This is an excerpt from the Amsterdam City Guide I’ve written for SANDEMANs NEW Europe’s website. Read it in full here. I’ve also written guides about Brussels, Copenhagen and Paris, which are coming up soon.
Amsterdam is one of the most popular destinations in Europe, attracting an average of 15 million visitors per year. That comes as no surprise, as the Dutch capital has a glorious past as trading hub in the seventeenth century, a period which gave the city its picturesque canals and some of its most famous works of art. But Amsterdam also has eyes into the future, being renowned for its progressive views on prostitution, marriage equality and marijuana use.
GOOD TO KNOW
Schiphol Airport is easily connected to the city center by trains that run every 15 minutes and cost around 4.50€. The ride lasts about 18 minutes.
Euro. You can exchange money at the airport or use one of its ATMs.
Amsterdam is small. Almost all tourist attractions are within walking distance from each other. However, if you still want or need to use the public transport, the trams, buses and metro will take you everywhere. A single ticket will cost you 2.90€ and a day pass costs 7.50€. You need to check in and check out on every journey.
Amsterdam’s public transport system is not operated by the same company that is responsible for the trains. So, if you plan on visiting other Dutch cities, you might want to buy an OV Chipkaart, a card that is valid in all public transport systems across the country. An anonymous card costs around 8€ and is sold at train stations. You need to top it up with at least 20€ to be able to use it on the trains.
Iamsterdam City Card
You also may want to buy an iAmsterdam City Card, which gives you free access to most museums and unlimited travel on Amsterdam’s public transport system.
In 2015, Amsterdam was ranked as the 5th safest city to visit in the world. However, do beware of pickpockets. When visiting the Red Light District at night, you might be approached by people selling hard drugs. Don’t ever buy from those guys. Not only is it illegal, it’s also dangerous. In 2014, 17 tourists have been hospitalized, of which three have died, after buying white heroin believing it was cocaine.
Not expected, but you’re welcome to give 10% if you like the service.
Emergency number 112
Most Dutchies speak great English, but if you still want to make a good impression, here are a few words:
Hallo – hello
Alstublieft – Please
Dank u wel – Thank you
Pardon – Excuse me
Sorry – Sorry (yep, that one is easy!)
Ik spreek geen Nederlands – I don’t speak Dutch
Spreek je engels? – Do you speak English?
Ik ben mijn weg kwijt – I am lost
Hoeveel kost het? – How much is it?
- Museumplein (Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum)
- Anne Frank’s House
- Red Light District
- Royal Palace
- Flower Market
- Jordaan district
- Rembrandt’s house
- Heineken Experience
- Madame Tussauds
- Canal Company Tours
3 cool places to stay if you don’t mind sleeping outside the city center
- WOW Hostel – This huge building in the Sloterdijk area is both a hostel and a temporary home for artists.
- Teleport Hotel – Hip and affordable hotel next to Sloterdijk train station.
- Qbic – Next to Amsterdam Zuid (South) train and metro stations. Its cubic rooms are full of character.
NEIGHBORHOOD 1 – CITY CENTER AND JORDAAN
This area concentrates most tourist attractions. You’ll be able to do everything on foot. However, you must take into account that this is also the most famous and, therefore, most expensive neighborhood to stay.
Where to sleep
- Flying Pig Hostels € – World famous for their relaxed atmosphere, these hostels are smoker friendly.
- Stayokay Stadsdoelen € – The Stayokay hostels are known for their cleanliness and facilities. It is a great option if you’re not the smoking type. This one is next to the Red Light District.
- Stayokay Vondelpark € – If you want a more bucolic setting, this hostel is practically inside the Vondelpark and not too far away from Leidseplein.
- Hans Brinker Budget Hostel € – They define themselves as “quite honestly, not the best”, but don’t be scared. What they mean is that this is a no-frills accommodation. If you’re looking for luxury, this is not the place for you. But if you’re a backpacker looking for something cheap and well located, go for it!
- Ecomama €€ – A green boutique hostel that cares about its carbon footprint.
- Cocomama €€ – Are you a backpacker but still enjoy some comfort and luxury? Cocomama is for you. Their motto is “as safe and familiar as hanging out at mom’s, but then with other international trotters like you”.
