The 9 Best Amsterdam Hotels of 2018
Best Budget: Hotel Clemens
Raadhuisstraat 39, 1016 DC Amsterdam, Netherlands
+31 20 624 6089
The Hotel Clemens puts you right in the heart of the action an affordable price. From Hotel Clemens, you can walk to the Anne Frank House in just four minutes. It’s also an easy stroll to the Red Light District, as well as to the city center. This family-run hotel complements its enviable location with a friendly, boutique atmosphere. Though small, each of the 14 guestrooms are clean, comfortable and stylishly decorated, with garden or Raadhuisstraat views. Choose a single, twin, triple or double and enjoy free WiFi, an LCD TV and a rain shower in the ensuite bathroom.
Those with mobility issues should be aware that there is no elevator at Hotel Clemens, and that the stairs are both steep and numerous (a common feature of traditional Amsterdam architecture). However, the affordable room rates include a welcome drink and a generous continental breakfast. The light-filled breakfast room boasts large windows and picturesque molded ceilings; and you can enjoy free tea and coffee throughout the day on the spacious lobby balcony.
The Top Luxury Hotels in Amsterdam
Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 197, 1012 EX Amsterdam, Netherlands
+31 20 555 3111
The Sofitel Legend is located in the oldest part of the city and has a historic history to match. Its monumental buildings between two canals have served as a 15th-century convent, the headquarters of the Dutch Admiralty in the Golden Age, the Town Hall and even the site of the current Queen Beatrix's wedding reception in 1966. It's also the address of the Michelin starred seafood restaurant Bridges.
Tips for Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam
01 of 07
Learn Some Dutch
New Year's Eve is called Oud en Nieuw (“old and new”) in Dutch, in reference to the last moments of the old year and the first moments of the new. Another name is Oudejaarsavond, which literally just means New Year's Eve. Impress your Dutch friends by wishing them a happy new year using the phrase Gelukkig Nieuwjaar (pronounced “huh-LOOK-uh NYOO-yahr”).
02 of 07
Celebrate with Thousands of Others
Public squares = parties. Not into exclusive club parties or multi-course dinners at swanky restaurants? Then join the festivities at one of Amsterdam's city squares, which are free to the public and located in various spots around town. The Museumplein public space in the Museumkwartier neighborhood is the location of the national New Year's Eve party, a televised event that draws tens of thousands of partiers with its live music and fireworks. The Nieuwmarkt square (in Amsterdam's Chinatown) follows closely behind with its explosive celebrations.
03 of 07
Book Lodging in Advance
Make room or dorm reservations well ahead. Amsterdam is an immensely popular New Year's Eve destination; sometimes it seems like out-of-towners outnumber the Amsterdammers at the yearly celebrations. This means that accommodations are at a premium, so don't delay making your reservations.
04 of 07
Keep an Eye Out for Fireworks
Keep on the lookout for errant firecrackers. The sale of fireworks is prohibited in The Netherlands, except for December 29 through 31 when the Dutch stock up for New Year's Eve. At midnight, everyone pours into the streets and the city erupts in a collective cacophony of firecrackers, so be careful not to stumble into the line of fire. Consider packing some earplugs.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Check Entry Fees
Find out about venue entry requirements beforehand. Countless bars, clubs, and restaurants in Amsterdam have special New Year's Eve events, and tickets can sell out months in advance. For specific events, find out if it's necessary to reserve a spot, and do so as early as possible. Note that some venues also have additional entrance fees on New Year's Eve—even those that normally have none at all.
06 of 07
Research Holiday Schedules
Check for closures or reduced hours. Although New Year's Eve isn't a national holiday, scores of restaurants, tourist attractions, and other businesses are either closed or have reduced hours on December 31. When you make your plans for the day, be sure to double-check whether all the spots on your itinerary are in fact open on New Year's Eve, even in the daytime. Expect most businesses to be closed on New Year's Day.
07 of 07
Don’t Be Left Stranded
Amsterdam public transportation stops at around 8 p.m. on New Year's Eve, and only limited bus services resume around midnight. If you don't want to shell out for a taxi, make sure you're close to your New Year's destination by the time services stop. You may also want to check the GVB (Amsterdam public transit) website to find out whether your accommodations are on one of the limited bus routes for the return trip.
Top Amsterdam Hostels
01 of 09
The Flying Pig Backpacker’s Downtown
Flying Pig Backpacker's Downtown hostel is probably the most famous hostel in Amsterdam, so if you're looking for a stereotypical backpacker experience in the city, this is the place to stay! Flying Pig hostels are known for being clean, safe, and fun for everyone, so it'll be hard to go wrong with a dorm bed here.
Address: Nieuwendijk 100, 1012 Amsterdam.
Example prices of their rooms:
- €22.85 for a mixed 6-bed dorm;
- €19.35 for a 14-bed mixed dorm;
- €16.80 for a 32-bed mixed dorm.
Flying Pig Downtown's Facebook Page.
Flying Pig Downtown's location on Google Maps.
