Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Laura Cooper
Amsterdam is undoubtedly progressive but maintains a strong sense of past. Its rough edges are celebrated as quirky, and its friendly and accessible culture manifests in hip hangout spots, specialty shops, designer boutiques, and dance music festivals. In Amsterdam, bike riding is a way of life, where locals pedal past 200-year old canals; where friends linger over dinner surrounded by candles; where brown cafes are cozy spots to enjoy a beer; where simply talking a walk can introduce you to some of the city’s greatest charms. Dreaming of discovering the Netherlands’ capital city? We have the scoop on Amsterdam vacations.
Who Should Visit Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a popular spot for young adults wanting to experience the permissive culture of the Red Light District, dance the night away in LGBT bars or relax in a cannabis café. Those who enjoy cycling will delight in exploring this pretty city by bike. Art and history enthusiasts can pass time browsing the many museums and gazing at the stunning architecture, while photographers will find beauty in the famous tulips and canals. Amsterdam is a city of walking. Pop in and out of cafes and taste beer, chocolate, and cheeses. Enjoy the slow pace of simply meandering along and indulging as you see fit.
Things to do in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a top destination to admire art. The Van Gogh museum, Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt Museum, and the Stedelijk museum of modern art are world-class collections and prove that Amsterdam is more than its famed Red Light District. But the historic Red Light District remains a magnet that attracts many backpackers and those wanting to experience the sex and drug freedom that gives this area its notoriety. The Anne Frank Huis, Museum of Bags and Purses, EYE (the new film museum), and Hermitage Amsterdam are other attractions.
If you plan on visiting many museums, you may want to consider purchasing the I Amsterdam Card, a pass that gives you free admission to 38 museums including the Van Gogh Museum, Rembrandthuis Museum, and Hermitage Amsterdam, free public transport, a canal cruise, and discounts on attractions and restaurants.
A visit to Amsterdam calls for a picnic in Vondelpark, vintage shopping and indulging in local food found in shops and markets, people watching in Nieuwmarkt city square, and of course, a boat tour to see the city from the canals like a proper tourist. The Amsterdam Canal Bus Hop-On-Hop-Off pass is the perfect way to get introduced to the city. Choose from a 24-hour or 48-hour pass and enjoy regular service along Amsterdam’s canals with 19 stops near major attractions. For families, the Amsterdam Canals Pizza Cruise sails at twilight as you enjoy dinner, drinks, and dessert. Arrange Amsterdam day trips like food tours, bike tours, canoe adventures, and more to truly get a sense of the culture and beauty of the city.
If you would like to explore other areas of The Netherlands from Amsterdam, the Holland in One Day Sightseeing Tour brings you to the city of Rotterdam, Delft, and The Hague to visit landmarks with a professional guide. Enjoy a day trip to the beautiful Bruges in Belgium to explore the churches, canals, lace shops, and of course, chocolates, or opt for a trip to the famous Keukenhof Gardens to explore the vibrant tulip fields. If you’re near The Hague, Scheveningen is a modern seaside resort with a long sandy beach on the North Sea, popular for water sports and relaxing.
Other popular day trips:
- Amsterdam Super Saver: Zaanse Schans Windmills, Delft and The Hague Day Trip
- Zaanse Schans Windmills, Marken and Volendam Half-Day Trip from Amsterdam
- Amsterdam Super Saver 3: City Tour, Zaanse Schans Windmills, Volendam and Marken Day Trip
Where to Stay in Amsterdam
Find hotels near points of interest like the Central Train Station, Koniklijk Theatre, Madame Tussauds, the Red Light District, or one of the city’s many museums.
Blue Tower Hotel: 4 star
This Best Western hotel is located next to Bos en Lommerplein, a vibrant multicultural neighbourhood known for its outdoor market.
Holiday Inn Amsterdam: 4 star
Holiday Inn Amsterdam is conveniently located close to Sloterdijk Station, 10 minutes from the airport and 5 minutes from Amsterdam Central Station by train.
NH Amsterdam Centre: 4 star
This hotel located in the Museum Quarter is just a short walk to the Van Gogh museum and shops, cafes, and restaurants just across the street. The Anne France House is 10 minutes by bus.
Ibis Amsterdam Centre: 3 star
Just 15 minutes by train or tram to the RAI Convention Center and Schiphol Airport, Ibis Amsterdam Center is within walking distance to the Anne Frank House, Royal Palace on Dam Square, and canals, perfect for a leisurely stroll.
RHO Hotel: 3 star
The RHO hotel is a historic, Art-Deco style building in the heart of the old city, located a few steps from Dam square where you’ll find the Royal Palace and the New Church.
When should I go and for how long?
People usually visit Amsterdam for a couple of days before they head to another destination. Three days is ample for first-time visitors, however a week or more can be spent exploring the city to hit countless attractions. Lots of tourists visit during the summer months when daytime temperatures average 22C. Peak tulip time is mid-April, and springtime temperatures average 14C.
Many European tours stop in Amsterdam as part of a busy itinerary, and this is a common travel style for first-timers to the city. Other stops on an Amsterdam tour include cities like London, Paris, Brussels, and Frankfurt. Trafalgar’s Best of Holland tour is an 8-day adventure that starts and ends in Amsterdam and visits Keukenhof, The Hague, Delft, and Rotterdam among other cities. Many youth tours like Contiki Holidays (for those aged 18-35) visit Amsterdam as well.
River cruises are a great way to discover Amsterdam for those seeking a more sophisticated travel experience. Sail along the Rhine River and experience luxurious accommodations and onboard activities and entertainment, as well as guided onshore sightseeing. Amsterdam river cruises range from 8 to 28 days. Viking River Cruises’ 10-day itinerary, Tulips and Windmills, for example, begins and ends in the city. A private transfer from the cruise port to central Amsterdam can be arranged to bring you directly in the heart of the action.
Visitors can also arrange an Amsterdam vacation package, which includes flights and hotel stays.
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is the main international airport of the Netherlands and is the fourth largest in Europe. It is 18km southwest of the city center. Direct flights to Amsterdam are available from Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver and range from $820 to $1400 per person round-trip.
Once you arrive, Schiphol train station is located directly below the airport. The train takes 15-20 minutes to get into the core and brings you to Amsterdam Central Station (€3,30 one way).
Schiphol airport has many bus connections in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam Airport Express Bus (#197) takes 30 minutes (one way: €4,75) and can be taken from Schiphol Plaza in front of the arrivals and departures terminal. Both depart several times an hour (except for during the night). This bus takes you directly to Museumplein, Rijksmuseum or Leidseplein. There are also courtesy shuttle buses available for certain hotels. For those already travelling in Europe, a common route is to take a 7-hour train ride from London to Amsterdam. A taxi to the city center takes 20 to 30 minutes and costs €40-€50.
When you’re in the city, take a tram, hop-on-and-off canal bus boat, or rent a bike and get around like the locals. An Amsterdam Region Day Ticket can be purchased for €13,50 and lets you travel the metropolitan area for 24 hours by bus, metro, or tram.
A 4-star hotel during high season averages $170-$300 per night. Flights during high season range from $820 to $1400 per person round-trip. Amsterdam river cruises and tours start at $2001 and $1515 respectively. Lunch specials average €15, dinner in a casual restaurant is around €30 and dinner in fancy restaurant is around €50.
Language: Dutch, although most people speak English very well
Currency: The euro is the official currency. Tipping: €1-2 per bag for porters, 5-10% of the fare for taxis and restaurants or round up to the nearest euro