Traveling to Amsterdam? After visiting 5 times, here are my top Amsterdam travel tips to make your trip hassle free. I will help you plan your trip, I will tell you the best way of traveling in Amsterdam and share the do and don’ts. This post also contains NEW information about the travel situation in Amsterdam during COVID times. I last visited Amsterdam in July 2021.
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, is often portrayed as the city that’s 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.
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).
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.
There are hundreds of things to do in Amsterdam, that no single travel article can list them all. Wether 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.
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 to Amsterdam with you so that you can save some money while you’re there. Wether you’re visiting Amsterdam for the first time or the third time, some of these tips are sure to help you while you’re there.
Tips for Traveling to Amsterdam
- 1) Visiting Amsterdam in 2021? I visited during the Corona Times, here’s what I saw
- 2) Mandatory Advance Booking for Museums & Attractions Post Covid
- 3) Rooms are Expensive in Amsterdam (Here’s How to Save Money on Accommodation)
- 4) Get an I Amsterdam City Card if You’re Visiting 3+ Attractions
- 5) Eat at Least ONE Meal in FoodHallen (De Hallen)
- 6) Indonesian, Indian, Japanese: Get a Taste of Amsterdam’s International Food
- 7) Amsterdam’s Coffeeshops are not exactly Cafes
- 8) No Photography in the Red Light District
- 9) Should You Do a Canal Cruise (Boat Tour) in Amsterdam?
- 10) Don’t Get in the Way of Cyclists, they Rule the City
- 11) Renting a Bike? Tips for Riding a Bicycle in Amsterdam
- 12) It can rain anytime in Amsterdam, so be prepared
- 13) Pause in Amsterdam’s Parks and Hofje (Hidden Courtyards)
- 14) Carry a Bottle and Drink Tap Water
- 15) Where to Go in Amsterdam for the Most Epic Photos?
- 16) Tipping in Amsterdam
- 17) Amsterdam tips for Stoners – Don’t buy drugs on the road
- 18) What are Amsterdam’s Tourist Traps?
- 19) Head to HEMA or Waterlooplein or Hortus Botanicus for Souvenirs
- 20) Park your Car outside Amsterdam [+ Camper van Parking Spots]
- 21) Don’t Get Stuck at the Centre. Also, Don’t Miss Noord
- 22) You will probably get lost
- 23) Respect the locals and their city
- 24) Carry your photo ID
- 25) Amsterdam has pickpockets, beware
- 26) How to Travel from Amsterdam Airport to the City Centre
- 27) Arriving in Amsterdam by Train or by Bus
- 28) Where to stay in Amsterdam Close to Everything?
- Is Amsterdam Too Touristy?
- Is Amsterdam Easy to Walk Around?
- Why is Amsterdam so Popular?
- How Safe is Amsterdam Red Light District?
1) Visiting Amsterdam in 2021? I visited during the Corona Times, here’s what I saw
I visited Amsterdam in July 2021 during the lighter phase of the Corona pandemic and it seemed that things were pretty much back to normal except a few things. Thankfully I was able to enjoy Amsterdam’s lovely without the excessive crowds and it was a refreshing change.
Amsterdam Covid Rules for Tourists
- It is mandatory to wear a mask on public transport in Amsterdam. The mask needs to cover your mouth, nose and chin. So if you’re traveling on tram, metro, bus or ferry, then you can only enter if you’re wear a mask. This extends to also stations – so tram stations, metro stations, bus stops, airports and ferry stops.
- Maintain a distance of 1.5 meters from others.
- Cough or sneeze in your elbow (if you must).
- If you’re in a public spot that’s getting too crowded then leave as soon as you can.
Are Bars Open in Amsterdam?
Yes, they are. I entered Amsterdam at the end of July in 2021 and I was told since 2 weeks the bars are newly opened. Yayy!!
Are Amsterdam’s museums and attractions open?
Yes, as of mid June 2021 almost everything is open. Even the boat tours have reopened. Read more about the museums and attractions in the next point.
2) 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 Rijkmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Ann Frank Haus, the Hermitage – just to name a few. Most of these museums are in the Museumquarter, where 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 prebooked.
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 the tourists could also buy a card that’s just for visiting museums – Museumkaart. However, as per new rules only the Dutch residents can use it.
3) Rooms are Expensive in Amsterdam (Here’s How to Save Money on Accommodation)
Amsterdam is one of the most visited destinations of 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 summer months. As a result, most of the Amsterdam hotels sell out months in advance.
Believe it or not, but a dorm bed that costs EUR 50 during the week, can be as high as EUR 100 during the weekend. In an earlier version of this article, I did say that one should avoid visiting Amsterdam during the weekends but now I change my words, here’s why:
This is what I said earlier – 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.
But after revisiting in July 2021, here’s what I have to say – if you only have time to visit Amsterdam over the weekend, then that’s when you will visit. Yes, rooms are expensive on the weekends but not so much if you book in time.
I did say that the queues are long but things work differently after Covid-19. Post Covid-19, one must book a time slot for almost all the museums and attractions. And when you do that, then there’s hardly any queue and even if there is, it moves very fast.
