FACTS / Don't be fooled thinking Amsterdam is just a city of cannabis and backpackers. There's so much more to this travel destination than you can imagine. It is the most populous within the Netherlands and considered a top financial center of Europe. The Dutch capital's name derives from the city's origin as a dam of the river Amstel. Visiting, you can enjoy the river by riding in glass boats. Originating as a small fishing village, Amsterdam became an important port in the world. At one time, the city was a leading center for finance and diamonds. The canals of Amsterdam are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. More than 3.5 million people visit the capital of the Netherlands each year, no doubt attracted by its quaint canals, its tolerant liberal culture and its superb museum collections. Amsterdam is situated on the River Amstel, and its lifeblood has been water and trade since its origins in the 13th century. Once an outpost for hardy traders, it is now a cultured metropolis with a population of 820,000, a thriving port and a global reputation for hedonism.
STAY / The Inter Continental Amstel Amsterdam is the height of luxury in the city. Overlooking the Amstel River, the five-star hotel’s stately façade is an Amsterdam landmark in itself and is just a short walk away from the famous Van Gogh Museum. With its grand pillars and large windows, you could be forgiven for mistaking it for Amsterdam’s Royal Palace on Dam Square. Inside, chandeliers, four-poster beds, thick-pile carpets and grand staircases give it a period feel. After a long day exploring the city, return here to sit back and watch boats glide along the Amstel.
Another accommodation option is the Amsterdam Botel, a quirky floating establishment that honors Amsterdam’s nautical history. This boat has been turned into one of the most original hotels in the city. A 10-minute ferry ride from Amsterdam Central Station, the large white ship is hard to miss. It contains 175 rooms and is a simple but stylish place to crash while in the city.
SEE / Amsterdam has museums dedicated to just about everything, from torture to Heineken beer. You could spend your whole trip exploring them and never run out of exhibits to see, but if there is one worth seeking out, it has to be the Rijksmuseum. A giant time capsule of Dutch art, the Rijksmuseum contains masterpieces by the likes of Vermeer and Rembrandt. Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’, a giant painting of a rallying militia, is one of the biggest crowd pleasers among the 7,500 works. The building itself is also worth admiring, with an elegant exterior stretching out along the canal.
EXPERIENCE / Take a canal cruise for a unique perspective on the city. Travel under romantic bridges from the comfort of a covered canal boat and discover more sights and sounds of Amsterdam. With 165 canals in the city, you are bound to find something new on a boat tour; it could even be the city’s floating cat shelter or the so-called ‘dancing houses’ that tilt at odd angles. Evening cruises, some of which include cocktails at sunset and candlelit dinners, are ideal for romance-seeking couples.
SHOP / The city’s flower market, or Bloemenmarkt, has the honor of being the only floating flower market in the world. Located on the Singel canal, its unique set-up arose as merchants carried flowers to the city markets by barge. Browse its colorful selection and pick up some tulip bulbs to grow your own beautiful blooms at home. Those looking for less ephemeral keepsakes will find numerous souvenir shops nearby, but it’s hard to ignore the lure of the fragrant blooms – particularly in tulip season.
SHOP / Amsterdam based Maison Scotch, here at Souvenir.