May I suggest a trip to Amsterdam? The canal-carved Dutch capital city is hot this year, with milestone anniversaries, newsworthy museum openings, and some pretty decent travel deals. Then there are also the standard reasons to love Amsterdam always, whether you travel there for the esteemed cultural instructions, the magnificent 17th-century landscape, or the cheese. (Dutch Gouda has no equal.)
It's High Season
I very much enjoyed visiting Amsterdam during winter. But late spring through early fall is high season for travel to the city and, accordingly, it's the best time to go if you're not averse to crowds. Warm weather and long days beget the perfect conditions for dreamy canal-ring walks, cruises on the Amstel, and lazy afternoons at outdoor cafes.
Plus there are the special events that take place throughout high season. Quiet, pretty, and private canal-house gardens become accessible to the public on select days. The Hortus Festival features live musical performances in botanical gardens. And Vondelpark will be hosting lots of open-air events, from comedy to cabaret, in its outdoor theater throughout summer. Find more seasonal happenings on the Amsterdam Event Guide.
The Canals Turn 400
This year marks four centuries since construction started on Amsterdam's canal ring, a UNESCO World Heritage site. During this special anniversary year, the city is hosting some worthwhile events commemorating the historical canals' birthday, including Amsterdam Heritage Days. Heritage Days feature free admission to dozens of public and private buildings and attractions.
The Rijksmuseum—housing the world's biggest collection of Dutch Masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer—is open for business after a decade-long renovation costing hundreds of millions of dollars. The reopening of the city's iconic art museum is a huge deal for Amsterdam. Also, the Van Gogh Museum, which turns 40 this year, has reopened in its original location after a nine-month-long update. (The museum was, for that time, housed temporarily at the Hermitage Museum.)
It's Cheaper Than You Think to Get There
This is true especially if you travel in late summer or early fall, during which time you will likely find mild weather, but you won't have to pay peak prices. For example, a search on Kayak turned up fares from the East Coast to Amsterdam for as low as $1,100 round-trip in September and $944 round-trip in October. (The cheapest fares were on Aer Lingus, Delta, and Icelandair.) These shoulder-season fares, generally, are $400 to $500 lower than peak-season prices for July and August. Moreover, June is an excellent time to shop for fall airfare deals to Europe, as we're a few months out and many major airlines have begun to roll out fall airfare deals.
It's Cheaper Than You Think to Stay There
This summer, save 5 percent on the 72-hour Amsterdam City Card; this certainly isn't the biggest discount ever. But it's a small cut on what is already a very smart way for travelers set on visiting many of the most popular attractions within the city to save money.
In the face of high-season popularity, accommodations during summer and fall will be fairly expensive. But here's where Amsterdam's ample supply of independent guest houses and other alternative accommodations comes to the rescue: Look on sites like Airbnb, Homeaway, or our sister site Flipkey to find surprisingly cut-rate rooms. Look for B&Bs and guesthouses, too. For example, there's this private apartment available in August for $94 a night. Or this centrally-located private garden cottage for 120 euros a night. You get the idea. Think outside the hotel room and you'll likely find something good for not a lot of money.
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(Photo: Lies Thru a Lens via flickr/CC Attribution)