Amsterdam City Guide
Amsterdam is the capital and the largest city of Netherlands. Amsterdam is situated in the province of North-Holland located in the west of the Netherlands next to the provinces of Utrecht and Flevoland. The river Amstel after which Amsterdam has been named terminates in the city centre and connects to a large number of canals that eventually flow into the IJ channel.
Amsterdam was settled as a fishing village in the 12th century, however it went on to become an important port city during the Dutch Golden Age of the 16th and 17th Centuries when the city was a leading trading port for finance and diamonds. The city experienced much growth and development in the 19th and 20th centuries and today this vivacious city is renowned the world over for its energetic nightlife scene and is also a much favored tourist vacation destination.
Visitors of all ages especially enjoy the charming ambience Amsterdam offers in the form of its old world city structure that features canal water ways, narrow town houses, flower filled gardens, open air markets and top-notch museums, art galleries and infamous ‘coffee shops’.
A vacation in Amsterdam is guaranteed to be a lot of fun and if you’re looking to book a vacation to a European destination anytime soon then perhaps you may want to consider Amsterdam; for this city has something of interest for tourists of all ages.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
The Waterfront area of Amsterdam is centered on its Centraal Station, which is the main transport hub in Amsterdam. This waterfront area of the city stretches east and west along both banks of the IJ channel and includes artificial islands, warehouses and other remnants of Amsterdam’s old harbor. The waterfront area of Amsterdam is currently undergoing much gentrification and offers many dining and entertainment venues along with diverse hotels.
The Canal Belt
The canal belt of Amsterdam has recently been designated as a UNESCO world heritage site and was built during the 17th century. This semicircular belt includes the 16th century Singel canal and offers hotels of all sizes and grades along with restaurants, antique stores, and many famous landmarks of Amsterdam. Many of the hotels located within Amsterdam’s canal belt are housed in historic canal houses so if you like your accommodation to have a bit of character then perhaps a canal house hotel may fit the bill for your vacation in Amsterdam.
Leidesplein is the main nightlife center of Amsterdam that offers performance venues, movie theaters, bars, and cafes and many good hotels and restaurants. If you like to be based in the heart of all the action, so to speak, then the Leidseplein area of Amsterdam should get your vote for where to stay during your Amsterdam vacation. A similar area to Leidseplein, just not as busy, is the Rembrandtplein area that also hosts myriad hotels, restaurants, cafés and nightlife venues.
Museum District & Vondelpark
The museum district of Amsterdam features its most well known museums like the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum and also hosts several small discount hotels and budget accommodation properties that are popular with culturally minded tourists.
Amsterdam South is home to some of the most expensive homes in Amsterdam and also offers many small hotels.
Places to see in Amsterdam
Amsterdam offers a large variety of attractions, which include world class museums, art galleries and other niche attractions that have their own loyal fan following amongst the legions of tourists that pay a visit to Amsterdam every year.
The magnificent Rijksmuseum is perhaps Amsterdam’s most well known attraction. This museum was opened in 1885 and is renowned for its permanent collection of 17th century Dutch master like Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jan Steen. The Rijksmuseum is world famous as the home of Rembrandt’s masterpiece, the Night Watch. The museum in fact contains numerous other famous paintings in its galleries like the Asiatic collection, Print Room, Dutch History and Applied Arts. The Rijksmuseum and its wonderful garden should be considered as a must-do attraction on any vacation to Amsterdam.
The Van Gogh Museum
If you have always admired the artworks of this Dutch master, the Van Gogh Museum should constitute another must-do attraction on your sight-seeing itinerary for Amsterdam. This museum is housed in a modern building and offers a permanent collection that showcases numerous paintings and drawings created by Van Gogh.
Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art
The Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art features the development of contemporary art in the 20th century. The permanent collection at this museum showcases the modern schools of art like De Stijl, Cobra, Nouveau Realisme, Pop Art, Colorfield Painting, Zero and Minimalist Art.
The Rembrandt House
The Rembrandt House is yet another bastion of culture in Amsterdam. Rembrandt actually resided at this dwelling between 1639 and 1658, a period which coincided with the time when the artist was at the peak of his career. This house museum has a permanent collection of the artist’s work along with a reconstructed 17th Century art studio and various other temporary exhibits.
