Travel Tips for Amsterdam

It's been called the "Venice of the North" and with good reason.  Amsterdam is full of tree-lined canals, graceful bridges, and an old European city look that is captivating.  It has more canals than Venice, and more bridges than Paris.  It's also counter-culture, which will appeal to veterans of the 1960's.  And overlying everything else is a big city atmosphere with energy and diversity. 

That said, let's take a look at Amsterdam.  We'll give you the travel tips on where to stay, which sights to see, some of the offbeat attractions you might otherwise miss, and tips on how to save on your trip to Amsterdam. 

First, Amsterdam is a bilingual city.  While Dutch is the predominant language, English is widely spoken in the shops, the restaurants and hotels, and even by the average person in the street. 

The center of much of what happens in Amsterdam is The Dam.  It's a wide pedestrian plaza where a number of main streets intersect, and the Royal Palace and Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) are located there.  It's also a great place to just stop and people watch.  There are usually a number of street performers and a parade of people.  And we found an outstanding hotel, the Hotel Grand Krasnapolsky, that is located right on the Dam, across from the Royal Palace (see below for more details on this hotel).  This area was created when a dam was built in the 13th century for flood control.  Now The Dam is the center of activity for the city.

What to See in Amsterdam -- Our Favorites:

  1. The Dam -- see above. 

  2. The Royal Palace -- located on the Dam, it used to be the home for the royal family, but today it is used for official functions.  Note:  this building is not open to visitors.

  3. New Church (Nieuwe Kerk)  -- well, it used to be new, when it was built in the early 1400's. For almost 200 years, the New Church has been the site of inaugurations of the Dutch monarchs.  Open daily, and located next to the Royal Palace.

  4. The canals -- one of the most impressive parts of a tourist visit to Amsterdam is the canals.  Stroll down the sidewalks that line the canals, cross the bridges, admire the many houseboats, or just sit and watch the water traffic cross by.  The canals help make Amsterdam the unique city that it is. 

  5. Amsterdam Red Light District -- nearly everyone has heard of the legalized prostitution that is conducted in the famous Red Light District.  Most people treat it as an oddity, and go to gawk at the scantily clad prostitutes sitting in the windows as they attempt to attract customers.  Go during the daytime, and note -- there is a very strict "no photography" policy here.  If you attempt to take photographs, your camera will be taken from you.

  6. Anne Frank House -- the house where Anne and her family hid is now a museum, and is one of the top attractions in Amsterdam.

  7. Flower Market -- we would put this one in the second tier of tourist sights, but it is interesting.  It's the only floating flower market in the world. 

  8. Walking tours -- you can design these yourself.  You will need a good map of Amsterdam (we recommend the Rough Guides map).  This is a very walkable city, and it's difficult to get lost.  If you do, just stop and ask someone for directions.

  9. Museum Amstelkring -- what looks like just another row house is actually a secret Catholic church, set up during the Reformation, when the Protestants were ridding Europe of Catholic influence.  Known as "Our Lord in the Attic," this is a very worthwhile stop to make.  Located in the center of the Red Light District.

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Where to Stay in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a large, modern city, and has a wide variety of hotels in all price ranges.  Frommer's has a good selection of hotel recommendations -- click here.  We recommend the NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky.  Using the techniques found in our hotel tips page, we booked an exceptionally nice room with breakfast each morning, for a substantial discount over the published rate.  This is one of the better properties we have stayed at in our travels, and it is located on the Dam -- close to many tourist attractions, and in the center of the places we wanted to see.

Travel Tips for Amsterdam

  1. If you stay near the Dam, visit the Food Market to the left of Magna Plaza.  It's a traditional grocery store, where you can purchase fresh fruit, breakfast breads, snacks, wine, soft drinks, cheese, etc. 

  2. For a simple, inexpensive lunch or dinner, stop at the Food Market and then to the corner of Raadhuisstraat and Singel -- just turn down the street that runs between the food Market and Magna Plaza, stop at the first canal (Singel), and look to your right.  There is a bench next to the road that overlooks the canal (one of the few benches on the canals).  Sit and enjoy your food and drink.  Another travel tip -- try this at dusk, as the lights are coming on in the buildings around the canal.

  3. Miss your fast food?  No worries -- McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, and Sbarro Pizza are all within two blocks of Dam Square  Any of the locals, or your hotel staff, can direct you.  In addition, a Planet Hollywood restaurant is south of the Dam, near the Flower Market.

  4. If time permits, take a tour of northern Holland.  Buses leave from Amsterdam, and there are a number of different tours that are available.  We took the tour to Marken and Volendam, and added a canal cruise (see below).

  5. Canal cruises are available from travel agents, or from  It's a good way to see the city from the water.

Photos of Amsterdam

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Current time in Amsterdam


Quick Travel Tips for Amsterdam

Amsterdam's currency is the Euro.  Click here for the XE currency converter. 
Amsterdam's electricity is 230 volts.  Click Here for converters for your appliances.
Amsterdam is in the Central European time zone, which is 6 hours later than U.S. Eastern Standard Time.
Map of Amsterdam
Amsterdam Bus and Tram Schedules
World weather
Amsterdam Tourist Board




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