Europe

Discovering culture, cuisine and character | a weekend getaway in Amsterdam

Travel blogger Laura shares with us her personal recommendations and top tips for a weekend getaway in Amsterdam.

I’d always loved the idea of meandering around Amsterdam’s canals on a bicycle, but it wasn’t until I read Paulo Coelho’s book, Hippie, that I knew I had to go and see this laid back, open-minded city for myself.

What I discovered was much more than the art, culture and coffee shops it’s famed for; Amsterdam is filled with innovative dining, stylish hotels and hipster boutiques, the perfect mix for a weekend break.

Travelling to Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a great choice for a short break. Whether you go by air, by water, by road or by rail, you could be in the pretty Dutch city in as little as 75 minutes from the UK.

How to get there

Coach

Average time – 12 hrs
Average cost – £25 each way

• The cheapest option to travel to Amsterdam is by coach. Setting off from London’s Victoria, it will take you about 12 hours each way but you can always choose an overnight bus and sleep through most of it. And what better alarm clock than waking up just as you’re trundling into the city?

Air

Average time – 1hr 10 minutes
Average cost – From £33pp To £375pp

• Flying is another option for travel to Amsterdam. You can do it from many of the UK’s airports, from London and Manchester to Bristol, Birmingham and Newcastle. The flight lasts just over an hour, so it’s a quick and easy way to get to the city.

Sea

Average time – 12 hours
Average cost – £110

• If you’re feeling the romantic vibes of a sea crossing, Stenaline offers a rail and sail option, which will take you from Essex to Hoek van Holland. The crossing takes eight hours and the transfers will add further time, but you can always book a cabin and travel overnight.

Eurostar

Average time – 3hrs 52 minutes
Average cost – From £35 each way

• Then there’s the Eurostar. It now rails directly from London three times a day and will see you in Amsterdam in under four hours. Plus you can start your journey with a glass of bubbly in St Pancras’ famed champagne bar, which certainly swings it for me.

A weekend getaway in Amsterdam for the culture vulture

With more culture per capita than any other city in the world, Amsterdam certainly packs a cultural punch. And with heavyweights like the Van Gogh Museum, Rembrandt House, Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, it’s not even a case of quantity over quality.

Whenever I visit a city, I always seek out the nearest art gallery, so what better than discovering the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Frans Hals all in one weekend in Amsterdam? 2019 is also Rembrandt year in Amsterdam, marking 350 years since the Dutch Master’s death. The city will hold a series of events and exhibitions, so keep your eye out for something special if you plan on visiting soon.

It may not sound like a holiday highlight, but Anne Frank House is well worth a visit. I read her diary at school and it was eye-opening to see where she went into hiding and wrote her book. And then there’s the more unique museums of Amsterdam… Typically quirky and oh so Amsterdam, places like the Sex Museum, the Torture Museum, the Funeral Museum and Museum Vrolik certainly raised a few eyebrows and prompted a few smiles between me and my boyfriend. From pickled human abnormalities to thumb screws, expect the unexpected in this motley collection of sights.

If your idea of culture is more about soaking up the atmosphere and browsing a few boutiques, the Nine Streets district is the place to head to. Or if you visit in spring, take the short trip to the famed flower fields of Bollenstreek – these vibrant fields boast every colour of the rainbow. If you can’t make it out of the city, make sure you stop by the Bloemenmarkt floating flower market for your floral fix. Sitting on Singel between Koningsplein and Muntplein, this beautiful stretch of floating shops sells everything from tulips to cacti, we bought a bulb to bury in the garden when we got home.

Hotels in Amsterdam

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The cultural hotel for your Amsterdam weekend break | The Hoxton

1/4

The Hoxton is popular with the locals so it boasts a great atmosphere. Inside you’ll find a mix of old and new, think original features, vintage furniture and ancient artwork on the walls.

Highlights

Location

Sat on the banks of the Herengracht canal, The Hoxton is everything you can expect from Amsterdam’s quirky canal house buildings.

Only here

Wake up to The Hoxton’s signature breakfast bag (typically filled with fresh juice, fruit and yoghurt) to enjoy breakfast in bed, then tumble out the door and you’ll find yourself in the Negen Straatjes shopping district, with all the major museums just a stone’s throw away.

The Hoxton, Amsterdam

Amsterdam, 10.9 km to Airport Amsterdam Schiphol
8.2 Very good (2419 reviews)
Excellent Building 9.4 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Car park
Pets allowed
Wellness centre / Spa
Hotel CTA

A food filled weekend getaway in Amsterdam.

Brushing off its retro image of hippy-frequented coffee shops, Amsterdam is starting to become one of the most interesting foodie cities in Europe. Just wander around the city streets and you’ll see hipster cafes, wine bars, pop up ventures, innovative restaurants and mouthwatering options that’ll satisfy any gastronome.

From the Foodhallen indoor market, which is perfect for street food, to the De Pijp food quarter where you’ll be spoiled with cafes and boutique restaurants, there’s a place for every cuisine in Amsterdam. Not to mention the flurry of Michelin star awarded restaurants. Here, you can fine dine, market dine and street eat all in the same weekend.

