Ah, springtime! While we celebrate the warmer months all around the globe, they are particularly welcome when they come to chillier (read: freezing) spots such as Amsterdam. Visitors may shy away from this Eastern European beauty during the winter, but the tourists return in droves come April, when the sun, colorful flowers, and outdoor markets reappear. Just strolling along the cobblestone streets of Amsterdam is a wonderful way to spend a day, but we've got five activities you can't miss during your springtime trip this year. And of course, where to stay nearby.
Walk through beautiful gardens
Come April, Amsterdam's streets are lined with flower stands selling colorful tulips, the official country flower of Holland. Tulips can be seen sprouting up just about everywhere throughout the city, but the Keukenhof Gardens and Tulips Fields is the most popular place to enjoy them. The largest flower gardens in the world, it is home to over seven million flowers, and not just tulips -- daffodils, hyacinths, amaryllis, and crocus are also there to be admired.
Where to Stay: A bit east of the city center, the Keukenhof Gardens are about a 30-minute drive from the majority of Amsterdam's hotels. For those visiting the gardens, and other major attractions along the way, the Conscious Hotel Vondelpark is a solid mid-range option that will particularly appeal to tree-huggers: The hotel features a vibrant plant wall as well as furniture made from recycled and sustainable materials.
Go to the Rijksmuseum
Originally opened in its current building in 1885, the Rijksmuseum is the Dutch national museum of history and the arts. This famous museum, home to numerous renowned works including an impressive collection of Rembrandt paintings, reopened this past Saturday after 10 years of renovations. It is continually ranked as one of Amsterdam's top attractions, and boasts a particularly extensive collection of pieces from the Dutch Golden Age (an artistic period spanning the 17th century).
Where to Stay: One of the most luxurious hotels in all of Amsterdam, the sleek Conservatorium Hotel sits just three blocks from the museum. Guests can unwind after a day of sightseeing at the hotel's tranquil spa, a relative rarity among Amsterdam hotels.
Picnic in Vondelpark
Amsterdam is filled with beautiful parks, from Sarphati Park in the De Pijp neighborhood, to Museumplein in the Museum Quarter. But the largest -- and most famous -- is Vondelpark, which brings in about 10 million locals and visitors a year. Vondelpark's 110 acres have something for everyone: landscaped gardens, a pond, cafes, wooded trails, and playgrounds. Many park-goers, however, head to the open grassy areas for a peaceful picnic. And when the weather's nice, few things are better than munching on some local cheese and crackers in the grass.
Where to Stay: Sandton Hotel de Filosoof takes residence in a few 19th-century buildings a block from the park. Though amenities are few, the hotel makes up for it in character with shabby-chic decor, a philosophical theme, and a quaint courtyard in the back.
Visit an outdoor market
You won't have to walk far to find an outdoor market in Amsterdam (that is, March through September). Many markets, such as the Spui Art Market and the Thorbeckeplein Modern Art Market, both reopened last month and attract art lovers looking for interesting pieces by local craftsmen. Albert Cuyp Market, in the southern district, has a little bit of everything: fresh fruits and cheeses, sandwich stands, clothing, jewelry, and leather goods.
Where to Stay: Located in the De Pijp neighborhood, the Aalborg Hotel is a small hotel often offering very reasonable rates. Guests can rent bicycles to explore the surrounding area (and visit the nearby Albert Cuyp Market).
Celebrate the Canal Ring's 400th birthday
You didn't think we would leave this off the list, did you?! After all, the Canal Ring is often what people envision when they think of Amsterdam, and this year it celebrates its 400th birthday with plenty of special events and tours. Creating a semi-circle around Old Center, the Canal Ring is a series of man-made waterways lined by beautiful historic mansions. Though it has expanded over the years, the Canal Ring was first made in the 17th century in order to provide a means of movement for shipping within the city center. Due to its beauty and rich history, the Canal Ring was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. Many believe that the Gouden Bocht, or the "golden bend," is the most scenic canal to float down.
Where to Stay: Canal House sounds fitting, right? Overlooking the canals, this 23-room boutique is housed in a gorgeous historic building. And the interior is just as glamorous as the facade, with rich fabrics on the beds and drapes, dark wood accents, and luxe amenities such as towel warmers in the sexy open bathrooms.