It’s only one of the coolest places on earth…

Amsterdam in a word: chill. But we’re not talking about the weather. Amsterdam is a city drenched in glorious vibes, from the moment you arrive. Everyone moves slower, everything is relaxed, the food is outstanding and the romantic feel, walking along the canals is way up there- on par with anywhere in the world.

Before you land into the city of canals, coffee, bikes and art though – there are a few good things to know, like how to get into the city, where to stay, what to avoid and a good place to caffeine yourself. Here are all of them…

The Airport Is Close To The City

Great news, Schiphol International Airport is only about 10km from the center of Amsterdam, and transportation options are a’plenty. If you’re crazy, you could even walk. Holding that thought, the cheapest and best option is the train, which is a breeze to use and takes you directly into Amsterdam Central Station from the airport, running regularly throughout the day. You can buy tickets online ahead of time or get them when you land.

There is also an airport shuttle stopping at 100’s of hotels for a reasonable €27 return. But if you happen to be bag heavy, Uber is generally less than €30 from the airport to the city one way and regular taxis are not too pricey either. Figure 30 minutes or less into the city. Obviously, something like Uber can be worth it if you’ve got heavy bags or a remote location.

If City Hotels Are Pricey, Look Outside

If you’re planning an extended stay to Amsterdam then we definitely recommend staying in the city center. There are tons of superb hotels to choose from such as the HoxtonRenaissance or the Pullitzer– just to name a few, putting you in perfect location for a wander.

However, if you’re on a quick turnaround with flights or are visiting during one of the many peak times- such as the legendary Amsterdam Dance Week, airport hotels and hotels in nearby cities are cheap and very nice. With less than 30 minutes into the city, it’s not the worst alternative.

We can recommend the Hilton Schiphol, Sheraton and Citizen M. The Hilton also happens to have a world class gin bar (great idea before a flight). Most of these airport hotels have indoor connectivity to the airport for a quick (and dry) departure, just FYI! 

“Coffee” Shops- Yeah

Amsterdam is famous for its ‘coffee shops’, however you may want to double check your order before tucking into that appealing looking salted caramel brownie. Cannabis, aka marijuana, is perfectly legal in Amsterdam, which may explain why everyone is so laid back and happy- and is sold in hundreds of coffee shops throughout the city. To be clear: no one will be spiking your coffee, unless you ask them to.

Your coffee will still always be coffee, but you may just want to ask about the delicious chocolate, cookies or pastries, before chowing down. If you don’t- you may start to feel as if you’re in a Van Gogh painting without knowing it. His museum is in town, by the way and is absolutely worth a look if you do end up in that state, or even if you don’t!

I amsterdam

Whether it’s your first or 15th time visiting the city, if you’re into museums, art galleries and free boat rides along gorgeous canals- it’s very well worth getting the I amsterdam City Card. With the card you get free public transportation around the city, free entry into all the top attractions and museums (which can really add up) in addition to a completely awesome canal cruise.

There are different options depending on the length you would like, but a 48 hour card is €67 per person and can be excellent value if you’re looking to use it a lot to tick the main boxes like a canal boat ride, the big museums and so forth. Savings can be in the hundreds. 

Ding, Ding- Watch Out For Cyclists

Amsterdam is a beautiful city and perfect for wandering around – up and down the picturesque canals and along the cobbled streets. It may be one of the best walking cities in the world, but to receive maximum enjoyment, you need to avoid one tourist pitfall.

Most of the locals (and plenty of tourists too) hop around the city on their bikes – and they don’t want you in their coveted bike lanes. Those friendly vibes will quickly turn into a lot of bell ringing and honking in your direction, so just be mindful of where you walk, and let the cool looking people glide by on their bikes. 

The Red Light District Is… Red Light.

Attracting bachelor and bachelorette (stag and hen do’s) for as long as time has existed, the red light district leaves nothing to the imagination – literally. Do note though: the city is aiming to crack down on large groups entering the red light district.

There are plenty of hotels in and around the De Wallen area, but those traveling with kids, or whom might take offense to the very naked ladies in the window, or the groups of insanely drunk tourists, you may want to consider moving the pin for home base a bit further. On the other hand- if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place in De Wallen- without a doubt.

