Welcome to Amsterdam! To celebrate World Tourism Day 2019, we’ve put together our top tips for exploring our home from home on the continent. 

Amsterdam is a beautifully vibrant and historical city. There’s so much to do and discover by just ambling through the beautiful canallined streets. We’ve put together some tips and links to give you a flavour of what Amsterdam has to offer you as a tourist.

World Tourism Day is commemorated each year on 27 September, with celebrations led by UNWTO. Its purpose is to foster awareness among the global community of tourism’s social, cultural, political and economic value and the contribution the sector can make in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2019, in line with UNWTO’s overarching focus on skills, education and jobs throughout the year, World Tourism Day will be a celebration on the topic ‘Tourism and Jobs: a better future for all’

ACCOMMODATION

Somewhere to rest your head: For those looking to stay on a budget – Motel One (in Amsterdam-Waterlooplein) is great, they’re affordable and are always of a decent standard. But make sure to book in advanced as the rooms get snapped up, especially around Dutch bank holidays and peak seasons!

Something a bit different: If you’re feeling really adventurous, why not stay in a pod?! CityHub is a great way to stay in Amsterdam without paying excessively for the privilege. Don’t let the word pod put you off; each of the pods are pretty roomy and come with plug sockets, adjustable lighting and built-in speakers. Be warned though, the bathrooms and showers are communal (though they do play music while you’re showering), so take flipflops, or buy some at reception.
A real treat: The Times Hotel, is a beautifully chic hotel in the heart of central Amsterdam. The rooms are decorated with prints of famous paintings by Van Gogh, Vermeer or Rembrandt, which add a thoroughly elegant touch to each of the rooms.

FOOD AND DRINK

  • Relaxed dining: Grab a coffee or brunch from Vinnies in the heart of the centre of Amsterdam – if you want somewhere with yummy food that feels just like being at home, then this is the place for you. Check out Tia Rosa if you’re looking for some easygoing tapas – it’s a popular spot for locals too.
  • Working lunch: Having a work lunch and need to make a good impression? Try Bistot Neuf – their menu has something for everyone, and the food and service are renowned.
  • Every now and again: Easy and affordable options are the various kebab places, Wok to Go or fast food. There are also plenty of world cuisines, such as Indonesian and authentic Chinese in Chinatown. We’d also suggest the dreamy pizza at Fuocovivo.
  • On the go: The supermarkets in Amsterdam offer some great take-away options. Jumbo or Aldi offer options that are easy on the wallet, whilst Albert Heijn have a fantastic range of slightly more up-market ready lunches and juices
  • Foodhallen is a vibrant and classy food market serving up a range of high-end street food and beverages in historic surroundings.  The ideal spot for a relaxed meal, snack or simply a drink with friends, the market hall is lined with around 20 street food vendors serving up everything from wood-fired pizzas to Vietnamese summer rolls and Greek mezze to artisanal burgers from some of Amsterdam’s best-loved kitchens.  When you’ve had your fill of delicious food, you can explore the selection of shops in the rest of the building, or chill out in the beautiful Parisian room at the Filmhallen, the interior of which is on the world heritage list of UNESCO.
  • Located in converted industrial buildings, Roest is a unique and eclectic laid-back bar with a large outdoor terrace and live music, popular with locals on summer evenings.
  • There are four different Vegan Junk Food Bars located across the city, so you’ve got no excuse to miss out!  With a wide range of burgers, hotdogs and loaded fries, this is junk food at its best, with the twist of brightly-coloured buns and the odd edible flower.
  • Ever hankered for a beer under a windmill?  Well here’s your opportunity!  Brouwerij ‘t IJ is a small brewery located in a former bath house next to the iconic De Gooyer – Amsterdam’s biggest wooden windmill.  As well as a popular bar, the brewery has tours and tastings of their seasonally-brewed beers.
  • Meatless District – is a bar and kitchen with 100% vegan products and a great atmosphere.  With delicious, fresh and exciting dishes in a beautiful venue, we’d recommend booking in advance as it’s a popular spot with locals and tourists alike.
  • Mastino is the first 100% gluten-free and vegan pizzeria in Amsterdam and their pizzas are AMAZING (we can personally vouch for this).  Delicious ingredients and a cosy atmosphere make for a restaurant that’s regularly booked in the evenings, so make sure you reserve a table!
 

TRANSPORT

If you’re using public transport in Amsterdam and beyond, the public transport chip card (OV-Chipkaart) is used for travel on trams, buses and metros – it works like the London Oyster cards.

The most convenient option for visitors is a disposable one-hour card or day card
(valid for one to seven days). One-hour tickets can be bought from the conductor or driver on the tram or bus. Day tickets can be bought on the tram or purchased in advance.  Tickets are valid across the whole network from the first use, allowing you to take as many journeys as you choose within your chosen time-frame.
Remember to tap in and out when you get on public transport, including for transfers.  Certain stations have side-by-side readers where you check-out of the train and immediately check-in to the bus, for example.

If you’re thinking of visiting museums during your stay, we’d recommend looking into an I amsterdam City Card – it’s an all-inclusive city pass giving you free admission to museums and attractions, as well as free city-wide public transport.
In general, Amsterdam is a charming, laid-back city. But driving a car through the city centre can be stressful for even the most experienced driver due to the narrow streets, the volume of traffic and the prevalence of cyclists.  We’d recommend you stick to the efficient and economical public transport available, or enjoy sights by foot or bike.

