Amsterdam

Known as the Venice of the North thanks to its many canals, Amsterdam is one of Europe’s top destinations. Tilting gabled buildings line the Golden Age canals and with grand squares, create a wonderful cityscape ideal for exploring by bike, on foot or on the water.

As the capital of The Netherlands, it’s also a major cultural hub and is the best place to sample Dutch history and heritage. This means world-class museums and galleries, vintage and contemporary boutiques, creative spaces and one of the best café and club scenes in the world.

To make the most of a visit to this marvellous city, here is our guide to Amsterdam.

Getting to Amsterdam

The city is served by Schiphol International Airport which handles flights from all major carriers from all over the world.

Transfer time by road from the airport to Central Amsterdam is 40-50 minutes and by train is 14-17 minutes. Local bus transfer times will vary according to the route.

There is a London to Amsterdam Eurostar service (arriving at Amsterdam Centraal Station) that takes 3 hours 52 minutes.

Passports and Visas

UK citizens travelling to Amsterdam do not require a visa.

A passport is needed and must meet the Schengen Area Passport Requirements. This means passports for adults and minors must

  • · have a date of issue of less than 10 years before the date you enter The Netherlands
  • · be valid for 3 months after the date you intend to leave the Netherlands.

Always check if there are Covid-restrictions in force when you travel. Non-compliance with restrictions may prevent your entry into the country.

Minors (anyone under the age of 18 is considered a minor in The Netherlands) must have written parental consent if they are travelling unaccompanied by an adult.

Pets require a passport, have to have been microchipped and vaccinated against rabies.

The Weather

The Netherlands and UK experience a similar climate so you can expect summers that are generally warm with occasional cool periods and winters that are quite cold and rainy. North Sea winds bring a significant chill factor.

The average temperature in January is 3.5°C and in July is 17°C.

The Best Time to Visit

Visit in spring to enjoy the riot of colours created by the blooming tulips and daffodils.

Choose summer if you want to enjoy sightseeing on foot or by bike.

Autumn is pleasantly mild (with a chance of rain) and there are fewer tourists.

The city is quite lovely in winter when it snows but it is fabulous when dressed for Christmas.

Whatever time of year you visit, pack practical clothing and an umbrella because year-round weather is unpredictable.

The Best Neighbourhoods to Stay

You’ll find accommodation of all types right around the city but we’ve picked out the best areas to stay.

Jordaan

Together, Jordaan and Nine Streets are the heart of central Amsterdam. Jordaan is charming and quite beautiful. The narrowed cobbled streets are filled with canal-side houses, boutique shops and loads of trendy places to eat and drink. Many of the canal houses have been turned into lovely boutique hotels so you can guarantee an interesting stay. Anne Frank’s house is also here which is a must-visit.

Nine Streets

Also known as the Canal Belt, Negen Straatjes has the same charm as Jordaan and covers the areas along the banks of the three most famous canals, the Keizersgracht, Singel and Herengracht. The endless canal scenes are Instagram-worthy and it is full of boats, bicycles and great places to shop, eat and drink.

De Pijp

Just a 15-minute walk from the city centre, De Pijp is probably the coolest and most cosmopolitan part of Amsterdam. There’s a bright multi-cultural and creative vibe and is a popular haunt of hipsters and foodies who love the Albert Cuyp Market. The nightlife is great and you’re also just a few minutes away from the Rijksmuseum and Vondelpark.

Westerpark

Further out and to the west of the city centre, Westerpark is a popular choice for budget and self-catering holidaymakers. There are excellent aparthotels and short let apartments in this area and transport links still enable a full itinerary of sightseeing. The park itself is a lovely place for a walk.

Nieuwmarkt en Lastage

If you’re attracted to interesting architecture, you can’t go wrong in choosing to stay here. It sits south of Centraal Station toward the River Amstel. The district is centred on Oosterdok, a former industrial harbour and buildings on the skyline include the Central Library and NEMO Science Museum. Cultural interests in this neighbourhood include the Rembrandt House Museum, the Zuiderkerk and Mediamatic. 

Things to See and Do in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a wonderfully atmospheric city and if you just want to wander around enjoying the scenery and seeking out great places to eat and drink, it is certainly a satisfying break. With a wealth of attractions, however, if you intend sightseeing, it is sensible to have some idea of where you want to visit and what you want to see.

