Separated by just a small stretch of water, Amsterdam and London are some of the world’s best cities. The short distance between the two belies the different experiences and emotions that the respective destinations can conjure up.
The two capitals share common traits. Both centres of great commercial empires of the past, they boast a mixture of foreign influences that contribute to eclectic and diverse cultures. Both retain pieces of their history in their architecture and art, all the while playing active roles in innovative and modern societies.
Travelling from one to the other, irrelevant of the direction taken, is the perfect example of what makes Europe exciting: regardless of where you live, it is relatively easy to travel to somewhere new. London is considered one of the most exciting, thought-provoking and culturally-diverse cities in the World. For countries on the continent with their own sprawling cities and unique identities, yet with London on their doorstep, is a real bonus. London flights over these short distances are often easy to book but more importantly, cheap.
The other side to this is that for those who live in or around London have this array of destinations within easy reach. New York, like London, is considered as one of the greatest cities on the planet, and yet after a three hour flight from New York, the options for holidays consist of other parts of the United States and the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean. For Londoners, a trip lasting barely two hours can bring you to a totally different country, mindset and experience.
One of the closest is Amsterdam. Low cost flights can take as little as 80 minutes depending on which airport you fly from. The fact that London has five airports within a short distance of its perimeters makes the chance to visit somewhere like Amsterdam simple, no matter where you live in the south-east.
Despite being a capital city, the size and population (an urban population of just over 1.3 million) of Amsterdam makes it relatively relaxed. The attitude of its residents has contributed to a sense of calm and free will that echoes around the city streets and pervades society.
The Museum Square is the city’s centrepiece for art. The Golden Age of Dutch art witnessed the tremendous activity of fantastic painters, and the work of Rembrandt, Hals and Steen are just a small part of the Rijksmuseum. On the other side of the square’s garden is the Van Gogh museum. Home to the work of one of history’s most celebrated artists, this is one of the area’s few modern buildings and has a permanent collection that makes it the most visited museum in The Netherlands.
In addition to this, there is Anne Frank’s house; with the room in which she wrote her now infamous diary. After a foundation was set up to protect the building from development work, it opened in 1960 to the public but closed 10 years later. Since 1999 however, it has been renovated to accommodate an increasing number of visitors and now has an exhibition space and café to accompany it.
If you only visit Amsterdam on one day and want to make a party of it, then arrive for April 30th: Queen’s Day. This is a celebration of the Queen’s birthday and a public holiday for everyone. The city transforms into one giant street party and everyone, dressed head to toe in orange, sets up market stalls to sell all kinds of wares. There are bands playing, games staged and other events held among this bustle of activity.
At the other end of this journey is London. The two cities may share certain features, as touched upon before, but the UK capital is also on quite a different scale. Low cost flights away from Amsterdam, London is big, busy and proud; it shouts about its worth and so it should.
An empire stretching to the far reaches of the globe, characterised by war, trade and exploration has helped create one of the most diverse cities on Earth. There are regular low cost flights to London and there is no reason not to take advantage of such a memorable place within such a short distance.
The mixture of influences and cultures can be seen in the art on show, the buildings that you visit and the food you eat. You can watch cinema from Japan, the London Symphony Orchestra play Hayden and best footballers in the World ply their trade. You can eat food, whether Michelin starred or served in a pot from a market stall, from every continent in the world: bhajis in Brick Lane or empanadas in Elephant and Castle.
If you come to London and want to sample a snippet of the stereotype then ignore the foreign influences and head to one of the city’s many great pubs. The George Inn, one of the oldest around, is near London Bridge and its low ceilings and cobbled courtyard hosted William Shakespeare’s plays during the 16th and 17th centuries; he even drank there himself.
You can dine out on fish and chips, or if feeling a little braver, head east and sample the local jellied eels. On your way back, pick up some flowers from Columbia Road Market and take your other half out to any one of a number of plays, musicals, films, concerts and exhibitions that fill venues large and small across the city.
In either city it is possible to follow the tourist trail, visiting the museums and galleries and gazing at the city sights. For others it is about getting lost in among the cities’ darker depths: the coffee shops and red light district of Amsterdam, or the pop-up venues, raves and parties across London’s grittier areas.
Or, do both: one by day and one by night.