logo
1-800-590-1161ContactEarn free travel
logo1-800-590-1161
BlogDestinationsAmsterdam Travel Guide: What to do, see, eat & more
Destinations

Amsterdam Travel Guide: What to do, see, eat & more

Nov 13, 2020 by Ellie Lutes

This destination guide was created for you by our global team here at Go Ahead Tours! Whether we’re designing new trips or writing guides like this one, everything we do is handcrafted. Read on to get our staffers’ insider tips from their travels.

You’ll quickly become accustomed to the Dutch way of life (and might even feel tempted to buy a houseboat for yourself) when you travel to Amsterdam. Once you stroll over the idyllic canals, bike around the city, and taste deliciously delicate poffertjes, you’ll understand why there is so much to love about the Dutch capital.

Lucky for you, our Amsterdam Travel Guide is full of Amsterdam travel tips that will help you squeeze all the best moments out of your time in the Netherlands. From what to do in Amsterdam to the best places to visit in Amsterdam, our guide to Amsterdam has you covered for your tour!

Currency: The euro

Language: Dutch

UNESCO-listed sites: The stunning network of 17th-century canals in the city center. No surprise that the waterways are one of the top things to see in Amsterdam.

Best way to get around: By bike! There are close to 250 miles of bike paths in the city, and Amsterdam is consistently ranked one of the world’s most bike-friendly spots. Grab a helmet and get exploring—the many attractions in Amsterdam are waiting.

Amsterdam travel tips: Watch where you’re walking! Bikes have the right of way in Amsterdam and across the Netherlands. Make sure you look both ways before crossing the street and when in doubt, let all the people on two wheels pass by.

Phrase to know: Kijk uit (kike-owwt) This Dutch phrase translates to, “Watch out!” A biker may call out this phrase to give you a heads up that they’re peddling by. Just try not to get too distracted by all the beautiful canals as you make your way to and from the top places to visit in Amsterdam—if you do, you may find yourself walking or standing in a bike lane.

Img

WHEN TO TRAVEL TO AMSTERDAM

Tulip season or wintertime cheer. Sunny summer days or off-season explorations. Each season in the city brings with it a new list of things to do in Amsterdam. Our guide to Amsterdam breaks down the best time to visit the city based on what you’d like to do in this picture-perfect Dutch destination.

  • Go in springtime for tulip season. Is there anything more quintessentially Dutch than a rainbow-hued tulip field? The season to spot these beauties begins at the end of March and lasts until mid-May. If you visit during this time, add an excursion to visit the photo-worthy Keukenhof Gardens. If you’re looking for more time to enjoy tulip season, check out our Amsterdam & the Keukenhof Gardens tour. It’s specifically designed around visiting Keukenhof Gardens and the flower markets in Amsterdam.
  • Visit in December to explore the Christmas markets. These festive, annual markets in Amsterdam are a sight to see and experience. “They’re magical,” said staffer Kiley, who visited the markets on a tour of Amsterdam. “There’s mulled wine and little treats for sale everywhere, so it smells delicious”. We recommend getting up early to visit the markets. Visiting is one of the best things to do in Amsterdam during this time of year, and even the locals shop here. One other expert tip we had to add to this Amsterdam Travel Guide? Save room in your suitcase for souvenirs!
  • July for peak canal-cruising weather. Picture this: You’re boating through the canals enjoying the warm summer breeze, with a Heineken in hand. No, it’s not just a dreamy scene to add to this Amsterdam Travel Guide; this could be you on one of our tours of Amsterdam! Boarding a boat and sailing through the network of picturesque waterways is one of the top things to do in Amsterdam. Add our optional Canal Cruise & Dinner excursion to admire the houses lit up at night as you enjoy a meal with your fellow travelers.
  • The fall to feel like you have the city to yourself. This time of year is the rainy season, but there’s nothing a rain jacket and umbrella can’t fix! There will be less travelers in the off-season, which means wide-open streets and shorter lines at the top sites. Plus, some of the best things to do in Amsterdam include visiting the many world-famous museums scattered about the city. Discover the history of Amsterdam through the eyes of some of the city’s most famous figures during visits to the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum.

Shop our traveler-favorite tours of Amsterdam

Img

WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRIP TO AMSTERDAM

Packing tips are an essential part of any guide to Amsterdam. We recommend checking the forecast before you depart on one of our Amsterdam tours so you have the most up-to-date information on the temperature and weather conditions. The Netherlands is known for rain and weather that can be a bit temperamental. No matter when you go, here’s a list of what to pack so you’ll be comfortable as you spend your trip checking off everything on your list of things to do in Amsterdam.

