A glorious city at any time of year and an excellent place to break up your journey, whether it is onward to Africa or to other European destinations. With its canals, bicycle routes, flower markets and al fresco cafes and bars, it often feels more like a large village than a metropolis. Most people you meet are friendly, helpful and very laid back. Amsterdam is family friendly as there is plenty for them to see and do there as well. The Dutch have a term Gezelligheid which has no direct translation, but pretty much sums up the atmosphere there: convivial, welcoming and a general feeling of unity and belonging.
A city that exists in perfect symbiosis with the water that surrounds it, Amsterdam is best explored by boat. Taking a barge cruise along the Canal Ring and beyond is a great way to get some perspective of the wonderful architecture and see the different neighbourhoods flow into one another. There are a number of operators, but you can’t go wrong with Canal or Lovers Canal Cruises.
On foot or by bike, the vibrant areas of De Pijp and Jordaan are excellent places to spend an afternoon. Both have transformed from working-class neighbourhoods to something a little more bohemian. The former is a favourite with students and is home to the gardens of Sarphatipark and the renowned Albert Cuypmarkt street market. The latter houses plenty of sweet little boutiques and cafes.
Young and old alike love the city’s Foodhallen, a former tram depot that has been transformed into a market of edible wonders from around the world.
A hidden gem in west Amsterdam, De Cantina is a peaceful spot nestled in among artist studios and warehouses. They serve cake and homemade lemonade, and the majority of the ingredients for their dishes are either from the garden or the local area. It’s great for families, or just for relaxing… there’s even a hammock.
Michelin-starred Ron Gastrobar Oriental, with it’s Asian fusion dishes, has been a hot spot for city slickers. For something a little more hip, head to Terpentijn, which offers some European classics, but also has a street food menu with a taste of the Far East.
Citizen M is a strong budget choice, though around 10 minutes from the town centre by tram. You can only book online and check in is done by computer. The rooms are functional, but the beds are big, and the wifi is free, and there is plenty of art and colour around the building.
For something a little bit different stay at the Hotel de Windketel. Right in the heart of the city, this brick tower was built in the 19th century as part of the water works. It has since been transformed into a luxury apartment.
The gorgeous Toren Hotel is a great one for romance and has exceptional service, while the ideally located Linden Hotel has a family room that sleeps four.
If you’re a fan of the speakeasy vibe, then Porem is a cool little spot for cocktails, look for a golden plaque close to the doorbell.
Distilleerderij ‘T Nieuwe Diep in Flevopark is a wonderful place for leisurely summer afternoons. It has its own distillery, and a cute little section that overlooks the water.
Glouglou is a cosy wine bar that’s good for cuddling up with a lover or if you have a night child-free. The gin and tonics come in fantastic medieval-style goblets.
If you are looking to carry the party on – then Paradiso is always a great choice.
You could spend your entire trip ambling through Amsterdam’s brilliant museums. A must is the recently renovated Rijksmuseum where the works of the Dutch Masters are on display, just next door is the incredible Van Gogh Museum, which has the largest collection of the famed artist’s works. For those that prefer modern art then Stedelijk Museum has plenty to offer, make sure you visit the annex, which looks a bit like a giant bathtub.
For family friendly spots (perfect for school aged children), Anne Frank House is on most people’s itinerary as is the Science Centre NEMO where you can experiment in a chemistry lab, test out green energy, and investigate if there is alien life.
Spend some time around De Plantage, the lush area close by the Royal Artis Zoo. It’s a great place to let the littles run free and of course the animals are always a big hit.
The Bloemenmarkt, a floating flower market in Singel is lovely to see, whatever time of year you visit. A kaleidoscope of colour, it’s a veritable playground for great Instagram shots and photographers.
If your dates align, catch a symphony at the Concertgebouw where the renowned Royal Orchestra plays.
If you have time to venture a little further afield then Edam and Gouda have famous cheese markets, while the beaches of Zandvoort and Bloemendaal are hugely popular in spring and summer.
For those that are curious about the Netherlands and looking for something a little more active then Boat & Bike Tours Holland provide an excellent way to see the country.
Another great day trip is visit to the tulip fields of Keukenhof, though the flowers only bloom March to May each year. It’s worth checking in advance of the exact opening and closing dates.
Clean, punctual, and with charming flight crews, KLM also has a broad range of flights going from Asia to Europe and Africa. They have special offer stopovers and recently trialled a service where they pair travellers with a local during their stop in Amsterdam. It is worth checking in advance what offers you can take advantage of to make the most of your trip.