Amsterdam is always a joy to visit. With it's Golden Age canals lined with impressive mansions and warehouses. This is the backdrop for a city filled with the most beautiful museums full of art from all over the world. Besides having more culture per capita than any other city in the world, Amsterdam is a lot of fun as well. Plenty of cafes, bars and clubs to discover and don't forget about the world famous Red-light district. You can have an authentic urban experience here. Especially if you rent a bike and start exploring all the little streets, hidden gardens, markets, vintage-filled shops and lots more.
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- Amsterdam has more canals than Venice.
- Amsterdam has more culture per inhabitant than any other city on this planet.
- Amsterdam has 11.000.000 wooden poles in the ground supporting its buildings.
- Amsterdam has 3.3 bikes for every car in the city.
- Amsterdam has a population of 813.562 people (2016).
- Amsterdam has 111.800.000 overnight staying guest every year.
- Amsterdam has 2500 boathouses.
Neighbourhoods in Amsterdam
Like every big city, Amsterdam can be divided into different neighbourhoods. The centre of Amsterdam is the heart of the town. The Neighbourhoods worth exploring lay around it. Each area has its charm and thing to do or visit. If you rent a bike, they are no more than a 15-minute bike ride from the centre of Amsterdam. If you prefer walking, no problem, that is doable as well.
The City Centre ("Centrum") is where you find the world-famous historical Canal Ring, some of the worlds best museums and lots and lots of shopping and entertainment. I divided the City Center up in eight areas. The 9 streets, Jordaan, Canal Ring, Spiegelkwartier, Museum district, The Haarlemmerstraat & Haarlemmerdijk, Red Light District, Nieuwmarkt.
The 9 streets
Perhaps one of the most photogenic areas of Amsterdam. The 9 streets between the Herengracht and the Prinsengracht are filled with vintage and designer stores, speciality shops, cafes and lots of restaurants. So if you want to do some shopping head over to explore the 9 streets.
The Jordaan is one of the most famous neighbourhoods in Holland. It was a working-class district and known for its radical politics, tight community bonds, and the knew how to party there. Drinking and singing are what they all could do very well. Now the Jordaan has changed. There are lots of shops and restaurants. A couple of galleries and living there isn't cheap any more. But the atmosphere of the late 19th century you can still feel hanging around.
The Canal Ring was developed in the 17th century and has become one of the world most unique urban landscapes. In 2010 the Canal Ring was added to the UNESCO's World Heritage list. You can hop on one of the many canal cruises. This is one of the most popular attractions in Amsterdam. Or start walking, personally I think that's the best way to explore this amazing area of Amsterdam. Along one of the canal's lay one of the most impressive museums, I have ever visited. The Anna Frank House, a must see I think.
If you're into art, antiques and curiosities, this is the place for you. The Spiegelkwartier has been in the centre of Dutch art and antique trade for 80 years. From Roman art to a Jeff Koons, you can find it all here.
Well, the name says it all I think. Around the Museum Square, there are four important museums. The Rijksmuseum, The Stedelijk Museum, The Van Gogh museum and Moco Museum. This is a lot of art in one spot. If you have a lot of time in Amsterdam, please visit them all. If you here for a couple of days you will have to make a choice. If you're not very arty, it's still worth visiting. Around the corner from the Museum Square is the Vondel Park. It can be a busy place this park. But if the weather is good, it's a perfect spot to hang out for an afternoon or evening.
Haarlemmerstraat & Haarlemmerdijk
Time to do some shopping! This is not your typical high street shopping street. There are lots of local speciality stores, and you will not find the big international chains here. So head over the Haarlemmerstrat & Haarlemmerdijk just north of The Jordaan if you don't want to see an H&M or Zara. If you all shopped out, there are lots of good coffee and eating places here as well.
Red Light District
Yes, it's all true what you heard about The Red Light District. This the area in Amsterdam where you can see it all. Prostitutes in windows, sex shops, brothels, peep shows and much more.
The Nieuwmarkt is one of the oldest areas in Amsterdam. It's next to The Red Light District and around the corner from Central Station. The once open canal was filled in 1614 and now is the centre of Amsterdam's Chinatown. There is still a daily market, and on Saturday there is an organic market. There are lots of cafes and restaurants around the square. It's a perfect place to spend some time here to explore the rich history of Amsterdam.
