Traveling to Amsterdam? After visiting 5 times, here are my top Amsterdam travel tips to make your trip hassle-free.
How can anyone not like Amsterdam? The city is known for its pretty canals, narrow houses, cute bridges, plenty of bicycles, flowers, and an extremely liberal culture.
As per popular culture, Amsterdam is often portrayed as the city that’s the gateway to Europe for many 20 and 30-something travelers who start their Euro trips here. That’s actually not entirely true because Amsterdam is for people of all ages.
Amsterdam’s beauty definitely WOWs me, but there’s more. There’s so much to do here that literally, every kind of traveler will find something interesting to do while traveling in Amsterdam, that makes it special.
My travel style has changed over the years and I had as much fun in Amsterdam in July 2021 as I had in July 2014 even though I am now interested in different things.
Yes, Amsterdam is absolutely gorgeous and you will not be able to stop yourself from clicking hundreds of photos while you’re here (ahem, see my Amsterdam Instagram guide).
There are hundreds of things to do in Amsterdam, and no single travel article can list them all. Whether you’re traveling to Amsterdam alone or with your family, you will surely enjoy your time here.
I visited Amsterdam for the first time back in 2014 but one visit was not enough. I visited this glorious city just a few days back (July 2021) for the fifth time and I can’t stop thinking about it.
In fact, I’d love to visit it again in autumn and then again during the winter months. Experiencing Amsterdam’s ice skating rinks during Christmas time has been on my wishlist for years.
If you’re visiting Europe anytime soon, please do yourself a favor and include Amsterdam in your itinerary. However, keep in mind that your Amsterdam holidays can end up being super expensive if you don’t research enough.
After my multiple trips to Amsterdam, I have figured out many ways of saving money and time in this amazing city.
Based on my experience, I want to share my top travel tips for Amsterdam with you so that you can save some money while you’re there.
Whether you’re visiting Amsterdam for the first time or the tenth time, some of these tips are sure to help you while you’re there.
Planning a last-minute trip to Amsterdam? I have you covered with my tips of essential things to book in terms of tours and places to stay.
Amsterdam Tours and Activities to Prebook
- I Amsterdam City Card: If you have this then you don’t need to pay for the canal cruise, museums, and public transport.
- Amsterdam GVB Ticket for public transport: You can buy a public transport card per person per day to use for trams, metro, and buses.
- Amsterdam Canal Cruise: Get on a boat to tour the canals.
- Rijksmuseum entry: This is like the Lourve of Amsterdam, perhaps even better.
- Van Gogh Museum: A must-visit for those who love Vincent Van Gogh’s art.
Amsterdam Hotels for different budgets:
- PH Hotel Oosteinde: This hotel is comfortable and is near the skinny bridge. I love this area because there are plenty of restaurants but it isn’t as crazy loud as Dam Square. I stayed here in 2023.
- NH Hotel City Center: This is a luxurious hotel with all the amenities that one could ever need and a comfortable bed. I stayed here in 2017.
- Generator Amsterdam: A spacious hostel near Oostpark close to the canals but away from the loud Dam Square. I stayed here in 2021 and loved it.
- ClinkNoord: This hostel is in Amsterdam-Noord near the A’DAM Tower. I stayed here in 2017 and enjoyed it.
Table of Contents
1) Where are the best photo spots in Amsterdam?
It is 2023 and everyone likes to click memorable photos. We all have fancy phones or cameras and we all love posting photos on Instagram, right?
So where to go in Amsterdam for the best photos? I clicked the above photo in Damrak, near Amsterdam Centraal. It is perhaps the most famous photo spot in Amsterdam but there are so many others.
I will be a meanie and not tell you the other locations because I want you to read my latest post and that’s just about Amsterdam’s Instagram spots. Trust me, I found the best photo spots where one can click amazing photos without even a fancy camera because the locations are lovely.
2) Avoid Weekends, Weekdays = Cheaper Rooms
Me with my bicycle in Amsterdam Holland[/caption]
Amsterdam is one of the most visited destinations in Europe and over 7 million international travelers visit Amsterdam in a year.Many Europeans who live in nearby cities frequently visit Amsterdam over a long weekend. This happens even more during the summer months. As a result, most of the Amsterdam hotels sell out months in advance.
Believe it or not, a dorm bed that costs EUR 70 during the week, can be as high as EUR 150 during the weekend.
If you plan well in advance and research, you can save some serious money by just making sure you visit Amsterdam on any of the weekdays. Moreover, you will save a lot of time when you don’t have to stand in long queues and can ultimately explore more.
The queues are long for attractions on the weekends. Post Covid-19, one must book a time slot for almost all the museums and attractions. And sometimes even if you do that, then there’s still a queue. Yes, the queues move fast because of advance bookings.
So, to summarize, here are the tips for saving money on your accommodation in Amsterdam:
- Find places to stay that aren’t in the city center. Avoid areas like Dam Square and De Wallen.
- Try to visit Amsterdam during the weekdays.
- Look for early bird discount deals.
- Consider hostels or private rooms in hostels.
- Park your car in Gasper Campground and sleep in a tent. It isn’t far from the center and has all the amenities including amazing toilets, showers, a mini supermarket, a restaurant, and a bar. There’s a train station that’s right outside.
