Amsterdam is unlike any other European city and it has almost anything you need. Whether you want a romantic getaway or crazy trip with your friends, Amsterdam will be perfect choice for both! Though it certainly has everything that one European metropolis should have, it still gives you the feel of a small town where anything can be reached by foot. There are plenty of things to explore in the Venice of the North so let’s see what this amazing city has to offer!
Table of Contents
Oude Zijde (Old Side) – The eastern part of Amsterdam is commonly known as Oude Zijde and it used to be an important commercial centre. Nowadays, it is overflown with tourists seeking to get in touch with the “intriguing” side of Amsterdam.
- Red Light District – Red Light District is what makes Amsterdam stand out when compared to any other European city. Prostitution in the Netherlands dates back to the 13th century, but it was not until 1988 when it became a legal profession. Naturally, the Dutch took advantage of that and turned it into a real tourist attraction. This area is characterized by a long lane with show-windows where prostitutes from all over the world try to get their “customers”. Other popular attractions in this area include Sex Cinema and Museum of Prostitution where one can see how it’s like to stand behind a window, read other people’s sexual confessions or even write their own!
- Museum Het Rembrandthuis – It would be shame not to visit the house of one of the most famous painters in the world. Rembrandt van Rijn worked and lived in this house in the period between 1639 and 1656. The house was reconstructed on the inside to show how the house would have looked while Rembrandt lived there. Next to his house is a modern building where some of Rembrandt’s works are displayed, mainly etchings because his paintings are currently displayed in Rijksmuseum.
- Hash Marijuana Hemp Museum – This museum is actually the only museum in Europe dedicated to the history of marijuana. Some of the exhibits in the museum are more than 8000 years old when people used the plant for medicine and clothing. In Hemp Museum you can learn how to make hash, how to cultivate cannabis and learn about the history of hash in other European countries.
- Oude Kerk – The oldest building in the city is the famous Oude Kerk which is, ironically, situated directly in front of the Red Light District! Yes, you read well – while some prefer visiting this beautiful Gothic church, others lurk windows in the Red Light District, madness right? Also, did you know that there’s a sculpture of hand grasping a breast right in front of Oude Kerk? Those Dutch sure know how to provoke people!
Nieuwe Zijde (New Side)
- Dam Square – The main square in Amsterdam is the favourite gathering place for tourists and locals as well. It got its name after the original location of the dam in the river Amstel which is now Centraal Station, around 800m from the square. There is a funfair on Dam Square several times a year where you can go on crazy rides and try delicious waffles. Also, don’t miss to take a photo in XXL Dutch clogs which can be found on Dam Square – it’s a fun memory to bring back home!
- Nieuwe Kerk – One of the most iconic monuments on the main Amsterdam square is Nieuwe Kerk, the late-Gothic masterpiece built in the early 15th century. Fun fact – it is actually the second oldest church in Amsterdam (after Oude Kerk) despite its “new” name.
- Madame Tussauds Museum – The museum on Dam Square is among the most visited attractions in Amsterdam. The Madame Tussauds Museum in Amsterdam is one of 26 museums of this kind in the world. It is a museum with wax figures of famous people and celebrities and it was founded by wax sculptor Marie Tussaud. Some of the real-size statues in Amsterdam depict personalities such as Royal Family, famous musicians like Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, actors, artists and even Marvel superheroes!
- Rijksmuseum – This museum is probably the most visited museum in Europe, after Louvre. Rijksmuseum houses an imposing number of total 8000 objects of art and history, among which are displayed some of the best works of Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Johannes Vermeer. Tip: Skip the long queues and book your ticket online, it will save you a lot of time!
- Van Gogh Museum – Now, it would be shame to visit Amsterdam without paying a visit to the greatest “shrine” dedicated to the most famous Post-Impressionist painter, Vincent Van Gogh. The Van Gogh Museum has the largest collection of the painter’s works considering the fact that it has around 200 paintings, 400 drawings, and 700 letters written by Van Gogh himself which show us different phases of his artistic and private life.
- Stedelijk – Stedelijk Museum is must-visit for every art lover because it comprises the works of the most influential artists of the past century such as Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, etc.
