As an attractive city filled with canals and quirky architecture (in addition to more than enough adventure activities), Amsterdam creates an ideal weekend getaway (or perhaps an a longer stint). Here's some practical advice, tricks, and tips for visiting Amsterdam.
Hopefully, they will be useful whether it's the first time in the town, or whether it's your hundredth- after all, we all need little reminders every once in a while! After all, there are plenty of Amsterdam mistakes that you could easily make by accident if you’ve never visited the city before!
Editor’s note: If you’re seeking to benefit from the best of Amsterdam, you might well consider investing in the Amsterdam Pass. Though just a little pricier than other tickets, the card (from 1-5 days) grants you free access to over 30 top attractions within the city, as well as further reductions while offering on other tours and guided excursions.
The the easy way find out if the Pass fits your needs is as simple as adding up the need for all the attractions you intend to see and appearance whether or not you’ll save money. Another point worth noting would be that the Pass provides you with use of a hop-on-hop-off bus and boat tours are included in the price of the pass. Check full details for that Amsterdam Pass here.
#1 Mind the cyclists!
Everywhere you look, you’ll find a large number of cyclists, going all directions (and also at all speeds). Before crossing the road, exponentially increase check as people in Amsterdam pedal through the city via bicycles at great speed. If you’re likely to visit a lot of sites while in the city and you don’t wish to cycle (or walk) the entire time, then you might consider purchasing an Amsterdam trains and buses ticket.
#2 Rent a bike
And while we're about cycling, among the best strategies for visiting Amsterdam I'm able to give you, is you attempt a cycling adventure of your own whilst in the city! You can easily rent a bicycle at one of the numerous cycle hire shops dotted around the city (look around to source the best deal).
When renting a bike, you can easily set off exploring for a day or two, or simply rent the bicycle for just a couple of hours! Cycle around to see the outskirts from the city, explore the parks, or even take a excursion from Amsterdam via bike. Renting a bike will even permit you to cycle in to the Dutch countryside should you so wish.
#3 Keep close track of your belongings
Like almost every other capital in Europe (and the rest of the world), Amsterdam has no shortage of opportunist pickpocketers who won't hesitate to pluck that phone or wallet out of your open handbag. Keep an eye on your stuff, use a saddlebag as opposed to a rucksack and make sure everything zips up properly! Quite simply: be sensible.
#4 Be ready for all weathers (rain, sun, and everything in between!)
In an earlier post 'what to bring along for Amsterdam', I alluded to the fact that you've got to be ready for all-weather when it comes to the town. In the winter, you may expect snow, while in the summer you may expect lots of sunshine (using the occasional shower). And in the ‘shoulder’ seasons?
Well, expect a variety in the freezing cold to the sweltering heat. It’s best to pack an umbrella, and lots of layers it is simple to alter depending on the weather! Like many European cities, Amsterdam is a place best explored by walking and so you’ll also require a sturdy pair of walking shoes.
#5 Discover the difference between coffee houses and cafés!
Don’t be like me and embarrass yourself by accidentally saying the incorrect one (when whatever you wanted to do was find a good destination to morning cappuccino). Learn and remember the difference. In the end, there is only one extremely important difference: one is for your regular latté (cafés) and the other is to can buy and smoke weed (and hash- the coffee houses).
#6 Bring the digital camera along
Many of the canalside houses in Amsterdam date all the way to the city's golden age, and as such, they are old, quirky and delightful. You can visit several of these ancient homes in the form of house museums, dotted around the city and photographing them creates an excellent souvenir. Here’s a guide to the best travel photography gear for the European adventures!
#7 Just don't photograph those working in the sore point district.
It is illegal (not to mention entirely disrespectful) to photograph those working in the Red Light District from the city. Just don’t get it done.
#8 Cut costs by enjoying a picnic in the park
Though I did not find Amsterdam nearly as expensive for visit as cities such as London or Paris, there will always be ways you can save money (in order to splurge on museum visits or day trips, or nicer accommodation). One of the ways we managed to save money in Amsterdam during our visit, was by enjoying picnics around the block, with ingredients purchased from local supermarkets.
When it comes to green spaces in the city, among the largest (and most impressive) parks in the city is Vondelpark. The luxurious green 45-hectare area creates an excellent picnic spot and a wonderful spot to escape the crowds of the city centre, especially if you’re exploring the Dutch capital by bike.
#9 Plan your accommodation well in advance
It shojuld not be a surprise for you that the limited size of Amsterdam (the city's waterways and the sheer volume of people limit new construction within the city centre) means that space is tight. For any particularly unusual experience while in the Dutch capital, here’s my help guide to the very best of Amsterdam houseboats you can actually remain in!
In to make sure the best accommodation, book well ahead of time. Many of the essential for those seeking to visit at high season (ie, throughout the Summer months and through school holidays). Check accommodation prices in Amsterdam here.
#10 Also, try some street food
And while we’re on the subject of eating, make sure to try some of the street food available in the town (also is a terrific way to cut costs while visiting Amsterdam). A nearby speciality in Amsterdam is frites (also referred to as patat and they come with a heavenly mayonnaise sauce). Stroopwaffles are also incredibly well-liked (as well as the regular kind).
