Several times each year (apart from 2020, when we only managed one trip), we take a trip on the DFDS ferry, from Newcastle to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It is a delightful city with so much history and breath-taking architecture. It is the perfect short break destination. 😉
Amsterdam was founded at the Amstel, that was dammed to control flooding, and the city’s name derives from the Amstel dam. Originating as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century and became the leading centre for finance and trade. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded, and many new neighbourhoods and suburbs were planned and built. The 17th-century canals of Amsterdam and the 19–20th century Defence Line of Amsterdam are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Sloten, annexed in 1921 by the municipality of Amsterdam, is the oldest part of the city, dating to the 9th century.
What Not to Miss
There is so much to see and do in Amsterdam, that it is near impossible to pick out just a few highlights. My personal favourites are:
- De Oude Kerk (The Old Church) on Oudekerksplein, is Amsterdam’s oldest building – founded in 1213. It is an absolute beauty and one can easily get lost in its history and architecture for hours.
- For an amazing cultural experience, head toward the Museumplein area. Here you will find the Van Goch Museum and the Rijksmuseum, amongst others.
- Herengracht is the first of the four main canals in the city centre’s Canal Belt which was completed in the 17th century and is UNESCO listed. This is where Amsterdam’s social elite built their grand gabled houses – each building being an absolute work of art.
- Ons Lieve Heer op Solder (The Church in the Attic) is a 17th-century canal house used as a Schuilkerk, or clandestine church. It is a fascinating museum to visit with deep religious history.
- If you want to know all about the history of Amsterdam (it is truly fascinating!), visit the Amsterdam Museum in Kalverstraat.
- I strongly suggest taking a canal cruise in Amsterdam – it is one of the best ways to see the sights.
- Public transport, particularly the tram system, is brilliant and very affordable. Remember to validate your ticket upon entry and exit. I must say though, Amsterdam is a very good “walking city” so you may not need public transport at all. And of course, there are loads of cycle rental establishments all over the city.
- A big warning: do not stand or walk in the cycle lanes! It is a busy city with thousands of cyclists, and they can get quite upset if you get in their way.
- Amsterdam gets extremely busy in the summer. If you are planning a visit then, book your accommodation well in advance.
Best Time of Year to Visit
I have visited Amsterdam at all different times of the year, and it is honestly an all-year-round destination. Summer can get very busy so if you dislike crowds, avoid the warmer season.