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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.  



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.


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.

German artist Isa Genzken, whose solo show is currently the big draw at the Stedelijk Museum (stedelijk.nl), works across video, painting and sculpture and likes to put statues of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti in Kanye-style slatted shades. What unites everything on show here is a free-wheeling, borderline hysterical, sense of playful provocation.

The quality of Amsterdam's daylight has made it a destination for artists throughout the centuries. Now, visitors and residents alike can enjoy a stroll along the 'Illuminade' - the wintry art route that shows the Amstel river to its best, shimmering effect. www.amsterdamlightfestival.com

The world's most respected documentary film festival, IDFA, colonises Amsterdam's delightful city-centre cinemas 18-29 November. From commercial fare to passion projects, all artistic bases are covered. www.idfa.nl

Headquartered in a mysterious mirrored tent just off bustling Leidseplein, the Amsterdam Fringe Festival (3-13 September) is a dazzlingly diverse spectacle of performing arts, bringing weird and wonderful acts from all over the world to showcase their talents in Amsterdam venues large and small. amsterdamfringefestival.nl

Key Areas

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

The sedate residential district near the Amsterdam Hilton isn't usually top of many thrill-seeker's Amsterdam wish lists, but that changes every two years thanks to the amazing ArtZuid sculpture trail. This year's eye-popping fiesta of open-air art is curated by the former Stedelijk Museum director Rudi Fuchs and features work by Georg Baselitz, Jaume Plensa, Tony Cragg and KAWS. artzuid.nl

It's hard to believe given her doe-eyed looks, but the iconic cartoon bunny Nijntje (known as Miffy outside of the Netherlands) celebrates her 60th birthday this year. A slew of Japanese and Dutch artists have imaginatively customised giant statues of the adored rabbit, some of which can be seen dotted around the Museumplein. They'll be auctioned in aid of UNICEF next month. nijntjeartparade.nl

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

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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