04/09/2013 13:31 BST | Updated 04/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Amsterdam - A City for All Seasons

Days are becoming noticeably shorter and temperatures are cooling; Europe is heading into autumn and this, in my view, is the best time of year to take city breaks. Amsterdam is a good option if you're looking for a destination that's easy to reach and has much to offer.


I like Amsterdam because of its many galleries and museums, and because, compared to London, the pace of life strikes me as being a notch or two lower and a little more laid back. Thinking of London's streets has me forming a mental image of red buses and black cabs among growling traffic where, with Amsterdam, it's the whir of bendy trams and the rattle of bicycles that I recall.


The stereotype of Amsterdam being little more than a centre for boozy weekends, a place to attend live sex shows or go window shopping in De Wallen (the red light district), or as a destination to partake of soft drugs in a myriad of coffee shops never fails to disappoint me as shallow, unfair and a tad puerile.


I love simply taking a window seat in Amsterdam's trams and looking at architecture and people while travelling through the city, getting a feel for the place. Day or multi-day tickets are relatively inexpensive and the public transport system is easy to use. I found having a day ticket allowed me to hop on and off at will, and meant I used trams for numerous short journeys of just a couple of stops.


If boat journeys are your thing then a barge tour of the city's canals will prove rewarding. This year marks a notable anniversary for Amsterdam's canals; the earliest were built 400 years ago. As you'll discover, they're on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites.


If you want to know about the history of this city then the Amsterdam Museum, in Kalverstraat, is as good a place as any to start. The interactive Amsterdam DNA presentation is light and informative, providing you with a sense of where you are.


The Rijksmuseum - which holds a notable collection of art and tells the story of the Netherlands over the past few hundred years - re-opened in April after ten years of renovation and modernisation. This museum is now open 365 days a year and the locals that I spoke to all put this attraction at the top of their list of recommendations of places to go while in their city.


When a Dutch friend first recommended the Hermitage to me I thought they'd misheard my travel plans, as I'd always associated the name with St Petersburg. Set aside at least a morning or afternoon to visit this grand attraction, which opened in 2009 and is a satellite of the famous Russian art museum. From 14 September until 28 February 2014 the Hermitage will host an exhibition of works by the French artists Paul Gauguin, Pierre Bonnard and Maurice Denis.


Foam, located on Keizergracht, is worth visiting if you appreciate photography. Regularly changing exhibitions by established photographers and new talent are shown in this centrally located museum-gallery whose contemporary interiors might come as something of a surprise given the building's traditional facade.


After a long day of sightseeing I headed to Kantjil en de Tijger, one of central Amsterdam's best known Indonesian restaurants, to sample a rijsttafel, a selection of dishes from the former Dutch colony.


From there I sauntered over the road and into the lowly lit Cafe Hoppe for a digestive glass of jenever. I found that the decor of the dark, wood panelled bar reminded me of some of the interiors depicted in paintings I'd seen from the Netherlands' Golden Age.


I'm already planning my next visit to Amsterdam and have earmarked the Stedelijk Musuem, which opened in September 2012, for my itinerary.

More Info

See the I Amsterdam website for tourism and event related information relating to the Netherlands' largest city.

For tourist information on Amsterdam and the Netherlands as a whole take a look the Holland website.

Stuart travelled to the Netherlands by rail, on trains booked by Railbookers. Call 020 3327 3551 for more information on their tailor made holidays.

Visit to read more of Stuart Forster's travel features and to see more of his travel photography.