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* Amsterdam is replacing older sewage plants by a single modern plant, in the port zone. Connecting existing sewers to the new plant requires long main sewers, and the use of '''sewage booster pumps''' - a new technique at this scale. The new booster pump stations are a unique type of building, designed by separate architects. The three complete pumps are located at Klaprozenweg in the north, on Spaklerweg (just east of the A10 motorway), and beside and under Postjesweg, in the Rembrandtpark.
 
* Amsterdam is replacing older sewage plants by a single modern plant, in the port zone. Connecting existing sewers to the new plant requires long main sewers, and the use of '''sewage booster pumps''' - a new technique at this scale. The new booster pump stations are a unique type of building, designed by separate architects. The three complete pumps are located at Klaprozenweg in the north, on Spaklerweg (just east of the A10 motorway), and beside and under Postjesweg, in the Rembrandtpark.
 
In 2010 the '''National Film Board of Canada''' produced an online documentary called ''Out My Window'' [http://highrise.nfb.ca/outmywindow]. It provides a unique view of high-rise life in Amsterdam through interactive photo panoramas.
 
  
 
===Windmills===
 
===Windmills===

Revision as of 23:57, 30 December 2010

Amsterdam at night
Amsterdam is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — have a look at each of them.

Amsterdam [1] is the capital of the Netherlands with impressive architecture, lovely canals that criss cross the city, great shopping, and friendly people who nearly all speak English well. There is something for every traveller's taste here, whether you prefer culture and history, serious partying, or just the relaxing charm of an old European city. Amsterdam has over a million inhabitants in the urban area, and is in the Province of North-Holland. Amsterdam is not the seat of government (which is in The Hague), but it is the biggest city and the cultural and creative centre of the Netherlands.

Contents

Districts

City center

Districts of Amsterdam
Old Center
The oldest and most visited area of Amsterdam, known for its traditional architecture, canal tours, shopping and many coffeeshops. Most evolves around Dam Square, but the area around Nieuwmarkt is also interesting, as it is the home of Chinatown and the Red Light District.
Canal Ring
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this historical district is among the wealthiest of the country with plenty of Dutch celebrities owning property here. Rembrandt Square and Leiden Square are the city's prime nightlife spots.
Jordaan
A traditional working class area gone upmarket with plenty of art galleries, hip boutiques and happening restaurants. Also includes the Haarlemmerbuurt and the Western Islands.
Plantage
Intended to be an extension of the Canal Ring, lack of demand made this into a leafy area with lots of greenery, botanical gardens and Artis Zoo.

Outer districts

South
A trip to Amsterdam is not complete without a visit to the Museum Quarter. It's also recommended to chill with a bottle of wine in the Vondelpark at a warm day, or to go hunting for bargains at the Albert Cuyp Market. It is the most popular area for accommodation as rates are considerably cheaper than in the city center, but you can get there within 15 minutes.
West
A vast suburban area that can be divided in the Old West and the New West. The Old West is a charming area built in the 19th century. The New West dates from after World War II and often catches newspaper headlines for crime; urban renewal is underway to improve living conditions in the area.
North
North is a newly-built suburb, at the northern side of the IJ estuary. East of motorway A10 lies Waterland, a protected polder area similar to the Waterland and Zaan Region. It's a great way to explore the traditional Dutch countryside (by bicycle of course!).
East
The East is a large residential area that mostly evolves around the Oosterpark. IJburg is also interesting for its modern architecture and artificial beach.
Bijlmer
An exclave of Amsterdam, separated from the rest of the city by Diemen and Duivendrecht, the Bijlmer was foreseen as a town of the future for middle-class families. It turned into a lower-class residential district home to people of over 150 nationalities, often associated with crime and robberies. It has improved remarkably the last years but it still is an area only for adventurous travelers (and football fans).

Understand

Orientation

The "Amsterdam" that most visitors experience is the city centre, the semi-circle with Central Station at its apex. It corresponds to the city as it was around 1850. Five major concentric canals ring the Old Center; the Singel, the Herengracht, the Keizersgracht, the Prinsengracht, and the Singelgracht, together forming the Canal Ring. Other districts inside the city center are the Jordaan, a working-class area gone upmarket, and Plantage, a leafy and spacious area known for its zoo and botanical gardens. The roads Nassaukade, Stadhouderskade, and Mauritskade surround the center and mark the location of the former city moat and fortifications. Almost everything outside this line was built after 1870.

