Flights of Fancy
If You’re Urban Sophisticates
Who needs the beach (or that vicious sunburn)? Couples with culture on their minds find attractions galore in this chic city.
You’ve seen Paris. You’ve done Rome. You want a taste of Europe on your honeymoon, but traipsing from one tourist trap to another is so unappealing. Luckily, there’s Amsterdam, a canal-strewn city that blindsides visitors with its hospitality and charm. Unlike the continent’s flashier destinations, where your guilt compounds with every "must-see" you miss, this gem is less about sightseeing and more about simply being. Tiny alleys and picturesque squares provide a backdrop for early walks and late-night smooches; colorful flower markets, canal boats, and locals buzzing around on bikes lend the city a euphoric air. Spend your afternoons sampling Dutch chocolate and wandering along the hundreds of bridges. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have getting lost, guaranteed.
At the city’s grandest hotel, the Intercontinental Amstel, guests stand a good chance of running into celebs or even royalty. (Our sighting? Kate Moss.) Request a room overlooking the Amstel River—the views are stupendous. Giant bathtubs, L’Occitane toiletries, and superplush towels make you feel utterly pampered, and the included breakfast at Michelin-starred restaurant La Rive ensures you’re well fed, too. (31-20-622-60-60, ichotelsgroup.com).
Aside from its chocolate and butter cookies, the Netherlands isn’t generally known for its food. Clearly, not enough critics have been to De Kas, located in a park outside of the city center. Each night features a set menu that revolves around what’s growing in the greenhouse out back. Given free rein, the chef delivers dishes like a whitefish tartare with Parmesan tuiles (31-20-462-45-62, restaurantdekas.nl). Indonesia, a former Dutch colony, also colors the food landscape: Tempo Doeloe offers a casual, authentic sampling of dishes like the spicy, coconut-flavored ajam roedjak (31-20- 625-67-18, tempodoeloerestaurant.nl). For a snack, pick a pannekoeken house anywhere. The thin, fruit-smothered pancakes are a Dutch specialty.
Seeing the city on foot or rented bike is activity enough here—given the curving streets and canals, you’re likely to be out at least an hour longer than you intended. A good way to get the lay of the land is to hop in one of many tour companies’ canal boats. Touristy, yes, but they’ll help guide your wanderings for the rest of the trip. Art lovers won’t want to miss the van Gogh Museum, an incredible collection of the famed Dutch painter’s masterpieces and sketches. (Buy your tickets in advance to skip the often hours-long line.) For functional, artful souvenirs, check out the many antiques shops located near Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. –D.G.