Top Attractions With an Entrance Fee

  • Amsterdam Museum – Tells the history of the city
  • Rijksmuseum – Home of Dutch Masters paintings
  • ARTIS Royal Zoo – The 5th oldest zoo in the world
  • Rembrandt House Museum – The artist’s home between 1639 and 1658
  • Nieuwe Kerk (The New Church) – Despite the name, it dates from the 15th century
  • The Anne Frank House – Discover the famous diarist’s secret life under Nazi occupation
  • Tropenmuseum - A museum of world cultures in a beautiful building
  • The Royal Palace of Amsterdam - King Willem-Alexander's official reception palace
  • Torre A’DAM Lookout and its Swings – Offers amazing views of the city
  • NEMO Science Centre – Packed with interactive exhibits and activities
  • Madame Tussauds – The Netherlands branch of the famous wax museums
  • Van Gogh Museum – Dedicated to the genius artist
  • The Heineken Experience – An interactive tour through the brewery
  • Eye Film institute – Art house movies and exhibitions
  • Canal boat cruise- Many different tours available

Top Free Attractions

  • Roam around the canal ring – Wander at will around the 400-year-old waterways
  • Concertgebouw – Free concerts every Wednesday lunchtime
  • Muziektheater – Free music every Thursday lunchtime
  • Bimhuis – Free jazz sessions every Tuesday (except July and Auust)
  • Civic Guard Gallery - A teaser for the exhibits at the Amsterdam Museum
  • Rijksmuseum Gardens - An outdoor gallery with flowerbeds, fountains, playground and Henry Moore sculptures
  • Visit the red light district and the Condomerie
  • Walking tours – Many are available with different routes and themes
  • Begijnhof – A pretty hidden courtyard with bronze statues
  • NDSM-werf – An avant-garde arts collective
  • Gassan Diamond Factory Tour – See gem cutters and polishers in action
  • Poezenboot – A cat sanctuary on a canal boat
  • Centrale Bibliotheek (Central Library) – Wonderful views from the top floor café
  • iAmsterdam Sign – A great photo opportunity but it now moves around locations in the city
  • Visit a street market - see below

The Best Markets in Amsterdam

  • Bloemenmarkt – The famous floating flower market
  • Albert Cuyp Markt – A one-stop shop for everything
  • Waterlooplein Markt – For all things vintage and retro
  • Noordermarkt – A foodie’s heaven farmers market
  • Artplein-Spui – A must for art lovers

There are also various Christmas markets in the city. Museumplein, for example, transforms into a charming Christmas village, complete with an ice rink, live entertainment, market stalls and refreshment stands.

Indulging in the local food scene is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in a different culture.

Top 10 Foods to Eat in Amsterdam

Bitterballen – A classic Dutch beer snack of deep-fried meatballs served with a mustard dipping sauce.

Stroopwafel – Two super-thin waffle biscuits sandwiched together with a sweet syrup

Dutch Fries – Thick cut chips are served in a paper cone with various toppings. The favourites are ‘patat speciaal’ – curry ketchup, mayonnaise and raw onions and ‘patatje oorlog’ – satay (peanut) sauce, mayonnaise and raw onion.

Apple Pie – The Dutch version is deep-dished, dotted with raisins and usually served with whipped cream.

Tompouce – A cream-filled pastry with a layer of smooth pink icing and all must be exactly the same size.

Pancakes – Sold all over the city, pancakes are crepes rather than American-style.

Raw Herring – Sold from carts known as haringhandels, best eaten between May and July and in a ‘broodje haring’, a small sandwich of herring with onions and pickles.

Poffertjes – Fluffy clouds of hot, buttery batter sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Snert – A thick soup of split peas, pork, celery, onions and leeks, popular in winter

Indonesian Rijsttafel – Even though from a foreign cuisine, a ‘rice table’ is an array of small dishes that have become an absolute firm favourite of Amsterdam.

 Making the Most of Your Visit

City Etiquette

Amsterdam enjoys the reputation of being a very liberal city and it is. It is also a very safe city with few crimes committed against tourists. But there are strict laws that are enforced rigorously by the police and it is easy to be fined for a transgression.

The main laws and regulations to be aware of are:

  • Do not consume alcohol in the street (except in designated areas outside licensed premises)
  • Do not smoke marijuana in public.
  • Do not walk on cycle paths.
  • Minors are not allowed in coffee shops (where marijuana can be bought and consumed).
  • Videos cannot be made inside coffee shops.
  • Do not video or photograph the women in shop windows in the red light district.

The Language

If English is your mother tongue you will be pleasantly surprised by how fluent the Dutch population is. Dutch is the official language but the whole population speaks English.

It always pays to be polite however so a few Dutch phrases are always helpful.

