Amsterdam’s world-class art galleries, historic attractions and vibrant food culture represent one side of the city’s broad appeal with visitors. On the other side, of course, are the clubs, bars and nightlife that have long made it famous, and which continue to attract a lively crowd. With such a wide range of things to do and see, from high to low, it’s not surprising that Amsterdam consistently ranks as one of Europe’s top city break destinations. If you’re planning a weekend in Amsterdam this autumn, here’s our quick guide to the city’s cultural and culinary highlights.
Tulips, clogs and windmills would be standout features in most clichéd pictures of the Netherlands, and at Amsterdam’s Bloemenmarkt visitors can browse the colourful wares of some of the city’s finest florists. Located between Koningsplein and Muntplein, the floating flower market offers visitors the chance to buy some flowers, seeds and other garden supplies at reasonably competitive prices.
Amsterdam’s Best Street Food
Herring has long been regarded as a treat by Scandinavians, the Dutch and Germans, and a trip to Amsterdam offers an opportunity to see what we’ve been missing out on. Walking along the canals in the late spring and early summer, you’ll catch the smells of gleamingly fresh herring being served at traditional stalls. The fresh – and unbelievably cheap – herring is filleted and served raw (or grilled) with tasty onion pickle and gherkins. Simply delicious.
Anne Frank Huis
Prinsengracht 263, the canal-side house where Anne Frank lived for two years during WWII, is now one of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attractions, with close to a million visitors a year. The annexe where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis is still concealed by a bookcase, and the sparsely furnished rooms offer a space in which to contemplate the tragic past of Amsterdam’s Jewish community. The newly built wing also has a related exhibitions and museum exploring the events and context surrounding the diarist’s life. The queues for the Anne Frank Huis are long, so be sure to arrive early or book online before your visit.
The Dutch Golden Age and its master painters have left Amsterdam with an artistic and cultural heritage to rival any European capital. To complement the Old Masters and historic churches, the Stedelijk Museum and Van Gogh Museum house works the most celebrated modern artists. The Rijksmuseum, recently restored and with a new Asian Pavilion by the architect Cruz y Ortiz, is the Dutch equivalent to the British Museum, with paintings by Rembrandt and Vermeer hanging alongside some of the country’s most important art and artefacts.
Try De Bitterballen
After a day spent strolling along the canals, you’ll probably be in need of something warming. If so, the answer can be found in a hearty plate of Bitterballen, deep-fried balls of minced meat, delicately seasoned and absolutely delicious. The Bitterballen are often served as part of a tapas-style platter with Gouda, beef sausage and a pot of hot mustard, all of which can be washed down with a glass of biertje or pils – a perfect way to round off a weekend in one of Europe’s most exciting destinations.
If you’ve only got 48 precious hours to experience the city, the 5 places we’ve recommended will be sure to give you a whirlwind tour. Top tip: whatever you do, be sure to plan a second visit as there is so much more to see!