Being the cycling capital city of Europe, what’s lovely about Amsterdam is its compact size making nearly everything reachable on foot, preferably by bike, get yourself a good map, or let yourself get lost in the city of Amsterdam, because even if you got lost you won’t go too far anyway. Amsterdam has it all from outdoors activities to sightseeing, shopping, and nightlife at its best, needless to say how amusing it is to spend sometime at the great Schiphol Airport.
Photo Courtesy: MorBCN
Amsterdam has many central areas, and its compactness makes it easy to stay anywhere and still be within easy reach from the center, be aware that it is among Europe’s expensive cities, so pick your stay wisely, try to book as early as possible, and to avoid peak seasons if you can resist the temptation.
Photo courtesy: Marc
- Hotel Van Gogh at Museumplein -close by Vondelpark, Van Gogh Museum, Iamsterdam sign, & Rijmuseum.
- Owl Hotel is a two beautiful old buildings, built in the Dutch style close by the famous entertainment center of Leidseplein, and has a lovely terrace to enjoy a meal, or a drink -even closer to Dam Square than Hotel Van Gogh is.
- A-Train Hotel will make you travel back in time, located opposite to Amsterdam Central Station, and a 10 minutes walk to Dam Square, or Rembrandtplein -a personal favorite, & the best place to eat breakfast, or to just chill from morning till afternoon.
- Hotel The Exchange: You can’t get any closer to Dam Square, this boutique fashion hotel has a very quirky design. “Rooms are dressed like models by young fashion designers from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI), allowing you to sleep in fashion and wake up in style.”
- Sunhead of 1617 Canal House Inn: Can you imagine your stay in an inn dating back to 1617, renovated to fit into the taste of the 21st century, and above all facing Amsterdam’s beautiful canals? It’s one of the oldest historical canal houses on the Herengracht -a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Hotel Van Ona: Located at Jordaan, an area that was once the equivalent of London’s East end. The hotel runs through three canal houses, dating back centuries, and is close by Anne Frank House, along with a variety of restaurants and cafes.
- Seven Bridges Hotel: enjoys one of the most unique locations in town with -as you might have guessed- a view of seven bridges at the intersection of two canals, in addition to being 15 minutes walk from Heineken Experience, Museumplein & Dam Square, which comes a bit pricey, but worth the money paid for.
- Canal House Boats
Pulitzer Canal Boat Hotel by Cindy Higby
- Shelter Jordan Hostel -a personal favorite, very clean, and located at one of Amsterdam’s classiest neighborhoods.
- Passenger Ship Avanti: your stay will be inside a ship, which is very common in Amsterdam.
- Beagle Boat House: Another boat stay, only 3 minutes walk from Amsterdam’s central station.
- Cocomama Hostel
- The Flying Pig Downtown Hostel: only 5 minutes walk from Dam Square.
When to go?
Amsterdam is a year round destination, every season offers a different experience, however be aware that it’s a cold European destination, accordingly pick the season of your visit wisely, and make sure to be part of one of Amsterdam’s fun events.
- Spring (March to April): Tulips will be blooming hence the opening of Keukenhof Tulip Gardens, the biggest highlight is the Queen’s Day celebrations happening end of April, and most of all longer days and warmer weather in May before summer crowds conquer The Netherlands.
Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse by Karen P.
- Summer (June to August): With countless music & cultural festivals, open air concerts, and movie showing, long days most of the time warm and sunny, other times chilly, and sales starting in August -actually sales do not have specific dates- Amsterdam in summer is well worth the crowds. There must be something of interest to you at Vondelpark’s open air theatre; Jazz music, or music of all sorts maybe? Dancing? Cabaret Performances? Stand up comedy?, in July Amsterdam Roots Festival also brings musicians from all corners of the world, & mid August marks Grachtenfestival of music.
Street Performers at Dam Square by Guiseppe Martino
- Autumn (September to November): Tempratures start to drop, hence a low season with cheaper airfares and accommodation costs, this is when cultural events move from outdoors into the indoors of selected restaurants and cafes. If you are a sporty, run Amsterdam’s Marathon in October, but if more into dancing, you can’t be there during this season without attending the huge Amsterdam Dance Event. In November, it’s time to welcome the arrival of Sinterklaas -Santa Claus- in a stunning boat parade that continues through the streets of Amsterdam
Sinterklaas Parade by Tom Jutte
- Winter (December to February): Have yourself a white Christmas in the festive cold season, and a wide selection of goods sold across Christmas markets. Enjoy an explosive New Year’s celebrations, with parties all over the place, and seasonal sales.
