Visit the ‘Venice of the north’ for canals, culture and cuisine
Amsterdam is a city for walking, so strap on comfortable shoes and fuel up at Café Wildschut (cafewildschut.nl). This art deco grand café serves its full menu from 9.30am so you can start your morning with an omelette, a cheeseburger or even a rib-eye steak. Take a seat in the elegant interior with its vast windows or better yet, out on the expansive terrace on Roelof Hart Square.
Your first stop is the world-famous Rijksmuseum (rijksmuseum.nl/en), where Pierre Cuypers’ 19th-century gothic and renaissance building recently underwent a complete modernisation. The new Atrium is a spectacular entranceway that sets the tone for the extensive collection, featuring works from the 15th to 20th centuries, encompassing everything from photography to paintings. The museum’s star is Rembrandt’s Night Watch, a whopping canvas that’s the only artwork to remain in its pre-renovation position, where Cuypers wanted it to be. In fact, he designed the entire original building around it.
After all that culture, you’re sure to need a sugar fix. Head over to the hip, vibrant De Pijp neighbourhood and take a seat at De Taart van m’n Tante (detaart.com/en/home.htm). This thoroughly over-the-top and utterly unapologetic café is so kitsch, you might think you’ve walked into Barbie’s house – seventies-orange sofas sit next to Louis XV-style chairs, while cakes in all colours of the rainbow pose beneath bright white birdcages. Order the pecan pie or carrot cake, washed down with a restorative cup of tea.
Take advantage of the sugar rush to walk to the city centre via Bloemenmarkt, the world’s only floating flower market. This is an unrivalled photo opportunity and a great place to stock up on bulbs so you can grow your very own tulips from Amsterdam.
“I want to go on living after my death,” Anne Frank wrote in 1944. Her diary has become one of the world’s most widely read books, and her Second World War hiding place is now a museum (annefrank.org). Here you can almost step into the shoes of the author, slipping behind the bookcase and into her story. Few museums are as moving as this one.
You can’t visit Amsterdam without at least a quick walk through the infamous Red Light District. Stop for coffee at the Waag, the 15th-century weighing house that now hosts an atmospheric candlelit café-restaurant.
For dinner, head to one of the many outstanding traditional Dutch restaurants. Restaurant Greetje (restaurantgreetje.nl/en) is one of the best, serving old-fashioned classics with a modern twist. Try the mackerel fillet with ‘a touch of curry’ and end the dinner with Greetje’s Grand Finale, a decadent serving of all the restaurant’s desserts.