What are the best things to do in Amsterdam?
1. Amsterdam has the highest density of museums in the world. One of the biggest, the recently remodeled Rijkmuseum, is very accessible. It includes Rembrandt’s famous The Night Watch as well as face to face encounters with his moody portraits. Seek out Vermeer’s stunning intimate scenes of everyday life, still emotional hundreds of years later.
2. If Impressionism stirs your soul, then visit the Van Gogh museum. Though the artist only sold one painting in his lifetime and was dogged by anguish and depression, his swirling artworks have brought light to millions of viewers. Don’t miss the Sunflowers.
3. Anne Frank house and the Jewish museum both attempt to piece together the persecution millions faced in thirties and forties Europe. Be prepared for crowds in Anne’s hideaway. There are plenty of smaller museums too, though you might tire of people sniggering at the Sex Museum. On the way back from Anne Frank pop in to the Tulip Museum. These sculptural flowers once crashed an entire economy. Wall Street would be proud.
4. The Red Light district of Amsterdam is famous for putting its dwindling numbers of sex workers in window displays, much to the amusement, bemusement or alarm of passing tourists. But the area, known a De Wallen, is also full of trendy cafes and bars. Visit before tourism and new permits start to thin the crop of hidden gems.
5. Amsterdam is famous for its lagers – the giant brewer Heineken owns Amstel among its many beer brands. Whilst its factory is no longer in the city, you can still tour the former brewery, pull your own pint or bottle your own lager. But perhaps you prefer your beer a little craftier. Brouwerij ’t IJ is next to one of Amsterdam’s surviving inner city windmills and makes artisanal pints.
6. When you want to escape the haze of the cafes, Amsterdam’s outdoor spaces are there for you to enjoy. First up should be the recently regenerated Amsterdam Noord district, so hop on the ferry. The former manufacturing quarters have had an industrial facelift and there’s now plenty of event spaces and the A’DAM tower. This tower has Europe’s highest swing. Whether you choose to strap into the ride or not, you’ll still get excellent views of the city from the top.
7. Visit the Vondelpark, a big, beautiful park with an open-air theatre. See if you don’t wander in on a free music concert, or get roped into a salsa class. On a sunny day, stroll along the canal to Westerpark, where the premises of a gas factory merge with a park, creating an edgy space to explore.
8. The Netherlands has a bigger population of bicycles than it has people, so it’s easy to equip yourself with a pair of wheels. You’ll find yourself freewheeling over hundreds of bridges – including the pretty Magere Brug, a slender white drawbridge. And don’t let winter blues keep you indoors around Christmas – the Light Festival on the canals sees the water lit with a series of beautiful installations.
9. Vogue has labelled De Pijp Amsterdam’s coolest neighbourhood. Whilst it competes with Nine Streets and Rozengracht for this title, it certainly has the largest open-air market: Albert Cuypmarkt is ideal if your idea of shopping involves edible free samples of Edam. If you like ducking in and out of trendy boutiques, Nine Streets has enough of them to fill your suitcase, and plenty of Scandi modern furnishings have filtered into the shops: RAINS, the specialist Danish mac manufacturers, somehow make anoraks look trendy. No guarantees if your dad puts one on, though. Dutch brands include kings of couture Victor & Rolf, and recently revived Scotch & Soda. Revive yourself with a coffee at Screaming Beans.
10. Exploring beyond Amsterdam is easy. Whilst Americans and Parisians will be catching the trains to France, you don’t need to look so far afield for a change of scene. The Netherlands have plenty of other treasures. Waterland, Efteling and Keukenhof exude rustic charm – whether waterways, fairy tales or tulips. Not satisfied with seeing Dutch still lifes in the Rijkmusum? Hire a car and head south to the Keukenhof gardens to see the real thing: thousands of tulips blooming to create amazing patterns, stretching towards the horizon.