City Guide – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Quick Facts

Location: Netherlands
Currency: Euro

Language:
Dutch
Short history:
Before turning into a major trade city, Amsterdam was a small fishing village. The Dutch people colonized the Indian islands and established a powerful trading imperium in the east. The prostitution started as the tired boatmen stayed over the night. A few lazy attempts to get rid of prostitution has been made throughout the decades, but nobody really cared as long as they stayed in a certain area.

Amsterdam City Guide

Amsterdam is a popular destination for American gap-year travelers who know the place as a marijuana Mecca, which is probably partly true, but Amsterdam is luckily so much more than that.

In Amsterdam you get what you look for. If you want Amsterdam to be all about prostitutes and weed, then it will be. If you want Amsterdam to be all about old narrow cobbled stone streets, biking and tulips, then it will.

The Marijuana museum or Rijksmuseum – the choice is yours!

The highlight for us was to bike around the city. We biked along the canals, the winding streets and the green luscious outskirts of the city.

Biking in Amsterdam is awesome. Not only is it the easiest way getting around, but you can reach so many more places in shorter time, and getting out of the central area to the beautiful parks and walkways in a matter of minutes.

What To See And Do

Amsterdam is an open-minded multicultural place – full of history, and all well preserved. The houses date back hundreds of years (all the way back to 1420!), and there are museums of all kinds covering more than enough of Amsterdam’s cultural, historical and artistic history.

There are often small markets that take place around the city; book markets, flower markets and clothing markets. The biggest market however is Albert Cuypmarkt. It’s a market known for its variety of food; cheese, fruits, spices etc. Clothes also tend to be really cheap to buy here.

Shopping:

Walking along the shopping streets is a nice experience even for those not intending to actually buy anything. There are pretty little boutiques along the shopping street, and heaps of nice cafes to have a rest in.

Cafe Culture

Amsterdam has a broad cafe culture. They have different sorts of Cafes, but are mostly known for their Coffee shops with Marijuana and Skunk on the menu. However, there are also Tea Lounges and Brown Cafes, which are well worth a visit. I found that they were really good at making coffee and had more of a variety than in other cities in Europe.

Brown Cafes are pubs where the locals meet up for a drink and chit chat. They’re called Brown Cafes because of the dark wooden design inside. Tea Lounges are usual cafes, they just often like to call themselves Tea Lounges to separate themselves from the Coffee shops.

Coffee shops are cafes where you can smoke weed, munch on hash brownies or marijuana biscuits. This is one of the main attractions for tourists in Amsterdam, but talking to the locals they didn’t really bother much about it. It’s popular among the teens to go there since it’s still pretty cool and rebellious, but not that popular among the grown ups. According to many it’s more of just a tourist thing.

Red Light District

You’ll most likely end up here at some point of your stay in Amsterdam, whether you like it or not. It’s right in the central area and you easily just stumble upon it. In nighttime, this is a sad place with a lot of thieves, drug dealers, drug addicts and negative energy.

It’s better in daytime, but the place is still crazy. And the half naked women standing in the red light shopping windows? Yes, they’re there to be stared at 24/7 (although it’s more crowded at night).

They don’t tend to like families and couples, as they don’t get any money out of them and act more as a free tourist attraction. They show this in different ways, sometimes making fun of you and trying to make you feel awkward and embarrassed.

Remember to not take any pictures of them, if you do you’ll likely end up in big trouble.

Getting Around

Biking is undoubtedly the best way to get around the city. Transportation by car is discouraged by the local government, and apart from expensive parking fees, a great number of streets are closed off for cars in the city center. So by bike you can go anywhere, and it’s very safe with clear red marked lines for the bike lanes.

Walking is also pleasant, but make sure you don’t walk within the bike lanes, or else you’ll get some angry looks and words in your face, or even get hit.

There are also trams, buses and subways you can take. These are great and reach the outskirts, and you can also put your bike on the tram subways if you’re going somewhere far away.

Because of the limitation of where cars are allowed to go, taxi is not recommended, Amsterdam taxis are also one of the most expensive in Europe. The trams go to most places and frequently so you won’t have to wait for long, but if you do want some kind of taxi there are so called Tuk Tuk’s to take. These are open three-wheeled scooters. The prices are zone based.

Getting There

By Air

This is one of Europe’s most popular destinations, and is very easy to reach by plane, car, bus, ferry and train.

