Never ever choose to hire a car in Amsterdam as walkers, cyclists and trams rule and it would ruin your break! The canal roads are often blocked with delivery or removal vehicles and you will inevitably get lost in the narrow, labyrinthine roads.
Many families with young children are put off by the red-light-district, coffee-house, stag-party reputation of Amsterdam. However, it is a great city for young children.
NEMO is a children's science museum in the main harbour, right next to Central railway station. It has to be the best kids musem in Europe. Every exhibit is interactive, kids can dress up as scientists and blow things up in the lab (carefully helped by real scientists!). They can also appear on TV, wrap themselves up in giant bubbles and watch a fantastic great-egg-race-style show every half hour.
Despite being in Holland, every exhibit is also described in English and the presentations and announcements are also bilingual. The museum is great for kids aged from 4 to 14, and is so big that you can easily spend several hours there.
Once you have exhausted yourselves there, try the Pannenkoekenhuis, a pancake house in a 17th-century warehouse overlooking the canal on Prinsengracht. The kids' pancakes come with toys, games and fireworks to finish the day off with a bang!
Turn right when you leave the rail station in Amsterdam. The area is full of lots of little shops selling a wide variety of interesting things.
There is also a small local supermarket, so you can buy food that doesn't cost a small fortune. Keep your eyes open for the local coffee chain Bagels & Beans - they sell a good-sized, reasonably-priced cup of coffee.
My friend, a native of Amsterdam, has taught me to speak Dutch and shown me the sights of the city, giving me the knowledge a local would have. So my tip is to learn the language - then you will not be treated as a tourist.
The train service in Holland is exceptional. Finding good accommodation in Amsterdam can be pricey - if you are members of the Youth Hostel Association you are entitled to stay at the Dutch equivalent, Stayokay.
You could stay at places outside Amsterdam (Soest, Utrecht) which have cheap and clean accommodation - all within easy reach of Amsterdam, thanks to the excellent rail service.
Amsterdam itself is one of the most engaging and likeable cities in the world. A trip to the Rijksmuseum is alone worth boarding the Eurostar for.
But after your stay in Amsterdam, get yourself on one of the other best European train systems and make the trip to Maastricht. This is probably the most vibrant city of the Netherlands, likened to a miniature Paris with its cobbled streets and fantastic cuisine.
The city centre is excellent for the more contemporary shops while the older part of town contains high-class boutiques where the proprietors don't seem too fazed by the odd nose impression against the window.
After a hard day's shopping, fortify yourself with a coffee at one of the coffee shops (not that kind of coffee shop!) around the Wyck or Ceramique district before crossing the Hoge bridge and strolling around the Jekerkwartier area. Here you'll find romantic cobbled streets and a real sense of calm in this exciting city. But the best thing about Maastricht? You can get there easily from Bruges and Brussels too.
While in Amsterdam don't miss a night out at the original Supperclub restaurant. It's an amazing dining experience where you recline on beds and are entertained by artists and musicians throughout the four course surprise meal. A real thrill!
Apart from dodging all the bicycles that seem to come at you from every angle, down every street, a must see place is the Anne Frank House.
We visited Amsterdam as one of the destinations on our cruise, so a map was provided and one gets a great feel for the place just walking through the streets. The house is immediately visible as there’s usually a huge queue outside, but it’s worth the wait.
It’s fascinating, haunting and sad all at once. There are photos and mementoes everywhere. I’ve certainly never forgotten it.
The Supper Club is the coolest place on earth! It has a hip restaurant and lounge with a design bar beneath that’s the sexiest haunt in town right now. The dining area walls are white and you sit on beds - a scenario suggestive of sexual intent if ever there was one.
The food is rich and Mediterranean, and drinks are pricey, but the artsy, cool crowd are surprisingly unpretentious. The cosy bar beneath is done in similarly lush style with mirrors, pillars and couches completing the sultry effect.
Live DJs keep playing until late and the measures in your cosmopolitan are maximalist not minimalist. An absolute must for all visitors to Amsterdam.
Check out Da Groene Lantaarn located on the canal (Bloemgracht 47) in the Jordaan district - this fantastic fondue restaurant is off the main drag, but well worth the trek.
Every kind of fondue is on offer, but no meal is finished until you have the chocolate fondue. It's a terrifically romantic place, and we were lucky enough to be there in the snow - it holds many happy memories.
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