The Perfect Luxury Weekend in Amsterdam: What to Do, Where to Stay, What to Eat
Amsterdam isn’t just for stoners anymore! If you’re looking for a luxurious romantic getaway, don’t discount Amsterdam. There has been an influx of luxury accommodations, dining options, and trendy shops and these days it’s really up to snuff with other European cities—I swear. Don’t be intimidated by Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District, or its naughty reputation for its lax drug policies, honeymooners and luxury travelers can easily avoid any seediness associated with this bad-ass neighborhood. If you want to, you can exclusively see the beautiful wonders of Amsterdam like bicycles and gabled houses along the picturesque canals.
Another strong selling point for Amsterdam is that it offers all the European charm for a fraction of the cost of many better-known luxury destinations like Paris and London. I spent a romantic weekend here and absolutely adored every minute of it. Here are my suggestions for the perfect weekend in Amsterdam.
Where to Stay:
Luxury travelers often fall into two categories, especially those visiting Europe. They either want that over-the-top luxurious experience or are looking for a more personal, authentic, boutique experience. I often flip flop between these so on my trip to Amsterdam I resolved to check out one of each. My pick for the perfect boutique luxury experience goes to The Toren. Its located along the famed Keizersgracht canal just around the corner from the Anne Frank House. The newly renovated Executive Suite was one of the nicest rooms I have ever had the pleasure to stay in. It featured over-the-top amenities like a steam shower with dual rainshowers, an enormous Jacuzzi, flatscreen televisions, color-changing lights and more. The breakfast was delectable and the staff was extremely attentive. I would definitely stay here again if given the chance. For the next leg of my trip I chose the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam.
The Intercontinental Amstel is undoubtedly the city’s most expensive and elegant hotel. It’s located in the heart of the city along the Amstel river, which many rooms overlook. Its lobby is palatial and the guest rooms marry Victorian era décor alongside modern amenities. Everything is so grand–there is a reason every celebrity stays here when they’re in town. The hotel also houses one of the city’s best restaurants, La Rive, which is Michelin-starred and delicious!
What to Do
My first suggestion for what to do in the postcard city of Amsterdam is to walk the town, taking in the canals and the breathtaking beauty that the city has to offer. Getting lost among the maze of waterways is one of my favorite things to do in Amsterdam. I loved zig-zagging across bridges and wandering by shops filled with clogs, cheeses, tulips and candy! It’s such a colorful city. I even recommend taking a free walking tour through New Amsterdam Tours. We loved ours and learned so much about the city in just a few short hours. One thing our guide made sure to stress was to be sure to look every which way when crossing the street as it seemed to me like bikes, trams and cars were coming at me from every direction! I am so thankful he told us this.
If you’re a fan of art, Amsterdam is a fantastic city for you. There are an incredible array of museums here that house world-renowned artwork. The Van Gogh Museum (currently housed in the Hermitage Amsterdam during renovations) is a spectacular exhibit of the artist’s (and his contemporaries) most famed work. For modern art, enthusiasts must pay homage to artists like Picasso, Matisse, Warhol, and Lichtenstein at The Stedelijk Museum. Finally, I really loved visiting the Rembrandt House Museum. Buy your tickets online for many museums in Amsterdam and skip the lines!
Every visitor must also visit the Anne Frank House, which is a museum located inside where her family hid to avoid Nazi persecution during World War II. Anne Frank’s story is so inspirational, it is a huge mistake not to visit when you’re in town.
We also partook in the Heineken Experience. Yes, it’s really cheesy and touristy but it’s a good time. And you get two beers included with the price of your ticket. Act like a kid again…sorta, I mean it is alcohol afterall. But the museum is jam packed with interactive and wacky exhibits that are entertaining!
For night owls, if you’re feeling really adventurous you can take a peak over at the Red Light District. To be honest, I think that it’s worth seeing even though you’ll want to run away immediately, or maybe that was just me. Its streets are filled with cheeseball sex shops that feature outrageous displays of toys and novelty items. That was all fine and good–the upsetting part, at least for me is the real window-shopping, which is for prostitutes. The girls dance inside their windows, enticing you to come inside. Some of them look like they haven’t even graduated high school. And I’ll leave it at that.
Those looking to experience one of Amsterdam’s more traditional coffee shops (this is where locals purchase weed and can smoke) can check out Bulldog Café or Greenhouse, which are a couple of the local favorites. While this may not be my cup of tea, I did ask several locals what the deal was with the new laws and I learned that although the laws require shops to only sell pot to residents, this law is not enforced. During my research for another article I wrote on the topic, I also found a quote of the Amsterdam Mayor saying he wouldn’t uphold the law either. So, cool college kids, hope that helps you with your travel plans.
For lamer adults like moi, if you’re simply looking for a place to enjoy a beer or cocktail, most cafés turn into bars at night. Two classics are Wynand Fockink and Twee Zwaantjes. If you’re looking for somewhere to dance the night away, Trouw is it!
For shopaholics you might be amazed to learn that the shopping in Amsterdam is really quite interesting. There are tons of interesting, local boutiques but also fun specialty stores. I loved the Damrak area. I especially loved wandering into the home décor stores. I found a super cool store called Options—and options they had. They sold everything here from home goods to furniture to fun gifts. Skins was another store I loved—lots of interesting perfumes and fun beauty items.
What Not to Do
Skip the canal tours, where they play a boring tape of the city’s history. We popped into the Tulip museum too. It was just around the corner from the Toren hotel so we figured why not? It was under renovations but I got the gist, it was nothing too special. If you’re in the area, it’s fine to check out but don’t kill yourself trying to make it here.
Where to Eat
My husband and I read about a fun little event that The Dylan Amsterdam hotel offered and I just had to try it out. It’s called High Wine (like a grownup High Tea experience). Couples can enjoy an indulgent pairing of fine wine served up alongside fancy snacks. We snagged a table by the fireplace and it was one of the most romantic experiences we had our whole trip. I highly recommend this if you’re looking to take a beat and relax from the bustle of sightseeing and city life.
Bubbles and Wines is a great bar—perfect to celebrate the start to your romantic weekend together.
If you’re looking for casual, modern-Asian, noodles check out Wagamama. This British chain is quick, cheap and delicious.
A really hip new restaurant is Izakaya, I think sushi is really starting to take hold over there.
Perhaps my favorite meal was at De Kas, the ambiance is incredible here and the food is delectable. They grow many of the organic ingredients used in their dishes right in the greenhouse on site. The chef sets the menu every night and that’s what you get—unless of course you have allergies, dislikes, etc. We just absolutely loved this place.
Our other favorite experience for fine dining was at New King. We had to wait a bit but the insanely good Mandarin cuisine made it worth it! Yum!!!!!!!!
Oh and just one more—Roses’ Cantina. Aside from great a great ambiance, they serve up great Mexican cuisine.
Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities. Did I get everything right? Let me know in the comments! Also please share your favorites in the comments too! I’m always looking to find a new favorite thing to do!
*All photos are taken by me. If you want to use them for personal use please just link back to my blog and let me know 🙂 *
Such a good article!!!!- April 24, 2013
Hi Katie,- August 16, 2018
5 of my female clients are travelling to Amsterdam for some fun!! It’s an all girl’s tour. Could you connect me to an event planner there as they want to experience the most luxurious elements possible. Thanks!