Travelling to the Netherlands and checking out the sights in the capital? This guide will give you everything you need to know about visiting Amsterdam, from getting to and from the airport, to the best Amsterdam-themed books you should read before you go, to the cool local spots you should check out.
(Only visiting for a short time? Check out our savvy 24 hours in Amsterdam guide for one perfect day in the city.)
Getting to and from AMS
Public transit from the airport is by tram and costs EUR 4,75 (approximately USD 5.50). You’ll need to purchase a ticket in the airport terminal after you receive your luggage, and before you go down to the tracks. If you want to buy from a machine, only chip credit cards are accepted. For cash purchases, you can buy a ticket at the nearby ticket counter. The train leaves for Central Station every 20 minutes.
Alternately, you can take a taxi — taxis to and from downtown Amsterdam will cost between EUR 45 and 65 (USD 51–74), depending on traffic.
Getting around Amsterdam
Public transit: You’re in luck! There is an extensive tram, bus, and subway system, as well as free ferries from Central Station. All transportation is interchangeable with passes that can be purchased on-vehicle. It’ll cost you EUR 2,80 (about USD 3.15) for a one-hour transfer, or you can get a 24-hour pass for EUR 7,50 (about USD 8.50).
The subway is best for longer distances, and travels in a ring around the outside of city, taking you to Ajax Arena and a few large concert stadiums. Trams and buses go everywhere in the city, but be aware that the tram service stops running between 12am and 6am, with only buses running on a night schedule. All stops in the city have information on night routes and times.
Taxi: A cab in A’Dam is expensive but doable with three or more passengers. Expect to pay EUR 10+ (USD 11.50) for something you could walk in 20 minutes.
Note that taxis cannot be hailed in the city. Instead, you can get local establishment to call you a cab at +31 20 777777 (they’ll know the number!). Or you can ask where the nearest taxi stand is. Big hotels will have cabs lined up as well.
Walking: One of the best ways to travel in Amsterdam is on foot! Everything in the canal belt and downtown is within walking distance — don’t be surprised if you ask a local for directions and they tell you it is just five minutes away. As well, Amsterdam is generally safe, but like in most large cities, you should practice common sense and don’t go into areas where you feel uncomfortable. Mostly, though, the city has minimal crime.
Boating: Seeing the city by boat is a fun time, but we don’t recommend any of the large commercial companies, for various reasons. MokumBoot is a smaller operation, and you can rent a boat for use on your own, or with a skipper to drive you.
Biking: Of course, you can’t spend time in the Netherlands without hopping on a bike! There are many companies in the city offering bike rentals (we recommend Rent a Bike), with most charging between EUR 8 and 12 (USD 9–13.50), depending on how long you rent and what type of bike you want. You’ll need to bring some form of security such as a credit card or cash deposit. The best way to see the city is by bike. This is a city built for the bike!
Things to do in Amsterdam
If shows and exhibits are your thing, there are numerous venues in the city to see live music and art. Events change pretty much every month, so your best bet is to check out the online listings. A few to start with are North Sea Jazz Club, The DJ List, and Last Minute Ticket Shop.
For those who like to explore local museums, there’s no shortage in A’Dam. But while the Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum are icons that you should see, Amsterdam is also home to more than 30 museums that many travellers don’t even know about. You can check out the Jewish Historical Museum, the Canal House Museum, the Tropical Museum, and even, yes, a Funeral Museum and Museum of Prostitution.
If you’d rather get outside, head to one of the city’s major parks. Vondel is the only one you’ll find on a tourist map, but there are plenty more to be discovered, so just ask around (locals will know where to go). Grab a snack from a local sandwich shop, then plant yourself in the sun. Amsterdam North is our favourite, right along the water. Alternately, you could head to the Artis Royal Zoo, which is ethically operated, or to Hortus Botanicus, the oldest botanical gardens in the world. You could also grab lunch at Frankendael Park, or go for a canoe ride or watch some Shakespeare in Het Bos.
Amsterdam Day Tours
Looking for more things to do? Urban Adventures offers several day tours in Amsterdam, all led by local experts that will give you a taste for local life in the city:
Bikes and Dyks
Inspired by Pete Jordan’s book In the City of Bikes, this is an Amsterdam bike tour like no other. Get the ultimate local perspective on the city’s incredible array of canals, dykes, and culture, complimented by a healthy dose of Amsterdam’s quirkiest tales. Hup hup!
The Original Amsterdam Beer Tour
Bask in the glory of liquid sunshine on this tour that covers the best bars, breweries, and beer halls of this brew-loving city. From a place where nuns used to brew ales to that mothership of Dutch beer brewing, the original Heineken building, you’ll taste the Netherlands’ strong brewing history.
Amsterdam Food by Foot
From snacking on salty fries, to savouring rich cheeses and sipping boozy spirits, this indgulent Amsterdam tour should come with a health warning!
Home Cooked Amsterdam
The Dutch don’t talk much about their food, unless it’s about pancakes! Pannekoeken are a traditional Dutch treat — sometimes sweet, sometimes savoury, but always delicious! Enjoy this two-hour pancake lunch with a local cook in a 14th century monastery turned into 20th century housing.
Amsterdam Private Tour
Put our team of local experts to work to build the perfect itinerary just for you. You can include some of the components of our regular tours, or none at all. If you’re not sure, we’ve got plenty of ideas for what you might want to include. Let our team of expert locals know your interests, and they’ll come up with all kinds of things!
Amsterdam on the big screen
Get in the mood for Amsterdam’s scenery with Ocean’s Twelve — to movie was shot on location at the Pulitzer Hotel, Koningsplein Square, and Coffeeshop De Dampkring, along the streets Kalverstraat and Heiligeweg, and at the Gouden Bocht (Golden Bend) of the Herengracht Canal (home to Amsterdam’s wealthiest residents in the 1700s).
Amsterdam on record
Originally by singer-songwriter Jacques Brel and reworked by David Bowie, among others, In the Port of Amsterdam is a melancholy tale about the sailors having wild nights and sad stories while on shore leave in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam in books
Two books we’d recommend are Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City by Russell Shorto, and In the City of Bikes by Pete Jordan. Both are great pre-trip reads with catchy narratives and unique approaches to the city’s history. (In fact, we were so inspired by these reads that our Bikes and Dykes tour was created based on these two books!)
What’s on in Amsterdam
A good reference for big yearly concerts and art events is I amsterdam. It lists local sporting events, cultural happenings, and festivals, as well restaurants, museums, galleries, shops, attractions, and more.