Here’s a challenge – name a European city that’s more fun, diverse or simply eclectic than the Dutch capital. Difficult, right? However long you’re here for, a packed, personalised cultural schedule can be cobbled together in no time. Museums? Clubs? Outdoor sports? There’s no place better. And even if it’s increasingly pandering to soaring numbers of tourists, Amsterdam’s ever-changing landscape means residents, too, always have something new and exciting to explore.
Amsterdam doesn’t lack for grand, classical museums and galleries, but Rijksmuseum is the daddy of them all. Reopened in 2013 after a 10-year, €375 million refurbishment, this magnificent Gothic and Renaissance building is home to a phenomenal collection of Dutch masterworks from the Golden Age.
Why go? The guided tours – accessed through the museum’s app – are second to none, and there’s also a library and Michelin-starred restaurant and café on site. For a few hours of culture, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Small but beautifully formed, Amsterdam’s zoo – one of the oldest in Europe – makes the most of its canal-side setting in Oost. There’s the standard array of wild animals (big cats, elephants, giraffes, apes) but also an impressive aquarium, a planetarium and Micropia, the only microbe museum in the world.
Why go? It’s a great place for a family day out, and in summer the zoo opens late on Saturdays for music, special tours and one-off performances – you can even order a picnic or barbecue in advance.
The lungs of the city, Vondelpark was until recently the only public park in the world where one could legally barbecue, smoke joints and have sex. The latter has since been outlawed (again), but there’s still a relaxed vibe to this green giant’s vast open spaces and wooded trails.
Why go? Locals come here to run, cycle, play sports or just chill, and there are plenty of activities for those looking to make a day of it. Don’t miss the beautiful rose garden or the famous open-air theatre where, if you’re lucky, you might catch an impromptu show.
This 17th-Century canal house, where Anne Frank, her family and four others hid from the Nazis for two years, is now a museum and educational centre. There’s a permanent exhibition on the life and times of Anne, and you can of course visit the cramped ‘secret annex’ they called home.
Why go? One of the best-known and most important historical sites in the world, it’s a chilling and sombre reminder of the horrors of the Second World War, but also a moving testament to humankind’s indefatigable optimism.