Renowned as one of Europe’s liveliest destinations, cosmopolitan Amsterdam is far removed from the traditionally conservative Dutch image.
Spiralling out from Dam Square, the historic centre of the city is surprisingly peaceful, with its quaint canals and cobbled streets. Yet even here the bells of bicycles keep you on your toes and the street performers call out for your attention.
Amsterdam schizophrenically offers hedonism and release with its notorious Red Light District and liberal view of marijuana use, whilst also delivering discerning serenity in its museums and art galleries.
Our bespoke holidays in Amsterdam help you to pick just how you want to experience the city.
Amsterdam is delightfully compact and its old town can be explored on foot. Strolls will take you along the urban waterways, over ancient bridges and down narrow lanes past gabled houses. Shopping is first-class, and even the souvenir boutiques have a touch of class, crammed with blue-and-white Delft china, novelty wooden clogs and tulips.
There are plenty of pavement cafés and cosy pubs to drop into and a fantastic choice of bars and restaurants. Make sure you enjoy the atmosphere in the 'brown cafés', which are friendly places to sample local beers and fill yourself up with hearty snacks.
Try some of the local street food that include savoury pancakes (pannekoek), sausages (frikadel), small windmill-shaped cookies (speculaas) and chips with mayonnaise (look out for the 'Vlaamse frieten' signs).
You can also fill up on culture. Two of the city's museums are dedicated to world-famous Dutch painters, the Van Gogh Museum and Rembrandt House. There is also the unmissable Rijksmuseum, which hosts a collection of 17th-century Dutch artists, including Rembrandt, Vermeer and Frans Hals.
At night your strolls may take you to the lively atmosphere of the infamous Red Light District, known as De Wallen, as many nightclubs are near this area. . The best nightlife, however, is to be found in the bustling Leidesplein and Rembrandtplein.
Amsterdam has a mild, damp climate but the weather can be variable. Spring and autumn especially bring changeable, unsettled weather. In the winter months clear, frosty days are the norm, the coldest months being December to March.
The best time to visit Amsterdam is spring (April to May), when the famous tulips are in bloom. The average daily temperature during these months is 11 degrees Celsius (51.8 degrees Fahrenheit), rising to a maximum of 17.6 degrees Celsius (63.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in July and August.
Dutch is the official language but English is widely spoken.
The Netherlands is a member of the European Union. You may need a Schengen visa (short stay visa) to stay in the country for more than 90 days. Please check rules around visa requirements before you travel, as they may change regularly.
The crime rate in Amsterdam is the highest in the Netherlands, so travellers should take the usual sensible precautions to safeguard their belongings.
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