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Spring evening by the canals in Amsterdam


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Picture Postcard… from the canals of Amsterdam

Spring evening by the canals in Amsterdam

A spring evening by the canals in Amsterdam

Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, the canals of Amsterdam are amongst the most famous in the world. Photo credit: Shutterstock | PisaPhotography

Seventeenth-Century Canal Ring Area of Amsterdam, inside the Singelgracht

Built at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries, the historic urban canal network of Amsterdam lies to the west and south of the historic old town and the medieval port. The city was in fact extended by draining swampland, building the canals and filling in the intermediate spaces where many gabled house and monuments now stand. It was the largest and most homogeneous urban development of its time and was used as a model of large-scale town planning up until the 19th century.

Today they are a delight to wander around, whether by foot, bicycle or boat, although it would take a while to see them all, with over one hundred kilometres of canals, around 90 islands and some 1,500 bridges.

This lovely shot of the canals a glow on a warm spring evening, in the dimming light with reflections shimmering in the water, really sets the scene for a night of romance. And the spring is great time to visit if you prefer to avoid the crowds of the summer. Find your spring Amsterdam escape today with GreatEscapes.com.


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The best views in Amsterdam

The Netherlands’ capital, Amsterdam, is one of Europe’s most picturesque cities, boasting a network of fairy tale-like canals, romantic bridges and splendid architectural gems. The city is also famed for being home to the one of the most extensive historic city centres in Europe, with 7,000 buildings registered and recognised for their history. It’s safe to assume then that your camera will be busy during a holiday to Amsterdam, and to ensure you capture the finest photographs to take home with you, we’ve put together a list of the best views in Amsterdam – make sure you pack an extra memory card and battery!


The Canal Ring

Given that the city is built around and on a winding and curving network of canals, it is likely that you’ll stumble across one or two top spots for capturing that perfect view of Amsterdam’s waterways. We think one of the best views in Amsterdam can be enjoyed from one of the several bridges crossing over the Keizersgracht, especially at the junction with Leidsegracht where you can enjoy a fantastic view of several bridges, boats and canals.

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Source: Holland.com

The historic buildings

There are numerous historic buildings of interest to those on holiday in Amsterdam, from Anne Frank’s House and the Oude Kerk, to the Begijnhof and the countless traditional, medieval houses that line the canals. The best way to absorb Amsterdam’s architectural splendour is from the water on a canal boat tour. From here you’ll enjoy some of the best views in Amsterdam, as well as the opportunity to access nooks and crannies unreachable on foot.

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Photo credit: Alberto Mateo | Holland.com

Amsterdam in the snow and ice

If you find yourself on an Amsterdam holiday in the winter months, you’ll have the best chance of seeing Amsterdam in the snow. The wintery façade of the city is beautiful, providing some incredible snowy views for your camera to capture. During particularly cold winters it isn’t unusual for the canals to freeze over, triggering a bizarre scene of ice skaters whizzing along the winding canals.

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Source: Holland.com

The city skyline

One of the best ways to absorb the sprawling beauty of Amsterdam, especially the old centre, is from up high where you can enjoy a view of the city skyline. There are several places that offer an impressive view across the roofs of Amsterdam, but the most popular is Sky Lounge Amsterdam, a classy bar serving up tasty drinks and bites.

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Photo credit: INTERPIXELS | Shutterstock

Canal sunrise

The orange glow bouncing off the water and heritage buildings are a beautiful view not to be missed in Amsterdam. The sunrise is the cause of this marvel, best enjoyed from any canal bridge in a relatively open area, such as along Brouwersgracht. Just make sure you’re facing east!

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Image credit: Dennis van de Water | Shutterstock

Church of St. Nicholas

Easily one of the best views in Amsterdam, peering across to the towering turrets of the Church of St. Nicholas, with the shimmering waters of the Oudezijdsvoorburgwal canal before you, is an unforgettable moment to capture in your memory and on your camera.

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Image credit: Neirfy | Shutterstock

Amsterdam by night

The city lit up at night is one of the most breath-taking scenes from any holiday in Amsterdam. There are several spots to discover the best of the city’s illuminated character, but we think Amsterdam Centraal Station emits an extra special sense of grandeur when the sun goes down and the lights come on.

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Image credit: Neirfy | Shutterstock

 

Tempted by a holiday to Amsterdam? Whether it is a self-drive adventure or a comfortable journey by Eurostar, check out our range of holidays to the Netherlands.

Share your favourite views of Amsterdam by commenting below.


 


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Tis the season…

Christmas has finally arrived! So we wanted to treat you all to a compilation of beautiful Christmas photos from around Europe – a mixture of food and drink, markets and lights – arguably all the best things about this wonderfully festive time of the year.

So let’s make a start with a classic Christmas in Paris, the city of love…

You can’t really beat the gorgeous Eiffel Tower, covered in a glistening layer of snow, a beautiful backdrop to a very festive looking carousel.

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As you can see, Galeries Lafayette knows exactly how to decorate for Christmas and keep up an ambience of class.

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I’m sure you’ll agree there’s nothing more magical than wandering around a Christmas market, mulled wine in hand, looking at all the trinkets and gifts on sale. And in the snow, it couldn’t be much more festive!

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As we all know, it’s not just Paris that are skilled in adding that little (or large) festive touch…

Lille, France is a dab hand at adding a touch of bling to their architecture.

