Ten Things to Do during a Weekend in Amsterdam
Although it’s easy to spend weeks exploring Amsterdam, the city is compact enough to enjoy in a weekend vacation and families with young kids an easily navigate it on foot – if toddlers tire a comprehensive tram system can come to the rescue. This compact, laid-back city’s modern life began with its massive canal-building scheme in the 16th and 17th centuries, as the Dutch pushed their trading routes out across the world. Any exploration of Amsterdam should start with a canal cruise (free with the discounted I amsterdam City Card) from the pier in front of the ornate 19th-century edifice of the Centraal Station. It’s fun for kids and routes take in the imposing mansions of the Golden Bend on Herengracht, spectacular view of seven bridges on the corner of Reguliersgracht, and the Skinny Bridge across the River Amstel as well as the contemporary architecture of the IJ waterway. Second stop is a 10-minute walk away down Herengracht; the Canal House Museum is one of Amsterdam’s most entertaining attractions, romping through the development of the Grachtengordel (Canal Ring) in a fast-paced exhibition full of sound-and-light installations, interactive media, music and movies. Afterwards take a pit stop for bitterballen (stuffed meatballs) in a café on the Nine Streets (Negen Straatjes), which are lined with smart independent boutiques. From there, it’s an easy stroll to the Anne Frank House on Prinsengracht, where a Jewish family hid from the Nazis in a secret annex during World War Two. They were betrayed and Anne’s diary was published after her death at Auschwitz in 1945; her tragic story has international appeal and lines are alwayslong, so book a timed slot online in advance of visiting. Jump on Tram 17 to head for the Rijksmuseum, a treasure house of Old Master paintings plus fine silver and glassware belonging to Amsterdam’s all-powerful 16th century guilds. Walk up to the Hampshire Hotel-Amsterdam American on Leidseplein for cocktails in its Art Deco bar before heading into bohemian Jordaan to surf traditional brown cafés along the tranquil waterways. Rise with the lark the next day to face the scrum that is Waterlooplein flea market and stroll round the corner to the Rembrandt House Museum to learn how Holland’s most famous artist lived and see copies of his most famous works; for a mid-morning breather, sneak in a quick Dutch beer at the charming and crooked canal-side Café du Sluyswacht. No trip to Amsterdam is complete without seeing something of the Red Light District’s dark alleyways and infamous red windows, so combine this with a visit to the 800-year-old Oude Kerk – scene of intrigue in bestseller The Miniaturist – for its stark, stone interior, and the Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, a newly restored secret church tucked away at the back of a 17th-century townhouse façade. Sample a dim sum lunch in Chinatown and take trams no 1, 2, or 5 from Stationsplein to Museumplein to sample the peerless modern art in the Van Gogh or the Stedelijk museums. For an authentic night-time taste of multi-cultural Amsterdam, seek out one of its Indonesian restaurants and sit down to a rijsttafel banquet. Surprisingly, given its reputation for drugs, prostitution and seedy nightlife, Amsterdam is packed with kid-friendly sights. So if you’re traveling with children, swap some of the following into the itinerary above: the colorful ethnological displays at the Tropenmuseum Junior; the interactive experiments at Science Center NEMO; the Dutch Resistance Museum Junior; and Artis Royal Zoo, which is just across the road. **Written by Sasha Heseltine
Amsterdam Canal Bus Hop-On Hop-Off
Getting around Amsterdam is a breeze with a hop-on hop-off Canal Bus Day Pass. The boats operate a regular service along Amsterdam's canals, following tour routes: the Green Line and the Orange Line. While you cruise, an on-board commentary provides interesting information about Amsterdam.
You have the choice of a 24 hour or a 48 hour pass. Hop-on or off as often as you like at 7 to 9 stops (depending on the season) located near Amsterdam's major museums, attractions and shopping centers.
Do you want to visit Heineken Experience or the Van Gogh Museum?
Amsterdam Canal Bus Hop-On Hop-Off offers optional upgrades to include access to the Heineken Experience or Van Gogh Museum.