  • An umbrella. “When I visited Amsterdam, our Tour Director stressed the importance of umbrellas to us,” said staffer Ellie. It rains 270 days of the year in Amsterdam so packing an umbrella is a must in order to make the most of your time.
  • Your favorite walking shoes. The best way to get around Amsterdam is on foot, and some of the older streets are still paved in cobblestone. That means a pair of sturdy sneakers will help prevent your feet from getting tired as you’re exploring the city.
  • A light jacket. The residents of Amsterdam have fully embraced alfresco dining. We recommend packing layers that are easy to throw on in case you’re sitting outdoors as the sun goes down and the temperature drops.

Img

THINGS TO SEE IN AMSTERDAM

Our guide to Amsterdam is full of insider tips, and that includes expert ideas about how to spend your day on tour in the city. From the top sites to see in Amsterdam to traveler-favorite experiences, here are the best things to do in Amsterdam.

  • Visit the Van Gogh Museum. “The layout of the Van Gogh Museum is incredibly visitor-friendly,” said staffer Cayleigh. “It was fascinating to learn more about the story behind the artist’s paintings. I spent hours in this museum, and will definitely go back someday!” If you’re a fan of art and knowing more about the background of Van Gogh’s work, then put this museum on your personal Amsterdam travel guide.
  • Step inside the Anne Frank House. This may go without saying, but no Amsterdam Travel Guide is complete without a mention of the Anne Frank House. Take a peek into the city’s more somber past during a moving and impactful visit to the 450-square-foot attic the Frank family lived in for almost two years. We recommend booking your tickets early—they go on sale two months in advance and will sell out. We also suggest checking out the introductory program offered by the museum. For only a few extra euros, you’ll get a lesson on the history of this landmark.
  • Stroll through Bloemenmarkt. This is the world’s only floating flower market and easily makes our list of things to see in Amsterdam. The market sits on stilts in one of the city’s canals and is filled with brightly colored flowers, rain or shine. This is a great area to pick up souvenirs to bring home with you, as they sell popular keepsakes like flower bulbs and traditional wooden clogs.
  • Take a canal cruise. The Dutch capital is known for its beautiful canals and one of our favorite things to do in Amsterdam is see the canals by boat. You’ll be able to rest your feet after all the walking while getting a lesson from your captain about why the canals are so important to the layout of the city. Admire the many houseboats docked along the water while checking off one of the best things to do in Amsterdam from your bucket list.
  • Go to Westergas. Once home to the city’s gasworks, this former industrial complex is now a booming cultural center. The city’s creative soul shines here, which is why it earned a spot in this guide to Amsterdam. Westergas is home to bars, restaurants, a cinema, a microbrewery, and many independent shops. This is the perfect place to go if you’re the type of traveler who enjoys seeking out local gems when looking for the best things to do in Amsterdam.
  • Stop and smell the tulips at Keukenhof Gardens. If you’re taking a tour of Amsterdam in the spring, you’ll want to make sure to check out the Keukenhof Gardens. The gardens are about an hour outside of the city center and stretch for as far as the eye can see—for 70 acres to be exact. Over 800 tulip varieties cover the fields and you can you can explore the showstopping display on foot or by bike.

Img

BEST THINGS TO DO IN AMSTERDAM DURING FREE TIME

Have some time on your hands during your Amsterdam tour? We have some Amsterdam travel tips that will help you make the most of your time in the city. Whether you’re looking for the top food recs or just want to enjoy some time to sit back and relax, here’s what to do in Amsterdam during your free time.

  • Walk through the 9 Little Streets. These alleyways are located in Amsterdam’s canal belt and are filled with shops, cafes, restaurants, and galleries. Each street is named after an animal, a nod to the tanning industry that once existed in the area. For example Wolvesstreet is named after a wolf, and Beerenstaat for a bear. This area offers a true chance to get a taste of everyday life in Amsterdam.
  • Take a stroll through Vondelpark just outside the canal district. This is the biggest park in the Netherlands and receives over 10 million visitors per year. But, with 120 acres of space, it will feel like you have the whole park to yourself. We recommend stopping by the store to pick up some fixings for a picnic lunch. There’s a network of ponds throughout the park, which means a waterfront view is never far.
  • Visit the Albert Cuyp Market. Located in the De Pijp neighborhood, this market has been in operation for more than 100 years. There are over 300 stalls, with shopkeepers selling everything from groceries and souvenirs, to cosmetics and incredible street food—it’s worth a visit just to try a stroopwafel.
  • Fill up at Foodhallen. If you want to have a truly local experience (and enjoy one of the top things to do in Amsterdam), visit Foodhallen. It’s close to the center canal rings so you can walk here, but far enough outside of the city center that fewer tourists visit. Here, you’ll find tons of different cuisines and drinks, which you can enjoy as you hang out, relax, and people-watch.

