It’s hard not to fall in love with Amsterdam the minute you set foot on its ancient cobblestone streets and colourful canal banks. This hospitable city has been welcoming travellers from all corners of the globe for centuries, and will make you feel immediately at home. Amsterdamers love to speak English and their friendly, laid-back attitude is catching; it’s an easy place to wind down and relax before setting out to explore the city’s rich cultural heritage.
The compact city centre is easy to explore by foot or by using the excellent integrated public transport system of buses and trams for longer journeys. A canal cruise is a great way to get your bearings, taking around an hour to cover all the main sights, or take a tip from the locals and hire a bike to navigate this gently undulating terrain.
The city’s famous canal district dates back to the Golden Age of the 17th century, when city’s increasing importance led to rapid expansion beyond its old 13th-century boundaries. The Canal Ring is now a world heritage site, where you can admire some of Amsterdam’s finest merchants’ houses and warehouses and visit the Anne Frank House to learn the moving story of this brave young diary writer.
The Royal Palace on Dam Square is one of the city’s most striking landmarks; take a tour of its lavish state rooms painted by Rembrandt, or head for the top floor of the Peek & Cloppenburg department store for a bird’s-eye view of the busy square from the windows of Madame Tussauds waxwork museum. Art-lovers will be open-mouthed at the priceless collection of Dutch masters on show in the historic Rijksmuseum, while the strikingly modern Van Gogh Museum houses the iconic paintings of this troubled genius.
Take an eye-opening wander through the notorious Red Light District or mingle with the locals in the friendly bars and restaurants of Nieuwmarkt before heading for the nightlife in Leidseplein. The following morning, take a refreshing walk through the green spaces of Vondelpark or grab a coffee in one of Amsterdam’s famously liberal coffee houses. Beer lovers shouldn’t miss the Heineken Experience where you can visit the old brewery and find out more about the production of this famous local lager.
Whether you’re in search of historic buildings and tranquil waterways, world-class culture and fine cuisine, or great shopping and pulsating nightlife, this cosmopolitan city ticks all the boxes.