In addition to the cityâ€™s buildings and canals, Amsterdam has been an important center for European arts since the 17th century, and its museums are among the best in the world. In the Van Gogh Museum, youâ€™ll find the largest collection of the artistâ€™s paintings. And the Heineken Experience is an interactive tour of the cityâ€™s most well-known brewery. Youâ€™ll even be able to brew your own beer!
Please click on "view additional info" for the canal bus map.
Anne Frank House
9 AM to 10 PM
Sat: 9 AM to 9 PM
November - March (November 1 to March 31)
Mon to Fri, Sun: 9 AM to 9 PM
Sat: 9 AM to 9 PM
A museum since 1960, the last home of Anne Frank tells the poignant story of a young girl’s experiences of hiding from the Nazis during World War Two. Her family pictures, drawings and writing are displayed in the rooms of the secret annex where the family hid until the ultimate betrayal of the family’s hiding place. The home has been carefully preserved and is an emotional experience, evoking her fears and hopes of the time. Prepare for a visit by reading ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’. This is not the happiest of activities on vacation but a million visitors a year are moved to visit this top attraction in Amsterdam.
The Rijksmuseum is the Netherlands’ main treasure-house, a looming late-19th century building and repository of the best of Dutch culture with everything from portraits by the Old Masters (Steen, Rembrandt, and others) to delicate blue Delftware and a vast collection of doll-houses. Other treasures include Tang dynasty porcelain, Golden Age silverware, and Art Nouveau furnishings.
With decade-long restoration finally complete, the Rijksmuseum reopened in 2013 – the architects have stayed faithful to the exterior of the red-brick Cuypers fairytale museum, while inside exhibition spaces have been enlarged, new galleries added, and visitor facilities upgraded. The museum also has a small branch at Schiphol airport.
Waterlooplein Flea Market
Set on a plaza next to the modern city hall and opera house, this open-air commercial market is strong on clothes (from handmade tie-dye stuff to giant rummage piles), but you can also find bicycle parts, smoking accessories, and all manner of odd things pulled from attics of the present and the past. Street carts dole out French fries and other snacks; for a beer and a sandwich, head to De Sluyswacht, a great old bar and café just north across Jodenbreestraat. The walk from Centraal Station is a bit long, but the path crosses very scenic and venerable parts of the city.
Sun: 1 PM to 5:30 PM
Beneath the gravestone floor of Amsterdam’s oldest church (consecrated in 1306) and among 10,000 other souls buried there, lie some of the Netherlands’ most powerful figures. Just as remarkable is what’s above: a painted wooden ceiling, which has survived since the 15th century, and a structure largely unchanged since Rembrandt walked its halls. The Oude Kerk hosts organ concerts and art exhibitions, and on weekends at 13:00 and 17:00, visitors can also climb the tower for an extra 5 euros. As interesting as the church is, it is now in the middle of the main red-light district.
Museum Het Rembrandthuis
The home of the quintessential Dutch master artist Rembrandt from 1639-58 gives mesmerizing glimpses into the genius’ life, from the kitchen with its ornate box-bed to the courtyard where he painted the enormous, action-filled The Night Watch – permanently on show in the Rijksmuseum. The print rooms and studios are all crammed with curiosities such as shells, weapons, stuffed animals, and globes that appeared in the background of his works. A gallery wing of the house features highlights from a collection of hundreds of Rembrandt’s etchings. The house itself was built in around 1608 in a new development for wealthy citizens and it was given a facelift by Jacob van Campen, architect of the Royal Palace, in the 1620s. Today we still see his modifications in the classical pediment and arches over the lower windows; recent excavations in the house’s cesspit have revealed glassware and terracotta pots that may have been used by Rembrandt to hold his paint brushes.
Fri: 10 AM to 10 PM
Convenient for visitors, the city’s excellent contemporary and modern art museum occupies digs just a short tram ride from Centraal Station. While its permanent location is still under construction, the museum is hosting The Temporary Stedelijk in the museum as renovation nears completion. The museum also hosts a number of edgy exhibits around town, check the website for details.