To truly immerse yourself in Amsterdam life, it is best to appreciate both the pleasures of the day and the playfulness of the night in order to understand just what makes the Dutch tick. Ryan Levitt from HouseTrip reports.
3 September 2012
Amsterdam, home to a flourishing diamond industry, is itself a diamond with lots of rough edges.
By day, the city beckons with its elegant museums and canals, atmospheric neighbourhoods, delicious markets and laid-back lifestyle. By night, the Dutch capital can take on a different vibe as the notorious red light district brings out the – ahem – edgier members of society.
MUST STAY: Demand for property in the city centre - ringed by the Singelgracht canal - is at a high premium, but you can still get a double room in a 4* hotel for around €150 per night. For example, Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Centre has a deluxe twin room from €123 and Amadi Park Hotel a deluxe double room from €155.
However, if you are travelling as a family (or a group), a holiday rental makes a lot of sense. For a central location combined with high style, try this elegant two-bedroom apartment (sleeps 4) starting from €229 per night situated on the chic Keizergracht. Alternatively, for something a little different, why not stay in a houseboat (sleeps 6) from just €149 per night.
MUST EAT: Amsterdam used to be known as one of the stodge capitals of Europe, famous for standard meat and two veg options. However, the transformation of its harbor into a sleek and vibrant neighbourhood combined with an explosion of restaurant developments has sparked new life into what was once a very staid scene.
Intriguing (and regional) options can be found at Greetje, where traditional Dutch delicacies are always on the menu including flavourful terrines and fresh fish options.
Top tip: The Dutch tend to eat early with many restaurants closing at 10pm so be sure not to leave it too late when you go out on the town.
MUST VISIT: Anne Frank House is a must-visit to learn about the poignant story of a young Jewish girl who wrote her famous diary while hiding in attic from the Nazi's. Book online and avoid queues: €9.50 per adult.
Amsterdam's newest addition to its cultural offerings is a branch of the famed Russian museum, the Hermitage. Opened in 2009, it is now a jewel of a space situated on the banks of the River Amstel in a restored 17 th-century building. The current exhibit features some of the best pieces from the Hermitage's incredible Impressionist collections including works by Renoir, Monet, Gauguin and many more. Book online and avoid queues: €15.75 per adult.
MUST TAKE: Bring a copy of the Diary of Anne Frank with you to re-read prior to a visit to Anne Frank Huis. It will help bring the characters and events to life as you tour Otto Frank's former office building with the secret annex that housed Anne for over two years of her life. If you have the time, book yourself on a private Jewish Tour of Amsterdam with historian Jeanette Loeb. Or, if you want to do the tour on your own, download the Walking through Jewish Amsterdam audio guide as MP3 at €9.54.
MUST BUY: One of the best bargains in town is the Museumkaart offering free entrance to over 300 museums and galleries in Amsterdam for just €44.95 per adult. The card is valid for every main attraction in town the Rijksmuseum with its collections of Old Masters and Rembrandts, and the Van Gogh Museum.
MUST EXPLORE: Amsterdam is a cultural melting pot best represented by the mélange of people that call the neighbourhood known as 'De Pijp' home. The main market of this community is the Albert Cuyp Market located on Albert Cuypstraat between Ferdinand Bolstraat and Van Woustraat south of the Heineken Brewery. Here you will find some of the finest examples of Dutch cheeses, fresh 'stroopwafels' (waffles with hot caramel) and other native delicacies tucked beside Indonesian treats and specialties from Surinam and the Dutch Antilles. Go early in the day for the biggest selection.
MUST SHOP: Delftware, produced in the town of Delft located to the south of Amsterdam, is the most prized souvenir to bring back home. Popularised in the 16th-century, Delft pottery is notable for its blue and white glaze. Only a few potteries can claim to produce actual Delftware although you will find numerous cheap knock-off versions around town.
Go to Jorrit Heinen to find the real deal, but be prepared to pay for it. Traditional tulip vases start at about €99 for a mass-produced version going up into the thousands for hand-painted specimen.
For something a little more affordable, go to the Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market) on Singel between Muntplein and Konigsplein to pick up tulip bulbs galore in colours and styles that will make your garden pop.
MUST SEE THE VIEW: The best way to see Amsterdam is not from above – but from sea level. The city was built around its canals so a boat tour is an excellent way to see the sights and take in Amsterdam's architectural splendor. There are heaps of companies that offer itineraries. One of the best is Amsterdam Canal Cruises, which provides tours every half hour from a pier opposite the Heineken Brewery.
Read also our Amsterdam Top Ten
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