02 of 09
If you like your hostels to be clean and beautiful, Cocomama's is the place to you. This is one of the nicest hostels in the entire city! Set in a former brothel, this luxury hostel is in a central location and packed full of amenities. Some of my favourite are the laundry facilities (so rare in a hostel!) and the cosy movie corner for watching films with new friends.
Address: Westeinde 18, 1017 ZP Amsterdam.
Example prices of their rooms:
- €39 for a mixed 4-bed dorm;
- €29 for a mixed 6-bed dorm;
- €89 for a private double room.
Cocomama Hostel's Facebook Page.
Cocomama Hostel's location on Google Maps.
03 of 09
To immerse yourself in Amsterdam's smoking history, consider staying at the famous Bulldog, which was the very first coffeeshop to have ever opened in the city. Now, you can stay in the Bulldog hotel, which is an especially great option if you'd like to stay within the Red Light District. Dorms are available, as well as plenty of private room options.
Address: Oudezijds Voorburgwal 220, 1012 Amsterdam.
Example prices of their rooms:
- €25 for 1 bed in an 8-12 bed mixed dormitory;
- €92 for 1 person in a Double Room (private room)
The Bulldog's Facebook Page.
The Bulldog's location on Google Maps.
04 of 09
The Flying Pig Uptown (Palace)
If you're looking for a more relaxed vibe at the infamous Flying Pig hostel chain, look into the Flying Pig Uptown, which is close to many of the big museums, like the Van Gogh Museum, is within walking distance to Vondelpark, and is right next to some of the city's coolest markets.
Address: Vossiusstraat 46, 1071 Amsterdam.
Example prices of their rooms:
- €15.70 for a bunk in a dorm during low season;
- €44.90 per person per night for a private room.
The Flying Pig Uptown's Facebook Page.
The Flying Pig Uptown's location on Google Maps.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Amsterdam Cribs is a smoker's paradise! In Amsterdam, the vast majority of hostels and hotels are non-smoking, but at Amsterdam Cribs, you'll be able to freely light up in the comfort of your own room.
Address: Oude Hoogstraat 7, Amsterdam.
Example prices of their rooms:
- €260 a night for a four-bedroom apartment;
Amsterdam Crib's Facebook Page.
Amsterdam Crib's location on Google Maps.
06 of 09
Bob’s Youth Hostel
Bob's Youth Hostel is a funky spot in Amsterdam that's all about the artwork. For the past few years, travelers who have passed through the hostel have contributed murals to the walls, creating a fun and exciting vibe in the dorms. It's one of the cheapest hostels in Amsterdam, too, so well-worth taking a look at if you're on a tight budget.
Address: Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 92, 1012 Amsterdam.
Example prices of their rooms:
- $11.14 a night for a mixed 14-bed dorm with ensuite;
- $14.47 a night for a mixed 6-bed dorm with ensuite;
- €66.68 a night for a 4-bed private room with shared bathroom.
Bob's Youth Hostel's Facebook Page.
Bob's Youth Hostel's location on Google Maps.
07 of 09
Stayokay Amsterdam Vondelpark
Stayokay Amsterdam Vondelpark is an HI hostel, which means you're guaranteed clean surroundings and modern rooms. This hostel is one of the largest in the city, so if you're there to make friends, it's a great option. If you prefer small, boutique hostels, look elsewhere.
Address: Zandpad 5, 1054 Amsterdam.
Example prices of their rooms:
- €24.23 a night for mixed 10-bed dorm with breakfast;
- €28.98 a night for a female 4-bed dorm with breakfast;
- €65.55 a night for private twin with ensuite and breakfast
Stayokay Amsterdam Vondelpark's Facebook Page.
Stayokay Amsterdam Vondelpark's location on Google Maps.
08 of 09
Hostelboat Anna Maria II
If you want to experience Dutch living while you're in Amsterdam, the best way to do so is by staying in a houseboat on one of the many canals! You can do this through Airbnb and pay up to €100/night for the privilege, or you could opt to stay at Hostelboat Anna Maria II, near Waterloo Square, for a quarter of the price. There are 10 cabins in this rustic boat, ranging from sizeable dorms to private rooms.
Address: Oosterdok t/o 4, Pier 4, 1011 Amsterdam.
Example price of their rooms:
- €24.00 for a quad room.
Hostelboat Anna Maria II's location on Google Maps.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Hostel Cosmos Amsterdam
If you're a fan of all things intergalactic, Hostel Cosmos is the place for you! This space-themed hostel is located in a very central area of Amsterdam with Vondelpark within easy walking access. The staff are friendly, the dorm prices are inexpensive, and there's even a hostel cat to keep you company.
Address: Nieuwe Nieuwstraat 17, 1012 Amsterdam.
Example prices of their rooms:
- €15.00 a night for a mixed 12-bed dorm;
- €15.00 a night for a male 6-bed dorm;
- €25.00 a night for private twin with ensuite
Hostel Cosmos' Facebook Page.
Hostel Cosmos' location on Google Maps.
This article has been edited and updated by Lauren Juliff.
