With the winter cold fading away to the North Sea, and the sun rising on the horizon, now is a great time to book your Spring/Summer holidays in Amsterdam.
There's so much to see and do in Holland's capital city, from shopping (the deals are great) to culture (be sure to get out of the coffee shops and into the museums) and the food, all the world's cuisine is in this wonderful city.
Where to stay?
Shaped like a moored ship with its bow pointed toward nearby Centraal Station, the Grand Hotel Amrâth is carved from a landmark of Amsterdam School architecture, the Dutch interpretation of 1920's Art Nouveau.
Once the extravagant headquarters of Holland's major shipping houses, the building's renovation has preserved its original tapestry walls, distinctive burned glass murals, even its 'Paternoster' lift - a mechanical oddity in perpetual motion that obliges passengers to step on and off as it brushes past each floor. (Hotel guests use a modern elevator that actually stops.)- Grand Hotel Amrâth, Prins Hendrikkade 108 1011 AK Binnenstad, Netherlands, Tel: +31 20 552 0000, www.amrathamsterdam.com
Clear your plate...
Exuberant British chef Jamie Oliver's concept for Fifteen, which apprentices at-risk youngsters to a fine dining kitchen, is flourishing in a century-old Amsterdam warehouse, where crystal chandeliers are banked by corrugated tin spattered in artful graffiti.
While the white tablecloth section serves a four course set menu, the less formal trattoria offers free choice of signature dishes such as the nine-plate antipasto, rich lamb shoulder ragu with olives and rosemary and palate twisting desserts such as panna cotta with rhubarb and Proseccomascarpone ice cream.- Fifteen Amsterdam, Jollemanhof 9, 1019 GW Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tel: +31 20 509 5015, www.fifteen.nl
Raise your glasses!
In this town of jewel-box sized canal houses Amsterdam's communal living rooms are its bars and cafes. Locals colour-code gathering spots as intimate 'Brown Bars' for their venerable tobacco coloured walls, or 'Blue Bars' for spaces that soar like the open skies.
The Blue Bar of the moment is Momo, where Amsterdam's smart set gathers for Asian chic tempered by Dutch whimsy, sipping drinks like the Breakfast Martini, which adds orange marmalade and a garnish of toast.- MOMO Restaurant, Bar & Lounge, Hobbemastraat 1, Amsterdam. Tel: +31 20 671 7474, www.momo-amsterdam.nl
Max out the credit cards...
The city's most entertaining shopping zone is the Nine Little Streets inside the 1711 century canal ring. Straddling Singel to Prinsengracht canals and Hartenstraat to Huidenstraat, these densely packed lanes are where Amsterdam's mercantile history meets its present-day bohemian spirit.
Along with wares from local designers, many shops have unconventional specialties such as toothbrushes at De Witte Tandenwinkel (Runstraat 5) and soap at La Savonnerie (Prinsengracht 294 1016 HJ Binnenstad, Netherlands, Tel: +31 20 428113), where 100 varieties are handmade on the premises from ingredients including donkey's milk Cleopatra's favorite. Look for 'De Negen Straatjes' on street signs and pick up a district shopping map from retailers.- www.theninestreets.com Get out of town.
The Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen, a 19th century Dutch fishing village re-created 44 kilometres northeast of Amsterdam, is best known as a family destination where kids can indulge in old fashioned games such as hoops, hobby horses and stilt walking.
In 2009, on its 60th birthday, the Zuiderzee turned its ruddy cheeks toward the future, with fifty trendsetting Dutch designers including style icons Viktor & Rolf, exhibiting avant-garde jewellery, fashion and art inspired by traditional Holland themes such as Vermeer paintings and tulips.- Zuiderzee Museum, Wierdijk 12-22, Enkhuizen. Tel: +31 228 351 111, www.zuiderzeemuseum.nl
The Eastern Docklands, Amsterdam's old cargo port just north of the Centraal Station, has become a laboratory for experimental architecture. Today these manmade islands resemble a futuristic Venice whose copper-clad National Center for Science and Technology, NEMO, is shaped like a ship's bow, bridges resemble serpents or birds in flight, and the traditional concept of the 'canal house' takes a modernistic turn with 21 sl century materials including distressed metal and glass.
A string of inventive shops line KNSM-laan such as the interior design studio Pol's Poften at #39, the fanciful children's lifestyle store Keet in Huis at #297, and the mid-century fashion emporium Arrival/Departure at #301. Creative types gather for coffee and homey Dutch cakes on the sprawling terrace of the 1920's Lloyd Hotel (www.lloydhotel.com, Tel: +31 20 561 3636) before visiting its Cultural Embassy, a clubby hotline to Amsterdam's music and art scene. Although trams and buses service this quarter, the most appealing way to arrive is via the free 10-minute ferry from Jetty 8 behind the Centraal Station. Walking tour maps are available from Amsterdam Centre for Architecture.- www.arcam.nl, www.easterndocklands.com, www.amsterdamdocklands.com