Amsterdam Travel Guide
Amsterdam Travel Guide
A city as famous for its flowers and museums as it is for its liberal attitudes to sex and drugs, Amsterdam is one of the top urban travel destinations in Europe:
Amsterdam is full of old-world charm, with houseboats, canals, cobbled streets and distinctive Dutch architecture that belong to another age. The city is said to have more museums per capita than any other in the world, providing a treasury of historical information and world-class art for culture vultures. Museums dedicated to icons like Rembrandt, Anne Frank and Van Gogh are perennially popular and the famous Rijksmuseum is reason enough for some people to visit the city. Visitors will find quirky options like the Amsterdam Sex Museum as well, hinting at the modern, liberal character of this exciting place.
Travellers head to Amsterdam for a lively nightlife, awesome art galleries, great shopping, the enticing Red Light District, the picturesque canals, coffeeshops that sell more than coffee, and to liberally sample the indigenous Heineken beer. The city's restaurant scene will delight foodies, and its calendar is bursting with exciting and creative events and festivals.
Best time to visit Amsterdam
Summer (June to August) is the most popular tourist season in Amsterdam, though spring (March to May) is arguably the best time to vacation in the city. The weather may be unsettled but this is when Holland's great flower shows are in full bloom, providing a bonus for tourists. The King's Birthday in April is also a major event, when street parties abound in Amsterdam. Read more on Amsterdam's Climate and Weather.
What to see in Amsterdam
- Enjoy a performance at the Concertgebouw, one of the finest concert halls in the world.
- Marvel at four centuries of Dutch naval history at the National Maritime Museum.
- Wander around the glorious Van Gogh Museum, one of Amsterdam's most loved attractions.
- Explore the tiny wartime hideaway of Anne Frank House and see the famous diary.
What to do in Amsterdam
- Take a boat tour through Amsterdam's picturesque canal network.
- Learn about the brewing process and sample the beer at the Heineken Experience.
- Picnic or cycle in Vondelpark, the city's most popular green lung.
- Treat the kids to a day of fun at Efteling theme park.
Amsterdam is conveniently close to many wonderful cities and towns in the Netherlands and is truly a destination that promises exciting excursions. The quaint city of Haarlem is a short train ride away; the Hoge Veluwe National Park provides a taste of Dutch countryside; Maastricht, the oldest city in the country, is a good weekend getaway; and all the attractions of The Hague, including the Peace Palace, are within easy reach.
Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, the main air travel hub of the Netherlands, is located nine miles (15km) southwest of Amsterdam. There are regular direct flights to Amsterdam from the US, the UK and all over Europe. Get more information on Airports in Amsterdam.
Did you know?
- Amsterdam started out as a humble fishing village and took its name from the Amstel River.
- There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than there are permanent residents.
- Amsterdam has three times as many bridges as Venice.
A familiar Amsterdam scene. © Jorge Royan
Amsterdam wears two faces. On one, it beckons youth with its notorious Red Light District and liberal views around marijuana use. On the other, it offers discerning travellers some of Europe's finest museums and art galleries. Its house boats, bicycles, cobbled streets, and quaint canals are a visual treat.
For tourists, Amsterdam's compactness is a plus. The old part of town is a story-book setting of narrow lanes, gabled houses and ancient bridges, and a pleasure to explore on foot. Visitors can shop boutiques for souvenirs such as Delft china or wooden clogs, or relax at cosy bars and pavement cafes.
At night even the most conservative visitors are drawn to the Red Light District's lively atmosphere, where prostitutes stand in shop windows and touts encourage passers-by to view raunchy floorshows. For the most part, travellers will find the best bars in the bustling Leidesplein and Rembrandtplein.