How to Get From the Amsterdam Airport to City Center
01 of 04
Direct trains to Amsterdam Centraal Station run every 10 to 15 minutes between about 6 and 1 a.m. (every hour during other times). The trip takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Buy tickets either at the ticket desk on the arrivals level or at the yellow machines (with euro coins or with a selected credit or debit card). Trains leave from platforms 1-2 or 3, one floor below.
- Very low cost.
- It's the fastest option.
- You run the risk of getting stuck in traffic during commuting hours.
- It's an inconvenience for those carrying large and/or many bags.
- Once you arrive at Centraal Station, you will then have to take a tram, bus or taxi to your hotel.
- The trains do not run late at night or early in the morning.
Tip: Especially if you plan to arrive after 12 a.m. or on the weekend, check the NS (Dutch Railways) website to see if any maintenance works will interrupt your journey.
02 of 04
You'll find plenty of private taxis for hire in the taxi line just outside the main entrance to the arrivals and train station level at Schiphol. Be sure to choose a taxi from this line, not from individuals walking around soliciting their services. Note that taxis run on a strict meter basis, there is no set flat airport rate.
- The convenience of door-to-door service.
- A trip to central Amsterdam can be as little as 20 minutes if it's not rush hour.
- It's the most expensive option.
- There's a high risk you'll sit in heavy traffic at peak commuting hours.
03 of 04
Bus 19, the Amsterdam Airport Express, is a cheap transportation option little known to tourists. On weekdays, the bus leaves Schiphol approximately every 10 to 15 minutes between the hours of 5:15 a.m. and 1 a.m. from bus platform. Weekends have much less frequent service.
The journey takes about 30 minutes to the city center, and you can pre-order tickets online, or pay the driver in cash.
- Another low-cost option.
- Can be more direct than the train if you're staying near one of the bus stops.
- Limited service on weekends.
- No service late at night/early in the morning.
04 of 04
By Schiphol Hotel Shuttle
The Schiphol Hotel Shuttle, run by Connexxion, offers service to more than 100 Amsterdam hotels. Buses run every 30 minutes between 6 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. from platform A7, just outside the main entrance to the arrivals and train station level. Journey time varies based on stops. Buy tickets at the Connexxion service desk at Arrivals 4 (opposite Starbucks), or online.
Be sure to ask your hotel first if they offer a complimentary airport shuttle.
- Cheaper than a taxi.
- Door-to-door service.
- If you're one of the last stops on the shared route, the journey could take up to an hour.
International Travelers’ Favorite Attractions in Amsterdam
Zaanse Schans (1.6 million visitors in 2015)
The most visited attractions for international tourists, hands-down, is Zaanse Schans – a bastion of old-world Dutch traditions just a half-hour's commute from cosmopolitan Amsterdam.
Zaanse Schans isn't technically an open-air museum, but it sure feels like one; rather, it's an enclave within the city of Zaandam (population ca. 75,000) where, from the mid-20th century on, a small town's worth of historic architecture – from houses to windmills – has been relocated for preservation purposes.
Now, much of the restored architecture doubles as museums of Dutch industry and crafts. The site's classic Dutch windmills are open to the public in tourist season. Several of the attractions are dedicated to food and drink: a cheese farm that produces the country's famous Gouda cheese; a bakery museum in a typical 17th-century house that churns out the local specialty of duivenkater, a sweet white bread; a distillery museum where visitors can sample artisanal liqueurs; and even a replica of the first location of the country's most famous supermarket, Albert Heijn. There's also a wooden shoe factory, a pewter foundry and a coopery, all traditional Dutch crafts.
How to Reach Zaanse Schans
From Amsterdam Central Station (CS), take the Alkmaar-bound Sprinter train to Koog-Zaandijk; Zaanse Schans is a 20-minute walk east of the station, on the other side of the Zaan River. Travel time is about 30 minutes. Another option is to take bus 391 from the north side (IJzijde) of Amsterdam CS directly to Zaanse Schans (no walk required); this takes 45 minutes.
24 Delicious Hours in Amsterdam
01 of 08
24 Delicious Hours in Amsterdam
If you find yourself with 24 hours to kill in Amsterdam, you’re in luck. The central part of the city is only 30 minutes from the airport, making it easy to cover a lot of delicious ground in this charming city. Amsterdam is easily conquered by foot, which will work up that appetite in no time. Wondering where you should eat in between seeing the sites? Amsterdam has something to whet every type of palate.
This article was written by Lia Picard. Lia Picard is a food blogger and freelance writer in Atlanta, GA. She loves to explore the local food offerings in Atlanta, but every once in awhile needs to hop on a plane and get out of town with her husband and taste the treats other cities offer. You can find her recipes and write-ups of local dining experiences at The Cardigan Kitchen.Continue to 2 of 8 below.
02 of 08
Breakfast: Pancakes! Amsterdam
First thing to do after you get off the plane? Head straight to Pancakes! Amsterdam for gloriously fluffy pancakes and carb load for the day ahead. Don’t be intimidated by the line—it moves quickly and you’ll be seated in the quaint loft-style restaurant before you know it. These pancakes are as big as your head and can be done up savory with toppings like smoked salmon and crème fraiche or sweet with bananas and chocolate. Make room for the Dutch classic poffertjes, mini puffed-up pancakes fried in butter and dusted with powdered sugar. Feel awake yet?Continue to 3 of 8 below.
