EXPLORE

The Travel Guide to Amsterdam

Good to Know
Safety:
A
Budget:
$$$
When to go:
Mar–Oct
Average Costs
Basic
Baller
Dinners
$12
$80+
Drinks
$6
$15+
Hotel
$100
$350+

Welcome to Amsterdam

Twenty years ago, the idyllic city of Amsterdam was practically a ghost town compared to what it is today. Though it’s always been plainly gorgeous, bursting with creativity, and turning out generation after generation of happy, healthy locals, it wasn’t in league with other European heavy hitters like Paris or Rome when it came to tourism. 

Today, it’s a different story. Visitors outnumber locals by 20 to 1, and weekends bring in large groups of partying Europeans who come for the city’s permissive attitudes towards sex and drugs (don’t let that put you off if it’s not your scene; it’s easy to avoid). 

With its abundance of beautiful art, picturesque canals, exciting design, and two-wheeled transit, Amsterdam’s status as a boomtown isn’t changing any time soon. If you decide to visit, chances are high that you’ll fall in love with the city… just be sure to follow our advice on how to do so without also falling into any tourist traps.

Who’ll Love Amsterdam

Art and history lovers, groups of friends, adventurous couples, anyone curious about the intersection of design and sustainability, bike enthusiasts

How to Budget for a Trip to Amsterdam

Amsterdam has amassed a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in Europe, but while it isn’t cheap, there’s no reason a trip here has to break the bank. Hotels generally cost $100+ for a good stay, whereas vacation rentals range from $75-$200/night. The restaurant scene is certainly posh, so if you plan to eat your heart out, budget $100/day for food, while if your tastes are more simple, you can get by on $30 for three square meals. 

Safety Considerations

It sounds cliche to wax on about how places in northern Europe like the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway have achieved near-utopia, devoid of societal ills like pollution, flawed healthcare, and crime. 

There’s more nuance to it all, of course, but the fact remains that safety-wise, Amsterdam is among the best cities in the world. Yes, there is pickpocketing; tourists also fall victim to mugging on an occasional basis. But on the whole, Amsterdam is safe for LGBTQIA+ travelers, BIPOC travelers, solo women, and families with kids. Just be careful when you’re crossing the street as a pedestrian. The city’s many cyclists can appear as if out of thin air.

Weather in Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s more northerly location keeps the weather fairly temperate, with summer highs ranging from 68° to 71°F and most winter days hovering around 42° F. While snow is a rare occurrence, and it doesn’t often get cold enough to freeze the city’s canals, winter (November to February) can be damp and drizzly.

When to Visit Amsterdam

Summer brings the best weather—warm, sunny, and dry—but also the most visitors and highest prices. The fall months of September and October are a good compromise, with good weather but fewer crowds. Spring is also a popular time to visit as this is when the tulip fields are in bloom and the Keukenhof Gardens (generally open March to May each year) are awash in more than 7 million flowers. 

Money Saving Tips

Grab an I amsterdam city card for access to more than 70 museums and attractions, free public transport, and other discounts. 

Picnic in the park. Amsterdam has dozens of beautiful green spaces, like Oosterpark and the famous Vondelpark. Hit one of the markets like Nieuwmarkt and Noorderkerk to pack a picnic and enjoy lunch or dinner with a side of people watching. 

Go long. If you plan to rent a bike, rent by the day instead of the hour or for multiple days instead of one. Generally the longer the rental, the better the value. 

What to See, Do, and Eat in Amsterdam

The Top 10 Things to Do in Amsterdam

Amsterdam canal with tour boats
  1. Visit the Van Gogh Museum, particularly lovely in the summer when the sunflower gardens are in bloom
  2. Visit the Royal Palace, the largest non-religious building on the continent, erected in the 17th century and formerly serving as Amsterdam’s town hall
  3. Shop the so-called Nine Little Streets
  4. Take an iconic boat tour through the Amsterdam Canal District
  5. Rent a bike and take yourself on scenic tours of the city
  6. Check out the Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, one of the oldest museums in the city that’s a relic of 17th-century life in Amsterdam
  7. See the Anne Frank House where Anne and her family hid from the Nazis and she wrote her famous diary
  8. Head to Zandvoort, the lesser-known waterfront attraction in Amsterdam but a great beach to visit in the summertime
  9. Take a tour of Rembrandt’s beautifully preserved former home, full of his art – and his collection of art
  10. Visit the National Maritime Museum, both a history lesson and an opportunity to learn more about boats

The Local Picks for Top Attractions and Activities in Amsterdam

Montelbaanstoren Tower at night
  1. Have a laid-back day in De Pijp at Sarphatipark, best enjoyed with a book or a picnic
  2. Take a stroll through Oud West on a Saturday afternoon—check out the Ten Kate Market while you’re at it
  3. Take to the canals on a rented paddle board or kayak
  4. Snap some pics of the Montelbaanstoren Tower, one of the strangest and loveliest buildings in the city; it’s particularly photogenic at Golden Hour
  5. Take a walk through Nieuwendam, a lovely village of wooden houses with a distinct aesthetic, formally incorporated into Amsterdam proper in 1921
  6. Check out the weird and wonderful petting zoos in the middle of the city; they’re all volunteer-run and intended to help Dutch children enjoy a bit of rural life in the urban grid
  7. Rent a boat to cruise the canals on your own terms rather than taking an organized tour
  8. Have a beach day without leaving town at Sloterplas in Nieuw West
  9. Drop by Begijnhof (a hof, or hofje, is the Dutch term for a courtyard) for a respite from the madness of the city center
  10.  Visit the Museum Willet-Holthuysen, a small and gorgeous garden

What to Eat & Drink in Amsterdam

high arched ceiling above De Foodhallen

Amsterdam churns out posh, exciting cuisine with the best of them, perpetually vying for the element of surprise in both execution and ambience. A foodie will surely fall in love with Amsterdam’s many cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, and bars, but less passionate eaters can also be heard making yummy sounds in every corner of town. From upscale to down-home, there’s something to satisfy every appetite here.

