AmsterdamTravel Guide

Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most interesting cities, with its 17th-century canals, picturesque gabled buildings, bicycle-friendly lanes and streets, quirky hidden courtyards, and art galleries housing many of the world’s masterpieces. It’s also just very, very cool, with a cutting-edge design scene and fantastic restaurants, bars and clubs. Yes there’s the red-light district and a few hazy cafes, but if you go beyond the tourist traps, you’ll find that Amsterdam is even more intriguing than you thought. If you’re planning a visit, explore our Amsterdam travel guide and find out how to make the most of your time in this exciting city. We’ve collected the best tips from our travel experts, and have top suggestions for things to do, the best time to travel, where to stay, getting around and more.

Amsterdam quick facts


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NZD $36.20


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Explore Amsterdam

Where to stay in Amsterdam?

When you’re choosing where to stay in Amsterdam, it’s important to keep in mind that anything within the inner canal belt will be within walking distance to the city’s main charms, sites, and attractions. The advantages of a compact city! So, what accommodation you want depends entirely on the Amsterdam experience you’re after – there’s something for every traveller, on a budget or otherwise. Want to be close to the central hub of pubs, clubs and eateries, or would you prefer to reside on the quieter side, closer to the city’s parks and residential areas? Here are a few of the best areas to stay in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam's Old Centre is the historical heart of the city, encompassing the Red Light District, Dam, Spui, and Nieuwmarkt. This medieval district is perhaps the most visited area in the capital, and you'll find the Oude Kerk and the Royal Palace of Amsterdam in these parts. If you're seeking peace and quiet, the Old Centre is probably not where you'll find it, but it's abuzz with nightlife and close to Amsterdam's historical landmarks.

Located northwest of the city centre, the upscale Jordaan area is hip, arty, and mostly residential, which will likely give you a quieter and more authentic stay. You won't find many hotels in this area, though, rather boutique bed and breakfasts or guesthouses, beautiful in their quintessential Dutch charm. The Jordaan hosts the popular Nine Streets shopping district, so you'll be close to vintage shops, cute cafes and restaurants.

De Pijp is a vibrant residential area of Amsterdam that's located just south of the city centre. The area is overflowing with cafes, restaurants and bars, so an exquisite bite to eat is never far away. Ensure you spend a Saturday morning strolling the nearby Albert Cuyp Market, a massive outdoor market with more than 300 stalls.

Amsterdam's Grachtengordel (Canal Ring) is the beautiful and World Heritage-listed district that forms a horseshoe around the city's Old Centre. The area accommodates tourists and residents alike with several hotels, boutique shops, cafes and restaurants as well as businesses and homes dotting the area. You'll find Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein here, perfect for exploring the city's nightlife.

The Museum Quarter (Museumplein), while home to Amsterdam's famous museums and thus buzzing with visitors by day, is actually quite peaceful by night. You'll find a wide range of hotels here, ranging from high to low end. Staying in Museumplein not only gives you a jumpstart on the queues to the world-renowned museums, but also puts you in close proximity to the glamorous P.C. Hooftstraat shopping district.

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  • Purple flowers in front of the Royal Palace of Amsterdam
    • Amsterdam Canals lite up with street and building lights, reflecting in the water
    • Anne Frank House
  • Purple flowers in front of the Royal Palace of Amsterdam
    Purple flowers in front of the Royal Palace of Amsterdam
    Purple flowers in front of the Royal Palace of Amsterdam
  • Amsterdam Canals lite up with street and building lights, reflecting in the water
    Amsterdam Canals lite up with street and building lights, reflecting in the water
    Amsterdam Canals lite up with street and building lights, reflecting in the water
  • Anne Frank House
    Anne Frank House
    Anne Frank House

Things to do in Amsterdam

You’ll never run short of things to do in Amsterdam. Plus, the city’s compact size and beauty means that everything’s only a short scenic walk or bike ride away. Even getting lost in the maze of narrow alleyways and beautiful canals can mean an afternoon well spent (unless, of course, you’ve booked a cheese and wine tasting!)

Located in the heart of Amsterdam is a site and story that has captured the world: the Anne Frank House. This famous yet unassuming building is distinguishable only by the queue that snakes outside. From far and wide, people journey to see where the young Anne Frank hid from the Nazis for two years during the Holocaust. A moving experience to say the least.

