Amsterdam, with its pretty canals, world-renowned museums and overall fantastic culture, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. This gives the city a lively buzz all year round, but also means that some of its most visited attractions can be very busy and overcrowded, even in the off-season. Luckily, Amsterdam has lots to offer and with a little bit of know-how, it’s easy to go off beaten track and discover a side to the city that most tourists miss.
For a break from sitting in smoky coffee bars and visiting busy museums, here a few of Amsterdam’s best and lesser known attractions.
The city is well known for its party atmosphere and lively nightlife, but many people also enjoy the beautiful parks that lie just outside of the centre. The biggest and best of these is Vondelpark, a great place for sunbathing and a picnic in the nice weather. Hire a bicycle in the centre of town and ride out to the park in just over half an hour. Once you get there, enjoy a gentle bike ride flanked by old trees and wild flowers.
Top Tip: Look out for trams on your way down to the park. It’s easy to skid your bike wheel on a tram track if you are not careful!
Bored of Sunflowers and Rembrandts? The KattenKabinet is an unusual museum in that it focuses entirely on cats. The Dutch love their cats, and find out why by travelling to the city’s Herengracht area and exploring this fantastically odd and intriguing attraction. As if sculptures, posters and paintings of our feline friends weren’t enough, the museum is also home to five real cats.
The Tulip Museum
This is another small museum that’s tucked away above one of the city’s tulip shops, providing flower lovers with the fantastic opportunity to see the best tulips in the world. The exhibits showcase the horticultural story of the tulip in Holland from when the obsession began in the seventeenth century to the present day. The shop downstairs also sells a huge variety of tulip bulbs and accessories, making for a great gift for a garden-proud family member back home.
Top Tip: If this doesn’t scratch your tulip itch, Amsterdam holds a tulip festival every year from late March to May.
A delightful district just off the city centre, Jordaan is home to lots of cute cafés and bric-a-brac stools. The northern area of the district can get quite busy, but stick to the south and you’ll find plenty of quiet canals and sleepy neighbourhoods. In the summer, the small restaurants are humming with locals enjoying a range of European cuisines by the canal.
Translated into English as ‘the pipe’, this less commercialised area of the city is a welcome change. Within this traditionally working-class area lies the city’s Latin Quarter, home to a fabulous mix of cultures. Expect restaurants ranging from Moroccan to Surinamese and bars playing music and selling cocktails from every corner of the globe. This mixture of influences comes together at the Albert Cuypmarkt; one of the oldest bazaars in Holland and a must visit on a Saturday morning.
Het Twiske Day Trip
This one’s a bit further out, but it’s well worth the journey. About 5km from the centre, Het Twiske is a magnificent nature reserve, spanning a whopping 150 square kilometres. There are miles of walking and hiking trails that boast picturesque views of Dutch windmills. The spring is the best time to visit for flower hunters, and the summer is ideal if you want a beach day.
How to Get There
Schiphol Airport (AMS) is just over an hour’s flight away from London airports, so it’s easy to hop over to Amsterdam for a weekend trip. This is one of the busiest flight routes in all of Europe, so there are always plenty of flights offered by a number of carriers, such as KLM and British Airways.
On arrival in Schiphol, arrange a Shuttle Direct airport transfer to come and collect you. The airport is 15km away from the city, so you will want an efficient and low-cost provider to make sure that your city break gets off to the right start.
Where to Stay
Hotel des Arts – Slap bang in the middle of Amsterdam, this versatile hotel is only 550 yards away from the main square and Royal Palace. The rooms are styled with traditional Dutch finishes, with some looking over the river Amstel. With tram stops to all the major sites and museums only 400 yards away, seeing the city couldn’t be easier with Hotel des Arts as your base.
Generator Amsterdam – This new and modern hostel is located near the De Pijp area of the city. The building itself is a converted zoological building, and the modern rooms have all the essential facilities, ranging from air-conditioning to free Wi-Fi. Generator Amsterdam is ideal for visitors who want to be very close to the action, rather than right in the midst of it.
A&O Amsterdam Zuidoost – A no nonsense hostel that’s slightly out of the centre, A&O Amsterdam Zuidoost ticks all the boxes without being flashy or expensive. The rooms here are clean and modern, and the 24-hour front desk is always useful for travellers looking for advice and updates at any time. Hanging out with other tourists in the hostel’s bar is a great way to pick up directions to more of the city’s lesser known attractions.
About Shuttle Direct
There is no better provider of fast and affordable airport transfers than Shuttle Direct. Whether you are planning a short city break to Amsterdam or a long week away on the Costa del Sol, book an airport transfer with Shuttle Direct and let them do the heavy lifting. A smart and knowledgeable driver will meet you at the airport and promptly help you to begin your holiday.