This post is part of my Quick Guides: City Series, designed as a mini introduction to the destination in question: activities, accommodation, how long to spend there, transport, local food – and whatever else comes to mind!
Amsterdam is one of those cities that everyone just loves. Whether it’s a cultural weekend away exploring the museums and galleries, a romantic getaway dining in nice restaurants and wandering over the endless canal bridges or a lad’s stag weekend – it’s true – it really has got it all.
Having been there on a couple of occasions, I would say two or three nights in the city is probably enough time to see everything, with some relaxation time in between.
The Anne Frank House & Museum: a really interesting but harrowing tour of the house and secret annex where for two years during the war she hid with her family until they were found in 1944. You can just buy a ticket at the museum (€9.50) and wander round yourself at your own pace.
IAmsterdam giant letters
Beautiful Dam Square
The famous Sex Museum
Relax in Vondelpark
Free walking tour of the city: These operate in most major cities – just ask at your hostel who will be able to help you with where to meet at a certain time and place, then spend a few hours being taken around the city – probably to parts which you wouldn’t know about without being with a local!
Dinner in China town
The iconic red light district
Sample the famous ‘space cakes’ at one of the many ‘coffee shops’ dotted around the city
Get lost in the maze of tiny canal streets and sit at a café with a beer in hand watching the world go by.
If you’re on a backpacker’s budget, I would really recommend St Christopher’s At The Winston for a great, friendly little hostel pretty much right in the city centre (it did take us a while to find it first time, however, as it is situated on a backstreet!) We had continental buffet breakfast included, a bathroom per dorm, and it’s got an amazing open air bar, where breakfast is served in the morning and which is buzzing in the evenings and a great place to start your night out!
As far as transport goes, I think we used the tram literally once during our whole stay, to get from the airport to the city! Tickets aren’t too expensive, and if you think you are going to use it a lot, you can go for a day ticket with unlimited journeys. But it really is SO easy to get everywhere by walking – and it’s a really nice, relaxed way to see the city at your own pace, wandering along the canal and past all the beautiful buildings.
Or a great way to travel around the city (and how the locals do it!) is to rent a bike. Holland is known for its flat cycling lanes so make the most of it!
After our walking tour on our first full day there, our tour guide left us at one of his favourite bars along the canal. Keen to try the local cuisine (we actually had a rule that every place we visited on our inter-rail trip, we had to try the local cuisine and the local beer!), we opted for some traditional Dutch tapas – I can’t remember the name but they were some sort of fried cheese in breadcrumbs. I wasn’t overly impressed but Amsterdam is very European, in the sense that you can pick up cheese and ham toasties and fried snacks in side street cafes and bars, but there’s also a good restaurant scene including Chinese, Asian and Indian restaurants.
Currency & prices:
Amsterdam’s not known for being one of the cheapest cities in Europe – but I honestly don’t think it’s too bad compared to a lot of other places I’ve visited. You do have to pay entry to a lot of the tourist attractions, such as the Anne Frank museum or to do a boat cruise along the canal of course – but at the same time if you’re on a budget, there are plenty of free art galleries and parks to enjoy.
All in all, it is such a unique and beautiful city and even though you’ll probably cover most of the main sights in a few days, I think it’s one of those places you can go back to again and again!