03 of 08
Mid-Morning Snack: Foodhallen
Food halls… all of the cool cities are doing them and Amsterdam is no exception. Head west of downtown and stroll along Amsterdam’s funky canals taking time to notice the unique houseboats. Ideal for people who can’t commit to just one treat, or who need lots of options, Foodhallen offers food stalls with varying cuisines and dishes. For a light snack, stick to Jabugo Bar, where you can grab a paper cone filled with just Jamon Iberico imported from Spain. Foodhallen also houses clothing and art shops, too making for some good morning browsing.Continue to 4 of 8 below.
04 of 08
Lunch: Restaurant De Kas
Restaurant De Kas sits on the outskirts of town in a residential area, but it’s only a quick Uber ride away and totally worth it. How often can you dine inside a restored municipal greenhouse? With on-site gardens providing ample produce, De Kas makes good on the phrase “farm to table.” At lunch, you’ll have the opportunity to sample their small plates and entrees from the prix fixe menu. Each dish is simple, yet vibrant and presented beautifully, incorporating their home-grown produce and locally sourced meat and seafood. By the end of the meal, you’ll be full, but you may have a hard time pulling yourself away from this sunny gem.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Afternoon Pick Me Up: ‘t Blauwe Theehuis
Stretch your legs after lunch by taking a walk around Vondelpark, with an entrance conveniently located by Amsterdam’s renowned Museum Square. In the middle of the park, you’ll find t’ Blauwe Theehuis, or, the Blue Teahouse. Built in the 1930s this darling café is shaped like a flying saucer and offers ample outdoor seating on their multi-level patio. Although called a teahouse, you can order espresso beverages to pick you up out of that afternoon slump.Continue to 6 of 8 below.
06 of 08
Sweet Treat: Pompadour
After all this walking you deserve to treat yourself to something sweet. Swing by Pompadour, a confectionery sweet dreams are made of. Truffles, chocolates, marzipans, cakes…anything your sugar tooth desires can be found here. More than just a shop, though, Pompadour has a plush café for you to rest your feet while you indulge.Continue to 7 of 8 below.
07 of 08
Dinner: van Kerkwijk
Tucked behind bustling Dam Square, off a little alleyway, you’ll find the cozy restaurant van Kerkwijk serving up modern Dutch fare at an incredibly reasonable price. The tables are close together, the bathrooms are in the cellar and you can’t make a reservation. Have no fear, though, and belly up to the bar where you’ll find a nice selection of beer and wine. Once you’re seated you’ll discover the coolest thing about this joint: there’s no menu. The waiter will recite a list of options, rather impressively, considering the offerings change nightly. Trust your instinct and pick the dishes that sound most pleasing to you – if the buzz of happy patrons in the restaurant tells you anything it’s that you won’t be disappointed. The one must have that’s always available? Their French fries with traditional mayo dipping sauce.Continue to 8 of 8 below.
08 of 08
After Dinner Drinks: The Lobby
Just a few steps away from the humble van Kerkwijk is the swanky, yet somewhat hipster, The Lobby. The restaurant is aptly named—you’ll find it on the main level of the Hotel V Nesplein. Its proximity to theaters and music venues makes it an ideal stopover after dinner, but you’ll stay for the well-curated menu of cocktails. Gin & Tonics are the “thing” in Amsterdam right now and The Lobby ensures you won’t miss out with a variety of gin and tonic pairings like grapefruit and elderflower. A G&T at the Lobby makes for the perfect end to your delicious day in Amsterdam.
Top Romantic Things to Do in Amsterdam
01 of 09
See Amsterdam by Night
The magical quality of Amsterdam by night will put you in the romantic mood all by itself. Bridge lights glow in the canals and couples walk hand-in-hand along cobbled streets as they peek through the windows of stately canal houses. Evenings spent in the city, especially in the grachtengordel, or “canal belt,” offers lovers (or friends who hope to be) a shimmery scene to explore together.
To really enjoy the city nightscape, you can book a nighttime canal cruise, which are generally offered in the early evenings. From a basic nighttime to tour to elegant candlelit dinners, there is a cruise for every budget and guaranteed to impress your sweetie.
02 of 09
Take a Private Amsterdam Canal Cruise
While it will set you back more than a few euros, hiring a private boat and guide to cruise Amsterdam's canals is much more romantic than sitting next to strangers on a massive group boat.
Aboard one of the quaint “salon boats,” you and your significant other can enjoy a private dinner or just sip champagne as you float along Amsterdam's waters. Rent a Boat Amsterdam is a highly reputable local company that represents several different restored salon boats and comes highly recommended by their guests.
03 of 09
Dine in ‘Heaven’ in Amsterdam
The Ciel Bleu (French for “blue heaven”) restaurant is located on the 23rd floor of Amsterdam's Hotel Okura. Offering patrons not only a world-class Michelin starred dining experience, but also the best bird's-eye views of Amsterdam.
