Amsterdam is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Europe. While it is well-known for its taboo tourist attractions, Amsterdam boasts so much more than cheap thrills. My first trip to Amsterdam, admittedly, was a bit of a disappointment.
So, on my second trip, I made it a point to stalk out the best of the best in the city.
What to Expect in Amsterdam
- Language: The official language is Dutch, but nearly everyone speaks English as a second language.
- Currency: The Euro is used as currency (€)
- Credit Cards and Banks: Most restaurants and hotels will accept credit/debit cards. Be sure to carry plenty of cash for small purchases and public transportation.
- Climate: You can visit Amsterdam all year round, but the winter months may be too cold for walking or cycling around the city.
Cold season: November to March
Warm season: June to September
Depending on your type of trip, I’d recommend getting an iAmsterdam card. The card includes free admission into the most popular museums, free public transportation and a free canal cruise. See if the iAmsterdam card can save you money on your trip by using their online savings chart before buying.
Where to Stay in Amsterdam
Accommodation in Amsterdam can be pricey – even at hostels!
Budget Accommodation in Amsterdam
- The Flying Pig Downtown: Dorms & privates, Wi-Fi, kitchen, bar. Prices range from €17-52 per night. The Flying Pig is my favorite hostel in Amsterdam. It’s in a great location and has a really cool vibe.
- St. Christopher’s Inns: Dorms & privates, free breakfast, bar, restaurant, Wi-Fi. Prices start at around €36 per night. St. Christopher’s has multiple hostels around Europe and is well known for great quality and service.
- The Bulldog Hotel: Dorms, Privates, Apartments, Wi-Fi. Prices start at around €18 per night. The Bulldog Hotel provides basic accommodation and is centrally located in the Red Light District.
- Lloyd Hotel: This hotel is by far the most unique hotel I’ve ever stayed at. Lloyd Hotel is the world’s first 1 – 5 star hotel. Each room is designed to surprise even the most well-travelled guest. It’s located 15 minutes by tram outside of city center and is a funky breath of fresh air.
- Banks Mansion: *Reader Recommendation*
- Mauro Mansion: *Reader Recommendation*
If you’re a solo female traveler, I do NOT recommend using www.Couchsurfing.com in this city. While there are plenty of great locals offering a free place to stay, the site suggests using caution in Amsterdam. I suggest not taking a chance.
The Best of Amsterdam Accommodation:
“[Banks Mansion] was a great place to stay and right on the canals. Great breakfast every morning and a very generous happy hour in the evening! It was also in walking distance of the Flower Market.” – Steve
“The best place to stay by far is Mauro Mansion – it’s right by Central Station and in the heart of old downtown. It’s run by a gay couple and they are the kindest gentlemen I’ve ever met.” – Becky Mahan of Stranger in this Town
What to Do in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is full of history and activities! Whether you prefer museums or high tea!
- Canal Cruise: Get a feel for the history and layout of Amsterdam by boat. Take a full tour or hop-on-hop-off tour and travel through the canals of the city.
- Van Gogh Museum: The Van Gogh Museum is fantastic. There is an incredible collection of Van Gogh’s work from the beginning of his endeavors as an artist.
- Cycle Amsterdam-Noord: Rent a bike and take the free ferry across to Amsterdam-Noord to spend the day cycling. Follow Route 9 by the marked pathways and explore the dike villages, grassland landscape and the island of Marken. (47 km/4-5 hours)
- House of Bols: House of Bols is one of the best tours I’ve ever been on. Learn about the history of traditional Genever and experience a one-of-a-kind cocktail experience.
- Visit De Drie Fleschjes: Visit the oldest tasting room in Amsterdam, “Three Little Bottles,” opened in 1650. Enjoy a drink and take in the ambiance of antique barrel-lined walls and burning candelabras.
- Coffee Houses & The Red Light District: While this side of Amsterdam tourism isn’t exactly my thing, that’s not to say your shouldn’t at least peak your head in to see what the hype is all about. Rumor has it, for tourists, getting high in Amsterdam won’t be legal for long.
- Heineken Experience: Despite the touristy nature of this tour, I really enjoyed it and think it’s a great bang for your buck. The tour lasts nearly 2 hours with tons of activities, two free beers, plus a free souvenir. (I scored some aviator sunglasses!)
- Pack a Picnic in Vondalpark: If you find yourself in Amsterdam during good weather, chances are, Vondalpark will be packed with people. Take a walk through the park, picnic and people watch.
- Albert Cuyp Market: Don’t miss this market! It’s the largest in all of The Netherlands. Come hungry and try some local cheeses and dutch Stroopwafels. You can also score some great souvenirs here. (Open from 9:30 am to about 5 pm, Monday to Saturday)
- Handbags & High Tea at Tassen: Visit the largest collection of handbags and purses in the world! Even if you aren’t a fashionista, the collection is fascinating. Some of the over 4,000 handbags at the Tassen Museum date back to the Middle Ages (when even men wore them)! The museum café is beautiful as well and offers a yummy High Tea at a bargain. (Plus, there’s free WiFi!)
Where to Eat in Amsterdam
Cheeses and sweets and meats, oh my!
- Stroopwafels, Poffertjes & Pancakes: These delicious Dutch treats are not to pass on. There are plenty of spots to satisfy your sweet tooth around the city. My favorite stroopwafels are from a little vendor by the Van Gogh Museum and the best poffertjes and pancakes are at Pancakes!. You can also grab these sweets at the Albert Cuyp market.
- Meatballs: The name says it all! Check out the restaurant Meatballs for some homestyle cooking in the Red Light District. Don’t worry fellow veggos, there are plenty of options for vegetarians too!
- De Kas: My favorite restaurant in the city, De Kas, creates one menu daily based on the harvest of their own nursery. Everything from the food to the organic wine is outstanding. It’s farm to fine dining!