Galleries, museums, jazz bars and coffee shops, Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most fascinating cultural hot spots. But what are the must-see attractions for a weekend trip? Louisa and Spitfire bass player Doug went on a three-day non-stop culture feast to find out.
Louisa's Amsterdam top 10
10. Cycle around Vondelpark
Beautiful parkland which boasts some beautiful houses around its lakes and an open air theatre from May to September. Perfect for a leisurely 30-minute cycle with a picnic stop.
9. Listen to some jazz at Cafe Alto
A little gem of a venue. They have live music here seven nights a week, open from 9pm-3am weekdays, and 9pm-4am weekends. It's free to get in and the atmosphere is fabulous. We saw Saskia Laroo's Jazzika performing there and they were amazing. She was quite a character! That night they were welcoming some guest vocalists but I was happy soaking up the music. Definitely an appearance I would like to list on our gigs page one day.
8. Go and see some music at The Concertgebouw
This concert venue is breathtaking. The acoustics are a marvel and the backdrop of the stage is the many hundreds of empty seats for the choir to occupy when performing choral works here. We saw the conductor trickle down the steps onto the stage. It was Denis Kozhukin performing Mozart's 15th piano concerto and the Munich Chamber Orchestra performing Schubert's Fifth Symphony when we visited. They offer big discounts on tickets for under 30s when you ask at the box office. Another place I would love to perform in.
7. Buy some tulips from the Bloemenmarkt
Largely filled with souvenirs but still worth a stroll. The back of the market is also worth admiring from the bridge at the end as you can see it floating on the canal.
6. Walk through the Red Light District
You can't come to Amsterdam and not experience this. No picture necessary. You can google it yourself. We, however, saw it in the stark daylight of a Sunday afternoon, stripped bare of its theatrics and glamour. Rather poetic. It’s a different beast at night and we were warned to keep a close eye on our valuables.
5. Browse the Museum Market
On the third Sunday of every month. We were lucky enough to stumble across this. Lots of things I very nearly bought here, but it’s quite pricy. There was all sorts of stalls, including food, clothing, jewelery, and gifts. My favourites there were the jackets made by Roxi’s Fine Cut, some nice ceramics by riterra.com and some fantastic notebooks made from some old vinyl records and their covers. There was also a photobooth...
4. Visit the Rijksmuseum
We bought tickets for this from their website the day before visiting to skip the line (€17.50). Lots of masterpieces to take in here, you definitely need a good few hours to be able to take it all in. Keep an eye out for some fantastic musicians busking under the archway by the entrance to the museum. We recommend an iced coffee and a cake from enjoyblushing near the Van Gogh museum, for tasty fuel before you admire the artwork.
3. Visit a Brown Café
Like the Red Light district, you can't not visit one of these when you come to Amsterdam. I would recommend The Rookies who were very friendly and informative.
2. Eat at Restaurant Bazar
Although not local cuisine, it’s a favourite with locals. This restaurant successfully captures the spirit of a North African market. The food and the decor are a feast for the senses. Order the Royal Persian Lamb for €10.90. To find Bazar, look out for the golden angel on top of the building on Albert Cuypstraat.
1. Visit the Van Gogh museum
I absolutely loved this. The most fantastic museum experience I have ever had. It was curated wonderfully. You are lead chronologically through his works and shown his process of research and studies for each of his great paintings. It was also very interesting to see how he, and others, wrestled with his creative streak in his personal life. Book online (€17) in advance to avoid the queues. Doug learnt his new favourite Dutch word here: Brieffragment, which translates as 'extract from a letter'.
We tried to visit Anne Frank's house but we didn't pre book and the queues were literally hours long. I would love to visit and will arrange it in advance for my next trip to Amsterdam.
We stayed in the Conscious hotel in Vondelpark . It had everything we needed and the receptionists were very happy to help.
I thoroughly recommend hiring bikes from there (€15 for a day or €25 for two), but I don’t recommend falling off. After a collision with a local on our first night - and a colourful bruise two weeks later - we returned the bikes and decided trams were a safer option for the rest of the trip (€7.50 for 24hour metro card). By bike or by tram, Amsterdam is very easy to get around.
What are you waiting for? Go and book your trip now! Flights from Southampton are frequent and inexpensive. And if you’ve got any Amsterdam favourites then let me know in the comments below. Anna will be visiting in a few weeks and I look forward to comparing our top ten on her return.