The semi-circle is on the south side of the IJ, often called a river but more exactly is an estuary. Going east from Central Station, the railway passes the artificial islands of the redeveloped Eastern Docklands. North of the IJ is mainly housing, although a major dockland redevelopment has started there too.

The river Amstel flows into the city from the south. Originally, it flowed along the line Rokin-Damrak. The dam in the Amstel, which gives the city its name, was located under the present Bijenkorf department store. The original settlement was on the right bank of the Amstel, on the present Warmoesstraat: it is therefore the oldest street in the city. The city has expanded in all directions, except to the north of the ring motorway. The region there, the Rural North, is a protected rural landscape of open fields and small villages that could be considered as part of the Waterland region.

The radius of the semicircle is about 2 km. All major tourist destinations, and most hotels, are located inside it or just outside it. As a result, much of Amsterdam is never visited by tourists: at least 90% of the population lives outside this area. Most economic activity in Amsterdam — the offices of the service sector, and the port — is on or outside the ring motorway, which is four to five kilometers from the centre.

The expansion of Amsterdam outside this beltway, and the expansion of activity outside the old centre, is redefining what locals consider the 'central area' of Amsterdam. Without a doubt the most popular district outside of the city centre is South for its quality museums and gentrified neighbourhood 'De Pijp'.

Attitudes

Many people choose to visit Amsterdam because of its reputation for tolerance, although part of this reputation is attributable to cultural misunderstandings. Prostitution is legalized and licensed in the Netherlands, and in Amsterdam it is very visible (window prostitution), and there are large numbers of prostitutes. The sale, possession, and consumption of small quantities of cannabis, while technically illegal, is tolerated by authorities (the policy of gedogen). This does not mean that you can get away with anything in Amsterdam. In any case, public attitudes and official policy have hardened in recent years. For more on coffee shops and drugs, see below in Stay safe.

Depending on your viewpoint some people will consider Amsterdam an unwholesome city whereas other people will find their relaxed attitudes refreshing. If you avoid the red light district, Amsterdam is an excellent family destination.

Most people in Amsterdam, young or old, seem to speak at least some conversational English.

Climate

Amsterdam is a large city and a major tourist destination, so you can visit it all year round. However, in winter the days are short (8 hours daylight around Christmas), and the weather may be too cold to walk around the city comfortably, let alone cycle. January and February are the coldest months, with lows around -1°C and highs around 5°C. July and August are the warmest months, with an average temperature of 72°F (22°C). Some things are seasonal: the tulip fields flower only in the spring, and Queen's Day (Koninginnedag) is always on 30 April, unless it falls on a Sunday. Queen Beatrix was actually born on 31 January, but since January is very cold, the celebrations are held on the day she became the queen of the Netherlands, which is also the birthday of her mother, Juliana.

Get in

By plane

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (IATA: AMS) (ICAO: EHAM) [2] is one of the busiest airports in the world, situated 15 km south-west of the city. Jet2.com [3], Easyjet [4], and other low-cost carriers serve Schiphol, providing a fairly economical way to city-hop to Amsterdam from other spots in Europe. As Amsterdam is a very popular destination, the cheapest tickets may be gone, and in that case a traditional carrier might be cheaper. So it pays to check a number of airlines before booking, to get the best deal. The national carrier for the Netherlands is KLM [5], now merged with Air France. With partner Delta Air Lines [6] they offer worldwide connections. The US, Asia and Europe are particularly well served at Schiphol. British Airways offer up to 15 flights per day to 3 London Airports; Heathrow, Gatwick and London City

For very frequent visitors to Amsterdam (6 or more times a year) it may be useful to invest in a Privium [7] card. This is available to EU passport holders only, but allows you to cut the queues at passport control. Instead of showing your passport you go to a special lane with an iris scanner, this will save a significant amount of time if the passport lines are long. Cost is currently €115 + €65 for a partner.

When leaving Amsterdam, give yourself enough time to get to your plane and through security (especially when flying to the United States)! Schiphol is a large airport - be there at least one hour in advance. If you have time to kill, drop into the Rijksmuseum's Schiphol branch, between E and F Pier (non-Schengen area airside), which is free and open 7AM-11PM daily.

