A Guide to Amsterdam


Hidden Gems Guide to Amsterdam, Travel Guide, Cherry Blossoms, Van Gogh

Amsterdam is well-known for their picturesque canals, iconic Dutch houses, and cafe culture. Wander by bike or on foot to explore the beautiful canals, adorable architecture, rich history, and incredible art. You will find the Dutch are friendly and have an easy-going attitude, allowing you to indulge in relaxation and enjoyment.
Venture outside Amsterdam and you will experience the raw beauty of the Netherlands. Lovely tulip gardens, historic windmills, and charming culture will leave you in high spirits.



TOP ATTRACTIONS IN AMSTERDAM


Van Gogh Museum

Step into Van Gogh's world. Explore the world’s largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh and understand how his mental health played a key role in his works.


Vincent is known as a passionate artist with powerful emotions. In Arles, Vincent painted at the height of his powers. As a true ‘colorist,' he harnessed the expressive power of color and produced bold combinations. He used color for the effective rendering of specific emotions.


Besides painting, Van Gogh also worked on fulfilling his dream of creating a ‘Studio of the South’. This would be a place for artists to live and work together.


The episode in which Vincent cut off his ear marked the beginning of his illness. His physician thought he had epilepsy, caused by too much coffee and alcohol and too little food. Nowadays the diagnosis would tend towards psychosis due to lead poisoning from paint. Further mental collapses soon followed.


Eventually, Vincent could no longer cope with living alone in the "Artist House." He had no choice but to accept the crushing reality of his illness. He had to renounce his dream of an artists’ community. In May 1889, Vincent had himself voluntarily admitted to a psychiatric institution.

The sixteen months in Arles had been an emotional roller-coaster. But in spite of its tragic ending, painting continued to give Vincent comfort and something to hold onto.



Tip: Visit the museum from 9 AM - 11 AM or after 3 PM. The busiest times are between 11 AM - 3 PM. The average visit to the museum lasts 1 hour. This allows sufficient time to properly explore the permanent collection. Many visitors spend a total of approximately 2 hours at the museum. Book tickets HERE.


Anne Frank House

Her Life | The Diary | The Secret Annex

Take a look around and discover the Secret Annex where Anne Frank hid for more than 2 years during WWII and where she wrote her well-known diary. Not being able to go outside was hard for her. Her diary was a place to vent. To brighten up the room, Anne posted photos on the wall. As a visitor, you experience her story through quotes, photos, videos, and original items.

TIP: To avoid waiting in long lines, purchase tickets in advance HERE


Rijksmuseum

Located at the heart of Amsterdam's Museum Square, the Rijksmuseum is one of the world’s most renowned art museums and a true must-see. Even if you have only a little time to spare, a walk through the Gallery of Honor will offer you a glimpse of Dutch’s finest art.


Friendship Amsterdam Canal Cruises

Experience “The Ultimate Amsterdam Experience” from the water. Book Amsterdam’s most unique adventures on one of their luxury canal cruises. Enjoy the city like a local! The tour starts behind Dam Square at the Krasnapolsky dock for a one-hour open boat canal cruise. You will see many highlights told by your hostess. You have an option to purchase tickets online HERE or on board.



Dam Square

A wide boulevard lined with souvenir shops that tops off at Dam Square. This city square is an ideal first stop while visiting the National Monument, Royal Palace, the fifteenth-century "New Church," and De Bijenkorf for shopping.


Royal Palace in Dam Square

One of King Willem-Alexander's three Netherlands residences, the Royal Palace on the Dam (Koninklijk Paleis) is the most historic and opulent palace. After a substantial renovation from 2005 to 2009, the palace re-opened for visitors to tour revolving exhibitions. Click HERE to purchase tickets.


Peruse Art at the New Church

The Gothic beauty that stands next to the Royal Palace is the fifteenth-century New Church (Nieuwe Kerk), built to alleviate the overpopulation of the Old Church (Oude Kerk). Services have since ceased and now the church acts as an exhibition space for high-profile art exhibits and organ recitals. It's also used for Dutch royal investiture ceremonies and royal weddings. Take a guided tour (available in 10 languages) to uncover the historical significance of the ancient architecture.


Nine Streets

De 9 Straatjes stands for nine cozy and picturesque shopping streets located along the Canal Belt. A delightful neighborhood brimming with unique shops, charming eateries and a great ambiance.


Coffeeshop Cafes

Many visitors go to Amsterdam to partake in their loose laws surrounding marijuana. And this city's "coffeeshops" (aka, "cannabis clubs") are world-renowned. The spacious feel, warm customer service, and the melting pot of customers—from tourists to locals and artists to business people—make any first-timer feel like they've walked into their own neighborhood bar.