Some common words and phrases:

    • Good morning / Goedemorgen
    • Good evening / Goedenavond
    • Hello / Hallo
    • Goodbye / Tot ziens
    • Yes / Ja
    • No / Neen
    • Please = Alstublieft
    • Thank you / Dank
    • You're welcome / Alstublieft
    • Excuse me / Pardon
    • How much / Hoeveel kost het?
    • Where is ... / Waar is ...
    • What time is it? / Hoe laat is het?
    • I don't understand / Ik begrijp het niet
    • I don’t know / Ik weet het niet
    • Where is the toilet / War is de toilette?

The Currency

The Dutch currency is the Euro. Much of Amsterdam is moving towards cashless transactions so it is best to carry a small amount of money along with your debit/credit card. Most public transport is cashless and many establishments only take cards. An exception is the bruin cafes (brown cafes) where only cash is accepted.

Prices

Amsterdam is one of the most expensive cities in Europe for visitors. Do not expect a cheap trip and take enough money to sustain yourself for the whole length of your stay.

Some examples of prices

      • Water 1.5l (supermarket): from €2.00
      • 0.5l local beer (supermarket): from €1.25
      • small beer (in a bar): average €3.00
      • Bottle of red wine (supermarket): from €7.00
      • Glass of wine (in a bar): €4.50
      • Cappuccino: €3.00
      • Full breakfast: from €7.50
      • Lunch for two with a bottle of wine: from €50
      • Dinner for two with a bottle of wine: from €80
      • Transport pass valid for 24 hours: €17.00
      • Transport pass valid for 48 hours: €22.50
      • Transport pass valid for 72 hours: €28.00
      • Private Airport Taxi: from €75

Opening Times

Amsterdam is not a 24/7 city.

Generally, shop opening hours are 09:00 to 18:00 although close to the centre and main attractions hours are extended. Some open later on Mondays (10:00) and many shops have reduced hours at the weekend.

Supermarkets mostly stay open until 20:00.

Pharmacies are open from Monday to Friday from 08:00 – 18:00 with a rota in play for the nights and weekends.

Restaurants open for lunch between 11:00 and 15:00 and for dinner 17:30 to 23:00.

Coffee shops open in the morning and close around midnight.

Public Holidays

Christmas, New Year and Easter follow the same pattern as European public holidays and there are country-specific holidays:

        • Koningsdag (King’s Day): 27 April
        • Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day): 5 May
        • Hemelvaartsdag (Ascension Day): Variable – the 40th day of Easter
        • Eerste en tweede pinksterdag (Whit Sunday and Whit Monday) – 10th day after Ascension and 50th day after Easter Monday

Getting Around in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of the easiest cities in Europe to get around. It is very walkable and very easy by bike. Good public transport that is dependable and reasonably priced connects the centre with the outer districts. There’s a free ferry across the River IJ.

Public Transport

The Tram - The main form of public transport. Trams are cashless. The tram network has 15 lines and 500 stations.

Amsterdam Metro – 5 lines and 39 stations make up the rapid transit network. The metro operates unti1 01:00 on weekdays and until 02:00 at the weekend.

Buses – Connect the centre and outer districts with night bus services also in operation.

Transport Cards

Numerous travelcards are available and they make using public transport easier, more convenient and cheaper, especially since most of the buses and trams do not accept cash payments for tickets.

Some of the most popular travelcards are:

OV-chipkaart – Offers unlimited travel on tram, metro and bus and can be bought in denominations of one hour, one day, one week.

I Amsterdam City Card – Unlimited transport and also entrance to main attractions for 24, 48, 72 or 120 hours.

GVB day passes – unlimited travel on GVB trams, buses and metros, available from 1 to 7 days.

Public and private taxis are available 24/7.

Navigating on Foot

Once you grasp that the major canals run in a loop in the shape of a horseshoe in alphabetical order it is easy to walk the picturesque cobbled streets to find your way around Central Amsterdam. The exception is the Singel Canal which forms the innermost ring.

The routes around the canals are numbered Circle 1, Circle 2 etc. Get your bearings easily by knowing the locations of Dam Square, Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein.

Exploring by Bike

Amsterdam is awash with cycle lanes and bike rental shops. Bikes can be rented by the day or week and costs on average from €8 to €15 a day depending on the type of bike. Remember to stick to the red asphalt-covered bike lanes and stay off the pedestrian footpaths. Always use the two locks to secure your bike and park in designated areas. Helmets are not legally required but are recommended and can be hired with a bike.

Book With Tourleader

You can book the attractions of Amsterdam here with our fast, simple and secure payments. We issue eTickets to your mobile phone so you only have to show them at the entrance. Booking in advance helps you avoid queues.