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Amsterdam Tulip Festival - Great Escapes

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Amsterdam Tulip Festival

Tulips are an integral part of Holland, and the month of April brings a celebration of these beautiful flowers to Amsterdam, where you can see hundreds of different varieties illuminating parts of the city in colour. Sometimes being referred to as ‘tulip mania’, tulips have been popular in Holland since as far back as 1593, and competitions quickly arose amongst growers to try and create the most colourful and unique varieties.

Today, April sees the celebration of the tulip, and you’ll find that all over Amsterdam, pockets of vibrant colour can be found as effort is made to ensure the tulips bloom. The ultimate aim of this festival is to eventually have one tulip for every citizen of Amsterdam, amounting to a staggering 800,000.

So if you’re heading to Amsterdam before the month is up, here we’ll tell you exactly where you can find the most beautiful displays of this popular and historic flower.

Amsterdam’s Tulip Festival…

Amsterdam Tulip Festival - Great Escapes

Image credit: Rob Young, Flickr 

Amsterdam Tulip Museum

Located in the Jordaan district, you can visit this museum to learn all about tulips and their position in Amsterdam’s history. Open Monday – Sunday 10am – 6pm.

The Keukenhof

Keukenhof gardens are the world’s largest flower gardens, and for a short period during the spring months you’ll be able to find an abundance of tulips in all manner of shapes of patterns. With 9 different gardens to explore which house 7 million bulbs including 800 varieties of tulip, it’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, wandering around and taking in the beautiful sights and smells of the different gardens. The theme for 2016 at the Keukenhof is ‘The Golden Age’, and you’ll be able to watch individual flower demonstrations and experience themed exhibitions when visiting this garden. There are also activities for children available here, such as a treasure hunt, petting zoo, playground and hedge maze.

Amsterdam Tulip Festival - Great Escapes

Image credit: Olga, Flickr

Amsterdam Tulip Festival - Great Escapes

Image credit:, Flickr

Tulip Festival & Locations

With over 500,000 tulips to be found during the celebrations this year, here’s a selection of the places you can find them:

  • Hermitage Amsterdam
  • Hortus Botanicus
  • Museum Van Loon
  • Multiple public areas across the city
  • EYE Filmmuseum

For a full list of locations plus a map, visit

You can also visit the famous flower strip which is one hour outside of the city, where you’ll be surrounded by all manner of colours and varieties of tulips. Find out more about how to get there.

If you’re now looking for a last minute break to Amsterdam, visit to book your trip to see the fabulous tulips.

Amsterdam Tulip Festival - Great Escapes

Keukenhof gardens, image credit: Paul Haahr, Flickr

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Amsterdam’s Canals

At just over 400 years old and collectively over 100km in length, Amsterdam’s 165 canals are certainly a breath-taking sight. With the canal ring listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, they’ve been recognised as having outstanding universal value. But perhaps better yet, they’re a fabulous way of exploring the city when on a short break in Amsterdam.

History of the canals

Built during the 17th century, the first four (and main) canals were implemented as a way to improve defence and water management, along with residential development. Named Singelgracht, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht, these are the four original and more notable canals in Amsterdam, which encircle the city centre in the shape of a half moon.

Amsterdam's canal and bicycles

Image credit: Dennis van de Water | Shutterstock

The dancing houses

We’re sure if you’ve ever visited Amsterdam, or even just seen a few images, you’ll have noticed the charming canal houses which form a beautiful silhouette in all their shapes and sizes. These houses are known as the ‘dancing houses’, as over time they’ve sunk, moved or tilted in the swampy soil along the canal bank, creating a rather unique and colourful view.

Amsterdam's canals, the dancing houses

Image credit: kavalenkava volha | Shutterstock

Bridges, islands and houseboats

As the city grew over time and more canals were created, you’ll find that today, Amsterdam rather spectacularly boasts no less than 1,281 bridges and 90 separate miniature islands. The most famous of these bridges is Magere Brug, or ‘skinny bridge’ (however as of 1871 it was made a lot larger and is no longer particularly skinny). Named as such due to originally being so narrow it was hard for just two people to pass each other on foot, this famous drawbridge is located on Amstel, between Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht.

Houseboats are a popular way of living in Amsterdam, where there are over 2,500 floating in the meandering canals. Some being more than a century old, if you take a walk along the canal bank you’ll discover many different colours, shapes, sizes and materials; however concrete houseboats are most popular as they require fewer repairs.

Amsterdam's canals, houseboats.

Image credit: ActiveSteve, Flickr

Events on the water

Depending on when you choose to visit, you may be lucky enough to experience one or two of the festivities that happen on and around the canals each year. April sees the city turn a beautiful hue of orange in honour of King’s Day, and there’s also a canal festival in August named The Grachtenfestival, where an abundance of classical music concerts take place both on land and water. During the winter months, the whole of Amsterdam comes alive with artistic displays during the light festival. A great way to see this is from a boat ride along the canal, as some of the creations are in the water!

Amsterdam's canals - light festival art display

Image credit: Julia700702 | Shutterstock


If we’ve inspired you to take a short break to Amsterdam, visit the Great Escapes website for more information and to book.

