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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.  

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Shopping


This month represents your last opportunity to see "Recent Ouija", the extraordinary collection of large-scale, computer-generated video art by Ed Atkins at the bath-tub shaped Stedelijk Museum. Much of the work centres around a beery himbo by the name of Dave. stedelijk.nl


The fact that this year's King's Day street party falls on a Monday (27 April) means that the preceding weekend promises to be something of a royal knockout. The ubiquitous orange bunting and rivers of beer that accompany this outpouring of national pride should bring a smile to even the most staunch republicans.


A kiss on the hand can be quite continental, and Amsterdam has long been a friend to the diamond trade. A trip around the historic Gassan factory in the Jewish quarter will cost you nothing - the same can rarely be said of the gift shop at its conclusion. (175 Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat, gassan.com).


In the last two weeks of November, venues all around Amsterdam host screenings and discussions relating to the world's biggest and most exciting documentary film festival, IDFA. Be sure to grab a ticket! idfa.nl


Gird your loins for a last-ditch visit to the EYE Film Institute's blockbuster summer exhibition, a vivid and bloodcurdling review of the work of David Cronenberg, auteur behind such "body horrors" as "The Fly" and "Videodrome". The show features original props, lengthy big-screen clips and interviews with the director himself. eyefilm.nl


Waterside spaces all around town are drafted into action for the annual Grachtenfestival, on 15-24 August, which celebrates two of Amsterdam's great loves: classical music and water. grachtenfestival.nl

Sightseeing


For more than 20 years, the Comedytrain International Summer Festival has been bringing big names in stand-up from around the world to one of Amsterdam's best-loved (and literally underground) comedy clubs, Toomler, for English-language hilarity. comedytrain.nl


Running throughout most of June, the Holland Festival has one of the most impressive performance schedules on the planet. This year's edition features everything from a new "multimedia opera" by the Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei to free classical music recitals at the Conservatorium hotel. hollandfestival.nl


Participate in the annual Springsnow festival, which celebrates the beauty of the elm seeds that rain down over Amsterdam at this time of year. Share your photos as you follow the prescribed route for maximum confetti-like action. springsnow.nl


Not to be confused with the Cut-Outs exhibition that enchanted London last year, The Oasis of Matisse at the Stedelijk Museum (www.stedelijk.nl) is the largest ever collection of Henri Matisse works to be shown in the Netherlands. What's more, selected paintings from the museum's permanent collection are presented as companion pieces.


Straddling Amsterdam's two most iconic music venues, Paradiso and Melkweg, 5 Days Off is an electronic music festival with an electrifying ambience. This year's performers include the spooky/sexy FKA Twigs (4-8 March, 5daysoff.nl).


This month sees the opening of a blockbuster show presenting paintings from the final years of Rembrandt van Rijn. Emerging from the shadow of personal loss and fiscal disaster, the Old Master created some of his finest and most moving work during this period. (1 Museumstraat, rijksmuseum.nl).

Key Areas


One of those only-in-Amsterdam developments, De Ceuvel is a polluted inland harbour that's been reborn as one of the city's hottest hangouts, replete with upgraded houseboat workshops, vegan-friendly cafe and sustainable biogas production. deceuvel.nl


De Hallen is a spectacular multipurpose development housed in a 19th-century tramshed that's become a magnet for trendy types of late. There are crafty shops and stalls galore, as well as a glass-covered indoor food market. dehallen-amsterdam.nl


Following on from last year's #metamarathon stunt by the actor Shia LaBeouf, the Stedelijk modern art museum is hosting 12 conceptual "situations" by strange but superstellar artist Tino Sehgal throughout 2015 (10 Museumplein, stedelijk.nl).


Take a bracing walk along the River Amstel, or, better still, charter a boat for the evening to take in the spectacular illuminated art installations of the third Amsterdam Light Festival (until 18 January, amsterdamlightfestival.com).


Those willing and able should head to Henri Willig for a taste of Dutch dairy heritage. Cheese bought here is made at two cheese factories in Katwoude and Heerenveen from around 50 cattle, goat and sheep farms across the Netherlands. henriwillig.com/en

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