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How to Plan the Perfect Long Weekend in Amsterdam

Experience the best of the Dutch capital's charming canals and vibrant museums on a quick jaunt.

U.S. News & World Report

How to Plan the Perfect Long Weekend in Amsterdam

Alongside tulips and windmills, the global image of Amsterdam is one of a city entwined with water. Since its development in the 17th century, Amsterdams Canal Ring has grown to be one of the worlds most unique urban landscapes. And celebrating its 400th birthday in 2013, the Canal Ring not only remains a historic and beautiful water network through the city, but a stunning backdrop for fantastic cultural and sporting events throughout the year.

Admire world-class art, bike along picturesque canals and explore trendy neighborhoods in just a few days. (Getty Images).

Like many European cities, Amsterdam offers a unique blend of history, cultural attractions and superlative culinary experiences. Though best known for its canal belt, world-renowned art and infamous red-light district, the Dutch capital's charming city squares and neighborhoods offer a snapshot of its rich history amid its innovative restaurants, cutting-edge galleries and fashionable shops. To make the most of a short trip to Amsterdam, carve out an itinerary that includes iconic attractions and lesser-known gems, and follow these smart strategies.

Make a Plan

With a variety of direct flights available from many U.S. hubs along the East Coast, getting to Amsterdam for a long weekend is a breeze. It's a smart idea to take the evening flight to optimize your time. Adjust your body clock by getting some shut-eye on the flight. And before your trip, also make sure to request an early check-in at your hotel or lodging provider.

Parlay Your Loyalty Points

Through loyalty programs like Hilton Honors, accumulated points can add up to significant hotel savings while traveling in Europe. If you're an avid Hilton loyalist, consider checking into one of Amsterdam's two Doubletree properties, which are within the Hilton portfolio. The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Amsterdam - NDSM Wharf offers well-appointed guest rooms in an artsy district. What's more, a street art museum is slated to open next summer in a former shipbuilding warehouse adjacent to the hotel.

Another option for lodging is DoubleTree by Hilton Amsterdam Centraal Station, which boasts the SkyLounge Amsterdam. From the lounge's 11th-floor perch, you can take in stunning city and river views. "Our DoubleTree by Hilton hotels in the Amsterdam area – DoubleTree by Hilton Amsterdam – NDSM Wharf and DoubleTree by Hilton Centraal Station – provide travelers with two unique accommodation options for those visiting the beloved European city,” says Dianna Vaughan, senior vice president and global head of DoubleTree by Hilton. "Our hotel in the up-and-coming Wharf area takes inspiration from its neighborhood art community, boasting five rooms designed by street artists from around the world and offering a convenient complimentary canal ferry to Centraal Station situated outside of the property," she adds.

Admire Extraordinary Art

Amsterdam offers a treasure trove of museums. In the Museum quarter, you'll find three must-see art collections. Visit the Rijksmuseum with Rembrandt's famous "The Night Watch." Then, explore the world's largest Van Gogh collection at the Van Gogh Museum or check out the Stedelijk Museum. Another amazing exhibition this year worth checking out is the Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age at Hermitage Amsterdam, a unique collection of group portraits showcasing the typical Dutch bourgeoisie of the era. Prior to your trip, make sure to visit each museum's website for special exhibitions and purchase museum tickets in advance.

Allot Time for Iconic Attractions and Experiences

The Anne Frank House, a museum dedicated to Jewish diarist Anne Frank, is a must-see. During World War II, Frank hid from Nazi persecution with her family and four other people in rooms inside the 17th-century canal house. The museum preserves the hiding place, includes a permanent exhibition on the life and times of Frank and features exhibitions about discrimination. It is highly recommended to purchase tickets in advance.

Aside from exploring world-renowned city attractions, no visit to Amsterdam would not be complete without a bike ride. An operator to consider is Mike's Bike Tours Amsterdam, which is open year-round and offers both bike rentals and countryside and city tours. Consider more touring with a hop-on, hop-off boat ticket. You can buy a ticket online via company Stromma at stromma.com. They offer a day ticket or 24- or 48-hour ticket. If you book online, you can secure a discount.

Take an Evening Canal Cruise

Devote an evening to touring Amsterdam's beautiful canals by night. One venerable outfitter to consider is Blue Boat Company, which offers an enchanting candlelit cruise. Guests board a comfortable boat, settle into the all-glass cabin and enjoy the scenery as they cruise the canals. Pass by legendary landmarks and catch sight of the twinkling lights and silhouettes of the canal bridges, churches and merchants' houses.

Eat Like a Local

Try breakfast at Pancakes Amsterdam, which offers Dutch pancakes made with buckwheat flour, eggs and milk, along with gluten-free and American-style pancakes. Later in the day, enjoy cheese tastings at Reypenaer Proeflokaal, a family business with a long tradition of artisan cheese making. The tasting is held is a private room with wine pairings. Also make sure to sample potato frites, which can be purchased from street vendors and served with mayo. Be sure to have euros handy as many vendors don't take credit cards or accept U.S. currency. Also try other Dutch snacks such as herring or bitterballen, a meat-centric staple.

Embrace Traditional Dutch Experiences

The Nine Little Streets offer a good destination for boutique strolling, particularly if you're interested in vintage and designer shops and specialty stores. After lunch, go to the Koningsplein to see the floating Amsterdam Flower Market and continue your walk to Vondelpark. Hang out with the locals in the park or relax on the terrace of the popular spot Blauwe Theehuis (The Blue Teahouse). Then, make your way to trendy De Pijp, where you'll find sophisticated bars and restaurants.


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About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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