- How many days to spend in Amsterdam?
- Must-Sees in Amsterdam
- Which Museums to Visit in Amsterdam?
- Should I get the iAmsterdam card?
- Which neighborhoods to visit in Amsterdam?
- What to eat in Amsterdam / Dutch foods to eat in Amsterdam
- What to drink in Amsterdam
- How to get to Amsterdam from Schiphol Airport
- Where to stay in Amsterdam / Best areas to stay in
- How to get around Amsterdam / Should you rent a bike in Amsterdam?
- Things to do before you get to Amsterdam
- Is English spoken in Amsterdam?
How many days to spend in Amsterdam?
Must-Sees / Top Things to Do in Amsterdam
Begijnhof. A hidden courtyard in the middle of Centre. This beautiful courtyard dates back to the 14th century and used to belong to the Catholic church. It was the home for women who lived like nuns, but could leave to marry.
Walk the canals. Herengracht is considered one of the most beautiful canals with some of the most opulent houses.
Red Light District. A fascinating place for many tourists to see what happens when a country legalizes prostitution. Don’t take photos of the beautiful ladies and be careful as scammers prowl this area.
Anne Frank House. Whether or not you know Anne’s story, there is something very powerful about being in the same space that her family lived in. Make reservations ahead or wait in line for hours.
Brouwerij ‘T IJ. This local brewery is the real deal and it's next a windmill. It’s only 4 euros for a tour with a drink. If you’re into beer and considering the Heineken Experience, come here instead.
Canal Tour. These canal tours are an affordable way to experience the city although they often include a pre-recorded tour. For a more unique experience, you can rent your OWN canal boat and don't crash. (BYOB your own drinks/food to picnic on the boat). It’s way more epic than a canal cruise and worth it if you have a few friends to split it with (100 euros per hour.) During the Amsterdam Lights Festival (month of December) where light sculptures are installed around Amsterdam, it’s worth doing a night cruise to enjoy the lit-up sculptures!
Rent a Bike. If you’re not a city biker, biking in Amsterdam is similar to driving elsewhere. The rate of bike accidents for tourists is quite high due to inexperienced bikers getting into issues as the bike lanes here are highly regulated (with stop lights) and the scooters don’t always follow the rules.
iAmsterdam sign. A classic photo. You can find a few iAmsterdam signs around the city although the most famous is in Museumplein by the Rijksmuseum.
When to visit Amsterdam? Come for King's Day [April 27/wear orange] OR the Pride Parade (on the canals) [Late July/wear whatever you want] to celebrate with the ENTIRE city! April and early May are the best times to visit Amsterdam, especially if you want to see the tulips.
Amsterdam Top Things to Do: Which Museums to Visit in Amsterdam?
Museum van Loon. This beautiful canal house houses a secret garden that houses one of my favorite museums in Amsterdam. It has period paintings and furniture. Most canal houses aren’t open to the public, so enjoy this museum (especially if you have the iAmsterdam card).
Van Gogh. If you love Van Gogh, you can see his paintings at other museums, but this museum is beautifully designed!
Anne Frank House. A must-see. Be sure to reserve ahead (up to 2 months ahead) as they’ve increased the number of tickets that are reservation only and the line can take hours.
The Jewish Historical Museum (Joods Historisch Museum) is incredibly interesting and well-designed. The Portuguese Synagogue is worth visiting for it alone as it is a beautiful structure that remains entirely intact that is lit by candlelight. As many Dutch Jews died in the Holocaust, this museum is a moving testament to the role of Jews in Dutch history and learning about Judaism.
Should you get the iAmsterdam card?
What neighborhoods to visit in Amsterdam?
What to eat in Amsterdam / What foods to try in Amsterdam
Indonesian food. You can try Rijsttafel, which is a tradition stemming from the Dutch colonization of Indonesia, where you try 40+ dishes from all around Indonesia in one meal. It is not cheap, but a nice introduction to Indonesian food. Otherwise, you can keep an eye out for take-out Indonesian places that are less expensive, casual, and only open for dinner (my favorites: Sari Citra & Eethuis Pondok Indah) that specialize in Indonesian food from their home regions. (Both Sari Citra and Eethuis Podok Indah have tables if you want to sit there to eat.)
Surinamese Roti. This dish is found all across Amsterdam. Super filling, unique, and inexpensive. De Pijp is the best area to find restaurants serving this dish (Albert Cuypstraat).
Cheese. My favorite type is extra young Boeren (typical Dutch farmer cheese) although you’ll find some from regions all around the Netherlands. (Read more about varieties here!) Gouda is the most famous type although if you visit Alkmaar [nearby city] on a Friday in spring/summer, you can visit the Netherland’s most famous cheese market. The supermarkets also have a great cheese selection.
Stroopwafels. These classic Dutch desserts are so tasty. You can pick them up at Albert Heijn for under 2 euros.
Bitterballen. These fried balls filled with beef are a Dutch bar classic served with mustard.
Frites. Fries. Served with mayonnaise.
