Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, and one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Europe. The city is well-known for its past, the elaborate canal system and the architecture of their iconic, narrow houses. Amsterdam offers way more than just cheap thrills! You can wander the sidewalks (by foot, or more popularly, by bike) and explore the Old Centre, Red Light, Dam Square, Grachtengordel and Museum districts. Use my travel tips from this ultimate Amsterdam travel guide to plan your trip to the Netherlands!
What to Expect in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has a fascinating history and is part of the reason this city is on so many travelers’ bucket lists. It’s truly one-of-a-kind and offers so many different kinds of experiences. Here are some things you should know before traveling to Amsterdam:
Language: The official language is Dutch, but nearly everyone speaks English as a second language.
Currency: The Euro! Check out my tips for traveling Amsterdam on a budget too!
Credit Cards and Banks: Pretty much all restaurants and hotels will accept credit/debit cards. As of 2018, you can only use a debit or credit card to purchase public transportation tickets!
Climate: You can visit Amsterdam year-round and have a great experience, but the winter months (November through March) may be too cold for walking or cycling around the city. You’ll find the warmest months in Amsterdam to be June through September, but they are also the highest months for tourism!
Stopovers: Many travelers have layovers and stopovers in Amsterdam when connecting to other European destinations. It’s just a 15-minute train ride from the Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam’s Central Station.
Read More: Best Time to Visit the Netherlands
Getting Around in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has impressive public transportation and offers travelers bicycles, metros, buses, ferries, and trains to help you get around the city and beyond. Getting around Amsterdam is also very cheap, just a Euro or two per ride, so you have lots of options!
Bicycle: Most locals use bikes to get around. There are a LOT of bicycles, so be prepared for lots of bike traffic, but you can easily rent one (for about $10-12 Euros) for your time there.
Helpful Tip: As a pedestrian, cyclists have the right of way—so watch out!
Walking: Most places you’ll want to visit in Amsterdam are relatively close together. Obviously a bus or metro will get you around much quicker though.
Public Transport: You’ll find that getting around quickest can take a combination of bus, metro, and tram rides. Luckily, the GVB offers daily transportation passes, available for 1 to 7 days, with prices starting from €7.50 Euros, and are valid for use on all three types of transport. This is definitely your best bet if you’re in the city for a few days.
Where to Stay in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has a handful of neighborhoods that are great to stay in while visiting—and it has a lot of hotel options for all budgets! If it’s your first time visiting, the center of the city, or Centrum, is a great place to stay. Jordaan is the most affluent neighborhood in the city, and home to some world-class hotels and restaurants—it’s also where you can find the Anne Frank Museum. The De Pijp neighborhood caters to a local, younger, and “hipster” crowd with its cafes, bars, and shops. And Leidseplein is a great neighborhood if you’re looking to experience Amsterdam’s nightlife. To help you out, I’ve outlined some of my favorite hotels in Amsterdam!
The Banks Mansion is an all-inclusive boutique hotel that offers a great location (right on a canal), breakfast, 24-hour complimentary drinks and snacks, and stunning, old-world charm and design.
There are some VRBO gems for rent in Amsterdam—for as little as $50/per night! Check out the vacation rental selection here.
This modern boutique hotel offers excellent service and amenities. It’s right near Amsterdam’s Central station and all the main attractions you’ll want to explore are walkable!
The Dylan is a charming and luxurious boutique hotel in Amsterdam. Situated slightly west of the city center, it’s in a stunning location, and offers fantastic staff, gorgeous rooms, and great food.
The BackStage Hotel is a music-themed, budget hotel right in the city center. They have a full bar, complimentary Wi-Fi, and a funky, modern design! You’ll find shared and private options here.
PH93 Amsterdam Central is a centrally-located modern bed & breakfast! It’s a short distance from Basilica of St. Nicholas and Dam Square (super walkable!)—plus it offers an onsite bar, free WiFi, and clean, comfortable rooms.
The Hotel Hermitage offers 22 modern rooms and overlooks both a beautiful garden, or a canal! The building was originally an 18th-century canal house, so it feels like a true Amsterdam experience. They also offer daily continental breakfast, and if you’re traveling with friends, they offer rooms with multiple beds.
