1. Step back in time
Visit Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis to feel what is was like to be one of the wealthy elite in pre-industrial eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Amsterdam. The palace was built in 1687 and has a famous collection of historic pianoforte instruments. If you visit on a Sunday you can hear the music for yourself at the weekly concert, which starts at 5.45pm. It lasts approximately an hour and there’s an opportunity to meet the musicians afterwards. Email firstname.lastname@example.org in advance to get your ticket.
2. Check out a world-beating art collection
The Dutch national museum Rijksmuseum recently underwent a decade-long refurbishment, including a complete modernization of the nineteenth century gothic and renaissance building. The wait was worth it, the new Atrium is now a spectacular entranceway that sets just the right tone for the rest of the collection. The pièce de résistance of the collection is Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. You’ll need to admire it from afar if you want to appreciate the 11 feet by 14 feet canvas in all its glory! It still hangs exactly where the architect of the building, Pierre Cuypers, wanted it to hang. In fact, the whole building was designed around this seventeenth century piece. The museum is open each day from 9am to 5pm, and tickets cost €17.50 (Dh70) for adults, and children go free.
3. Go for a two-wheeled spin
Amsterdam is well deserving of the title of the world’s most bicycle-friendly city. It’s flat enough to suit even the most out-of-practice cyclists but there’s such an extensive network of cycle paths that it’s probably the most interesting way to explore the city. You could spend €16 (Dh65) a day and hire a bicycle from Bike City in the Jordaan district which rents out cycles that blend in with the locals and don’t scream ‘tourist’! If you want to rent for more than 5 days, book online. Yellow Bike offer two-hour tours costing €22.50pp (Dh90) and you’ll get to see all of Amsterdam’s major sites en route. They run from November to March every day at 1.30pm. Or you could opt for a longer trip that takes you out into Amsterdam’s northern district to the Waterland area.
Amsterdam can get busy, so if you want to find some greenery and take a breather (that won’t cost you anything), walk to Vondelpark, just past the Museumplein. Stroll through any of the park’s network of pathways to the waterways and ponds, rose garden and bandstand. It’s a good place to take children in Amsterdam because there’s lots of squirrels, parakeets and sheep (yes, really!), as well as children’s play parks.
5. Cheese tasting
The Old Amsterdam Cheese Store is the perfect place to take anyone with more than a fleeting interest in cheese. The store, on Damrak 62, has a special room where it holds cheese tasting classes so you can learn how to tell your gouda from your edam. The course lasts for one hour and costs €15pp (Dh60) and you’ll also be shown the perfect drinks to go with different cheeses. The shop has a good selection of souvenir gifts to take back home with you.
6. Love movies
You can’t miss the angular EYE-film museum building on the Amsterdam waterfront, which is the city’s home to all things film. It regularly screens international and Dutch films (check the online calendar). Admission to the building itself is free but a movie ticket costs €10 (Dh40) for adults and €7.50 for children under 12. The exhibition space has a busy program of temporary exhibitions (the current one explores works on 16mm and 35mm film). Tickets cost €10 (Dh40) and kids under 12 go free.
7. Go shopping
There is some great shopping to be done in Amsterdam. If you don’t want to spend too much, head to the Kalverstraat, where you’ll find a large Vroom & Dreesmann department store. It sells everything from clothing to camping equipment and has a lovely restaurant – La Place – where you can rest your legs after a hard morning’s shop. If you’re looking for designer shopping in Amsterdam, go to PC Hoofstraat, home to the likes of Louis Vuitton and Gucci. The higher-end de Bijenkorf department store is on the edge of Dam Square and allows shoppers living outside of the EU to shop tax free.
8. Stay in an uber-hip hotel
The Hoxton Amsterdam, an outpost of London’s Hoxton Hotel, is one of city’s most stylish places to stay. It is situation on Amsterdam’s Herengracht canal and is made up of five beautiful canal houses. There are 111 rooms over five floors and each one has its own quirks. There’s three types of rooms – cosy, roomy and tubby (which features the brand’s first ever bathtub!). You’ll get free water and milk in the minibar, and up to an hour’s worth of free international calls depending on the room you choose.
9. Time for tea
The Dutch do tea well, so settle down at De Bakkerswinkel to warm up over a teapot and cake. The central bakery on Warmoesstraat, one of the oldest streets in the city, has a fabulous selection of sweets, salads and some of the best quiches in town. Perch at one of the chunky wooden tables under the funky industrial light fittings and enjoy the quiche of the day for €8.25 (Dh33), or indulge in a bread-and-butter pudding with caramel for €7.50 (Dh30).
10. Have a laugh
Boom Chicago at Rozentheatre has an ever-changing cast of writers and performers doing improvisational and sketch comedy, making it one of the best nights out in Amsterdam. You can sit at a table with a bucket of drinks, but be warned, the closer you are the front the more likely you are to get called on stage! Boom Chicago also has a side venture in Escape Rooms where you’ll go back in time to World War II in occupied Amsterdam and have to solve your way out!
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*Published December 2016. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.