Easily one of the most popular weekend break destinations in Europe, Amsterdam attracts millions of visitors every year with its laid-back attitude to sex, drugs and rock and roll. The city’s not just about indulgence however – it does have a cultural side – and if you want to get under the skin of the place, to appreciate its heritage and to get the inside track from a few of the locals, the best way to do it is to check-in for a night (or three) onboard one of Amsterdam’s thousands of houseboats. Not only will you enjoy unique, local accommodation for less than the price of a mid-range hotel, but as these boats are typically moored along the city’s iconic canals and docks, you will be right in the heart of the action. You can find your own floating palace, and book room, at www.amsterdamstay.com.
Museum lovers should climb aboard a boat at Oosterdok, home to two of Amsterdam’s most important collections, as well as the striking Scheepvaarthuis building. The Stedelijk Museum (www.stedelijk.nl/en) exhibits contemporary artworks from 1900 to 1970, including masterpieces by Mondrian, Chagall, Malevich, Picasso, and Warhol. NEMO (www.e-nemo.nl/en/), the interactive museum of science, is an incredible place designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, and in addition to tours, lectures and workshops, you can try your (virtual) hand at driving a supertanker or conducting major surgery.
De Jordaan (www.jordaaninfo.com) is a city within the city. Built in the 1600s to house artisans and tradesmen, many of whom were Huguenot refugees from France, the area still has a cosmopolitan and creative feel, with a large population of designers, musicians and students. This is the place for late night bar crawls, lazy coffees in street-side cafes, wandering in and out of independent galleries, and generally soaking up Amsterdam’s convivial atmosphere. A double room on a houseboat here, complete with en-suite bathroom and use of the kitchen, will set you back €117 per night. If that’s your thing, there are cannabis-friendly boats here too: check-in to the Best Spot Boathouse with up to four friends to enjoy a smoke afloat.
If you want your stay to be a little more luxurious, head to Westerpark (just 10 minutes walk from Haarlemmerstraat) and check-in to the Watercradle Houseboat. This gorgeous contemporary boat, a short walk from Ann Frank’s House, feels rather more like a luxury yacht than a barge. The decor is stylish and monochrome: this is very much a designer pad. There are wooden floors throughout the boat, you get your own bathroom and kitchen, and come evening time you can enjoy a beer on the houseboat’s patio. Cheers!
Though these houseboats are relatively modest in size, there’s no reason you can’t house your entire posse afloat. For six months a year the 30-berth Amsterdam Ark docks in Westerpark too. You can rent a double cabin or the whole ship, and there are shared bathrooms and a living and dining room. Once you have had enough of Amsterdam, you can take the boat straight out onto the seven seas: it is a fully rigged sailing boat, so sail out towards the horizon for yet another adventure.