Gently riding and gliding along the canals
In the Netherlands, there are windmills, vast polders stretching to the horizon, tulip fields as far as the eye can see in spring… And then, there is Amsterdam, its vibrant, happening capital, where everyone seems to travel around by bike. So, hire one yourself – traditional or electric, tandem or individual – there are umpteen possibilities. You can even opt for a cool bike with a trailer to safely transport your kids. You have the right to cycle along streets in the opposite direction and ride through parks – you always have right of way. So, get on your bike and pedal along the 400 km of perfectly signposted cycle tracks. It is the perfect way to discover less touristy areas with a lot of charm as a result. You cross countless bridges on your way and cycle up and down lively streets lined with vintage, hip and interior-design boutiques and trendy restaurants. Eager to see Amsterdam in its entirety from a different, quirky angle, you give in to temptation and take a traditional cruise on the canals. You are not disappointed: your little boat trip rewards you with one-of-a-kind views of the city.
It is in one of these city-centre streets that you will find the Lion Noir restaurant where you decide to stop for lunch. If you need a bit of warmth, take a seat inside; the cosy atmosphere has eclectic, chic decor featuring bric-a-brac objects here and there. If you prefer to be in the open air, the terrace overflowing with hortensias is perfect for a meal or a cocktail in the evening. The menu boasts a cuisine that marries classic French dishes, spices from all four corners of the world and fresh, seasonal produce.
Before or after your gourmet break, travel back to Amsterdam's medieval past by exploring the Begijnhof founded in the 14th century. This large landscaped courtyard is lined by a row of houses forming a complex closed in on itself; in days gone by, it was home to lay religious women, or Beguines, who lived in the community isolated from the world. The only way into this hidden gem is through a door on Spui Square. As soon as you step over the threshold, you are struck by the tranquillity of the place; it is a real haven of peace and quiet. On your left, the Houten Huys is one of the two remaining wooden houses in the city. All around are red-brick facades and houses that are now owned by families whose children play happily in the grassy square. Do not forget to visit the clandestine church, hidden behind one of the dwellings. It symbolises the resistance of the Beguines who continued to practise Catholicism despite it being banned in the 17th and 18th centuries.
1017 BM Amsterdam
+31 (0)20 627 6603
City grandeur in the Golden Age
Your city visit takes you to the house where Rembrandt lived from 1639 to 1656. You step inside into the everyday, private life of one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age. You can easily imagine the maestro at work on one of his masterpieces on the very spot where you are standing, as you soak up the special light of the place which made his paintings so magical. Today, in the studio, Rembrandt's prints rub shoulders with the canvases of contemporary artists. By discovering the treasures in this museum, you get that little bit closer to the creation of wonders of worldwide artistic heritage.
Without further ado, you continue your fabulous journey into the heart of Dutch painting by going to the Van Gogh Museum. Three centuries after Rembrandt, “the man with the severed ear” completely overturned the technique of painting. Amsterdam has dedicated an entire museum to him, displaying some of his greatest works, such as The Sower, The Potato Eaters and Almond Blossom. In all, there are some 200 paintings on show. As the collection is organised chronologically into five periods, you can follow the personal and artistic journey of Van Gogh step by step through 500 drawings and 700 handwritten letters, including his avid correspondence with his brother Theo. The museum also exhibits paintings by his contemporaries, artists who had an influence on the painter in one way or another. So, keep your eyes open and discover paintings by Gauguin, Monet, Signac, Toulouse-Lautrec, Kees van Dongen.... Just stunning! A word of advice: book your ticket in advance to avoid the queues.
Rembrandt House Museum
1011 NK Amsterdam
+31 (0)20 520 0400
Van Gogh Museum
1071 DJ Amsterdam
+31 (0)20 570 5200
A moving experience at the Anne Frank House
The Netherlands paid a hefty price in the Second World War and the Jewish community in Amsterdam was not spared either. Bearing witness to this is the Anne Frank House located in the district of Jordaan, close to the Westerkerk church and at the side of the Prinsengracht canal. It was here that the young girl lived in hiding for two years with her family after the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940. It was also here that she wrote her famous diary until she was arrested and deported. The visit gives you an insight into her daily life as a child with its jumble of great fears and small joys. In every room you pass through, you are moved as you read extracts from her diary, reproduced on the walls. The emotion is palpable, and whether you are here with your children or not, you will be profoundly touched by the poignancy of the place. To make sure you get to visit the House, buy your ticket online a long time in advance.
For a cheerier kind of atmosphere, take the 30-minute walk to the Vondelpark. Named after the Dutch poet Joost van den Vondel, this park is a haven of nature laid out in the 19th century and loved by all Amsterdamers. You can walk along flower-lined pathways on the banks of small lakes, enjoy the shade at one of the romantic-looking bandstands, have a rest on the vast lawns or you might even be tempted to try a bit of rollerblading… A wonderful day in Amsterdam with plenty of things to do.
Anne Frank House
1016 DK Amsterdam
+31 (0)20 556 7105
Discover other amazing and unusual places in our guide to Amsterdam.