Cycling is one of the best ways to get around Amsterdam, and renting a bike or taking a guided cycle tour is a great way to discover the city.  With up to 400km of cycle paths covering the town, it’s no wonder that Amsterdam is a true cycling city.
Bikes follow the same lanes as cars – stick to the right side of the road, and be aware that cyclists take precedence, even over pedestrians.  We’d suggest looking at Black Bikes if you want to blend in as a local.

CULTURE

Amsterdam is a vibrant and diverse city, with a rich history originating from a fishing village founded at the end of the 12th century.  Today, tourist must-sees include:

Rijksmuseumthe classic must-see of Amsterdam’s museums, the Rijksmuseum is dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam.  When planning your visit, bear in mind that the museum has over 8,000 object of art and history on display, so allow at least a few hours to properly do the collection justice!  An unmissable sight is Cuypers Library inside the Rijksmuseum – it’s the largest and oldest art historical library in the Netherlands, and is absolutely stunning.
Van Gogh Museum – another classic on Museumplein, and understandably very popular with tourists, the museum hosts the largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh in the world.

Moco Museum – if modern and contemporary art is more your thing, check out this independent museum showcasing the work of iconic artists including Banksy, Warhol, Hirst and Dali. Easily located on Museumplein, the exhibitions are beautiful and evocative.
Katten Kabinet – for the cat lovers amongst you, Katten Kabinet is a must-see.  Dedicated to our four-legged feline friends, the museum was established in memory of the founder’s cat, John Pierpont Morgan (quite the name for a cat, we think you’ll agree).  As well as loads of great photos, posters and paintings depicting the humble moggy’s role in art and culture through the ages, there’s also a well-stocked gift shop so can fill your own home with cat memorabilia too.

Hortus Botanicus – an oasis of calm in the busy city, these botanical gardens provide a moment of peace amongst the bustling streets and lively cafés.  Established in 1638, it’s one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, originally as a specialised medical garden.  Today, the gardens have over 6,000 plants, with a giant greenhouse providing conditions for three different tropical climates.  There is also a beautiful café located in the recently renovated Orangery, with a large outside terrace overlooking the flamingo enclosure of the neighboring Royal zoo.  On summer evenings, you might even be lucky enough to catch a jazz concert hosted in the atmospheric inner courtyard of the gardens.We’d highly recommend taking a tour of the city, either by canal or, if you’re feeling active and want to blend in with the locals, then by bicycle.  They’re both great ways to see the city, and can be found inexpensively with a little research.

We couldn’t write a guide on Amsterdam without mentioning the Red Light District.  Located in the medieval city centre of De Wallen, the area is bustling with visitors and groups of tourists.  The neighbourhood is full of interesting shops, pubs, fantastic restaurants, leaning gabled houses and the city’s most charming canals.  Grab a map and venture out, or if you’re keen to learn more, take one of the many specialised tours or visit the Red Light Secrets prostitution museum.


With its history going all the way back to 1862, the
Bloemenmarkt is touted as the world’s only floating flower market.  Made up of 16 independent shops on houseboats lining the famous Singel Canal, the market represents a kaleidoscope of colours.  There’s stall after stall of fresh flowers, along with potted plants, seed packets, tulip bulbs and a wide array of other items.  It’s touristy, for sure, but it’s also a ‘must do’ for someone visiting the city for the first time.
For views over the city, as well as gorgeous modern architecture and great coffee, take a trip to Amsterdam Public Library (Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam – OBA).  The largest library in the the Netherlands, located just east of Central Station, it houses a collection of 1.5 million books. Take a trip up in their rather interesting lifts (you’ll have to see for yourself why!) to the restaurant, where there are views over the docks and city.

Venture outside the city centre!  Vondelpark is the largest public park in Amsterdam, and is loved by locals and tourists alike.  Free concerts are held at the open-air theatre or in the summer at the park’s bandstand, and the park offers a range of restaurants and cafés.
The De Pijp area of the city lies just beyond the southern limits of the city’s historical canal belt and runs downwards along the river Amstel. Over the past few decades this bustling district has developed into one of the most popular destinations in Amsterdam and currently features many older and newer attractions, including the city’s iconic Albert Cuyp Market, two breweries and dozens of excellent restaurants.

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

  • A lot of places, including bars and restaurants, don’t take credit cards or some debit cards, so be sure to take cash with you.
  • Pack an umbrella – the Netherlands are very rainy and the weather can changes quite fast
  • With around 850,000 bikes in the city, you can imagine how busy the roads and cycle paths are.  While clearly mapped out, the cycle lanes snake all over the city and seemingly pedestrianised areas, so take care whilst exploring – you’ll likely get a bell rung at you if you don’t!
  • If running is more your thing, head to Vondelpark, or just along the streets – this is pretty popular amongst locals and tourists alike.
  • Swimming in the canals is not permitted as they’re classified as boating ways – also, the water quality isn’t great!  If outdoor swimming is what you’re after, check out this TimeOut guide to the ten best beaches in Amsterdam, all of which are just an hour away from the city centre.
  • Be mindful that you can be fined for drinking in the street, so stay in one of the many bars instead.
  • Though considered a lowbrow form of entertainment by some, coffeeshops play a vital role in Dutch tourism, with figures suggesting that 25-30 per cent of people who visit Amsterdam spend time in a coffeeshop.  If you do intend to indulge in your visit to the city, make sure to do it legally and safely.
  • The Dutch are regarded highly for many things — art, cheese, water management — but customer service is not one of them.  While waiting in cafés for someone to take your order, don’t get upset or impatient, but instead use the extra time to enjoy the company and atmosphere of Amsterdam.
By |September 27th, 2019|