Travel better with our tourists' guide to Amsterdam
Hello, and welcome to the Holiday Extras Travel Guide to Amsterdam. We're here to help you travel better in the capital of the Netherlands and learn about all the amazing things to do in Amsterdam.
Why visit Amsterdam?
Amsterdam is one of the most popular destinations in Europe as millions of people are drawn in by the laid-back culture, hundreds of museums, galleries and of course, the famous Red Light District - home to legalised prostitution and soft drugs. Plenty to keep all tastes occupied!
But before you head off and enjoy all that Amsterdam has to offer, we think it helps to get the lowdown on all the city's hidden gems, such as where to get the best food in Amsterdam and proper bicycle etiquette. Fortunately, you're in the right place to be in the know and make the most of the things to do in Amsterdam.
In our Amsterdam Travel Guide, we'll cover:
- How to get to Amsterdam
- The best ways to travel around Amsterdam
- How to get wifi in Amsterdam
- Where to eat in Amsterdam
- How to make the most of your money in Amsterdam
- Things to do in Amsterdam
So without further ado, grab your clogs and a stroopwafel, and come with us on a tour of art, food, drink and some authentic Dutch hospitality.
How to get to Amsterdam
Getting to Amsterdam from London is a breeze. You can hop on the Eurostar and be in the city in about four and a half hours, but we think the best way to get to Amsterdam from the UK is to catch a flight to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, which will take less than an hour from London.
If you decide to fly, be sure to check out an airport lounge, which we think is a great place to indulge in some peace and quiet while flicking through your Dutch phrasebook.
How to get to Amsterdam from Schiphol Airport
There's plenty of options for getting to Amsterdam from Schiphol Airport to suit all budgets and transport needs. Here's some of our favourites:
How to get to Amsterdam from Schiphol Airport by train
From Schiphol, we recommend getting the NS train from just outside the arrivals lounge. Single tickets cost €4.20, taking roughly 18 minutes to reach Amsterdam Centraal. From there, you're smackbang in the middle of the city, near most of the major hotels and the city's attractions.
How to get to Amsterdam from Schiphol Airport by bus
To get to Amsterdam from Schiphol Airport by bus, take the Amsterdam Airport Express on Line 197 from just outside the airport to the city centre. The bus departs every 15 minutes and costs €9 for a return, but in our experience it can get very busy, which isn't ideal if you're lugging around a heavy suitcase. However you can reserve your ticket at bus197.nl/ to save yourself time at the airport.
How to get to Amsterdam from Schiphol Airport by taxi
If you're looking to get a taxi from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam, you can book ahead at schiphol.nl/, but it's worth remembering that taxis can be very expensive and can cost up to €50 for a single journey. Make sure to only use official taxis as anyone offering taxis inside the airport could be trying to scam you. Alternatively why not get about in style and book a hire car to explore the city's surrounding area.
What are the best ways to travel around Amsterdam?
Managed to find your hotel? Ok, good!
Now it's time to start exploring all the amazing things to do in Amsterdam (and avoid taking an unexpected dip in a canal). Here's some of our picks for the best ways to get about the city.
Should I travel through Amsterdam on foot?
Like most city destinations, we think the best way to truly experience Amsterdam is on your own two feet, preferably in a sturdy pair of walking shoes. Almost everything is within comfortable walking distance, and we stumbled upon some our favourite parts of the city by just getting lost while having a wander, so taking it slow is definitely worth it. For example, by walking away from Amsterdam's high street, we found The 9 Streets (De 9 Straatjes) district, which houses some of the best independent, boutique shopping opportunities in the city.
Should I travel through Amsterdam by bike?
If you're feeling brave, the most authentically Dutch way to get about Amsterdam is to hire a bike. It'll cost you about €15 a day, and it's worth remembering that helmets aren't often worn by locals, so if you'd prefer to use one, make sure to request it before renting the bike. Also bear in mind that the Dutch ride hard and fast, so our best advice is to treat riding a bike in Amsterdam like driving a car; stick to the designated cycle lanes, signal at junctions and remember that the Dutch drive on the right.