Oh, and by the way, I have many itineraries for Amsterdam:
itinerary for spending the perfect weekend in Amsterdam, and
Some itineraries are fast and others are more relaxed. All have a mix of touristy things as well as offbeat things to do in Amsterdam.
These are my self-made itinerary and are better than any other Amsterdam itinerary on the internet – I challenge you to find a better one.
3) Typical Travel Costs in Amsterdam
Wondering how much is a trip to Amsterdam going to cost you? Amsterdam was always expensive but in 2023, things are a little more expensive.
The most basic dorm beds in the city are at least EUR 70 per person. Public transport for a day will set you back to around EUR 10 per person if you take a one-day GVB card. Bicycle rental is a minimum of EUR 10 per person.
If you want to do special things that Amsterdam is famous for, you’re looking at things like boat tours, museums, etc. The most basic boat tour is around 17 Euros in 2023.
The most famous museum in Amsterdam is Rijksmuseum, and the entry ticket in 2023 is EUR 22.50.
You can considerably lower your food costs if you find a place to stay that offers a free breakfast. I also mention FoodHallen in the 9th point of this post as a tip, I found it to be a cheaper place for eating in Amsterdam.
Whoa, all that sounds so expensive!
Worry not my friend, I have you covered. If you want to save money and still do a lot of things in Amsterdam, then read the next point for my tried and tested tip.
4) I Amsterdam City Card vs the GVB Card
There are two kinds of cards that you can use to experience Amsterdam – the I Amsterdam City Card or the GVB Card. They fit different kinds of travelers. I will explain below:
Let’s talk about the I Amsterdam card first. Apart from your accommodation costs, where do you think you will spend most of your money while you’re in Amsterdam?
I’m sure you’re thinking of internal local transport, boat ride, museum entry, food, etc. Well, good news – you can save money on this by getting yourself an I Amsterdam city card.
A typical boat tour is around 17 Euros in 2023, public transport is around 9 Euros per day and the Rijksmuseum entry ticket in 2023 is EUR 22.50. These are the bare minimum things you would spend on in a day, so do the math and the total is EUR 48.50.
Guess what, the I Amsterdam card for one day is just 11 euros more than this and with that, you can enter almost every single museum, including many attractions like A’Dam lookout, Hortus Botanicus, and more!
This city card also includes freebies like one boat tour and one-day free bicycle rental.
The I Amsterdam city card is a blessing and I wish I had it back in 2014 when I first visited this city. It can be used for all of Amsterdam’s public transport PLUS it gives you free access to a lot of Amsterdam’s attractions.
Based on your duration of stay, you can get yourself a card that is valid for 1 to 4 days. A 24-hour card is for € 60 euros and a 4-day card is for € 125 euros.
This card includes free entry to most of the top museums in Amsterdam, unlimited use of public transport (trams, buses, and metros), free canal cruise, bicycle rental, and so many free tours and discounts in many restaurants.
An alternative to the I Amsterdam City card is the GVB card. I will explain the difference here.
The I Amsterdam City Card covers it all – transport, museums, bicycle, boat tours, attractions, and many other things. A GVB day card on the other hand is only for transport so get it only if you’re sure you don’t need to visit any attractions.
A GVB card can be for one day or a multi-day card. It ONLY covers public transport so it is cheaper. These cards can be used for the metro, trams, buses, and ferries. A single-day card costs just € 9 per person and € 4 for the child.
In my experience, you should get an I Amsterdam city card, because if you end up even renting a bike or visiting just 1-2 attractions or going on a boat tour, you will spend more money separately. At least when you have the card then you know you can do it all at your own pace. We also suggest you check out this Amsterdam itinerary for 3 days for Indians.
5) Amsterdam’s Coffeeshops are not exactly Cafes
Back when I originally wrote this post in 2017, this point was my number one Amsterdam tip.
A coffee shop in Amsterdam is not your typical café but means something else entirely. I feel it is my duty to educate you so that you don’t get a shock when you visit a coffeeshop in Amsterdam just to drink coffee.
I’m sure you know by now that Amsterdam is one of those few places on Earth where you can legally buy and consume marijuana for personal use. This happens not on the streets but in coffeeshops where you can see several kinds of weed, hash, and edibles being sold per gram or in pre-rolled joints.
In case you’d like to experience this part of Amsterdam, and you are too scared to do this alone, then you may want to check out some tours. This way, you can relax and let someone watch over you. 🙂
Below tours are some of the top tours in Amsterdam. I keep updating this list from time to time and only mention the best available tours.
- Amsterdam Coffeeshop + Red Light District tour – 1.5 to 2.5 hours – walk around Amsterdam’s narrow streets and learn about the city’s liberal culture. See coffee shops and learn about the sex industry.
I also have more details, check below for Amsterdam tips for stoners, information about coffee shops, and safety while experimenting/buying drugs in Amsterdam.
Also, if you’re visiting Amsterdam for the first time, then don’t get stuck in one of these coffee shops for the rest of your day. 🙂 There is more to Amsterdam than weed. Also, the coffeeshops close by 1 am and some even as early as 6. Do keep this in your mind while planning a party night to experience the nightlife in Amsterdam.
