3 Tips to Plan Your Visit to Amsterdam

We’re extremely late planners, and rarely book anything more than a couple of weeks in advance – so our trip from Bangkok to Amsterdam a few weeks ago was very much our typical last minute travel style, but since we have been to Amsterdam twice before the trip didn’t need much planning – this time we simply wanted to expand on our last few trips.

First-timers to Amsterdam have a long list of things to do, but if you’re visiting Amsterdam for a second and maybe third time, chances are that you want to experience something new – something that you haven’t already done.

On their first visit to Amsterdam, people usually take boat tours along the canals, rent bikes, check out the red light district, coffee shops and visit museums – which are all some of the best ways to experience Amsterdam, and many which are free with the I Amsterdam City Card. But if you’re looking for a couple of new things to add to your list – here are some suggestions…

Plan Your Visit to Amsterdam – Take A Walk Around Zaanse Schans

Amsterdam Zaanse Schans

Amsterdam – Take A Walk Around Zaanse Schans

Just a short distance out of Amsterdam, you find Saanse Schanz, an open air museum that looks exactly the way you would picture Netherlands in your mind; quaint wooden houses, weeping willows dipping their branches in the canals, and lots and lots of (still working) windmills. It’s all very real, the houses are authentic and the windmills have been collected from all over the country and moved here to be preserved. You can go inside the windmills, and if you climb the ladder you get an amazing view from the top overlooking the area – it’s a really nice place to visit on a sunny summer day, with a clog shop, bakery, museums and cafes to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere.

Useful info: Train tickets cost about €3 each way, and takes around 20 minutes – museums and windmills are free with the City Card.

Visit The Zoo

Amsterdam Zoo

Amsterdam Zoo

Founded in 1838, the Royal Artis Zoo is one of the oldest Zoo’s in the world, and is a really nice place to spend a couple of hours. The park is very green and wonderfully laid out with small paths and walkways, lakes, and beautiful 19th century buildings. With a planetarium, aquarium and butterfly pavillion it’s really more than a zoo, and there are animals everywhere; from orangutans, giraffs and lions, to small monkeys, beavers and wolves.

There is a huge variety, but our favorite parts of the zoo were those where the animals could roam freely among the visitors – there was a beautiful building where you were surrounded by animals everywhere, monkeys in the branches above, and birds on the floor in front of you.

Useful info: The zoo can be reached with tram 9 (from Central Station) and 14 (from Dam Square) – tickets cost €14, but are free with City Card.

Relax In The Busy Parks

Amsterdam park

Amsterdam park

The air is full of smoke everywhere you go, but it’s not all from what you get at the local coffee shops – in fact, most of it is from the BBQ’s which are everywhere around you – people sit on the sidewalks, by the river, and on the boats – but there is nothing like Amsterdam’s parks. A heavy mist of BBQ smoke lingers over Vondelpark and Westerpark, the two favorite local hang-outs. We’ve never seen a park so consistently full of people on blankets with food and drinks, enjoying the summer evenings until long into the wee hours of night, any day of the week. If you want to go where the locals go, these two parks are the places to visit. One of the coziest park cafes are in the over 300 year old Botanical Garden, a small, lush garden which is one of the very oldest in the world, and a perfect place to relax and have lunch.

Useful info: Vondelpark and Westerpark are free for the public, the Botanical Garden costs €7,50, but is free with the City Card.

As you can see, and probably noticed on your last visit to Amsterdam, a lot of the best attractions are not necessarily expensive, but you save a lot with the city card if you plan to do a lot of things – and the deal breaker for us was the free transport which we used all the time during our stay in the city.

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Best Festivals In Amsterdam Netherland

As a modern, vibrant and diverse city Amsterdam will host many different festivals over the forthcoming year – this includes events dedicated to music, theatre, film and much more besides. If you’re planning a visit to Amsterdam in 2012 and want to go to a festival while you’re there, here’s a run-down of each month’s best events.

March: The Silent Procession

Best Festivals In Amsterdam Netherland

Best Festivals In Amsterdam Netherland

This traditionally religious festival at first might seem a bit odd compared to Amsterdam’s reputation as a party city, but it reflects the city’s history as an important centre for the Catholic community. It commemorates the 1345 ‘Miracle of Amsterdam’, which involved the salvation of a dying man, and attracts thousands to walk silently through the city.

April: Queens day

Amsterdam Queens day

Amsterdam Queens day

Officially a celebration of the Queen Mother’s birthday, this festival is actually just a good old-fashioned party. Queens day is a national celebration that is particularly poignant in Amsterdam, with 750,000 visitors. They all wear orange, the national colour of Holland, and enjoy street stalls, games and parties.

May: Art Amsterdam

This modern art fair draws visitors from around the world to see the best in modern and contemporary art.

June: Holland Festival

The Holland festival is an international performing arts event that includes theatre, dance and cinema – over the month long festival, performances take place across the city, and include both traditional and experimental artists in various different languages.

July: Amsterdam Roots Festival

Amsterdam Roots Festival

Amsterdam Roots Festival

Say hello to five days of roots music with a showcase of international bands and DJs. Much of the music is European in origin, but the festival includes acts from across the world. The first four days of the festival take place in venues across the city – the last day is a free open-air event with seven stages.

August: Grachten festival

This classical music festival includes over eighty performances from artists playing everything from professional clarinets to violins. Venues are spread across the city and include not just traditional concert halls but open-air stages, historic buildings and even people’s homes.

September: Robodock Arts Festival

Robodock Arts Festival

Robodock Arts Festival

Contemporary art shows in an old shipyard depot, which has now been abandoned and makes a fantastic usable space for artists. The industrial setting of the Robodock Arts Festival creates a unique experience, with fire performances and gritty machinery. Probably one of the most unusual festivals the city has to offer.

October: Amsterdam Dance Event

One of Europe’s biggest dance festivals, the Amsterdam Dance Event attracts over 110,000 ravers each year – it also attracts both big names in dance music, and some smaller, experimental and up-coming acts. Running over four days the event includes a wide range of electronic music such as house, drum and bass, trance and techno.

November: International Documentary Film Festival

International Documentary Film Festival

International Documentary Film Festival

Known to many as they IDFA, this is a celebration of the world of documentary filmmaking. The event has been running for 25 years and is unique. Documentaries about anything and everything show at venues across the city centre – the festival acts as a place for both professionals and audiences to gain inspiration. If you’re inspired by the idea of attending a festival in Amsterdam the next thing to do is to find somewhere to stay. You may even hear some festival stories to gear you up for your own adventure!

(photo credits: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)