If dinner is just too pricey for your budget, you can still impress a date with a drink or two at the adjacent champagne and cocktail bar, “Twenty-Third,” which offers the same stunning panoramic views.
04 of 09
Stay in a Five Star Hotel
If you really want to show your special someone that s/he deserves the best, stay in one of Top Five-Star Hotels in Amsterdam. There's just something about the fine linens, elegant décor, and impeccable service that melts any stresses away.
For a fun challenge, you can even stage your own “bed-in” in the same room where John Lennon and Yoko Ono did their peaceful protest in 1969 at the Hilton Amsterdam.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Shower Your Loved One With Flowers
The bloemenmarkt (“flower market”) in Amsterdam is bursting with colorful bunches of seasonal flowers all year long. There are so many different flowers to choose from, and the prices are very fair, so why not make your stay in Amsterdam a little more romantic by displaying beautiful blooms in your hotel room?
06 of 09
Buy a Fresh Cut Diamond
That is not a typo for “fresh-cut flowers.” as Amsterdam is one of the diamond-polishing capitals of the world. and is home to the famous Coster Diamonds, the firm responsible for recutting the controversial, 5,000-year-old Kohinoor diamond, which sits in a British Royal Crown in the Tower of London today.
While you may not be able to afford a 105-carat stone fit for royalty, Coster and other diamond factories like Gassan offer free guided tours of their polishing and cutting rooms and feature showrooms filled with the sparkling fruits of their labor. So, if you are in the market for diamond earrings, or perhaps an engagement ring, look no further. However, due to the exchange rate, you may end up paying more than what you might in the United States, so keep that in mind while shopping.
07 of 09
See Amsterdam by Horse and Carriage
When you've had your fill of traversing the town, sign up for a relaxing horse and carriage ride to rest your tired feet. This is a great activity, rain or shine because you will snuggle with your sweetie under a protected canopy that shields both the sun or rain showers.
While not a cheap activity, it's a great way to get yet another view of the canals, and also a great way to escape the crowds and have some alone time.
08 of 09
Tour the Red Light District
While infamous, the Red Light District doesn't usually come to mind for romance. However, by taking a tour through this little sin city (whether alone or with a guide) you will see some Amsterdam's most beautiful canals and happening hotspots. With attractions such as the Sex Museum, the Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution, or one of the legendary coffee shops, a visit to this area will undoubtedly add some spark to your lover's vacation.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
See a Film at Pathé Tuskinski
Pathé Tuskinski is regarded as one of the most beautiful cinemas in the world. Combing both Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles, this theater makes moviegoing an affair to remember.
Showing a wide range of Hollywood hits as well as more indie arthouse films, you can relax and enjoy the show, and discuss it over dinner at a nearby restaurant, or bundle up and grab a cocktail at the Xtracold ice bar just a few blocks away.
Top 10 Things to Do in Amsterdam
01 of 10
Take a Canal Tour
No visitor should miss out on a waterborne tour of the splendid canals of Amsterdam. The canals were declared a UNESCO monument in 2010. They aren't just a picturesque attraction—they were essential to defense and transport in the 17th century. Hundreds of canals were filled in nationwide to accommodate the new mode of transport when the automobile arrived, but Amsterdam has retained 165 of its historic canals, more than any other Dutch city.
A canal tour makes for a wonderful first impression because the tour boats take in much of the monumental architecture that lines the Canal Belt, four concentric semicircles that loop around the the historic Center. Although any canal tour will be an experience to remember, the options are plentiful: hop aboard an open-top boat from the St. Nicolaas Boat Club, or charter a private boat or a special themed or catered tour.
Amsterdam's Historic Canals
Continue to 2 of 10 below.
- Amsterdam's Western Canal Belt in Pictures
- Amsterdam's Eastern Canal Best in Pictures
02 of 10
Explore Dutch Art From the Old Masters to Mondriaan
Dozens of Amsterdam museums are devoted to the fine arts, which the Netherlands has pioneered for centuries. Rembrandt, a household name, has his own dedicated museum, the Rembrandt House Museum (Museum het Rembrandthuis). Its restored interior reproduces the atmosphere of the artist's former residence, but his classic De Nachtwacht resides at the Rijksmuseum, one of Amsterdam's top museums, next to thousands of invaluable masterworks across the scope of Dutch art history.
Amsterdam promises just as much for lovers of modern art: Its most visited museum, the Van Gogh Museum, is a tribute to the post-impressionist painter whose inventive technique and sympathetic subject matter have earned him countless admirers. The Stedelijk Museum has reopened for another temporary exhibit despite its renovation and is another can't-miss destination for modern art enthusiasts. Its Erezaal (Hall of Honor) is bedecked with classic canvases from Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Yves Klein and other celebrated artists.
More Amsterdam Art Museums
Continue to 3 of 10 below.
