Even though Amsterdam is only a hop, skip and jump away from London, the last time I visited the city was more than a decade ago. So I was really excited for the opportunity to spend a few days in the city this spring and was really happy to find out that it remains a perfect spot for a lazy weekend getaway.
Writing about Amsterdam has also been a breeze. I can’t quite believe how much that city has inspired me and I can’t wait to share all of it with you guys.
WHERE TO STAY
Centre of Amsterdam is incredibly busy and in fact the city is cracking down on over tourism through its City in Balance programme so if you’re after a relaxing and more authentic experience stay in one of the outer boroughs. We stayed in Amstelveen which is just a short Uber ride away from the airport and has a direct tram connection to the city centre but still feels like a small town without all the hustle and bustle of the capital.
In fact you don’t even need to go Amsterdam if you don’t want to as Amstelveen has plenty to keep you entertained from Cobra Museum of Art and Amsterdamse Bos (a huge park with open air swimming pools, boating lake and a biodynamic goat farm!).
EXPERIENCE AMSTERDAM BY BOAT
The best way to see Amsterdam is definitely from a boat. It will put you right in a holiday mood and give you a great overview of the city making it a perfect activity for the first day of your trip. There are many different companies running organised boat tours along the canals and we opted for Friendship Cruises because they use smaller, open boats for more of an authentic experience. Our captain (who was also our guide) was very enthusiastic and full of insider city knowledge. There’s a bar on the boat meaning that you can enjoy the views while sipping a glass of prosecco (I mean, do you need any more convincing?). If you’re with a larger group (minimum 8 people) you can book a private tour for a more intimate and personalised experience.
If you want to do like the locals do and you’re confident you can navigate your own boat, there are also plenty of rental companies in the city. Here all you need to spend a lazy afternoon on the water is a group of friends and some picnic food.
STOCK UP ON TULIPS AND CHEESE
Luckily both of these can be found in a very close proximity to each other along the Singel canal in the city centre. The famous floating flower market sells mostly bulbs so if you come here in search of freshly cut flowers you might be disappointed but stall holders do their best to create extravagant displays to feast your eyes on. To avoid the worst of the crowds come here early in the morning (before 11am) and pick a few bags of unique variety tulip bulbs to plant at home which is exactly what we did. On the other side of the narrow street there is a row of specialist cheese shops where you can taste lots of different flavours and pick up a souvenir to take home. I particularly enjoyed the lavender and honey flavoured Gouda cheeses.
Hunt for wisteria
If you happen to be in Amsterdam during the short wisteria season you’ll be in luck (this year the peak season fell at the end of April / beginning of May). The decorative shrub grows all around the city and looks so incredibly elegant climbing up the traditional canalside houses. Unlike in London where wisteria hysteria is all the rage and the most picturesque spots are swamped with instagrammers especially at the weekend, in Amsterdam nobody cares so you will have those beautiful spots all to yourself.
BROWSE ALBERT CUYP MARKET
We stumbled across Albert Cuyp street market completely by chance and I am so glad we did as it turned out to be the highlight of our trip. The largest day market in Europe with over 260 stalls it sells everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, flowers and potted plants to homeware, jewellery and clothes. We were blown away by the quality the fresh produce and especially fish at affordable prices which is so different to London. The atmosphere is laid back and stall holders super friendly and always up for a chat or a joke.
HANG OUT IN AMSTERDAM OOST
So there’s no hiding the fact that Amsterdam is overrun with tourists. This relatively small capital city with less than a million inhabitants welcomes over 18 million visitors a year. So you’ll be pleased to know it’s still possible to get away from the tourist trail and experience the city as a local. All you have to do is head east. An up and coming neighbourhood of Amsterdam East is one of the most culturally diverse and liveliest parts of the city yet still relatively untouched by mainstream tourism.
Here you can stroll through Hortus Botanicus, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, visit the Artis Zoo or relax in one of the beautiful parks. This part of the city is also full of trendy bars, cafes (such as Maxwell Cafe which I wrote about in this post), and concept boutiques selling stylish homeware, accessories and gifts.
I hope you enjoyed my little guide to Amsterdam. I’d love to read what’s your favourite thing to do or a place to visit in the city - let me know in the comments!