Amsterdam is nicest in the summer, but as with the rest of Europe, July and especially August bring crowds. The good news is that the city has a temperate climate and so if you’re looking for shorter lines at Amsterdam’s best sights, go off-season. Throughout the fall, winter, and early spring you should find significant discounts at five-star properties making the chilly weather worth your while. You may even get to skate on the canals. The only downside in winter is that there is a particular damp cold that you want to be prepared for—the temperature can be well above freezing but without layers you might be pretty miserable walking around! So again, preparation is key, and with the right clothing, you will be comfortable. In summer the weather is rarely too hot, hovering in the late 60s and low 70s. You will find rain predominantly in winter but with 25 annual inches, be prepared whenever you go with waterproof outerwear. Amsterdam and much of the Netherlands are below sea level, so you will find a lot of mist and fog. Even a summer visit warrants a sweater as the weather can be unpredictable. From April through mid-May is tulip season, which means the city will look beautiful, but will be crowded and you are advised to book well in advance. If you make a summer visit, be sure to rent a canal bike for an authentic Amsterdam experience.
One of the things that is nice about Amsterdam is its size—it’s a relatively small city, making it a great walking destination. There are hundreds of quaint bridges, beautiful architecture, and cozy cafés for you to take breaks along the way. With a quality guidebook you can explore many sights in one day without a tour guide or set schedule. The Eastern and Western Canal Belts are gorgeous day or night, and you will find the peaceful Southern Historic Centrum to be perfect for a tranquil stroll. When you are tired of walking, there are two ways to go: canal cruise and biking. Both offer unique experiences in Amsterdam. There are lots of different types of boats depending on the kind of trip you prefer—sunset and night cruises can be particularly fun. If you want to feel like a local, rent a bicycle—but be careful as this is the preferred way to get around and can be tricky for the uninitiated. Museums are at the top of every visitor’s list in Amsterdam, with the big three (the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Anne Frank House) being absolutely worth the long lines. Remember though that there are dozens of other quality museums to get to as well. Be sure to experience café culture—from coffee to dinner, the city’s people-watching outlets are everywhere in all varieties. You can sit outside at many and if the weather is poor you should be able to find heated terraces from which you can still view the street action.
Travel with Kids
Amsterdam is great for kids of any age, but you might want to plan your trip with your children’s ages in mind. For toddlers, the city’s parks, like Vondelpark, offer big grassy areas, ponds, and stroller-friendly pathways. Children will also love biking and walking in the city, where there are always fun things—like boats, and ducks, and swans—to see. Do take care though as there is a lot of water in the city that young children could potentially fall into. Toddlers and their older siblings will love Science Center Nemo, set on the city’s waterfront, with hands-on exhibits to explore. Little ones will like the bubbles, magnet, and domino games; older children will enjoy the chemistry lab. There is also a ball factory and a rooftop water play area for summer visits. Amsterdam can be a great learning experience especially for older kids, so be sure to prepare them well. The Anne Frank House is a must-see and can be best appreciated if your kids read her famous diary before touring the house. Van Gogh’s work is so striking when you view the originals that children will be all the more pleased if the masterpieces are familiar to them. The Van Gogh museum has a special audio tour for kids as well as a self-guided treasure hunt. Visit the small playground and snack bar at the back of the museum when your family is ready for a break. And here’s a tip: you will most likely have to wait on line at these big attractions, but you can save time—priceless when you are travelling with children—by buying tickets in advance online. When the children are ready to eat, check out these kid-friendly restaurants: Kinderkookkafé and Chef Child allow children to cook and serve; Pancake Bakery, where the classic kid favorite comes in lots of varieties accompanied by toys and pint-sized chairs; and Wilhelmina-Dok, especially for lunch. Travel by ferry and as you enjoy a meal by the water, the kids will love watching all kinds of water vessels sail and tug by.