Img

WHAT TO EAT & DRINK IN AMSTERDAM

This is where we shine, if we do say so ourselves! Our team of travel experts is also a team of travel foodies who know what to eat in Amsterdam and where to enjoy the tastiest food and drinks. When you travel to Amsterdam and taste the delicious Dutch cuisine, you’ll understand why we’re so passionate about it—and will most likely fall head-over-heels yourself.

  • Poffertjes. These are mini-Dutch versions of pancakes. Usually served with butter and powdered sugar (although you can’t go wrong with a little Nutella, too!), they’re a tasty treat to pick up and snack on while you explore Amsterdam. You’ll also see pancake houses everywhere around the city serving full-size Dutch pancakes with cool flavor combinations. Staffer Ellie’s recommendation? The Pancake Bakery!
  • Stroopwafels. These are made with caramel served between two thin and crispy waffles, and are probably one of the most iconic foods in Amsterdam. Many airlines have even started serving them on flights over to the Netherlands. Our favorite is served at Rudi’s Original Stroopwafels in the Albert Cuyp Market. Try one placed on top of a warm mug of coffee or hot chocolate, which will melt the caramel center!
  • A pint of Heineken. Amsterdam is known for exporting Heineken beer, and you can take a tour of the Heineken Experience to see how it’s made. You can also opt to enjoy a pint (or two!) at a local bar. We recommend sitting down at a Brown Bar. These bars can be found across the city and got their names because the walls have turned brown from years of smoke. Staffer Ellie recommends checking out Café Hoppe. It’s considered a national historic venue, and is over 350 years old. Enjoy some history with your drink!
  • Patatjes. These may look like standard french fries from the U.S., but they are SO much better. Most are served in a paper cone, making them easy to enjoy while taking in the city on foot. Any place you’ll go is sure to have a massive selection of sauces to choose from, but these aren’t the typical combo of ketchup and mustard. Mayo is the go-to in Amsterdam, but you’ll find options from apple sauce to pickle sauce as well.
  • Cookies.Van Stapele Koekmakerij has some of the most INSANELY delicious cookies you’ll ever taste,” said staffer Ellie. She recommends the white chocolate wrapped in chocolate cookie dough. If you only indulge in one thing when you travel to Amsterdam, make it these. Just prepare yourself for a long line since these yummy cookies are no secret to the locals!

Img

SOUVENIRS TO BUY IN AMSTERDAM

This Dutch city is a pretty special place that you’ll want to visit again. So, why not pick up a few souvenirs from the charming city shops to keep reminding you to book your next tour of Amsterdam? Here are some of our favorite local items to bring home.

  • Tulip bulbs. Since you’re visiting the tulip capital of the world, you have to take some home! When purchasing tulip bulbs, make sure you check the package to see if it has the seal of approval for export. The rule here is, “if it doesn’t say, it’s not okay!”.
  • Delftware pottery. These pieces are iconic throughout the Netherlands. You can even add an excursion and take a day trip to Delft, where the pottery was first created. It was originally developed as a copy cat of Chinese porcelain, but is now recognized around the globe.
  • All the cheese. If you find yourself wondering what to do in Amsterdam, one of the most enjoyable ways to spend an afternoon is by sampling cheese from the many cheese shops. The most popular cheese among locals is gouda, but there are so many others to try, too! Pick some up to bring home after your tour of Amsterdam and enjoy a charcuterie board to remind you of your trip. Most stores seal each block very tightly so you should have no issues traveling with it.
Have you ever visited Amsterdam on tour? Share your favorite things to do on tour in the Netherlands on our Facebook page!

Destination guidesFree time tipsKnow before you goCity guidesPacking tips
About the author | Ellie Lutes
Ellie works with our travelers going to Asia, Africa, and the Americas to get them prepared to take off and excited to hit the road. When she isn’t working, she’s probably in the kitchen baking, or dreaming up her next trip!

Start planning a trip to Amsterdam

Grand Tour of Europe: London to Rome
16 days | 18 days with Florence extension
119
From 
$4,229*
 $3,979*
View tour
View tour

Read more Amsterdam travel tips

Travel tips
Emily in Paris filming locations you can visit in France