Ah, Amsterdam... It's just one cool city which has managed to achieve such a good balance of multiple polar identities. The beauty is apparent in its long stretches of canals sandwiched between romantic tree-lined streets, while the edginess can be found in its relaxed stance towards drugs and prostitution, i.e. the Red Light District; coffeeshops. One can enjoy art and culture in world-class museums like the Van Gogh and Rembrandt museum, while obtaining a further inspiration boost from its Dutch Renaissance architecture and creative interior design, necessary to compensate for small internal floor space.
Amsterdam is generally a very tourist friendly place, i.e. you should be able to locate all the main places of interest with lots of guidance and with no problem at all.
When asked about how long one should spend in Amsterdam, I can safely say that you can stay in Amsterdam for a week and still have 10000 things that you would want to do. You can never run out of things to do in this city... and if even if you do (unlikely), there are plenty of neighbouring towns and cities that are great for day trips. For first time visitors, 4-6 days is a good amount of time.
On the topic of accomodation - like most major cities, accomodation is not cheap and short in supply. Be sure to book your accomodation well in advance prior to your trip. Peak visiting periods include Tulip season (i.e. April and May), summer months (June-Aug) and Christmas time.
IAmsterdam City Card
I would recommend getting an IAmsterdam City Card if it is your first time to Amsterdam. This card is worth the price if you make the best use of it within its time limit. It includes free entrance to most of the key museums, free public transport, canal cruise, and lots of discounts on popular F&B outlets. You can get this card at AMS Schipol Airport Visitor Information Centre/ Amsterdam Central Station Visitor Information Centre (opposite the Central Station main entrance) or the IAmsterdam Store just north of the Central Train Station.
The shape of Amsterdam City is defined by a system of half-concentric canals, linked by bridges. It is extremely easily to navigate around the city which is further divided into neat grids.
The best way to get around Amsterdam is via public transport and on foot. Public transport in Amsterdam is efficient and very user-friendly. Regular tram and public bus service runs to and from Amsterdam Central Station. Most places of interest are within reach of one another as well.
Other ways of getting around (if you do not own an IAmsterdam Card) include:
A contactless transport card for both train, tram and buses; pay-as-you-go with a €7.50 base price. Good value for long-term travel in Amsterdam.
2. 24/48/72 hour GVB disposable paper ticket
Most suitable for one-time visits to Amsterdam.
The OV-Chipkaart and GVB tickets are available from automated booths in train stations in Amsterdam.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN AMSTERDAM
1. See the Tulips (Spring)
2. Walk around the City
3. Recommended Museums
4. De 9 Straatjes
5. Red Light District
6. Albert Cuyp Market
9. Glowgolf Amsterdam
10. Winter Markt Amsterdam x Amsterdam Light Festival
11. Recommended Cafes
1. SEE THE TULIPS (SPRING)
Seeing blooming fields of tulips in spring is such an iconic thing about Holland. See my dedicated itinerary about visiting Holland during the Tulip Season. The tulip fields seen in the picture below are located in Lisse, a town just an hour's drive outside of Amsterdam.
2. City Attractions
Take some time to walk around the city and along the picturesque canals of Amsterdam.
Some main attractions include: Royal Palace of Amsterdam; Rembrandtplein; Dam Square; Amsterdam Flower Market; De Oude Kerk; Museumplein (Other than a lot of noteworthy museums, the iconic red and white 'IAMSTERDAM' giant fonts can be found here.)
3. MUSEUM RECOMMENDATIONS
With so many museums in Amsterdam (75 to be exact), it may be difficult to decide which ones to go for. These are my top picks for museums to visit in Amsterdam: Foam Fotografiemuseum, Heineken Experience Museum, Stedelijk Design Museum, Rembradnt Museum, Anne Franke's House, Van Gogh Museum.
This photography museum has some good quality exhibitions by internationally renown photographers. I visit this museum whenever I am back in Amsterdam.
Heineken Experience Museum
The Heineken Experience is an informative interactive tour around an old Heineken Brewery. Your €16 ticket sincludes a few complementary glasses of Heinekein beer, a short introductory lesson about how beer is made (hops + yeast + malting grains + water), an interactive factory-simulation, and more exhibits about Heineken's history etc.
Stedelijk Museum is Amsterdam's biggest museum of contemporary art and design. This not only includes really abstract art installations, but also modern product and furniture design.
Rembrandt is a famous Dutch painter and etcher, known for his iconic pencil etchings of himself and other portraits. This museum is also Rembrandt’s former home, thus giving you an insight into how this artist lived, through the golden age and through financial hardships.
Anne Franke's House
Anne Franke's House was Anne Franke's former hiding home during world-war II. She came from a Jewish family originally based in Germany. They later escaped to Holland to hide from the Nazi's rule. In this museum, you will get to see the small and cramped Annex where she spent most of her time writing in her diary. Unfortunately, she never finished writing the diary because she was captured by the Nazis. Her father, Otto Frank, was the only survivor in the family and decided to publish Anne Franke's diary to get her story out there. Today, 'The Diary of Anne Franke' is now a famous international bestseller, and Anne Franke's House it is one of Amsterdam's most popular museums. The queues for Anne Franke's House can get ridiculously long; be sure to get there early otherwise you might have to spend an entire day queuing.
Van Gogh Museum
Van Gogh is one of the most famous Post-Impressionism Dutch artists in the world. Learn more about Van Gogh's life and art work at the Van Gogh Museum. Do not miss his famous pieces: Sunflowers, Almond Trees, Wheatfield with Crows..
