- Capital of the Netherlands, with a population of around 7 million people.
- Derived from Amstelredamme, indicating the origin of the city: a dam in the river Amstel.
- The Amsterdam Stock Exchange is the oldest stock exchange in the world.
- Amsterdam was one of the world’s most important ports during the Dutch Golden Age. The city continues to be a center of European trade and finance.
- Nicknames: Venice of the North, Mokum (“safe haven”).
- Currency: Euro (EUR).
- Spoken languages: Dutch is the official language (English is widely spoken and understood).
- Best time to visit: from April to September. Unpredictable weather – it can get cold by autumn.
- Arriving via airport: the train from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Centraal (or Amsterdam Zuid) is the fastest and the most inexpensive way to get to the city center. It will cost EUR 4.50 for a single journey. Trains run every 10 minutes. Once you get to Centraal or Zuid, you can either walk or take the metro to your final destination. Airport shuttles run by Connexxion depart every 10 minutes, and cost EUR 15.50 one way and EUR 25.00 return. Taxis are more expensive, starting at EUR 45.00.
WHERE TO STAY
The neighbourhoods in the city center are most convenient. Look for accommodations around Amsterdam Central station, Jordaan, Musuemplein or Leidseplein.
- Amsterdam is a very walkable city, as most of the interesting sites are located around the city center. Try renting a bike – the truly Dutch way of exploring the city!
- GVB is the public transport company that offers tram, bus and metro services all over the city in surrounding areas. Payment is done with OV-Chipcards, which are available in 24, 48, 72, 96, 120, 144 and 168 hour travel durations. They can be purchased from supermarkets (e.g. Albert heijn, Dirk) or from the GVB offices. A blank card costs EUR 7.50 and is valid for 5 years.
- Hourly unlimited travel Chipcards can be purchased for EUR 2.70 from the GVB drivers or conductors on any bus or tram. Also available at the metro station.
- Taxis can be called from Schiphol Travel Taxi (020-653-1000) and Taxicentrale Amsterdam ( 020-777-7777). It is also possible to book taxis online. Fares start at around EUR 2.80, with additional EUR 2.00 for every km and per minute cost of about EUR 0.30. Taxis are a fairly expensive option here, and drivers are known for ripping off the clueless (by pretending not to know the address, etc.). Where possible, travellers are advised to make use of the extensive and excellent public transport options.
- Drinking age is 18, last call is 2:30 AM.
- Hip/local scene: bars in the Leidseplein area.
- Trendy scene: Pollux in Prins Hendrikkade, t-smalle in Eglantiersgracht, Café Belgique in Gravenstraat.
- College crowd: Club up in Leidsedwarsstraat, Trouw in Wibautstraat, Studio 80 at Rembrandtplein, Pacific Parc in Polonceaukade.
- Note: Amsterdam is well known for its relaxed drug laws – cannabis cafés are very popular among locals and tourists alike.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- The Dam Square – this is the historical city center and the heart of Amsterdam. The Amsterdam Historical Museum and The Royal Palace dominate the square. The alleyways connected to the Dam Square are the prime shopping streets of the city.
- Check out the city’s infamous Red Light District. Frequented by hordes of tourists, the area boasts countless sex shops and service providers. Photography is not allowed in the area.
- Pay a visit to the Anne Frank House, the original hiding spot of Anne Frank, 15, who wrote the (now famous) diary describing the Annex and her own experiences as a young Jewish girl avoiding Nazi persecution during the Second World War.
- The Van Gogh Museum. Conveniently located at the Musuemplein, this museum is a must-see for any art lover – the greatest collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s works.
- If you like beer, try the Heineken Experience – visit the historic brewery in Amsterdam and learn about the ingredients and brewing process used. The Heineken Brewery is located at Stadhouderskade, 78.
- Walk around the historic 17th-century canals, located in the heart of the city.
- Walk to the Albert Cuyp Market, the city’s largest street market. Catering to both locals and tourists, the area is dotted with stalls selling everything from shoes, souvenirs, and essentials to warm stroopwaffels, pancakes, fruits, and French fries.
- Walk from the Central Station to the Dam Square and then down the narrow alleyways connected via the Dam Square for a real or window shopping experience.
- Take a stroll through the Jordaan area, famous for containing the city’s most beautiful residential houses. Explore the hidden courtyards and cozy cafes along the canals.
- Note: if you are visiting any coffee shops or clubs in Amsterdam, don’t forget to bring your ID. Minimum age laws are strictly enforced.
- The Dutch are generally warm and welcoming people. It also helps that most Dutch and Surinamese in Holland speak English.
- Where to find good cheap eats: while Amsterdam is quite an expensive city, it is not hard to find cheap and good meals. Albert Cuyp Market is the place to go for interesting fresh food and drinks. Herring stalls can be found all over the city and raw pickled herrings can make for an interesting lunch.
- Dangerous areas: there are no particularly dangerous areas in Amsterdam. In any case, be vigilant if visiting the Red Light District at night – with so many people around, pick-pockets are common.
RECOMMENDED AMSTERDAM GUIDE BOOKS
- National Geographic Walking Amsterdam: The Best of the City
- By Locals – An Amsterdam Travel Guide Written In The Netherlands
Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days