Chill, cultural and colorful, with 600,000 bicycles (roughly 85 percent of the population owns at least one bike), hundreds of canals and waterways, and a fair few tulips, it can only be Amsterdam. Many Rhine River cruises start or finish in the Dutch capital, as do cruises that explore the smaller Dutch Waterways. Post- or pre-cruise extensions from an Amsterdam river cruise provide even more time to enjoy the city's many attractions and world-class museums. Despite its edgy image -- there are guided tours of the infamous Red Light District -- Amsterdam is one of the safest cities in the world, and because it's flat, it's also very easy to get around on foot.
Here are five tips to help you enjoy your time if you're taking an Amsterdam River Cruise.
Dubbed the "Venice of the North," Amsterdam actually has more canals than and three times as many bridges as its watery Italian cousin. The handy hop-on hop-off waterbus is a great way to get around and see the city. It runs along three routes with a total of 16 stops at museums, shopping areas and places of interest, and there's an informative onboard audio commentary. An unlimited one-day ticket costs about €23 ($25), and the stop at Central Station is just a few minutes' walk from the docking spots for river ships.
The house where the teenage diarist hid with her family from the occupying Nazis during the Second World War is Amsterdam's most popular attraction, and poignant exhibits include Anne's original diary. There are very long lines every day of the week, so buy your entrance tickets online in advance. Print them out, or show the barcoded ticket on your smartphone or tablet. There's a special door beside the main entrance that enables ticket holders to dodge the crowds.
The Rijksmuseum, the largest museum in the Netherlands, can seem overwhelming. If time is tight, book a highlights tour (11 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays; 11 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday). In one hour, you'll criss-cross the museum and see a selection of masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age. The tour includes the top exhibits -- The Night Watch by Rembrandt and The Milkmaid by Vermeer -- along with medieval sculptures, clothing and weapons.
In the heart of the Jordaan district, Cafe Winkel is on the corner of 43 Noordemarkt; it's easy to spot because of the packed seats outside. A coffee and slice of its trademark apple pie, with chunky pieces of fruit doused in cinnamon and topped with whipped cream, will set you back around $6. You might need to be patient, as they don't take reservations, but it's well worth the wait.
Do something different, and visit one of Amsterdam's lesser-known museums. Men might scoff at women's love affair with purses, but a visit to the Museum of Bags and Purses in Herengracht reveals they date back to medieval times, and the displays even begin with a man's purse dating back to the 16th century. It's the largest museum of its kind, and the 4,000 exhibits include intricate beaded purses, glamorous Art Deco numbers and quirky purses variously shaped like a watering can, cupcake, ship and cuckoo clock.
Updated February 20, 2020