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





28 thoughts on “Boats, blooms and bikes: A spring weekend city break in Amsterdam

  1. Wherejogoes says:

    I love your tip about staying on a houseboat – how fantastic that would be awesome. Amsterdam is such a lovely place to visit at all times of year your post made me want to return, I’ve never taken the kids need to fix that. Thanks for the pin and for hosting #faraway files.

  2. oregongirlaroundtheworld says:

    I clearly did not get enough time in Amsterdam last spring! We had a half day before our return back to Copenhagen and did the reverse – stayed in tulip land and did day trip to the big city. Next time – only Amsterdam! Lovely lovely post. Cheers Katy #FarawayFiles

  3. Ali May says:

    I think every time I’ve visited Amsterdam, it was in the winter. You have some very compelling reasons to visit in the spring! Those tulips would be amazing to see. I think the museums are a must on any visit, and the canal rides would be lovely in warmish weather. #FarawayFiles

  4. Clare Thomson says:

    Great ideas for Amsterdam, Katy. We’re really excited about our trip in a few days. #FarawayFiles

  5. Phoebe | Lou Messugo says:

    My son has just got back from a week in Holland and I told him life wouldn’t be worth living if he didn’t bring me stroopwaffels! Luckily for all involved he did and I’m trying to ration them…they are just the best, aren’t they? I also absolutely love Indonesian food and always eat it in Amsterdam. As for staying on a houseboat, that is definitely on my wish list for the near future as I haven’t done that yet! I totally agree that Amsterdam is a perfect place for a spring getaway. #farawayfiles

  6. mymeenalife says:

    I’ve visited many of the attractions on your list and they are all pretty fantastic! I’d love to stay in a houseboat – it seems like a great idea. #FarawayFiles

  7. Hilary says:

    Your photos are so lovely! They make me wish I was headed there right now! I loved that giant ship model in the Rijksmuseum… seems I’m not alone. Next time a houseboat for sure! #farawayfiles

  8. tracycollins2016 says:

    I love Amsterdam I used to visit a lot as had an old school friend who lived in The Hague! Love the Indonesian food – I have to have it every day! And stroopwaffels! I would love to see the ? too!!! #farawayfiles

  9. fifi + hop says:

    Amsterdam really does take the cake for relaxing outside of NYC sometimes I just want to move to a place like Amsterdam. It’s like they got the memo – this is how life is to be lived :). #farawayfiles

  10. Ruth says:

    I would do every single thing you have listed in here. I have been to Amsterdam but spent only a short period of time in the city. I didn’t know about the hop on and off canal bus. That is a great idea. I really like to take boat or ship rides and it would be so cool to move around the city thru the water. #FarawayFiles

  11. Kat says:

    Honestly speaking, the best guide to Amsterdam is right here in your post! From what and when to see, where to stay, what and where to eat, and your photos are gorgeous! Amsterdam seems so lovely in spring with all the flowers (and tulips) and slightly warmer weather – it seems to come alive after a long dreary winter. Thanks for sharing with us, Katy 🙂 #farawayfiles

  12. Cindy says:

    Great list and beautiful photos, Katy! I would love to see the floating flower market and flower gardens in springtime. I visited Amsterdam years ago – I’m long overdue for another visit and pinning your ideas for next time! Thanks for sharing #FarawayFiles

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