Should I travel through Amsterdam by public transport?
If you're in a hurry, there's plenty of options for getting around the city quickly, giving you the best chance to experience all the best things to do in Amsterdam. You can get about via the metro or tram, but we'd recommend the latter as it stops more frequently, and you get to see the sights as you go.
How to use the tram in Amsterdam
There are two main tram stops at Amsterdam Centraal station, in the east and in the west. Most locals use the OV-Chipkaart (look out for the logo), which works just like an Oyster card in London. Load it up with credit, and don't forget to tap in and tap out every time.
However, for tourists, we recommend getting an iAmsterdam card. It gives you unlimited use of all public transport for as long as you need, as well as free entry into many of the city's hundreds of museums and attractions. You can order the card online before you travel or pick one up once you arrive.
Make sure to download the GBV app from either iTunes or the Google Play store to keep up to date with current maps and timetables.
How to get wifi in Amsterdam
Lots of places you'll visit in Amsterdam will have free wifi, including of the popular tourist attractions, such as the Rijksmuseum and quite strangely, the Anne Frank Museum, though only in the gift shop and cafe. Aside from that, you'll find hotspots in and around most restaurants and coffee shops, meaning you're never far away from a connection ‐ ideal if you ever 'accidentally' get lost in the red light district.
For a full list of free wifi hotspots in Amsterdam, head to wifi-amsterdam.nl/.
Where to eat in Amsterdam
There's no shortage of places to eat and drink in Amsterdam, and here's our top picks for Dutch dining:
Amsterdam Oost, or East, is a bit of a hidden gem, as you'll find it's less touristy than some other parts of the city. The district houses the Dappermarkt, where you can find some of the best street food in the city, much of which has an Asian or African twist, due to many immigrants choosing to settle in this part of the city. For some exotic eating, there's nowhere better in the city.
While you're sampling the culinary delights of Amsterdam Oost, why not wet your whistle at the local brewery (Brewerij het IJ), which run regular tours. Perfect if you see yourself as an ale aficionado or a PhD in pilsners.
Located to the southern end of the city, De Pijp has the widest variety of restaurants and bars in Amsterdam. One of our favourite places to visit is the Albert Cuypmarkt for some stroopwafels, a traditional Dutch dessert of waffles and caramel syrup (yes, they're as good as they sound). You'll also find the Marie Heinekenplein is here, home to lots of bars and the Heineken brewery.
How to make the most of your money in Amsterdam
If you're careful with your pennies, a trip to The Netherlands can be relatively cheap. With that in mind, here's our top tips for making the most of your money in Amsterdam:
Can I pay with card in Amsterdam?
Most places in Amsterdam will accept card payments, and ATMs are frequent enough that you won't have any trouble accessing cash when you need it. Just make sure to check with your provider before using your card abroad, as some will charge you for withdrawing money.
If you're still unsure about using your credit or debit card in Amsterdam, it might be a good idea to pick up a currency card, such as the FairFX money card before you leave. You can load the card up with your travel money before you set off for Amsterdam, meaning all your funds are readily accessible wherever you are.
What's more, the exchange rate will be set there and then at the best rate for you. Then you can travel with peace of mind, knowing you're protected from the volatility of the currency market.
How expensive is Amsterdam?
We found Amsterdam to be slightly cheaper than London, and in line with many European capitals. If you really want to save money, then we suggest looking for restaurants away from the major tourist attractions; you'll find the prices are significantly lower, and that the quality of food is often much higher, however keep in mind that beer is more expensive than in the UK.
How much did we spend in Amsterdam?
Here's a breakdown of some of the costs* of our Amsterdam trip:
- Pint of beer - €4 (£3.55)
- Coffee - €2.50 (£2.20)
- 72 hour travelcard - €17 (£15)
- Bike hire (24 hours) - €9 (£8)
- Brownies (no, not THOSE ones) - €4 (£3.50)
- Canal tour - €16.50 (£14.60)
*Rate of exchange correct on 09/02/18.
