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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 02 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Jennifer Ceaser

With 65 miles of Golden Age canals lined with handsome gabled houses and criss-crossed by photogenic bridges, the Dutch capital is perfect for lazy boat tours, romantic wanders or gentle bike rides.

For the culturally inclined, world-class art awaits in the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum. For those of a less high-brow disposition, big draws are the many inviting cafés – some old-fashioned, others trendy – and a nightlife as lively and decadent as you want it to be.

The city is very digestible in a weekend; you can stroll from one side to the other in half an hour.

Orientation

South of Centraal Station lies Amsterdam’s medieval core, which includes the infamous Red Light District. A ring of stately Golden Age canals – known as the ‘Canal Ring’ – forms a semi-circle around the old city centre. This is the picturesque part of Amsterdam – with canals, crooked canal houses and charming bridges.

South of the canal ring, you come to the museum district (Museumplein) where you’ll find Amsterdam’s world-famous galleries and museums, and the main street of designer shops. To the east lie the hip, residential Eastern Docklands.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

The Rijksmuseum

Amsterdam , North Holland, Netherlands

The Netherlands’ premier art museum is packed with Dutch Golden Age masterpieces, showcasing the finest works of Rembrandt, Hals and Vermeer. Over 8,000 exhibits are displayed in 80 rooms trace 800 years of Dutch art and culture. The must-see masterpiece is Rembrandt’s massive Night Watch.

Best for ages: 18+ | £16

Drive or cycle the Flower Route

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

This 44-mile drive or cycle takes you through some of the Netherland’s most spectacular tulip fields. Beguiling, colour-rich fields of tulips as far as the eye can see, peppered with iconic windmills.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free | 3 hours

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Amsterdam’s Gay Pride

Amsterdam , North Holland, Netherlands

Amsterdam’s massive gay pride celebration attracts over a half-million supporters from around the globe, to watch the world-famous Canal Parade. Unique, spectacular and an electric atmosphere.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free | 9 days

Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

People shopping in daytime
Experience

Albert Cuyp Market

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

Stretching a half-mile, Amsterdam’s biggest street market has over 250 stands hawking everything from fresh produce to clothing to kitchenware and small electronics. Fuel up on local delicacies like stroopwafels, kibbling (fried fish) and Gouda cheese.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Close up of lots of flower stands at midday
Experience

Amsterdam Flower Market

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

The only floating flower market in the world, this unique market has existed since 1862, with blooms, bulbs and bouquets sold directly from the houseboats.

Best for ages: 10+ | Free

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Tower of the Westerkerk church, autumn trees and people boating
Experience

Climb the Westerkerk Church Tower

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

From April to October the Westerkerk church (Prinsengracht 281) offers guided tours up its 85m-high tower delivers knock-out views of the surrounding canals and gabled houses. Open Monday to Saturday 11am-3pm.

Best for ages: 6+ | Free

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Exterior view of De Bijenkorp during the daytime
Experience

De Bijenkorf

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

The Netherlands’ equivalent of Harrods, De Bijenkorf is one of the oldest and grandest department stores in Amsterdam, with over 20,000 square metres of fashion, jewellery and pretty much everything else.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

AMS Schiphol Airport Private Arrival Transfer to Amsterdam

AMS Schiphol Airport Private Arrival Transfer to Amsterdam

Amsterdam

☑ Private arrival transfer service ☑ Qualified drivers with 20 years of experience ☑ Multi-Language drivers (English, Arabic, Turkish, Dutch...

€68 | Rating 4.57 / 5 [21 ratings]

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Tour supplied by:

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Amsterdam City Bike Tour, the Best Things to See

Amsterdam City Bike Tour, the Best Things to See

Amsterdam

After introductions with your guide, set off to explore Amsterdam like the locals do: by bike! With around 250 miles (400 km) of bike lanes ...

€35 | Rating 4.74 / 5 [555 ratings]

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Tour supplied by:

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Amsterdam Highlights Small-Group Bike Tour

Amsterdam Highlights Small-Group Bike Tour

Amsterdam

During your stay in Amsterdam, you can not miss a bike tour through the city’s canals. The city bike tour of Amsterdam is the best way to g...