6) No Photography in the Red Light District
Yes, prostitution is legal in Amsterdam and the red light district comes alive as soon as the evening sets in. De Wallen area is the Red Light District, and you should avoid it altogether if you are visiting Amsterdam with children.
If you walk around the red light district at night, you will see prostitutes through pretty much every glass window in this area.
If you’re visiting Amsterdam’s Red Light District just to look around, please don’t photograph the sex workers that you see through the windows.
Never disrespect the sex workers. Not only clicking these photographs is rude but you can get your camera snatched by the cops or pay a hefty fine.
Believe it or not, I saw many people who were trying to photograph the prostitutes and were caught by the cops. Some were also yelled at by angry sex workers!
If you’d like to explore the infamous Red Light District of Amsterdam, I have handpicked a few tours for you:
- Amsterdam Red Light District 2 hour Walking tour – tour starts at 7 pm in Dam Square
- Red Light District Tour in German – 90 minutes tour with a German-speaking guide, starts in Dam Square.
- Amsterdam Coffeeshop + Red Light District tour – 1.5 to 2.5 hours – walk around Amsterdam’s narrow streets and learn about the city’s liberal culture. See coffeeshops and learn about the sex industry.
Alternatively, you can also visit the Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution.
7) Should You Do a Canal Cruise (Boat Tour) in Amsterdam?
YES. Canals are an important part of Amsterdam’s landscape and it is wonderful to experience the beauty of the city from the water. There’s nothing more romantic than seeing the lovely city from a slow-moving boat.
I did a boat tour in Amsterdam during my first visit in 2014 and then one more in 2017. I hated the first one but loved the second one. A nice boat tour is one of the most romantic things in Amsterdam for couples.
If you would have asked me before 2017 about doing a boat tour in Amsterdam, I would have said no, it isn’t worth it. But my thoughts have changed since then, and I will explain why.
In 2017, I did a slow tour on a small open boat that was privately owned and the experience was spectacular. In comparison, my first canal cruise was on one of those typical semi-open boats which you see that are filled with tourists. It had a kind of recording that went on in English and Dutch about which landmark was around us.
The smaller boat took us to all sorts of smaller canals in not-so-touristy areas in Jordaan and we clicked amazing photos from the edge of the boat. The second canal cruise in Amsterdam was a much better experience and it changed everything for me.
Nevertheless, Amsterdam is famous for its canals, and in order to experience the city, one must try to see the city from the perspective of sitting on a boat.
It may not always be easy to find a fully open boat for a private tour unless you’re in a group of 8-10 people. In our case, it was arranged by our place of residence and it worked out perfectly.
One more thing: a fully open boat is much better in every way except when it rains. So make your decision wisely.
8) Don’t Get in the Way of Cyclists, they Rule the City
One of the first things that you will notice about Amsterdam is its bicycle-dominated roads. The city is full of them and the locals love traveling on them. After all, Amsterdam has been declared the most bicycle-friendly city in the world. As per the Amsterdam tourism board website, there are more bikes in Amsterdam than permanent residents.
Please note that the bicycle lanes in Amsterdam are usually red. They are all marked with a bicycle icon at every single entry point so that the bike lane can’t be mistaken for a walking lane.
However, much to the annoyance of the locals, many tourists don’t notice the bike lanes and walk on them. Many first-time visitors also stand in the middle of the bike lanes and click pictures.
You don’t want the cyclist to suddenly brake, just because you’re standing in the middle of the bike lane. This can cause the ones behind to crash into him or her. Please be mindful of bike lanes and stay off them to avoid getting injured.
This happens even more in Amsterdam’s touristy hub – Dam Square. On my recent visit, I was cycling in that area as I was returning back from Amsterdam-Noord, on several turns I encountered travelers with their suitcases trying to mistake the bicycle lanes for sidewalks.
9) Avoid IG Famous Restaurants. Eat at FoodHallen Instead
You know how some restaurants blow up on Instagram because their food is to pretty? Well such places get overloaded with tourists and sometimes one has to stand in a line to get in.
This is with the famous cookie shop – Van Stapele Koekmakerij and the new sandwich place Chun Cafe. The first is a legendary cookie shop that’s famous for its chocolate cookies. In my 5 trips to Amsterdam, I haven’t been able to get anything from here because it is always busy or sold out.
The next – Chun Cafe is a new sandwich shop that everyone was posting about in the 2023 summer months. The queue outside went up to the end of the bridge and we were shocked!
Honestly, if I have 3 days in Amsterdam, I’d not want to waste a few hours waiting so that I could eat something that some Instagrammers have been swooning over.
Instead, I suggest you go to Foodhallen in De Hallen for an epic food experience. You may want to write this down.
Most of the first-time visitors in Amsterdam get stuck in the center and eat at one of the overly-priced or below-average restaurants where they could be eating an amazing meal in Foodhallen.
I visited Food Hallen again in 2023 and loved it even more than the first time. Not just the food but also the cocktails were exquisite.
Foodhallen is Amsterdam’s gourmet food court where foodies will end up spending hours trying different food and beer. My personal recommendation is Dim Sum Thing and De Ballenbar. Go crazy and try out new things. That’s what this place is all about.