Coin-operated storage lockers are located along the main hallway through the transit/departure area, across from the start of the E wing. €5 per 24 hours, maximum one week. [8]

Schiphol by train

From Schiphol there is a direct train[9] to Amsterdam Central Station, for €3.80 (or €7.00 for same-day return), in 20 minutes. Buy the ticket from the machine (yellow with blue writing); if you purchase your ticket at the counter you will pay €0.50 extra. Not all machines accept credit or debit cards. The train station at Schiphol is located underground, under the main airport hall; trains to Amsterdam Central Station usually run from platform 3.

A new national ticketing system is in the process of being introduced, based on a contactless chipcard, which is currently valid in Amsterdam's public transport system and nationwide in the train. A train journey from Schiphol to Amsterdam is slightly cheaper using this card, €3.50, but it might not be interesting for tourists unless you already own one: a card costs €7.50, and you have to have at least €20 on it to be able to travel by train. The old system will be used in conjunction for the foreseeable future. See the section in the Netherlands article.

There are 4 to 5 trains per hour between Schiphol and Amsterdam in peak times. Trains run all night, although between 1AM and 5AM only once an hour. The price and duration of the journey are the same as during the day.

Watch out for pick-pockets and baggage thieves: a common trick is a knock on your window to distract you, so that an accomplice can steal your luggage or laptop. Another one is to have an accomplice jam the doors and then to steal your luggage. The thief jumps out and the door immediately closes, making it impossible to catch them. However, in recent years, railway police have made a great effort to reduce this sort of crime; nowadays it is at 'normal', big-city like levels.

Schiphol by local transport

If you are desperately trying to save money or are staying near Leidseplein, you could use local transport from Schiphol to central Amsterdam. A trip takes about thirty minutes and leads directly to the south-west of the centre of Amsterdam (namely Museumplein and Leidseplein). The price depends on which bus you take: on local bus 197 the trip would cost you €2.35 to Leidseplein using the OV-chipkaart (see below), or €4.00 on board; on "interliner" bus 370 (an express bus, although in this case the local bus is equally fast) you pay €3.00 using the OV-chipkaart, or €3.80 on board.

Bus 197 currently runs every 15 minutes for most of the day, daily from 5:01AM till midnight; bus 370 runs every hour during the day and every 30 minutes during peak hours. From midnight till 5AM, night buses run to and from the airport. If you don't want to change buses, take either night bus N97 or N72 (both €3.50). These buses run once an hour, within about 15 minutes of each other unfortunately.

Schiphol by taxi

Do not use a taxi unless there is no alternative; travel to Schiphol by train or by bus, if possible. Taxis from Schiphol are expensive and priced unexpectedly. You pay around €7.50 (as of Oct 08) as a minimum charge and that includes the first two kilometers. Then the meter starts racing. The ride costs about €40-50 to go to, say, the Leidseplein. Depending on the time of day and traffic levels, it could take only 25 minutes. If you're unlucky, it could take twice as long. Choose the nicest cab as that driver is more likely to be reputable. You don't have to pick the first taxi in line.

Schiphol, other modes of transport

The Connexxion Hotel Shuttle [10] serves over 100 city center hotels, with 8-seater shared van departures about every 30 minutes between 6 AM and 9 PM, cost to most city center destinations €14.50/22.50 one-way/return -- more convenient than the train if you have heavy luggage and still cheaper than a taxi. Buses depart from platform A7 and can be reserved for the trip back from +31-38-3394741.

If you plan to rent a car for the duration of your stay, Schiphol has several car rental companies on site [11]. Typical opening hours are 06:30 to 23:00 daily (some are open longer, 06:00-23:30). The car rental desk can be found in Schiphol Plaza, on the same level as the arrival halls. The A4 motorway leads straight from Schiphol to the Amsterdam ring road A10, in about 10 minutes.

If you decided to bring your bicycle on the plane with you, there is a 15-kilometer sign-posted bike route from the airport to Amsterdam. Turn right as you leave the airport terminal: the cycle path starts about 200 metres down the road. There is a map of the cycle paths around Schiphol available on this PDF (green lines are cycle paths).

Other airports

Using airports other than Schiphol could prove cheaper in some cases, as some budget airlines fly to Eindhoven and Rotterdam Airports. Then buses and trains can be used to get to Amsterdam. Renting a car is also an option. A taxi is not advisable, from Rotterdam to Amsterdam a taxi would cost €130, and from Eindhoven even more.