The Heineken Experience is one of history and beer, and is sure to please fans of the Dutch pilsner – or any pilsner, for that matter. The interactive tour is of the original brewery that produced its first ale in 1867. Soak in the rich history of the Heineken product and brand, and discover what brings your favourite beer to life before enjoying one yourself.

Every sizeable European city has its share of breathtaking historical monuments, and Amsterdam is no different with the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. Built as the city hall for magistrates in the 17th century, Amsterdam's most famous historical building won't disappoint. Lose yourself in the palace's elaborately decorated interior, alive with beautiful paintings and sculptures that tell stories of the city's past.

Lose yourself – and hours – in Amsterdam's largest collection of art and artefacts at the Rijksmuseum. This incredible museum is four floors full of more than 8,000 treasures dating back to the Middle Ages: paintings and drawings, photography, decorative arts and furniture, jewellery and fashion. Perhaps its most famous piece is Dutch painter Rembrandt's The Night Watch, completed in 1642.

Step into Rembrandt's world at the Rembrandt House Museum, located in the heart of Amsterdam. Here, between 1639 and 1656, the world-renowned Dutch artist lived and worked, and today, carefully refurbished, it recreates an atmosphere Rembrandt would have breathed. See the almost complete collection of Rembrandt's etchings as well as work by his contemporaries.

After immersing yourself in the Dutch Golden Age's finest at the Rijksmuseum, it's time to jump forward to the present at the Stedelijk Museum. This international museum is a beacon of modern and contemporary art and design, showcasing global artists from the early 20th to the 21st century. You'll find an impressive collection of works by Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse, as well as De Kooning and Warhol.

In a city reputed for its liberal nightlife antics, you'll want to check out (if only briefly) the world-famous Red Light District. Swathed by mostly drunken tourists at night, though fairly unassuming by day, this area lies just to the east of the city centre. Its name describes the red neon lights that highlight some 300 windows of rooms where prostitutes work.

Amsterdam's iconic 17th century canal belt became part of the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2010. While certainly a source of beauty today, the canals were originally built as a source of wealth and greatly contributed to the city's affluence and growth. Their ingenuity and architectural influence earned the canals their spot on the acclaimed list, and many canal cruises will afford you a first-hand experience of the watery wonder.

The grand Oude Kerk (Old Church) sits at the heart of the Red Light District. Widely considered to be Amsterdam's oldest building and parish church, it's believed to date back to around 1213. The Oude Kerk is much more than a beautiful historical landmark, though. Inside you'll find one of the city's youngest art institutions, and the church regularly hosts a variety of religious and cultural activities.

A print of Van Gogh's Sunflowers has been brightening your bedroom for years, and now it's time to marvel at the original in the Van Gogh Museum. This permanent exhibition holds more than 200 paintings and 500 drawings by the influential Dutch artist and his contemporaries – the largest collection of his works in the world.

The Verzetsmuseum (The Dutch Resistance Museum) is your glimpse into Netherland's more recent past. The permanent exhibition will take you on a journey to explore the shocking reality of everyday life for a Dutch living in Amsterdam during the German occupation of World War II. You'll hear incredible stories of Dutch resistance against the Nazis.

Looking for an immersive experience? Then a tour is the way to go.

Amsterdam travel tips

The city of Amsterdam welcomes millions of travellers from across the globe each and every year, and these key Amsterdam travel tips can help you become one of them in no time. As Amsterdam’s one of the world’s most multicultural cities, it’s easy to navigate using English. Getting around is also simple; the city’s compact size means you can explore on foot, though cycling is a popular mode of transport and a great way to see the city’s less populated areas. Despite its rambunctious nightlife, Amsterdam is a very safe city.Here’s some more Amsterdam travel advice to help you prepare for your trip.

The Netherlands is a Schengen country. Australian passport holders traveling to the Netherlands for tourism purposes may do so without a visa if their stay in the Schengen area amounts to 90 days or less within a 180-day period. Speak to your local Flight Centre Travel Expert if you have any questions relating to your visa requirements.

Food in Amsterdam varies from traditional and modern Dutch to international cuisine. Make sure you have at least one hearty Dutch meal and give a few local treats a try: poffertjes, stroopwafels and bitterballen are all musts. A diverse dining scene means you'll have no problem finding that which suits your mood, from fine-dining to cosy, candlelit pubs, terrace bars and street stalls.

