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Amsterdam: On two wheels in Amsterdam

Take a train into the city centre then hire a bike. There are countless hire places available. Amsterdam is the most cycle-friendly city in the world. There is a wide network of traffic-calmed streets, cycle paths, and cycle parking facilities. 

So sling on your rucksack in this most cycle-friendly of places and escape the city for a night, riding west down civilised bike lanes for 25km to the National Park Zuid-Kennemerland, a rugged coastal park of dunes and big skies. 

There has been a controlled release of bison into areas of the park, too.  

Level of Difficulty: Moderate. 

What to pack: Suitable clothes for cycling and camping (check the weather forecast), woolly hat, headtorch, raingear, sleeping bag, mat and bivvy bag, food and water. 

Best time to go: Summer


Culture, canals and coffee shops, Amsterdam is not only Europe’s capital of fun, but is a great place to unwind and take things easy.  Tolerant, welcoming and a lot of fun, Amsterdam is a city that likes to take things at a leisurely pace during the day but gets into party mode at night. So, whether you’re looking to recharge those batteries or wear them down a little more, you’ll find Amsterdam has options for both. And what a setting! Beating Venice in the canal stakes, cities really don’t get much more picturesque than this. The old town and the centre, which is where you’ll want to base yourself, is a delight of arched bridges, 17th century narrow gabled houses, houseboats decked with flowers and canal-side cafes and eateries. 

Packed with museums and galleries, Amsterdam is a jewel in Europe’s cultural crown. The Rijksmuseum is one of the best art galleries in the world, including paintings from the Dutch Golden Age and art lovers will also enjoy the Van Gogh Museum. Visit Anne Frank’s House to see where the famous diarist and her family hid from the Nazis during the Second World War.  



This month sees the beginning of a momentous exhibition at the Hermitage Amsterdam, the stately outpost of the St Petersburg art trove. Romanovs & Revolution commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution with an exquisite collection of objects belonging to Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra. (www.hermitage.nl)

If you notice that street fashions get a little 'punchier' around the third week of October, that's probably because the world's club kids have descended for the annual Amsterdam Dance Event. Whether you're into anthemic floor fillers or nerdy listening parties and lectures, there's something here to get pretty much anyone's pulse racing. (www.amsterdam-dance-event.nl)

Like your meals on wheels? The Rollende Keukens event between 12-16 May sees food trucks from all corners of Europe descending on Amsterdam's Westerpark for a five-day culinary blowout. From gourmet popcorn to Italian piadinas, all tastes are catered for and there's no entry charge.

If you happen to be in town on 27 April - and goodness knows you'll be in good company - take to the streets and get swept up in the orange-hued madness that is King's Day. Granted, the streets can get a little congested in the most historic nooks of Amsterdam, but that's a good excuse for a conga, isn't it?


The arrival of the Dutch changed South Africa irreversibly. Comprising 300 curated objects and expert commentary,"Good Hope. South Africa and The Netherlands from 1600" at the Rijksmuseum is the first major exhibition to explore this most sensitive and significant chapter of colonial history (www.rijksmuseum.nl).

Goodbye, Norma Jean. '90 Years Miss Monroe,' the blockbuster exhibition of Marilyn Monroe's clothes and other personal effects, is soon to leave the medieval Nieuwe Kerk for pastures new. With audio commentary by famous Dutch folk from the worlds of media and fashion, it's a fascinating look back on the short life of an enduring icon. denieuwekerk.nl.

Jordan Wolfson, the current enfant terrible of the American art scene, kicks off a two-part solo show at the Stedelijk Museum with a giant animatronic puppet, designed (metaphorically speaking) to strip back the glossy veneer of the American dream and expose the darker side lurking beneath. Couldn't he just have held an election? www.stedelijk.nl

It may lack some of the red-carpet glamour of Venice or Cannes, but the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, which takes over some of Amsterdam's most prestigious cinemas 16-27 November, is a spectacular window on the world. Everything is subtitled in English, and the special screenings featuring Q&As with directors can be inspiring and fascinating. www.idfa.nl.

Dutch activist/artist Daan Roosegaarde made headlines earlier this year with his plans to suck the smog out of the world's most polluted cities with his giant smog vacuum cleaner. This sort of bold thinking is pretty much par for the course in the Netherlands, a country that (lest we forget) is essentially man-made. The latest exhibition at the Stedelijk modern art museum, "Dream Out Loud" celebrates the intersection of art and science with a view to solving the ecological and social challenges of tomorrow. (www.stedelijk.nl)

This month represents your last chance to visit "On the Verge of Insanity", the wildly popular exhibition that reevaluates the relationship between Van Gogh's astonishingly innovative output and his deteriorating state of mind. Until 25 September, www.vangoghmuseum.nl

Key Areas

Its aesthetic is the opposite of boastful, but Dutch design has much to recommend it. Occupying a historic building next door to one of Amsterdam's most-photographed bridges, Hôtel Droog (www.droog.com) is a conceptual design institution that can sell you a lamp that looks like a coat hanger then feed you a cracking sandwich.

Perfect for sheltering from the rain while indulging in a spot of retail therapy, the Magna Plaza shopping centre across the road from the Royal Palace on Dam Square is something of an architectural marvel, having been designed as a lavish post office by Cornelis Hendrik Peters at the close of the 19th century. (www.magnaplaza.nl).

Amsterdam's bloggers, blaggers and beautiful people head to the Westerpark for the last ten days of January, as Fashion Week struts its stuff. The park itself makes for a modish hangout pretty much any day of the year, however - with several cafés, a charming cinema and post-industrial vistas galore.

Everything is illuminated during the annual Amsterdam Light Festival. Head to the neighbouring Weesperbuurt and Plantage neighbourhoods in the east of town to admire the electrifying artworks that line this year's Illuminade walking tour. amsterdamlightfestival.nl

As the weather turns chillier, there can be few better places to hang out than De Hallen, the magnificent former tram hall in the Oud-West district that's been given a new lease of life as a covered market. It's not just a haven for foodies, however - there's also a selection of stylish shops and the biggest independent cinema in the country. www.dehallen-amsterdam.nl.

The stately Vondelpark may get all the rapturous praise, but the post-industrial Westerpark is the Amsterdam green scene's cool kid. This month, two upstart culture festivals are making waves here: the NEU NOW festival for emerging artists (14-18 September) and the excellent Unseen Photo Fair (23-25 September) which sees established snappers championing work by their protégés. www.neunow.eu; www.unseenamsterdam.com

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