So, to summarize, here are the tips for saving money on your accommodation in Amsterdam:
- Find places to stay in 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 camping and sleep in a tent.
Oh and by the way, I have two itineraries for Amsterdam. You’re going to love my itinerary to spend 2 perfect days in Amsterdam and a newer itinerary for spending the perfect weekend in Amsterdam. The first itinerary is a little faster faced and the second is more relaxed one. Both of them have the touristy things as well as the 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.
4) Get an I Amsterdam City Card if You’re Visiting 3+ Attractions
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 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.
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 you can enter most of the top museums for free with it.
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 € 65 euros and a 4-day card is for € 120 euros. This card includes a free entry to most of the top museums in Amsterdam, unlimited use of public transport (trams, buses and metros), free canal cruise, bicycle rental, so many free tours and discounts in many restaurants.Get Your I Amsterdam City Card Here
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 the 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 the public transport so it is cheaper. These cards can be used for the metro, trams, buses and ferries. A single day card costs just € 8-10 per person and € 4 for child.
In short: if you’re visiting Amsterdam for the first time for a quick visit and want to visit some the major attractions, this I Amsterdam city card will save you a lot of time and money. If you’re not planning on visiting any attractions but are only looking for a card for the public transport in Amsterdam, then just get a GVB day card.
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) Eat at Least ONE Meal in FoodHallen (De Hallen)
You may want to write this down – visit Foodhallen in De Hallen for an epic food experience.
Most of the first time visitors in Amsterdam get stuck in the centre and eat at one of the overly priced or below average restaurants where as they could be eating an amazing meal in Foodhallen.
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 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 10 pm and you will see them start packing up even a few minutes before time.
6) Indonesian, Indian, Japanese: Get a Taste of Amsterdam’s International Food
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 Indonesia 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 a variety of contains 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 specility 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 a okonomiyaki. That’s like a Japanese pancake (yes another pancake in this point) and it is super yummy.
7) Amsterdam’s Coffeeshops are not exactly Cafes
A coffeeshop 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. 🙂
These 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 in Amsterdam’s narrow streets and learn about the city’s liberal culture. See coffeeshops 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 coffeeshops 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.
8) 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. 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.
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 in 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 Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution.
9) Should You Do a Canal Cruise (Boat Tour) in Amsterdam?
I did a boat tour in Amsterdam during my first visit in 2014 and then one more in 2017. I hated the earlier one but loved the second one.
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 leisurely 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, I must say that canals are an important part of Amsterdam’s landscape and it is interesting 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.
10) 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 as 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 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 mistaking the bicycle lanes for sidewalks.
11) Renting a Bike? Tips for Riding a Bicycle in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is one of is the most bicycle friendly cities in the world. The best way to enjoy Amsterdam’s awesomeness is by getting on to 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 rent your own bike. But hey, if you’re traveling to Amsterdam on road from Europe, you can also carry your own bicycle, like 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 tyre 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 the 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 centre. You can cycle here first if you’re not so confident and come back to the centre on the next day.
12) It can rain anytime in Amsterdam, so be prepared
Not just 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 IAmsterdam card.
13) Pause in Amsterdam’s Parks and 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 a 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 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 ones. 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.
14) 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 2 euros 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.
15) Where to Go in Amsterdam for the Most Epic Photos?
It is 2021 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 will be a meanie and not tell you the exact 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.
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 the 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 by 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 per cent 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
Ok, 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. 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?
Tourist traps – every famous city that’s a tourist hub has them, no matter now 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) Head to HEMA or Waterlooplein or Hortus Botanicus for Souvenirs
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 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 colourful 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]
Parking in Amsterdam is expensive and can be as high as 10 euro 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 centre 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 centre 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, super market, 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 centre.
Apart from Gasper, there’s also the Camping Zeeburg, one of the highest rated campground 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 Miss Noord
There are many places to visit in Amsterdam and the city is more than just coffeeshops, 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. 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 ever single time I’m in Amsterdam and drink a beer (or more) in Pllek.
Go visit the nearby Plantage, De Pijp, 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 centre), 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 lost
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 or Maps me, so that you can be aware of where you are.
It is funny how I get lost everyone. Even with Google Maps, I would sometimes get confused about which direction of the tram I needed to get on to in order to reach my destination in Amsterdam. But hey, that’s fun.
Suggested: Travel Guide for Malecca – the Amsterdam of Asia
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 coffeeshop 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.
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 too. Actually, this airport isn’t exactly in Amsterdam, it is in Haarlemmermeer.
To reach Amsterdam’s centre from the Amsterdam Schiphol airport, the most convenient way is by hopping on to 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 centre 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 says “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 in 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 within Europe and it arrives in Amsterdam at Sloterdijk station. From there, you can hop on to a train to Amsterdam Centraal which costs just EUR 3.50. Other buses normally arrive in 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 centre, see canals from your window, and be a little away from the most crowded areas but yet within the walk-able 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 caravans.
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.
Is Amsterdam Too Touristy?
Yes and no. Amsterdam’s Dam Square and all the area around the centre (Amsterdam Centraal) is 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 the 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 since 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 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.
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 articles are definitely our own.
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