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Amsterdam Travel Guide, The Netherlands

There is a simultaneous feeling of movement and stillness in the streets of Amsterdam in the The Netherlands.

As you walk along the canals flanked with row boats and houseboats, you are surrounded by leaning houses, gabled roofs, potted plants, romantic bridges, and bicycles.

The historic city center seamlessly blends the old with the new, resulting in a dynamic street life that is animated with bicycle traffic, bustling cafés, charming boutiques, and cannabis coffee shops. And yet, you can also find areas that are quiet and untraveled.

Amsterdam has beautiful green parks to wander through, as well as contemporary reappropriated spaces to explore. There is something irresistible about this city that beckons you to return again and again.

“Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.” – John Green, The Fault in Our Stars.

Amsterdam Canal Houses
  • Province: North Holland
  • Population: 921K
  • Tipping Etiquette: In restaurants, bars & cafés, tipping is not necessary. If you receive exceptional service in a fine restaurant,  it’s customary to tip 5 to 10%.
  • Water Quality: Tap water is safe to drink.
  • Public Transit. The transit system in Amsterdam consists of trams, buses and metros. The easiest option for travelers is to purchase a disposable one-hour card or day card (valid for one to seven days), which allows you to travel on all GVB transit lines. The Sprinter train you’ll be taking to and from the Schiphol Airport is not included in the GVB one-hour or day card.
  • Biking. Cycling is the way of life in Amsterdam. Besides sharing the bike lane with notorious Dutch bicyclists, you’ll also be sharing it with mopeds.
  • Ferries. There are several free ferries you can take across the River IJ, available for pedestrians, cyclists, and mopeds. These ferries are located directly behind Amsterdam Central Station. The most popular ferry routes are from the Central Station to Buiksloterweg (EYE Filmmuseum and Tolhuistuin), IJplein, and NDSM Wharf.
  • Interesting Fact: 10,000 bicycles are retrieved from the canals each year. If you’re a local, it’s easier to throw your broken bike into the canal than to recycle it.
  • Get the Guidebook: Rick Steves Amsterdam & the Netherlands

Where to Stay in Amsterdam 

Amsterdam Canal

Budget | Stayokay Amsterdam Stadsdoelen is a hostel located in Amsterdam’s city center. Stayokay offers 24-hour front desk, lockers, breakfast, luggage storage, and a bar.

Midrange | PH93 Amsterdam Central is a clean, comfortable and top-rated accommodation in the heart of the city.

Luxury | Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht is an elegant and upscale hotel located in the heart of the canal belt. Each room is uniquely designed. The hotel has a spa and wellness center, a restaurant and a bar.

Look for accommodation in Amsterdam.


Interesting Facts about Amsterdam

Amsterdam Canal in Spring

12th Century Beginnings

Amsterdam came into being in the 12th century when fishermen erected a dam to protect their village from the flooding of the river. Thus, Amsterdam, formerly called “Aemstelredamme,” translates as “Dam in the River Amstel.”


The Importance of Trade

In the 17th century, Amsterdam expanded due to its prosperous trading industry. This time period is referred to as the city’s “Golden Age.”

Dutch ships sailed across the world, acquiring goods and setting up international trading networks. The Dutch East India Company (you probably heard about them) had a monopoly on the spice trade with Asia.

Today, you can see how important the trade industry was to the city by identifying the number of storage houses there are in the city center.

Look for the giant hooks, which were used to pull up merchandise from the street, on the facades of the canal buildings. Notice that these 17th-century warehouses are also slightly leaning forward. They constructed the houses in this way in order to protect the building from the goods that were being hoisted up.


Remembrance

As you’re exploring the city, you’ll likely notice an XXX symbol on just about everything.

It’s part of Amsterdam’s coat of arms, signifying the remembrance of those who lost their lives in floods, fires, and during the plague.


Things to Do in Amsterdam

Dutch Gable Houses, Amsterdam

NDSM

NDSM was a large shipbuilding company, famous for building cargo ships, bulk carriers, and tank ships. The company stopped building new ships in 1978 and ceased all operations in 1984.

Today, the shipyard is a creative space that houses artist studios, restaurants and businesses. Festivals and events also take place here.