- Amsterdam Canal House Museums
- Hermitage Amsterdam
- Cobra Museum of Modern Art (Amstelveen)
03 of 10
Remember Anne Frank and the Dutch World War II Experience
The Netherlands didn't escape the horrors of World War II. Memorials like the Dutch National Monument, the Homomonument and others commemorate the victims of this war, and three spectacular museums are devoted in whole or in part to this period.
The Anne Frank House is one such museum. Visitors can explore the secret annex where Anne hid for years with her parents, sister and three others as she composed her famous diary. Even the Gestapo soldiers who found them could scarcely believe the cramped existence these people lived out in the clandestine rooms. Brave individuals like the couple who harbored the Franks were part of the Dutch Resistance movement, and a museum is also dedicated to them: the Verzetsmuseum. It documents the tireless attempts of the resistance members to thwart the Nazis and has been voted the best historical museum in the Netherlands. The Jewish Historical Museum retells how the Holocaust devastated Jewish communities in the Netherlands and how these communities have rebuilt themselves in its wake. Few visitors are left unmoved by the powerful exhibits at these museums.
Continue to 4 of 10 below.
- Amsterdam Museum
04 of 10
Stop and Smell the Flowers
Tulips and other bulb flowers are the pride of the Netherlands, and nowhere is this more evident than at Keukenhof. The world famous bulb flower park in Lisse is 35 to 40 minutes by bus from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Stroll past rows upon rows of vibrantly hued tulips in this outdoor wonderland. Flower lovers come from far and wide to admire the seasonal blooms.
If you can't make it for tulip season, don't despair—there are other flowers year-round. The Amsterdam Tulip Museum is a temple to the Netherlands' favorite flower with exhibits that show off its manifold breeds. It revisits the cultural history of the tulip from “tulipmania” to the present. The Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market) is a complex of stalls that float atop a canal for an utterly unique experience. Specially-packed tulip and other bulbs are available for international tourists to take safely back to their home countries. There's also the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam, whose flower and plant exhibits are sure to please any botanically-inclined visitor.
Continue to 5 of 10 below.
- How to Get to Keukenhof
05 of 10
Explore De Wallen
Take a stroll in De Wallen, Amsterdam's red light district, to see what all the fuss is about … and learn that there's more to this fabled district than the sex tourism it attracts. The red-lit windows where sex workers primp are often attached to historic townhouses, and monumental architecture abounds in this sliver of the city. The Oude Kerk (Old Church) was established in 1306 and presides over its own square. Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic) is a former clandestine church sequestered in a townhouse attic. It testifies to a time when Catholic worship was forbidden—before the Netherlands became known worldwide as a beacon of tolerance. De Wallen is also home to a number of fine restaurants, and it's just a stone's throw from the diverse eateries of Amsterdam Chinatown.
And then, of course, there's the adult entertainment. The live sex shows at Casa Rosso and Bananenbar are popular with couples as well as bachelor and bachelorette parties and others, but performance reviews are ambivalent. Prostitution isn't limited to “windows.” There are also brothels and escort services that cater to more discreet clients. Be aware that prostitution in Amsterdam is not without its problems behind the scenes. Some sex workers are still coerced into the trade. Look for the “Pimp-Free Zone” stickers on window brothels for responsible fun. Take an informative tour of De Wallen with a former sex worker for a behind-the-scenes look at Dutch prostitution.Continue to 6 of 10 below.
06 of 10
Hop on a Bicycle
Just about everyone cycles in Amsterdam and not just for fun. Fifty percent of locals use their bikes daily, and rush hour bike lanes teem with office workers in suits, students headed to class, and parents with tots piled into children's seats. Join the locals for a taste of this daily ritual and discover the city on its favorite means of transport.
Rental bikes are available all over town, from inconspicuous Dutch omafietsen (also known as “Dutch bikes”) to ones that clearly hail from a rental company—an effective way of warning locals that a possibly inexperienced cyclist is at the handlebars. Specialized bike maps like the Amsterdam op de fiets map (“Amsterdam by Bicycle,” available for EUR 4 at the VVV tourist information center) are an indispensable resource for first-time cyclists in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam Bike Safety
Continue to 7 of 10 below.
- Is It Safe for Tourists to See Amsterdam by Bike?
- Top 10 Tips for Bike Safety
- Visual Guide to Bike Safety in Amsterdam
07 of 10
Taste Traditional Dutch Cuisine and That of its Former Colonies
Traditional Dutch cuisine typically consists of comfort food to warm one's insides in the cold season, which can feel eternal some years, but favorites like erwtensoep (split pea soup) and stamppot boerenkool (mashed potatoes streaked with curly kale) are eaten all year. Pancakes are treated like pizza, loaded with extras like ham and bacon. Wheels of artisanal Gouda stare out at window shoppers from the best cheese vendors, and French fries are consumed in abundance.
Sometimes it's nice to dip into more exotic fare. This is where two of the Netherlands' former colonies—vastly distant countries—come in: Indonesia and Suriname. The rijsttafel, a Dutch colonial invention that assembles dishes from all over Indonesia, is a veritable attraction in itself. Dozens of tapas-sized portions allow diners to sample a variety of Indonesian recipes.