Food/Drinks/Shops

Amsterdam is a city that everyone should visit at some point in their lives. It’s a city driven by international- melting pot culture, healthy outdoor lifestyle, excellent restaurants, stiff gin drinks and celebrated, arty boutique shops. For fun and inspired neighbourhoods, check out De Pijp, Oud-West,  Haarlemmerbuurt to start. 

For food, you’ll find everything under the sun, but it’s hard to beat a quaint Amsterdam cafe. We love Buffet van Odette – which is perfect for a spot of lunch and very affordable. It books up early, so get there when the doors open, if you don’t have a reservation. For a special meal, Ciel Bleu is hard to beat, offering two Michelin star fine dining with a grand view. 

That’s it, now get booking. Have you been to Amsterdam?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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10 Comments

  1. So question a whole lot of general information most people have or can see.

    “where’s the beef?”

    1. Beef would be in the what to do with 48 hours in Amsterdam. This is info that helps people prepare and plan accordingly, with specific ideas of where to stay and how to save money.

  2. Don’t get fooled by the train ticket machines at the airport: if you select any other language then Dutch, you will first be offered a first class train ticket to Amsterdam. Just go trough the menu and select a 2nd class ticket. Be sure to check in with that ticket at one of the check-in poles near the tracks.
    Also NEVER EVER take a taxi from someone offering you a taxi, just stand in line at the taxi stand or you may pay way too much.
    The bums and beggers choose to be just that, do not give them anything. In Holland those people do not have to be homeless as they are entitled to state funds and care, but some choose to beg instead, probably bringing them more money.

    Don’t forget to visit places like Delft and Leiden. Or even stay in a hotel at those places (cheaper). Only half an hour by train from Amsterdam.

    Have fun!

  3. I have been to A’dam many times over the last 30 years and I would not plan my trip based this post.

    Just saying if your going to write a blog other than to see your name make it informative.

    1. As always, thanks for contributions, however insulting or useless they may be. I just don’t know what more you want from a basic outline. Do you want me to give you step by step navigation to the Heineken factory so you can join the tourist ranks?

  4. You know this is a fairly simple blog post but is helpful. I haven’t been there but have been looking at blogs and reviews. They seem to take the hypster cool tourist approach of make sure you dress like a local and go ride a bike so you fit in although everyone will still know your a tourist. Or they go the tripadvisor route of telling you how they hated it or loved it because the restroom at the airport was good or bad.

    Nice post.
    Thanks,

  5. Good basic post. I’d also add that the city has fabulous parks, so if you’re looking to break up the monotony of city views (even beautiful city like Amsterdam), look near any of the major parks for hotels. Vondelpark is great for a leisurely stroll just minutes from major attractions. And if greenery is really your thing, then plan a trip when Kuekenhof is open (every Spring, generally late March until May) for the spectacular tulip gardens.

  6. I have been visiting Amsterdam since (I’m guessing) before you were born and I agree that the information in your post is not the best for planning a first visit. You have some erroneous information as well. Here’s what I would “fix”:
    An Uber from the airport to the edge of the city may be 30 Euro but depending on where your hotel is located in the City Center, that cost could be 60 Euro.
    Marijuana is absolutely NOT legal in Amsterdam. It is “controlled” by the government with very strict rules. You are limited to purchasing 5 grams and can only smoke it in the coffee shop. It is NOT legal to smoke it walking down the sidewalk (although some people do). It is also highly illegal to be caught driving under the influence of pot.
    There are not 100’s of coffee shops. The number has been drastically reduced in recent years. I’m guessing there are currently about 30 throughout the City Center.
    Historically the food in Amsterdam has been very mediocre. It used to be difficult to find good quality restaurants and it’s a pleasure to see good places open in the past few years. However, in a blog post designed to help readers plan a first trip to Amsterdam, you are remiss in not mentioning the cost of a restaurant like Ciel Bleu. Most tourists are not going to pay 160 Euro per person ($186.00 US) not including any type of beverage.
    I appreciate your photography and the intention of the post, but I believe there is a responsibility that goes along with being a blogger to check facts and properly research the information you put out there.

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