Sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll? It’s easy to view Amsterdam in clichés, but venture beyond the reefer haze and rouge glow to behold a dynamic metropolis with a simply enchanting village heart. Cool creatives, top shops, dykes, bikes and lots to like – come tiptoe through the tulips of this bewitching canal capital…
Flat, compact, easily walkable and even breezier on two wheels. From the centre with Old Church, Dam Square and Red Light District, the dazzling Canal Ring’s grand merchant houses and retailvana Nine Streets curl west to south; gentrified Jordaan lies west; swanky Museum Quarter southwest; and vibey, multicultural Pijp southeast.
Need To Know
- Weather: Winter can be chilly, grey and drizzly, but is blissfully crowd-free
- Neighbourhood 411: Red Light District, Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein and Dam Square = stags, hens, potheads, hookers and lookers
- Accommodation: Many old hotels have steep, narrow stairs – not good for Nellies with clicky hips or big trunks – so check ahead
- Going Out: Thursday and Friday are the best nights to paint the town red. Saturday can get skanky, and it’s quiet on other days
- Service: Can be woeful and tipping is not required, but 5-10% in cash is nice when it’s good
- Getting Around: No other city confers as many rights to cyclists. Being an infant or infirm is no excuse, get out of the way!
- Coffee vs Coffeeshop: A cafe is for coffee, a coffeeshop is for wacky backy
- Royal Romp: If orange is not the new black, dodge the Dam on King’s Day (27 Apr), when locals dust off their finest tangerine togs for a riotous street party. Book a boat for maximum bonkers
- Meal on Wheels: Dine with the foodie locals at buzzy gastro gathering Rollende Keukens, when mobile kitchens of every variety – from ice-cream carts to beer barrels to fish-smokers – roll into the industri-cool Westergasfabriek over the long holiday w/end
- Bloomin’ Marvellous: Don’t miss the Hortus Botanicus in April. Go for the 40 species of tulip, stay for the lunch at pretty Orangery; or sneak a peek inside the city’s most amazing private and hidden gardens with Open Garden Days
- Culture Klatsch: The beard-stroking in this city never stops. Free concerts, stand-up comedy and tot-friendly theatre at Vondelpark Open Air Theatre (May-Sep); Grachtenfestival ushers in 10 spectacular days of canalside classical music; Amsterdam Fringe Festival pummels the boards with performance, live art, music and dance; and the fascinating IDFA screens the world’s biggest documentary film festival