We ate at Café Noorderlicht, which has a great view of the IJ. It’s a relaxing and inviting space that offers a lunch and dinner menu. Come here for a tapas plate and live music in the evening.

How to get to NDSM

Go to Amsterdam Central Station. From here, you’ll take a free NDSM ferry to cross the IJ. The ferries depart directly behind the Central Station. There’s a countdown clock letting you know when the next ferry departs. 


Eat Lunch at a Community Farm

Buurtboerderij Ons Genoegen is a community farm located in Westerpark. With grazing sheep, willow trees, and garden seating, you can relax in this oasis any day of the week. Volunteers maintain the space and offer a daily menu of sandwiches, soups, pancakes, cakes, and beverages. You can also take a yoga class here. Before entering the farm, read through the community rules posted at the entrance. 

Address | Spaarndammerdijk 319, 1014 AA Amsterdam | Google Maps


Shop at a Local Market

Whether you’re in the market for tulip bulbs, antiques, hippie garb, vintage clothing, you can find it at one of Amsterdam’s markets.

Bloemenmarkt | This is Amsterdam’s floating flower market, situated inside a row of floating barges. You’ll find tulips in every color, flower bulbs, seeds, house plants, and gardening equipment. The Bloemenmarkt is open every day. Location: Singel (between Muntplein and Koningsplein), 1012 DH Amsterdam

IJ-Hallen | This is Europe’s biggest flea market that occurs on a monthly basis. It’s located at NDSM in Amsterdam-Noord. There’s an entrance fee of 5 EUR. Check out the IJ-Hallen Website for upcoming market days. Location: T.T. Neveritaweg 1, 1033 WB Amsterdam-Noord

Waterloopleinmarkt | Dating from 1885 and situated in the former Jewish quarter, this is a permanent flea market. Grab some poffertjes (mini-pancakes) while you browse. The Waterloopleinmarkt is open Monday to Saturday (Closed Sundays). Location: Waterlooplein, 1011 NZ Amsterdam 

Albert Cuypmarkt | This is Holland’s biggest open-air market, located in the De Pijp district. You’ll find local fruits and vegetables, Dutch treats and souvenirs, clothes, and a lot more. The market is open Monday to Saturday (Closed Sundays). Location: Albert Cuypstraat, 1073 BL Amsterdam


Where to Eat and Drink in Amsterdam 

Gevulde Koeken Almond Paste Cookie

BAK | Eating in this modern fine dining restaurant is a culinary awakening. Guests can choose between 5-, 7-, or 9-course menus, each artistic in its ingredient selection as well as its presentation. Imagine having a sorbet made with carrots and sea buckthorn atop a sweet scoop of tart yogurt made with goat’s milk. Don’t expect to leave in less than 3.5 hours. Address: Van Diemenstraat 408, 1013 CR Amsterdam 

Bakhuys | Superb bread, pastries and cookies. They make mouth-watering gevulde koeken, which are traditional Dutch almond-filled cookies. Address: Sarphatistraat 61, 1018 EX Amsterdam

Gartine | This organic restaurant is a dreamy place for brunch, or high tea. Try their homemade lavender lemonade with lime sorbet. They also serve lunch and high tea. Address: Taksteeg 7, 1012 PB Amsterdam

Cloud Galley | There’s an espresso and juice bar inside this airy and light-filled contemporary gallery. We really enjoyed taking a break here to enjoy an acai bowl and the photography collaged over the walls. Address: Prinsengracht 276, 1016 HJ Amsterdam

Kaldi | This corner café is located on the Herengracht canal. It’s a great spot to grab a coffee to-go, or sit outside and people-watch. Address: Herengracht 300, 1016 CD Amsterdam

Noorderlicht | Located at NDSM. This artistic greenhouse-designed restaurant has a view of the IJ. It’s a perfect place to unwind, hangout with friends and listen to music. Opt for their tapas plate and seasonal beer. Address: NDSM-Plein 102, 1033 WB Amsterdam



More Europe Travel Guides


Amsterdam City Guide, the Netherlands

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Moon & Honey Travel is an independent blog created by two passionate hikers. We are able to provide free content to you, because of ads and affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Happy travels and happy trails,

Sabrina & Kati