Where to Eat in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is packed with amazing restaurants. It truly is a food lover’s paradise! You’ll also find a huge selection of vegetarian and vegan restaurants and menu offerings, so there’s something for everyone. Here are my favorite restaurants to eat at, while in Amsterdam.
Not sure what to order? Don’t miss the 10 Local Foods to Try in the Netherlands during your trip!
De KasMediterranean, Farm to Table
De Kas is one of my favorite, and most unique restaurants, in Amsterdam. The restaurant is located in a set of greenhouses that date back to the 1920s and used to belong to the Amsterdam Municipal Nursery.
Food is prepared with the freshest, organic, and local ingredients—most of which they grow in their own herb and vegetable gardens. You’ll want to book well in advance for a dinner reservation!
Bam BoaGlobal Cuisine, Cafe
Bam Boa is a new restaurant located on the Amstel River. It has a bohemian and coastal feeling and serves tasty luxurious feeling dishes. It’s the perfect place for late breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, cocktails & sangria!
At PIQNIQ you’ll find a variety of small dishes, yummy bites, and the charm of old Amsterdam. This spot is great for hanging out and people-watching! It’s open for breakfast and lunch only.
Rob Wigboldus VishandelSeafood, Fast Food
This gem is a small spot with just a few tables, and just a 5-minute walk from Dam square. It’s old-school offering traditional Dutch fish sandwiches—perfect for a quick bite or easy lunch! Plus, a meal will only set you back about €3.
De Silveren SpiegelDutch, Fine Dining
This place is world-class and offers impeccable service, food, wine, ambiance. One of the top-rated and most luxurious spots in Amsterdam, you can wine and dine all night long (with eight courses).
Vegan Junk Food BarVegan, Fast Food
If you have a plant-based appetite, try this foodie spot out while in Amsterdam! They’ve put a fast food spin on vegan food, and it’ll satisfy all your cravings.
The cutest lil’ pub you can find in Amsterdam! It has an old-fashioned feel, with a bit of quirk, and offers great music and cold drinks for cheap.
What to Do in Amsterdam
Despite its shady reputation, Amsterdam is a historic city full of culture that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime—it’s full of surprises around every corner. And there isn’t a prettier view than watching boats float along the gardens and canals of the city. I’ve listed some of the top things to do in Amsterdam below, but you can find more activities to do in Amsterdam in my guide to the 10 Things You Must Do in Amsterdam.
Get a feel for the history and layout of Amsterdam’s canals by boat. Take a tour of the canals, and travel through the canals of the city.
Amsterdam is a town of art. There are many famous artists that have come out of Amsterdam including Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gough. You can see their pieces in some of the museums, such as the Rijksmuseum, Van Gough Museum, or Hermitage Museum. If you are more of a modern art lover, check out the Moco Museum.
Rent a bike and take the free ferry across to Amsterdam-Noord to spend the day cycling. Follow Route 9 by the marked pathways and explore the dike villages, grassland landscape and the island of Marken. (47 km/4-5 hours)
You could also opt for a guided bike tour through the Amsterdam Countryside if you’d prefer!
This is where Anne Frank was hidden during World War II, and it is one of the most iconic places to visit in Amsterdam. Taking this tour is a very deep and moving experience. You have to purchase tickets far in advance as tours fill up very fast.
Don’t miss this market! It’s the largest in all of The Netherlands and has been around since 1905. Come hungry and try some local cheeses and dutch Stroopwafels. You can also score some great souvenirs here. It is open from 9:00 am to about 5 pm, on Mondays through Saturdays (no Sundays).
Visit the oldest tasting room in Amsterdam, translated to “Three Little Bottles,” which opened in 1650. Enjoy a drink and take in the ambiance of antique barrel-lined walls and burning candelabras.
This side of Amsterdam has transformed into an art and cafe scene, although prostitution is still legal. While it isn’t exactly my thing, that’s not to say you shouldn’t at least stroll around and see what it’s all about.
Consider a Food Tour if you want to delve deep into the foodie scene!
If you find yourself in Amsterdam during good weather, chances are, Vondelpark will be packed with people. Take a walk through the park, pack a picnic and people watch.
Despite the touristy nature of this tour, I really enjoyed it and think it’s a great bang for your buck. The Heineken Experience tour lasts nearly 2 hours with tons of activities, two free beers, plus a free souvenir. Be sure to buy your ticket online before you go to skip the line! Don’t miss my video on my experience there.
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