I also recommend Mer Du Nord for seafood lovers. I ate a soft-shelled crab bun from here which was insanely good.Bitterballen in De Ballenbar in De Hallen Amsterdam Holland[/caption]
My friend ordered a vegan Asian noodle bowl which she seemed to enjoy. If I go back, I’d definitely eat the crab bun at Mer Du Nord again and drink the Ginger Limoncello Spritz at the Gin and Tonic bar.
I mention this place in detail in my post about spending a weekend in Amsterdam. Keep in mind that the restaurants and bars in De Hallen close by 11 p.m. and you will see them start packing up even a few minutes before time.
10) Get Your Supplies from a Supermarket, Not a Kiosk in AmsterdamA small bottle of water costs EUR 3.5 in a kiosk but a big bottle of water costs less than EUR 1 in a supermarket. Still, most of the tourists end up buying from kiosks, why?
Because they don’t realize how close the supermarkets are.
Amsterdam’s kiosks are easily visible and they appear to be everywhere. We have them in Germany too, but we only visit them on Sunday because that’s when the supermarkets are closed in Germany.
Guess what, the supermarkets are open on Sundays in Amsterdam and the nearest supermarket may be closer than you think it is.
Here are supermarket chains that you can find all over Amsterdam and many are open from 8 am to 10 pm.
- Dirk Supermarkt
- Albert Heijn
The only time it makes sense to spend so much more extra for basic supplies from a kiosk is when you are the supermarket is closed — after you’re getting home from a party or a bar or something.
11) Renting a Bike? Tips for Riding a Bicycle in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. The best way to enjoy Amsterdam’s awesomeness is by getting on a bicycle and exploring the city.
Cycle through the parks, on narrow bridges, and also get on the ferry to Amsterdam Noord and make the most of your time here. You can see all of Amsterdam’s attractions on two wheels because the city is amazingly bicycle-friendly.
But wait, how will you get a bicycle? The most obvious answer is to rent your own bike. But hey, if you’re traveling to Amsterdam on the road from Europe, you can also carry your own bicycle, as we did.
We got ours on the train from Germany! It was super convenient because we started cycling in Amsterdam (with our backpacks) as soon as we arrived in Amsterdam.
My number one tip for renting a bicycle in Amsterdam is to take notice of how the breaks work because Dutch bikes are a little different.
Here’s something that will make you laugh: there are many who think Dutch bicycles don’t have breaks. It is because when you look at them, you won’t see the usual hand breaks. In reality, they don’t have traditional hand breaks that are on handles but have pedal breaks.
In case you’re not used to pedal breaks, then ask for a bicycle with normal breaks. I have seen many tourists falling on the road while cycling because they couldn’t break in time!
Always stay on the bicycle tracks and use your hands to gesture before you turn. Be careful of the tram tracks because if your bicycle tire gets stuck in one, you will fall on your head. Always lock your bicycle with two locks because there are many thefts.
- Amsterdam 3-hour bike tour: Bike ride through Amsterdam’s prettiest streets and hidden gems.
- Amsterdam 2-hour bicycle tour: Cycle through Jordaan, Red light district, Rijkmuseum, etc.
- 2.5 hours Amsterdam Sightseeing Tour by Bike: Cycle through the Museum square, pass by Vondel park, Anne Frank house, Wester Church Tower, and the red light district
- Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 3-Hour Countryside Bike Tour to the outskirts of Amsterdam – one of the top Amsterdam tours.
- 2-hour bike tour of Amsterdam city: Cycle through the city, cross the skinny bridge and pass by most of the famous attractions. Stop for a drink at Vondel Park
- 3 Hour-guided tour of historical Amsterdam: Available in English, German and French
It is easier to cycle around Amsterdam-Noord because it isn’t as crowded as the main center. You can cycle here first if you’re not so confident and come back to the center the next day.
12) It can rain anytime in Amsterdam, so be prepared
Not just in London, but it can rain anytime in Amsterdam too. Prepare yourself mentally and physically to handle the rain.
If you want to be comfortable, don’t forget to carry your rain gear, especially shoes that can handle rain. Carry gumboots or flip flops, or any other rainproof shoes so that your socks don’t get soggy.
If you forget to carry your rain poncho, don’t worry because you will find cheap rain ponchos being sold for 1 – 5 euros in several stores.
I normally carry my own rain gear and I can recommend this super tiny yet powerful umbrella that folds to just 12 inches and is easy to carry.
So what to do in Amsterdam when it rains? Visit one of the museums. Here’s a list of some of the top museums in Amsterdam and information about entering them with I Amsterdam card.
13) Experience Amsterdam’s International Food Scene
What would a real Amsterdam tips and tricks post be without food, right?
Amsterdam’s food scene is awesome and it isn’t just limited to the local Dutch food. If you really want to eat like a local in Amsterdam, then you wouldn’t just restrict yourself to Dutch food.
You will be surprised to know that Amsterdam has a large Indonesian population. Why so? Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands till 1949. Because of this, you can find some amazingly authentic Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam.