  • De Foodhallen is a go-to food hall when you can’t decide what you fancy for dinner; be sure to check out Taqueria Lima and the G&T bar
  • Restaurant Barceloneta serves the best Catalan food in Amsterdam
  • Hannekes Boom is a favorite summer bar among locals, with a packed terrace along the canal
  • Eetcafe Festina Lente is a great choice if you’re looking to try out a traditional Dutch brown cafe, so called for the pervasive brown wood decor
  • Glouglou is a fun, lively watering hole that specializes in natural wine
  • Mastino is a great spot for authentic Italian (and vegan, and gluten-free) pizza; all their ingredients come straight from Italy
  • Madam is a swanky date-night spot with a great view and an onsite cocktail bar (make reservations)
  • Hennekes Boom is a good option for a delicious hamburger or a beer on the canal
  • Dignity serves up the best brunch in Amsterdam at its handful of locations throughout the city

Where to Stay in Amsterdam

Top Amsterdam Neighborhoods for Visitors

a quiet canal in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is extremely heavily trafficked by tourists, so while the city center offers plenty in the way of attractions, you’re likely to enjoy your stay more if you’re able to remove yourself from the throngs. Westerpark is a great option, full of green spaces. De Pijp and Jordaan are also fun; the former is a bit of a nightlife hub and the latter is full of eclectic, hip places to eat, drink, and shop.

Recommended Hotels in Amsterdam

  • Volkshotel (~$67/night): colorful and quirky with small rooms for small budgets 
  • Hotel Pontsteiger (~$109/night): waterfront hotel with clean Scandinavian design 
  • Hotel Mercier (~$164/night): design-centric with a stylish onsite restaurant and bar
  • Pulitzer Amsterdam (~$351/night): luxurious rooms with canal views 

Getting Around in Amsterdam

Public Transportation Options in Amsterdam

How to traipse through Amsterdam? Let us count the ways. There’s the metro, the rail line, the bus, the ferry, and the train—and that’s to say nothing of the complex cycling infrastructure throughout town. In fact, biking is the preferred method of transport in Amsterdam: The city is mostly flat, there are hundreds of miles’ worth of bike lanes, and bike-share and rental companies abound. If you need to get somewhere in a hurry, the tram and Uber are your best bets; if you’re in need of wheelchair accessibility, hop on the tram, as Amsterdam’s cobblestones and steep bridges can pose a problem.

Amsterdam Airports

The largest and busiest airport in the Netherlands is Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS), often called simply Schiphol Airport. It’s less than six miles from Amsterdam’s city center and the hub for KLM as well as a hub city for Martinair, Transavia, and TUI fly Netherlands.

Only have a short time in the city between flights? Check out our layover guide to Amsterdam.

How to Get to Amsterdam from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS)

There is a train station underneath the airport, and from there it takes less than 20 minutes to arrive at Amsterdam’s Central Station. A single ticket costs €4.50, or a day pass (for unlimited public transit trips) is €17. The Amsterdam Airport Express bus, number 397, is also covered by the same day pass and that trip takes about 25 minutes. Taxi rides take about 15 minutes and fares start at around €45. An Uber ride may cost from €30-60.

Where Else to Go from Amsterdam

Day Trips from Amsterdam

buildings of The Hague on the waterfront

Take a 40-minute train ride southwest from Amsterdam  to The Hague, arguably the poshest city in the Netherlands. Be sure to go to the coastline district known as Scheveningen.

Take an hour-long train ride southeast to Rotterdam, a modern urban oasis in the country of gingerbread houses, tiny narrow streets, and bikes, plus lots of great spots to eat and drink.

Ride the train for 1.5 hours southwest to Keukenhof in the springtime to witness the tulip fields. It’s touristy, but it’s also incredible.

Take an hour-long bike ride to Zaanse Shans to see the classic Dutch windmills and 18th-century architecture.

Where Else to Visit from Amsterdam

Hop on a 2-hour train southward to Brussels and use the capital as a starting point as you explore Belgium in all its glory.

Continue the party theme with an hour-long flight or 6.5-hour train ride to Berlin and prepare to be amazed, confused, entertained, and up all night.

Fly an hour southwest or take a 3.5-hour train ride to Paris for more art museums and amazing food. 

Books, Movies, and TV Shows Set in Amsterdam

Amsterdam doesn’t show up on the large or small screens as often as some other European cities, but there are a few shows and movies to check out for a glimpse at the city’s canals before you visit. Check out The Diary of Anne Frank (read the book first), Girl With a Pearl Earring, and the Fault in Our Stars to get started. 

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