Boats, blooms and bikes: A spring weekend city break in Amsterdam

Amsterdam at dusk - spring weekend break in Amsterdam

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Oh Amsterdam, you are so comfortable in your own skin. You welcome everyone. People spill out from cafés and bars laughing, boats cruise down your canals with ease and the windows of canal houses remain open and inviting.

springtime scenes in Amsterdam

In springtime your famous tulips bloom, filling you with bursts of colour. As winter fades, sunshine is hazy on the canals and your citizens cycle your cobbled streets jackets unbuttoned, pastries in hand.  I can think of nothing better than a spring weekend break in Amsterdam. Here are some suggestions of things to do in one of the world’s most relaxed and beautiful cities in the springtime.

Bloemenmarkt Amsterdam in spring

Amsterdam: things to do in Spring

Tulips at Keukenhof flower gardens near Lisse Netherlands

Canal boat ride

Amsterdam boat tour - canal boat bus

Cities built over water must be explored by boat. You can’t feel the true essence of this city unless you take a boat ride around Amsterdam’s canals. It is definitely touristy but I don’t believe there is a better way to experience Amsterdam. Sure you could travel by bike but you need to be a confident rider.

We chose the hop on and off canal bus that has stops at the major tourist attractions including Anne Frank’s House, Rijksmuseum and Bloemenmarkt flower market. This way we were able to relax and enjoy the trip around the city. You can buy a canal bus ticket for 24 or 48 hours.

Tip – pre book your ticket for the Anne Frank House or join the extremely long queue for entry after 3.30pm

Wander the Jordaan

scenes from the Jordaan

A little way out from the city centre and away from the crowds, we joined the relaxed vibes of the Jordaan neighbourhood and quirky De 9 Straatjes (Nine Streets) area. Home to boutiques, cafés and bars overlooking the canals this area has the charm of cobbled streets and bridges alongside modern street art. Bikes whizz past from every direction though so keep your wits about you.

Amsterdam street art murals

On Saturdays the Jordaan hosts the wonderful Noordermarkt in the square outside the Noorderkerk bursting with local organic food (cheese!), jewellery and clothing. Find the Jordaan and and De 9 Straatjes areas in the city’s west close to the Prinsengracht canal.

Bloemenmarkt – flower market

Bloemenmarkt Amsterdam in spring - amsterdam weekend city break

You won’t be disappointed if you visit Amsterdam looking for tulips. The Bloemenmarkt floating flower market has been the hub of flower trading in the city since 1862. These days 15 florists sell bulbs and blooms to Amsterdammers and tourists alike. As with most markets it gets very busy so plan to visit early in the day.


Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

In a city full of museums and galleries it was difficult to choose just one. We loved the Rijksmuseum with its mix of art and curiosities. You can easily spend several hours exploring the museum’s collections. Kids are encouraged to engage with the art with some of the best free activity packs I have seen.

Rijksmuseum highlights

Highlights include room upon room of portraits and paintings by Dutch masters and  a series of elaborate dolls houses like the ones described in Jessie Burton’s best selling novel The Miniaturist. You must not miss the incredible Rijksmuseum Research Library which is surely one of the most beautiful in the world.

rijksmuseum research library
Photo credit: Will van Wingerden

One for next time – The Van Gogh museum has the largest collection of works by the artist 


Vondelpark Amsterdam

I loved Amsterdam’s green spaces. In Vondelpark, at times you almost feel like you are walking in the country. Beloved by the city Vondelpark is home to several cafés and playgrounds and is a haven of green in the city close to the Rijksmuseum.

Vondelpark Amsterdam in Spring

Day trip to Keukenhof flower gardens

Colourful Keukenhof near Amsterdam

An easy day trip from Amsterdam and a must do in Springtime is a trip to nearby Lisse to visit the Keukenhof flower gardens. Open from late March to the end of May, the gardens showcase the blooms that are Netherland’s major export.

You can easily take the train and bus to Keukenhof from central Amsterdam or if you prefer to relax and take a tour buy a Keukenhof tour ticket that will take you on a half-day tour of the gardens.

Eating in Amsterdam

Amsterdam dutch cheese

Cheese, bread, pancakes and pastry feature heavily in Dutch cuisine. You can taste the famous cheese at Henry Willig outlets all over the city or visit the Cheese Museum (near the Anne Frank House). We decided we must have a round of the truffle gouda. Honestly, it is worth a trip to Amsterdam just to taste that cheese.

Apart from the delicious Dutch treats, I think one of the great things about the city is that it has borrowed much from its colonial past when it comes to dining. There are some fantastic Indonesian restaurants including Sampurna should you tire of eating cheese and cake!

Famous Amsterdam Apple pie at Winkel

Speaking of cake, do not miss trying the incredible appeltaart at Winkel or Papeneiland where they have been feeding Amsterdammers since 1642. If you like pancakes and poffertjes you must try the delicious sweet and savoury pancakes at The Pancake Bakery.

Amsterdam really is a sweet tooth’s heaven. We brought home bags of stroopwaffels and speculaas. All gifts … obviously! I also enjoyed the many great coffee (in the original sense of the word) shops and recommend excellent chains Stach and Coffee Company with branches all over the city.

Where to stay in Amsterdam

Amsterdam houseboat rental

My absolute favourite part of our spring weekend break in Amsterdam was staying on a houseboat on the Prinsengracht canal near the Anne Frank House. We had the best spot to view the canal traffic from our cosy boat complete with vases of tulips and a resident duck.  The location was perfect too. Only 100 metres from Anne Frank’s house in the Jordaan district we were close to restaurants, cafés, markets and great coffee.

Having stayed in central Amsterdam on a previous trip I much preferred the quieter Jordaan neighbourhood. You can book the houseboat we stayed on and find more houseboats to rent on

If you prefer to stay in hotels I recommend checking out Hotels Combined where you can find great deals across all the major hotel booking sites.

Save on your hotel -

Amsterdam is such a pretty and welcoming city. When will you (next) visit Amsterdam?

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Visit Amsterdam in Spring - for tulips, boats and cake





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