Top Coffee Shops (according to The Dutch Review)

  • Boerejongens

  • Coffeeshop Amsterdam (Formerly know as Dampkring 2)

  • Tweede Kamer Coffeeshop

  • The Stud

  • Relax

  • Katsu Coffeeshop & Gallerie

  • Barney’s Coffee shop

  • The Point Coffee shop

  • 420 Coffee shop

  • Coffeeshop Pacific

  • The Original Dampkring (featured in the movie “Oceans 12”)

  • The Bulldog


The Red Light District

The Red Light District (also known as De Wallen) is probably one of the first things that would come to mind when talking about Amsterdam. It consists of a network of alleys containing approximately 300 tiny one-room cabins rented by prostitutes who offer their sexual services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated with red lights—hence the name, Red Light District. Most of the action takes place around 11 pm when the district is swarming with crowds and the red neon lights illuminate the canals.


There are more regulations today than in the past regarding regular health checks as well as increasing the legal age for sex work to 21. Despite this legal status, prostitution within the Red Light District is often still debated in the Netherlands. Many people believe that prostitution should be tolerated, regulated, and taxed, but the debate at the moment is focused on whether the Red Light District is an acceptable environment for sex workers as many of them have been harassed by tourists. Fewer sex workers are choosing to have windows within the Red Light District due to the harassment of them and their clients. As a result, you’ll see a lot of vacancies within the windows when walking around. This is why it is so important that you do not take photos of the windows as sex workers also have the right to privacy. The local government understands that drugs, sexually transmitted diseases, and trafficking can be controlled more effectively if society accepts prostitution. Surprisingly, The Netherlands has the lowest crime rates in the world.


Red Light District Walking Tour

“To see The Red Light District Amsterdam and it’s beautiful 17th-century architecture, narrows canals and old bridges that give it an enchanting character. The Red Light District Walking Tour takes you along these streets and will give you a greater understanding of the history behind this district. You will see the famous windows where the working girls try to appeal to passersby. The Red Light District Walking Tour also includes admission to Red Light Secrets, which is the only museum of prostitution in the world. There you will learn more about the history of the oldest profession in the world, have a chance to sit behind one of the windows to take pictures and experience a day in the life of a working girl.”


Heineken Experience

The Heineken Experience is one of Amsterdam’s famous attractions. Located in the center, this old factory manufactured the brand’s beer until 1988 when the main production line was moved to a larger facility outside the city due to the overwhelming demand for the product. The Heineken Experience includes an interactive self-guided walk through the factory, a Heineken tasting session, fun information about the company’s history and the Heineken logo and much more!

Book tickets HERE


Walk the Canals

With more than 60 miles of canals, this historic city features 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. Amsterdam’s intricate canal system was carefully constructed and provided aid in three key areas: immigration, defense, and trade. The three main canals (Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht) were used primarily for residential purposes. The fourth canal, Singelgracht, sits on the outside of the ring and was used for defense and water management. Canals that interconnect along the radius of the ring were used for the transportation of goods throughout the city. Herengracht is considered one of the most beautiful canals with some of the most opulent houses.


Museum Van Loon

Get a glimpse of the life of the Amsterdam Van Loon family in one of the finest canal houses of the city. Seven days a week the family opens their home and art collection to the public. Stroll through the beautiful "secret garden" after viewing the museum.

Kattenkabinet

For all my cat lovers...this is an adorable hidden gem! The Cat Cabinet specializes in art representing cats. There is an aura of specific sense humor not only in the theme of this museum but also in a way this museum has been presented to the visitor. Sculptures, paintings, posters, and books about the felines are exhibited in a serious, professional way - almost too serious not to provoke a smile on a visitor's face. Five exquisite cats live at the museum premises.


Pathé Tuschinski

This Amsterdam cinema is an art-deco masterpiece. You'll want to go see a movie here just to experience its gorgeous interior. The interior dates back to 1921 and cost 2.5 MILLION dollars to build. Just an FYI, English movies are shown in the Netherlands so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.



The Oost-Indisch Huis | East India House

The 17th century is considered Amsterdam's Golden Age when it became one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Ships sailed from Amsterdam to the Baltic Sea, North America, and Africa, as well as present-day Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, and Brazil, forming the basis of a worldwide trading network.

The East India House dates from the Dutch Golden Age. It was built in 1606 by Hendrick de Keyser and it was used as the city armory. For decades this concern dominated the global spice trade, transporting spices (wheat, tobacco, spices, salt, copper, and gold.) using large ships.