Amsterdam is a walking city, so plan on being out for the day on foot. Walking is the best way to discover the nooks and crannies of this exciting but laid-back small city. Keep in mind that as a pedestrian you do not have the right of way! Cars will go fast and most likely will not stop for you. Be careful crossing streets, as there are cars, bikes, trams, and other walkers (many with dogs) everywhere all the time. If you want to try public transportation, visit Centraal Station, where you’ll find GVB Amsterdam information. Here you can purchase tickets and get schedules for the bus, tram, and train. With an I Amsterdam Card, you can ride on public transportation, get into museums and attractions, take a canal cruise, and enjoy other discounts at attractions, stores, and restaurants. It is worth it if you plan on using a lot of public transport and seeing a lot of sights, so do research before you buy. Without the I Amsterdam Card you might want an OV-chipkaart that you can top up for tram, bus, and Metro use. There is also the Stop and Go bus, which travels the long, narrow canalsides of the Grachtengordel (Canal Belt) and allows for a bit of sightseeing on a one-hour ticket. The train is your best bet for getting to and from the airport as well as seeing the rest of the country. Taxis are notoriously overpriced in Amsterdam but have become diversified in recent years—and easier to get. Car hire is not recommended as driving, parking, and getting around adds up to a hassle not worthy of vacation. There are also water taxis, buses and ferries servicing several major points in the city and beyond. But next to walking, bicycles are perhaps the greenest way to get around Amsterdam.
Miauw is a luxury boutique hotel in the “9 straatjes” section of Amsterdam. Guests can work and relax in this concept hotel in the city’s most inspiring neighborhood. Miauw’s two buildings offer both rooms and suites available by the night or by the week. Miauw is not just a hotel; it’s also a media project, design center, and retail outlet. Located in two renovated old-style Dutch buildings, Miauw Amsterdam offers bright and inviting rooms designed with contemporary yet comfortable décor. Suites include a separate bedroom, open style kitchen, living room, bathroom, widescreen television, dvd/cd player, free wifi, and a low-cost phone line. For those guests who need a high standard of working facilities, Miauw can provide media professionals with stronger workstations for post-production (Combustion, Shake), editing (Avid, FCP), and DTP-software (Adobe Creative Suite). The hotel also offers meeting and show rooms. During summer, the Miauw shop is a place for guests and visitors to enjoy good food and drink. Fresh juices, great coffees, cocktails, snacks, and sandwiches are available for most of the day and night. In addition the shop serves as a gallery and retail space that alternates bimonthly between a concept store and exhibition area. Curated by the fashion designer Analik, Miauw features a “to wear” shop in spring and autumn. Keep an eye out while staying at Miauw: much of the furniture and accessories found throughout the building is for sale. Miauw updates its catalogue often and regularly features a variety of designer home products in the shop-gallery space.
Hotel V Frederiksplein
Hotel V Frederiksplein opened in 2008 in Amsterdam’s city center near the northern edge of the Pijp and the inspiring Albert Cuyp market. With 48 rooms, this luxury boutique hotel has a non-smoking policy and great access to city attractions. All rooms are designed with love and with eye for detail. Each room is unique and features a compact but comfortable bathroom. Every morning the hotel staff serves a complete and energizing V breakfast for a good start of your day and full of energy to get the most out of Amsterdam. Hotel V Frederiksplein has an attractive meeting room for 12 featuring a smokey glass partition for an intimate feel while still being apart of the hotel V lobby.
The Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy
This Dutch hotel is centrally located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Eastern Docklands Area, and accessible from public transportation or your own boat, as the hotel has its own boating dock. Renowned Dutch architects, designers, and artists have transformed this old monument dating from 1921 into a luxurious hotel to be enjoyed by many inhabitants of Amsterdam, international artists, tourists and business people. All guests receive 24-hour room service, free wifi, and satellite television. In addition to the Cultural Embassy, the hotel contains a restaurant, a bar, a library and even a convenience shop. Eating and drinking at the Lloyd Hotel is centered on great ingredients and excellent preparation. The Lloyd Hotel works with local suppliers to get the freshest ingredients to make their own cakes, jams and mayonnaise according to traditional recipes. Coupled with the luxury hotel experience, the Cultural Embassy makes a stay at the Lloyd Hotel relaxing, fun and educational. The hotel’s Cultural Embassy offers various services in its communal spaces, while informing guests and interested parties on topics such as art, culture and cultural projects. In conjunction with the Lloyd Hotel the Cultural Embassy and its members organize projects and cultural activities: performances, small exhibitions, and presentations. Admission to the Embassy is always free for everyone.
