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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
You’ll find accommodation of all types right around the city but we’ve picked out the best areas to stay.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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
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.
Christmas, New Year and Easter follow the same pattern as European public holidays and there are country-specific holidays:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.