Did you know that?
Amsterdam has 165 canals!
If we’re honest with you, a holiday to Amsterdam is an eye-opening experience. Why?
Because Amsterdam is full of contrasts. It combines so many cultures, ideologies, and lifestyles, creating a quirky atmosphere you won’t find anywhere else!
To discover ALL you need to know about planning a holiday to Amsterdam, from how to get there and around to the best areas to stay and many insider tips, all you have to do is read on!
Amsterdam is one of the most picturesque European cities you’ll ever visit! Iconic architecture, postcard-perfect canals, a world-famous cycling culture, cosy coffee shops, delicious local cuisine, colorful tulip fields, and impeccable style are just some of the reasons why you should visit Amsterdam! But…where should you start from?
Stick with us to find out everything about this fascinating city, from how to get to Amsterdam and where to stay to the best things to do in Amsterdam and the best foods to try.
Amsterdam is every photographer’s dream! The tilting houses, endless tulip fields, and charming neighbourhoods create an insanely photogenic setting. Some of the most iconic places in Amsterdam are Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, the Floating Flower Market, the Sunday Market, and the Royal Palace. Also, don’t be surprised by the number of bikes in the city. Bicycle is the main means of transportation in Amsterdam, not only for locals and tourists alike!
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. It is located on the IJsselmeer in the western part of the country and constitutes the main commercial and financial hub in the Netherlands.
Since the weather in Amsterdam is quite cold during the winter, most tourists visit Amsterdam in summer. However, if you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy the city, we recommend that you visit Amsterdam in spring (April/May) or early fall (September/early October). If you want to find the tulip fields in full bloom, opt for your visit to fall in mid-April. If, on the other side, you want to enjoy the landmarks, avoid summer, as the city is cram-full of tourists and the waiting lines are long.
Amsterdam has 165 canals!
In Amsterdam lies the 17th-century canal house where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis during the Second World War. In the house, which now operates as a museum, you’ll find a permanent exhibition of Anne Frank’s personal objects, documents, a diary room, and the secret annex which the family used as a hideaway.
Tip: You can use the free audio guides of the museum to guide you through the house.
One of the best ways to discover the city’s iconic architecture and take in the scenery is from the water! Several canal cruises will get you through the UNESCO protected canals of Amsterdam, but we suggest that you book a guided tour for a more educational experience. If you are in the mood for something extra-special, book a night boat tour with a romantic candle-lit dinner on board!
Vondelpark is the absolute green oasis of Amsterdam and the ultimate place to relax away from the crowds. In Vondelpark, you’re going to enjoy music and dancing open-air performances, ride your bike through the greenery, have a picnic, take pictures of the stunning rose garden, or just chill under a tree!
This is one of the best places to visit in Amsterdam if you are an art enthusiast! Housed in a building designed by Gerrit Rietveld, the Van Gogh museum hosts the biggest collection of the post-impressionist artist’s works with 200 paintings, as well as letters and works of other artists inspired by him.
Tip: Don’t miss the museum’s cafe Le Tambourin, where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and regain some strength after the tour.
Shops in Amsterdam are open from 10:00 to 18:00 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, from 11:00 to 18:00 on Mondays, from 10:00 to 21:00 on Thursdays, and from 12:00 to 18:00 on Sundays.
Amsterdam was originally founded in the 12th century by fishermen who lived at the banks of Amstel River. The first time its name was officially mentioned was in a toll concession document of that era, which referred to the city as Amstelledamme. Thanks to its strategic position, Amsterdam soon became one of the most important ports in the world in the 17th century, as well as the country’s main commercial center. During the following centuries, the city’s infrastructure was developed and Amsterdam slowly took its current form.
The main ways to get to Amsterdam are by air, by train, by bus, and by car. Generally, getting to Amsterdam by air is better if you’re traveling from non-European countries, while the bus, the train, and the car are better options if you’re traveling from Europe.
The main airport in Amsterdam is Schiphol International Airport (AMS) and it is located 17 km away from the city center. It is one of the busiest airports in the world and serves frequent flights from/to numerous cities. Several international airlines fly to Schiphol International Airport, like Emirates, Lufthansa, Air France, and US Airways.
Tip: If you’re traveling to Amsterdam from Europe, we highly recommend that you book your tickets well in advance, to score the best prices.
How to get to Amsterdam city center from the airport
You can get to the city center from Amsterdam International airport by taxi, by train, or by bus. The fastest way to get to the city center is to hire a taxi from the airport. Although it is quite pricey compared to the other two options (it costs about 40 €), it is a fast way to get to the city center, as it will get you to your destination in just 15-20 minutes.
