this section, we describe the things travelers need to know about: getting around
Amsterdam, notes on lodging, dining tips, help finding the best
shopping areas, the age for
drinking (and "smoking"), and a host of
suggestions for making the most of your time in Amsterdam.
If you only have a day in Amsterdam keep reading below. If that
isn't of interest, find the rest of our travel tips on the menu to the
right and read away. Don't forget our section on
Daytrips from Amsterdam.
If you want to see Amsterdam, but just have a few hours between flights,
take the train from the Airport to the Centraal Train Station where you can
catch a taxi to the Van Gogh Museum. From there, walk back to the
Masterpieces at the Rijksmuseum. Next hop a taxi to the Anne Frank Huis and
then on to some nearby shopping.
will end your day close to the Centraal Station where you can catch the
train back to Schiphol. If you have more time, take a canal cruise or wander
to the Dam and then through the Red Light District to catch some of the
local color on your way to the Centraal Station. You won't see all of the
city, but you will see some of its treasures. (Look at our page on
Best Places to Visit in Amsterdam for descriptions
of these attractions).
Unfortunately, several of the city's top attractions are undergoing
renovations during 2013. Always check locally for the most up-to-date
information. We provide the address of the official websites of all the
major attractions to help you keep current.
If you are not in a rush to get to some other place in Europe, take a couple
of days to get to know this delightful city. Amsterdam is best seen by
walking, riding the streetcars and the occasional use of a canal boat. A
leisurely stroll reveals more about the heart and soul of this city than you
can experience any other way. If you are short on time, take public
transportation. Whatever you do, do not try to drive to or in
Amsterdam. The city is not a car-friendly location and you will pay a
great deal to park your vehicle during your explorations.
We have created a new
street map of Amsterdam showing the locations of the
Best Places to visit in Amsterdam. It is based on Google Maps and can be
viewed as a map, satellite image or a hybrid of the two. Click the "hybrid
button" on the map, select the Dam, zoom in close and you can see images of
people milling around..
One key to conquering the city is to
take advantage of its efficient public transportation. Riding the
streetcars is the fastest
way around, although renting a bicycle is probably the best
way to get around. Walking is very enjoyable here, especially on weekends as the city is
usually crowded, fun and noisy.
After you arrive in Amsterdam, stop in the transport ticket office next to
the Information Center (just across from the Centraal Train Station
) and buy
a OV-chipcart or other ticket. See this official site for more information on the
tickets for public transit.
Click to see the Information Center on a
You can also use the canals for transportation and, if this is of
interest to you, consider purchasing a Hop-On, Hop-Off Day Pass for one of
the canal cruisers. The canals are a more expensive and slower way to
travel, so you might just want to settle for a simple one-hour sightseeing
The legal drinking age in the Netherlands for alcoholic beverages
with less than 15% alcohol by volume (e.g. beer) is 16 years. You must
be 18 to drink spirits with more than 15% alcohol by volume (vodka or other
"hard" liquors). If you are going to drink while in Amsterdam, do so
in bars or cafes, as drinking in public is illegal.
Visitors older than 18 can from buy up to 5 grams of cannabis and
at the licensed, "brown" coffee shops found around the city. You
can smoke the cannabis at the shop and have a coffee, or you can take it
with you. Rumor has it that this "weed" may be much stronger than
that which you are used to consuming at home, so be careful with your
It is hard to miss the club scene in Amsterdam and you will likely meet
someone who can recommend the best spots. However, if you are looking for
specific information on "clubbing" in Amsterdam, the
DJ Guide lists bands and the venues at which they are appearing by day of the week.
as well as providing links to the websites of the clubs mentioned.
Amsterdam has a number of good restaurants and a great variety of
cuisines. If you like steak, try one of the many Argentinean steak
houses (steak in pepper sauce is a popular entree). Another of the Amsterdamers' favorite cuisines is the Indonesian Ristafel (rice table) and
a number of fantastic Indonesian restaurants can be found in the city.
When looking for a meal, you might be interested in trying an eetcafé,
a small, neighborhood restaurant. The fare, frequently limited to Dutch or
other ethnic cuisine, can be quite good. The prices are competitive
and sometimes bargains. By the way Amsterdam's "brown cafés"
(bruin cafés) are bars and similar to pubs in
London. You can find a limited food selection at brown cafes, but if
you are hungry, try an eetcafé.