Amsterdam was Europe's most important point for the shipment of goods and was the leading financial center of the world. In 1602, the Amsterdam office of the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company), became the world's first stock exchange by trading in its own shares.

The Oost-Indisch Huis was acquired by the University of Amsterdam in 1965 and now houses the department of Sociology. It’s easy to miss the tiny doorway that leads you into the small courtyard, admiring this view. Visitors are asked to be silent as this is a workplace.


De Dierencapel Kinderboerderij

This city farm is tucked away amongst the canal houses of the charming Westelijke Eilanden. Situated on a lovely spot overlooking the water, this special little farm is home to a friendly troop of animals, most of whom roam around freely in search of food and cuddles. If you’re looking to say hi to some adorable bunnies and sheep, I definitely would add this non-touristy activity in Amsterdam to your bucket list.  It’s free to enter with the option of a donation for its volunteers. The area is absolutely beautiful with no tourists (see below).


Bickerseiland, Prinseneiland and Realeneiland

The Western Islands of Amsterdam (Westelijke Eilanden) are incredibly peaceful and feels as if you've traveled back in time. Connected by petite wooden bridges and populated by charming historic houses, the island appears as a hidden world of its own.


Photo credit | Amsterdamming


Tulip Fields in the Netherlands


Visiting Amsterdam in the spring allows you to experience the breathtaking beauty of the world-famous Dutch tulips. From mid-March to the end of May, tulips transform parts of Holland into a colorful patchwork quilt.


The best time to visit the tulip fields is in mid-April, when fully bloomed. Due to weather conditions, bloom dates can fluctuate each year. Use this website BloemenRadar.com to check up-to-date blooming forecasts.


The most popular place to see tulips are at the Tulip Festival at Keukenhof Gardens. Each year more than 7 million flower bulbs are planted in autumn to bloom in spring. A unique and unforgettable experience! Buy tickets here to avoid waiting in line.


Another option is to see authentic Dutch tulip fields, away from the tourists...for free! If you want to see the tulips in the Netherlands like a local, don’t pay for Keukenhof. It takes a small amount of effort to visit the beautiful tulip fields that are generally free to visit. (You can pay extra in some cases to enter the fields.) I recommend bringing some euros with you as smaller cafes along the way may not take credit cards.


The best place to see tulips in Holland is without a doubt in the region of The Bollenstreek, "The Bulb Region." Here, you’ll find the most amazing tulip fields your eyes will ever witness. The Bollenstreek area can be easily reached from Amsterdam.


Transportation to the Tulip Fields

The best and easiest way to see the fields is to drive. You’ll be able to see tons of fields and get away from the crowds. Of course, biking is also an option. Drive to any of the cities in the region, such as Lisse, Hillegom, Katwijk, Noordwijk, Noordwijkerhout or Teylingen to have the tulips right at your feet. This website provides a handy route to admire the tulips as you drive or bike.

You may also take a bus from Amsterdam Central to Lisse. The bus will make a stop at Schiphol Airport where you’ll switch to a different bus heading to Lisse. The journey takes approximately 50 minutes.


Note: Be aware, there are signs to not walk in the fields. Speak with the local farmers and specifically ask how far you can walk in. They just want to ensure that tourists are not trampling their precious and beautiful livelihood. Ask them questions- they are happy to tell you more about their tulips.


Fam Flower Farm | Tulip Farm

This family farm welcomes you with coffee/tea and Dutch waffles (stroopwafels) at their beautiful tulip fields near Keukenhof. Walk through these stunning fields and capture memorable photos. The owners provide bouquets of tulips along with fun accessories and props for photo opportunities. During your visit, you will hear about the process of how tulip bulbs grow and their flowering cycle.


Booking Details:

♥ Per visit, a maximum of 15 people are allowed in to maintain a peaceful feel and to capture stunning photos. ♥ Only in case of heavy rain, your visit is shifted (preferably later on the same day). Please be aware that it can be muddy on the fields so leave your high heels at home. ♥ The price is $45 per person including coffee, tea, stroopwafels and a bunch of tulips. Kids under 4 years old are free, the rate for kids between 4-12 yrs old is 20 euro. Book in advance HERE ♥ The location of the visit is near Lisse / Keukenhof (Zuid-Holland) within 7.5 miles away. You will receive the exact address a few days before your visit.




BEST PLACES TO EAT IN AMSTERDAM


Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs

Top-rated pancakes in Amsterdam! Everything about this tiny, four-table café is quintessential Amsterdam: It's set in a 16th-century house, you can only access the dining room via a narrow staircase, quirky teapots are hanging from the ceiling, and the menu consists of pancakes, only pancakes. A reservation is a must! Reserve by phone only: +31206265603.



