Beautiful, captivating, free… wondering what is a perfect word to describe Amsterdam – the city that reigns every traveler’s bucket list! Amsterdam has earned it’s fame not only for it’s pretty looking cobblestone streets alongside an extensive number of neatly carved canals, but also for the rich history, art and culture that it carries, and never the less for the progressive, free-spirited, off-the-hook lifestyle that it offers.
Quick Note –
- Local Language – Dutch. But being a prime tourist hub, almost everyone in the city speak English.
- Local Currency – Euro. Cards are accepted everywhere if you are not carrying cash.
- Best time to Visit – High season starts from May through August, when its much crowded but weather is gorgeous! April brings along spring time with partial sunshine but chilly weather, and breathtaking tulips blooming in the fields. September sees a mixture of sunny and cloudy days. It can get rainy, windy and pretty cold from early October.
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, easily accessible through the famous and busy Schiphol International Airport, connecting the rest of the world with frequent international flight connections. Apart from Schiphol there are a bunch of other smaller airports allover the Netherlands connecting cities like Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Maastricht with other European nations with regular domestic flight connections. Like us, if you have landed in another European country, and have planned to visit Amsterdam as your next travel destination, it is always cheaper to take an Inter-European flight to Eindhoven Airport (towards the south of Amsterdam) or to the neighbouring city of Rotterdam – The Hague Airport. These neighbouring cities are very conveniently connected with super fast inter-city trains or Airport Express Bus services. A direct train ride from Rotterdam station to Amsterdam Centraal takes approximately 35 minutes and from Eindhoven station to Amsterdam Centraal, it takes 1 hour and 15 minutes. Both are extremely convenient.
Eindhoven Airport has more frequent domestic flight connections than Rotterdam, thus offer surprisingly competitive ticket rates. However, if you plan early, a flight from a neighbouring European country to Rotterdam may also come in much cheaper price. We have planned early; got an amazing price in Transavia from Budapest to Rotterdam; then we missed our flight and double-spent on the next available option to reach Eindhoven instead 😂😂 . Considering these extra spends as the part and parcel of every successful trip, when we landed and took the shuttle bus from Eindhoven airport to the rail station, it just took us a minute to forget about the hole in our pocket, as the road trip from Eindhoven airport to the station mesmerised us completely. It was a 20 minutes bus ride adorned with orderly roads, beautiful nature and a series of elegant residential houses. We bought both the tickets for our Airport shuttle bus and the train together from the small ticketing machines placed right outside the exit of the airport. After buying the tickets all you have to do is to wait for buses number 400 or 401, both of which would take you to the Eindhoven centraal train station. From the station you would get a train connection to Amsterdam Centraal in every 15 minutes.
Being a busy tourist hub, Amsterdam is always crowded and hence almost always overbooked. There are off-seasons when it is possible to get decent, centrally located apartments and hotels in a cheaper price. But you should take your visit to Amsterdam on a high season very very seriously, as any last minute plans during the tourist seasons may cost you double money plus there are always chances of entering an overbooked city. The center of the city with heavily touristy spots like Amsterdam Centraal, Dam Sqaure, Leidseplein, Rembrandtplein, Museumplein fall in and around the semi-circular ‘Inner Canal Belt’ area, which is the heart of the city. These areas are full of hotels, hostels, apartments, cafes, bars and restaurants. A few areas like Dam sqaure can be extremely expensive both in terms of staying and dining, while areas like Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein which are famous for vibrant nightlife, come with a wide range of varieties to choose from. Places like Museumplein is crowded generally till evening and much quieter at night, having plenty of budget friendly apartments, hotels and apart-hotels to choose from.
The very famous, erotic district of De Wallen (the Red Light district) is centrally located and always crowded, with a lot of eateries and bars around but there are not many accommodation options there. On the other hand the neighbouring district of Grachtengordel-West (the Western edge of the canal belt) is a delightful area with beautiful old residential buildings facing the canals, consisting of both budget friendly apartments and expensive boutique hotels; quite little cafes and fancy restaurants.
Booking an apartment is the safest and cheapest option, as we always feel. A quick booking of a budget efficient B&B, at least a month before your date of arrival is a pretty decent solution to save cost. That way you would be able to stay in the areas near the city center that connects almost all prime tourist and entertainment spots by walk. However, if you prefer to stay a bit away from the inner-canal belt area, you may get a lot cheaper accommodation rates. Areas like Jordaan in the west and Weesperbuurt en Plantage in the East, are much quieter and pleasant with not many hotels but quite a few B&B and residential apartments around.
If you are willing to stay in the city center and hotels or apartments are still expensive for your daily budget, then there are ample options of hostels and dormitories that you can book from, if you are not visiting with family. Hostels in Amsterdam are cheap and fun when you are backpacking alone or with a bunch of similar-minded friends. For young couples and groups there are small houseboats available all over the city. These sail-boats (can be booked through Airbnb) are generally docked alongside the canals and can be quite enjoyable to stay at.
Amsterdam is full of surprises and thrills. Whether you have a checklist to visit certain spots or not, you wouldn’t ever be disappointed by what the city can give you in return. The city may look crowded and happening all the time, but we were surprised by the fact that the entire city can be easily covered by walk in a day! The old cobble-stoned roads alongside the neat canals may sometime confuse you as they all look very similar, but they are extremely organised and pleasantly walkable with nothing but beauty all around.
Most of the tourists visit Amsterdam city for 2 to 3 days and then plan to take day-trips to the beautiful outskirts of the city and it’s neighbouring towns like Haarlem, Zaanse Schans, Marken, Giethoorn etc. It needs at least 7 days in total to be able to take-in the real charms of the Netherlands. I would suggest a minimum of 3 days in the Amsterdam main city though!
What are the top things to do in Amsterdam, would definitely differ from one person to another. It is a city with never ending choices around. In my opinion, every other tourists who visit Amsterdam, see it from different angles. And that is what I loved about the city. It would be really hard for me to suggest the best things to do in Amsterdam, but I would love to give you an idea of our experiences there, and how we have seen the city. I would come back with another blog on “Amsterdam – Part II – The City of Choices” soon. Keep on reading 🙂 🙂 🙂