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A Day in Amsterdam

How to spend the perfect day in Amsterdam on your own – from cruising the canals to tracking down tulips. By Steve McKenna.

River cruising is one of the most popular ways to explore continental Europe’s great cities. One of the beauties of this style of travel is that you can choose how you want to see a city – as part of the larger group, or maybe solo, indulging your own interests and tastes. 

Amsterdam makes for an excellent destination to explore by yourself: it’s compact, flat, easy to navigate, safe and almost everyone speaks English. As well, it’s often the starting point for many European river cruises, and your ship will dock close to all of the city’s fascinating attractions
Houses alongsidethe canal and a bridge, Amsterdam

Getting Around

So, where to start? A canal-boat tour is where. There really is no better way to get a flavour and a sense of the beauty of the Dutch capital than by taking a cruise on the city’s iconic inner canal belt. World Heritage-listed by UNESCO, this district first flourished in the 17th century during the so-called Dutch Golden Age, when Amsterdam was the hub of a global empire. 
The canals were laid out beyond the city’s port and medieval quarter, fashioned in a concentric style. Decorating their banks were gabled townhouses and grand mansions built by the merchants who had grown fabulously wealthy from the trade of goods like Asian spices. Drifting along these evocative waterways, admiring those photogenic buildings and passing beneath a series of pretty bridges, you’ll glimpse sights that you’ll probably want to return to later on foot or by bicycle.
Dutch canal at sunset, Amsterdam
Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most pedal-friendly cities, with plenty of bike hire options and dedicated cycle paths ensuring everyone feels at ease in the saddle. And a solo cyclist will hardly be a rare sight in this cosmopolitan, forward-thinking city.

Sightseeing

Among Amsterdam’s must-visits is the Anne Frank House, where you’ll hear moving stories about the young Jewish girl who hid in a secret annex here and penned her diary while the city was occupied by the Nazis in World War II. Amsterdam’s other top cultural draw, the Van Gogh Museum, displays the world’s largest collection of works by the legendary Post-Impressionist, including renowned paintings such as Sunflowers, The Bedroom and Irises. Wandering through the rooms at your own pace is a wonderful novelty. 
It’s part of a cluster of artistic attractions that make up the city’s “Museum Quarter”. Also in the vicinity is the revamped Rijksmuseum, which houses some of the finest pieces of Dutch art, notably Rembrandt’s classic The Night Watch. 
View of houses located on the canal with night lights reflecting on the canal, Amsterdam

Relax and Recharge

After all that sightseeing, you might feel like a bit of peace, quiet and fresh air – and perhaps a shaded spot for a picnic and a place to read a book. Consider travelling a little outside the city to visit Keukenhof Gardens. If you come in spring (March-May), seek out the park’s flower gardens and their blooming tulips. Back in Amsterdam, you’ll also see colourful bunches in the shop windows of florists, some of which are tucked away in the cobbled backstreets that fan out from the canal paths.
Positioned just west of Anne Frank House, the Jordaan district is one of the most strollable parts of Amsterdam, a once-gritty working-class neighbourhood that has been gentrified in recent decades. Exploring this area, unencumbered by others who may not love shopping quite as much as you, is a delight: the lanes are lined with picturesque properties, stylish boutiques and galleries. You’ll also stumble across a variety of venues for refreshments. 
View of pink tulips at flower market, Netherlands
Though you’ll breeze by the odd “coffeeshop” – those havens of Amsterdam’s cannabis culture – you will also find bright new cafes serving decent coffee. If you’d prefer a cool Heineken or a glass of Jenever (Dutch gin), there are lots of bars, too, some traditional, some trendy but all very welcoming, whether you’re solo or with friends. In many places, you can order classic Dutch nibbles like bitterballen (meatballs in breadcrumbs) or fries doused in mayonnaise. 

Need to Know

Amsterdam is the launching point for the 15 Day Magnificent Europe river cruise to Budapest. Here, what other delights are in store.

Sail

Enjoy five-star luxury on your 14-night cruise, as you glide through the heart of Europe on your Concerto River Ship. You’ll have access to all the comforts of home, quick and dedicated service, and a whole range of on-board entertainment, from dancing to trivia nights.

Taste

Whether you’re a foodie or not, you’ll find no better place to experience the rich flavours of the countries you pass through. Try some of Europe’s finest drops with a range of wine tastings, as well as the selection of premium bottles served with dinner. And no trip to Germany would be complete without an ale – quench your thirst in Cologne with a refreshing glass of Kölsch beer.

See

Be treated like royalty with a cocktail reception and a piano recital at Germany’s Namedy Castle, and a journey on the lavish Grand Empress Steam Train to Hungary’s Godollo Palace. For an architecture fix, perhaps tour two of the most important Baroque buildings in Europe: the 18th-century Wurzburg Residence and Austria’s imposing Melk Abbey.

Do

Get your heart racing with a bike ride through Vienna to the 12th-century Klosterneuburg Monastery, or around the beautiful medieval centre of Regensburg, a World Heritage site. If hiking is your preference, head to another Bavarian attraction, Miltenberg Castle, or through the lush Schwarzach Valley in Lower Franconia