An equally fast, but much cheaper way to get to the city from the airport is the train. There is a railway station located right under the airport. From there, you can take the train to the center (trains pass about 10 times per hour) from platforms 1, 2, and 3. The train will get you to Amsterdam Central Station in 20 minutes for 5.50 €.
Another cheap option is the bus. Amsterdam Airport Express Bus 397 will get you from Schiphol Plaza (bus stop B15) to Amsterdam Elandsgracht in 30 minutes for 6.50 €. Alternatively, you can take GVB bus 69, which serves the route from Schiphol to Amsterdam Sloterdijk. This itinerary lasts for 40 minutes and costs 3.20 €.
The train is a great way to get to Amsterdam if you’re traveling from Europe. Amsterdam Centraal Station welcomes trains from several European cities, like London, Paris, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Copenhagen, Moscow, Munich, Prague, and many other cities. The most popular train itineraries to Amsterdam are from London to Amsterdam and from Paris to Amsterdam. The route from London to Amsterdam is served by the Eurostar rail company. There are about 13 train itineraries per day and the journey lasts for just 7 hours. If you book early, you can find tickets for as little as 40 €.
Another way to get to Amsterdam if you’re traveling across Europe is by car. Those traveling to Amsterdam from nearby countries, like Germany, can directly get to Amsterdam by car. However, those traveling to Amsterdam from London have to first get the ferry to the Netherlands and then drive to Amsterdam. There are both day and night direct ferries from Harwich in south England to the Hook of Holland.
If you’re visiting Amsterdam for the first time, the best area to stay is Oude Centrum (Old Center), the oldest area in Amsterdam. This area is central, located very close to the city’s main points of interest as well as to shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. In Oude Centrum, you’ll find several cute neighborhoods, like Dam, Jordaan, and De Wallen, and many hotels.
If you’re searching for the perfect base for sightseeing and museum-hopping, Oud Zuid (Old South) is your best bet. Living up to its moniker, “Museum Quarter”, Oud Zuid is home to some of the city’s best museums, like the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art. What’s more, Oud Zuid is considered an up-scale district, which you can definitely tell from the stunning houses, expensive restaurants, designer shops, and chic boutiques. It’s an excellent place to stay if you’re not on a tight budget!
The best area in Amsterdam for bustling nightlife is De Pijp (The Pipe). This hip area has a strong cultural character and is a go-to for entertainment. De Pijp overflows with cozy cafes, sophisticated bars, restaurants that specialize in food from every corner of this world, and local pubs. In De Pijp, you’ll also find the Albert Cuyp Market, an iconic open-air market (the biggest in Europe) with over 260 market stalls.
If you’re searching for a quiet district to stay with your family in Amsterdam, Plantage is your best bet. This area has a cozy community feeling and a laid-back atmosphere, perfect for families with little children. Plantage also has a strategic location, as it lies close to the Old Center (just a 20-minute walk) and is well-connected to other areas via public means of transportation. Some nice places to visit in Plantage with your family are the new public square, Artis Royal Zoo, De Gooyer Windmill, and the botanic gardens (Hortus Botanicus).
Amsterdam has an excellent public transport system that comprises trams, the metro, buses, and the train. The bicycle is also a super popular way to move around the city. Depending on where you’re staying in Amsterdam and where you want to go, there’s a means of transportation that serves you. Let’s explore your options!
Tip: For information about the routes, check the GVB website.
There’s no way you won’t notice Amsterdam trams: they have a distinctive blue and white color and a bell that rings to warn pedestrians! The Amsterdam tram network comprises 14 routes, most of which depart from and terminate at Centraal Station and move through the most popular neighborhoods of the city. If you want to visit the city center, opt for lines 1, 4, 7, 11, 12, 19, and 24. Tram line 2 is the most popular for sightseeing, as it goes to several attractions like Leidseplein, Prinsengracht, and Dam Square.
Our tip: You can’t buy a ticket by cash inside the trams, so we advise you to have a debit card or a public transportation card with you.
Amsterdam has a 5-line metro network, which connects Central Station to several districts in and out of the city. More specifically, the Amsterdam metro network consists of lines 50 (Ring Line), 51 (Amstel Line), 53 and 54 (East Line), and 52, the newest line (it opened in July 2018) that connects Amsterdam-Noord with Amsterdam Zuid. The metro operates from 6.00 (Monday to Friday) and 6.30 (Saturday and Sunday) to 00.30.
