Amsterdam is renowned for its tolerant atmosphere, although the packed-out cafés and throbbing nightclubs that lie a few short steps from the Mövenpick Hotel should not obscure the deeper cultural beauty of the city known as Venice of the North. Threaded with a network of concentric canals, the city's roads undulate over hundreds of tiny bridges, rattling through cobbled streets and past the tall and gorgeous windows of gabled houses. The evening sunlight washes over the IJ bay and runs honey-coloured across the city's brickwork, catching in the canals like soft fire and glowing in the frothy half-litres of Dutch beer gently bubbling in a hundred street-side cafés.
Soaring skywards from the water's edge, the Mövenpick Hotel commands undisrupted views over the gabled tips of the city's roofs. From the clean lines of contemporary furnishings to the free Wi-Fi and the king size beds, the hotel makes luxury an effortless indulgence. A pillow menu ensures the right fit for sleepy heads, and the en suite rooms come complete with satellite TV, laptop-friendly safes, air conditioning, and 24 hour room service. The Silk Road restaurant overlooks the river IJ and serves a delectable selection of east-meets-west dishes, inspired by the global wanderings of Marco Polo. Guests can celebrate their arrival with a welcome drink at the Silk Bar, with its extensive cocktail menu and a fine selection of whiskies. Those looking to work up a sweat can head to the cardio studio before unwinding in the Finnish sauna, Bio sauna, shower landscape and relaxation area.
Lovers of art are spoiled for choice in the Dutch capital and fans of the palette and brush may wish to head to the Van Gogh Museum for a captivating insight into his life and work, before marveling at the steep wooden staircases, high windows, and tiny beds of Rembrandt's House. Having studied the play of light in a Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum, visitors may wish to explore the Jewish quarter and the Anne Frank museum, although be prepared for long queues. The Foam gallery regularly explores the work of classic and contemporary photographers, and the flea market at Noordemarkt on Mondays is the place to pick up a few vintage prints of your own. Off the beaten track, Amsterdam's hofjes, pristine courtyards surrounded by alms houses, are invisible from the street but well worth a peek. Karthuizerhof, on Karthuizersstraat, is one of the prettiest. Visitors on longer stays might want to travel 20 minutes by train to Haarlem to see the Dutch masters at the Frans Hals Museum, or go a little further to The Hague to see Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl earring.
Amsterdam is brimming with cosy cafés and wood-panelled bars, and the Indonesian restaurants are not to be missed. Immediate grocery needs can be satisfied at any of the supermarkets scattered through the city, while the 'Nine Streets' area between the Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht offers a uniquely Amsterdam shopping experience. The British Consulate General can be found to the south, on the edge of Vondelpark at Koningslaan 44.
Weather and Climate
Mild winters, bright skies and blustery days.
Flights: Low cost airlines operate regular services to Schiphol from airports around the UK.
Airport: Catching the regular 15 minute train from Schiphol to Amsterdam Centraal is the fastest route to the heart of the city.
Bicycle hire: There are two main operators, with outlets at the train stations and across the city centre.
Groupon Top Tip
Amsterdam's streets ting with the gentle ring of bicycle bells, and one of the best ways to see the city is by sliding effortlessly around it on a rented two-wheeler.