The “Venice of North“, as they call the capital of Netherlands, is a place that really differs from the most of the big cities in Europe. If you are for the first time in Amsterdam and have only a few days to see the most of it, this guide will help you organize your time and see all worth seeing with tips and tricks about where to go, stay and eat.
How to Get Around?
There are a lot of ways to get around in Amsterdam and public transportation is one the most affordable and beneficial. Amsterdam’s public transportation is really massive and includes trains, metros, buses, trams and even ferries. You can buy the one-way tickets, but it is much more beneficial if you get the I Amsterdam City Card, which will give you the unlimited access to the public transportation system for 24 to 72 hours.
Another way to get around the city, and I can say one of the best ways (if you are staying in the city limits), is renting a bicycle or a scooter. It would be a real shame to visit a city so popular for using bicycles as the main way of transportation and not experience it yourself. It is very convenient and with a city map, you can pick your stations and stops. However, if you are not much of a cyclist, it might be better to stick to the public transportation, since it might seem too „fast and furious“ once you enter the lane with experienced „competitors“.
Budgeting in Amsterdam
Wherever you are traveling, it is good to have some insider tips of how avoid giving away more money than you should. First time travelers that are not previously informed about these little things usually pay the full price because they are scared to ask or just don’t want to get into some kind of scam or misunderstanding.
Well, when you are long enough in Amsterdam, you get to know all the little trick that help you save your money and make your trip more budget-friendly. Here are a few tips that will make it easy for you.
- I Amsterdam City Card
I already mentioned this card with the public transportation, but that was just a part of what this card really means. It is not just the transportation, there is much more included, such as museums, canal cruises and other city attractions. Some of the popular places included when buying this card are:
- Van Gogh Museum
- Rembrandt House
- ArtisRoyal Zoo
- NEMO Science Museum and many, many more.
You can learn more about it by visiting http://www.iamsterdam.com/en/i-am/i-amsterdam-city-card
- Free Sites
Even though most of the famous sites in Amsterdam are not free (but certainly worth paying), you can find some that don’t charge any fee and you can spend some quality time there. Some of those sites are Begijnhof, one of the most beautiful 14th century gardens in the city. However, it is not the only one of this kind. Get a map and visit the others, like the Karthuizerhof and you will be pleasantly surprised. You can also get a free panoramic view from the roof terrace of the NEMO Science Center. For those who want to learn something about the history of the city, there are the City Archives that treasure some very interesting information.
- Visit Outside of the Peak-Season
One of the best ways to start with your budget-friendly trip is to make your reservations of flights and hotels from November to March (avoiding the period around the New Year and Christmas holidays). This is a time of the year when there are fewer tourists then usual and when you can find hotels for about 25% lower prices. Also, they are more available than during the high season. And, if you are wondering whether to go during weekends or mid-week, always choose mid-week if you want to save money; rates of the tours and canal rides are pretty lower.
Where to Stay?
There is a wide range of different types of accommodation in Amsterdam, spread all over the city, so it won’t be a big problem finding a place to stay, but, of course, it all depends of your priorities, wishes and budget. The great thing about Amsterdam is that all the most popular attractions are located in a walking distance from one another, so, wherever you decide to stay, in the inner circle of the city, you will be close enough. Even though hostels are usually known to be much cheaper than hotels, don’t let yourself be fooled here; you might find a cheaper hotel and have your privacy, opposite to some hostels in a fancy neighborhood or a fancy name.
There is another type of accommodation, which is getting more and more popular lately, self-catering accommodation. In Amsterdam, this refers to short-stay apartments and houseboats. This is an excellent way to spend your holiday authentically and experience the life of a local, but most of them (especially houseboats) are not for everyone’s wallet.
Here are listed some of the recommended places to stay:
- Short Stay Group
This company is well-known for their accommodation units in Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona. They offer a nice, pretty luxurious and comfy, but still cheaper than most of the hotels. Most of their units in Amsterdam are located in the city center and you can easily check in at the Shiphol Airport, where they have their desk or just wait to come to their apartment and check in there. Their apartments contain a living room, bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen and they are charged per apartment, not by the number of persons staying. Also, studio apartments are also available, if you prefer them.
- Mauro Mansion
This is one of the best places you can choose if you are willing to pay a bit more money for your accommodation, but it is worth it. Mauro Mansion is a boutique-hotel located just a few minutes from the Central Station. It is settled in a 16th century canal house, surrounded by two medieval city gates and with a stunning look at the Geldersekade canal. A great point from which to explore the city and most of the best attractions are just around the corner.
This budget hotel is located in the City Center South; offers a very good location, service and all that at very reasonable rates. It is comfy and cozy and in a walking distance from the popular sites. This is probably one of the most preferable hotels for those looking for a nice place to stay, but within their budget.
What to See?
Amsterdam is full of all kinds of amazing sites and attractions, and although most of us are eager to visit the most famous ones, there are a lot of non-touristy spots that are quite interesting.
- EYE Film Institute Netherlands
This site is only a few years old, but is becoming more and more popular. If you are a film lover, you will be delighted with this place. This place screens the best movies of the cinematic history, hosts different shows dedicated to film and plays a role of the national archive of film with different exhibitions showcased throughout the year. It is also a great place to take a nice walk, or just take a break at the café and restaurant that offer a beautiful waterfront location for relaxing with delicious food.
Once you are in Amsterdam, it would be a real shame if you miss visiting this amazing neighborhood. It is really a perfect little historic village that takes you back in times when windmills and clog making were a regular part of Netherlands everyday life. It is a perfect place to take pictures, see how clogs are made, taste some of the yummy cheese samples (and buy some) and purchase great souvenirs. It is really a great experience, so make sure to visit it.
- FoGuangShan Buddhist Temple
Many visitors wouldn’t even think that they could stumble upon a place like this in Amsterdam. But, as surprising as it may seem, you can actually find a Buddhist temple right in the historic part of the town. It really stands out architecturally from the rest of the buildings in Amsterdam and its interior is quite impressive too. If you want to catch a glimpse of Asia in the middle of Europe, don’t miss this place.
Where to Eat?
The city of Amsterdam is abundant in all kinds of restaurant and cafes, from the luxury ones to those that everyone can afford. Here are listed some interesting and popular places where you can fill your belly.
It is a place with vibrant interior, delicious food and great party nights. They offer international cuisine, so you will find diverse dishes at reasonable prices. The menus often change and sometimes are tailored for different occasions like Halloween and Easter, so you will have both fun and a nice dinner.
This is a great family restaurant that serves tasty local food, which name literally translates to “Mothers”. It has a specific interior that celebrates mothers and family, it is comfy, cozy and relaxing. Don’t miss to try the local dessert called poffertjes.
Following many big cities around the world, like London and Tokyo, Amsterdam got its own cat café last year. This café opened in April of 2015 and became one of the most warm and comfy places in town. Here, you can sip on a cup of coffee, have a nice lunch or a tasty dessert, and all that in company of a furry little friend.
- Don’t buy drugs on street
- Don’t walk the bicycle lanes
- Don’t take pictures of the ladies in the windows of the Red Light District