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2016 Culinary Events in Amsterdam

Although it’s probably safe to say we’re all completely stuffed after the Christmas and New Year festivities, with so much going on food and drink-wise in Amsterdam over the coming year, we just couldn’t ignore it. Unfortunately we couldn’t possibly include them all, so here’s a little taster of some which have caught our eye and we think sound extra appetising…

Whisky Weekend (15th – 16th January 2016)

If you’re a fan of a particular distilled alcoholic beverage, made from fermented grain mash and aged in wooden casks (whisky that is), then this event will be right up your street. In a little place called Posthoornkerk, a tasting room appears for a couple of days in January, which becomes host to every type of whisky you could possibly imagine. Creamy, malty, smoky, woody, nutty, oaky – the descriptions are endless. Find out more about the annual whisky festival and see where to book tickets here.

Food Soul Festival (29th – 31st January 2016)

Held in De Kromhouthal in Amsterdam Noord in January, you’ll find all kinds of weird and wonderful cuisine from all over the world at the Food Soul Festival. Experience this massive mobile restaurant (with free entry) and we’re certain you’ll be opening up your taste buds to some truly great foodstuffs.

Chocoa Festival (4th – 6th February 2016)

An exciting opportunity for every chocolate lover, Amsterdam holds the annual Chocoa Festival at the Beurs van Berlage, promising pure, chocolate-loving heaven. For as little as €10 per adult, you’ll have access to chocolate booths, live cooking and demonstrations just to name a few, and not forgetting the best bit – free tasting sessions. With Chocoa adopting a strong company ethos dedicated to high quality, sustainable chocolate, what you’ll find at this festival will be some of the very finest chocolate, along with top chocolatiers, and the opportunity for a great education about the cocoa chain – from tree to bar. You can book tickets here.

Amsterdam Coffee Festival (18th – 20th March 2016)

Featuring anywhere up to 100 artisan roasters, along with food stalls plus equipment makers, Amsterdam’s coffee festival is sure to help you get your caffeine fix, and pronto. Held at the Westergasfabriek events venue, you can watch various demonstrations, get involved in different workshops and immerse yourself in the coffee art project on display. But of course, the best bit by far – drinking great quality coffee until your heart’s content.

Meibock Festival (19th April 2016)

Celebrating spring beers (or Meibock), this boozy festival is a great opportunity to try a huge selection of both bottled and draught beer from a range of brewers. €7 will bid you entry, plus a festival glass, and from there you can purchase beer tokens at around €2 each. Some previous beers which have made an appearance are: Northern Night (TigerTops), Neoclassical (Butcher’s Tears), Saison (Kompaan) and Violante (Maximus). You can see a full list here.

Dutch Raw Food Festival (12th June 2016)

Take a chance to experience raw food at its very finest at this festival. With a strong focus on healthy living, you’ll find lots of stalls, tasting sessions and demonstrations to keep you busy for the day. Experts are available for any questions you may have, and you can attend workshops where you can learn how to make lots of different dishes and snacks. The festival takes place at The Colour Kitchen Langerlust in 2016.

Gelato Festival (9th – 12th July 2016)

Actually an Italian tour which is very popular, the Gelato Festival makes a stop in Amsterdam to share their incredible authentic gelato. Beginning only in 2010, the aim of the festival is to celebrate the origins of Florence gelato, invented by the Medici family during the Italian Renaissance. The best way to enjoy this event is to go online beforehand and purchase an ice cream card, which gives you fast track access to the stalls, where you can enjoy 5 tubs of ice cream, as well as other perks. You can find out more about the festival, and about buying a gelato card here.

Het Bacchus Wijnfestival (2nd – 4th September 2016)

The Bacchus Wijnfestival, or wine festival in English, combines music, food, and most importantly great wine into one weekend event which is sure to get your taste buds tingling. With a great selection of well-known wine merchants attending each year, whether you’re a wine connoisseur, or just like wine in general, you’ll have a fabulous time at this event. Listen to the experts talk about different wines, and then take a seat at one of the restaurants to discover all kinds of wondrous culinary pairings. You can access the official website here (it’s in Dutch though).

If any of these events have whetted your appetite, take a look at the Great Escapes website, where you can find your perfect short break to Amsterdam.

Also, if you’ve been to any of the above events, it would be great to hear about your experience, so please do comment 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.

19649_10729249_Serenity Use Only PARIS

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



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!


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.

36029_1527548_Serenity Use Only LILLE

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

41800_2410200_Serenity Use and PR REIMS, FRANCE

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…

29884_4952045_Other.. BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

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.

41861_3004552_Serenity_&_3rd_Party BELGIUM

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!

29876_9852454_Other.. BELGIUM

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:

34020_3260416_Serenity Use and PR COLOGNE

Now here’s the bigger picture for you…

34017_3024171_Serenity_Use_and_PR COLOGNE

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:

4205497257_94c8df9078_o AMSTERDAM

Image credit: Xavier Vergés, Flickr

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

3166681145_499af3273e_o AMSTERDAM

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.