The Canal Belt:
- Anne Frank House – Probably the most known museum in Amsterdam is the old house of Anne Frank, Jewish girl who was one of the victims of the Nazis in WWII. This touching museum will introduce you closer with the life this girl and her family led during the Nazi occupation in the Netherlands. Their life followed the same pattern every day – they were hiding in secret annexe in the building in complete silence, they weren’t allowed to open taps or flush toilets because workers downstairs could have heard them. Anne Frank House is a must-visit for every visitor of Amsterdam since it gives you a unique insight in the life of a girl whose story changed the world. The admission fee to the museum is 10€ (audio guide included).
- Heineken Museum Experience – One of the best known European beer is for sure the Dutch Heineken. The interactive museum is placed inside old brewery and it has four floors of multimedia exhibits and a bar where you can taste famous beer. The tour has audioguide in 9 languages and it lasts around 1.5 hours.
- Flower Market – Wondering where to buy the best tulip bulbs in Amsterdam? Then head straight to the Bloemenmarkt, the world’s only flower market on river. It consists of 15 florist shops but you’ll also bump into few souvenir shops as well. Get yourself a pack of 10 bulbs for only €2 and plant “a bit of the Netherlands” in your own garden!
Getting around Amsterdam
Public transportation in Amsterdam is one of the best developed in Europe, I can guarantee you that. Their trams, buses and metros are always in accordance with the timetable and there’s no way you’ll be in delay. Trams are the most popular means of public transportation and they depart every 10-15 minutes. Single ticket costs €1.60 and it is valid up to 1 hour. But, if you are not too keen on riding bikes in Amsterdam where people sometimes ride bikes faster than some cars, then the best option would be to buy a GVB ticket for unlimited rides. You have the possibility of buying 24-, 48-, 72-, or 96-hour ticket, depending on how many days you plan to stay. These multi-day tickets can be bought at GVB’s offices and at any tourist office.
Travel by bicycle:
When riding a bicycle in Amsterdam, you should follow some rules because it could be dangerous for inexperienced cyclists. For starters, always watch for cars and motorists and especially other cyclists because they slalom their way between other people in traffic and if you are not quick to avoid them, it might get ugly.
- Watch out for tram tracks as well, be careful not to get stuck in them.
- After dusk, your bike should have lights and reflectors, so when renting a bicycle, make sure you rent the right one or you might get a penalty ticket.
- Never ever leave your bike unsecured and unlocked.
Where to eat
In a city like Amsterdam, eating out in restaurant is not really a budget friendly option because the prices of meals can cost you up to €80 per head, especially if you opt for a restaurant in the very centre of the city. As an alternative to overpriced restaurants, one can find excellent dishes in the so-called eetcafès where they offer menus with fixed prices which are often very reasonable. There are numerous street stalls in the city centre with fast food and typical Dutch snacks if you want to take something to go and leave more time for sightseeing. In that case don’t forget to try bitterballen (deep-fried meatballs), vlammetjes (something like meat and veggie spring rolls). When it comes to sweet stuff, you must try delicious stroopwafel, a waffle “sandwich” with gooey syrup inside. And have I forgot to mention their cheese? You won’t find better gouda cheese anywhere else – Dutch gouda is really something special and once you try it, you’ll know what I’m talking about!
All in all, I would suggest avoiding pricey restaurants, fine food can be found on every corner, on stands and in fast food diners.
Boat cruise – Doing a boat cruise through Amsterdam canals is one of the top outdoor activities among tourists. The cruise usually takes around 1 hour and you get disposable earphones which you plug in in the “wall” and you can choose between 16 different languages as you listen to audio commentary. The price of tickets usually ranges from €12 to €18, depending on which cruise boat you choose.
Hortus Botanicus – Although this garden exists since the 17th century, it was not until several decades ago that it became popular tourist attraction in Amsterdam. The garden boasts more than 6000 different plants, among which some of them are 2000 years old such as agave cactus. The facilities in Hortus Botanicus include museum shop and café bar. The garden is wheelchair accessible and the ticket costs €9 (or €5 for students and seniors).
