As the official travel partner of the UEFA Champions League, we've journeyed to the homes of the clubs through to the last 16 to give you the lowdown on the hotspots for your next away trip. In this article we head to Amsterdam, home of AFC Ajax .

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The capital of the Netherlands is famous for canals, cycling and cobbled streets lined with cool cafés and bars. It's also home to one of Europe's most storied and solid football teams, AFC Ajax, whose modern stadium draws footie-loving pilgrims with its behind-the-scenes tours.

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Football is a social affair here. Supporters cram into canalside cafés and spill out of bars, one eye always on the score.

In summer, the biggest matches are often shown on big screens at Museumplein (Museum Square) and one of the city's pop-up beaches, Strandzuid. Whatever the result in the stadium, there's always a party atmosphere - and endless opportunities to play - off the pitch.

Discover what to see, where to eat and where to find the best nightlife on an Amsterdam city break.

Meet the team: AFC Ajax

AFC Ajax has been relegated just once since it was founded in 1900, and that was in 1914. English-born coach Jack Reynolds, who arrived soon after and led the team on and off for 35 years, is credited with turning around the club's fortunes.

Its performance in Europe is impressive; AFC Ajax won the European Cup (today the UEFA Champions League) three years in a row from 1971, earning them the rare right to keep the cup (which now gleams proudly in the stadium's museum). Former big players include Dennis Bergkamp, Luis Suárez, Marco van Basten and Patrick Kluivert.

To most fans, though, Johan Cruyff will always be number one (or perhaps 14, after the digits emblazoned on his jersey). The homegrown player, named most influential European player of the 20th century, is credited with helping to create 'Total Football', where outfield players fluidly switch positions throughout a match. Cruyff occupies an almost mythical status at the club, with the stadium renamed in his honour after his death in 2016.

FUN FACT

The club logo, featuring the head of the Greek god Ajax, was updated to a more abstract style in 1990. The image now consists of 11 lines - one for each player on the pitch.

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Image Credit: Tourism Media

Visiting Amsterdam's football stadium: the Johan Cruijff ArenA

The Johan Cruijff ArenA - Bijlmermeer district

The stadium, formerly known as the Amsterdam ArenA, opened in August 1996, and was the first in Europe with a retractable roof. AFC Ajax's home turf also hosts the Dutch team's international games, and it's as impressive as you'd expect.

The main are has 53,052 and 16 incredibly plush hospitality rooms. Non-VIPs are spoiled too, with six catering kiosks selling alcohol and soft drinks, plus freshly made sandwiches, spring rolls and even sushi.

Club members get priority booking, with match tickets made available to non-members closer to the match date. Want to be right in the thick of it? Section 410, filled mostly by young, and loud, fans, is considered the liveliest, while Section F, just behind the goal, has historically been the haunt of those who consider themselves 'core' supporters.

Whether or not you get a match-day ticket, it's worth visiting again for a guided stadium tour. Walk through the dressing room, see the press box, sit in the manager's dugout and even touch the hallowed turf. Nighttime tours are offered on selected dates, too, and include an eye-popping light show.

Visiting out of season? The stadium regularly hosts concerts, with past performers including the Rolling Stones, Bono, David Bowie and Tina Turner.

Getting there: The stadium is a 20-minute drive from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and 15 minutes from town. Metro lines 50 and 54 go from Centraal station to Amsterdam-Bijlmer-ArenA (less than 20 minutes).

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Image Credit: Tourism Media

Where to eat and what to do in Bijlmermeer

Also known as De Bijlmer, Bijlmermeer is in the Amsterdam-Zuidoost borough, south-east of the city centre. And there's a refreshing amount to keep you in the stadium area before and after the match, including places to stay in Amsterdam.

The stadium looms over ArenA Boulevard, lined with fashion boutiques and posh home furnishing stores - perfect for a little pre-game browsing. You'll also find a few decent places to eat here, including Ichi-E, which serves excellent Japanese tempura, sushi and ramen.[1] There are a few restaurants in the stadium itself, too, though you'll have to book.

Walk 10 minutes and you'll hit Amsterdamse Poort, a buzzing shopping area with lots of quick, inexpensive food options from burgers to falafel.[2] It's dominated by the jagged edges of the former ING Bank headquarters, nicknamed 'Het Zandkasteel' (the sandcastle) due to its beige colour and sloping walls.

Ichi-E, ArenA Boulevard 175, 1101 EJ Amsterdam

Amsterdamse Poort, Bijlmerdreef 101, 1102 BP Amsterdam

Partying in Amsterdam after the match

Celebrating after the match

Celebrations can be anywhere, from the closest pub to the street. Passionate AFC Ajax fans aren't restricted by location. When there's a big win, though, the sea of red-and-white tends to flow towards Museumplein, a vast public square in the heart of the Museum Quarter (the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum are located here). National team victories usually culminate in gatherings here, too - and the most important games are often shown on a big screen erected on the green.

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Image Credit: Tourism Media

Looking for places to watch the game? Head to the hip Jordaan quarter and squeeze into any of the traditional 'brown cafés' - cosy Dutch pubs named for their typically dark wooden interiors. Most will have the TVs on full blast when there's an important match on. Or, in summer, try Strandzuid, a restaurant that has a seasonal beach.[3] A big screen shows matches during the UEFA Champions League. It's a great place to party afterwards, too.

Strandzuid, Europaplein 22, 1078 GZ Amsterdam

Going out in Amsterdam

The bars around the stadium are ideal for a post-match drink or quick bite to eat. But for the real Amsterdam nightlife, head back towards the town. De Wallen, the medieval city centre, is criss-crossed by canals and teeming with people drawn by the buzzing bars and pubs, many of which have street-side patios. The area has a high concentration of Amsterdam hotels, too.

Another nightlife hub is Heinekenplein, behind the popular Heineken Experience. This lively plaza is said to have the highest concentration of bars and restaurants per square metre in the Netherlands. The atmosphere on match days is electric, with people tending to congregate outside in nice weather.

Amsterdam Noord, across the river from Centraal station, has a more local feel, dotted with craft breweries, cosy wine bars and restaurants with huge riverside terraces.

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Image Credit: Tourism Media

Practical information

There are many regular flights to Amsterdam from the UK. It's less than 1.5 hours from London, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and Edinburgh, and an hour and 45 minutes from Belfast. When it comes to hotels in Amsterdam, there's something for all tastes and budgets - just choose the neighbourhood that suits you best!

Ready to hit the Dam? With bars, restaurants and world-class museums against a backdrop of scenic waterways, charming Amsterdam is a beguiling choice for a football-centric getaway