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A Complete Guide to Visiting Amsterdam

visiting Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and it has a lot more to offer than the Red Light District and coffee shops. There is beautiful architecture, spectacular art museums, interesting history, and top-tier people watching. It will be very crowded near the center, but if you walk 15 minutes in either direction, you will feel a completely different vibe. The only downsides of visiting Amsterdam are that it’s fairly expensive and doesn’t have the best weather. Yet, even on a gloomy and rainy day, it’s hard not to appreciate the beauty of Amsterdam.

Essential Tip on Carrying Money – Many shops don’t accept Visa or Mastercard, so make sure to carry around plenty of cash.

Related: 12 Ways to Save Money on Travel Without Missing the Best Experiences!

What to Do

Explore the city by bike – This was by far my favorite thing I did in Amsterdam. Biking along the canals lined with beautiful brick buildings is an experience that will put a huge smile on your face. Biking is a big part of the culture, and it’s a great way to see the neighborhoods of Jordaan, Oostport, and West, where you won’t find as many tourists.

A 24-hour bike rental will cost €16-20, and be aware of the €100 fine for using your phone while biking. When visiting Amsterdam, riding a bike around is a must.

Anne Frank House – The most famous sight in the city is also the saddest one. The entrance is €14 and you’ll want to book well in advance.

Rijksmuseum – A massive art museum featuring pieces from Rembrandt and Van Gogh. The tickets are €20 and you could easily spend 3-4 hours here 

Van Gogh Museum – I found this museum to be quite interesting because you can follow Van Gogh’s crazy life story while seeing how his style changed over the years. The entrance is €19.

Wander the streets of Jordaan – Jordaan is the most beautiful neighborhood in Amsterdam hands down. It’s also far less crowded than other parts of the city. 

Vondelpark – The famous park near the museum quarter gets very busy with locals riding their bikes and taking afternoon walks. 

Canal Boat Tour – You can expect to pay around €12 for a tour on a large boat (25+ people) with an audio guide. For €20-25, you get a more personalized tour with a guide and a smaller boat (10-15 people). I had a great experience with Boat Amsterdam. It was €22.50 for an hour-long boat ride with drinks included. 

Related: A Complete Guide to Visiting Berlin

Zaanse Schans – This village known for windmills and green houses is very touristy, but its uniqueness makes it worth a visit. The main highlights besides the windmills are a cheese factory with free tasting, a clog-making workshop, and a town history museum.

I wouldn’t recommend going on an organized tour because they cost about €50 and you can do it on your own for less than €15. From Amsterdam Central Station, the train takes about 30 minutes and costs €8. Make sure to scan the metro card when you enter and exit the train. 

House of Bols – When visiting Amsterdam, many opt for the Heineken Tour, but the House of Bols is a less crowded alternative. The tour costs €16 and shows how spirits are made, plus you’ll get a cocktail.

People-watching in the Red Light District – The Red Light District is a place you have to visit at least once. On your stroll through the area, you will see some interesting characters and the people-watching here is as good as it gets. 

Verzetsmuseum – This museum covers the Dutch Resistance against the Nazis during World War II. If you have a genuine interest in history you’ll enjoy it, but otherwise, you may find yourself disappointed. There’s lots of info so you can expect to spend about 2 hours here. The entrance is €13.

Zuiderkerk Bell Tower – A guide recommended this to me as an alternative to the A’dam tower. You get a tour of a church, historical info about the city, and climb the bell tower for fantastic views of Amsterdam. The cost is €9 and you can book in advance online. 

Zuiderkerk Bell Tower
View from Zuiderkerk Bell Tower

Related: 10 Mistakes I Made on My First Long-Term Trip

Where to Eat

Bhatti Pasal – Authentic Nepalese food with really good prices for a sit-down restaurant in Amsterdam. It’s quite a small restaurant, so it’s best to make a reservation.

Albert Cuyp Market – This street market with food stalls is open every day until 5 PM. A few favorites are Rudi’s Original Stroopwafel and Benny’s Chicken. 

Manneken Pis Damrak – Some of the best french fries you can find in Amsterdam with a wide variety of sauces. 

Dönerland Eethuis – A fabulous doner spot on the west side of the city that only costs €5. 

Het Papeneiland –  A lesser-known spot for the famous apple pie, but equally delicious as Winkel’s.  

Proper Indofood – An Indonesian takeaway restaurant with great food for under €10. The Netherlands has almost 1 million Indonesians, so you can find lots of fantastic Indonesian restaurants. 

Where to Stay

Flying Pig Downtown – A party hostel with a great location in the city center and a fantastic atmosphere.

Cocomama – A cozy boutique hostel just outside the city center with a more relaxed vibe.

St. Christophers at The Winston – The bar and beer garden make for a lively atmosphere at this hostel in the center.

How Long to Stay

While visiting Amsterdam, I recommend at least 4 days to see the city. A piece of advice I received is to book your ticket out of Amsterdam before arriving or you’ll never leave.

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