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Best water views in the Amsterdam Area

The Dutch have always had a special relationship with water. Most of the Netherlands was ‘reclaimed’ from the sea, and this history is in evidence everywhere. The Amsterdam Area (and the country as a whole) is crisscrossed with networks of canals, polders, dykes and rivers - all designed to manage the water in a country that’s largely below sea level. It’s no surprise then that there are plenty of gorgeous water views to enjoy, from beaches and lakes to canal-side dining.

Hit the beach

Lighthouse at Zuidpier IJmuiden.
Image from koen smilde

The closest beaches to Amsterdam are directly west of the city. The train from Amsterdam Central Station to Zandvoort aan Zee takes 30 minutes, after which it’s a short walk to the beach, and the journey is even quicker by car. When you get there, you’ll find plenty of pavilions along the sand from which to watch the waves. Or you can get great water views from the Dutch dunes, which stretch back behind the long sandy expanse that runs all the way down the coast from IJmuiden to The Hague. Here is a round-up of some of the best beach bars in the area for some tips on where to kick back and relax on the sand.

Relax by the river

A couple sitting near the river bank of the Amstel in the village of Oudekerk aan de Amstel.
Image from Koen Smilde

From Amsterdam, the most accessible river is the Amstel – after which the city is named. Rent a boat and head south towards Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, where you can moor up and enjoy waterfront views at one of the cafés and restaurants along the river. For more active types, you can rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboard – we like Kano & SUP but there are other options too. If the weather is particularly hot, you can even swim in the river. Be sure to look for designated swimming spots and be careful to watch out for any passing boats. Have a read of this guide to the best outdoor sports to try in Amsterdam for more inspiration.

Swim in a lake

Het Twiske is a recreation and nature area and a typical Noord-Holland peat lake area in the Zaan region.
Image from koen smilde

If you’d rather not swim in the sea or the river, perhaps a lake might be the answer. There are plenty in the Amsterdam Area, including the lovely urban beach at Sloterplas (west of the city centre), the recreational park at Het Twiske (to the north), the nature reserve at Gaasperplas (to the southeast) and around the tiny islands of the Westeinderplassen (to the southwest). For more swim-spiration, read our guide to the Amsterdam Area’s best outdoor swimming spots.

Dine on a polder

People outside cafe Polder
Image from Amsterdam Science Park

The Dutch polder is so important, they’ve even turned it into a verb. Polderen loosely translates as discussing a particular issue with a wide range of stakeholders until a consensus is reached. And the famous polder model takes its name from the tracts of land enclosed by dikes. Café-Restaurant Polder in Amsterdam’s Science Park is of course named after the piece of land on which it’s built. And although it’s nestled among the modern Science Park buildings, it used to be an old warehouse that’s since been converted into a dining and events space. Polder is open all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a terrace in summer and a wood-burning stove in winter. Either way, look out over the dikes and know that you’re on a true Dutch polder.

Take in waterside views with Michelin stars

Aan de Poel restaurant interior
Image from Aan de Poel

Overlooking De Poel – a small lake in Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest) – you can treat yourself to the gastronomic experience of a lifetime at Aan de Poel. If you tire of the waterside views, turn 90 degrees to see the chefs at work in the kitchen. With two Michelin stars, you can be assured of top-level, creative cuisine and perfect wines to match. Lunch is a little lighter and more affordable than dinner and gives you time for a wander around the lake and the forest afterwards to aid digestion.

For more reasons to plan a day trip in the Amsterdam Area, read our guide to the Dutch dunes as well as the best spots for boating around Amsterdam.