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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.  



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?

In five months time, the canals will be alive with the sound of Amsterdam Gay Pride. For those who can't wait, March brings the fiesta's celluloid equivalent, the Roze Filmdagen queer film festival. Headquartered at the delightful Ketelhuis cinema, it's a thought-provoking jamboree of shorts and features from around the world that lasts ten days (www.rozefilmdagen.nl).

Amsterdam's world-class photography museum FOAM presents On Being an Angel, a retrospective of touching portraiture by the American artist Francesca Woodman. More than 100 photos pay tribute to her prolific but tragically short career. For more information visit www.foam.nl.

Get your skates on before the annual Museumplein ice rink is dismantled next month. The majestic backdrop of the Rijksmuseum should posh up your Instagram nicely.


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

Make sure you're waterside for Canal Pride, a supersized helping of inclusivity, because Amsterdam is playing host to EuroPride this year. Floats on the parade compete to put on a dazzling show, with everyone from banks to breweries flying the rainbow flag. Until 7 August.

Sometimes known as the green lungs of the city, the stately Vondelpark inhales a whole load of culture in summer months, with all sorts of open air festivals and performances. This month alone there are special free performances from the Jazz Orchestra of the Royal Concertgebouw and the Dutch National Ballet.

Amsterdam icons collide with the exhibition "Easy Virtue" at the Van Gogh Museum, which examines visual representations of prostitution by artists working in the second half of the 19th century. There's work by Vincent, of course, as well as scandalous imagery by the one-eared wonder's Belle Époque contemporaries Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.(www.vangoghmuseum.nl)

This month the Dutch National Ballet turns its attention to an enduring national enigma with its all-new ballet Mata Hari. Based on the life of the dancer-turned-spy who was executed by a French firing squad 99 years ago, it promises to be a sensitive and sophisticated take on a woman often dismissed as a femme fatale. For information head to www.operaballet.nl/en/ballet/ballet.

Key Areas

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

ANNE, the heart-rending play based on the diary of Anne Frank, has proved a runaway success, with locals and visitors alike flocking to the purpose-built Theater Amsterdam. Due to popular demand, the show's run has been extended until September. For tickets visit www.theateramsterdam.nl/en/.

The Overhoeks tower that dominates the skyline of Amsterdam-Noord just across the water from Central Station was first opened in 1971 as the head office for Royal Dutch Shell. Recently it reopened as A'DAM (www.adamtoren.nl), a cutting-edge development complete with a swish hotel, plus bars and clubs aplenty.

If ever a reminder were needed that once-blustery expanse of Amsterdam-Noord is currently the hottest place to be, it's the recent unveiling of A'DAM - the 22-storey multi-use building that dominates the landscape across the water behind Central Station. Complete with a revolving restaurant, recording facilities and swinging hotspots galore, it's a post-industrial paradise.

The Jewish Historical Museum (jhm.nl) covers all aspects of Jewish life, from delicious Kosher cookery to the horrors of the Holocaust. Its latest exhibition explores the life of the late musician Amy Winehouse, curated by her brother Alex.

Apparently, visitors to the Van Gogh Museum have long asked where they could find The Scream within its hallowed halls. Now they can. The most iconic work of Norwegian artist Munch (or at least a preparatory sketch) is displayed amid a temporary exhibition that explores the myriad similarities between Vincent and his contemporary Edvard. www.vangoghmuseum.nl

Day Trips

The Teylers Museum in nearby Haarlem is testament to the astonishing legacy of an inquisitive mind. Everything from ammonite fossils to Roman coins are lovingly displayed here thanks to Pieter Teylers, who bequeathed his fortune for the advancement of religion, art and science. www.teylersmuseum.nl

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