This open-minded country is a great place to visit solo or with friends. Here you will find some amazing architecture among all the things you can see and do. It is prefect for a short trip or a layover. If only visiting Amsterdam, two to three days is a good amount of time, otherwise you should add a few more days if planning to visit some other cities such as Utrecht, Rotterdam or The Hague. The Netherlands is often referred to as Holland, but Holland actually only means the two provinces of Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland. Although it may be a small country, it has 16 million inhabitants it is the third most densely populated country in the world.
When to Go
The busiest tourist months are from May to September, during the summer season. August will be your warmest month, but if you are looking for a lot of sunshine hours, head over in June. If you want to avoid the crowds and still get some decent weather, April is a great time to go especially since it is tulip season and Kings Day on April 27. In the winter, you may see some snow, but it is rare. November is the rainiest month so it is best not to visit at this time as you will likely be walking a lot around the cities.
Before You Go
- Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months from your departure date. Canadians and Americans do not need visas to visit the Netherlands or other Schengen countries for up to 90 days
- Pack converters to charge your devices. Power sockets are type C and F (two pronged round sockets). The standard voltage is 230V and the standard frequency is 50Hz.
- Make sure to pack good walking shoes or sneakers as most cities in the Netherlands is very walkable and bike-able.
- Tip is included in all food and drink prices and is not expected, although if you pay in cash it is always nice to leave a few coins if you felt the service was good.
- There is no need to tip taxis, but you can just round up if paying cash.
- Download the map of the Netherlands on your maps.me or Google maps app on your phone and pin all of the locations you want to visit.
If coming from North America, you will fly into Amsterdam as there are direct flights on KLM from many cities in Canada and the US. There are direct flights from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal in Canada. And there are direct flights from New York, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Washington, Minneapolis, Portland, Atlanta, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle in the US.
Currently, the exchange rate is around $1.20USD per Euro and around $1.50CAD per Euro. Here, it is not necessary to have cash on you as almost all places take credit card – some places don’t even take cash! What is also great, is that most places, including bars, have the “tap” feature so you don’t even have to swipe or put in your pin. ATM’s are also readily available.
Red Light District, legalized marijuana and the canals are the first things that come to mind when you think of this city. Yes, these are some of the things that you will experience while you visiting, but Amsterdam has much more to offer than this.
The cheapest way to get to the city center from the airport is by taking the train to the Amsterdam Central Station (takes 15-20 minutes). All you need to do is go to Platform 1 or 2 under the airport main arrival area and take the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) train that goes direct to the Amsterdam Central Station. The train runs every 10-15 minutes and it costs €4.40.
If you aren’t staying near the Amsterdam Central Station, you can take the local tram to get closer to your location. You can take this to get around the city as well, if you get tired of walking. It costs €3 to take the tram, and your ticket is valid for 1 hour. The trams do not take cash though, so make sure you are able to use your credit card.
If budget isn’t an issue and you just want to get to your hotel quickly, you can take a taxi or an Uber from the airport. A taxi will cost €40. Uber is significantly cheaper and will cost closer to €25-30 depending on where you are going. It is best to take Uber if looking to take taxi’s around the city. It also is great for when you just want to get home after a late night out.
Where to Stay
You can’t really go wrong staying in the center of Amsterdam as it is convenient to walk everywhere but if you are looking for a nicer neighborhood, try Jordaan or De Pijp. Jordaan is the higher end area of Amsterdam and De Pijp is a trendy neighborhood that has all the best bars. If on a budget, there are a lot of great places on Airbnb but if not, the W hotel is nice if you are looking to stay in the city center, but if looking to stay closer to the De Pijp area, the Apollo Hotel is great. It may seem far from the city center but it is only about a 15-20 minute walk.
What to Do
- The Heineken Experience – Where Heineken beer all started. Purchase tickets online to save time waiting and to save money. It costs €18 per person which includes 2 beers at the end. The self-guided tour is about 1.5 hours, but you can also choose to do a VIP tour for €55 per person. If you just show up, the price is €21 for adults, €14.50 for ages 12-17 and free for children 0-11.
