AmsterdamTips.com brings you up-to-date insider guides from local experts to help you get more from your stay in Amsterdam. You'll find the best English-language resource on travel and public transport in the Netherlands. Plus top tips on Amsterdam hotels, museums, what's on and things to see and do. Our expat section shows you how to move to Holland and get yourself settled.
Start here at our brief summary guide to Amsterdam. For more detailed info click through to the relevant sections and articles...
Getting from Schiphol to Amsterdam: Choice of taking the train to Amsterdam central (€4 single, up to 10x hourly, 15-20 mins), bus 197 to Leidseplein (€4 single, 30 mins), Connexxion Schiphol Hotel Shuttle (€17 single/€27 return) or taxi (€40-€50). Uber (taxi app) is also present in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam Centraal (CS) is the main train station of the city. To get your bearings on stations, see this handy Rail map of Amsterdam.
International rail services include Thalys to Brussels and Paris, a German Intercity to Berlin, ICE International to Düsseldorf, Cologne and Frankfurt, plus night trains to various destinations. London is reached via the Channel Tunnel by taking the Eurostar from Brussels.
Ferry services between the UK and Netherlands are Harwich-Hoek van Holland (Stena), Newcastle-Amsterdam (DFDS) and Hull-Rotterdam (P&O).
The OV-chip smart card is used for most forms of public transportation in the Netherlands. GVB is the municipal transport company of Amsterdam which operates the metro, trams, buses and free ferries. EBS runs bus services from Amsterdam central to the Waterland region (Edam, Volendam, Marken).
There are various Amsterdam transport ticket options available for visitors including good value day cards.
Taxis in Amsterdam are not particularly cheap - a short ride will cost around €10, a cross town journey about €20. Taxi cabs are taken from official ranks rather than hailed in the street.
Amsterdam has 400km of cycle lanes so go local and get on your bike!
If you are reasonably fit, the main sights of Amsterdam can be reached on foot. Just watch out for trams and cyclists. Sandeman's New Amsterdam Tours gives free walking tours from Dam Square monument twice daily (1115/1315).
Amsterdam is truly a canal city (80km of canals and 1,250 bridges) - a must-do activity is taking a canal tour in a glass-topped boat.
Alternatively there is the IAmsterdam City Card which is valid from 1-3 days (€47-€67) giving free entry to a number of museums, a transport pass and other discounts.
The top 5 museums in Amsterdam are Rijksmuseum - an amazing collection of Dutch history in a stunning building. Van Gogh Museum - the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings. Anne Frank House - the canal house where Anne Frank hid during WW2 and where she wrote her teenage diary. Stedelijk - modern and contemporary art on show. Maritime Museum - a multimedia journey about Dutch maritime exploits.
Other museum of note: the Dutch Resistance museum (Verzetsmuseum) is a fascinating look at events in wartime Netherlands.
See our museums section for a detailed guide to museums in Amsterdam.
For a good value self-service meal head to La Place restaurant at the V&D department store on Rokin/Kalverstraat.
If you want to go green in Amsterdam see our guide to organic food shopping in Amsterdam.
For premium shopping head to either PC Hooftstraat (in the Museum quarter) or the department store Bijenkorf on Dam Square. There are a number of Dutch chain stores on the main shopping streets including Kalverstraat, Nieuwendijk and Leidsestraat.
For a more lively experience have a wander around one of Amsterdam's markets including the Albert Cuyp Markt or Dappermarkt. The world famous Flower market is located on the Singel canal between Muntplein and Koningsplein.
Essential info on Amsterdam and Netherlands
Amsterdam is the historic capital city of the Netherlands. With origins as a 12th century fishing village, it rose to become one of the world's great ports. Its renowned canal ring was built in the 17th century during the Golden Age when Dutch art, science, military and trade flourished. Today Amsterdam remains an important international economic and transport hub attracting millions of visitors annually.
Netherlands is a flat northern European country bounded by Belgium (south), Germany (east) and the North Sea. Schiphol airport is located 4m below sea level. The lowest point in the country is Zuidplaspolder near Rotterdam at 7m below sea level. The highest point is Vaalserberg in Limburg at 323m.