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.



Amsterdam Light Festival

What’s it all about?
Lasting 55 days this year and donning the theme ‘friendship’, the whole idea behind the Amsterdam light festival is to try and lift peoples’ spirits during the darker, winter months – by bathing the city in lights. Prepared by talented light artists, it gives them an opportunity to present their beautiful work to all the visitors of Amsterdam.

Image credit: Julia700702, Shutterstock

What can you do whilst you’re there?
During the light festival, the city offers two rather spectacular ways of seeing the multitude of displays, one of which you can take by boat, the other on foot.

‘Water Colours’
This 75 minute boat tour gives you the opportunity to explore a very unique view of the lights by water, cruising along Amsterdam’s famous canals. An evening tour which takes place every day (apart from New Year ’s Day), means that you can see the lights at their very best, as they brighten the dark winter skies. You can book a ticket for the boat tour here.

Image credit: Julia700702, Shuttershock

Image credit: Julia700702, Shuttershock

If you would rather observe the lights during a romantic, winding walk through the city, you can take an evening stroll through the neighbourhoods of Weesper and Plantage. Here, you’ll get to see beautiful projections illuminating historical buildings, parks which are home to vibrant lighting systems, and even displays that you can physically walk through and explore.

Image credit: Jasper Vis

Image credit: Julia700702, Shuttershock

So if you’re looking for a short break or getaway this winter which offers a sprinkling of culture, is a little bit different and isn’t a million miles away, the Amsterdam light festival could be right up your street. Happening from now until 17th January 2016, and only just over a 5 hour drive from Dover, you could be in for the perfect weekend away in time for the New Year.

To book your beautifully bright weekend away in Amsterdam, visit the Great Escapes website.

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Foreign festive foods

With Christmas nearly upon us, the supermarkets are now well and truly laden with traditional treats and food that we all know and love – mince pies, Christmas puddings, chestnuts ready for roasting, turkeys, sauces – the list is endless. But if you’re off on a Christmas getaway or short break abroad this year, or want to know where’s good to go at Christmas for a bit of a culinary overhaul, what might you expect to be eating this December 25th? We’ve looked at different traditional cuisines across Europe and a little further afield, to see what feasts appear on their tables…

Christmas eve is the main event for the French, as they celebrate le réveillon (or ‘wake-up’ meal) after attending midnight mass. Here, the aim is go all-out trying new, fancy recipes and impress the family with creative culinary skills. Meats such as goose, duck and partridge are popular, but also refined dishes including filet mignon garnished with truffles can appear on the table in a French household. Christmas day sees entrées include escargots, (cooked land snails) and oysters, and mains can be anything from a traditional turkey, to fish, lobster or boar (depending where you are in France). Thinking of taking a short Christmas break to France? Visit for more information.

Holland sees food fairly similar to ours grace their tables, including roast pork and game meats, although interestingly, part of their festivities can include grilling and cooking your own meat and veg at the table together. ‘Kerstkrans, wreath shaped pastry decorated with glacé fruits and filled with sweet almond paste, ‘speculaas’ – spiced cookies, and ‘Duivekater’ which is sweet bread, are also gorged on during this time of the year. If you’d like to find out more about short Christmas breaks to Holland, visit


Image credit: Agnes Kantaruk, Shutterstock

Festive dishes in Italy vary across the different regions, so if you’re visiting this year, you could find some very unusual food at Christmas time. Basilicata, a region in the south of Italy, traditionally sit down to a dish called ‘Baccalà Con Peperoni Cruschi’, or in English – salted cod with fried peppers.

In Sicily, you might be enjoying ‘Timballo Di Pasta Al Forno In Crosta’ – which is macaroni pasta in pork sauce baked in a breadcrumb-lined pan.

But perhaps the most similar to our traditional dinner can be found in the Lazio region in the central peninsular of Italy, where they like to dig into ‘Abbacchio Al Forno Con Patate’, which is roast suckling lamb with potatoes – now that’s more like it!

A goose with red cabbage and dumplings can be found on the table in a German household at Christmas, stuffed with a meat or dough filling and served with gravy. Another traditional meat which makes an appearance during the festive season is duck, filled with a variety of fruits, and again served with red cabbage and dumplings. If you fancy dining on a German inspired Christmas dinner, you can find an easy recipe for roasted stuffed duck here.


Image credit: Dar1930, Shutterstock

If you venture slightly further afield to the western region of India, you’ll be met with an even more intriguing Christmas menu. ‘Sorpatel’ – a traditional Goan curry made with pork meat and liver, pork vindaloo, and ‘bebinca’, a Goan coconut flavoured layered dessert, typically served with ice cream. Christmas is a magical time in Goa celebrated by both Hindus and Christians alike. The day is commemorated with feasting, fireworks and many festivities all over the state. If you’d like to book your traditional Goan Christmas break, you can visit

Hopefully we’ve given you a little insight into what some other countries might be tucking into this Christmas, so if you start to see new and intriguing festive foods entering our UK supermarkets, you might be more tempted to give them a go and embrace an international Christmas.