A Complete Guide to Visiting Amsterdam

visiting Amsterdam
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Amsterdam truly blew me away when I visited for the first time.  Sure, I had heard incredible things about the city, but I had no clue how fast I’d love in love with its cobbled streets, twisting canals, and the general chaos of Amsterdam.  As a nurse, I travel to get away from the bedside and prevent nurse burnout; and I’m always looking for a destination that’s easy to reach from the US, where I can just explore, have fun, and not think about work.  Amsterdam checked all of those boxes and more!

Here’s my version of how to have the best trip when you visit Amsterdam – a complete guide to the city.  Including where to eat, which bars to visit, the best things to see and do in Amsterdam, where to stay, and practical tips about the city.

 

A Complete Guide to Visiting Amsterdam

After reading through this post, you’ll notice a free guide to Amsterdam by signing up for my email list!  This is a no fuss document, with all of the research I had done before visiting the city.

 

How to Get to Amsterdam

You can easily reach Amsterdam by both train and by air.  If you’re traveling from another city in Europe (my favorite cities to connect from are London and Paris), your best option is to travel by train to Amsterdam Centraal.  When searching for train options, I prefer to use Omio!

If you’re flying into Amsterdam, you’ll fly into Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.  I prefer to use Skyscanner when searching for flights.  And if you want a private driver to be waiting for you upon arrival into Amsterdam, you can book that here.

 

The Best Time to Visit Amsterdam

Being so far north, The Netherlands weather can be quite drab and dreary.  If that doesn’t bother you, then I’d suggest visiting during those cold months when there will be far fewer tourists.  However, if you’re looking for good weather, you’ll want to visit in June, July, or August.

For decent weather and fewer crowds, your best chance is in May or September.  (I traveled to Amsterdam in May and half the week it was freezing and raining and the other half of the week it was beautiful).  You should also know that tulip season (and thus the festivals in The Netherlands) are from mid-April to mid-May so the beginning/middle of May might be quite crowded compared to the end of May.

 

Getting Around Amsterdam

Amsterdam is easy to get around; it’s incredibly walkable and if you’re not up for walking you can rent a bike or take public transportation.  (By the way, did you know that Netherlands has the most cyclists per capita?!).

If you want to take public transport, the city has made it easy to do so.  You don’t need cash – all you need to do is swipe your debit/credit card at the entrance of the station and you’re in.

If you want to take private transport, you can hail a taxi, or use Uber which operates in Amsterdam.  If you are going to hail a taxi, because of all the footpaths/bike lanes, they aren’t allowed to just pull over and stop.  Instead, there are designated taxi stops throughout the city.  When you get a taxi, the meter must always be on – it’s illegal for it to be off.

As far as bike rentals go, your hotel will more than likely provide bike rentals during your stay.  If not, you can rent a bike from Rent a Bike.

 

Where to Stay in Amsterdam

In my opinion, the coolest area to stay in Amsterdam is in the west of the city near the Jordaan district (or close by).  However, I chose to stay in the southeast part of Amsterdam at Hotel Arena, and absolutely loved the hotel and the area.  It was quiet, felt more local, it was near a beautiful park, and we were able to get away from the crowds.  The only downside was that its was a 30-45 minute walk to get to some of the main tourist attractions.

 

SEARCH FOR HOTELS IN THE JORDAAN DISTRICT

The Best Bars & Restaurants in Amsterdam

Kaasbar

I have to give myself a bit of credit here – I planned this trip for mine and my boyfriends one year anniversary, and I absolutely knocked it out of the park when it came to dining out.  We’re both foodies and we both thoroughly enjoyed each restaurant listed below.

Oh, and if a food tour sounds more up your alley, check out this list!

 

A-FUSION FOOD & DRINKS – Asian

I stumbled upon A-Fusion and it looked lively enough so I went inside.  The food here was absolutely phenomenal, and the sushi was impeccable.  If you’re craving Asian food or sushi, I highly recommend eating here.

 

ALBERT CUYPMARKT – Outdoor Market

Albert Cuypmarkt is a fun, outdoor market with food, souvenir, and clothing stands.  Whether or not you plan to eat, I’d suggest strolling through.  And if you do want to eat, come around lunchtime and grab something from the many food vendors that have set up shop.

 

BAR PIF – Small Plates

Bar Pif is a cozy, intimate dining spot in the west of Amsterdam, serving small plates.  It’s a great restaurant to go to if you want to try and share a variety of different foods.

 

FOODHALLEN – Food Hall

For a quick and casual lunch, I suggest Foodhallen.  Foodhallen is Amsterdam’s hip food court with different food groups to choose from all the way from Asian food, to Dutch food, and beyond.  My favorite “find” was the Vietnamese street food from Viet View.

 

KAASBAR – Dutch Cheese

I stumbled upon a post, “best date night spots in Amsterdam” and Kaasbar was listed.  I was intrigued by the promise of Dutch cheese, so I booked this as a before dinner stop not knowing just how much we’d love it.  If you want to give Dutch cheese a go, I highly recommend booking a spot at the bar, where you’ll have access to the many different cheese types that comes around on a conveyer belt.  (This would also make for a fun after dinner stop).