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Practical Information about Amsterdam
You would think for a nation that became very very rich by trading all kinds of commodities you could bargain in every store. This is not the case. I tried at the supermarket, but the girl behind the counter politely asked me to pay the amount that was displayed on the register or go away. 🙂
There are a couple of places where you can practise your bargaining skills: flea markets, art galleries or an antique shop.
Dangers & Annoyances
Amsterdam is definitely not the most dangers city in this world, in fact, is pretty safe. But with every city in this world, you have to be alert and use your common sense.
- Some people like to have your wallet, watch or phone. So be alert for pickpockets at Central Station, the Bloemenmarkt, Red Light District or busy pubs.
- Avoid dark or deserted streets in the centre at night, especially in the Red Light District.
- Avoid being chased by a prostitute in the Red Light District. Don't take photographs of them; they definitely don't like it.
- Be careful with all the canals in Amsterdam. The waterways usually are not fenced. They say once a week someone falls in the water when they are relieving them self after a bit too much to drink.
- The locals use their bikes for most of there transportation in Amsterdam. I know you are doing your tourist thing, but please try to avoid to walk on bicycle lanes and look very carefully before crossing a street. These locals on their bikes go fast and don't like it when you're in there way.
Bargaining isn't done in Amsterdam, but there is a possibility to get some discount on museum tickets, concert tickets or on the public transport system.
- Students usually get a couple of euros discount on Museum admissions; bring student ID.
- Seniors get discounts for museums, concerts and public transportation. You must be over 65. Bring ID when you look younger.
- The I Amsterdam Card (www.iamsterdam.com) can be bought at the VVV I Amsterdam Visitor Centres and some hotels. This card gives you admission to over 30 museums (but not the Rijksmuseum), a canal cruise, and it gives you some discount in shops and restaurants. The built-in public transport card for all the busses, trams and metro in Amsterdam is very convenient.
- If you are going to visit all the museums in and around Amsterdam, the Museumkaat (www.museumkaart.nl) is the card for you. It gives you free entry to 400 museums in the whole of The Netherlands for one year.
- If you have planned your trip and you know exactly what you want to see in Amsterdam the Holland Pass (www.hollandpass.com) is the card to get. Pree book 4/5/6 attractions that you would like to do. It also includes a train ticket from the airport to the city. You buy it online and pick it up at the airport or in the city.
Emergency & Important Phone Numbers
- Police, fire, ambulance: 112
- Police (not an emergency): 0900-8844 (www.politie.nl)
- Emergency doctor’s office: 088 003 0600
- Dutch country code: 31
- Amsterdam city code: 020
- Free calls: 0800
- Paid information calls: 0900
- Dutch mobile phone numbers begin with: 06
- International access code: 00
Entering & Exiting The Netherlands
Bring your passport and the right paperwork and entering The Netherlands is no problem at all.
If you're from one of the 60 countries that don't need a visa to enter The Netherlands you are lucky. You just get on the aeroplane and show your passport at the border. If your not from one of those countries, you will need a Schengen visa. Have a look at the government website, The Netherlands and you (www.netherlandsandyou.nl). All the information is on here.
Etiquettes; Do's and Don'ts
- Greeting: Give a firm handshake or if you know the person a bit better a double or triple cheek kiss.
- Marijuana & alcohol: Thay use this at home, coffee shop or bar. Not on the street.
- Smoking: It's better to stop, it's not healthy. But if you smoke cigarettes, not in bars, restaurants.
- Bluntness: Locals will give you there frank and unvarnished opinions about almost everything. Don't be offended. The Dutch don't think this is impolite. They are just honest with you.
- Cycling paths: Bike lanes are everywhere. Don't walk on them. When you walk around and want to cross the street, look both ways. These locals on their bikes come from everywhere.
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
You are very very welcome in Amsterdam. The Netherlands was the first country in the world that legalised same-sex marriage, this was in 2001.
Don't leave home without it, please.
You can get online all over the place in Amsterdam. Just ask for a wifi password.
