Dominated by waterways, cafés and culture, Amsterdam is a contradictory city specialising in laid-back vibes and high art. Amsterdam takes art seriously, and with good reason given its native son Vincent Van Gogh produced some of the greatest works of the last century, many of which can be visited in the Museum in his honour. Getting around, either on two wheels or by canal, you’ll discover the relaxed pace which draws you into relaxation mode, and that’s long before you come to a famous brown café for a beer. Rich in classical music and 17th Century architecture, but somehow firmly modern, Amsterdam is a unique haven.
Things to see
Amsterdam is a city for walking, or biking around, and at the very heart of it all sits Dam Square, with the Nuewe Kirk, the Royal Palace and the Nationale Vrijheidsmonument Amsterdam overlooking this grand corner of the city. It’s not just monuments and museums, however, with plenty of restaurants, cafés and street performers all vying for attention. It’s certainly busy, but despite the crowds it’s an ideal place to unwind and engage in a spot of people watching. Centrally located, the Anne Frank House Museum is a deeply moving trip into the horrors of the last century, but while its steeped in tragedy, seeing her hiding place, concealed by a bookcase, and stepping into her world is a reminder of the triumph of the will, even amid such devastating historical circumstances. Another Amsterdam institution with a tragic edge is the Van Gogh Museum, which has the world’s largest collection of paintings by the local genius.
Hotels in Amsterdam
Amsterdam might be a laid-back place, but it isn’t lackadaisical when it comes to luxury accommodation. Five-star hotels in Amsterdam can be found throughout the city, with a number clustered around Dam Square which offer the pillow menus and hypo-allergenic bedding which you’d hope to find in the most elite locations. With free WiFi and flat-screen televisions, most of the top-end hotels will also offer coffee and tea making facilities. Many of the five-star hotels will have on-site spas and fitness centers, as well as offering business and conference facilities, whether they’re a well-known luxury chain or a one-off independent guest house.
Where to stay
With its mix of medieval and 17th and 18th Century buildings, the area around Dam Square and Central Station is a haven for those seeking the Golden Age in the modern era. It’s within walking distance of the restaurants of Nieuwmarkt and antiques of Waterlooplein square. Greener, and often pricier, is the Museum District to the south, where you’ll be close to the Van Gogh Museum and ideally fixed for a trip into the buzzy, studenty De Pijp neighborhood for a more offbeat night out. For a flower-laden, vintage vibe, you might consider the Canal Ring, which runs in a horseshoe shape around the center of town.
How to get to
International visitors to Amsterdam will probably arrive at Schiphol Airport, around 11 miles to the southwest of the city. The airport has excellent transport links into the center, with a range of regular buses making use of the extensive bus lane system and usually taking around half an hour to take you into the heart of the city. There’s also a train station linking the airport with the city, and international rail networks. Centraal Station is connected to a wide web of European cities by rail, with Paris around 4 and a half hours away by rail. The station is as centrally located as its name suggests.