By Derek Robertson
Chicago might be known as “summer’s favourite city”, but it’s a description that could equally be applied to Amsterdam. When the sun’s out and the temperature creeps into the upper twenties, the city positively hums with energy; parks fill, bars and restaurants spill out into the street, and all manner of boats take to leisurely sailing up and down the canals. So if you’re headed to Amsterdam this summer, make like the locals and be sure to do some of the following.
1. Park Life
The Dutch love the outdoors, particularly their parks, and Amsterdam has many to choose from. There’s Flevopark in the East, the enormous Westerpark in the West, and numerous smaller ones dotted all over. But best of all is the famous Vondelpark, a huge expanse of relaxing green situated in the heart of the city complete with lakes, fountains, shade, and children’s play areas. Barbecues are allowed, as is alcohol, so you can indulge in a spot of al fresco dining anytime of day. And if you don’t want to bring you own, there are plenty of cafes and bars to keep hunger and thirst at bay.
2. IJBurg Beach
There nothing like a relaxing dip when the sun is shining, but ignore the overcrowded municipal swimming parks in the centre and head East to IJBurg, a new district built on an artificial island on the IJmeer lake. Known as Blijburg, the man made beach is the perfect spot for some swimming and sunbathing; the water is clean, and the atmosphere is fun and relaxing. Several great cafes and restaurants mean it’s easy to spend an entire day here splashing around and working on your tan.
It would be remiss to not indulge in a little culture, and Amsterdam has a plethora of world-class museums and galleries. Best of the bunch is the Rijksmuseum, a stunning Gothic and Renaissance wonder that was opened in 1885 and was recently the subject of a 10-year, €375 million renovation. The largest art museum in the country, it houses over 8,000 artifacts at any one time, including masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals, as well as a huge research library, gardens, and a Michelin-star restaurant.
4. Swing By A’DAM Tower
There’s plenty to do on the banks of Noord, just across the river from Centraal Station, from the concert venue De Tolhuistuin to the futuristic EYE Film Institute. But make sure you swing by A’DAM Tower for an unforgettable experience. A hub for the city’s creative industries, the 22-story tower hosts numerous bars, restaurants, and clubs, two of which occupy the top two floors. And while you’re up there, you can enjoy the thrill of Europe’s highest swing, on the Lookout Sky Deck, which offers incredible views from 100 metres up.
5. Dinner On A Secret Island
Intrepid explorers and foodies won’t want to miss out on a visit to Vuurtoreneiland, a small island in the middle of the river IJ. A former military base and now an UNESCO World Heritage Site, from May to September it hosts a gourmet pop-up restaurant in a huge greenhouse – the views are every bit as incredible as the food! Tickets for the four-course meal and the boat trip are booked together, and go on sale at the beginning of every month; be quick though, as they sell out fast.
6. Cruise The Canals
No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a few leisurely hours spent sailing on the canals. You could opt for an official tour – most operators follow a similar route and charge roughly the same, with the running commentary full of useful and interesting information about the city’s past. Or, you could don a Captain’s hat and rent your own boat – €100 should get you a boat for 6 or 7 people for a few hours – giving you the freedom to explore to your heart’s content. Just beware the many low bridges, blind corners and canal etiquette!
7. Explore Noord
For years considered to be the up and coming part of town, 2018 will see Noord finally connected my metro to the rest of the city. You could grab a bike and explore the wonderful Noorderpark, or the historical village of Durgerdam situated along Niewendammerdijk. Alternatively, head to NSDM Werf for a grittier, post-industrial experience; several bars and restaurants have taken up spots right on the water, while several huge warehouses – where oil tankers were once built – have been turned into flea markets and creative hubs for start ups.
8. Explore The Woods
Nature lovers shouldn’t miss out on Amsterdamse Bos, a huge woodland created on the edge of the city in the 1930’s. Three times larger than New York’s Central Park, there are many ways to pass a pleasant day in its leafy environs – kayaking, paddle-boarding, cycling, swimming, trail running, and tree swinging are all possible here, as is visiting a biodynamic goat farm and trying goat ice cream. And depending when you’re in town, it also plays host to open air theatre nights and various music festivals, perfect for dancing the night away surrounded by nature.
9. Gay Pride
No event in the city is bigger, or more raucously celebrated, than Amsterdam’s Gay Pride. Held on the first weekend of August, events are centred around the Canal Parade, where all manner of boats, barges, and floating contraptions make their way from the IJ river down Prisengracht in a riot of colour and blaring dance music. Expect outrageous outfits, ridiculous amounts of booze, and one of the most fun-loving celebrations of freedom and diversity anywhere in Europe.