Laid-back Amsterdam is an ideal weekend break with culture, cafes and canals

THIS laid-back city has cute cafes, culture and a canal-side Insta opp at every turn, says Deputy Production Editor Kirsty Spence.

From tulips and Van Gogh to beer and Bitterballen, there's not much more you could want from an easy weekend getaway.

Float your boat: There’s something about Amsterdam that feels a world apart, despite it only being a hop, skip and a Eurostar away.

Crossing cobbled lanes and canals festooned with fairy lights is like stepping back in time, to a soundtrack of bicycle bells (there are more bikes in the city than there are people!).

On Keizersgracht canal, boutique bolthole The Dylan oozes grandeur, which isn’t surprising given its history as the city’s first theatre.

Original beams blend with modern minimalism, while its Michelin-starred restaurant Vinkeles and glam Occo brasserie are seriously luxe.

Rooms aren’t cheap at £250 a night, but include extravagant breakfasts, plus it’s perfectly positioned for sightseeing.

On a budget? Family-run Hotel Asterisk has basic rooms from £78 a night ( 

Ready, set, Gogh: Once a working-class ghetto, the Jordaan quarter is now home to UNESCO-protected waterways, great shopping and an abundance of tulips in spring.

Board a Circle Line hop-on, hop-off cruise, £13 for adults, £7 for under-12s, to learn why the colourful canal-side buildings are known as “dancing houses”, and how to spy where butchers and tailors of the past lived (

Alight at Prinsengracht for a moving visit to Holocaust victim Anne Frank’s home. Book online, £12 for adults, 80p for under nines ( 

If you’re more of an off-the-beaten-track traveller, venture inside The Mouse Mansion Mini Museum for a cute world of clothes-wearing toy mice (

If you can tear yourself away, head to Museumplein — the cultural beating heart of the city — and the must-visit Van Gogh Museum.

After admiring his mood-boosting Sunflowers, self-portraits and actual painter’s palette, exit via the gift shop for cool art-themed Playmobil sets. Book online, £16 for adults, free for under-18s (

Beer and Bitterballen: Aside from art, if there’s one thing the Dutch have mastered, it’s bar snacks.

Bitterballen are on most menus and for good reason — these deep-fried golden balls filled with gooey, cheesy mash are completely moreish!

Sample veal ones, £4 for four, at Cafe De Pels — a fab people-watching spot in De Negen Straatjes that’s attracted writers and artists since the ‘70s (

“Bruin cafes” — so-called for their cosy, dark-wood interiors — are ideal for whiling away an afternoon, and Cafe Welling, behind Museumplein, is a great example.

Make like a local and order a tulip-shaped, full-to-the-brim glass of Dutch gin liqueur “genever”, bowing before your first sip. It’s an Insta Story in waiting!

Full of Dutch courage? Pack into teeny, father-and-son-run Balthazar’s Keuken for a £20 set menu to remember (

Sister spot, Bar Parry, is fab for a nightcap, or back at The Dylan work your way through the cocktails, and (if you dare) order a Roulette, £14.50, and let a vending machine pick for you.

If you’ve been missing live music, converted church Paradiso has hosted Nirvana and Bowie, and its heavenly acoustics attract multiple acts in one night (

Chocs away: On a sunny day, the stalls of Noordermarkt are laden with honey, fresh bread and veg, plus you can pick up a kilo of vintage clothes for £8.

The square is also home to Winkel 43 – AKA where apple-pie dreams are made — but if you can’t face the queue, follow your nose to Tony’s Chocolonely Super Store.

Watch bars being made, design your own or drool over an entire wall of flavours, from £3 ( Bulk-buy souvenir slabs — but just know that they’re so delicious, they may not make it home! 

FYI: Travel from London to Amsterdam in four hours by Eurostar, from £78 return (

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