The Dylan is a 41-room, 5-star, luxury boutique hotel tucked behind a historical façade right along the canals of the city’s charming center. The Dylan is perfectly located for both business and pleasure visitors to Amsterdam. Accommodation at the Dylan comes in Room and Suite options, with varying Room Styles for each type. Try the Kimono Room with a black four-poster bed and authentic Chinese ornaments, or a Zensation white room featuring bright white walls, white king-size bed, beige accents, and plenty of light for a zen stay. The Dylan also has several suites available in Manhattan and Loft styles with canal views. Dine at the hotel’s Michelin-star Restaurant Vinkeles, where French cuisine is served in an excellent mixture of classic and contemporary styles. Set in a sunken dining room surrounded by 18th-century ovens that once served as a bakery for the Catholic Poor Peoples Office with views overlooking the garden, the restaurant offers an intimate and elegant setting blending the old world of Authentic Amsterdam with the new, refined style of today. Bar Barbou, the Lounge, and the Long Gallery all offer drinks, lunch, and ‘brasserie style’ dinner daily. Lit with candles and warmed by heat lamps when needed, the Garden at the Dylan is the secluded spot you’ve been looking for complete with a tempting Brasserie style “Lounge menu” at lunch and dinner. High Wine, which is available every day from 3pm offers a selection of wines and tasty dishes by the Dylan’s executive chef. Whether it be for dynamic visual presentations, product launches, client events, press functions or even private business lunches or dinners, the Dylan’s elegant and chic meeting spaces are guaranteed to make a lasting impression on all who attend.
Hotel de L’Europe
Visitors accustomed to exquisite luxury will appreciate Hotel de L’Europe, an oasis of lush comfort in Amsterdam. After an extensive renovation of the historical Theodoor Gilissen Bank just next door, Hotel De L’Europe recently opened the new Dutch Masters Wing, an all-suite annex of 23 uniquely appointed, spacious loft-like quarters each with a different yet exacting replica painting from the nearby Rijksmuseum National Gallery. The city’s top local architect/interior designer Cees Dam, whose zeal for sustainable development is revealed via his curriculum vitae of high-profile projects throughout the Netherlands, transformed the bank into a distinguished haven for residents and travelers alike.
Some of the best of Amsterdam is in the café culture so be sure to experience it. There is also abundant and eclectic cuisine to explore, including the Jordan district’s Mazzo, where a former nightclub has been reinvented as the Jordan’s New Living Room by IQ Creative. Mazzo is a beautifully crafted mix of relaxed Italian-style dining, meeting place, and café. For a mix of furniture, fashion, and food, visit Friday Next. Browse the latest collection of furniture and accessories and take a break at the Friday Next Café for coffee and cake or a simple lunch with a nice glass of wine. Another unique addition to Amsterdam is Dauphine, located in what used to be the Renault-garage opposite the Amstel Railway Station. The restaurant’s name “Dauphine” refers to a very successful type of car made by Renault in the early fifties. With an interior designed by designed by Heyligers architects+design and an á la carte menu boasting cosmopolitan splendor and an extensive wine list.
Shopping in Amsterdam is a fun mix of window-shopping, walking, stylish boutiques, high-end fashion, and open-air markets. There is diversity in the offerings and prized purchases for the determined retail junkie. Take the tram to KNSM Island where the ChicTraveler will love the many old warehouses renovated to inhabit creative contemporary design shops. Browse De Negen Straatjes neighborhood for vintage shops and inviting cafés. Near the Museum Quarter you’ll find high fashion like Vuitton, Gucci, Chopard, and Chanel. In the “Old South” neighborhood there are quaint shops in one of the city’s nicest residential areas. Try Cornelis Schuytstraat for a unique Dutch gift. If funky is your style, head for De Jordaan, where you can get lost in second-hand stores, art gallery-studios, and plenty of cafés. To get a feel for Dutch department stores, you will find De Bijenkorf near Dam Square and other large retail outlets. Along Leidsestraat you can pick up high-end retail items, including lots of shoes like Camper. Keep your walking shoes on for the pedestrian shopping area of Kalvertoren but keep in mind it’s usually crowded.