Electrical sockets in the Netherlands are European standard, made for plugs with two round pins with voltage typically between 220V and 240V. You should still be able to use your Australian devices during your Amsterdam holiday – just be sure to pack an adapter in your luggage. Leave the hairdryer, though; most accommodation provides such necessities.

The journey from Amsterdam's main airport (Amsterdam Airport Schiphol) to the city will take you about 20-30 minutes by car, though reaching the city from the airport is also easy via train. One of the busiest airports in the world based on passenger traffic, Schiphol sees over 50 million passengers every year, though it has just one main passenger terminal.

The currency in the Netherlands is the euro (€). Credit cards are widely used in Amsterdam, though many supermarkets will only accept Netherland bank cards or cash. It's wise to exchange a small amount of money at your local bank before you depart, because money exchange services at the airport or in the city centre will likely have unfavourable exchange rates. If you're carrying cash, be vigilant of pickpockets.

Do you? Don't you? As is often the case in many European countries, tipping is optional and not necessarily expected in Amsterdam. That being said, common practice is to round up your bill to the nearest whole euro, or leave a few euros extra. By all means, though, if you feel like you've received great service that's worth a few more euros, don't be afraid to leave a more generous tip.

While it never hurts to know a few phrases of your destination country's official language (one more beer, please?), most residents in Amsterdam can speak English fluently, so it's not necessary. The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch, so if you feel so inclined, pick up a Dutch phrase book from your local bookstore and… veel geluk!

Flights to Amsterdam

Amsterdam food and drink

There’s certainly no scarcity of places to enjoy delicious food and drink in Amsterdam. Venture for just a few minutes and you’re sure to stumble across something to suit your tastes: a cosy pub, a cute cafe or, as locals will likely suggest, a cheery canal-side terrace bar for drinks in the afternoon sun. An abundance of restaurants throughout the city satisfy every hungry traveller’s craving – whether on a budget, after high-end dining, or adventurous – from vegetarian and vegan delights to Indian, Italian, modern Dutch cuisine, and many more.

The trendy neighbourhood of Jordaan is one of Amsterdam's best restaurant precincts. Despite the area's popularity, restaurants here remain quaint and authentic; look particularly for restaurants serving traditional Dutch cuisine. The lively quarter of De Pijp is your summer-time pick for terrace dining and is sure to please foodies with three Michelin-starred restaurants in the area. Be sure to visit Rembrandtplein for a smorgasbord of dining options as well.

Singing a completely different tune once the day's spun away, Amsterdam lets loose with wild clubs, bars, live music and performances, and of course the world-famous Red Light District. The noisiest night-time hubs include Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein. If your ideal night out is more on the quiet side, head to one of Amsterdam's famous candlelit ‘brown cafes' (folksy pubs) for a pleasant drink: Cafe ‘t Smalle is a popular choice among locals.

Hit Amsterdam's Oud-West for your food market fill. Here you'll find De Foodhallen, an enormous indoor marketplace offering a delectable array of high-end street food from all over the world, from hand-rolled sushi to Spanish tapas and Italian wood-fired pizzas. Alternatively, take your pick from one of many food markets dotted around the city: Noordermarkt's Saturday market features fresh local ingredients, or enjoy an authentic stroopwafel at Albert Cuyp Market in De Pijp.

With a growing list of trendy Amsterdam cafes serving specialty brews on the scene, finding quality coffee in Amsterdam is easier than you may think. Surprisingly, you'll find some of the best cups in the tourist-haven Red Light District. Blauwe Theehuis, located in the popular Vondelpark, presents the perfect end to a beautiful stroll through the park grounds. Be weary though, coffee shops don't actually serve what they say, so you may need to keep looking past these signs

Get a real taste for the local cuisine by booking a tour.

Amsterdam through your eyes

Where to shop in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam shopping is reflective of the city’s rich cultural heritage. It can mean browsing the best of cutting-edge fashion and design, world-famous art, and valuable antiques; unearthing something truly unique in an independent store; or jostling with crowds in vibrant outdoor markets for Dutch souvenirs, flowers, vintage clothing, and collectables. With such an impressive repertoire of shops, you’ll by no means be left wondering what to buy in Amsterdam. Start your spree on Nine Streets and see where the day takes you! Just make sure you save some time for Mirror Quarter in your shopping schedule.