The Artis Zoo
The city of Amsterdam also boasts of an amazing zoo that is touted as a grand cultural experience. The Artis zoo, which is located in the city center, is the oldest zoo in the Netherlands. It was founded in 1838 and has a distinct old world feel to it with its many winding paths, ancient historic buildings and many monuments. The Zoo is home to nearly 700 species of animals, birds, mammals and reptiles and has within its environs a lush botanical garden, which is filled with many verdant trees. This garden is renowned for its many varieties of tulips, which are a riot of color during the months of spring. This large zoo is spread over 14 hectares and also has an Aquarium, a Geological Museum, a Planetarium and a Zoological Museum within its boundaries and is a recommended sight if you are on a vacation to Amsterdam with your children.
Anne Frank House
Yet another important destination on your Amsterdam itinerary should the narrow house in which Anne Frank hid from the Nazis during World War II. This private home is now a museum, which holds fascinating wartime memorabilia including the secret annex which helped conceal Anne and her family from the Nazis until they were betrayed and discovered.
The Dutch Resistance Museum
If you are history buff on vacation in Amsterdam, then you must also make it a point to take in the Dutch Resistance Museum in Amsterdam. This museum provides a valuable insight to the brave Dutch resistance movement that actually managed to circumvent and outsmart the Nazis many times during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, which lasted from 1940 until 1945 when the country was liberated by the Allied forces.
The Heineken Brewery and Museum
If beer is your chosen poison then the renowned Amsterdam attraction – The Heineken Experience at the Heineken Brewery Museum- should be considered another ‘must –do’ on your trip to Amsterdam. Sure it is kitschy and is no doubt a self promotion for the famous beer brand but the entire experience is quite fun as there are loads of interactive exhibits located all over the four floors of the brewery which was a functioning brewery until 1988. At the Heineken experience you can learn about the history of evolution of this famous brand of beer as well as learn about the brewing process. You even create your own personalized bottle of Heineken at the end of tour and can take home as a souvenir of your visit to Amsterdam.
The Red Light District (De Wallen)
Amsterdam is also famous for its decidedly unorthodox attractions which take the form of its world famous Red Light district, De Wallen. This bawdy district is bound by the Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Oudeziujds Achterburgwal canals near Amsterdam’s famous Dam Square and peppered with brightly lit shop windows where prostitutes (prostitution is legal in Amsterdam) pose and display their charms as touts urge curious gawkers and passersby to come in and take in a raunchy floorshow and more.
Yet another unorthodox attraction in Amsterdam is its ‘coffee shops’, which are actually dive bars that legally sell marijuana and allow patrons to smoke joints and eat pot brownies and space cakes on their premises.
Best time to visit Amsterdam
The best season to visit Amsterdam is during its spring season that extends from the months of April to May. The weather during spring is often unpredictable but daytime temperatures usually register 54F (around12 C) and are quite ideal for sight-seeing.
Additionally spring is the season when the renowned spring flowers like the tulips of the Keukenhof gardens (located to the southwest of Amsterdam and easily accessible from the city) are in full bloom so if you plan your vacation to Amsterdam during spring you can probably take in this wondrous sight for the gardens usually shut for the year in early May.
If you can’t get away for your Amsterdam vacation during the months of spring, you needn’t worry as Amsterdam is an important cultural center in Europe that hosts year round festivals. It is believed that Amsterdam hosts 75 festivals all throughout the year and if you can’t make it in time to see the spring time blooms, you can always plan vacation in Amsterdam later so as to take in some of the other festivities that the city has to offer.
We at Fare Buzz offer year round flight deals for Amsterdam so if you decide at any time you want to take a vacation to Amsterdam, you should explore and take advantage of the cheap air tickets for Amsterdam that we have on offer.
Getting around in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is served by its busy Schipol Airport that welcomes a whole host of carriers from around the world and is located at a distance of 9 miles (15km) from the city center. The best way to get to the city from the airport is by train, which connects Schipol to Amsterdam’s Central Station. This over ground railway station is located below the airport and provides the easiest and quickest access to the city. Schipol airport additionally is also served by bus services and private and shared taxis.
Travel within Amsterdam is facilitated by an efficient and inexpensive public transport network that is made up of trams, buses, metro lines, canal boats and ferry services. However, one of the most popular modes of transport in Amsterdam is the bicycle. In fact, Amsterdam is often referred to as the ‘bike capital of the world’ as many of its citizens use bicycles to commute around the city. However for tourists, Amsterdam offers several amenities in the form of various discounted travel cards like the Amsterdam Card, which allows tourists unlimited transport on buses, trams and metro for up to three days. The Amsterdam card also has great discounts on museums, canal cruises and other attractions.