Artis Zoo Complex – Planetarium, Aquarium – ARTIS Royal Zoo in Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful zoos not only in Europe, but in whole world. It is home to more than 1000 different species of animals and plants making it the biggest green area in Amsterdam. Animals in ARTIS are living in natural environments, meaning that in one moment you will find yourself strolling through African savannah and on the other side you’ll experience the magic of Artis Aquarium. If you want, you can book a guided tour where the professional guide will tell you some of the most interesting stories of the zookeepers. The entrance fee for ARTIS Zoo is 21€.
Exchange money and ATMs
The only accepted currency in the Netherlands is Euro so make sure you have some on you before landing in Amsterdam. Tourists are often advised to avoid private exchange offices as they may offer bad rates and commissions and they are usually placed around tourist areas. If you really need to exchange money, do it in banks or post offices or in GWK Travelex offices since they have pretty reasonable rates. Some of their branches can be found at Centraal Station, Schiphol Airport, Leidseplein, etc. ATMs (cashpoints) are widespread in Amsterdam and they accept the majority of credit cards.
Considering the fact that Amsterdam is for the most part the city of cyclists and pedestrians, I don’t think there’s too many tourists who come here by car or those who would rent one either. There’s not one free parking lot in the city center and the hourly price for parking spot costs €5 which is pretty high price, but hey, a parked car in the very center of Amsterdam? I’m surprised that it doesn’t cost even more. On the other hand, the parking is much cheaper in the suburbs of Amsterdam, with rate as low as €1/h. When using parking machines, make sure to have the exact change as they do not give change back. If you get ticketed for improper parking or some other reason, you have 24 hours to pay the fine or your car will be towed. If towed, contact parking control (Parkeerbeheer).
As you may presume, the majority of nightlife in Amsterdam revolves around the famous “coffeeshops”, specialized bars where they allow consumption of marijuana and you can even try the so-called “space cake” but be careful with this one – one whole piece of this cake can be too much for one person, so don’t eat it all at once. The side effects can last up to 6 hours!
The entrance to the most of clubs is charged but there’s a cheap solution for all of you who love to party – Amsterdam Nightlife Ticket – it’s a 7 day ticket which allows entrance to 13 nightclubs and you can get a free shot to 8 of them. There are also other exciting benefits included – free UBER, free makeover for girls at Douglas, every second cocktail for free at Hard Rock Café Amsterdam and much more!
If you have enough time to do the shopping spree in Amsterdam, then definitely don’t miss to check one of the largest Primark stores in Europe. This popular clothing store chain with cheap prices is located on Damrak, the avenue between the Dam Square and Amsterdam Centraal. The store has six floors in total and you can basically buy anything – from souvenirs and stuff for home to any type of clothing, doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter.
If you are looking for “more authentic” stuff, there are literally souvenir shops on every corner and sex shops are also very common thing in Amsterdam. It’s like walking in a grocery store!
Getting to Amsterdam
- By plane: The city of Amsterdam and its suburbs is served by Schiphol Airport, the largest airport in the Netherlands. Wondering how to get from the airport to the city? Check our article about transportation from Schiphol Airport.
- By bus: The main bus station in the city is Amsterdam Sloterdijk station but it is also an important railway junction after Amsterdam Centraal. If you are planning to visit Amsterdam by bus, make sure to check all available bus lines to Sloterdijk.
- Academisch Medisch Centrum (AMC) – Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ Amsterdam Zuidoost (+31 20 566 3333)
- BovenIJ Ziekenhuis – Statenjachtstraat 1, 1034 CS Amsterdam (+31 20 634 6346)
- Het UV Medisch Centrum – De Boelelaan 1117, 1081 HV Amsterdam (+31 20 444 3636)
- Emergency Doctor – +31 20 592 3434
- Emergency Dentist – +31 206861109
- Police Station Amsterdam-Burgwallen – Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 35, 1012 RD Amsterdam (+31 900 8844)
- Police Station Amsterdam-Centrum Amstel – IJtunnel 2, 1011 TA Amsterdam (+31 900 8844)
- Sint Lucas Andreas Apotheek B.V. – Jan Tooropstraat 164, 1061 AE Amsterdam (+31 20 510 8826)