#11 Check out a museum/ gallery (or two)
There are over seventy-five official museums and galleries dotted throughout Amsterdam and it is surrounds. Though, of course, brand new ones are appearing all the time! Consequently, there's virtually something for everyone! If you’re looking to go to a number of cultural spaces while in the city, maybe you might consider purchasing an I Amsterdam City Card.
From the kitty Cabinet (yep, focused on all things feline-related) towards the Our Lord within the Attic (a captivating church preserved in the attic of the 17th-century townhouse at a negative balance light district), there’s something for everyone to savor. If you’re looking for small museums to visit in Amsterdam, I’ve previously written a short guide!
#12 Try some local food!
You can't visit Amsterdam and never sample at least a bit of its world-famous cuisine and speciality foods. A large number of iconic cheese (Gouda, Edam and Leerdammer-to name but a few) and also the everlasting brand Heineken all originate in the Netherlands.
You may even take part in the 'Heinekenn Experience', learning about beer brewing and the good reputation for the famous brand. In a variety of cheese shops through the city, there’s ample opportunity to try local cheese in weird and wonderful flavours, including pesto, pepper, as well as weed!
#13 Check out the tulips in Amsterdam
Throughout the town, you will find vibrant flower markets, dating back to a time when just one tulip bulb was as worth as much as a house (yes, this really happened!) Visit a minimum of a flower market or two while you're within the city and when you’re planning a visit during the Holland Tulip Season (late March- Early May) there are plethora of tulip-related attractions and activities worth looking at.
For people who desire to enjoy the better of beautiful blooms be sure to have a day trip from the city to determine these lovely flowers in full bloom. Undoubtedly, a good option to determine the tulips (other than the tulip fields themselves) is in the ‘Garden of Europe,’ which you can find my full guide regarding how to visit Keukenhof here.
#14 Explore a few different neighbourhoods
Amsterdam is split into various districts, each with its own unique vibe- be sure to explore a minimum of several (either by bike or on foot). A personal favourite of mine is Jordaan- full of quiet streets and lots of space to cycle around- particularly useful if you’re a little rusty around the bike!
#15 You purchase beer through the half print in Amsterdam
As someone from the UK, who sees beer served by the pint regularly, it seemed odd in my experience that local brews are often served by the half-pint throughout the city. However, this makes sense as you can try multiple beers without getting intoxicated, meaning that you can thoroughly enjoy your Amsterdam experience! Certainly one of the best pubs in Amsterdam is that of Cafe de Sluyswacht, where you can even purchase vegan bitterballen along with your beer!
#16 Some of the best from the Netherlands is outside of Amsterdam
If you plan your visit to the Netherlands using the sole intention of exploring Amsterdam, this could be your first Amsterdam mistake. There are many excursions to be obtained from the Dutch capital and thanks to the simplicity of using trains and buses (as well as the affordable cost), hopping from city to city couldn’t be easier.
After all, within an hour’s train ride from the city, you’ll discover the architectural wonder of Rotterdam, the pretty University town of Leiden, and the Political city of The Hague. For those looking to visit the tulips, then your Keukenhof Gardens are just open for 2 months of the season and are best visited in April.
#17 Go in search of filming locations
Many a movie has been shot in Amsterdam and today, the filming locations are simply waiting to be explored. Perhaps most well-known of may be the Fault in Our Stars Bench, a place so ‘insta-famous’ it now has its very own geo-locations online and the like. For more TFIOS filming locations, check out my guide!
#18 Explore Amsterdam off the beaten path
Whether you’re a fan of little-known churches or you simply want to soak up all the history, there’s a unique and secret spot in Amsterdam for everyone to enjoy. One of the best places in Amsterdam (that isn’t a lot of a secret now as it only agreed to be a few years ago), is the Begijnhof Amsterdam, a basic courtyard that’s home to a few of the oldest residences in the city.
Otherwise, there are plenty of other stunning hofjes in Amsterdam, predominantly in the Jordaan district. And if you’re looking for the best entirely different perspective on the city, perhaps you might consider going for a city canal cruise. Lasting around 75 minutes, this meander along Amsterdam’s waterways enables you to definitely enjoy the city’s history via its many canals.
From the historical centre towards the skinny bridge, it’s an enjoyable way of spending an afternoon or morning. Another of my favourite secret spots in Amsterdam is the Oudemanhuispoort, a book market inside a hidden covered arcade. Finally, for a complete overlook at alternative Amsterdam, here’s my help guide to the best-kept strategies of Amsterdam.
#19 Don’t forget to create a universal travel adaptor along
If you’re going to the Netherlands in the USA, UK, Canda, and a plethora of other countries, then you need to realize that you’ll have to take along a travel adaptor. The plugs in The Netherlands are C and F. If you want to save money, then purchase this all-in-one travel adaptor that will allow you to use your electronics in over 150 countries!
#20 Purchase a Dutch phrasebook
Though you’ll soon realize that the Dutch are incredibly proficient at English, it’s only polite to learn several words from the local language in any country you’re visiting. Buy this Dutch phrasebook and you’ll soon have quick access to the commonly used little phrase that you might need during your Netherlands adventure!