Where grand 17th-century facades open up to quirky cafes and creative hubs play host to centuries-old masterpieces, few cities master the art of blending modern flair with old-world charm quite like Amsterdam. This quirky capital has long shaken off its red-light reputation; today, its hedonistic haunts are being bypassed in favour of cultural cornerstones. No matter your travel style or interests, there’s guaranteed to be an event, attraction or exhibition that will pique your curiosity here.
Museums for all
Cobblestone lanes edged with wonky brick buildings serve as the perfect backdrop for wandering without a map. Although, it certainly won’t take long to stumble on an example of the city’s artistic heritage, including priceless works of native son Van Gogh at his namesake gallery to his contemporaries’ masterpieces hanging in Rijksmuseum. But beyond the big-name museums, Amsterdam delights with a seemingly neverending array of exhibitions. If you’ve ever wondered about the practicalities of houseboat living, the Houseboat Museum offers insights into a life at sea, while the Cat Cabinet (Kattenkabinet) is a quirky collection dedicated to the role of cats in art and pop culture throughout the years. Only in the city of Amsterdam!
Flavours and fare
Amsterdam’s cuisine has been largely shaped by Dutch eating habits; however, its culinary landscape takes on many international influences. A true foodie mecca, gourmands will be spoiled for choice here, from some of the best Indonesian flavours outside the Southeast Asia to tapas and multi-course Michelin-starred menus. But when it comes to traditional eats, few can resist the intensely savoury blend of curry ketchup, mayo and onion on thick-cut frites from a streetside vendor or the hearty homestyle stews served at a traditional brown cafe (so named for the wood-panelled interiors) like ‘t Zwaantje.
A shopper’s paradise
Amsterdam’s retail spoils are guaranteed to inspire even the most discerning shopper. Given its reputation for innovation and creativity, it almost goes without saying that boutiques outnumber high-street stores in the capital. Dutch design enjoys a beautiful and practical aesthetic and if you’re looking for textiles, homewares and designer accents, Amsterdam is the best place to stock up. Stores such as De Kasstoor and Anno do a fast trade in unique furnishings, while Jan and Das Gaaf are sure to woo design fiends searching for that perfect accessory or gift.
Make a date with Amsterdam
With an excess of 300 festivals each year spanning every genre, it’s rare to visit Amsterdam without stumbling on an event. One of the most significant on the calendar is King’s Day. This annual, fun-filled April affair (formerly known as Queen’s Day) invites both locals and international visitors to join in the festivities of the biggest street party of the year. Amsterdam erupts in a brilliant display of orange (as a show of pride for the House of Orange-Nassau, the Dutch royal family) across a host of goings-on, from live music and DJ sets along canals to an open-air market where almost every knick-knack you can think of is available for purchase.
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