Whatever your pre-imagined image of Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands will exceed your expectations
Tulip-filled flower markets, townhouse-lined canals, magnificent museums, edgy coffee shops, top-rated festivals, and even steamy red light districts – it’s all here and more.
The best time to go
Spring (March-May) is popular with flower lovers as Amsterdam blooms. Head to Keukenhof Gardens for the colourful sea of tulips. Located in the southwest of Amsterdam in an area called Duin-en Bollenstreek (Bulb District), the Gardens are open from mid-March to mid-May.
Summer (June-August) is when the city at its liveliest and you can expect a festival on almost every weekend. Awakening, the city’s biggest techno extravaganza is held in June. If the weather gets too hot, have a dip at one of the city’s many urban beaches.
Autumn (September-November) is a good time to visit Amsterdam. The city’s theatres, cafes, and top attractions are less busy. The chillier weather is a good excuse to treat yourself to some hot chocolate and ‘appeltaart’ (apple cake).
Winter (December-February) can be cold, with biting North Sea wind whistling down the canals, though temperatures rarely drop below freezing. This is the best time to visit the city’s many museums and galleries as the queues are considerably shorter. Between December and January, the city is illuminated with fantastical light installations as part of the Amsterdam Light Festival.
Amsterdam is best explored by bike and to find out where you can rent a bike from, go to the getting around in Amsterdam page. If you aren’t a keen cyclist, you can buy single or multi-day transport cards which can be used on all public transport at GVB ticket outlets or vending machines. Taxis are widely available but you must go to a designated taxi rank (instead of hailing one in the street).
Van Gogh Museum
This popular museum boasts the world’s largest collection of works by the globally celebrated artist. Around 200 paintings trace the development of his remarkable but tragically short career.
Close to the Van Gogh Museum is Rijksmuseum. Dedicated to arts and history of Amsterdam, it houses works by works by masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer.
The Red Light District (De Wallen)
No other country can match how the Dutch embrace the world’s oldest profession. Our word of advice is to respect the profession and don’t take pictures. De Wallen also contains the Oude Kerk (Old Church), which was founded in 1213 and is Amsterdam’s oldest building.
On the site of a former brewery, this multimedia exhibition recounts the history of beer and also of this famous brewer. Tickets include free beer samples, so be prepared to have a jolly good time when you visit.
Over the Edge
Enjoy panoramic views of the city on Europe’s highest swing on A’DAM’s sky deck, a must for thrill-seekers.
For more ideas on key attractions, check out our things to see in Amsterdam guide.
Offbeat & quirky
The Cat Museum
Go if you love cats. Bob Meijer, the owner of the house who still lives there, has a collection of feline-themed art through the ages.
Green House Centrum
Join fellow tourists to smoke a legal joint at this canal-side coffeeshop which serves up an award-winning selection of different cannabis strains.
The Sex Museum
The Dutch are well known for their relaxed attitudes to sex. Filled with art and unique objects, this museum is not for the faint hearted. If you’re up for an eye-opening experience then this is a must see.
For more offbeat tips including where to try genevers (Dutch gin), click this things to do in Amsterdam link.
Must try specialities
- Vlaamse frites – French fries, though literally translated as Flemish fries, is a popular snack, customarily served with a blob of mayonnaise, though curry or peanut sauce make more exciting toppings.
- Erwtensoep – filling thick pea soup is a firm favourite in winter.
- Poffertjes – small, fluffy pancakes served with powdered sugar and butter.
- Oliebollen – Dutch donuts which are traditionally eaten on New Year’s eve. Keep an eye out for the oliebollen trucks that can be found on the side of the road during the winter.
Tipping: All hotels and restaurants include 15% service and VAT. It is customary to leave small change when paying a bill.
Hotels in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a highly popular destination so it’s no surprise that hotels are in high demand and prices remain expensive throughout the year (well above £100 a night). If you’re on a shoestring budget, then consider hotels south of the Vondelpark. Apple Inn (Koninginneweg 93) is a good budget choice. For other cheap, moderate and luxury options, see our hotels in Amsterdam guide.
Nightlife in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is one of Europe’s top party cities so you definitely can expect to dance the night away at one of the hippest dance clubs around the Rembrantsplein-Leidseplein area. But there are also more subdued wooden-floored brown cafés (traditional Dutch pubs) for you to have a pint. Check out the nightlife in Amsterdam guide for more information.
Visa requirements to Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Americans, Australians, British and Canadians do not need a visa to visit Amsterdam. However, return tickets are required for US citizens, Canadians and Australians. Also, your passport must be valid for three months beyond the length of stay and issued within the past 10 years. If you aren’t sure what’s required, visit the visa requirements to Amsterdam page.
An amalgam of canals, parks and world-class galleries, Amsterdam offers so much to visitors. To make the best of your holiday to this amazing city, check out the complete city guide to Amsterdam before you go.