If you want to try Indonesian food in Amsterdam and aren’t sure about what to order, then get yourself a rijsttafel. A rijsttafel is a variety of small-sized dishes and you get to try a lot of things on just one plate.
Amsterdam also has a lot of Indian restaurants but you know what’s the most desi out of all? There’s a restaurant called Sarvana Bhawan in De Pijp. It is definitely authentic and you will mostly see Indians. I was there, and I’m very Indian.
One of the best things that you can order in Sarvana Bhawan and it is a specialty there is a Dosa (it is a super crispy rice pancake kind of a thing), it comes with a variety of chutneys and one bowl of daal. Normally one Dosa is enough for a person but I had two, it was that good.
If you’d like to experience Japanese food in Amsterdam, then head to Taka Japanese Kitchen and order okonomiyaki. That’s like a Japanese pancake (yes another pancake at this point) and it is super yummy.
14) Pause in Amsterdam’s Parks & Hofje (Hidden Courtyards)
I get it, Amsterdam is a busy city and if you’re a nature lover (like me) then you need to sit on the grass and pause for a few minutes. It is like a quick detox.
Amsterdam has a lot of parks and they are beautifully maintained. The Dutch gardeners and botanists are known all over the world and you will see proof of that in the parks.
If you visit the Museums, then keep in mind that the Vondelpark is right there. I did stay next to the Oostpark and loved it there.
Oh hey, when you’re traveling to Amsterdam then there aren’t just parks, there are Hofjes too. A Hofje is a courtyard and Amsterdam has many historical ones all around the city. Most were built by the wealthy locals in the 17th century. You can read more about Amsterdam’s Hofjes here.
I did enter a few of them without realizing it during my earlier visits because I love getting lost. Some of the notable Hofjes in Amsterdam are:
- Hofje van De Zeven Keurvorsten
- Zon’s Hofje
Wherever you are in Amsterdam, if you want to visit one of the Hofjes, then just open Google Maps, type “Hofje” and find the nearest one. Not all are free but this is something you will figure out on Maps or as you cross them.
Please note, that even though most of the Hofjes are free to enter, you should definitely maintain peace and not overstay.
15) Carry a Bottle and Drink Tap Water
The Netherlands is one such country where the quality of tap water is regulated and is totally safe to drink it. It tastes good too.
Buying bottled water all the time isn’t environmentally friendly. Moreover, a water bottle can cost around 3 euros in a kiosk, and you can save some money by filling your bottle with tap water. Why waste money on bottled water AND increase your plastic waste when you can safely drink tap water?
It isn’t just about being “cheap” but about being environmentally friendly.
If you think bottled water is cleaner, let me tell you – it depends on how it is stored and transported. These bottles are made with plastic and if they’re kept in the sun by mistake for a long duration, the water is no longer safe.
16) Tipping in Amsterdam
The tipping culture in most of Europe is very different than how it is in the USA. (Or even the UK – but hey, that’s a part of Europe).
If you’re an American, then you’re probably used to tipping 10% of the bill amount. Living in Germany, I have realized that most of people just leave 1-2 euros if they have a nice meal experience. The same is the case in Amsterdam too.
As per my conversations with the locals in Amsterdam on multiple occasions, I have realized that they’re usually not leaving a tip and if they do, it is 1-2 euros.
However, things aren’t as simple as that, because Amsterdam receives many international visitors and has many expats that live here. All these aspects have shaken up the dynamics of tipping in Amsterdam.
Many restaurant workers often receive decent tips from those who aren’t local and they can easily figure out who’s not. They sort of expect a good tip if they know you’re an American or are from the UK. Even then, anything above 10% is unusual.
Essentially tipping is still seen as a sign of gratitude and not an entitlement. So, if you’re particularly happy about your food and service, then by all means tip 10 percent over and above the bill. A tip that’s between 5 – 10%
Btw, Here’s an amazing discussion about Amsterdam’s tipping culture that I found on Reddit.
17) Amsterdam tips for Stoners – Don’t buy drugs on the road
Okay, so you have heard Amsterdam has an open-minded drug use policy and you are visiting this city just to party. I understand, but please don’t buy drugs on the road.
Believe it or not, there are cops everywhere and you can get caught. Why buy on the road when you can legally buy and smoke weed (and hash) in coffeeshops?
In most of the coffeeshops in Amsterdam, a gram of weed or hash is sold for around 10 – 12 euros. You can also buy 4 pre-rolled splifs for around 16 euros. By the way, if you’re a first-time smoker in Amsterdam then I feel it’s my duty to warn you – go SLOW.
As of 2008, you can no longer buy magic mushrooms in Amsterdam but can buy truffles in head shops (or smart shops). Truffles are just like magic mushrooms, except they grow under the earth. The effect is the same!
If you’d like to try them then ask the headshop owners about which ones are strong and which ones aren’t. Just don’t carry them back from Amsterdam to another country because it is illegal to do so.
There is a herbal version of many things, including MDMA. Just because it is herbal, doesn’t mean it doesn’t cause any damage to your body. Please research well in advance before you decide to experiment here.
18) What are Amsterdam’s Tourist Traps?Amsterdam Holland, Buildings
Tourist traps – every famous city that’s a tourist hub has them, no matter how lovely the locals are. Amsterdam also has a few of them.
