The Amsterdam Weekend

prinsengracht by night

Notorious for lax laws regarding sex, drugs and hard techno, few cities are preceded by a reputation as infamous as that of Amsterdam’s, and although you come across plenty of red eyed youths ogling around the red light district there is so much more to the city once you venture beyond the tourist laden historical center. Winter months are generally cold, damp and drizzly but summer is perfect for a long Euro weekend away.

Dare we say it, perhaps consider skipping the Anne Frank House where hour long queues stretch around the block and opt for an equally touristy but more enjoyable canal cruise which takes you past all the essential landmarks or emulate the locals by renting a bicycle to better explore the parks and backstreets. After a ten year renovation the Rijksmuseum is definitely worth a visit; the four sprawling floors are packed with Dutch history from Rembrandt masterpieces to iconic Delftware to Golden Age artillery. The same is true of the Stedelijk Museum with its impressive showcase of modern art and product design.

The past few years have seen a number of great little design hotels opening in the city, a sign perhaps that Amsterdam is becoming more than just a backpackers pit stop. The most impressive and trendiest of these is no doubt the Conservatorium Hotel situated at the heart of the Museum Quarter; it could be mistaken for a museum itself with neo gothic exteriors and a soaring internal glass atrium. A stay at The Dylan is the closest you will get to experiencing a grand canal house from within. Facing the picturesque Keizergracht canal the hotel only has a handful of rooms, each decorated in its own unique style. Nestled on a quiet street in between busy Dam Square and the Red Light District the Hotel V Nesplein is a bit of a jewel in the rough, with a warm monochrome style and comfortable rooms. In the arsty De Pijp neighborhood the Sir Albert Hotel is the newest of the lot having opened in March this year, and it’s industrial, former diamond factory exterior completely belies the sleek dark wood and tobacco leather interiors.

Restaurants in Amsterdam are generally tiny, often packed and only serve meals at specific hours so booking in advance is recommended. More of a boutique bakery than a proper restaurant, Gartine specializes in high tea with its stunning croissants, pancakes and cakes of all sorts but has an equally enticing selection of sandwiches and quiches. Whilst Chinese and Indonesian restaurants in the city abound, Vietnamese are much harder to come across but Xinh is top of its game, with delicate, fresh and fragrant dishes like white fish steamed in ginger and lime or spicy shrimp salad. For something further afield with a little more breathing space visit De Kas situated in the Frankendael Park. It makes use of abandoned greenhouses for both growing produce and seating space. Rotating fixed lunch and dinner menus are based on herbs and vegetables grown on the premises. From classics such as Caipiroska’s and Daiquiri’s to some more unusual concoctions of tequila, lavender syrup and Chambord, Canvas Op De 7, with its super informal setting and killer rooftop views, makes some of the best cocktails in Amsterdam. It’s also a great place for a quick weekend dinner bite before heading out on the town.