If you are heading to Europe for a city break and want a great blend of fun, culture and great dining in a friendly atmosphere, forget about London or Paris or even Dublin.
The Netherlands might not be the most obvious vacation spot, but its capital Amsterdam checks all the boxes.
There’s More to Amsterdam than Coffee Shops
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first. People tend to think of one thing when anyone mentions Amsterdam, and that’s those coffee shops. You might have heard that the Dutch government is cracking down on them to broaden Amsterdam’s image, and that is true.
More than half of them have shut down over the past decade, but that still leaves more than 150 operating, with their unique menus.
So if that’s what you want, it is still available, but be careful – only purchase from within the shop and consume what you buy there. The police will hand out €100 penalties to both locals and tourists caught with cannabis around the city. And they are quite right, there is a lot more to Amsterdam than the coffee shops, so let’s move on!
A Gamer’s Paradise for Arcade or Casino Fans
If you love retro gaming, head across to Blast Galaxy in the NSDM former shipyard area. There are regular free ferries across the river. It’s open from midday every day from Wednesday to Sunday and is the sort of place you can easily lose several hours.
There are literally hundreds of classic games from the 80s, and it is like taking a step back in time. The café bar has a good selection of snacks from around the world and some fabulous cocktails at good prices too. What’s not to like?
Of course, you might prefer the sort of gaming that gives you at least the outside chance of walking away with some prize money in your pocket. In that case, you will need to head back across the river to Holland Casino.
The Netherlands has become something of a hot spot for online casino gaming over the past year or two, and when you check a comparison site like CasinoJager.com, you can see what kind of online casino bonus sites are offering.
But Holland Casino is evidence that the Dutch still have a passion for land based casino gaming,
too. The facility on Max Euweplein in the city center is one of several in the Netherlands, but is the largest by some margin.
You will find all the casino classics like blackjack, roulette and baccarat as well as hundreds of slots where you can bet anything from a cent upwards. Dress code is officially “stylish and well groomed” – but as long as you make a little effort and don’t look like you have just walked in off the beach, you should be ok.
Catch a Gig All Year Round
Amsterdam has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to live music. There are some great pubs and clubs scattered around the city – just let your ears guide you and catch some local talent in rock, jazz and plenty of retro hits from the 60s and 70s.
But even better is to time your visit to coincide with one of the city’s music festivals. For example, ZeeZout is a full day of house and techno in early September, while AMF is one of the biggest EDM events of the year and will be held at the world-famous Johan Cruijff Arena.
But leading the way is Dutch Valley Festival, the biggest music event in the Netherlands. There are more than 100 acts playing, including local bands with a global fanbase like Chef’Special and Suzan & Freek.
Spend Some Time on The Water
Amsterdam is built on a network of canals. Some still have commercial use, but these days, most of the shipping is of a recreational nature. There’s no better way of spending a morning, especially if you are feeling a little delicate from the night before. It’s also a great way of seeing more of the city, and perhaps planning where to spend the next part of the day.
You’ll find a choice of operators around the Prinsenstraat area, including Cap’n Jack’s and Those Dam Boat Guys. You can even hire a boat for yourself and be your own captain for the day if you think you can stay out of trouble and find your way back!
A World of Culinary Choices
We could dedicate an entire article to recommended eateries in Amsterdam and still, we would only be scratching the surface. The good news is that means there really is something to suit every taste and every budget. The bad news is that singling out two or three names feels a little harsh on the rest.
- Jansz is one of Amsterdam’s best-known fine dining restaurants, ideal for a special occasion and if you’re going to treat yourself to Dutch oysters, this is the place to do it. The Head Chef Arnout van de Kolk took over in 2021, and if anything, the reviews have got even better since, including a rating of best restaurant in Amsterdam by Time Out earlier this year.
- Helling 7 is in the super-fashionable former docks area and has an industrial vibe. The restaurant was, after all, made from reclaimed ship’s timbers and hull plating! There’s a somewhat industrial feel to the cuisine, too, with most items on the menu cooked over a blazing barbecue in front of the diners. If it all gets a little too much, you can always take a seat on the terrace that looks over the wharf.
- Hap-Hmm proves you don’t need to pay top dollar for top food, even in a European capital. Established in 1935, this no frills eatery serves traditional Dutch classics. It’s become something of a legend, but hasn’t let fame spoil the experience. From stew to schnitzels to waffles, everything on the menu is a winner.