Right on the UK’s doorstep and bursting with activities for all the family year-round, Amsterdam is a great place for a quick visit whenever you can find a few free days. The Netherlands’ capital isn’t just about the more… student-friendly aspects – it’s a vibrant, active place with plenty going for it on land and water. Plus there’s a proud seafaring tradition and a mountain of history on every street corner. If you’re looking for indoor activities, museums and galleries are easy to find.
In this article we’ll be taking a look through the year, one festival each for spring, summer, autumn and winter. The Dutch do love a festival, it seems. Here are the highlights of this year’s get-togethers for travellers old and young.
Spring: Cherry Blossom Festival
The traditional Sakura celebration is how they mark spring in Japan, and Amsterdam has a thriving Japanese community who ensure it’s done the right way here. Flowers (particularly cherry blossoms), hold a special symbolic significance in their culture, representing a new beginning for the year and the fragility of life.
Take in traditional food and drink, and of course, the blossoms themselves, around the beginning of April each year in Amstelveen and the Amsterdam Forest.
Top Tip: As you might imagine, this one’s an outdoor event, so make sure you’ve got some good walking shoes and that everyone in your group is prepared for a long stroll.
Summer: TREK Food Truck Festival
Every year in summer, Amsterdam’s many food trucks descend on parks all around the country to provide a fresh, fun take on lunch. The 2019 edition will take place in the magnificent surroundings of the Amstelpark in the middle of July, when the city is abuzz with thousands of extra sightseers. Kids are well catered for when it comes to Dutch street food – remember, this is the culture which gave the world Poffertjes and Stroopwaffeln! There’s enough choice around for everyone to find a new favourite cuisine.
Top Tip: This is a city that runs by cycle power, so it’s a great idea to see about renting some bikes. Definitely the best way to see the city for active families.
Autumn: Cinekid Festival
Amsterdam’s annual meetup for film, TV and new media is a great place for keen viewers of all ages to get an insight into what goes on behind the camera. There are installations and exhibits, alongside plenty of premieres and other events for more than 50,000 visitors each autumn. There’s a massive variety of things on offer for all the family. This year, the festival is set to take place in September or October – keep an eye on the website.
Top Tip: There are many events for the slightly older audience members too, including documentaries, interesting shorts and classic features. Keep in mind that the subtitles may be in Dutch.
Winter: Amsterdam Light Festival
When the skies turn darker, a bevy of artists light up the night with a 53-day exhibition in a ring around De Wallen, from the end of November 2019 to the end of January 2020. You can see them either from the streets or the canals with some installations best seen from the water. Hiring a bike or booking a boat tour is a great way for travellers of all ages to enjoy the celebrations.
Local schoolchildren even get in on the act – this year, 850 pupils from 20 schools will be working under guidance from Japanese artists, with each class getting its own private premiere.
Where to Stay
Hotel CC – This delightful little three-star hotel boasts an incredible location right in the middle of the city, round the corner from the Anne Frank House and five minutes from Dam Square. It’s clean, comfortable and has period features like exposed beams and vintage windows (though admittedly only the grown-ups might get a kick out of this). The staff are more than happy to help if you’d like any tips on how to make the most of your trip.
Radisson Blu Hotel – This one’s a well-equipped four-star in very close proximity to Dam Square and Kalverstraat (Holland’s most famous shopping street), with rooms in a variety of themes to suit your style. It’s handy for the tram, which can get you everywhere in town with a minimum of fuss and expense, and offers a brilliant breakfast buffet – continental of course.
How to Get There
Amsterdam Airport (AMS) is, unsurprisingly, the handiest point of access if you want to sample the delights of this gem of northern Europe. It’s about an hour away from London, with over 430 flights a week on nine airlines, flying year-round. You can get a very cheap return if you play your cards right.
The smartest choice in terms of price and convenience is to pre-book your transfers so that when you get there, you can start your holiday immediately. Shuttle Direct’s transfers will get you from the airport to your hotel in around twenty minutes.
About Shuttle Direct
We at Shuttle Direct have been matching travellers with drivers for over forty years, with a variety of options including shared shuttles and private cars. We work with the most professional local drivers and pride ourselves in getting your holiday moving.