- Dikker en Thijs €€€ – Cute four-star boutique hotel in the heart of the Canal district.
- Die Port Van Cleve €€€ – You can’t get better located than this! Make sure to check its bar, Blauwe Parade, which was one of the very first in the city and has a beautiful Delft blue fresco. Their restaurant has been counting the steaks they serve since 1874.
- NH Museum Quarter €€€ – Location, location, location! Right next to the Museum Square, you can’t be better located if you are in Amsterdam for the art.
Where to eat
- La Place Kalverstraat € – La Place is a chain of restaurants where you can serve yourself from a buffet with many, many options — from fresh salads to yakissoba to croissants. Sure to please every taste. This one’s at the shopping street Kalverstraat.
- La Place Openbare Bibliotheek € – Amsterdam’s public library is right next to the Central Train Station. On its top floor, you will find a La Place restaurant. Sit outside and you will get breathtaking views of the city.
- Grandcafé Ovidius € – Right next to Dam Square, this place is a good stop to refill during a busy sightseeing day.
- The Butcher €€ – One of the best burger places in the city. It has several locations, the newest one is at Spuistraat, a stone-throw away from 9 straatjes.
- Omelegg €€ – Need a strong breakfast to start the day? Omelegg’s omelets are filling and yummy.
- Restaurant Greetje €€€ – One of the most famous places for traditional Dutch food.
- Van Stapele Koekmakerij € – Van Stapele only sells one type of chocolate cookie. That’s because that one cookie is so tasty they don’t need to sell anything else to have a huge line (formed by tourists as well as locals) at the door.
- Leidseplein – Flooded with tourists, this square has many different restaurants, most of them quite affordable. Some are good, others not so much, but you are sure to find almost every type of cuisine here.
- Reypanear €€ – Want to learn more about Dutch cheese? Reypanear’s shop not only sells it, it also offers a cool cheese tasting, so you get to learn a bit about how each type of cheese is made and which wines go well with them.
- Soep enzo € – Fancy a soup? Soep Enzo offers home-made takeaway soup to warm up your soul!
- Stach €€ – This hipster-ish food shop has several locations in Amsterdam. It is a great place to go for snack — from pasta to salads to sweets, they have it all.
Where to shop
- By Popular Demand €€ – We bet you’ll spend a long time inside this shop. They have the funniest, most creative gifts!
- 9 Straatjes – These nine cute streets in the canal district are full of interesting shops (and places to eat, too). Want an overview of what you can find there? Visit http://de9straatjes.nl
- Brilmuseum €€ – Do you need a new pair of glasses? At the brilmuseum not only you get to see the evolution of glasses throughout the decades, but you can also buy your own pair of vintage specs.
- Kalverstraat – The busiest shopping street in Amsterdam, where you will find all the international brands, like H&M, Zara, Pull & Bear etc.
- Magna Plaza – This shopping mall is as interesting for its shops as it is for its architecture.
Where to rent a bike
No visit to Amsterdam is complete without a bike ride. Rent yours at MacBike for the best quality and prices: www.macbike.nl. Then go on a Bike Tour with us!
NEIGHBORHOOD 2 – DE PIJP
Formerly a working-class neighborhood, De Pijp is now one of the trendiest parts of the city to drink and dine thanks to its international community.
Where to eat
- Albert Cuyp markt – The biggest street market in Amsterdam. It’s one of the best places to get your fries with mayonnaise, fresh stroopwaffels, croquettes and other Dutch snacks.
- Sla €€ – Sla means salad in Dutch and that’s what you will get there: huge bowls of salad! Great for detoxing after a night out.
- CTaste €€€ – How about eating in total darkness without knowing what your meal is going to be, plus being served by a blind waiter? CTaste is definitely an unforgettable experience.
- Sir Hummus €€ – This place serves hummus as a main dish, with different toppings and warm pita bread on the side. Yummy.
- Wild Moa Pies € – This food shop for expats from New Zealand and Australia also sells delicious savory pies.
- Scandinavian Embassy €€ – The place to go for Scandinavian food. Great coffee!
- Ciel Bleu €€€€ – If you feel like splurging, head to Okura Hotel to have dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
- Van ‘t Spit €€ – A restaurant dedicated to chicken. Great success among locals.