Greenwoods Singel

Greenwood was founded in 1988 and was Amsterdam’s first English tea room. Its unique blend of high quality and fresh local ingredients make this a perfect stop for breakfast! No reservation needed.


Gartine

Tucked away in a narrow alley, Gartine serves traditional organic-egg-centric dishes for breakfast and high tea favorites at lunchtime. The produce all comes from the restaurant’s own garden and the desserts are all made by hand on-site. It’s best to call ahead to reserve one of the ten tables. I highly recommend the French Toast!

Note: Accepts cash only.



Bakers & Roasters

New Zealand style cafe served with a heavy dose of Brazil. The open kitchen produces all your favorite brunch dishes, fresh fruit salads, and baked goods all day long. All of our cakes are made in-house and our Ozone coffee is always served as doubles. Try the Banana Nut French Toast and Navajo Eggs.


Zaza's

A small intimate restaurant with just 12 tables serving an international menu influenced by France, The Mediterranean, and Asia. Creating homemade culinary delights with their menu changing every 3 months. Make an online reservation HERE.


Toastable Koingsplein

Delicious triple layered toasted sandwiches made with traditional Dutch ingredients.


De Laatste Kruimel

A cozy little bakery with homemade sweet and savory pastries, freshly brewed coffee, savory quiche. High recommend!

Coffee in Amsterdam, Coffee Cafes, Travel Guide to Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Winkel 43

Rated one of the best Apple Pies in the world!


The Happy Bull

Serving specialty homemade hamburgers and creamy milkshakes made from Italian ice cream.



ACCOMMODATIONS IN AMSTERDAM


Entire apartment between vondelpark and museum.

From $85/night

Superhost, 1 bedroom, 2 beds, modern bath, kitchen, lounge area.


Renovated apartment in Amsterdam.

From $87/night

Superhost, entire apartment has 1 bedroom, 1 bath, kitchen, dining room, and living room.


Central apartment (garden + 2 bikes).

From $113/night

Superhost, entire apartment has 1 bedroom, 1 bath, kitchen, and lounge area.


Stylish large studio apartment Westerpark, Jordan.

From $120/night

Superhost, self check-in, breakfast included. Entire apartment has 1 bedroom, 1 bath, kitchen, and lounge area.


CLICK HERE TO USE MY AIRBNB LINK TO RECEIVE $40 OFF YOUR FIRST TRIP! IF YOU ALREADY HAVE AN AIRBNB ACCOUNT, YOU CAN SIGN UP WITH A NEW EMAIL AND STILL RECEIVE THE DISCOUNT



TRANSPORTATION


Travelling within Amsterdam by public transport is straightforward and convenient. The extensive network is operated by GVB and connects the city's neighborhoods by train, tram, metro, bus and ferry. Explore like the locals by bike or on foot.


As the GVB covers three modes of public transport—metro, tram, and bus—you only need one ticket to access them all. You can buy tickets at all metro stations. Tram and bus operators can sell one hour, one day, or 48-hour tickets but they don't accept cash payments. 

  • A one-hour GVB Chipkaart costs 3.20 euros

  • 24 hours costs 8 euros

  • 48 hours is 13.50 euros

  • four days is 24.50 euros

  • five days is 29.50 euros

  • six days costs 33.50 euros

  • one week is 36.50 euros


You can either buy a paper or plastic card; the plastic card is recommended for any time period longer than a day (as it’s more resilient than paper). With the plastic card, you can load it with time-based tickets, such as a week ticket, or with credit. For cards loaded with credit, you must tap in and out on buses and trams to avoid being overcharged. 


Riding a Bike in Amsterdam

One of the easiest and most affordable ways to travel around Amsterdam is by bike. The city is set up with separate bike lanes on larger roads, so it’s not as daunting as it looks. There are a few bike rental companies in the city like Mac Bike, Good Bicycle, and Black Bikes.


Be sure to keep as far to the right as possible in bike lanes, stop at red lights (even if the locals don’t), use your bell to signal to pedestrians (tourists have a habit of unknowingly wandering into bike lanes), and look out for tram lines. When you encounter one, be sure to cross the tracks diagonally or horizontally or your wheel could get stuck, causing you to fall off. 


Free Shuttle Ferries

The GVB runs 14 different ferries that travel from Amsterdam over the water to Amsterdam-Noord, every day, 24 hours a day. The ferries run every two to 30 minutes, depending on the route and time of day. You can take your bicycle onto the ferries, allowing you to explore Noord on two wheels. All the routes are available on the GVB website.


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