Amsterdam’s big museums are the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Anne Frank House, but there are dozens more that you can visit. Here’s a comprehensive list:
Van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam Historical Museum
Anne Frank House
Amsterdam Tulip Museum
Electric Tram Line Museum
Fluorescent Art Museum
Pijpenkabinet – Pipe Museum
Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis
Jewish Historical Museum
Coffee and Tea Museum
Museum Our Lord in the Attic
Hermitage in Amsterdam
Museum van Loon
Allard Pierson museum
Civic Guards Gallery (Schuttersgalerij)
Nederlands Scheepvaart Museum
Tropenmuseum – Tropical Museum
Rembrandt house museum
Nieuwe Kerk – New Church
FOAM – photography
Bijbelsmuseum – Biblical museum
Museum Het Schip – Amsterdam School of architecture
Verzetsmuseum – Resistance Museum – WWII
Hortus Botanicus – the Botanical Garden
Theo Thijssen Museum
Museum of Bags and Purses (Tassen Museum Hendrikje)
Stadsarchief Amsterdam – Municipal Archives of Amsterdam
De Appel (The Apple) – Foundation for contemporary art
ARCAM – Amsterdam Centre for Architecture
Huis Marseille – photography
Vakbondsmuseum – Trade Unions Museum
Persmuseum – Press museum
Brilmuseum – National Museum of Spectacles
De Kattenkabinet – The Cat Cabinet
The Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum
Highlights of Amsterdam nightlife include music, especially the jazz scene, some cabaret, a vibrant club and bar scene, and an active if small dance club scene. Unique evenings are found in the brown cafés (typical Amsterdam pubs). Leidseplein is the center of Amsterdam’s nightlife where you will find a variety of restaurants, bars, and clubs in close proximity. Rembrandtplein is also fun at night and maybe a little more raw. Around nearby Reguliersdwarsstraat there are some more good clubs, gay-friendly cafés, and nice restaurants. The Rosse Buurt, or Red Light District, is just that—and Nieuwmarkt just beside it has become a popular alternative hangout. The city hosts major European theatre and concert tours; see what’s on at Koninklijk Theater Carré, Amsterdam ArenA, and the Heineken Music Hall. If you need a movie fix most cinemas run Hollywood releases in English. If you explore the club scene, keep in mind that many are members-only, although tourists can often gain access with the right attire and attitude. For old-style cafés visit the Jordaan; for smoking coffeeshops head for Warmoesstraat on the edge of the Red Light District. Some notable coffeeshops include the Rookies, Sheeba, Borderline, and Bulldog Palace. Preferred clubs include Escape with three dance floors; Melkweg and the Friday night Electric Circus; and Panama on the waterfront.
Visiting the city on a holiday can be fun since there are often parades and/or other celebrations, but note that services, shops, and museums may be closed. Amsterdam is a party city, and you can start off the year right with a riotous New Year’s Eve. If you can make it during tulip season, then enjoy the city’s nearby fields bursting with color from April through mid-May. April also is the month for Koninginnedag, or Queen’s Day (April 30). The World Press Photo competition is also held in April featuring exhibits from thousands of photojournalists. If you love jazz and you visit in the summer, try to get to Rotterdam for July’s North Sea Jazz Festival (8-10 July). You will have to wait until 2015 for the next SAIL, a magnificent nautical gathering of tall ships and modern boats. Open Monument Days (Sep 11) in September are occasions when visitors can tour buildings normally closed to the public. In October 30,000 gather for the Amsterdam Dance Event (October 19 – 22), the world’s biggest festival of clubbing. Gay Pride in Amsterdam features a boat parade in August; the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (Nov 16 – 27) is held in November as well as Museum Night.