Amsterdam is usually one of the easiest and most pleasurable city break destinations imaginable. The Dutch capital is just a stone’s throw from the UK, accessible by plane (1hr 5m), train (3h 41m), or boat (9h 40m on an overnight sleeper ferry and metro via the hook of Holland).
While currently cut off from the city’s charms – from its famed canals and gabled houses to its smorgasbord of museums and galleries – those craving a slice of the Netherlands can still get their kicks, albeit remotely.
Here’s the ultimate armchair travellers’ guide to Amsterdam.
What to do
Anne Frank House
The famous Secret Annex where Anne Frank hid and wrote her diary during the Nazi occupation usually attracts 1.3 million visitors a year.
Even though it’s closed its doors temporarily, the museum is giving people all over the world the chance to get an idea of what life must have been like for Anne and her family by releasing a series of videos that reimagine the teen diarist as a modern-day vlogger. The daily films retell Anne’s story for the YouTube generation 75 years after the liberation of Holland.
Stuffed with masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age, the Rijksmuseum is one of Amsterdam’s most popular attractions. It’s closed until at least 1 June, but has just launched a new interactive experience, Rijksmuseum From Home, that allows you to virtually visit the home of Rembrandt’s The Nightwatch and Vermeer’s The Milkmaid.
In a collaboration with Google, there’s also the chance to explore 11 “exhibits”, where you can interact with various works from the museum, read about their history and see close-ups.
Hopping on a canal cruise to explore Amsterdam’s famous waterways is one of the city’s most popular activities.
Take a virtual tour with Starboard, which has put together 360-degree photos from its cruises, allowing you to “travel” along the canals. To give the true touring experience, there are also information points to click on that tell you more about the landmarks along the way, from the creation of the Prinsengracht 70 Street art to the history of the Westerkerk church in the trendy Jordaan neighbourhood.
EYE film museum
Amsterdam’s futuristic-looking film museum and archive preserves and presents Dutch and international films. Experience it from home by accessing the latest arthouse movies and award-winning documentaries that would have been screened in the museum’s on-site cinema.
The huge selection includes Oscar-winner Parasite, Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You and Bafta-winning documentary For Sama; 48-hour access to the library costs €8.50 (£7.40).
Featuring 35 different restaurants from the Dutch capital, the Amsterdam Cook Book compiles recipes from local favourites and beloved chains.
As well as the recipes themselves, the book also tells the stories of the local chefs and eateries, and pays homage to the neighbourhoods they call home. Featured restaurants include The Chippy, the Bao Buns Amsterdam pop-up, Blauw, The Butcher Social Club and zero-food-waste concept Instock.
If drinking is more your tipple, Bols Amsterdam, the classic Dutch genever brand, has published a whopping 70 cocktail recipes on its website, from the Woo Woo-inspired Amsterdammertje to the lethal-sounding Flying Dutchman.
Setting the scene
If you want to combine a visit to Amsterdam with a good cry, look no further than Young Adult smash hit The Fault in Our Stars. The book tells the tale of two teenagers with terminal illnesses falling for each other, their feelings coming to fruition on a trip to Amsterdam. They even share a first kiss in the Anne Frank House.
Jessie Burton’s bestseller The Miniaturist is set in 17th-century Amsterdam – the perfect way to immerse yourself from afar. The BBC television adaptation also perfectly captures the city during the Dutch Golden Age; the series is currently available to buy on Amazon Prime.
Given what a gorgeous city it is, it’s surprising Amsterdam hasn’t been used more frequently as a backdrop in cinema. But there are still options: pick your poison – heist or spy flick? Ocean’s Twelve and Bond classic Diamonds are Forever both feature the Dutch capital.
Bring it home
You can’t get much more Amsterdam than watch brand Vondel, whose designs all feature a vertical line of three “x”s in a subtle nod to the city’s coat of arms. Other than that, the timepieces are the epitome of Dutch design: simple, contemporary and chic. You can buy online, with watches starting from around £80.
If you have a craving for Dutch cuisine, Netherlands producer of fine cheeses Henri Willig has an online shop for all your Gouda, fig bread and honey mustard needs.
For classic Dutch homeware, look no further than FEST Amsterdam, which nails modern interior design with its range of furniture, accessories and lighting collections. Geometric-print candle-holders, smooth pastel ceramics and made-to-order corner sofas: since we’re spending so much time at home, now could be the ideal time to invest in your nest.
Amsterdam is all about the bike culture. To truly embrace the city at a distance, hop on two wheels for your mandated daily exercise – whether it’s a Santander cycle, a Jump electric-powered number, or your very own tweewieler (bicycle).