Visit Nine Streets for an authentic Amsterdam shopping experience. This beautiful shopping district is so named for its nine picturesque streets and surrounding canals, and it's a hotspot for the best vintage and designer fashion shops, design shops, bookstores, and jewellers. Several restaurants and chic cafes in the area are perfect for taking that well-earned shopping break, or for simply soaking in the authentic Amsterdam surrounds.

If you consider the likes of Tiffany, Chanel and Dior to be among your closest friends, P.C Hooftstraat is probably for you. Named after the Dutch poet Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft, Amsterdam's poshest shopping street is devoted to the world's biggest brands, luxury fashion, and cosmetics. It's sophisticated, it's chic, and it's not to be missed.

When the sun is bright and the breeze is cool, why not visit one (or even a few) of Amsterdam's markets? Lively and colourful, these street markets are as deep-rooted to the city as its 800-year-old Oude Kerk. Dutch cheeses, flowers, organic fruit and vegetables, vintage clothing, collectables and more on proud display tempt many a traveller from across the world daily.

The Spiegelkwartier shopping district is a must-visit for lovers of art and antiques. It's where you'll pick up that authentic Warhol to hang in your living room (or Picasso, if that suits better), or that divine archaeological treasure. It's not an inexpensive shopping experience – unless you're window shopping, of course. After whiling away a morning here, why not visit the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, or the Stedelijk Museum just a short walk away.

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When is the best time to travel to Amsterdam?

The weather in Amsterdam can mean clear blue skies and pleasant sun, but, as is hallmark of Northern Europe, it can often be grey, chilly and wet. So it’s best to be prepared with a light rain coat and layers no matter what time of year you visit. Tulip season is arguably the best time to travel to Amsterdam – in the beautiful springtime months of April and May. This is not only to see the Netherland’s famous flower, but also to escape the bulk of tourist season. Plus, your chances of enjoying good weather is high. As you can imagine, the warmer summer months from June to August are the busiest in terms of tourists in Amsterdam.

Summer in Amsterdam is sunshine, humidity and short bursts of rain, with locals making the most of the clear days in the city's many parks, terrace bars, and cafes. It does depend on where you go, though: many areas out of the inner-city hustle and bustle provide respite for some peaceful basking in the sun and create that laidback summertime vibe for which Amsterdam is well known. Appropriate clothing: Light t-shirts, shorts or skirts, or summer dresses. Don't forget: A light rain jacket or umbrella.

Winter is the cheapest time to visit the Dutch capital, and while it's cold, it still makes for a magical getaway. Ice skate, relish some typical Dutch winter dishes, or enjoy a hot chocolate in a cosy pub. Snowfall will usually happen in the region's coldest months of January and February, when the temperature averages from 0 to 5°C. Appropriate clothing: Layers and warm clothing are a must. Don't forget: A waterproof coat and windproof hat.

Autumn falls in the ‘offseason' in Amsterdam, which can mean fewer tourists, less expense, and a more authentic Dutch experience. You'll enjoy less of a wait to see the city's famous museums, and you can experience the warmth of a hearty Dutch pea soup in restaurants. You should still get to enjoy some warm, sunny days for bicycle rides through the beautiful parks and a refreshing beer at a canal-side terrace bar. Appropriate clothing: Layers that you can put on or remove as needed. Don't forget: A warm jacket.

Springtime is said to be the best and most beautiful time to visit Amsterdam. Aside from tulip season, you'll enjoy the region's best weather (the region's driest month falls in April), and fewer tourists. Soak in the sunshine in the park, or enjoy beer with a view from a canal-side terrace bar. Appropriate clothing: Layers that you can put on or remove as needed. Don't forget: A hat.

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How to get around Amsterdam

As you might expect in a city of its size, getting around in Amsterdam is easy and affordable whether you choose to walk, join the locals on the brilliantly executed bikeways, or catch the tram. Often, exploring by foot is the preferred choice of tourists, but hiring a bike is also popular. From the seat of a cycle, you can see the city through the eyes of a local, effortlessly explore areas further out from the city, and even enjoy a leisurely ride though Amsterdam’s many parklands.

Much like many European cities, public transport in Amsterdam is a magnificent system of trams, trains, busses, ferries that'll take you exactly where you need to go, or near enough, without fuss or lengthy waits at stations. Depending on how long you're staying and what shoes you decide to wear, many different public transport passes may be good value for the wallet and the feet.

Walking in Amsterdam is another excellent way to get around and to simply experience the essence of the city. Spend a pleasant summer afternoon wandering through the maze of leafy canals, gabled houses, and enchanting alleyways. Alternatively, join a free guided walking tour and learn more about the history of specific sights – just be sure to tip your guide at the end!

