Amsterdam has got to be one of my favourite European cities. I still remember taking my first trip there and being so nervous! Everyone had told me stories about the Red Light District, of course, but no one had told me about the beauty that lied beyond.
Don’t get me wrong, the Red Light District is wild, and you should definitely check it out, but don’t neglect the rest of the city! Amsterdam has so much to offer to people from all walks of life. The city is a peaceful abyss during the day, among calm canals and the eccentric flower markets that float along them. And it certainly transforms at when the sun sets, becoming loud and vibrant; if you ask me, the real city that never sleeps is Amsterdam.
Writing this already has me filled with nostalgic and I cannot wait to head back! If you plan on visitng this incredible city sometime soon, keep on reading as this guide will point you towards some of the best sights, eats, and sleeps in the city!
Population: 820, 654
Country: Netherlands (also referred to as Holland)
Pretty much everyone in Amsterdam speaks English, however if you want to try impressing the locals with your Dutch, here are a few phrases to get you started…
Hello – Hallo
Please – Alstublieft (AHL-stu-BLEEFT)
Thank You – Dank je (DANK ya)
Yes – Ja
No – Nee
Cheers – Proost
When to Visit
Amsterdam is beautiful year round. Blanketed in snow during the winter or blossoming with fresh flowers in the Spring, there’s never a bad time to visit. High season starts to pick up in May and usually runs until August. The weather during the busy summer months is usually between 20-26 degrees Celsius. Tulip season runs from March to May, making April my personal favourite time to visit. The flowers will be fresh, the tourist traffic low, and the weather just right. Another beautiful and quiet time to visit is during the fall. The canals begin to calm down as the leaves change colour, prices, tourism, and temperatures have dropped, making it the perfect time to find a cute café and cozy up!
Prior to Arrival (What to Pack)
If you haven’t already figured it out, Amsterdam is a very liberal and very tolerant city. That being said, anything goes in terms of wardrobe. If there was any city to truly express yourself with bold clothing, Amsterdam is the perfect place to do it. It takes a lot to get people to look twice in this city, so there really are minimal restrictions on what you can and cannot wear. Depending on the season, clothing will vary, however it’s always wise to pack a light jacket even in the summer as it can still get chilly sometimes.
You’ll also need a European voltage convertor when visiting Amsterdam. Be sure to pick one up before you leave or risk paying triple the price once you land overseas!
It’s also no secret that marijuana is legal in Amsterdam. That being said; do not pack your own bongs, pipes, etc. Seriously, it’s not worth the fight at airport security and you’ll probably end up buying yourself one as a reminder of your wild trip to the city. Continue reading for more safety tips on drugs in Amsterdam.
Upon landing at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, you have a few options available to get to your intended destination. By far the easiest and cheapest is the train. A train ticket will set you back only 5 euro and a direct railway line connects Schiphol airport with Amsterdam Central Station; literally in the middle of the city and within walking distance to most of the popular hotels. If your hotel isn’t within walking distance of Central Station, don’t worry, Amsterdam is a very accessible city and their public transit is very comprehensive. Everyone at Central Station is also very helpful, so if you get lost, don’t be afraid to ask! Airport shuttles are also available for many hotels in the city, if you’re looking for the fastest and simplest route. Shuttle prices range anywhere from 15-30 euro.
Where to Stay
The entire central area of Amsterdam, known as the “inner canal belt” is a UNESCO World Heritage site, which takes 30 minutes to walk end to end from. Therefore, it really doesn’t matter where you stay as, as long as you’re within this inner canal belt, you’ll be within walking distance to everything. However, here are a few of my top picks to get your search started!
De L’Europe is one of the finest luxury hotels in all of Amsterdam. This stunning hotel is centrally located overlooking the Amstel River. You can even enjoy the incredible views while having a dance party in your room thanks to the Bose sound systems installed throughout the guest rooms and bathrooms. Breathtaking from inside and out, this hotel will take your breath away and certainly worth the splurge.
The historical Pulitzer hotel is perfect for those searching for luxury outside the ordinary. This accommodation is actually twenty five 17th and 18th century canal houses that have been refurbished into a stunning hotel. These canal houses were once home to lavish Dutch aristocrats and set the scene for business deals between trade merchants, making this hotel the perfect pick for anyone looking for a truly unique Amsterdam experience!
For those looking for a more budget friendly option, the ibis Amsterdam is the perfect choice! Once again this hotel is located right in the heart of the city centre and only a 15 minute train ride from the airport. The rooms here offer lower rates with the same stunning view making it the perfect pick for budget travelers.
This midrange hotel is located right by Dam Square and just a quick walk to Central Station. Once again providing stunning views of the canal and the downtown core, this hotel is actually currently being updated in order to better serve guests; however remains open for bookings!
Where to Eat
FEBO Vending Machines
Okay definitely not the healthiest, and probably not the tastiest, but still a must try when visiting Amsterdam. The FEBO vending machines are scattered all around the city and cherished by the locals. For less than 2 euros you can get all kinds of fried snacks, burgers, and krokets!