Snowy Amsterdam by Tanya Hart
- Dam Square
*Plein means square.
Where to go?
When it comes to museums Amsterdam has invented their own style, other than the fact that they have museums of purses, shoes, jewelery, diamonds, and other ones of cat house boats, science, beer brewing, human body, torture, you name it, the experience in itself is so unique, as you somehow become part of what the museum is showcasing.
- Van Ghogh Museum: What I really love about it, is that it has a unique collection of paintings, yet it’s a compact museum -I’m not even comparing it to The Louvre- so you don’t get bored or feel like “shame, I spent too much time at the museum”.
Self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh by jankie
- The Rijmuseum: If you are an art and history buff, this is Amsterdam’s Louvre, with 2.2 million visitors it was the most visited museum in The Netherlands in 2013, on display are 8000 objects from the years 1200 till 2000, among which are some masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer. The museum also has a small Asian collection.
- Iamsterdam sign: This area is very rich with attractions & cafes, make sure to take a long walk, and don’t forget to take the famous “jumping in the air” picture infront of the sign.
I amsterdam sign in the foreground, The Rijmuseum at the background by Sophie Villerot
- Anne Frank House: As mentioned before, Amsterdam is so innovative when it comes to making you live the experience of the museum, at Anne Frank House specifically you’ll feel the pain of Anne Frank, or anyone who was escaping the Nazis, it’s heart-aching really, yet an experience worth queuing for.
Model of Anne Frank House by Arwa Lockhandwala
- Dam Square: Known as Amsterdam’s center, but I believe that Amsterdam has several centers. Make sure to make a stop at the famous Dam Square Souvenirs shop, where you’ll take a picture wearing the huge clogs displayed near the entrance, and to eat Vlaamse Friet -Dutch fries- at Chipsy King.
Panorama of Dam Square by H. Michael Miley
- Rembrandtplein: A personal favorite, this is the best hang out in the morning, a central square to start a walk from, and a hot night spot.
Rembrandtplein at night by Jim Nix
- Leidseplein: Another center of entertainment, where street performers can be found, a variety of restaurants, and night clubs.
Leidseplein by day by Jim Nix
- Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market): Is the world’s only floating flower market since 1862, open year round, not only you get to see colorful tulips, flowers and all sorts of plants, the place is packed up with cheese shops, where you can have a taste and buy all sorts of Dutch delicacies.
Bloemenmarkt from outside by Emanuele
- Heineken Experience: No it’s not only for beer drinkers, this place is a must visit for fun seekers. Other than taking a tour, and seeing a step by step on how beer is brewed, you’ll enter a simulator where you’ll experience being a bottle of beer, having bubbles thrown at you face, go there and try it yourself, be ready for a treat,
Entrance of Heineken Experience by Michael Sanger
- Madame Tussauds: It will take you sometime to realize that the standing statues are made of wax, and not humans, those statues were made to perfection. Be ready for a thrill because the museum is not only about statues, some stuff might actually move -don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Madame Tussauds from outside by Salon NYC
- Vondelpark: The best way to escape the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam is spending sometime at Vondelpark, you can go cycling, walking, running, having a picnic, or just staring at its lush greenery, and feeding the geese swimming in ponds.
Vondelpark by Tony Escuder
- Nemo Science Museum: Your kids will love it.
View from outside by Mariano Mantel
- Body Worlds: The Happiness Project. In this museum they will show you different techniques to be happy, and how the body works to make one happy.
Photo from Body Worlds’ website
- Artis Royal Zoo: This Zoo has the ultimate experience; 200 tree species, more than 900 animal species, and an aquarium, in a vast lush green setting, and flowers blooming to add more color to the zoo.
Photo from Artis Royal Zoo’s website
- Concertgebouw: Fancy a concert?
- The Rembrandt House Museum: This is where the legendary Rembrandt has worked on his masterpieces.
- Walking Tour: Firstly you can pick the free tour -on a tipping basis-, or a paid tour for as much as 18.5 euros. The good thing is that you get to visit the city’s main attractions in a couple of hours, without getting into too much history details, only a sneak-peak.
