AMSTERDAM – WHY GO?
Amsterdam is just the place for a naughty weekend, with its Rembrandts, rich architecture and risqué red light area. Grab a cycle and go for a spin around the city on two wheels as the locals do to get the best feel for this canal-threaded Venice of the North.
MUST SEE, MUST DO
Set on 160 tree-lined canals (more, in fact, than Venice), Amsterdam’s distinctive 18th century gabled houses, arched bridges, houseboats and floating flower markets make it one of Europe’s most appealing capitals. A canal boat tour may feel touristy, but it’s a good way of getting a feel for the city from the water up.
You’ll find a square mile of art in the Museum District – home to three of the city’s heavyweight art collections. The magnificent Rijksmuseum showcases the works of Rembrandt, Vermeer and other Golden Age masters. More than 200 paintings are on show in the excellent Vincent Van Gogh museum, while the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art offers a newer perspective with the works of Mondrian, Liechtenstein, Picasso and Chagall.
You’ll get a sobering insight into life in wartime Amsterdam at Anne Frank’s House, where the teenager and her Jewish family lived in hiding during WW2 until they were betrayed to the Gestapo. Rembrandt’s House – restored to its original form, complete with the artist’s studio – is another one of Amsterdam’s remarkable relics. So too is the Willet-Holthuysen Museum, where you can get a taste of life in 18th century society in an elegant canal-side mansion home.
Red light district
Not all of Amsterdam’s attractions are as wholesomely cultural. Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light district is known worldwide for its bordellos and peep shows, sex shops and ladies of the night. The Rossebuurt, as the locals know it, is also one of the most historic parts of the city, with winding cobbles streets and leaning medieval houses.
Perhaps more a must see than a must do, Amsterdam is also famous for its so-called “brown” cafes selling more than just coffee. Some 240 specially licensed coffee shops dispense marijuana alongside the cappuccino, should you wish to indulge. Or try the Heineken Experience, a multimedia glimpse at how one of Holland’s biggest exports is made. You’ll get to taste the brew at the end of your tour.
MAKE A DATE
Queen’s Day – officially, celebrating the Queen Mother’s birthday – is one of the biggest calendar dates and an excuse for a huge party.
Vondelpark is the stage for a season of al fresco theatre, dance and cabaret.
De Uitmarkt, in the Eastern Harbour, plays host to some 400 acts ranging from hip-hop to classical music and just about everything in between.
Corner cafes, cosy bars and hump-back bridges piled with bicycles are all fetchingly lit up at night, so enjoy a moonlit stroll through the city together.