There are so many ways to see the sights on an Amsterdam city break. Walk cobbled streets flanked by elegant townhouses, join bike-mad Amsterdammers on the leafy paths of Vondelpark or cruise the canals from your Amsterdam hotel.
Get your bearings
Amsterdam’s three main grachts (canals) – Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht – embrace the city centre in a horseshoe shape. At its northern head lies Centraal Station. Main street Damrak leads to Dam Square, flanked by the Royal Palace. Eastwards are the old docklands and west is the diverse Jordaan neighbourhood, a former working-class area now crammed with shops, bars and eateries. Southwards are the tourist hubs of Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein squares, leading to Vondelpark and the Museum Quarter.
Old Masters, modern culture
There are few places on earth with as many Old Masters per square metre as Amsterdam’s Museum Quarter. You might think you know Van Gogh’s Sunflowers or Rembrandt’s dramatic Night Watch from countless posters and postcards, but nothing can compare to seeing them in the flesh. Cultural gems lurk behind the façades of Amsterdam’s canal houses like the 17th-century rooms in Amstelkring near the Red Light District. Amsterdam’s cultural calendar includes the summertime music Canal Festival and theatre and music during December’s Winterparade.
Lazy evenings in lounge bars, supper clubs, and old-style pubs characterise an Amsterdam short break. The old quarter by Oude Kerk (Old Church) near Dam Square is home to the Red Light District, one of Europe’s most unlikely tourist sights. Amsterdam’s ‘brown bars’, so-called for their nicotine-stained decor, dot Zeedijk near Centraal Station, Jordaan and along Utrechtsestraat, near Rembrandtplein. In De Pijp and Jordaan you’ll find everything from Syrian to Surinamese cuisine. During summer, Vondelpark hosts free musical events.
Heydays and history
Get a glimpse of 17th-century Amsterdam’s Golden Age in the Amsterdams Historisch Museum. In Anne Frank’s House, a 10-minute walk from Dam Square, memories of the Second World War come to life in the Secret Annexe where she wrote her diary. A stroll through Jordaan shows its transformation from a working-class neighbourhood into a creative cosmopolitan community.