 

MITTS – Middle Eastern

Mitts was another nice surprise, one that I booked because it was so close to our hotel.  Mitts served Middle Eastern fare, and their tasting menu was incredible.  With both vegetarian and meat options, I would highly suggest Mitts for a fun night out.

 

PESCA – Seafood

Pesca is one of the most unique restaurants I’ve ever dined at (and I’ve dined out a LOT).  When you walk in, you’re ushered to the “fish market” where you pick a fresh fish of the day.  There isn’t a menu, so you’re reliant on the staff to guide your choices (don’t worry, they did a fabulous job!).  Once you pick your fish, you head to the wine shop where someone will help guide your wine choice based on what fish you chose.  The experience was completely unique and so much fun.  I highly recommend dining here!

 

TALES & SPIRITS – Cocktails

The one cocktail bar that I managed to try out was Tales & Spirits; and it was a great choice!  It’s near both Bar Pif and Pesca, so it’s a great stop before or after dinner.

 

The Best Things to See and Do in Amsterdam

There are so many incredible things to see and do in Amsterdam, and one of my favorite things about the city is that there are so many museums and just so much to learn!  Amsterdam has a fascinating history and they’ve done a fantastic job at allowing you to learn about it both for free and by paying to visit museums, etc.

 

ANNE FRANK HOUSE

The Anne Frank House would be my number one recommendation.  And if you only have time for one museum, this would be it.  You have to book tickets ahead of time, as the house is small (yes, it’s really where they hid out for two years) and visitors are limited.  Tickets become available every Tuesday and are available in six week increments.  You can find more information and purchase tickets here.

 

DAY TRIP TO UTRECHT

Utrecht is a small, college town southeast of Amsterdam.  It only takes about 30-minutes to arrive by train and it’s a much smaller, more tranquil version of Amsterdam.  I would highly recommend making a day trip here to check it out!

The train costs about $20 round-trip, leaves every 30-minutes (depending on the day this varies), and runs from early morning to late in the night.  You’ll leave from Amsterdam Centraal and arrive to Utrecht Centraal.

You can book tickets ahead of time here, or you purchase at the station day of.

 


Don’t miss:  From Amsterdam:  A Day Trip to Utrecht


 

FREE WALKING TOUR

One of my favorite ways to experience a city is by participating in the free walking tour.  I used this company, and booked the “free classic tour”.  I would highly recommend doing this when you first arrive so you get your bearings and get suggestions too!

 

RED LIGHTS SECRETS

I wanted to learn about the Red Light District, without necessarily experiencing it for myself.  When I found the Red Lights Secrets museum, I decided to go and see what it was about.  A prostitute that worked in the Red Light District helped to create this museum, and it does a good job at showing both the positive and negative sides of prostitution and the Red Light District.

 

RIJKSMUSEUM

The Rijksmuseum is an art museum, showcasing works from Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Vermeer.  There’s over 800 years of Dutch history represented in this museum, and it was highly enjoyable.  If you want to visit, I suggest booking tickets ahead of time.

 

VAN GOGH MUSEUM

If you’re a fan of Van Gogh, you won’t want to miss this museum dedicated to him and the people he looked up to most.  Aside from the amount of Van Gogh artwork displayed, I thought the museum did a great job of walking you through the life and death of Van Gogh.  If you want to visit, I suggest booking tickets ahead of time.

 

VONDELPARK

If you’re visiting Amsterdam when they happen to have nice weather and you want a relaxing experience, I suggest a stroll through Vondelpark!  It’s a beautiful park and worth a stop by.  You can bring a game (like we did) and hang out for awhile, or stop by the brewpub Proeflokaal ‘t Blauwe Theehuis.

 

Practical Tips/FYI About Visiting Amsterdam

Below you’ll find practical tips about visiting Amsterdam and The Netherlands in general.  These are always my “go-to” tips when traveling to a new country, and I figure that everything else can be learned along the way!

  • Language:  Dutch; but you are able to get by just fine with English as there are many English speakers in the city
  • Currency:  Euro; everywhere I went accepted debit/credit, so you don’t need to get cash out (unless you want to).  When paying with a card, always pay in the country’s currency (in this case Euro), to avoid fees.
  • Visa:  Americans traveling to The Netherlands do not need a visa, but because it’s a Schengen country, you’re only welcome to stay for 90-days visa-free
  • When traveling abroad, I highly recommend purchasing travel insurance to cover your trip in case anything were to happen.  I use and SafetyWing.
  • You will need a converter in Amsterdam; I use this one
  • In case of emergency, the number for police in The Netherlands is 112

 

Amsterdam is a truly beautiful and incredible city.  I hope that visiting Amsterdam will leave you with the same sense of awe, wonder, and peace that it left me.

 


For a more visual look at Amsterdam, and more ideas on what to see and do, make sure to check out my Instagram page/highlight reel and search “ppinnetherlands” or look for my “Netherlands” highlight


 

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Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to purchase through my link, at no cost to you.  Passports and Preemies is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees.

 


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Kylee is a NICU nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee has been a NICU nurse for 9 years and a travel nurse for 7 years. Since starting her career in travel nursing, she’s worked in six different states, 10 different hospitals, volunteered as a nurse in North Macedonia, worked as a nurse in Saudi Arabia, and has traveled to 45+ countries. Her favorite travel nurse assignment was in Seattle and her favorite destination is Georgia (the country). Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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