Amsterdam. How that one word means so many different things to so many different people.
Whether your version of the word focuses more on the gabled Golden Age buildings crisscrossed by canals and bridges or the Red Light District windows and cannabis selling coffeeshops, there is something to delight and entertain everyone.
Amsterdam, the capital city and most populous city of the Netherlands, grew from a small fishing village in the late 12th-century, to a flourishing city in the 17th-century Golden Age. This was the time of Rembrandt and canals. Centraal Station and the Rijksmuseum followed later in the 19th-century before WWI, the Great Depression and WWII took their toll. The more “relaxed” 60s and 70s later moved aside for a period of gentrification on the one hand and immigration on the other. Nowadays the city is a mix of the old and the new—perfect for the visiting traveller.
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There is much more to Amsterdam than its canals and crooked buildings.
Art lovers (Amsterdam for Art Lovers Itinerary) will have their breath taken away at museums such as the Hermitage Museum, the Civic Guards Gallery, De Appel Art Centre and The Six Collection. And that’s before even mentioning the famous Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, Museum Het Rembrandthuis and the Stedelijk Museum.
There is plenty in the city for history fanatics as well. Maybe you prefer the upper class splendour of the Koninklijk Paleis (Amsterdam for First-Timers Itinerary), the Museum Willet-Holthuysen and the Museum van Loon or the more challenging side, such as the Anne Frank House (Amsterdam in 12 Hours Itinerary) and the Resistance Museum.
Of course a trip to the city is not complete without some entertainment. For some that means heading to the Red Light District, going on a coffee shop tour or visiting the Sex Museum. For others it is as simple as spending time in Vondelpark, making a selfie with the I amsterdam letters or visiting NEMO, the science museum, with the kids (Family-Friendly Amsterdam).
The categories of art, history and entertainment have enough content to keep you busy for days and that’s not even all the city has to offer.
There’s food to discover (Ten Iconic Dutch Foods Itinerary). Yes, despite the ample number of steakhouses dotted around the city centre, there are unique and delicious dishes to try. Stroopwafels, poffertjes, fresh herring, drop (black liquorice in all shapes, textures and flavours), apple pie and fries with a multitude of sauces.
There are outdoor places to explore, like Artis Zoo, and small museums to find. Discover a hidden church in an attic, a bag and purse museum and a cat shelter on a houseboat. Oh, the places that await you! You must be excited to get started.
The best way to enjoy the City is to explore a little of both its extremes. It’s a wonderful place to discover—beautiful, old, new, educational, amusing, sometimes shocking—but never dull!
While travellers traditionally visit Amsterdam in the summer, the city is active and enjoyable the whole year round. In the tabs below, you will find further information to help you select the best time of year to visit Amsterdam.
To really enjoy Amsterdam, you will want to book around five days. Shorter trips are by no means impossible, however, the vast number of museums and historic locations typically require a little more time than 24-48 hours. Also keep in mind that many of the more famous locations, the Anne Frank House for example, is limited on the number of people that can be inside at one time, meaning you may need to wait before being allowed in. Longer trips are always an option and the small size of the country and good public transport options, makes it easy to venture out of the city to other nearby locations…or countries.
You will find plenty to do in Amsterdam all year round. However, from the moment the flowers begin to bloom in the bulb fields at the end of March, until the end of August can be considered the high season in Amsterdam. Be aware that it is becoming more common for restaurant and shop owners to close for a few weeks during/towards the end of the summer for a holiday. While you won’t go hungry nor run out of shopping opportunities, if you have a specific place in mind to visit during or at the end of summer, you would be wise to check the venue’s website to ensure they will be open.
Amsterdam has four seasons – spring, summer, autumn, and fall. Winters, while cold, often only feature a few days of snow and dreams of the Elfstedentoch are likely to remain just that…dreams. Summers can be warm, with periods of hot and humid weather. When it comes to the weather in Amsterdam, three things are almost certain – one, if you don’t like the weather, wait a few hours and it will probably change; two, you never know exactly what you are going to get; three, there will probably be some rain at some point.
One of the things that the Netherlands, and therefore Amsterdam, does not benefit from is large numbers of national holidays. New Year’s Day (January 1st) and “first” and “second” Christmas Day (December 25th and December 26th) are the obvious ones. In May, Ascension Day, Whit Sunday and Whit Monday are also observed. Two days are also reserved for Easter and April 27th is the famous King’s Day (not to be confused with April 30th, which used to be Queen’s Day). May 4th and May 5th are Remembrance Day and Liberation Day respectively. As to who has those days off and what places are closed varies quite a bit (even from year to year), so best to check with the places you intend to visit before making firm plans.
December 5th – Sinterklaas, while not a national holiday, is a widely celebrated holiday and many Dutch people will take the day off. New Year’s Eve is often one big party with many fireworks going off throughout the day and at midnight itself.