From Eindhoven Airport (IATA: EIN, ICAO: EHEH) [12] take a local bus (Hermes bus 401, duration about 25 minutes, frequency about four times per hour, €3.20 on board or €1.95 using a 15 strippenkaart) to the train station, from there take a train to Amsterdam (duration 1:20 hour, frequency four times per hour, single €17.50). Alternatively, take the express bus directly from the airport to Amsterdam central station, which takes 2:15 hours. This service goes only 3 to 4 times per day; see their website for a schedule. The ticket price is €26 for a single or €42 for a return [13].

From Rotterdam The Hague Airport (IATA: RTM, ICAO: EHRD) [14] ("Zestienhoven") take a city bus (RET "airport shuttle" bus 33, duration 25-30 minutes, frequency every 10-20 minutes, €2.50 on board or €1.38 using the OV-chipkaart) to Rotterdam Centraal train station, from there take a train to Amsterdam (duration about an hour, frequency every 10-20 minutes, single €13.30).

Schiphol airport is 11km from the centre of Amsterdam in a straight line, Rotterdam is 57km and Eindhoven is 107km. Other airports that could possibly be used are:

  • Groningen Airport Eelde (142km) (IATA: GRQ) [15]
  • Maastricht Aachen Airport (173km) (IATA: MST) [16]
  • Weeze Airport in Germany (121km) (IATA: NRN) [17]
  • Antwerp International Airport in Belgium (135km) (IATA: ANR) [18]
  • Brussels Airport in Belgium (167km) (IATA: BRU) [19]

By train

Sign for Platform 2b at Amsterdam Railway Station
Train stations in Amsterdam (in orange; centre in bright orange). Black lines: railways. Red lines: metro lines.

Most trains arrive and depart from Amsterdam Centraal Station (with one extra 'a' in Dutch), located between the old centre and the IJ waterfront. Other train stations are Duivendrecht, Bijlmer-ArenA, Amstel, Muiderpoort (all southeast), RAI, Zuid-WTC (both south), Lelylaan and Sloterdijk (both west). Schiphol airport also has its own train station, which functions as a major hub within the Netherlands. It has at least seven trains an hour to Amsterdam Central, with additional trains going to other Amsterdam stations.

Direct international trains run to Brussels (which is two and a half to three hours away and connects with Eurostar trains to London St Pancras and Ebbsfleet (Kent) in England), Paris, Cologne, Frankfurt, Berlin, Copenhagen, Milan, Zurich, Vienna, Prague and Moscow. See NS Hispeed [20] for an international journey planner for trains into/out of the Netherlands.

By bus

Most international bus services are affiliated to Eurolines, which has a terminal at Amstel Station (train station, metro station 51, 53, 54, tram 12). One bus per day is usually the maximum frequency on these routes. There are other international bus services, but they are often aimed at very specific markets, e.g. Polish migrant workers. There are almost no long-distance internal bus services in the Netherlands, and none to Amsterdam.

By car

The western part of the Netherlands has a dense (and congested) road network. Coming from the east (Germany), the A1 motorway leads directly to Amsterdam. On the A12 from Arnhem, change at Utrecht to the A2 northbound. From the south (Belgium), the A2 goes directly to Amsterdam: the A16 /A27 from Antwerp via Breda connects to the A2 south of Utrecht. From The Hague, the A4 leads to Amsterdam. All motorways to Amsterdam connect to the ring motorway, the A10. From this motorway, main roads lead radially into Amsterdam (the roads S101 through S118).

In most cases, you should want to avoid going to the city centre by car: traffic is dense and parking spaces are expensive and nearly impossible to find. Instead, when on the A10, follow the signs to one of the P+R-spots (P+R Zeeburg to the east, P+R ArenA and P+R Olympisch Stadion to the south, P+R Sloterdijk to the west). Here, you can park your car, and take public transport to the city centre, for a single fare. There are also a few places a short walk from outer tram stops to park for free.

The speed limit on Dutch motorways is 120 km/h, except where indicated. On the A10 ring motorway around Amsterdam, the maximum speed is 100 km/h, and 80 km/h on the Western section. These limits are strictly enforced and there are many speed cameras.

By sea

The maritime Passenger Terminal Amsterdam is close to the city centre but is only for cruise ships. The nearest ferry port is IJmuiden (ferry from Newcastle upon Tyne) with DFDS Seaways, who offer a daily overnight ferry services from Newcastle-upon-Tyne (North Shields) in the United Kingdom see [21] (official site). 125km away by car there is a ferry terminal at Rotterdam Europoort (ferry from Kingston Upon Hull), and Hook of Holland (ferry from Harwich). it's about 80 km by the road to Amsterdam by the most direct route. Hook of Holland has an train station. Take the train to Schiedam or Rotterdam CS and from there a train to Amsterdam.