Amsterdam has a lot of fake museums. Some of them are just shops but they claim to be museums. To name a few, there’s the Vodka museum, cheese museum, prostitution museum, tulip museum, etc. Instead, find an actual museum like the Rijksmuseum or Van Gogh Museum. I have a post about Amsterdam’s museums.
Believe it or not, Amsterdam has a lot of tourist trap restaurants and many are in Leidseplein and Damrak. To get a memorable meal, head to De Pijp, FoodHallen, or Noord.
Avoid “Tours and Tickets” shops – they are all over the touristy areas and are very expensive. Do your research online, book your museums and attractions tickets online, or get an I Amsterdam City card.
In general, avoid the main squares – Dam, Rembrandtplein, and Leidsesplein (especially on the weekend). All these areas are full of overpriced shops, restaurants, and fake museums. If it is your first time, sure I understand if you want to photograph these places. I did too, but now I avoid them.
19) The Best Souvenirs are at HEMA or Waterlooplein or Hortus Botanicus
You will see a lot of souvenir shops in Dam Square, Dam, Rembrandtplein, and Leidsesplein. Souvenirs from the shops in touristy areas are full of small overpriced things. They are mostly the same and can get boring after a while.
If you have a thing for fridge magnets, then sure you will find a lot of them here, and if you’re looking for something more meaningful then I have a few options for you.
Find something in HEMA – it is actually a famous Dutch chain for everyday life products. You will find useful things here and not just decorative pieces like typical touristy souvenirs. HEMA is known for its good quality, simple timeless style, and affordability.
In HEMA you will find colorful clothes, bags, socks, and literally everything possible. You will also find food items that you can consume and gift. There are around 20 HEMA stores in Amsterdam so you will definitely find one near you wherever you go.
The best souvenir that I bought from Amsterdam was from Hortus Botanicus (the Botanical Garden). I got a set of three big 3-D butterflies for my daughter and we hung them in her room together. They look like they are actually floating.
20) Park your Car outside Amsterdam [+ Camper van Parking Spots]We parked our Van in Gasper Parking in Amsterdam, Holland
Parking in Amsterdam is expensive and can be as high as 10 euros per hour. If you’re reaching Amsterdam by driving, then you need to park your car outside to save money.
On the highway that leads to Amsterdam, watch out for “P+R” signs because this is where you need to park your car. Look for P+R Zeeburg, P+R Sloterdijk, P+R ArenA or P+R Olympish Stadion. Parking in P+R spots is usually 1 euro per day and from here you can easily take public transport to the center of the city.
If you’re arriving in Amsterdam on your camper van, then you will be happy to know that there are a bunch of places that are in Amsterdam but a bit outside the city center where you can stay.
We stayed in Gasper Camping where we parked our campervan next to a river. It is a massive camping and parking area, which is peaceful at night. Gasper Camping also has an in-house restaurant, bar, supermarket, snack vending machine, amazing toilets, and showers.
There’s the Gaasperplas Metro station that’s right outside this campground, from where you can take Metro 53 to the main Amsterdam city center.
Apart from Gasper, there’s also Camping Zeeburg, one of the highest-rated campgrounds in Amsterdam which was full when we visited. [You can read reviews on TripAdvisor about this place here].
21) Don’t Get Stuck at the Centre. Also, Don’t Skip Noord
There are many places to visit in Amsterdam and the city is more than just coffee shops, the red light district, and the center. Many tourists just get stuck in the center and miss the surrounding neighborhoods.
Spend a few days in the city’s hipster neighborhood – Amsterdam-Noord and get lost in NDSM werf. Noord is across the IJ River and is very different as compared to the rest of Amsterdam in every way. I make sure I visit Noord every single time I’m in Amsterdam and drink a beer (or more) in Pllek.
Go visit the nearby Plantage, De Pijp, and Oud-West – you will be surprised to see how few tourists visit these places. You can easily reach here by hopping on trams, buses, and metros where you can use your I Amsterdam city card.
For the best of everything, sleep in the east (green, affordable yet close to the center), eat in De Pijp, and party in Noord. You don’t need anything else, except a bit of Jordaan to complete your Amsterdam trip.
22) You will probably get lostMe in Amsterdam – I love this city
Prepare to get lost because in the beginning, most of the canals in Amsterdam will look similar and you will think you’re walking in circles. Some streets are so narrow that it is very easy to miss a turn.
Moreover, if you rent a bike, the traffic can be confusing because there are trams, buses, cars, and pedestrians on the road.
I am not sure about you but I really enjoy getting lost in new places. However, it is not so much fun when you get lost right before you need to catch a train (or bus in my case) to get out of Amsterdam.
Download an offline version of Amsterdam’s map on Google Maps so that you can be aware of where you are.
It is funny how often I get lost when I travel solo. Even with Google Maps, I would sometimes get confused about which direction of the tram I needed to get on in order to reach my destination in Amsterdam. But hey, that’s fun.
23) Respect the locals and their city
Just because Amsterdam’s city council is open-minded and has legalized many things like marijuana consumption, prostitution, etc., it doesn’t mean that you can take advantage of this. Be a responsible traveler and don’t do more than you can handle.