Amsterdam is in the Central European Time zone (UTC/GMT 1) in the winter and Central European Summer Time zone (UTC/GMT 2) in the summer. Daylight savings time is observed.
If you are visiting Amsterdam in the summer you will want to bring suntan lotion and mosquito repellant. If you plan to be out and about in nature during the summer and early-autumn then you need to be careful for ticks. Don’t forget your travel adapter – the European, two round pins plug is used here as is 230 voltage. An umbrella (or rain gear) is also usually handy to have.
As major European cities go, Amsterdam is on the medium to high-side when it comes to prices. However, a lot does depend on the season and where you go. Overall you will find a wide range of price options for eating out, accommodation, and shopping. Attraction prices can be minimised by taking advantage of the I amsterdam City Card and the Museum Card. In the tabs below, you will find further information about all things money-related in Amsterdam.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in €.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
€ => Tickets less than €15 per person
€€ => Tickets €15- €30 per person
€€€ => Tickets €30 per person
Sleep — Out of town/rural
€ => Rooms less than €60 for a double
€€ => Rooms €60 – €100 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €100 for a double
Sleep — Large Cities
€ => Rooms less than €100 for a double
€€ => Rooms €100 – €150 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €150 for a double
€=> €5- €10 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€ => €10 – €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€€ => €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
€ => Tickets less than €25 per person
€€ => Tickets €25 – €50 per person
€€€ => Tickets €50 per person
As a member of the European Union, the Netherlands currency is the Euro (EUR). It is possible to exchange money at the airport or specific currency exchange points around the city.
For most travellers, pulling Euros out of the ATM is also possible — and this is often the cheapest way to do it. Credit cards (Visa and Mastercard) are accepted at most locations, but you do usually need a chip version of the card. Travellers cheques are not advised.
Tipping, while accepted, is not required in the Netherlands. After good service 5-10% is more than sufficient. One or two Euros for hotel porters is normal.
Amsterdam benefits from an extensive public transport network — including buses, trams, metro, ferries, and trains — and it is well worth taking advantage of them. Tickets can be bought at stations and onboard trams and buses. Don’t forget to scan in and out as you travel. Getting to and from Amsterdam Schiphol airport is easily done with the train. Tickets are available at the airport. In the tabs below, you will find further information to help you get around during your trip to Amsterdam.
The national rail service website, as well as the 9292 route planner will help you move around the city (and country) with ease. If you wish to travel to other countries from the Netherlands via train, then you can use the NS International website to plan and book your tickets.
Biking is part of life in the Netherlands and numerous bike rental shops will allow you to experience the city on two wheels. Some words of advice if you do cycle:
– Familiarise yourself with the biking rules.
– Be aware of pedestrians.
– Remember what your bike looks like and exactly where you parked it.
– Always lock your bike.
Driving in Amsterdam is not for the faint-hearted nor those on a budget. Small roads, often one-way with a canal on one side and cars on the other, can test even the strongest of nerves. Petrol prices are some of the highest in the world and parking is an expensive challenge. If you must drive in the city, remember to always be on the lookout for cyclists and learn about the priority from the right rule. Parking outside of parking garages is paid using your mobile phone or at nearby machines — you’ll need your license plate number when doing so.
Taxis can be booked via telephone or directly outside many train stations and hotels. They tend to be on the expensive side.
The main transportation hub in Amsterdam is Amsterdam Centraal Station. In addition to the trains, you will also find departure points for the metro and trams. Taxis and buses also depart from this area, and several of the canal cruise companies run services from the pier across from the tram tracks.
Visitors to Amsterdam can take advantage of the I amsterdam City Card. The card gives access to unlimited public transport, free entry to Amsterdam’s best museums and attractions, and lots of great discounts and offers. The cards last for a specific amount of time (24 hours, 48 hours, etc.) and vary in price depending on the length of duration you are purchasing.
Tickets can be bought at stations and onboard trams and buses. Don’t forget to scan in and out as you travel.
Tips and Hints:
– While Amsterdam is quite a compact city, there are many alleyways and side roads that can lead even the best navigator astray. If you find yourself “lost” one too many times, try utilising public transport to get from location to location.
– Amsterdam has a multitude of wonderful museums, but if you plan to visit many of them you are likely to feel it in your wallet. Consider buying the Museum Card. For a fixed price you’ll have access to over 400 museums — including many of the major ones. The Museum Card can be bought online or at participating museums, and while all the accompanying information is in Dutch, there is nothing stopping visitors from taking advantage of the card.
– Be conscious of the bike paths. Usually reddish in colour and running next to the pavement, step into them at your peril. This rookie mistake is likely to get you yelled at, if not injured.
– When boarding and exiting trams, specific doors are used for each. This isn’t optional, so don’t even bother trying.
– Opening times are shorter on Sundays and, for many places, on Mondays as well. Some museums are closed on Mondays, so the best advice is to check the website of the venue you plan to visit before you head out.