High culture meets good times in Amsterdam, a city as popular for museum-hopping mini-breaks as it is for raucous hen or stag trips.
Its iconic 17th-century canal houses, delightful cafés and fleets of vintage-style bikes project an air of wholesome, timeless charm. But make no mistake: there’s more to this destination than Rembrandt and tulips.
Arriving at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
From London City Airport you'll touch down at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, located to the southwest of the city. This is the Netherlands' biggest air travel hub, so it has excellent public transport connections. Jump on a train here and you’ll be at Amsterdam Centraal station in less than 20 minutes. The journey will cost around €5, though you’ll have to pay a small surcharge for a disposable ticket if you don’t want to invest in an OV-chipkaart (this is much like London's Oyster card; you can use it across all forms of public transport and top it up as you need).
With trains departing every 10 to 15 minutes, this is the most convenient and affordable option. However, the buses won’t break the bank either, and will still get you into the city centre within about half an hour.
And of course, should you prefer to just go straight to your accommodation, you’ll find plenty of taxis waiting outside the airport. Expect to pay about €40 to get into the centre. Your driver should offer you a flat fare for the journey, so check what it is before you get in.
In good weather, cycling is by far the most enjoyable way of seeing Amsterdam. Even if it’s been a while since you’ve ridden a bike, this is the ideal place to get back in the saddle. The landscape is flat, the cycle lanes are safe, and the bike hire shops are copious. There’s a reason why a large proportion of the locals don’t even own a car.
With a compact city centre and pretty streets, Amsterdam is also a pleasure to explore on foot. In simply drifting between attractions, you can easily rack up a few miles a day without even noticing. The city is full of cosy cafés and characterful shops tucked away down winding lanes, and in many cases the only way you’re likely to come across these is by strolling past.
If you’d rather get your exercise done in one go, the banks of the canals also make pretty unbeatable routes for a run. They’re simply beautiful, and if you set out early in the morning, you’ll meet plenty of Amsterdam natives getting in their daily exercise before work. Just remember to wear good trainers, as you’re likely to have to deal with cobbles on many of the streets.
Amsterdam is perfectly positioned for day trips. You can find dozens of fantastic options for easy getaways right on your doorstep, reachable in an hour or less by train from Amsterdam Centraal.
If you’re in Amsterdam between March and May, a visit to the Keukenhof flower gardens in Lisse is simply non-negotiable. Flowers of all types (not just tulips) briefly bring the area alive with colour each year. You can reach Keukenhof with the 858 bus from Schiphol in under an hour.
You’ll find cheese aplenty on sale in Amsterdam, but if you want to really feel a connection with the stuff you’re eating, there’s nothing like going straight to the source. Each Thursday morning throughout spring and summer in the pretty town of Gouda you’ll find a cheese market being held in front of the historic town hall. It’s been going strong since the 14th century.
The countryside around Amsterdam is scattered with spectacular castles and historic manor houses, any one of which would make for a wonderful day trip. One of the most impressive, however, has to be Muiderslot, a medieval castle in the city of Muiden. Complete with turrets and drawbridge, this 13th-century landmark is such a perfect example of a castle it looks like child imagined it.