Surinamese is a South American cuisine spiked with Afro-Caribbean, South Asian, Indonesian and Chinese flavors, courtesy of its intensely multicultural population. Surinamese eateries are typically casual affairs that dole out impossible portions for moderate prices. Both cuisines are rare outside their home countries, so the opportunity to experience them is one that shouldn't be missed.
Tastes of Amsterdam
Continue to 8 of 10 below.
- Best of Amsterdam Chinatown
- Chocolate Lovers' Guide to Amsterdam
- Best Bakeries in Amsterdam
08 of 10
Get Out of Town
I once met a woman who'd come to visit a relative in a city 40 minutes south of Amsterdam. She didn't realize until the final day of her two-week trip how effortless it is to travel between cities and towns in the Netherlands. The most populous cities are concentrated in the central west, the so-called “Randstad.” Train travel to these cities—Haarlem, Delft, Leiden and others—is a cinch. Most cities in the Randstad are less than an hour from Amsterdam by train, and hardly any city in the Netherlands is farther away than three hours. This makes the capital a convenient hub for day-trippers to anywhere in the country.
But where to start? A day trip I like to recommend to first-time visitors is Zaanse Schans, a town that's chock-full of traditional Dutch crafts and architecture. It offers six windmills, a wooden shoe workshop, a cheese farm and more. Ceramics lovers shouldn't miss the historic center of Delft where the beloved “Delft blue” porcelain is produced. The list of wonderful cities and towns to see in the Randstad alone is endless, so read up in advance to find your ideal day trip from Amsterdam.
Day Trip Resources
Continue to 9 of 10 below.
- Journey Planner for Dutch Public Transportation
- How to Reach the Keukenhof Tulip Park
- Best International Day and Weekend Trips from Amsterdam
09 of 10
Experience the Cannabis Coffeeshop Culture
Amsterdam is one of those rare places where you can purchase reputable quality weed and/or hash in a public transaction and not be branded a criminal. Almost half a million travelers come to Amsterdam each year expressly because of its cannabis coffee shops, and a quarter of all visitors step into a coffee shop at least once on their trip.
These establishments haven't turned the city into a den of depravity—far from it. For cannabis smokers, coffee shops are simply a laid-back alternative to cafes. You can relax with a joint and a cup of coffee, share a “space cake” with friends, or even have a full post-smoke meal. I find that individual coffee shops can even be attractions in themselves, not unlike small-scale museums with a focus on an alternative culture and its self-expression. Each has its own unique atmosphere and scene, and a few are veritable institutions. See my list of the top three coffee shops in Amsterdam to learn more about these industry leaders.
Amsterdam for Cannabis Smokers
Continue to 10 of 10 below.
- Amsterdam Coffeeshop Dos and Don'ts
- Cannabis-Themed Attractions in Amsterdam
- Review of Barney's Coffeeshop
10 of 10
Buy Yourself Happy at Amsterdam’s Retail Hot Spots
Amsterdam is often overshadowed as a fashion capital by the nearby sartorial stars of Paris and Antwerp, but it sure is a fun place to shop. Retail outlets line the P.C. Hooftstraat—think Prada, Gucci and Versace. Unique, independent boutiques fill the Nine Streets area. Amsterdam administers retail therapy to shoppers of all stripes.
It also has an abundant share of specialty shops from toiletries to interior decor, and my favorite: culinary delicacies. Stroll down Nieuwendijk and Haarlemmerstraat, both just minutes from Central Station, for a sample of the fine specialty food stores in town, from cheese, oil and salt specialists to international importers.
Some locals will claim that there's no better place to drop a few euros than the beloved outdoor markets of Amsterdam. From fashion and art and antiques to food, there's a market for it. Most are open year-round, but April to September is peak season thanks to the abundance of sunny days.
Amsterdam for Shoppers
- Top 10 Places in Shop in Amsterdam
- Best Affordable Gifts from Amsterdam
- Best Children's Stores in Amsterdam
Visiting a Dutch Tulip Farm
01 of 09
Siem Munster Farm Grows Tulips for Flower Markets and Produces Bulbs
A tulip time cruise in the Netherlands is a terrific spring vacation option. Dozens of river ships sail the canals and rivers of the Netherlands and Belgium from mid-March through mid-May, giving guests the opportunity to see the spectacular tulips and other bulb flowers of the region. The cruises visit great cities like Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Brussels, along with quaint villages along the waterways. However, the biggest draw for most spring visitors are the tulips, and you'll see plenty of them on one of these 7 to 10-day voyages.
The tulip cruises always include a half-day excursion to the famous Keukenhof Gardens, which are located near the Amsterdam airport. These gardens are only open for six to eight weeks each year when the bulb flowers are blooming, and farmers exhibit their best tulips hoping that amateur and professional horticulturalists will buy their bulbs. It's a colorful, amazing place to spend the day.
In addition to visiting Keukenhof and driving through the countryside to see the fields of blooming bulb flowers, it's fun to walk through the flower markets in Amsterdam to see the bundles of tulips for sale. They are so lovely, one can't help but wonder how they were packaged so perfectly! Therefore, visiting a family-owned tulip farm and observing the whole process of harvesting and preparing the tulips for sale is a great learning opportunity.
