There is a reason why Amsterdam attracts more than 3.66 million international visitors each year. The most progressive and laid-back city of Europe may not have many known monuments or famous landmarks, but it seduces with its historic canals and gabled houses.
Although often associated with smoke-filled cafés and the red light district, Amsterdam, situated in the north of Holland, has much more to offer. Some of the top attractions worth visiting include the Rijksmuseum, which is filled with works from the Dutch Golden Age by artists such as Rembrant and Vermeer, and Holocaust victim Anne Frank's House.
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Depending on the season when you visit, you can discover different sides to Amsterdam. Spring is the most popular time to travel to one of Europe's most photogenic city centres as the region's famous tulip fields are bursting with colour.
But for a traveller looking to avoid big crowds, autumn is the best time to go. The weather is still pleasant and prices are much cheaper. Let's not forget the beautiful scenery, the long cobbled canal streets covered in brown, yellow and orange autumn leaves and the sweet smell of freshly-made caramel cookie waffles, or Stroopwafels, as they are known, which remind us that Christmas is just around the corner.
No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without riding a bike through the Jordaan district or through the green scenery of the city's largest park, Vondelpark, especially as Amsterdam is the most bicycle-friendly city in the world.
Another must is a romantic boat trip through its more than one hundred kilometres of canals. Hertz offer different vessels to choose from, including gondolas, luxury motorboats, taxi boats, and open boats, all for a reasonable price. Travellers can hop on and off, mooring up and exploring a city rich in architectural history and sights – including the flower market, Royal Palace on Dam Square, the Westertoren church tower, and Van Gogh museum.
Not to be missed
• A boat trip through its canals
• Anne Frank House
• The Rijksmuseum
• A bike ride through Vondelpark
Where to eat and what to try
Try the best fried chips in the city in Vleminckx Sausmeesters, Voetboogstraat 31. The selection of sauces is excellent, including mayonnaise, curry, sate (peanut), and ketchup. Or enjoy Poffertjes, tiny fluffy pancakes made in specialist pans with shallow indentations into which the batter is poured. They are usually served hot with melting butter and icing sugar and are enjoyed as a sweet snack or dessert.
Don't go without sampling the selection of cheeses on offer. Traditional pubs often serve one or more Dutch cheeses on their bar snacks menu. As well as plain flavours, versions with cumin, herbs and other spices are also popular. You may find smoked cheeses too.
A trip with the Urban Adventure Amsterdam Food by Foot tour is a great option. Your guide will not only take you to the best food places, but you will gain knowledge on the city's history – in just a few hours you will feel like a local.
Where to stay
For a boutique style go for Hotel Roemer, situated in two historic 18th-century mansions in a quiet street, only 400 metres from Leidseplein in the heart of Amsterdam.
If you are a budget conscious traveller looking for fun, sassy and efficient discount hotel accommodation, then Qbic Hotels Amsterdam is ideal. It's located near to Amsterdam city centre and is also close to Schiphol airport. Find the best places to stay with Hostelbookers.com.
If, on the other hand, you would prefer to experience what it feels like to live in a gabled house, then we suggest you rent a holiday apartment.
Report: Andrea Caamano, Picture Editor