the exhibitions are interactive, so you can try everything for yourself. At the end of your visit you’ll know how lightning works, what you will look like in thirty years and much more.
The Pancake Boat
The Dutch pancakes are totally different from the thick American versions and French crepes. The best way to try this desert is on the Amsterdam Pancake Boat. While sailing on the canals, kids get the opportunity to decorate their own pancakes and eat as many as they want. On board you’ll also find a ball pit.
Fun Forest Climbing Park
For the adventurous families, there is Fun Forest Climbing Park, situated in a forest near Amsterdam. The park contains eight different courses in living trees, offering different heights and levels of difficulty. So challenge yourself and your family and go on a special adventure holiday in the Netherlands.
Where to stay
The Toren is a member of Great Hotels of the World's Luxury Collection. Double rooms start from £203.
Hotel Okura Amsterdam is a member of Great Hotels of the World's Luxury Collection. Superior Double rooms start from £164.