The bus is another popular public means of transportation. The Amsterdam bus network is extensive and comprises 40 buses, some of which run overnight from 00.30 to 7.30. Many buses depart from the Centraal Station and head to several neighborhoods and the suburbs.
Tip: You can’t buy a ticket by cash on the buses, so we advise you to have a debit card or a public transportation card with you.
Tickets for means of public transportation
If you’re planning on staying in Amsterdam for more than a couple of days, buying a single ticket every time you use public means of transportation isn’t the best idea. Your best bet is to purchase a GVB day pass. This pass grants you access to all the public means of transportation from 7.50 € (8.80 $) per day (from 1-7 days). Otherwise, you can opt for a one-hour ticket, which costs 3.20 € (3.80 $), or a day ticket, which costs 8 € (9.40 $).
Another option, if you want to combine public transportation with sightseeing, is the I Amsterdam City Card. This card grants unlimited access to all public means of transportation, as well as to the city’s major attractions.
Amsterdam is a flat city, so cycling is an excellent and super-affordable (about 8 € per day) way to explore it. Having a worldwide-famous cycling culture, Amsterdam is one of the best cities for cycling. Let alone, cycling is the best way to discover all the secret corners of the city and have a taste of the authentic urban life. The whole city is marked with white cycling lanes, so it will be easy for you to navigate.
Tip: Make sure that you lock your bike before leaving it because bike theft is common in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is neither extremely expensive nor cheap, so you should expect to spend at least 100 € (117 $) per day. More specifically, you’ll spend about 8 € (9.40 $) per day for public transportation (with the GVB pass), about 30 € (35 $) for meals, and at least 60 € (70 $) per day for accommodation in Amsterdam. All prices refer to one person.
Stroopwafel is one of the most popular national sweet treats in Amsterdam! This delicacy consists of two freshly-baked waffle slices filled with hot caramel syrup. You’ll find stroopwafel on several stalls at local markets all around the city, as well as at local bakeries. You can also buy a bunch of stroopwafels and take them home with you, as a sweet memory of your trip!
Don’t leave Amsterdam without tasting a slice of authentic Dutch cheese! The country prides itself on amazing cheese, so the big number of cheese (kaas) shops in Amsterdam doesn’t come as a surprise. Options are so many that you might not know what to choose, but our top suggestions include Gouda, Nagelkaas, Leyden, Delft blue, and Maasdam.
This is a very popular local specialty and a must-try for tourists. Although raw herring might not sound appealing, the taste is incredible. You’ll find several versions of this specialty at fish stands all around the town. Our top recommendation is the broodje haring (herring sandwich with pickles and onions).
This is one of the most popular desserts in the Netherlands! Tompouce, the Duch take on mille feige, is a traditional fluffy pastry sandwich filled with custard-like cream and topped with pink icing (or orange on national holidays, like King’s Day). A total must-try!
The Netherlands has an excellent health care system -one of the best in the world. Also, language is not a barrier, as most doctors speak English. The country has universal health care, provided that you own private health insurance, as the Dutch government doesn’t cover health care fees for visitors. Otherwise, you should pay the required price to the doctor after your visit. Make sure you call the doctor first to book an appointment!
Amsterdam is generally safe, but you should be aware of some dangers, like pickpocketing, which is very common especially in the summer. We advise you to never walk alone at night, especially in quiet areas. What’s more, you should never leave your bike unattended and always lock it before leaving.
Winter weather in Amsterdam is pretty cold, so you should pack accordingly. Some key items you should bring with you are a warm coat, a warm hat and scarf, a pair of warm boots, long-sleeve tops, and some knitted sweaters.
In spring, Amsterdam welcomes the first rays of sunshine, but the weather is still cold, so it’s better to cover all bases. Bring with you a pair of comfortable sneakers, some pairs of jeans, a wind-proof and water-proof jacket, and a scarf.
Summer in Amsterdam is warmer than spring, but not super hot, so layering is the key when it comes to packing. Fill your luggage with t-shirts, a pair of comfortable sneakers or sandals, a pair of jeans, a pair of linen trousers, and a raincoat -just in case.
Fall weather in Amsterdam is similar to spring weather, in terms of temperature. Thus, your packing list should include the same items as in spring. However, make sure you don’t forget a raincoat, rain boots, and an umbrella.
There you go! Now, you know everything about Amsterdam, from the best areas to stay and the best thing to do, to the best ways to get around and the dishes you need to try!
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