Amsterdam Tips Guide

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Amsterdam Tips - Guide for Visitors & Expats

AmsterdamTips.com brings you up-to-date insider guides from local experts to help you travel to Amsterdam and get more out of your stay in the city. From hotels and travel information to museums, eating out and things to see and do. Plus useful tips for expats planning a move to Netherlands.

amsterdam in spring

Below is a brief summary guide to Amsterdam, click through to the relevant sections and articles on our site for more detailed info...

what's on in amsterdam

What's on in Amsterdam

Check out what's happening in April 2014 which includes the King's Day festivities. Our listings include museums, special events, festivals, concerts and sport.

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Getting To Amsterdam

Amsterdam Schiphol airport (AMS) is a major European airport located 17km south-west of the city. It is a main hub for Skyteam members Air France-KLM and Delta and handles many other international airlines.

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.

Other principal airports in Netherlands: Rotterdam (RTM) and Eindhoven (EIN) which have convenient transport links to 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.

There are international coach (bus) operators running services to/from Amsterdam including Eurolines (at Amsterdam Amstel), Megabus (at Zuiderzeeweg) and IDBus (at Amsterdam Sloterdijk station).

Ferry services between the UK and Netherlands are Harwich-Hoek van Holland (Stena), Newcastle-Amsterdam (DFDS) and Hull-Rotterdam (P&O).

hotels amsterdam

Hotels in Amsterdam

Amsterdam has a wide range of accommodation. There are 14 5-star hotels in the city plus a wide range of affordable 4-star and 3-star properties. See our Amsterdam hotel recommendations.

amsterdam hotels

public transport amsterdam

Getting Around

NS (Dutch Railways) operates a comprehensive domestic train service which is normally reliable and reasonable value. See How to buy a Dutch train ticket for various quirks of the system.

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.

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.

hostels amsterdam

Hostels in Amsterdam

For cost-conscious budget travellers Amsterdam has a good range of hostels. The local Hostelling International outfit in the Netherlands is branded as Stayokay and it has 3 hostels in Amsterdam.

amsterdam museums

Museums in Amsterdam

Amsterdam has a number of excellent museums. We highly recommend purchasing the annual Museum Card (€54.90) which gives free access for 12 months to over 400 museums in the country.

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 contemporarty 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 comprehensive guide to museums in Amsterdam.

amsterdam panoramas

Panoramas in Amsterdam

Check out our guide on venues around the city where you can get a good view - from church towers to rooftop terraces, lounges and bars!

explore amsterdam

Things to See/Do in Amsterdam

There's loads of things to see and do in the city. Have a look at our guide to Dam Square. On a sunny day head out to Vondelpark, the green heart of the city. Kids will love Royal Artis Zoo located near the city centre.

Perhaps jump on a ferry to the quirky NDSM wharf or how about taking a tour of the Amsterdam ArenA stadium, home of local football club Ajax.

eating out amsterdam

Eat/Drink in Amsterdam

Popular Dutch delicacies include pickled herring with onions, pancakes and poffertjes, Flemish-style chips with mayonnaise. Try an Indonesian rijsttafel (rice table) or a meal in a traditional eetcafé.

For a good value self-service meal head to La Place restaurant at the V&D department store on Rokin/Kalverstraat.

See our guide to organic food shopping in Amsterdam.

amsterdam shopping

Shopping in Amsterdam

Amsterdam has some excellent independent stores and trendy boutiques - particularly around the Jordaan, Negen straatjes, Haarlemmerdijk and Utrechtsestraat areas.

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 of 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 Flower market is located on the Singel canal between Muntplein and Koningsplein.

For food shopping see our comprehensive guide to supermarkets in Amsterdam.

cheap amsterdam guide

On the Cheap in Amsterdam

For visitors on a tight budget we offer a few tips on making your euros go a bit further. Also see our free things to do in Amsterdam list.

amsterdam excursions

Excursions from Amsterdam

Why not take the opportunity to head out of Amsterdam and see some more of the Netherlands. From windmills and tulips to other historic Dutch cities including the nearby Utrecht. The Keukenhof tulip garden in the town of Lisse is open this year between March 20th to May 18th 2014.

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.

Netherlands or Holland? 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.

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.

Thinking of moving to the Amsterdam or Netherlands?

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Check out our Expat section with info on housing, work, finance, cost of living, studying and more...

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