While the Dutch capital has something of a reputation for debauchery, there’s much more to this compelling city than its storied nightlife. World-class museums, breathtakingly beautiful architecture, and a burgeoning culinary scene make it easy to fall in love with Amsterdam. A few days is nowhere near enough to take it all in, but the following itinerary is a just enough to offer a taste of the highlights.
Afternoon: Amsterdam’s wealth of cultural attractions verges on overwhelming. The city boasts dozens of museums, but the one to beat is still the Rijksmuseum, an extraordinary collection of works by Dutch masters. After admiring The Night Watch and other oil paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn, indulge in the local tradition of an afternoon coffee with a slice of something sweet. The Dutch are especially fond of appeltaart, a tall, cinnamon-scented apple pie. Winkel 43, in the fashionable de Jordaan neighbourhood, makes an exceptional version. While this cosy cafe is the perfect place to while away the afternoon, there are a number of galleries around the nearby Prinsengracht canal that are well-worth exploring.
Evening: Dutch colonists brought back a fondness for spices from their days in the Banda Islands, which is why a rijsttafel, or Indonesian feast, remains one of the most popular ways to dine here. Kantjil & de Tijger has been serving sumptuous spreads for more than 25 years. After dinner, make your way to the edge of the notorious Red Light District where you’ll find the speakeasy Hiding in Plain Sight, well, hiding in plain sight. The libations here are all top-flight and the mixologists are more than happy to whip up something bespoke.
Morning: It’s hard to imagine a better start to the day than pancakes. Dutch pannenkoeken rest somewhere between fluffy American flapjacks and whisper-thin French crepes. Grab one of the four tables at Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs, a fixture in town since 1962, and order one of the sweet or savoury options. Next, burn off some of those calories by walking or cycling over to the famed Van Gogh Museum. Although the museum tends to attract throngs of tourists, the crowds are thinner in the morning and the exhibits are worth the wait.
Afternoon: Once an industrial wasteland, Noord is now one of the hippest areas in town. Hop a free ferry across the IJ and pay a visit to NDSM, a revitalised shipyard. Movie buffs will love the EYE Film Institute, which features free screenings and all kinds of interactive exhibits. After starring in your own silent film or watching a classic from the golden age of Hollywood, grab a drink and a bite in the museum’s cafe, which offers an unbeatable view of the water through floor-to-ceiling windows.
Evening: For the evening’s entertainment, swing by Tolhuistuin, an über-trendy multipurpose space overlooking the river. Dine at THT, a stylish locavore eatery showcasing regional produce, meats and seafood from around the Netherlands in globally inspired dishes. There’s always something going on here, so stick around after dinner to check out the gallery exhibitions and live concerts.
Morning: For a decadent start to the day, head to the Pancake Bakery for a heaping plate of poffertjes (butter-fried, bite-sized pancakes) topped with warm cherries spiked with cherry liqueur, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Then wander over to the Begijnhof, a historic courtyard with artwork by old masters in the heart of the city.
Afternoon: After all that sightseeing, treat yourself to a leisurely afternoon in Vondelpark, a sprawling green oasis just outside the city centre. Like the rest of Amsterdam, this verdant urban park is best explored by bike. Spend a few hours cycling through the winding paths before bidding the city farewell.