Is it Netherlands or Holland? This question brings up much confusion to some visitors. The Netherlands comprises of 12 provinces: Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, North-Brabant, North-Holland, Overijssel, South-Holland, Utrecht and Zeeland. Amsterdam (population 810,000) is located in North-Holland and makes up part of the Randstad ring of cities (Amsterdam, Den Haag, Rotterdam and Utrecht) which has 7 million inhabitants.
The Netherlands is part of the Schengen area agreement which allows open borders between European member states. See here for entry requirements to the country.
Netherlands uses Central European Time (CET) which is 1 hour ahead of UK time. Standard business hours in Amsterdam are 0900-1800 during the week though on Mondays some shops open at 1100 and a few smaller museums are closed. Weekend shopping hours are generally 0900-1700 (Saturday) and 1200-1800 (Sunday). Late night shopping is on Thursday until 2100.
Note that Dutch people traditionally eat at around 1800 in the evening and some restaurant/café kitchens can close relatively early (say 2100) by international standards.
Dutch is the language spoken in the Netherlands - however most local people can speak reasonably good English. Local cable TV will have CNN, BBC1 and BBC2 available.
Public holidays for 2014 in the Netherlands are 1 Jan (New Year's Day), 18 April (Good Friday), 20 April (Easter Sunday), 21 April (Easter Monday), 27 April (King's Day, though observed on 26 April in 2014), 5 May (Liberation Day), 29 May (Ascension Day), 9 June (Whit Monday), 25 Dec (Christmas Day) and 26 DEC (Boxing Day).
Climate / Weather: Netherlands has a temperate, oceanic climate with cool winters and mild summers. Average daily high/low temperatures are 6°C/1°C (Jan), 14°C/5°C (Apr), 22°C/13°C (Jul), 15°C/8°C (Oct). With 133 days of precipitation per year always be prepared for rainy weather at any time.
Money: Netherlands is part of the Eurozone which uses the Euro € currency. The most commonly used note denominations are €5, €10, €20 and €50, with the €100 note sometimes seen. The €250 and €500 notes are rarely used and are not accepted at many shops. The Dutch central bank issues euro notes signified by a letter "P" on the serial number.
Coins in use are the 5, 10, 20 and 50 euro cents plus the 1 and 2 euros. Netherlands does not commonly use the 1 and 2 cents coins - prices are rounded up or down to the nearest 5 cents - for example, you would pay 2 euros if the total price ranged between 1.98 and 2.02; you pay 2.05 for price totals between 2.03 and 2.07.
ATM machines for international cards are found all over the city - the main Dutch banks are ABN Amro, ING and Rabobank. Credit card payments are not that common but are becoming more accepted. Tipping in Netherlands is not expected though rounding up a standard restaurant bill to the nearest 5 euros would be appreciated.
In terms of electric power, Netherlands uses the standard 230V 2 pin plugs. Many business hotels will also have international adapter sockets.
Telephone: Netherlands country dialling code is +31, Amsterdam city code is (0)20. Pre-paid SIM cards can be easily bought from telecom shops or HEMA.
Mandatory ID law: It is obligatory for all individuals over the age of 14 to carry a valid form of identification. Acceptable forms of ID are Dutch ID cards, Dutch residence permit, Dutch or European passports, Dutch or European photo driving license. Those from outside Europe need to show a passport with a valid entry permit. Copies of ID are apparently not valid, the original must be produced. Failure to do so carries a €60 fine. In reality many visitors do not carry ID, for example preferring to leave their passports in the hotel safe. Just be aware that police and public transport ticket inspectors could ask you to produce ID in some cases.
Strict no smoking laws are in effect at all work places and public buildings in the Netherlands - this includes cafés, bars and restaurants. The law had been relaxed for small bars - however from mid-2014 the total ban will be reimplemented.
Coffeeshops in Amsterdam are permitted to sell up to 5 grams of cannabis to customers over the age of 18. Smoking tobacco is not permitted in coffeeshops.
Amsterdam is well known for its red-light district located in De Wallen area of the city centre. Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands and regulated by the local authorities. The minimum legal age for a prostitute in Amsterdam has recently been raised to 21. Be aware that you should not take photos of the prostitutes working in the windows.
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