- The Van Gogh Museum – One of my favorite museum in the world. If you can, book online and reserve a time so you can easily enter without waiting, but it’s not necessary. It costs €18 per person to visit but is free if you have the I Amsterdam City Card. You can spend about 2 hours here.
- Moco Museum – Now home to a permanent Banksy exhibit, this modern and contemporary art museum is a great place to visit for art lovers. Open every day from 10am to 6pm and costs €12.50 per person. You can purchase tickets online to avoid waiting in line.
- Rijksmuseum – Known as one of the best fine arts museums and home to Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. Personally, I think the Van Gogh Museum is a better choice to visit but if you have time, head over to the museum between 9am and 5pm. It costs €17.50 per person to enter but it is free if you are under 18 years old.
- Anne Frank House – must book ahead of time because this sells out fast. Tickets are made available online two months in advance and I suggest you get them right when they are released. Until July 1 2018, you can only purchase tickets online because of renewal work. Open daily from 9am to 7pm with extended hours to 10pm on Saturdays and from April to November. It costs €9 for an adult, €4.50 for kids aged 10-17 and is free for kids aged 0-9.
- Bloemenmarkt – Located on the Singel canal, this is the only floating flower market in the world. Something nice to walk through if you are wandering the city center. You will find many colorful stalls on houseboats selling flowers and some souvenirs. It is open Mon-Sat 9am to 5:30pm and Sunday from 11:30am to 5:30pm.
- Albert Cyup Street Market – Take a stroll through this food market and purchase some snacks. Try the pickled herring and a stroopwafel (a waffle with caramel). Open Mon-Sat.
- Museum Market – Every third Sunday of the month, the Museumplein fills up with food stalls and shopping stands. It is a great way to spend a few hours on a sunny afternoon in Amsterdam.
- Red Light District – Something you must walk through while in town, and what Amsterdam is famous for. Late at night is when it gets interesting and you can see the topless girls standing in the red-lit windows. Don’t try to take a picture walking down this street though.
- City Center & Dam Square – You must walk or bike around the city center as there are so many small streets to explore. And you can’t miss Dam Square!
- Keukenhof Botanical Gardens – If visiting during the months of March, April and May, check out the tulip fields. It is a bit of a trek outside the city center though but beautiful.
- Kings Day – One of the biggest street parties in Europe, Kings Day (previously known as Queens Day) is celebrated on April 27 every year and if you are in town, you will not miss it. A million people spill out into the streets and boats on the canals to celebrate the King’s birthday. And you must dress is orange.
Where to Eat
- Food Hallen – a high end food market with live music and DJ’s on certain nights
- The Pancake Factory – for Dutch pancakes
- Winkel 43 – for some Dutch apple pie
- SLA – for a healthy lunch
- Bakers & Roasters – for brunch
- The Avocado Show – if you love avocado, great for brunch or lunch
- Little Collins – for brunch or lunch
- Mama Kelly – if you want a real dinner experience
- Envy – where you will find Dutch gastronomy through a la carte ordering or a tasting menu. Plates here are small and to share.
- Uptown Meat Club – for some good meat
- Vleminckx Sausmeesters – for some really good fries and dipping sauce
- Albert Cyup Street Market – for some pickled herring and stroopwafel, open Mon-Sat
Where to Drink
- De Tulp – a great bar in De Pijp area. There are a lot of good bars in this area so you can always wander around and try some new places as well.
- Food Hallen – high end food market where you can also get great drinks that has live music and DJs on certain days of the week
- Het Paardje – a restaurant that is great for drinks that has an outdoor seating area (called The Horse in English), located in the De Pijp area.
- Chin Chin Club – if you are looking for a place to dance, this is it. They charge €15 cover per person (it is a bit cheaper if you purchase ahead of time) but you can’t go wrong with a Friday and Saturday night spent here. You do need to pay to use the bathroom though, but can pay €2 to use it the whole night.