4. RED LIGHT DISTRICT
The Red Light District is one of the most unique attractions of Amsterdam, showcasing Amsterdam's open and honest approach to prostitution. It is located in the heart of De Wallen, Amsterdam's oldest neighbourhood, where you will also find De Oude Kerk (The Old Church, Amsterdam's oldest building and oldest Parish Church) and Nieuwenmarket (A square in the middle of Amsterdam's Chinatown).
Photography is not allowed in order to protect the privacy of these ladies, and this is enforced very strictly there by security and policemen on patrol.
5. DE 9 STRAATJES
De 9 Straatjes is known as "The 9 Streets". If you don't like the crowded main streets of Damrak and Rokin, head to The 9 Streets for a change. Here you will find less commercial brands, boutiques, creative interiors, cafes and bars.
The 9 Streets is just a really edgy, 'cool' and relaxed area to hang around. This street is for fashion lovers who prefer smaller boutiques to big and commercial labels.
6. ALBERT CUYP MARKET
Open Monday to Saturday (9.30am-5pm), this long stretch of market is frequented by both locals and tourists. Find anything here: food, fashion, antiques, flowers, kitchenware...
Jordaan, aka the 'hipster' area of Amsterdam - you can find lots of fashion boutiques, cafes, party shops, and rustic furniture shops here. While it's not eh most picturesque neighbourhood, it's definitely one of the more interesting ones because of the variety of unconventional shops you will find here.
My favourite interior design/ furniture store in Amsterdam would be Raw Materials. It's a relatively large store with differently designed rooms. Apart from its usual furniture offerings, you may also come across a slightly unusual section at the back of Raw Materials which contains jars of animals in formaldehyde.
Check out my Amsterdam Food Itinerary for recommendations for where to eat in Jordaan: Moeders - best place to try authentic Dutch food; Hutspot - one of Amsterdam's coolest cafes (continue reading below).
Amsterdam-Noorde is the often unexplored northern part of Amsterdam (across the river/canal from Amsterdam Central Station). So apparently this is one of the world's most 'hipster' neighbourhoods, with cafes hidden in shipping containers and a glasshouse cafe; hotel rooms in construction cranes, and abandoned trains. If unexplored and abandoned territories are your thing like it is mine, you will definitely love this place!
Nooderlicht Cafe is a "Cultural Cafe Restaurant" in a glasshouse with cool interiors and an outdoor fireplace area. They also host lots of music and arts events, especially in summer.
I loved the casual vibe and the "DIY" feel to this two-storey cafe restaurant. Food was OK.
Pllek is Amsterdam-Noorde's best kept secret: a cafe-restaurant and bar in a shipping container!
They also organise lots of events on their 'fake beach' (right in front of the Pllek container), such as beach parties, DJ parties and yoga events. Check their page for their schedule of events.
To add to their hippy-dippy vibe, Pllek also aims to source their food products sustainably and organically. What more could you ask for?!
9. GLOWGOLF AMSTERDAM
Glowgolf is located in the basement of Noah's Arq Restaurant. Imagine playing mini golf in a neon-painted basement golfcourse decorated with illuminated statues of dragons and underwater creatures to eccentric, spacey background music.... yup, that's basically what glowgolf's about.
Thanks to my girl, Zee, for taking me on this weird and wonderful experience!
10. WINTER MARKT AMSTERDAM X AMSTERDAM LIGHT FESTIVAL
It is a great time to visit Amsterdam during the Christmas season because it coincides with the Amsterdam Light Festival. Also, the main city area is transformed into an amazing winter wonderland with Christmas Market booths lining the main pedestrian streets as part of the Amsterdam Wintermarkt event. The booths stock festive hand-made goods like Christmas stockings or clothing, and wintery treats like mulled wine, churros, dutch pancakes and chocolates!
The Amsterdam Light Festival is a dream. Every nook and cranny of Amsterdam city is lit up with fairy-lights and light installations. Buildings and trees are strewn with strings of lights and creative decorations. High, drunk or sober... the city becomes an absolute joy to wander around during this time!
11. CAFE RECOMMENDATIONS
Here are some of my favourite cafes in Amsterdam:
Latei is a vintage-themed cafe-restaurant in the Red Light District. It also doubles up as an antiques and lamp store, where all the lamps hanging from its ceiling are for sale. As for the menu, the do all the usual eggy brunch like most cafes do.
Hutspot is an all-in-one barber, fashion and home-lifestyle boutique, cafe-restaurant, and art gallery.
A popular co-working space spotting numerous cafe nomads armed with their macbooks, it's easy to see why it's so popular with this crowd. The spacious environment adopts a minimalist theme, conducive for working or having a conversation with a friend over coffee.
If you're up for trying something other than your daily cappuccino, go for their coconut flavoured latte which they make with Bocca Beans. Finally, don't forget to take some pictures in their vintage photobooth before you leave!
CT COFFEE AND COCONUTS
CT Coffee and Coconuts is the coolest new rock-and-roll themed cafe-restaurant in town. Converted from a 1920s Cinema, CT Coffee and Coconuts is a large multi-storey space with tall ceilings and spacious interiors . You will also find portraits of some of the greatest pop/ rock gods of all time hanging from the walls of this cafe, such as Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson and John Lennon. These portraits are also for sale.
The interiors are gorgeous: generous use of timber for floors and furniture, a good balance between brick and white plaster walls, and different chill-out areas for different folks. My favourite area would be the (tumblr-worthy) bean-bag area with loads of natural light flooding in from the windows, and green plants hanging from the ceiling.
Interiors aside, the food is really not too bad as well. See my Amsterdam Eats itinerary for more recommendations.
Well, it's Amsterdam isn't it?
Sorry no information here - got to keep this itinerary PG!
Click here to access my Things to do in Amsterdam Google My Map.
Have fun in Amsterdam! x