If you're over 14 years old, you have to carry ID on you. If your foreign you should be able to show a passport if the police ask for it, driver's licence isn't sufficient. You could make a photocopy of your passport if you don't want to carry the real one around town.
All drugs are illegal in The Netherlands, and if the police find them on you, they are not going to be happy. However, it is tolerated to carry 5 grams of cannabis on you. Don't smoke it on the street.
Never buy any kind of drugs on the street; if you do and you die, you will not be the first tourist that will go home in a body bag. Be smart, be safe.
Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands. The prostitutes pay tax, so the Dutch government is happy when you will enjoy your self.
The currency used in The Netherlands is the Euro. Denominations of this currency are €0.05, €0.10, €0.20, €0.50, €1.00, €2.00, €5.00, €10.00, €20.00, €50.00, €100.00, €200.00 and €500.00. From €0.05 to €2.00 are coins and the rest are paper notes. Amounts under €1.00 are called cents. You will not be able to use the 1 and 2 cents coins in the Netherlands. And most shops will not except the 100, 200 or 500 euro notes.
Most major credit cards are accepted in hotels and larger stores. But a lot of stores still don't except them. Everyone in The Netherlands has a Maestro or V-pay card. These cards are accepted everywhere. So ask your bank if the can issue one for you or have cash in your pocket.
If your planning to bring traveller's Cheques, don't bother. You have a tough time converting them into cash.
Tipping. If you think the service was excellent, leave a tip. If you didn't enjoy the service don't.
I can make a whole list of what is open at what time. But oping hours tend to change a lot. So just Google (www.google.com) the shop, restaurant or whatever you want to visit, and it will show you the opening hours.
The national postal service is called PostNL (www.postnl.nl). Most of the post offices are closed down. If you would like to send a windmill postcard home, you can get your stamps at a postal service shop in a supermarket or tobacco shop. Or just go to the website of PostNL and you can buy stamps with your credit card online.
- Nieuwjaarsdag (New Year's Day) 1 January
- Goede Vrijdag (Good Friday) March/April
- Eerste Paasdag (Easter Sunday) March/April
- Tweede Paasdag (Easter Monday) March/April
- Koningsdag (King's Day) 27 April
- Dodenherdenking (Remembrance Day) 4 May (unofficial)
- Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day) 5 May (unofficially celebrated annually; officially every five years, next in 2020)
- Hemelvaartsdag (Ascension Day) 40th day after Easter Sunday
- Eerste Pinksterdag (Whit Sunday; Pentecost) 50th day after Easter Sunday
- Tweede Pinksterdag (Whit Monday) 50th day after Easter Monday
- Eerste Kerstdag (Christmas Day) 25 December
- Tweede Kerstdag (Second Christmas; Boxing Day) 26 December
Just stop smoking. It will save you lots of money, and you will be able to travel more. If you do want to smoke, it's not permitted in bars and restaurants.
Taxes & Refunds
Value-added tax is on almost everything you buy in The Netherlands. If you are a non-EU resident, you can claim your tax back at the airport when you leave the EU. Just ask the sales person in the shop when you are spending more than €50.00.
I don't think there are a lot of people left that travel without a mobile phone nowadays. So before your travel and you are not from an EU country ask your provider about an international plan. Prepaid SIM with internet bundle are widely available at the airport and in the city and can be used in any unlocked phone.
Amsterdam is located in the Central European time zone (GMT +1) and has daylight saving hours in the summer. Just connect your smartphone to the internet, and you see the correct time.
A facility that isn't widely spread in Amsterdam are the public toilets. There are a couple of free-standing urinals for men. But that is it. Most people go to a cafe or department store if they have to use these facilities. The fee for using a toilet varies from 30 cents to 1 euro.
The VVV I Amsterdam Visitor Center (www.iamsterdam.com) is the official Tourist Information point in Amsterdam. They have two locations. One just outside of the Central station in Amsterdam and the other one at Schiphol Airport.
Weights & Measures
Like most EU countries The Netherlands uses the metric system. So kilo's and kilometres.
Amsterdam is a safe city. You're more likely to be run over by a local on a bike than get the unwelcome attention from strange people.