Get around

Metro line works

Amsterdam Metro/Sneltram Map

A big project started in 2003 to build a new underground metro line to connect the north of Amsterdam with the south (the Noord/Zuidlijn or North/Southline). The project has proved somewhat of a disaster for the city government with big budget overruns and delays. Building in the wet underground of Amsterdam is difficult and some buildings along the line have sustained damage due to subsidence. For the visitor to Amsterdam, the only thing to note are the ongoing roadworks along the route of the metro line. Underground metro stations are still being built or finished and cause parts of roads to be blocked off for cars, busses and trams, often for the duration of months or longer. Usually you can pass on foot or bicycle. Currently (2010), in the city centre, building work is taking place at Central Station, Damrak, Rokin and Vijzelgracht/Weteringcircuit.

On foot and bike

Amsterdam's centre is fairly small, and almost abnormally flat, so you can easily get to most tourist destinations on foot - from the train station, within half an hour.

A pleasant way to cover a lot of ground is to rent a bicycle. There are approximately 750,000 people living in Amsterdam and they own about 600,000 bicycles. The city is very, very bike-friendly, and there are separate bike lanes on most major streets. In the city centre, however, there is often not enough space for a bike lane, so cars and cyclists share narrow streets. Cyclists do not have the right of way even though it might appear so when observing the typical Amsterdammer's cycling behaviour. Be very careful and cycle defensively, also watch out for other cyclists. If not indicated otherwise by signs, the right-before-left rule applies. Avoid getting your tire in the tram rails; it's a nasty fall. Always cross tram rails at an angle. When crossing tram lanes, watch out for fast approaching taxis. They have a rather ruthless driving style. Let none of the above deter you from doing it the Amsterdam way! Rent a bike! There are bike rental shops at stations, and several others in and around the city centre. Bikes cost about € 9 to € 20 per day. (Bring wet gear.)

A good map for cycling (routes, repairs, rentals + also public transport) is Amsterdam op de fiets (a Cito-plan). When preparing a route, there's a digital bicycle route-planner for Amsterdam, see Routecraft.com [22]

Bicycles can be taken for free on all ferries across the IJ, and on all metros and some carriages of tram 26 using the bike supplement fee (€1.50 in 2010) on the OV chipcard. Use the special bike racks, locations indicated by a bicycle sign on the outside of the carriage.

Make sure to get a good lock (or two), and to use it. Amsterdam has one of the highest bicycle theft rates in the world, see the Netherlands page. Note also that if buying a bike, prices that seem too good to be true are stolen bikes. Any bike offered for sale to passers-by, on the street, is certainly stolen. There's an old Amsterdam joke; When calling out to a large group cyclists passing by; "Hey, that's my bike!" about five people will jump off "their" bikes and start running.

  • MacBike Bicycle Rental [23]. Perhaps the most ubiquitous bicycle rental agency in Amsterdam, their bicycles are painted red with a MacBike sign on the front, everyone will know you're visiting. The bicycles are reliable, and in very good condition. Several locations around the city centre for assistance or repairs. Online bicycle reservations at their website.
  • Orangebike, Rentals & Tours [24]. Their bikes are not so obvious coloured, more discrete, reliable and sturdy. Even the typical Dutch Grandmother bikes are available at Orangebike. Every day you could go on the 3 hour historical city tour and discover the hidden treasures by bike for €19.50 only. Online reservations on their website.
  • Frederic site map Bike, insurance, bags, locks, and children seats all included for €10 a day. Extremely close to central station. Bikes are offered "incognito", for the discerning guest who does not want to appear "touristy".
  • Damstraat Offer daily to weekly rentals. Have promotions in place with several hotels for "discount tickets", ask at the front desk. €12.50 for the first 24 hours, insurance included. Offers repairs for your bike and new and used bike sales.
  • Het Zwarte Fietsenplan [25]. Het Zwarte Fietsenplan rents traditional Dutch bikes. Tourists that rent bikes here will be able to explore Amsterdam as a local; not as a tourist. On a traditional black bike. The same on which the rest of Amsterdam is riding. There are no bright red, yellow, blue or orange bikes in their shops. There are 3 locations throughout the city centre and the shops have long opening hours, 7 days a week. Also rents out cagobikes for kids.