Should I tip in Amsterdam?
Tipping in the Netherlands is only for exceptional service. 5-10% is about right.
Things to do in Amsterdam
Now that you're a pro at getting about the city, making the most of your euros and hooking up to Dutch wifi, it's time to take a look at why you've come; all the awesome things to do in Amsterdam. There's too many to list them all here (if we've missed out your favourite, please let us know), but here's some our favourite things to see and do in this incredible city.
If your looking to add a dash of culture to your Amsterdam holiday, then we recommend heading to the world renowned Rijksmuseum. You'll find a huge assortment of displays and exhibitions, but the museum is most famous for its collection of Rembrandt paintings, including his most iconic masterpiece, The Night Watch.
The Rijksmuseum is one of the most popular attractions in Amsterdam and queues can get really long. To beat the lines, you can book an e-ticket before you arrive and enjoy the smug satisfaction of walking past people waiting at the ticket desk.
A trip to Amsterdam isn't complete without a trip along the city's canals. We booked with Grey Line, which you can board from Damrak (near Amsterdam Centraal), however there's plenty of providers offering tours around the station, catering for all budgets and desired routes. Our tour lasted an hour and took us all around the city, with earphones for the audio commentary is included in the price.
Our top tip would be to get a seat near a window as it can get pretty hot inside the boats, particularly in Summer.
Anne Frank Huis
Anne Frank Huis (House) is on Prisengracht, in central Amsterdam (conveniently located opposite the city's Cheese Museum, which also gets an honourable mention) and is where the teenager wrote her famous diary while hiding from the Nazis during World War Two. Although some of the exhibits can be emotionally harrowing, it's an important site of remembrance and well worth a visit. Photography isn't allowed inside, as the museum believes it disturbs this emotional experience.
It's also worth noting that from 9:30 - 3:30, entry is only available to those who have booked an online time slot, after which it's a queueing system, with people often queuing for hours before doors open. Our tip would be to book online as early as possible to give you as much time as possible to enjoy all the things to do in Amsterdam.
Keukenhof Tulip Fields
If you time your Dutch holiday just right, the tulip fields in Keukenhof are not to be missed.
Only open for 8 weeks a year, the tulip fields bloom between late March and early May and they're worth a visit just for the Instagram photo opportunities. It's also a great place to take smaller children if you're planning a family trip to the Netherlands, with plenty of parks and playgrounds to tire out even the most active kids.
For something altogether more adult, why not spend an evening trying some jenever ‐ The Netherlands' signature take on gin ‐ on your Amsterdam holiday.
Tucked away down Pijlsteeg, just off Dam Square, is Wynand Fockink, a traditional jenever tasting tavern. You can try from over seventy different varieties and you're encouraged to try the traditional way, hands-free, from a tulip-shaped glass. Trust us, there's an art to it, we just haven't figured it out yet.
The Red Light District
Finally, what visit to Amsterdam would be complete without a visit to the Red Light District? Known locally as De Wallen, it's home to coffee shops, legalised prostitution, peep shows, sex shops and just about anything in between.
Perhaps not one to take the inlaws to.
Millions of tourists flock here every year and, even if you're not into what the Red Light District has to offer, we still recommend doing what we did and booking yourself onto a walking tour. We booked with AmsterdamRedLightDistrictTour.com, who were friendly and informative, talking us through some crazy places without making the whole affair feel sordid on seedy.
Whatever your pleasure, it's catered for in Amsterdam.
And that's a wrap on our time in Amsterdam. We hope we've given you a taste of just some of the amazing things to see and do in this spectacular city. But reading about it and experiencing it first hand are two very different things, so treat yourself and travel better to Amsterdam. If you enjoyed this, why not check out our travel guides to other Vancouver, Tenerife and Venice.
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