European City Breaks: Amsterdam
Amsterdam is one of the most vibrant, beautiful cities in Europe. Known as ‘the Venice of the North’ for its labyrinth of charming canals, and housing more museums per capita than any other European city, it’s no wonder people flock to visit this iconic city. There are approximately 750,000 people living here, and although space is of a premium, this is a fantastic city packed with trendy neighbourhoods, pleasing parks and fantastic shopping.
A popular destination for backpackers, tourists and travellers, young and old, forget all you’ve heard about Amsterdam and discover a totally different side of this incredible city.
The nearest airport is Schiphol. There are several on-site car hire companies available, including Alamo, National, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt. It is well worth using our price comparison tool to book before setting off in order to find yourself the best deal and avoid any hassle on arrival. Getting to Amsterdam city centre from Schiphol Airport takes little more than twenty minutes, a simple north-east drive along the A4. The roads are well maintained and the route is properly sign posted so you really shouldn’t have any problems.
Since the Netherlands is a fairly small country, hiring a car gives you access to a huge range of attractions and exciting areas without being at the mercy of public transport. The beautiful and local favourites, Noordwijk and Zandvoort beaches are only a 35 minute drive, while Scheveningen, also very popular, is 50 minutes away. For a slightly different experience you could also take a day trip to The Hague, the seat of national government, which is a slightly smaller city but very picturesque and varied.
Where to Stay?
Amsterdam is packed full of accommodation options to suit every taste and every budget. For those with less to spend, the Flying Pig is a great option. They have three different locations to choose from, it’s a great place to meet other backpackers. For those looking for something more in the mid-range, the Qbic Amsterdam offers something a bit more unique. Located just outside the city centre at the Zuid metro stop, the Qbic has the familiar feeling of a hotel with a classy and upscale interior. Each room features a single futuristic unit incorporating the TV, bed, bathroom and shower. For the health conscious they offer jogging tours and they focus on healthy eating too. For those of you renting a car, the hotel has multi-storey parking available that can be booked and paid for on arrival. You can find out more information here and view alternative parking options.
Where to Visit?
There are a host of famous sights around Amsterdam, such as the Anne Frank Museum and the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Singel, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Prinsengracht; these are certainly worth a look! While these certainly shouldn’t be missed, there are some lesser-known spots worth visiting too. For a different museum experience try the Tassenmuseum, a quirky institution which focuses on handbags and purses. Jodenbuurt is also a beautiful area to explore, where you can find Rembrandt’s house, the Jewish Historical Museum, the Portuguese/Israelite Synagogue and the Waterlooplein Flea Market.
What to Do?
For couples looking for a romantic evening or a day excursion in the city, you can’t go wrong with a trip down the canals. You can do it local style and go by bicycle, walk hand in hand, or drift by slowly on a barge. All couples should make their way down to the Magere Brug (or skinny bridge). It parts every twenty minutes to let boats pass underneath, but is known mainly as a popular spot for romantics. Imagine moonlight and glistening water, lit up by old-fashioned streetlights – charming!
End the evening at ‘The Movies’, Amsterdam’s oldest running cinema. Dating back to 1912, they have kept all the Art-Deco style inside which really gives that feel of stepping back in time. They present themselves as an art-house cinema but do sometimes show Hollywood Blockbusters too. There’s a restaurant inside so make sure you take advantage of the movie ticket, main course and dessert deal. For those of you worried about the language barrier, never fear. Dutch cinemas nearly always show films in their original language with Dutch subtitles (probably partially contributing to the fact that the Dutch are so strong, linguistically). The only exception to this rule is animated children’s films, which are occasionally dubbed into Dutch. To be sure, keep your eyes out for the ‘OV’ sign (original version) or double check when you are buying the ticket to make sure.
Where to shop?
Amsterdam has loads of quirky, vintage shops to choose from but where better for shoppers to head than the biggest Flea Market in Europe, IJhallen, located just north of the city? It’s usually split between an outdoor and an indoor section, things are really cheap and for an entrance fee of just €4.50, you can spend the whole day browsing through the incredible amount of clothes and other bits and pieces. Take the free ferry from Central Station to get to this bargain hunter’s dream.
Recently come back from the Dutch capital of culture? Share your experience and tips in the comment section below.