Don’t get excessively high in public places and please don’t create a scene. Prostitutes are not porn stars, don’t photograph them and share their pictures on social media. Just remember to treat Amsterdam exactly how you would want the visitors to treat YOUR hometown.
24) Carry your photo ID
No, you don’t just need a photo ID if you’re visiting a coffee shop or a bar, but even the cops can stop you on the road and ask for an ID. We were told this happens specifically when people look intoxicated or have “red eyes”.
You may just be sleepy but perhaps you look stoned, it is better to keep your ID with you all the time. If you’re worried about losing your passport, then just keep your driver’s license that shows your picture.
25) Amsterdam has pickpockets, beware
Just like most touristy places, Amsterdam also has pickpockets. Moreover, some of the areas tend to get highly crowded and you may not even notice when someone picks your pockets.
Be super careful in areas like Dam Square and De Wallen.
Keep your valuables in your hotel room or hostel locker and carry only the essentials. Consider getting yourself a “pickpocket-proof” travel pouch and passport holder.
26) How to Travel from Amsterdam Airport to the City Centre
The Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is the Netherlands‘ top international airport. It is an extremely busy airport and many international airlines run daily flights to Amsterdam that arrive here from all over the world.
This airport also services budget carriers like Easyjet, Eurowings, Vueling, and Transavia run cheap flights to Amsterdam. Actually, this airport isn’t exactly in Amsterdam, it is in Haarlemmermeer. It is close to Haarlem.
To reach Amsterdam’s center from the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, the most convenient way is by hopping onto a train. The journey is just 20 minutes. You will first have to get to the lower level of the airport and look for NS Dutch Railways.
There’s a train every ten minutes to the Amsterdam city center except between 1 am to 5 am. Between 1 am to 5 am, the trains run every hour. Buy a ticket at one of the yellow vending machines that say “tickets” on top. A ticket will cost you 4.50 euros.
There is also a bus service from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Museumplein, Rijksmuseum, and Leidseplein. It is called Amsterdam Airport Express and is surprisingly more expensive than the train. The bus costs EUR 6.50 for one way.
27) Arriving in Amsterdam by Train or by Bus
If you’re reaching Amsterdam by train, then most likely your train will arrive at Amsterdam Centraal Station, which is in the middle of everything. From here, you can literally walk to everywhere (if you don’t have a lot of luggage).
Flixbus has the best international bus service in Europe and it arrives in Amsterdam at Sloterdijk station. From there, you can hop on a train to Amsterdam Centraal which costs just EUR 3.50. Other buses normally arrive at Duivendrecht station.
28) Where to stay in Amsterdam Close to Everything?
Many people would say Dam Square. I disagree. Yes, that’s close to everything but it is also the most crowded area in Amsterdam. If you want to stay in the historical center, see canals from your window, and be a little away from the most crowded areas but yet within walkable distance, pick Jordaan instead.
If your Amsterdam visit is mostly about the museums, then book a place in the South and close that’s to the Vondelpark. My website also has a post about places to stay in Amsterdam’s different neighborhoods.
I have said this before and I will say it over and over again, Amsterdam is not a cheap travel destination. There aren’t any cheap hotels in Amsterdam, but if you find one then please book it before it sells out. Not just the hotels in Amsterdam, but even the hostels are super expensive.
If you want to save a little money, then why not stay in Noord? It is Amsterdam’s hipster neighborhood with amazing artwork, crazy buildings, and a lovely vibe. Don’t worry, you can still take the free ferry from Noord to Amsterdam Centraal, which is where everything is.
Amsterdam is one of those places where you need to book a room in advance to avoid shockingly high costs. Believe it or not, my friend once paid 20 euros for just two hours in a hostel, which is usually a nightly cost in hostels all over Europe.
If you’re looking for some great options, check out my post about suggested places to stay in Amsterdam for every budget. It also has options for renting a houseboat, tent, or caravan.
If you’re looking for a budget hotel, try Vivaldi Guesthouse near the Heineken experience. I stayed here in 2014 and I enjoyed this place. You can also try the famous Flying Pig Downtown hostel. This same chain has two more – Flying Pig Uptown Hostel and Flying Pig Beach hostel. If you don’t have any budget restrictions, then try the luxurious NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, which is in Dam square – the center of Amsterdam.
29) Mandatory Advance Booking for Museums & Attractions Post Covid
Amsterdam has some of the world’s best museums for not just art but also for cannabis, sex, alcohol, etc.
There’s the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Ann Frank Haus, and the Hermitage – just to name a few. Most of these museums are in the Museumquarter, where the Amsterdam Tourism Board earlier had an I Amsterdam sign.
There are so many museums in this city that a first-time visitor can be lost for choice. I also have a post about some of the best museums in Amsterdam.
So are there really long queues outside the museums in Amsterdam? Well, before the corona pandemic yes.
As of June 30, 2021, most of Amsterdam’s museums and attractions are open because a majority of the locals are now vaccinated. It is now mandatory to book a time slot in Amsterdam’s museums and attractions. So even if people queue up, the queues move fast because the slots are pre-booked.
