Top tips for visiting Amsterdam

The next stop on our Best of Europe tour takes us to Amsterdam, still beaming from the long-awaited reopening of its iconic Rijksmuseum. Here are our top tips for making the most of the Netherlands' most visited city.
Typical canal view in Amsterdam: Top tips for visiting Amsterdam.
Typical canal view in Amsterdam. Photo: Shutterstock

Amsterdam is one of the friendliest and most romantic cities in Europe. Its canals delight, its museums impress, yet it’s also an edgy city known for its liberal views. It is, in short, a charismatic city like no other.

Here are our top tips for visiting Amsterdam...

Read more Weekend in Amsterdam

Start the day early

If you want to see the top attractions, including Anne Frank's House and the Van Gogh Museum, it’s better to get up early and arrive maybe 20–30 minutes before the doors open. It may seem like a long wait, but it won’t be as long as you would have if you arrived an hour later.

Pack for all seasons

No matter what the weather forecast says, for Amsterdam it’s best to pack assuming you may well experience all four seasons over the course of a few days. Take both sunscreen and an umbrella in summer, and plan to dress in layers at any time of year. Nights can be cold, so be ready with a sweater, even in summer.

The famous Rijksmuseum. Photo: Shutterstock

Choose your dates

There are lots of fun festivals and events in Amsterdam throughout the year, so check what’s happening when you’re thinking of visiting. If you can adjust your dates to coincide with an event, whether it’s Gay Pride or the King’s Birthday, do it. Amsterdammers know how to have a good time.

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Allow time for shopping

Allow yourself time not just for regular street shopping, but when visiting museums too. The Rijksmuseum shop is huge and carries unusual items that the museum has commissioned from local designers, while the Van Gogh Museum shop is equally impressive with creative and tasteful items among the predictable fridge magnets and postcards.

Amsterdam's Gay Pride. Photo: Shutterstock

Master public transport

Although it’s easy to see Amsterdam on foot, and you can walk across the city centre in 30 minutes, when the skies open and it starts raining you’ll be glad you picked up that public transport map at the tourist office. And buying your public transport chip card in advance is one of the best tips for visiting Amsterdam.

Try a variety of dining

Don’t stick to what you know you like to eat. There’s an incredible range of eating experiences to be had in Amsterdam, so try them. Save a bit of money one day by eating street food like haring (herring) or friet (French fries) smothered in mayonnaise. Then splurge the next day with dinner at one of the city’s Michelin-starred restaurants. In between, there’s good, inexpensive food to be had in some of the brown cafés, where you’ll also get a great atmosphere. And try at least one Indonesian meal too.

Research your accommodation

Amsterdam has a wide choice of places to stay, from budget hostels to five-star opulence. It also has some absolutely wonderful historic canalside buildings that have been converted into accommodation, sometimes boutique and sometimes basic. But before booking into one of those historic buildings, check where your room is and if there’s a lift. Some people may find it difficult when they discover they are on the fourth floor and there isn't one!

Do try the herring in Amsterdam! Photo: Shutterstock

Buy a book: Berlitz: Amsterdam Pocket Guide

Read more: Weekend break in Amsterdam