Amsterdam Travel Guide

Why Go to Amsterdam

Don't believe everything you hear about Amsterdam. Yes, this Netherlands city takes a lax look at women beckoning business in the Red Light District and "coffee shops" selling an unorthodox type of herb to a toking clientele, but these descriptions only scratch the surface.

At some point, during an excellent Indonesian meal, a twilight canal-side rambling or a shopping excursion through the boutiques of Nine Little Streets, you'll realize – as many travelers have before you – that there's much more to Amsterdam than you might've thought.

And although the city's loose laws on vice seem to attract a college-age, male-dominant crowd, Amsterdam is also ideal as a romantic getaway for two or an educational excursion with the kids. With attractions that range from biking along a maze of canals to remembering the Holocaust through the eyes of Anne Frank; from exploring the swirling Expressionism of Vincent van Gogh to lazing in the expansive Vondelpark, Amsterdam suits a variety of traveler tastes.


How to Save Money in Amsterdam

  • Purchase an "I Amsterdam City Card" This little piece of plastic grants you free, unlimited use of GVB public transportation, free access to more than 40 museums and a complimentary canal cruise, among other perks, for a set price. The catch? You buy your card for 24, 48, 72 or 96 hours and can only access the deals within those time periods.
  • Do the heel-toe step Walking rather than taking taxis or public transportation will cut down on costs. And this small city is immensely walkable; just leave a wide berth between you and the serious cyclists using the bike lanes.
  • Visit in winter Invest in a cozy coat and come to Amsterdam in the winter, where the discounted hotel rates will keep you feeling warm and fuzzy. An added bonus: crowds are at an all-time low, as are lines for top attractions.


What to Eat

Raw herring. Pancakes. Rice tables. Like many other international cities, Amsterdam has a multiplicity of ethnic establishments sure to whet appetites. But the city does have a few specialties, including pancakes smothered or stuffed with every topping imaginable, from bacon to blueberries. (Recent travelers rave about The Pancake Bakery). Raw herring is a Netherlands specialty and is consumed whole. And Indonesian rijsttafel (or rice tables) – rice topped with spiced meats, vegetables and fish – are hugely popular.

Indonesian establishments are scattered throughout the city. Cheap ethnic eats are mainly gathered in the De Pijp neighborhood. For an upscale dining experience, try the Negen Straatjes (The Nine Streets) or the Reguliersdwarsstraat areas. Travelers also praise the food finds on Elandsgracht Street in the Canal Ring. Beware tourist traps in the party-hearty areas of Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein and the Red Light District.



Although the Netherlands government takes a lax look at prostitution in the Red Light District and marijuana use at the coffeehouses throughout the city, travelers should be careful. Visitors, especially women, should be weary of wandering around the Red Light District in the evening alone, as the area tends to attract unruly groups of men.

Possession of marijuana and definitely the possession/use of other drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, can get you into a lot of trouble with the authorities. And before you visit, you might want to follow local news for the latest updates on rules and regulations.


Getting Around Amsterdam

The best way to get around Amsterdam is by bike. Once you've flown into the nearby Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) and settled into your hotel, we suggest you inquire about getting your own two wheels.

Numerous canals, impatient drivers and narrow roads (ringing the Canal Belt) make maneuvering the city via car interesting, to say the least. Plus, Amsterdam is known for its biking, and you'll find that rental shops canvas the city. Pedaling through an unfamiliar place might not be everyone's schtick, though; for those travelers, there's also a perfectly respectable public transport system – the GVB – which offers metro, bus and tram service.




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