Amsterdam is also equipped with the outlets of the several global car rental agencies, however many tourists who visit Amsterdam choose not to rent a car during their stay in the city as parking is quite expensive and driving in the city center is quite difficult and stressful. However if you need to rent a car to travel outside Amsterdam and visit neighboring areas then Fare Buzz can be of assistance for it does offer affordable car rentals for Amsterdam as part of its travel deals repertoire.
Where to shop in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a shopper's dream. The city offers countless shopping options at its many open markets, chain stores, chic boutiques and multi-storey departmental stores. Trendy, modern, antique, luxury, wallet-friendly, lavish, vintage, the city’s bountiful shopping choices cater to all tastes and preferences.
The Nine Streets (De Negen Straatjes) enclave located in the heart of the city’s historic canal district consists of nine streets that date back to the 17th century. These nine streets are a favored shopping spot in the city and are accordingly littered with several great restaurants, cafes, art galleries, jewelry stores, boutiques and vintage stores.
Luxe shopping in Amsterdam is concentrated within the city’s museum district, P.C. Hooftstraat, Amstersam’s equivalent of Fifth Avenue. P.C. Hooftstraat hosts a plethora of big fashion names like Chanel, Mulberry, Ralph Lauren and many more. Located close by is the city’s Oud Zuid ("Old South") neighborhood featuring streets like Van Baerlestraat, which offers brands like Vanilia, Gant, Pauw and Miss Sixty. On the eastern edge of this swanky Zuid neighborhood, is the Beethovenstraat, home to chic apparel stores perfumeries and upscale patisseries.
Amsterdam’s touristy Dam Square hosts outposts of various high-end brands as well as De Bijenkorf, one of the city’s best-known department stores. Magna Plaza housed in a historic building behind Dam Square is a mall, which hosts a variety of trendy stores like Mango, Sissy Boy and others. Other prominent shopping locales in Amsterdam include the Kalverstraat, which hosts various department stores and shopping centers like De Kalveerton, Vroom and Dreesmann along with outposts of popular European mid-market brands like Zara, H&M, Mexx etc. Also worth perusing is the Leidsestraat area with its rather upscale choices in the form of Karen Millen, Paul Warmer etc. For trendy and avant-garde wares try areas like Jordaan neighborhood and the Haarlemmerdijk.
If you have antique shopping on your shopping agenda whilst in Amsterdam, then you can’t afford to miss out on the Spiegelkwartier located in the vicinity of the Rijksmuseum, which hosts more than seventy antique shops and galleries.
Visitors from outside the EU are eligible to avail of tax-free shopping in Amsterdam. VAT in the Netherlands is levied at the rate of 19% and you need to have a minimum spend of 50 Euros in a single receipt to get a refund. However you need to get a customs stamp on your receipt before you can claim your refund at the airport.
Shops in Amsterdam are open from 9 am to 6pm during the work week though the city offers late night shopping until 9pm on Thursdays. On weekends shopping hours are truncated as shops tend to close earlier at 5pm.
Where to eat in Amsterdam
The Spanish capital is home to several award-winning eateries though the city’s dining landscape is ever-changing as new, innovative eateries periodically open for business. Well-ranked and must-try eateries in Madrid currently include dining hotspots like La Terraza (Classic Spanish), Biblioteca (Modern Spanish fare), La Terraza del Casino (experimental Spanish fare), Sergi Arola Gastro (Catalonian), Indice Restaurant (Mediterranean), Pan de Lujo (Modern Spanish) and Zalacain (modern Spanish). For more down to earth choices try eateries like Prada a Tope (tapas), Europa Deco (international eats), Estado Puro (traditional fare) and Zerain (Basque cuisine).
Nightlife in Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s nightlife scene is legendary and the city attracts revelers from all over the world. Music venues, nightclubs, bars and pubs, concert halls, clubs, gay and lesbian bars Amsterdam’s main nightlife districts the Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein offer them all and more.
Techno, trance, hip-hop, funk, dub, deep house, DJ’s at popular Amsterdam nightclubs like Paradiso, Melkweg, Bitterzoet, Club Up, Trouw, Air and Escape, ensure that every music taste is catered to.