The bicycle is ideal for exploring the surrounding countryside. Within half an hour you're out of town. Go North, take the ferry across the IJ to Waterland. Or go South, into the Amsterdamse Bos (a giant park), or follow the river Amstel where Rembrandt worked. You can also take your bike on the metro (with a reduced fare ticket, see public transport gvb.nl [26]) to end of line Gaasperplas, and cycle along rivers and windmills to old fortified towns like Weesp , Muiden and Naarden.

Public transport

Public transport within the city is operated by the GVB (Gemeentevervoerbedrijf [27]). The tram (18 lines) is the main form of public transport system in the central area, and there are also dozens of (night-)bus routes. Regional buses, and some suburban buses, are operated by Connexxion [28] and Arriva [29]. All tram stops have a detailed map of the system and the surrounding area. You can also get a free public transport map at the GVB Tickets & Info offices (just outside Centraal Station).

There is a four line metro, including a short underground section in the city centre, that serves the neighborhoods of the South East. It takes 15-20 minutes from Centraal Station or Waterlooplein to the Bijlmer (Amsterdam Arena stadium, Heineken Music Hall and Pathe Arena cinema and IMAX). A fifth metro line, the north/south line, is currently under construction.

A fun way to travel is the GVB Stop/Go minibus [30] that runs every 12 minutes between the Oosterdok, via Centraal Station and Leidseplein to the Waterlooplein. It follows the Prinsengracht and has no fixed stops; flag it down to stop. One-euro tickets are available from the driver, but GVB day passes are also valid.

A new national ticketing system has recently been introduced, based on a contactless card, called OV-chipkaart ("Public Transport chip card"). Since 3 June 2010, the old 'strippenkaart' system has been abandoned on all forms of public transport in Amsterdam, making the chipkaart the only valid way of travelling in Amsterdam. To travel with a card, one has to check in at the start of the journey and check out at the end by holding the card in front of the card reader.

Three types of OV-chipkaart are available:

  • a personal card on which you can load weekly/monthly/yearly subscriptions
  • an anonymous card on which you can load money which can be spend on public transport
  • a disposable card which can be used for a limited number of hours/trips only

The first two types carry a fee of €7.50 for the card itself, and you have to have at least €4 on it to be able to travel. The OV-chipkaart can be obtained from GVB vending machines in all metro stations, from the desks at some bigger stations (including Centraal Station) and some shops (see this map).

For tourists, the most useful type of travel pass is probably the 24/48/72/96/120/144/168 hour ticket. This allows the holder to travel on an unlimited number of journeys on the tram, metro and (night)bus throughout the validity period of the pass. On a tram, only the 24 hour ticket is available. These passes are also available at tourist offices (located at Schiphol airport and just outside Centraal Station), AKO bookstores in Schiphol Airport and Centraal Station, many hotels and GVB Tickets & Info. Day passes are not valid on busses operated by Connexxion and Arriva. Prices as of Jan 2010: €7/24 hours, €11.50/48 hours, €15.50/72 hours, €19.50/96 hours, €23/120 hours, €26/144 hours and €29/168 hours. If you stay longer in Amsterdam, you can buy discounted weekly or monthly tickets from most post offices or other ticket sale points which are cheaper. GVB tickets are not valid on trains to Schiphol airport. You can use them on buses to Schiphol but it's usually quicker to get there by train. For current information on the Dutch Public Transportation-system ('Openbaar Vervoer' or O.V. in Dutch/NL) check online Openbaar Vervoer (O.V.).

Most trams these days have conductors, near the rear of the tram. Board by the driver or the conductor. If you have questions, the conductor will be sure to respond to your query. You can also buy one-hour and 24-hour tickets at the conductors. Enter buses only via the front door.

There are several free ferry services across the IJ river, to Amsterdam North, the most frequent runs every seven minutes. They all leave from a new jetty on the northern (rear) side of Centraal Station. The nicest one is the fifteen minute service to NDSM Werf, a funky, up and coming, industrial neighborhood with a nice cafe-bar (IJkantine) restaurant (Noorderlicht), indoor skateboard park, and the Pancake Boat (Pannekoekenboot) which sails many times each week. Ferries leave every 30 minutes from Centraal Station and from NDSM Werf. Double frequencies during rush hours.

Trains

For journeys outside the city, the train is usually the best option. Besides some exceptions, all trains in the Netherlands are operated by the Nederlandse Spoorwegen [31] (NS, "Dutch Railways"). Their website has English-language information.