Amsterdam is a city of cyclists. In fact, there are more bikes in the city then there are residents (some 850,000!). Cycling is, plain and simple, a way of life. Amsterdammers use their bikes to get to work, do the grocery shopping, and pick up the kids from school. So rent a bike from one of many bike hire centres and wind your way around the city like the locals do.

A ride in an Amsterdam taxi is a reliable and convenient way to get to where you need to be, especially when travelling to and from the airport with loads of luggage in tow. Ensure you hail a licensed taxi; look for the blue number plates and roof lights displaying the name of their operator, and ensure that the taxi meter is always on.

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What are the best parks in Amsterdam?

Take some time out in Amsterdam’s parks and squares. Though the city is compact and highly urbanised, it still manages to have a healthy share of beautiful green spaces and botanical gardens providing a welcome dose of fresh air, nature, and relaxation. Plant enthusiasts can’t miss the centuries-old Hortus Botanicus botanical garden, which boasts an incredible abundance of different plant species and a butterfly sanctuary, and the city’s massive Vondelpark is a must for that picnic in a lively park. The Oosterpark is also an option for a more tranquil experience away from the tourists.

If you haven't got a picture next to the I AMSTERDAM sculpture in Museumplein, have you really been to Amsterdam? Surrounded by the city's most famous museums, the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum, Museumplein is often abuzz with locals and tourists. If you're travelling in winter, be sure to skate on Museumplein's ice rink!

Located in the Plantage district, the Hortus Botanicus is one of the world's oldest botanical gardens at nearly 400 years old. After just a few minutes following twisting paths through leafy gardens, bright flowers and exotic plants, you're sure to forget you're in one of the busiest capitals in Europe. Definitely a must-see at any time of the year.

Though it's a bit out of the main city, Oosterpark is well worth a visit if you're after a little escape from the busier areas. A 30-minute walk from the city centre by foot, and even less if you've adopted the local way of life by using pedal power, the journey to the park can also prove a unique experience: it winds through the city's beautiful residential areas, a stone of Amsterdam that so many tourists mistakenly leave unturned.

Amsterdam's Vondelpark is undoubtedly the city's largest and most famous park, welcoming around 10 million residents and tourists to its lush grounds every year. The park is home to an open-air theatre, a variety of terrace restaurants and cafes, and an enormous rose garden filled with some 70 different species of roses. It's a perfect spot to rest with a drink after exploring the nearby museums.

Get in touch with nature and enjoy some fresh air at Rembrandtpark, a large and peaceful green space located in Amsterdam West. A local favourite as it often presents a quieter atmosphere than the other city parks, Rembrandtpark is home to sculptures, beautiful ponds, and even a petting zoo: The Uylenburg. Wander one of the many walking trails, or take a picnic lunch and enjoy some people-watching.

Getting from park to park is so much better with your own wheels. Hitch your ride now!

Amsterdam Frequently asked questions

When packing for a trip to the Netherlands, don't forget the essentials like your visa, passport, chargers, camera, some euro and the correct power adaptor. Clothing wise, check out the seasonality guides and pack to suit the conditions - aka layers for winter and lighter options for summer. Other necessities include a walking shoes, hat, sunglasses and a good pair of jeans. No, seriously, jeans are the ultimate European travel accessory, effortlessly taking you from strolls along cobblestoned streets to late nights eating Dutch frites in De Wallen.

The Netherlands' elaborate canal city, Amsterdam, offers travellers a bounty of interesting accommodation options. Some of the most popular locations include The Old Centre, Grachtengordel South, the Eastern Docklands, the Old Jewish Quarter and the Museum Quater.

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The Netherland’s peak season runs throughout summer from July to September, when travellers can enjoy warm weather and long days. If you’re keen to avoid the crowds, consider heading over between September and November, when the autumn leaves change and festive foods begin to emerge.

With a maze of unique streets and canals just waiting to be explored, Amsterdam really is a travellers haven. Hire a bike and spend your days peddling throughout the neighbourhoods in search of city icons like the Royal Palace, Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House, before heading to De Pjip to enjoy area’s famous haul of bustling bars, cafes and restaurants. Amsterdam is also the perfect base for adventures into the Dutch countryside, as you hunt for colourful Tulip fields and gin bars.

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