€27 | Rating 4.79 / 5 [78 ratings]

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Amsterdam Highlights Small-Group Walking Tour

Amsterdam Highlights Small-Group Walking Tour

Amsterdam

Get an insider’s view of Amsterdam on this morning walking tour, the perfect way to experience the city’s must-see sights away from the crow...

€32 | Rating 4.78 / 5 [830 ratings]

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Tour supplied by:

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Kimpton de Witt Amsterdam

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

A stylish yet unpretentious design hotel, housed in three 17th-century buildings, in a great city centre location.

Official star rating:

Canal House

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

An intimate hotel in historic canal-facing buildings, with stylishly updated interiors. One of the trendiest places to stay in Amsterdam.

Official star rating:

Hoxton Amsterdam

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

A cool, retro design complements the historical character of this wonderful, affordable canal-side bolthole.

Official star rating:

Ambassade Hotel

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

Character-filled hotel in historic canal-facing buildings. The quintessential heritage stay, and perfectly located for exploring the city and enjoying up the Canal Ring atmosphere.

Official star rating:

When to go

Amsterdam is least busy from November to March. Though it can be bitterly cold then, there are lots of cosy cafés to hole up in, and hotel rates are at their lowest. Cycling around is though miserable in the wet weather.

April and May is a peak time, as it’s the tulip season – trips to the famous Keukenhof Gardens and bulb fields are often combined with time in Amsterdam.

July and August are busy, but the city is lovely on warm summer evenings, with many an Amsterdammer chugging along the canals on their battered old boats. Cycling around the canals – especially early morning before the crowds awake – is special.

June and September are warm – with fewer crowds.

Getting there and away

The cheapest and quickest way to get from Schiphol Airport to the centre of Amsterdam is by rail. Very frequent trains leave from below Schiphol Plaza concourse, and the journey to Amsterdam’s Centraal Station takes 15-20 minutes.

Another option is the Connexxion Schiphol Airport Shuttle, which provides minibus transfers between Schiphol and most Amsterdam hotels. Taxis from the airport to Amsterdam centre are expensive (€40+), and the journey during rush hours can be slow.

Getting around

All main districts and sights are reachable on foot. If covering a lot of ground in a short period, rent a bike – there are bike rental shops on every corner. Like the Netherlands as a whole, bikes rule: most Amsterdammers use pedal power to get around on the city’s 250 miles of cycle lanes.

Though the public transport system includes a metro, buses and trams, you may well just use trams. The trams are efficient and enjoyable to ride, and connect all the stops you will ever need/want as a visitor.

Free ferries criss-cross the waterway behind Centraal Station – but there is little for the visitor north of it.

Where to stay

If the quintessential Amsterdam experience, make sure you stay in the scenic Canal Ring. Most hotels here occupy classic old gabled buildings with immense character, the streets along these canals are pretty quiet, and you’ll be within strolling distance of many of the city’s most enticing restaurants, bars, cafés and shops.

If you plan to spend time in the main art museums, also consider staying in the 19th-century streets near Museumplein, where rooms can be more spacious than in canal hotels.

Parts of the city centre within the canal belt (the central eastern part) can be a little seedy, noisy and tacky, so be wary there.

Where to eat or drink

Restaurants and eetcafés are scattered right across Amsterdam’s canal belt and central district. The Nine Streets have many small but quality cafes and restaurants, where you can sit on the street and watch the world go by. The same is true of the Jordaan district, home to the city’s most characterful brown cafés.

For a lively night out, head for Leidseplein, which has the biggest concentration of bars and nightclubs in Amsterdam – including famous, multi-purpose venues the Melkweg and Paradiso.

Where to shop

Amsterdam’s most delightful shopping area is the Nine Streets (within the Canal Ring), where one-of-a-kind, independent stores, specialising in everything from cheese to toothbrushes, line little lanes crossing the canals.

For antiques and art, browse the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. For designer boutiques and jewellery, make a beeline for PC Hoofstraat. The main (and rather unexciting) shopping street in the city centre is pedestrianised Kalverstraat.

What to buy

Bulbs (real and wooden) from the Flower Market on the Singel; Delftware ceramics, old and new; Dutch cheeses; reproductions of famous Dutch paintings – the main museums have good shops.