Why Amsterdam?Banish thoughts of stoned stag parties and sex tourism from your mind, Amsterdam is SO much more than that. Postcard pretty with winding canals, sprawling parks and cobbled streets; this city is architecturally rich and culturally diverse. EL zipped across (quite literally, it's a 45 minute flight with KLM) for a girls weekend of fine dining, shopping, art and spas.
Where to stay?If you're on a budget, the Park Plaza Vondelpark is located centrally amidst pretty, tree-lined streets next to the city's popular Vondel Park, but for something with a little wow factor we suggest the newly opened Conservatorium Hotel, in the city's fashion district, where rooms start at €325 per night. A hotel and spa on the site of a former music conservatorium, it's a combination of light, lofty spaces and moody corridors: slick and contemporary.
Eating & drinking?Even if you can't stay at the hotel, dining at the Conservatorium, is a must. Glamorous locals and hotel guests tuck into a brasserie-style menu of steak tartare, lobster bolognese and club sandwiches in a light-filled, rather impressive atrium. For a slightly more authentic culinary experience (albeit not a strictly Dutch one) head to Bazar: a relaxed, lively canteen-style joint in a former church. The fare may be Turkish but the clientele are most definitely local, young and hip. Head there early to catch the Albert Cuyp market, said to be the biggest outdoor market in Europe.
What to do:The main shopping district is along P.C. Hooftstraat, but for independent boutiques, chic interiors shopping and gorgeous cafés hit the Nine Streets - this is also the part of town to play fantasy real estate. Once you've shopped your socks off (and believe us, you will) head to the Aveda Spa for the incredible Stress-Fix massage (€95 for 90 minutes): a combination of Swedish massage techniques, deep tissue massage, and guided meditation. The Van Gogh museum is a must but head there early to avoid the queues. If you can't get in try The Museum of Handbags & Purses, where you can enjoy the exhibition and stop for a delicious tea in their rather chic restaurant.
What's the crowd:Ignore the tourist spots and you'll find yourself among a young, vibrant, artistic bunch of people. The Dutch are also incredibly friendly so try not to let your British sensibilities be too shaken if more than a few locals strike up conversation while you're out and about.
What to pack:It's a diverse city
where anything goes, but if you're heading for the boutique
experience rather than the booze cruise, we suggest some stylish
finery. Dutch women have a cool, relaxed-but-chic style so try and
keep up with the Jansens.
KLM flies up to 11 times a day from London Heathrow to its award winning hub, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Make your airport experience a little more enjoyable by checking into the Back to Life area. Return fares start from £99. For more information visit klm.com or for telephone bookings call 0871 222 7474.