Amsterdam is the picturesque capital of the Netherlands. This charming city is a popular European destination for many travelers and it’s easy to see why. The city is mix of beautiful narrow houses, their gabled facades over looking a crisscross of busy canals,museums and parks.
This is a very pedestrian friendly town. Getting around town is easy whether by foot, tram or as most of the dutch do, by bicycle. You’ll find museums from several famous dutch artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt.
So if you thought that Holland was just all about cheese, clogs and windmills then you’re only half right. Amsterdam can give you this and so much more.
Visiting Amsterdam is an amazing experience no matter what time of year you visit but be warned that northern European winters can get cold and wet.
For the best chance of good weather come between April and September. This is high season for a reason so it’s also the busiest and most expensive time to visit.
If you want to skate on frozen canals then your best bet is to come during February, but there’s no guarantees there.
If you plan on visiting Hollands famous tulip festival then you’ll need to come in spring. The Keukenhof festival normally runs from late March through to mid May.
Things get a little busy during the last week of April and the first week of May. Kings Day (was called Queens Day a few years ago but now Holland has a King hence name change) and Liberation Day are both busy national holidays.
Summer has the best weather and you’ll find more outdoor entertainment happening such as open air concerts during the long days.
Note that August tends to be the busiest month so if you want to avoid the rush and long lines then you may want to delay your trip until September. After that you’re heading towards low season and shorter days. Late October to early march is low season where you may pick up some travel bargains.
There’s plenty to keep you busy in Amsterdam, but here are some of the top tourist attractions.
Obviously museums factor high on any tour of Amsterdam but there are some other activities that you’re sure to enjoy.
The Anne Frank House is a writer’s house and biographical museum dedicated to Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank. You should book your ticket online or otherwise expect to stand in line for a very long time.
Take in the architecture and history of Dam Square. Located just a few minutes walk from Centraal Station this area is home to the 15th-century Gothic Nieuwe Kerk, the Royal Palace and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.
Amsterdam’s Red Light district is more of a tourist attraction nowadays than anything else. Sure you’ll see some scantily clad women standing in the windows but they are easily outnumbered by gawking tourists. It’s so popular they even have tours of the neighborhood.
If you have the legs for it then a guided walking tour of the city may be just up your street. Spend a couple of hours touring along beautiful routes while learning about the culture and history of the city.
For a unique perspective on Amsterdam why not join one of the many canal boat tours and spend a relaxing hour or so enjoying the sights from the waterways. Cruise by Anne Franks house, Westerkerk and the van Gogh museum. There are several different tours available so be sure to check out the available routes first.
If the weather is nice then why not pick up some sandwiches and have a picnic in one of the city’s lovely parks, such as Vondelpark
If you like fish and the season is right then why not stop off at a fish stall and try a dutch delicacy, raw herring. This tradition is more than 600 years old and while some visitors may find the idea of eating a whole raw fish somewhat repulsive the dutch cannot get enough of it. The season runs from mid May to mid July with the fish caught fresh from the North Sea.
If beer is your thing then you may like a trip down to the old Heineken brewery for a V.I.P. tour and tasting.
The Dutch like to party and there are plenty of bars and clubs to keep you busy partying all night long.
If you find yourself in Amsterdam in spring time and you have a day to spare then why not head out to Hollands world famous tulip festival. The festival runs from late March to mid May when the flowers are in full bloom. Keukenhof is one of the world’s largest flower gardens and home to this annual tulip festival. You’ll find it situated in the small town of Lisse just south of Amsterdam.
Public transportation is very in good in the Netherlands as a whole. It’s a country of cyclists and dedicated cycle paths are provided pretty much everywhere.
Cars and taxi’s are probably the worst way to enjoy this city. Instead take advantage of the bus and tram routes. These regular services are cheap and frequent. If you’re staying any length of time then it’s a good idea to get a day or multi-day transport card that allows you unlimited access to the bus and tram service in the city. Check out our money saving ideas below for more information on this.
If you’re coming from the airport then it’s a lot cheaper and more scenic to take the train. It’ll bring you directly into Centraal Station in the middle of town, a great place to start any trip. There you can get a bus, tram or even hire a bicycle.
Holland is famous for it’s low lying countryside and multitude of canals and Amsterdam is no different. Once an important trade hub the town still retains its maze of canals. Canal cruises are very popular and you’ll get to pass many of the famous Amsterdam attractions doing so.
Walking is still a popular means of getting around Amsterdam. From Centraal Station it just a 5 minute walk to Dam Square.
Visiting outside of high season will get you lower prices but you’ll have to contend with colder weather. Low season runs from late October to early March when you’ll find hotels are as much as 25% cheaper.
January probably has the lowest air fares but if you’re planning on visiting museums and indoor activities then it may not be too much of a hardship.
If you’re stuck on visiting in the high season then there’s still a chance to save money by coming mid-week rather than at the weekends. Better still, come in late September and avoid the crowds but still have warm weather.
If you’re staying in the center of town then avoid the excessive taxi prices that are charged from the airport and take the train instead. they run direct from inside the airport terminal and only cost around 4 euro for a one way ticket into town. A taxi on the other hand is around 40 euro.
Amsterdam does not have a subway or underground but it does have a handy tram service. For areas that the trams don’t cover you can take a bus. Rather than but individual tickets for each journey you may be better of purchasing a single day or multi-day unlimited travel pass. These are available from vending machines and kiosks around town. A weeks unlimited travel is just over 30 euro. For more details visit www.gvb.nl
Trains are a great way to get around the whole country. They run on time, have double decker carriages and even have a small buffet cart that offers snacks and drinks.
Amsterdam is a pedestrian and cyclists dream. The dutch cycle everywhere so why not hire your own and give it a go. you can pick them up from Centraal Station, the main railway terminal.
If you’re planning on visiting a lot of museums and attractions and using public transport then you could save a lot of money by purchasing a city card from ‘I amSterdam’. These cards will give you free entry to Amsterdam’s best museums and attractions, free unlimited use of the GVB public transport. (bus, tram & metro), great discounts and special offers throughout the city and finally a free, detailed city map.
Cards can be bought online from www.iamsterdam.com and are available with 24, 48, 72 & 96 hours validity. The most popular one is the 72 hour card that you can pick up for around 77 euros.
If you like shows such as opera, jazz, theatre and ballet then you’ll likely find some half price deals at the Last Minute Ticket Shop on the Leidseplein between noon and 7.30pm (or visit their website at www.lastminuteticketshop.nl).
Restaurant prices can soon mount up when you eat out a lot but if you just fancy something light then why not eat at a bakery. Outlets such as the popular Bakker Bart serve up some delicious sandwiches, pies and snacks cheaply as well as providing somewhere to eat them.