If you have a taste for Falafel served in a pita, Amsterdam has some of the best this side of
the Middle East. We recommend the
Maoz shops. They are small, crowded and the service is brusque,
but your meal will be worth the wait. By the way, there is seating only along the window
counters and this is a meal that you want to eat while seated, because these
are big, sloppy (but delicious) servings of falafel, along with your
selection of veggies and sauce in a fresh pita. So, bear with the crowd
and grab the first seat that becomes available.
One final note, although the breakfast buffets are expensive in
Amsterdam, they are more convenient that searching for an open restaurant in
the early morning hours in Central Amsterdam. For those who want something
less than a buffet, there is a McDonald's on Kalverstraat near the Dam, or
you can find pastries in shops throughout the central city.
is widely available in Amsterdam in
the form of hostels, hotels, bed & breakfasts, and guest houses (especially
on the canals). The cost of lodging in Amsterdam is often higher on weekends
than during the week, which should tell you something about the town and its
frenetic weekend activity. If you are booking over the weekend in
summer, you may find both the city and your accommodations noisy at
night - but isn't that a good reason to visit?
Major hotels and hostels are clustered around the Dam, the Centraal Train Station and
the Museumplein. Smaller independent hotels and guest houses can be found along many of the
city's canals. Some travelers prefer to stay outside the central city
while others prefer to lodge in the delightful town of
Haarlem and "train" to Amsterdam.
We are constantly amused by the hotel ratings in Amsterdam. We
think the "star" ratings applied to many, but not all, hotels are inflated.
We have stayed at several four- star establishments that we would have
generously rated at three-stars, some only two. So do your homework
and see what other travelers have to say.
There is shopping everywhere you turn in Amsterdam, but you might
appreciate the collection of trendy stores arranged along and around Kalverstraat,
starting at the Dam and running down to the Muntplein. There is also a
nice collection of shops about two blocks south of the
Vondelpark, on PC Hoofstraat. These are high-end stores, so bring your
plastic, although window-shopping would be better for your budget.
Next, north of the Anne Frankhuis, the area along Prinsenstraat and
Herenstraat (which run between Prinsengracht and Herengracht) seems to be
evolving into a trendy neighborhood. It now includes shops, cafes and
restaurants, following the path of the
Nine Streets shopping area which is close by (but south of the Anne
Those of you who are interested in flea markets, might
want to stop at the Waterlooplein, to the east of the center of Amsterdam.
The area hosts a daily flea market where a variety of objects are sold,
although clothing, jewelry and "junque" predominate.
might also be interested in the
Noordermarkt for its Saturday farmers market in the Jordaan area, a
colorful section of the city labeled "bohemian" by some and "trendy" by
When you tire of the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam, we suggest you
a walk in the Vondelpark at the edge of the tourist area of the city.
We find it a relaxing place and in the summers it offers free evening
concerts that are quite popular. The park also provides numerous
play areas for the kids.
We suppose this should go under our dining category, but it is likely that
you will find some excellent bakeries as you traverse the city. The
pastry in Amsterdam can be excellent and, at least for us, is always a lure
to take a break from shopping. You know, there is almost no
problem that can't be solved with a coffee and a sweet roll (or something
even more damaging).
Finally, bring or buy an umbrella; rain seems to be common in Amsterdam
regardless of the season. Cold and moist in the winter, Amsterdam can be
warm and humid in the summer. Early or late in the season seems to be
the best time to visit.
Amsterdam is centrally located and daytrips to surrounding areas in the
Netherlands (e.g. Delft, the
Haarlem), as well as to
Brussels and Antwerp in Belgium are highly recommended. Trains are the easiest way to
travel to these areas, but having a car provides more flexibility.
While you can easily see Bruges in a day, if you have more time
you should overnight to see its canals and the buildings that ring
them, as they are spectacular when illuminated.
If you are going to visit Amsterdam during the spring, think about
taking a daytrip to the Keukenhof Gardens outside of the city.
When the bulbs start flowering, the area is stunning. Even if you do
not garden, you should know that this
attracts visitors from around the world and it is a very unique place when
the tulips are in bloom. The season is short
(usually mid-March through mid-May), so visit if you are in the area in
Browse the official
Keukenhof website for more information.
Opening day for the next season at the Keukenhof is March 20, 2012.
The gardens will
remain open until May 20, 2012 and the park's famous parade will next be
held on April 21, 2012.
Return to the
Best Places to Visit in Amsterdam
Return to the
Best Places to Visit in The Netherlands
If you need information about another travel destination, try
Destination Guide Index
or Googling ThereArePlaces.