- Cycling Tour: with the same walking tour company, or try Joy Ride Tours specially their tour to the countryside, windmills, cheese & clogs making factory, which won’t cost you more than 33 euros, in case you won’t buy any Dutch cheese from the factory, or some Dutch souvenirs. If not into cycling try segways.
- Hop-On Hop-Off boat: There are lots of companies providing such tours. I know you might say that you have been on many in Europe, but Amsterdam’s is a completely different story, the tour in the canals is stunning specially at sunset, and you get up close and personal to Dutch architecture, and see how most of the buildings are designed to be leaning.
- Volendam: A former fishing village, the best place to eat seafood, and to buy souvenirs that are cheaper than the ones sold in the heart of Amsterdam. Don’t miss the cheese factory over there.
Volendam by David Castanon
- Marken: Take a boat from Volendam to Marken and wander around stunning wooden houses, visit the clog maker, and relax at its lush greenery.
Marken by Franz De Wit
- Zaanse Schans: is a neighborhood of Zaandam, that has a collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses. It’s the highlight of The Netherlands, you really can’t miss it.
What’s The Netherlands about but windmills and bikes? Photo Courtesy: Albert De Bruijn
- Keukenhof: “The Land of Tulips” located at Lisse, an hour by train from central Amsterdam. I do not recommend booking a tour ticket to Keukenhoff, or any other tours as you usually end up spending half an hour in each place, so you end up mesmerized, yet annoyed that you didn’t have enough time to enjoy things at a time. With the combi-pass you can catch bus 370 from Leidseplein to the airport, then hop on bus 58.
Photo Courtesy: Keri Wellman
- Giethoorn: The roadless village that’s only navigable by boats.
Where to party?
When it comes to nightlife Amsterdam is world famous, make sure to take a look at this guide to avoid tourist traps, and paying too much whilst getting less.
Photo courtesy: Maarten_G
- Chicago Social Club.
- Sugar Factory
- Club Up
- Studio 80
- Club ABE
For something out of the box
- De Nieuwe Anita
- Club Lite
- Club NYX
Dutch food is not the best, therefore your best picks are Indonesian, Indian, & Argentinian steak.
- St. James Gate Irish Pub: try their goat cheese sandwich with pine nuts.
- The Grasshopper: A Dutch landmark, some even call it a tourist trap, but when in Amsterdam you have to go there.
- Greenwoods: Best breakfast place ever.
- De Maria: Argentinian Steak. Even if you like it well done, have a medium rare, you’d enjoy every bit of it!
Must Eat & Drink
- Goat cheese & Green Pesto Cheese.
Yes Green Pesto Cheese is naturally green by Or Hiltch
- Vlaamse Friet best eaten in curry sauce.
Vlaamse Frites by Mark Phu
Stroopwaffles by waldopepper
- Pear juice
Where to shop?
De Bijenkorf by Els
- Shopping streets for affordable shopping are: You could go to the heart of the city’s historic canal district, this area of nine narrow streets is called the Negen Straatjes, or Kalverstraat and Leidsestraat streets; the main shopping hub, and Haarlemmerdijk stretching from Dam Square up to the Central Station.
- Shopping streets for high-end brands: P.C. Hooftstraat., Beethovenstraat, as for Dutch designers Cornelis Schuytstraat is the place to be.
- De Bijenkorf: For high-end brands.
- Magna Plaza: Open 7 days a week.
- Marqt: For food & grocery shopping this place is very unique, make sure to have your credit card as they do not accept cash.
- De Kalvertoren: At affordable prices.
- V&D: For an affordable shopping experience.
Did you know that…
- Some scenes of Ocean’s Twelve blockbuster movie were filmed in Amsterdam namely; The bar of the Pulitzer Hotel on the Prinsengracht, Koningsplein, Coffeeshop De Dampkring Kalverstraat, Heiligeweg, The ‘golden bend’ of the Herengracht canal.
- Holland is part of The Netherlands, so you cannot refer to The Netherlands as Holland as we commonly do.
- Amsterdam has a bikes parking garage that can host up to 2500 bikes free of charge.
- Cyclists are involved in one third of all Amsterdam traffic accidents & 38% of all traffic movement in Amsterdam is by bike.
Amsterdam’s beauty by Bert Kauffman