Starting our stay with a visit to the Saturday farmers’ market on Noordermarkt, my boyfriend was very happy to find Nutella smothered waffles (we always have a jar in our cupboard). We then took a wander to walk off the waffles but ended up in a cafe terrace beside the water with yet more food. That said, we did manage to save some space for fine dining in the evening.

Of all of Amsterdam’s Michelin starred restaurants, Bord’eau gets my vote for its out of this world cuisine – they call it molecular gastronomy, think Heston Blumenthal style creations that’ll challenge your senses and have you glad you made the trip. Many say the famed signature apple dessert is worth travelling for, and I concur…  A masterpiece of marinated apple balls, puff pastry, an apple core made from sorbet and a blown sugar apple shaped exterior, it’s one of those dishes that looks too good to eat but you won’t even think about that once you’ve started to devour it.

Any fellow cheese fiends will appreciate a visit to the De Kaaskamer cheese shop. An emporium stacked high with Netherland’s very best in fromage (or kaas as the Dutch say), they’ll have you cheese-overloaded on samples but will also vacuum pack your fave for the journey home.

Hotels in Amsterdam

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The hotel fit for a foodie weekend in Amsterdam | Hotel Okura Amsterdam

1/3

Meet Hotel Okura Amsterdam. It’s chic, it’s stylish, with Japanese inspired interiors and the biggest hotel pool in the city.

Highlights

Location

Found in the De Pijp foodie district, Hotel Okura Amsterdam boasts its own selection of superb restaurants, making it the perfect base if you want to dine in style.

Only here

Hotel Okura’s restaurants lay claim to four Michelin stars and a Bib Gourmand, so you know you’ll be getting some fine fare here. Twenty Third Bar is the place to go for champagne cocktails, but nab a spot on the canal side terrace at Serre brasserie for a beautiful setting and some high-class dishes.

Hotel Okura Amsterdam

Top rated
Amsterdam, 9.9 km to Airport Amsterdam Schiphol
8.8 Excellent (2752 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Car park
Pets allowed
Wellness centre / Spa
Hotel CTA

The Amsterdam weekend getaway for the explorer.

Amsterdam’s winding streets and canal-sides provide the perfect maze for any explorer; it’s a great destination if you’re all about throwing yourself into a city and finding its hidden treasures.

Start with a tour. The hop on and off bus is a great way to take in all the main sights during your first day in Amsterdam – you can always delve deeper into your favourite parts over the rest of the weekend. The I Amsterdam City Card is also a great purchase for a weekend break, it gives you free access to public transport and free entry with queue jump privileges to lots of the city’s attractions.

Let the canals guide you across the city on foot, they are Amsterdam’s backbone, hiding lots of wonderful architecture and interesting shops, cafes and restaurants. Look out for waterside tables on your way, they’re a great place to stop and watch the world go by.

If you want to take to the water it’s a great way to explore even further. Canal cruises will guide you through the city’s waterways, with experts to point out top sites and give you some history. If you want something more upmarket, book a dinner cruise to see the same sights but with dinner and drinks thrown in.

If you’re feeling adventurous, one of the best ways to explore Amsterdam is to do it just like the locals, and that’s by bicycle. We didn’t fancy navigating the roads ourselves, and so quickly learned that if you shout “backie” at a cyclist with a yellow luggage rack, they’ll let you hop on for a ride. Obviously you have to be open to exploring, and to be honest we only really made it from one end of the street to another, but it’s all in the spirit of Amsterdam.

During the evenings you can explore further on a bar crawl. It doesn’t have to be just about downing pints in every bar, this is a great way of meeting people and seeing some of the city’s most lively nightlife.

Hotels in Amsterdam

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Where to stay | Zoku

1/3

 

Social butterfly. Everything about Zoku is community minded, there’s privacy in the rooms (most of which come with kitchenettes) but lots of communal spaces, along with weekly affairs like acoustic sessions, rooftop jazz, workshops and meditation.

Highlights

Location

Zoku sits in cool East Amsterdam, which is filled with bars, restaurants and hangouts, but you can easily wander to the canals and main sights within ten minutes.

Only here

They say they’re the “death of the hotel room”, and Zoku is such a unique experience, they might be right. Co-spaces include a games room with everything from chess to Mario Kart to Netflix, a music corner (join their open mic night and you’ll get a free beer), a rooftop with hammocks and a herb garden, and a huge lounge space that gives off a communal living vibe.

Zoku Amsterdam

Top rated
Amsterdam, 11.5 km to Airport Amsterdam Schiphol
9.0 Excellent (2416 reviews)
Excellent Service 9.2 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Car park
Gym
Restaurant
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Written by

A writer living in London, Laura is currently working on her debut novel - a fictional tale inspired by her travels across America. When she's not checking out the ideal hotel bed thread-count, she's penning short stories, writing for various publications & brands, and sharing fashion tales on her blog, LauLauLand.