It is actually a good thing, it means if you book a slot for yourself in advance then you don’t have to wait and waste time in a long queue. Yes, there will be a queue outside popular museums in Rijksmuseum but it moves very fast since the only ones who stand there are the people who book a time slot.
How do I know this? I was personally there in July 2021.
If you’re visiting Amsterdam on a weekend then you should try to preplan your visits to attractions and museums as early as you can.
If you’re visiting more than one museum, then it makes sense to get the I Amsterdam City card. A few years back tourists could also buy a card that’s just for visiting museums – Museumkaart. However, as per new rules, only Dutch residents can use it.
30) What to wear in Amsterdam?
The unwritten dress code for Amsterdam is “smart casuals”, so don’t bring your high heels, or fancy designer stuff but keep things super casual and comfortable.
In Summer 2023, I saw most of the women wear super casual summery dresses with sneakers but nothing fancy.
As someone who has visited Amsterdam over and over in every season, know that it gets cold in summer too. So, you always need to carry a jacket with you in Amsterdam and carry it around in your day bag as you move around.
The way to move around in Amsterdam is on a bicycle or on foot, so wear your comfortable shoes. When it comes to going out in Amsterdam, a sporty look is always in.
If you like to express yourself with fashion then just remember to pick a style in which you can move freely.
Shorts and tee shirts in summer for boys with a jacket and sporty shoes work. Girls can wear a summer dress or shorts or summer pants with a tank or a tee, a casual jacket, and sneakers.
No matter which season it is, you will need a rain jacket or a poncho, so carry one in your backpack. You can also buy one from there for as low as EUR 3. I did too!
FAQs about visiting Amsterdam
Is Amsterdam Too Touristy?
Yes and no. Amsterdam’s Dam Square and the area around the center (Amsterdam Centraal) are extremely touristy and crowded.
I’d say 90% of the travelers only stay in this part and don’t even venture out. Honestly, Amsterdam is more than just Dam Square, Red Light District, museums, and Coffeeshops.
Get out and check out some amazing places such as the Eastern side (Weesperbuurt en Plantage), Jordaan, Noord, Oud-West, etc.
Is Amsterdam Easy to Walk Around?
Yes, it is! You can easily reach from one part of Amsterdam to another by just walking. Just be careful of the cyclists because you will feel as if the city belongs to them. It kind of does.
The bicycle lanes are normally red and at first, you may end up mistaking the bike lanes for walking lanes. Check out my Amsterdam Itinerary – it has walking maps that will help you explore this city on foot and take you from one awesome spot to another.
Why is Amsterdam so Popular?
Because it is AWESOME. Haha, well it is a historical city that was once an important port and connected many parts of Europe to other parts of the world.
Amsterdam’s beautiful canals have attracted travelers from all over the world for many years and it continues to do so.
It also has a distinctive art scene, many famous artists were born here or lived here and it has the most famous museums in the world. Moreover, it is famous for its free-spirited culture where prostitution is legal and one can buy and smoke weed in coffeeshops.
How Safe is Amsterdam Red Light District?
Amsterdam’s Red Light district is extremely safe. Amsterdam City has a very low crime rate and is safe. Yes, there can be pickpockets, so be careful of your belongings.
What is the Best Time to visit Amsterdam?
I’d say summer but not the month of August. Here’s why:
The days are longer in summer and you will be able to experience so much more because the weather is easier to handle.
The months of June, July are the best but August is the most crowded month in Amsterdam because that’s when most of the Europeans plan their annual vacations.
Honestly, each season has its own advantage. If you like flowers, then the best time to visit the Netherlands is the months of April and May so that you can see the tulips.
In spring you can experience Amsterdam in full bloom and colours.
Autumn is when the trees around the canals start turning yellow, orange, and red, so the pictures come out really well. But autumn is also very rainy and windy.
Wintertime has the Christmas lights and a lot of areas turn into ice skating rinks. You can ice skate right in front of the Rijksmuseum in winter!
What language is spoken in Amsterdam?
The local language is Dutch, but English is widely spoken too.
What do the 3 x’s mean in Amsterdam?
Amsterdam’s logo has 3 X’s and they stand for the three crosses of St. Andrew.
St. Andrew was martyred on an X-shaped in the 1st century AD. He was a fisherman. Amsterdam was historically a fishing town and all the ships registered here had a flag with the city symbol of three X’s. This symbol dates back to 1505.
Would you recommend renting a car when visiting Amsterdam?
Even though I earn an affiliate commission when visitors book a rental car on my website, I strongly suggest you not rent a car while you’re in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam’s streets are perfect for cyclists or pedestrians but not cars. You can rent a bicycle or use the city’s amazing public transportation network with your I Amsterdam City card.
I hope my Amsterdam Tips & Tricks
So, are you ready to visit Amsterdam and fall in love with it? If so, let me know how it goes, I’d love to hear abut your experience.
If you know anyone that’s heading to this beautiful city, then please share this post about Amsterdam travel tips with them. I’m sure it will help them tremendously and will save their travel costs.
Disclosure: we collaborated with the I Amsterdam (Amsterdam city tourism board) for a part of our trip in 2017 and 2021. However, all opinions expressed in this article are definitely our own.