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Things to do in Amsterdam

Cruise the canal belt

Added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list in 2010, Amsterdam’s canal belt not only graces the cityscape but offers a fun way to explore the city. The most popular option for visitors is to join a canal tour, of which there are numerous operators, most offering dinner or cocktail cruises. Otherwise take the helm yourself and hire an eco-friendly motorboat from MokumBoot (tel: +31 (0)20 2105700; mokumbootverhuur.nl).

Hit the beach

In summer it’s easy to get out to the North Sea coast by train, although the trains are likely to be mobbed if it’s especially warm and sunny. The broad sand beach at Zandvoort (about 30 minutes away by train from Amsterdam Central Station) stretches for miles, studded with casual cafes along its length. However, within Amsterdam there are a few urban beaches, notably at Blijburg Aan Zee (www.blijburg.nl), a swath of sand facing the Ijsselmeer sea. It’s accessible from Central Station by Tram 26. Atnother great urban beach within the city is Amsterdam Roest (Amsterdam Roest) on the east side.

Joy distilled at Wynand Fockink

As with all the best bars, you could walk past Wynand Fockink (tel: +31 20 639 2695; wynand-fockink.nl/en) and never know it was there. Built in 1679, just behind the National Monument, the distillery is best known for its tasting room. An hour-long session will include a 15-minute tour of the distillery itself, then 45 minutes tasting local liqueurs and genevers (Dutch gin).

Purr over the cat museum

Yes, we all know that Amsterdam has a sex museum and a weed museum, plus actual proper museums too. But did you know it had a cat museum? The brilliantly named Katten Kabinet (tel: +31 20 626 9040, www.kattenkabinet.nl) was founded by Bob Meijer in commemoration of his ginger moggie and displays a collection of feline-themed art through the ages.

Soothe yourself with a sauna

As cold and wet as Amsterdam can be, the city sports a number of attractive saunas where you can sweat off the chill and emerge rejuvenated. These facilities offer a combination of dry sauna, steam room and cold plunge pool, but they're not for the modest: nudity is the norm. Try the elaborate decoration of Sauna Deco (tel: +31 20 623 8215; saunadeco.nl).

Visit a secret church

In the 17th-century Amsterdam, Catholics were unable to worship in public and the attic of this canal house (at Oudezijds Voorburgwal 38) was turned into a church complete with an altar and wooden pews. A few decades later, when Catholics were allowed to worship openly and following the Church of St Nicholas opening in 1887, this house church became Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic Museum) in 1888, making it the second oldest museum in Amsterdam after Rijksmuseum.

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Featured Hotels

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The Hoxton

The Hoxton flung its decorative doors open in 2015, shaking up the city’s mid-range hotel scene in the process. Occupying a former mayoral residence on Herengracht, the hip and handsome Hoxton is an establishment of effortless cool. Rooms retain a 17th century charm (embroidered rugs, paneled walls, wooden floors, etc.), but with mod cons (digital radios, power showers and the like). There’s a fine bar and restaurant downstairs and checkout is a hangover-friendly 1200.

Grand Hotel Amrâth Amsterdam

As a former shipping house, this five-star hotel still showcases its maritime heritage with its nautical themed stained-glass windows, original ship lanterns, and statues depicting Poseidon and Fortuna overlooking the hotel entrance. With 165 plush rooms, a wellness centre boasting two saunas, a steam room, heated swimming pool and fitness room, plus a stunningly decorated bar overlooking the charming Amsterdam canals, the Amrâth offers its guests a luxurious stay in historical surroundings.

ClinkNOORD

When Amsterdam’s shipbuilding industry went to the wall, the Noord district became a ghost of past glories. Happily, the area is in the process of regeneration, which ClinkNOORD is helping pioneer. The hostel opened to much fanfare in 2015, taking over a former Royal Dutch Shell testing lab. Rooms are a bit bland, but the hostel is good value, affable and only a short (and free) ferry ride from Central Station.

Hotel Prinsenhof

About the finest budget option available, the Prinsenhof is a homey establishment in an 18th-century canal house. Overlooking a picture-postcard section of the Prinsengracht, it stands in the pleasant southern canal belt, a quick bike ride from the nightlife centre of Rembrandtplein. Simply furnished with painted ceiling beams, the 11 guest rooms are quite cosy, though only nine are equipped with bathrooms. At these prices, they're booked far in advance.

The Dylan

Located in the western canal belt this small boutique hotel is the epitome of style and sophistication. It's housed in a former 17th-century theatre which in its heyday staged concerts conducted by Antonio Vivaldi. Today the minimalist east-meets-west designer décor of the 40 individually designed guest rooms combined with an intimate courtyard garden spectacular canal views efficient staff and an excellent restaurant ensures a luxurious stay.

Hotel de l'Europe

Standing majestically on the banks of the River Amstel, this grand old dame is still the address in town for lavish Old World luxury. From the 19th-century paintings adorning the public areas to the plush appointed guest rooms, this modern hotel maintains an old-fashioned charm. Hotel de l'Europe features the restaurant Bord'Eau which was awarded two Michelin stars, two bars, a brasserie, a café, meeting rooms and a spa.