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Amsterdam, commonly referred to as the Venice of the North, is the cultural, financial and creative centre of the Netherlands. Originating as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important trade ports in the northern hemisphere and has since developed an extensive history, with many of its historical buildings and structures still standing today. The city boasts over one hundred kilometres of iconic canals, which also happen to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. With an abundance of activities for locals and tourists alike, the city is bursting with hundreds of things to discover. This helpful guide will enable you to get the most out of Amsterdam and explore the city like a local.
One of the best ways to get around is by bicycle, the typical Dutch transport of choice. We highly recommend hopping on two wheels to get around and make the most of your Amsterdam experience.
Start your day with a scenic walk or ride along the beautiful Amstel River. The Amstel is where the city’s name derives from. The route along the Amstel will also give you some perspective on the scale of bicycle traffic in Amsterdam, one of the most bike friendly cities in the world. Continue over to De Pijp for a hearty breakfast and delicious coffee at one of the neighbourhood’s best cafes, Bakers & Roasters (Eerste Jacob van Campenstraat 54). This excellent establishment offers one of the best breakfast and lunch selections in Amsterdam and will be sure to set you off on your day with a very satisfied stomach!
To start soaking up some of Amsterdam’s rich art history, make your way to the Van Gogh Museum (Museumplein 6), located just south of the city centre. This museum is renowned for having the world’s largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh. And if you’re keen for more history, don’t forget to cycle up through the city to the Prinsengracht canal and visit the famous Anne Frank House (Prinsengracht 263-267).
Hungry? For a quick and affordable snack, try out the famous D&A Hummus Bistro (Westerstraat 136), serving some of the best hummus and falafel in town. Located in the city centre, take this opportunity to stroll around and do some sightseeing. Next up, the Jordaan district. Haarlemmerdijk is located in the north-eastern part of the city and is home to some of the best shopping in Amsterdam. Whether you’re into hipster cafes, art deco movie cinemas or the local coffeeshops, the Jordaan district has it all.
Head to Amsterdam Central Station and jump on one of the free 24 hour shuttle ferry services to the EYE Film Museum (IJpromenade 1), located in the Overhoeks district a quick and scenic three-minute ride across the IJ river. This spectacular feat of design and architecture from Delugan Meissl Architects houses over 37,000 film titles, 60,000 posters, 700,000 photographs and 20,000 books dating back to 1895.
Head back to Amsterdam Central on the ferry and then hop onto another free ferry service to the remarkable NDSM-Werf complex, located further west on the northern side of the river. Built on a once derelict industrial shipyard, the entire area has been completely transformed into a multi-faceted arts and cultural hotspot, hosting weekly markets, creative offices, and numerous cafes, bars and restaurants. There is plenty to explore here! Thirsty? Make your way to Pllek (Tt. Neveritaweg 59), home to Amsterdam’s biggest waterfront terrace. Pllek is an open minded and inviting cultural hangout that focuses on healthy living and sustainability. Grab a cold refreshment and enjoy a mix of events including live music, movies, exhibitions, workshops, yoga and other exciting activities!
Pllek also happens to offer an exceptional menu of delicious food, mostly made using local and organic ingredients. Celebrate an unforgettable dinner here and experience one of the best harbour views Amsterdam has to offer. Looking out over the water at the very tip of the NDSM-Werf in Amsterdam-Noord, the industrial container architecture fits in nicely with its shipyard surroundings.
Jump back on the ferry to Amsterdam Central and stroll along through Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District to Hiding in Plain Sight (Rapenburg 18), one of the best local bars in the city! This intimate speakeasy-style bar boasts an incredible list of unique cocktails and spirits, carefully selected and crafted by its award-winning bar staff.
Amsterdam is truly a 24-hour city. It’s known all over the world for its incredible abundance of nightlife activities, and is the first city in the world to have elected its very own mayor of nightlife. No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without visiting one of its most popular music venues, the Melkweg. Located in the only surviving factory building on the Amsterdam canal ring, this historic building houses two concert halls, a cinema, a theatre and an exhibition space. The Melkweg is undoubtedly a worthy choice of venue to end up at after an unforgettable day in one of the world’s most beautiful capital cities.