Amsterdam City Breaks
Amsterdam city breaks are some of our most popular travel packages, steeped in tradition combined with a quirky, creatively open-minded culture that epitomises this unique city. Amsterdam's history can be seen throughout the town, from street corners to local bakeries, visitors can see glimpses into the past. The gothic architecture is embodied in the Old Church, Oude Kerk, which is also the oldest wooden building in the city, built in 1425.
In the summertime, Amsterdam is the place to be for festival lovers, with events such as the Holland Festival, the Roots Music Festival and the colourful Gay Pride parade. There is also live music playing along the 17th-century canals which, in July 2010, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Although home to Europe's most famous red light district, Amsterdam has much more to offer visitors. Museums and art galleries line the city's streets - the majority located at Museum Square. The Van Gough museum exhibits many of the artist's best-known works (such as the sunflowers) in a historic open setting, allowing visitors to browse the extensive collection of paintings and exhibitions. The Rijksmuseum displays pieces from Rembrandt and that of his pupils, making Amsterdam the perfect destination for any art lover.
A visit to Amsterdam is not complete without experiencing the shopping in this city. The more upscale shops are found in and around the Vondelpark. The Vondelpark is Amsterdam's most popular park, a hive of activity and culture, and a place where visitors flock to for various live summer events and activities. Kalverstraat, in the centre, is the most popular high street, especially with those looking for a cosmopolitan Amsterdam city break. To combine shopping with sightseeing, visit the shops that line the canals within the Grachtengordel. Amsterdam is also host to many open-air markets like the Albert Cuypmarkt, for example.
For a more in-depth look at the city, check out our definitive guide to an Amsterdam city break.
Things to see and do
Amsterdam has plenty to offer including the wonderful 17th-century city centre and the canals, which give the city the famous face it portrays to the world. There are a large number of art museums, brown cafes and squares which are very popular with tourists. Among the more notorious highlights are the coffee shops and the Red Light District.
As the day draws to a close Amsterdam comes to life, especially on the mild spring and summer days. While all cinemas and theatres are busy, city clubs, cafes and restaurants are filled with a friendly crowd. Amsterdam's famous Red Light District, an old quarter of town near the big church called Oudekerk (Old Church), not far from the Dam square, is invaded by groups of tourists. This is also an area of many nightclubs, small restaurants and cafes. A big city square, Leidseplein with its theatres, cinemas, cafes, nearby casino and clubs is also a very busy place at night. Another permanently crowded square is Rembrandtplein, with its clubs and nearby cinemas. Finally, the old quarter of Jordan is home to popular cafes and restaurants.
Amsterdam Dinner Cruise:
Combine a cruise through the illuminated canals with a sumptuous 4-course dinner, complete with fresh cut French bread. You will be greeted with a welcoming drink and dinner will be rounded off in style as you enjoy a petit grand dessert, with tea or coffee. Prices start at £69pp.
Volendam, Marken & Windmills:
Get inspired by traditional Dutch culture during a visit to the countryside. Visit the fishing villages of Volendam and Marken and take a tour through the world famous windmill museum, Zaanse Schans. As well as viewing a fine collection of different windmills, you will have a chance to dive into traditional Dutch atmosphere surrounded by old-fashioned houses, shops and warehouses. On the island of Marken, you will have the opportunity to visit the local wooden shoemaker and discover how the Dutch make those famous wooden shoes known as Klompen (clogs). In lively Volendam, you can visit a cheese factory and the Volendam Museum, or stroll on the famous dyke along the harbour. Round off your tour with a nourishing lunch in one of Volendam's excellent fishing restaurants. Tour prices start at £50pp.
Did you know?
The Bridge of 15 Bridges is a canal crossing from which 14 other arches can be seen in a number of different directions. You’ll find it where the Reguliersgracht meets Herengracht and it’s especially pretty at night.
- Flight time from London: 1 hour 5 min
- Amsterdam Airport Schiphol: 16km from the city centre; transfer time about 15 min
- Nearest railway station: Amsterdam Centraal Station
- Currency: Euro
Amsterdam American Hotel-Hampshire Eden 4*
This modern hotel features a fantastic art-deco design and is officially listed as a monument.
Die Port van Cleve 4*
Situated right in the heart of Amsterdam, in Dam Square, the hotel can be found behind the Royal Palace.
Best Western Leidse Square Hotel 3*
Perfectly located for a visit to the city's museums.
In Amsterdam, you'll find everything from international fashion labels, books, arts and antiques, to local specialities, such as tulip bulbs, cumin cheese and stoneware bottles of jenever (Dutch gin).
There is an interesting flea market around the City Hall and Opera. The busy, cosmopolitan food and clothes market is in Albert Cuypstraat and the colourful floating flower market, Bloemenmarkt, on the Singel is not to be missed. On Saturdays, you'll find the organic food boerenmarkt (farmers market) and the vogelmarkt (bird market) in Noordermarkt.
The Dam Square offers Bijenkorf, the premier department store in Amsterdam. It sells a good range of clothing, accessories, cosmetics and household items. There's also Magna Plaza, an exclusive shopping centre in a fairy-tale, neo-gothic building.
The luxurious shopping centre De Kalvertoren and the upscale The Maison de Bonneterie (the Harrods of Amsterdam) are both located on Kalverstraat. There you can find top quality men's and women's clothing and fine household goods.
d'Vijff Vlieghen (The Five Flies) is popular with both tourists and locals. Set in a series of period rooms and spread over five ancient, rambling, 17th-century canal houses, the dark wooden panelling, crisp white linens and antique furnishings of the interiors create a formal yet intimate setting. Typically experimental dishes include spring onion soup laced with berry-flavoured Dutch gin or red perch with sauerkraut, with tangy plum compote for dessert.
This bar/restaurant/club complex is a breath of fresh air on touristy Rembrandtplein. The bouncers and dark facade are a bit off-putting, but it is worth the effort of getting inside to enjoy a funky, visually impressive space. The menu covers three different types of cuisine (Asian, Continental and Mediterranean) and carries each off impressively well.
This restaurant fully deserves its Michelin star for the blending of French style and East Asian influences to great effect. The result is exotic flavour combinations, such as cod and merguez sausage, with preserved Cevennes onions in a reduction of red wine and vinegar. The culinary creations are served with flair in a chic, contemporary canal-side restaurant. Reservations are essential and it is only open for dinner.