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And Reims looks stunning when the markets start to pop up, coating areas of the city in lights.

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Now let’s take a stop next door to Belgium, and see the handsome buildings of Grand Place, in the central square of Brussels take your breath away…

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And definitely not forgetting one of the best activities associated with this time of year, ice-skating! Take to the ice in one of Belgium’s Flemish Christmas markets.

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Once you’ve spent the evening picking yourself up off the ice and probably feeling rather worn out, a Rakomelo is certainly well deserved. Actually a traditional Greek beverage, its warm, sweet (and alcoholic) taste will be sure to go down a treat – only for adults though, sorry kids!

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So moving along again, this time to Deutschland, we’ve found that Cologne is a trinket buyer’s paradise. With gifts galore and all sorts of wonderful bits and bobs to look at, we couldn’t not feature it in this blog.

Here’s a rather unique stall at one of the markets:

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Now here’s the bigger picture for you…

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And the ice-skating rink looks perfect for a family friendly race (if you can stay on your feet of course).

Blick auf die große Eisbahn auf dem Weihnachtsmarkt "Heimat der Heinzel" auf dem Heumarkt in der Altstadt Köln, im Vordergrund das Reiterdenkmal, im Hintergrund Dom und Groß St. Martin.

Our final stop on this festive tour takes us to a little place called Amsterdam, which embraces the Christmas spirit in a delightfully cultural way.

The most impressive perhaps, is this Christmas tree made of bicycles:

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Image credit: Xavier Vergés, Flickr

We then have performances from the ‘World Christmas Circus’, which is a festive tradition in Amsterdam.

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Image credit: DirkJan Ranzijn, Flickr

And finally, I can’t think of a better way to round up these images than with a drink, and better yet – a Christmas drink! Delirium Christmas, a festive Belgian beer will send your taste buds tingling with hints of fruit, spices, caramel malt and candied orange. You can buy a bottle or two here.

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Image credit: Hideyuki Kamon, Flickr

We hope you’ve enjoyed our mini festive tour around Europe, and are now well and truly in the Christmas spirit!

So now’s the time to go and get your favourite festive drink, a mince pie or two, put your feet up and await tomorrow’s fun and food filled day.

From everyone at Great Escapes, we’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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bayeux normandie calvados


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Picture Postcard… from Bayeux, Normandy

Bayeux, Calvados, Normandy

Bayeux, Calvados, Normandy

In the heart of the D-Day Landing beaches, the historic city of Bayeux, is best known for the Bayeux Tapestry which depicts life in the Middle Ages and, in particular,  the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England. But don’t just come to Bayeux to see the tapestry, be sure to leave time to explore the charming narrow cobbled streets of the old town with quaint shops and inviting bistros, and at its heart Bayeux’s huge Notre Dame Cathedral, a masterpiece of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, consecrated by William the Conqueror in 1077.

And if you visit on a Wednesday or Saturday morning a traditional market sells local produce including many fine gastronomic specialties of the area, many of which make perfect souvenirs.

Image by G. Wait,  copyright OTI Bayeux-Bessin / G. Wait


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Picture postcard from… Bruges, Belgium

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St. Bonifaciusbrug in Bruges*

One of the most photographed bridges in Bruges, St Bonifaciusbrug bridge is actually one of the youngest in the city, dating back to the early 20th century. You’ll find it in a particularly charming area with cobbled streets, historic buildings and the sound of horses hoofs clip-clopping passed pulling carriages full of tourists, as are the little boats that pass under the bridge. It’s a very romantic spot and the perfect place to it sit down on one of the hidden benches and watch the world go by.

The Church of Our Lady, seen here in the background, took two centuries (13th-15th) to build. It has many lovely art treasures, most notably a beautiful Carrara marble Madonna and Child sculpture by Michelangelo. One of only a few of Michelangelo’s works that can be seen outside Italy.  While currently being renovated, this lovely church is still well worth a visit and the 1 Euro fee to see the famous sculpture.

*Image courtesy of Flanders Tourist Board

Eiffel Tower lit-up by night, Paris


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Picture postcard from… Paris, France

Eiffel Tower lit-up by night, Paris

The Eiffel Tower by Moyan Brenn

Located on the Champ de Mars in Paris, France, the Eiffel Tower is one of the most well-known structures in the world.

It was named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower with Eiffel himself paying 80 percent of the tower’s construction costs. It was originally planned to stand for 20 years after which it was intended to be sold as scrap metal. However, in a bid to save it, Eiffel erected an antenna on top of the tower and financed experiments with wireless telegraphy. The tower proved enviable in sending and receiving wireless messages, particularly for the French military. Today, more than 100 antennae on the tower send radio and television broadcasts around the world.

More great shots from Moyan can be found on Flickr.

Antwerp by night, Belgium


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Picture Postcard from…. Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerp by night, Belgium

Antwerp is described by Lonely Planet as “the country’s capital of cool, a powerful magnet for mode moguls,
club queens, art lovers and diamond dealers.”

It is Belgium’s second largest  city and is reputedly the most fashionable,
with great restaurants, bars, theatres and shops. The heart of the city is its historic medieval centre
with quaint narrow cobbled streets and a stunning cathedral.

 

Image courtesy of VisitFlanders