Siem Munster Family-Owned Tulip Farm
Siem Munster, his wife and four young daughters plant 30 hectares of tulips at their farm in the Netherlands. Siem's grandfather first owned the farm and his father ran the farm from 1971 to 2003, when Siem took it over.
The Munster farm, like much of the Netherlands, sits on land reclaimed from the sea, and it sits about 20 feet below sea level. The farmland looks rich today, but it certainly looked much different at the end of World War II. Three weeks before the Allies liberated the Netherlands, German soldiers bombed the dike, and this farm, along with all the surrounding reclaimed land, was flooded with sea water.
Only tulip bulbs are harvested from the Munster's fields, but they also have large greenhouses where they grow and process cut tulip flowers between the end of December and early May each year. Tulips for cut flowers are grown in greenhouses so that the farmers can control the storage temperature from the time the bulbs are harvested in the late summer until they are harvested.
During the summer harvest, the Munsters sell many of their bulbs, but put about 7 to 8 million tulip bulbs in cold storage, with the first million bulbs planted by hand in the greenhouse around the beginning of December. The tulip life cycle in the greenhouse takes about three weeks, with one million tulips processed per three-week cycle. This equates to harvesting, processing, and bundling 80,000 to 100,000 tulip stems per day during this four-month cut flower season. That's a lot of tulips, isn't it?
The Munsters have about 20 people who work each day in the greenhouses. When the work moves to the fields, the number of workers doubles. As seen in the photo above, the tulips are cut before the blossoms are fully open so that they will reach their peak when they reach the final customer, not at the wholesaler or retailer.Continue to 2 of 9 below.
02 of 09
Tulips are Harvested From Greenhouses With Bulbs Attached
At the end of the three-week growing cycle in the greenhouses, the tulips are pulled up by hand with the bulbs attached and placed on these carts. This is an important part of the process because about 1 inch of stem is surrounded by the bulb. The longer the tulip, the higher the price, and this inch adds one cent to the price of each stem. One cent doesn't sound like much, but it represents $70,000 to $80,000 each year for the farm.Continue to 3 of 9 below.
03 of 09
Greenhouse Workers Prepare the Tulips for Processing
The farm has a machine that crushes and removes each bulb but doesn't hurt the stem, leaves, or flower. The workers in this photo are preparing each stem to be passed through the bulb-crushing machine.Continue to 4 of 9 below.
04 of 09
Tulips are Lined Up for Sizing and Packaging
After the tulip stems have their bulb crushed, workers align them to be trimmed, counted, and packaged.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
The Machine Trims Tulip Stems
It is important that all the tulips be uniformly trimmed, and this machine does the trick, cutting off just a tiny portion of the stems.Continue to 6 of 9 below.
06 of 09
The Machine Sorts Tulip Stems into Batches of Ten
The entire tulip process is highly mechanized, but one of the most fascinating pieces of equipment is this tulip-bunching robot, which uses X-ray technology to make bunches of 10 tulips.Continue to 7 of 9 below.
07 of 09
Workers Bundle Tulips and Ready for Shipment to Flower Market
Workers wrap five of the ten-tulip bundles together and put them back onto a cart so they can be rolled into the cold storage until they are picked up during the night.Continue to 8 of 9 below.
08 of 09
Tulips are Stored Until Picked up and Delivered to Flower Markets
The workers are busy all day long processing the tulips. After a cart is filled, it is rolled back to the cold storage, where it is held until the truck comes during the night to pick them up for delivery to one of the Dutch flower markets. The flowers are auctioned off in the early morning and are then delivered worldwide. Tulips growing on the Munster farm one day can be at a retailer anywhere in the world the next day!Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Blooming Tulips in a Field in Holland
The photo above was taken on a previous visit to Holland in early April. The tulips only bloom for about two weeks, but you can usually see fields of them during April, depending on the weather.
What happens to the tulips grown in the fields? They are not cut and sold to the tulip markets. As discussed previously, tulips sold in the markets are grown in greenhouses, whereas tulips grown in the fields are cut off right below the bloom, preserving the leaves. This process enables all of the sun's energy to be pushed into growing a better bulb. Farmers let the flowers bloom for about two weeks so that they can inspect them for any problems or disease, thereby giving them a chance to destroy any defective bulbs. After pulling up any inferior bulbs, the tulip blossoms are cut using a machine kind of like a giant lawnmower. As noted before, only the blooms are chopped off, leaving the stem and leaves. The cut blossoms are destroyed since they have no odor, so can't be used for perfume. It is important for the farmers to remove the blooms from the fields since if they lay on the soil, molds or diseases might fester.
Late in the summer, the bulbs are harvested, using sophisticated machinery that can harvest about two hectares of bulbs per day. Before this machine was invented, it took the whole summer to dig up the bulbs by hand. Nowadays, the bulbs are planted between two layers of netting. The machine pulls up the netting and dumps the bulbs into a cart. Amazing, isn't it?