Street Vendors and Snack Bars
Some of the tastiest snacks in the city come from the streets, including Stroopwafels and chips with patatje oorlog, which is a sauce mix of mayo, sate sauce, and onions.
The Sky Lounge sits at the top of the Double Tree hotel in the city centre. The perfect place to grab some quick appetizers and enjoy one of the most breath-taking views of the city.
The Pancake Bakery
This is the perfect spot to hit up for some of the most amazing breakfast in the city; including the local decadence, Dutch pancakes! Seriously, you have not tasted pancakes until you’ve eaten Dutch pancakes in Amsterdam. Be sure to try poffertjes; mini pancakes covered in butter and sugar.
Restaurant Haesje Claes
One of the top rated restaurants in the city, Haesje Claes offers many traditional Dutch dishes made to perfection.
Things to do
Visit the Anne Frank House
This is something you absolutely must do if you’re in Amsterdam. The touching museum takes you through the house of Anne Frank and narrates the events that took place there during the war. Be sure to buy your tickets in advance to avoid the long lines.
Stroll through Vondelpark
The most popular park in the city, and arguably one of the most beautiful in Europe, pick a nice day, unplug, and take in the scenic park.
Go on a Canal Cruise
Another must do in Amsterdam! The city is renowned for the beautiful canals and one of the best ways to see the city is from the water. There are dozens of cruise lines offering hour long cruises or dinner cruises. I highly recommend doing a dinner cruise. The food tastes even better on the canals and the sunset views make it well worth the price of admission! I personally recommend Blue Boat cruises.
The most famous museum in Amsterdam, even if you’re not a museum person, you have to pay it a quick visit! The building itself is almost as stunning as the pieces inside it.
If you’re really not a museum person, you’ll certainly still get a kick out of this one. This museum walks visitors through the history of sex throughout the ages. Of course this museum is home to some rather interesting material, so if you’re sensitive to those types of things, maybe skip this one, but it is Amsterdam after all!
Visit the Flower Market
Tulip season in Amsterdam brightens up the entire city and makes the canals even more beautiful! The Flower Market is situated on the edge of the canal and is stunning year round, however in the spring when the tulips blossom it’s even more stunning.
Ride a Bike through the City
Amsterdam is one of the most bike friendly cities in the world; you’ll see massive bike “parking lots” all around the city with thousands of bikes in them! Bikes are available for rent pretty much on every corner and there are many places that will even do bike tours!
Try the Heineken Experience
The headquarters of Heineken are located right in the heart of this city that certainly appreciates its beer. Best of all, you can take a tour through the facility and see just how this delicacy is crafted and even try some at the end!
Visit a Coffeeshop
A coffeeshop in Amsterdam is where most people head to smoke up and enjoy the laid back vibe of the city. As I said previously, although cannabis is legal in Amsterdam, there are still necessary precautions to take. For one, don’t buy it off the street and stay away from the hard drugs, stick to the weed and get it from a public coffeeshop. If you’ve never had experience with cannabis before ask the staff at the coffee shop, they’ll be more than happy to help you out. Check out this article for more tips on using cannabis safely in Amsterdam.
**It’s also important to note that “Coffeeshops” are different from “cafes”. Cafes are just like any other cafe found around the world; don’t go in here looking to buy cannabis, you won’t find it here and you’re bound to annoy some employees. Be sure to head to a coffeeshop if you’re looking to try a space cake.
Visit the Red Light District
Once the sun has gone down and the city really comes alive it’s time to pay a visit to the famous and bustling Red Light District. Forget everything anyone has ever told you about what to expect in the Red Light District, even me! In order to enjoy this unique experience it’s important you go in with an open mind. Red Light District Tours does walking tours of the area and if you’re feeling truly adventurous you can check out a live sex show.
Photos You Can’t Leave Without
I Amsterdam Sign
The I Amsterdam slogan has quickly become an icon of the city, attracting thousands of tourists to pose for an Instagram worthy picture. There are a couple different slogans located around the city, many of them travelling to different locations depending on events happening, however the biggest and most popular letters are located just behind the Rijksmuseum.
The bridges that hover over the canals are a traditional beautiful shot of Amsterdam. To capture something even more amazing head to the intersection of Keizersgracht and Reguliersgracht and look down the canal in order to see 7 bridges lined up in a row.
Located right in Dam Square, the Royal Palace is one of the three palaces still used by the Dutch Royal family today. The Palace is stunning in itself and if you’re lucky you might catch some special guests taking part in special receptions.
Amsterdam Central Station
Central Station is one of the most beautiful buildings in the entire city, but it’s sometimes overshadowed by the heavy crowds and busy nature of the train station. Don’t let the buildings stunning architecture go unnoticed during your visit to the city. Be sure to take a moment to look up and snap a quick shot of the details!
I hope you guys enjoyed the city guide! I really enjoyed doing this and I’m going to be doing many more in the future. If you have any requests for specific cities, please comment them below and enjoy Amsterdam! 🙂