Croquettes. At FEBO (Put in a coin and get a snack!). These fried Dutch snacks are filled with meat and ...flavors. They’re Dutch comfort food. Sate filled croquettes (vegetarian) are popular. A nice snack on your way home from a night out...
Tony’s Chocolonely. This addictive/delicious chocolate is the FIRST in the world to be made not using slave labor. The caramel sea salt bar (Karamel zeezalt) is the orange one found at Albert Heijn.
Poffertjes.Little Dutch pancakes. So good. Look for touristic bakeries and get extra powered sugar!
Kasteeltjes. These little cakes that are filed with marzipan are one of my weaknesses. They’re not easy to find (although sold at some branches of Albert Heijn), but they’re so good if you can find them.
Haring. Haring is a type of fish that many people eat raw or on a sandwich. It’s very mild, so even fish-haters (like myself), find it tasty. You can find at fish stores (vishandel) and haring stands.
Dutch Pancakes. They’re flatter than American pancakes, but delicious. Easy to find.
Van Stapele cookies. These chocolate delicious cookies are made fresh to order at their namesake shop.
Apple Pie. The Dutch make their own variant of apple pie. Winkel 43 is one of the best places in Amsterdam for apple pie. Affordable and a must-try!
What to drink in Amsterdam / What beer to try in Amsterdam!
Dutch beer. Even if you’re not a beer drinker, Dutch beer is often in the Belgian style, which means that it’s more mild and less intense than beers elsewhere. Look for white [witte] beers and beers NOT from Heineken. I cannot even list ALL the local breweries that I love, but look for Oedipus, Brouwerij ‘T IJ, Brouwerij de Prael, Gebrouwen door Vrouwen. For more breweries, click for information about craft beer in Amsterdam.
(Note: I have absolutely nothing against Heineken, but seriously, there's SO much good beer to try that you cannot find elsewhere! More coming soon.)
How to get to Amsterdam from Schiphol Airport
If the train is not running due to construction (an issue late at night), find the bus towards Leidseplein. You can pay in cash on the bus and once you get off at Leidseplein, you’ll be in the city center.
Important: Do not go with anyone who approaches you in Schiphol Airport about a taxi. There is a scam in Amsterdam where people functionally extort tourists looking for taxis. Many get fake vests that say “Official Amsterdam Taxi." There is an official taxi line outside. Taxis from Schiphol to Amsterdam city centre should cost 45-55 euros with an optimum route. If it’s above 70 euros, ask your hotel or hostel for assistance. I've been ripped off myself... I only use Taxicentrale now.
Save this number in your phone if you take taxis: Taxicentrale Amsterdam: +31 020 777 77 77. It is the biggest cab company in Amsterdam. They accept credit cards, function 24 hours a day, will pick up people all around Amsterdam/Schiphol, and their cabs are honest. (Police/Emergencies: 112)
Best neighborhoods to stay in Amsterdam / Where to Stay in Amsterdam
How to Get Around Amsterdam and whether you should rent a bike in Amsterdam...
The trams are the easiest way to get around Amsterdam as many go from Centraal Station and past many of the tourist attractions. For now, you can buy your tickets on tram, but an unlimited ticket is best. As of April, you cannot pay on the bus in cash and you need to buy tickets, either single ride or an unlimited ticket (24-48-72 hours), at a machine.
I personally find biking in Centre stressful due to the many tourists who walk in the bike lane. If you want to do it, head out of Amsterdam on one of the bike paths towards Zaanse Schans. Just stay in the bike lane and follow the signs. It cannot be easier and less stressful once you leave Amsterdam. You don’t need a bike tour to visit Zaanse Schans and it’s very easy to follow the signs to Zaandam (and onwards to Zaanse Schans).
Things to do before you visit Amsterdam
- Book your hostel/hotel at least a month in advance. Prices increase on weekends and many hotels/hostels fill up in high season! High season is March-July. If you do not book ahead, you'll end up quite far away from the city center or paying very high prices.
- Get a good raincoat if you don’t have one. Wondering what else to pack? Check this packing list for Amsterdam!
- Book your Anne Frank tickets ahead. Per a new policy implemented in 2016, the Anne Frank museum is only open to visitors who reserve ahead 9am to 3:30pm then open after for walk-ins... You can book tickets starting two months in advance and be warned that it sells out typically 2-4 weeks before. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait in line, which usually trails around the block. If you can't get tickets, it's best around dinner time.
- Notify your bank that you need to use the ATM. Things are improving in the tourist centre, but many shops still don’t take foreign credit cards. For ATMs, look out these major Dutch banks for ATMs: ABN AMRO & Rabobank. You'll get a better rate than at a money exchanger. (FYI the currency is Euro. My in-laws witnessed someone trying to pay with dollars at the Anne Frank House...)
Do people speak English in Amsterdam?
Looking for more advice? I got lots more to say about Amsterdam!
4 Awesome Dutch Castles (2 are close to Amsterdam!)
Guide to seeing the Tulips for free!
Best Food in Amsterdam.
Local Neighborhood Guide to Amsterdam.
Best Photo Spots in Amsterdam.