With its network of canals that span more than 60 miles, and buildings dating from the 17th Century, Amsterdam is one of the most charming cities in Europe.
The capital of Netherlands may be an Old World city, but Amsterdam is brimming with modernity. With its deep history in art and design, historic buildings and cobblestoned streets, it’s a pedestrian’s paradise.
In fact, exploring the city by foot—with an aim to get lost—is what we recommend. You’ll stumble upon one-of-a-kind boutiques and bars, soak up the atmosphere and catch a glimpse of canal life as stylish residents zip around on bicycles.
In recent years the city has upped its design ante, with new boutique hotels, art galleries and Instagram-worthy restaurants popping up. Amsterdam offers everything a traveler could want in a city, including world-class museums, top-notch dining and a relaxed but sophisticated atmosphere. It’s also easier to reach from Europe, thanks to new, direct Eurostar service from London.
Where you stay sets the tone for the trip, and the recently renovated Pulitzer Amsterdam, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Legend Collection, is perfectly situated in the Nine Streets neighborhood in Old Town. This area is packed with tiny, hyper-focused boutiques and vintage stores.
The Pulitzer was created from 25 adjacent townhouses and each room is decorated in a contemporary style. For an introduction to the city, book a private canal tour on the hotel’s vintage boat, The Tourist, which dates back to 1909 and counts Winston Churchill among its former passengers.
The Pulitzer is within easy walking distance to many of the city’s top attractions. A quick walk from the hotel is the House Boat Museum, an excellent introduction to what it’s like living on a canal. Also in the neighborhood is the Anne Frank House, where you can explore the home where Frank’s family hid during WWII and where she penned her diary; it’s a solemn but important stop. (Reservations are essential and admission is by timed entry only.)
Just across the street is the Amsterdam Tulip Museum, which highlights the flower’s history and unique place in Dutch history. The museum also sells bulbs to bring home. Make sure to consult a staff member to choose the correct type for your climate and country’s import regulations.
Two must-see museums in Amsterdam are the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. Entry to the Van Gogh Museum is by timed entry only. For a more personal experience, book a private tour through the museum to learn more about the artist and his journey.
Photo by Erik Smits
The Rijksmuseum contains the largest collection of Dutch masterpieces in the world. Add another layer of art education to your trip by taking the museum’s Rembrandt Cruise. This floating art history tour sails past the city sights which inspired him and his personal home.
Amsterdam also has a thriving contemporary art scene. De Appel has one of the city’s largest spaces for modern art exhibits, and hosts lectures and film screenings. Stop by MOCO Museum, located in Museum Square and sandwiched between the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum. The museum displays works from some of the biggest names in modern art, such as street art legend, Banksy.
Amsterdam also has a rich design heritage which is evident in its unique shops. The city is full of concept stores such as X Bank, a hybrid art gallery and department store which carries more than 180 Dutch labels. Cotton Cake is a white-washed café and clothing store; the kind of place to pick up delicate jewelry and then snack on a chia seed bowl.
Carve out plenty of time for leisurely meals in Amsterdam. Some of the city’s most elegant restaurants are housed in canal homes with Rococo ceilings and gilt work. Book a seat at the chef’s table at the Michelin-starred Vermeer, helmed by chef Chris Naylor. In lieu of standard entrees, diners are given a menu listing seasonal ingredients from which the chef prepares dishes.
Located near the Pulitzer you’ll find the elegant restaurant, Nooch.The Asian fusion menu is ideal for lunch or dinner. Start with the dim sum platter to share before tucking into a steaming bowl of Japanese udon noodles served with crispy tilapia fillet, vegetables, and spring onions.
If you still have room for dessert, Amsterdam is full of artisanal ice cream shops and patisseries. Urban Cacao delivers both, stocking everything from macarons and truffles to blood orange sorbet. Pick up some beautifully packaged chocolate bars to take home as gifts; the thick paper is pretty enough that you’ll wish it were wallpaper. Flavors include Dutch stroopwafel (a thin waffle with caramel inside) and dark caramel sea salt. Savor every bite before walking back to your hotel, gearing up to do it all over again the next day.