The airport Schiphol in Amsterdam is huge, but still only 16 km away from the city!  Note that Ryan Air does not operate here, but another budget airline Easy Jet does. There are three ways of getting into the city: By the KLM Hotel Bus Service (don’t worry, anyone can take this bus, you don’t have to stay at their hotels), train and over priced Taxi.

The bus costs 11 Euro one-way and the taxis in Amsterdam are really expensive. Train is by far the cheapest option to get into the city, which costs 3.10 Euro. The trains leave every 15 minutes and the trip into town takes about 15 minutes.

By Train

All trains, including the ones from Schiphol, arrive at the Central Station. A lot of people come through here, and already you get to see the bad side of Amsterdam with drug dealers, prostitutes (by the back entrance) and pick pocket thieves, so keep your stuff close to you here. Trams and buses are right outside the station.

By Bus

Buses leave and arrive at Amstel Station, about 10 km south of the city, to which you can catch a metro. Here you can go by the international bus line Eurolines (same principal as Inter Rail but by bus). Eurolines is a great way to travel Europe, cheaper than Inter Rail but maybe not as comfortable.

Where To Stay

The absolute cheapest option when staying in Amsterdam is on camping grounds (costs about 13 Euro, price depending on what type of chalet you book). You don’t need to bring a tent, you can get your own little chalet. We stayed at BostelAmsterdamseBos.

It’s a beautiful location, although a bit far from the city center. It’s a really nice bike ride into town through the woods and parks, but you can also reach the city by tram (51) and bus (199). The bus stop is right in front of the campsite and takes you to the airport in 15 minutes. The tram takes about the same time, but to get to the tram stop you also have to walk for another 15 minutes (unless you take bus there).

If you want to stay more central StayOkay Vondelpark is another option, with a great location and a good starting point when exploring the city. Prices go from 24,50 Euro and breakfast and linen are included. Just remember that if you get there before 2 pm. and want to leave your bag there they charge you an extra fee - also you can find many more hostel options @ www.hostelbookers.com

15 Responses to City Guide – Amsterdam, Netherlands

  1. Matt May 18, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    Excellent resource guys – what a terrific idea.

    I loved Amsterdmam. As you say, it's so much more than a weed smokers mecca. I think it was one of the most beautiful cities I came across in Europe – I loved the canals, the architecture, and the many museums. Did you get to the Houseboat museum? It's worth a visit!

  2. marta May 18, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    I love Amsterdam and to be honest it didn't appear to us like a marijuana Mecca, it seems like it's not a big thing here but only for tourists. it's just a very pleasant city with a very relaxed atmosphere, great cultural attractions and beautiful parks.

  3. Candice May 18, 2010 at 5:21 pm #

    I love this city! Can't wait to get back.

  4. Vellah May 20, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    Hi guys, nice piece and most of it is really accurate, I can say as a true Dutch who has lived in Amsterdam all her life. There is just one mistake in the article: You can NOT take your bike on the tram. Yes, on the subways is it possible but the tram would be quite hilarious as it has no space.
    The red light district isn't that dangerous at night (I've lived there, never had any trouble), just make sure you act smart and don't do your best to look like a tourist (don't have your camera hanging on your belly, don't carry a backpack and walking boots as if you're going on a hike) and don't gawk like you've never seen anything weirder in your entire life. Then you should be just fine ;)

  5. Nick May 31, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    Red Light District is a lifetime experience!
    But, to be sure to have a unforgettable time, you should check out this The Amsterdam Red Light Guide

  6. Muriel Philippi June 10, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    Completely agree, I also would like to add that going out in the Red light district is a lot of fun as well. not exactly on the street itself but the onces next to it. Nice bars and pubs and nothing to be afraid off. Ohh and please do not wear white soxs on sneakers :p

  7. Playa Del Carmen November 15, 2010 at 3:22 am #

    Good morning,

    This is the first time I am traveling to the Netherlands. I will be staying in Eindhoven and then few days in Amsterdam and I believe, without these useful insights about Netherlands travel, my travel should not be this bright and easy

    I believe there are several other people talking the same, but your content was eye and mind friendly and every single word says right, what you are talking about =)

    Thanks a lot Sofia, for very useful information, appreciated

    Kind regards

    Luqman

  8. Playa Del Carmen Travel November 15, 2010 at 4:53 am #

    Greetings

    Must say this is one of the great blog I ever came across. Filled with great information and stuff which travelers like us are seeking online.

    Good work is being done Sofia!!!!

    Bye for now

    Asian Tourist!

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