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.
- Room Mate Aitana: This glass-design hotel is a modern boutique hotel with excellent service and amenities. It’s right near central station and all the main attractions in the center.
- InterContinental Amstel: Treat yourself at this five-star luxury residence. Beautiful chandeliers and high ceilings create a feeling of grandeur at this home away from home.
- The College Hotel: This is a stylish hotel that was once a nineteenth-century school. It is in walking distance from many different neighborhoods.
- 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. Instead, there are some great places to rent through AirBNB!
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.
- IAMSTERDAM Sign: This famous landmark sits right in the center of the city. It is typically crowded with tourists, but it’s a great stop for the view and a picture.
Helpful tip: Take your picture from the back side, and then flip it around so the spelling looks correct (plus there are fewer people on that side)!
- 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.
- 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. Be sure to buy your ticket online before you go to skip the line!
- 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!)
- Bloemenmarkt: A flower lover’s dream, these shops have never-ending arrays of seeds and flowers for planting. You will see many tulips, as that is the official flower of Amsterdam.
- Cheese Shops: There are many cheese shops around the city and especially near Bloenmarkt. Head inside for tons of samples of traditional Dutch cheese. The cheese is cased in special packaging that allows it to stay fresh for four weeks without refrigeration, so you can buy some to take home.
- Anne Frank House: This is where Anne Frank was hidden during World War II, and it is one of the most iconic places to visit in Amsterdam. Taking this tour is a very deep and moving experience. You have to purchase tickets far in advance as tours fill up very fast.
- Museums: Amsterdam is a town of art. There are many famous artists that have come out of Amsterdam including Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gough. You can see their pieces in some of the museums, such as the Rijksmuseum, Van Gough Museum, or Hermitage Museum. If you are more of a modern art lover, check out the Moco Museum.
- A’DAM Lookout: This lookout is new to the city. Take a ride on the Sensational Swing, or checkout the sky deck for a 360-degree view of Amsterdam.
- Cocktails at SkyLounge: The SkyLounge sits across the river on top of the DoubleTree Hotel. It has a great view of the city and some delicious (albeit pricey) cocktails. It’s also okay just to head up for a look and some pictures without ordering anything.
Helpful Tip: If you are planning on doing a lot of the activities around Amsterdam, consider getting the IAmsterdam City Card. The pass includes free, unlimited public transport, free entry to certain museums, a free canal cruise, and a few other freebies. The price ranges from fifty-seven to eighty-seven euros depending on how many days you spend in the city, and you can order it online before you go.
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. One of favorite stroopwafels are from a little vendor by the Van Gogh Museum and the best poffertjes and pancakes are at Pancakes!. The other best stroopwafels are from a vendor 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!
- Bakers and Roosters: This trendy café has an Aussie-style menu offering a delicious and healthy breakfast and brunch.
- Foodhallen Market: This indoor food hall is filled with every type of food from countless countries. Try a little bit of everything from vegan nachos to fresh spring rolls to piping hot pizza. There is also a bar area with different cocktail booths.
- Coffee + Coconuts: This cozy coffee shop is an Instagrammer’s dream. Grab a coffee while you take a break from walking, and warm up from the cold.
- The Avocado Show: You may have seen this place floating around on your Facebook or Instagram feed. This restaurant is dedicated to one thing, avocados! It has avocado pancakes, avocado-filled poke bowls, and of course, avocado toast. A must-try for breakfast or lunch!
- Dignita Restaurant: A cozy, trendy setting for breakfast or brunch, Dignita adds innovation to all the breakfast classics.
- Koala Republic: This Aussie-style breakfast joint is a little bit outside of the city, but it is reachable by tram. Be sure to try the acai bowl filled with fresh fruit.
- De Luwte: De Luwte is a household name that has been around since 1983. This is a great place for a nice sit-down dinner with lots of options to choose from.
- Brasserie Ambassade: Head here for some French cuisine and a unique, upscale dining experience in the heart of the city.
- Restaurant Vlaming: This is a cozy restaurant offering a modern twist on a Netherlands-inspired menu.