Ticket machines are the standard way to buy a ticket, it costs 50 cents extra to buy a ticket at ticket counters, and at Central Station, there are often long lines at these counters. Older machines are not in English and as such can be difficult to interpret. New machines come with a language selection, and support English, Dutch, French and German but usually accept only credit and debit cards (note that many foreign credit and debit cards do not work in most NS ticket machines). In Central Station, there is a machine that accepts cash and is in the hallway in front of the ticket office.

You face a fine of €35, due immediately, if you are caught on the train without a ticket. The chance of getting caught without a ticket is almost certain on main routes during the day, but there is always a random element.

For discount tickets and rail passes see the Netherlands page.

Car

It is practical to use a car only outside of the historic centre; within the historic center, the traveller is advised to stay with public transport. In Amsterdam, a car is generally a liability and not an asset. Use a car only if you are going to an obscure location many miles out that is not served by public transport.

Driving around Amsterdam is a pain: many of the streets are narrow, the traffic (and parking) signs are baroque and obscure, and cyclists and pedestrians may get in your way. Plus, gas is about €8 (11 dollars) per gallon. You can try parking at one of the secured parking garages, for example under Museumplein, or near the Central Station, and then walk around the city centre, or use a tram. Car parking is very expensive in Amsterdam and it's often hard to find a place to park. You can choose to pay by the hour or for the whole day. Parking is free outside the centre on Sunday. There is always a spot available on the Albert Cuypstraat (which is a market during the rest of the week). From there, it is a 5 minute tram ride or 15 minute walk downtown.

Another option is to park your car further outside the city-centre. For € 5,50 you get a full day of parking and a return ticket downtown. The ride takes about 15 minutes. Look for the P+R (Park and Ride) signs. [32]

You can also park for free in some parts of Amsterdam outside the city centre though this may be slowly changing. Parking is still free everywhere in Amsterdam-Noord, and you can just take the bus from the Mosplein stop to the city centre easily. Plenty of buses run through here.

Popular car rental chains operate in a smaller capacity in Amsterdam, including Avis and Budget Rent a Car, a week long rental from more popular chains can run anywhere from $275 US for a micro car to $1000 US for a luxury sedan.

Taxis

Taxis in Amsterdam are plentiful but expensive. Hailing taxis on the street is generally not to be recommended unless you are going to a big landmark (e.g., Central Station or Schiphol). The recent liberalisation of the taxi service in Amsterdam has meant an influx of taxi drivers who have little or no clue of where they are going and who drive erratically and dangerously (e.g., driving on bicycle lanes instead of the main road or ignoring red lights). Tourists are advised to stick to public transport if at all possible. Get into a taxi only if you know the route yourself and are able to give directions to the taxi driver and if you know roughly how much the journey ought to cost so you don't get cheated.

Some drivers, traditionally at Centraal Station or Leidseplein, will refuse short trips or will quote outrageously high fares, even though all taxis are metered. Even if you convince the driver to use the meter, he will often take a circuitous route that racks up €15 or more on the meter. For reference, no trip within the historic centre should cost more than €10 or so.

The Netherlands (and Amsterdam) is in the middle of a huge taxi liberalization scheme which has been jarring to all involved. After many missteps, the government has introduced an unusual pricing scheme. First you feel sticker shock as the initial fare is now €7.50. Luckily, that includes the first two kilometres of travel and there is no charge for waiting in traffic. If you need to run in somewhere, you need to negotiate a waiting fee with the driver. 50 cents per minute is customary.

Unlicensed, illegal, cabbies operate mainly in Amsterdam Zuidoost. These aren't easily recognized as such, and most certainly don't drive Mercedes cars. They are known as snorders and most easily reached by mobile phone. Rides within Amsterdam Zuidoost (the Bijlmer) range from €2.50 to €5, whereas Zuidoost-Center can run up to €12.50. Snorders have a shady reputation, so consider their services only if you are adventurous.

Tuk-Tuks

A Thai-influenced transportation service using three-wheeled, open-air (but covered) motorized vehicles was introduced in August 2007 and may be a more economical and fast way to get around the city centre compared to taxis. Tuk-tuk pricing is based on a zone system. Within a zone, a ride is €3.50 per person, €5.00 for 2 persons and €6.50 for 3. If you go to another zone, €3.50 is added (irrespective of number of persons). This service is handy if it is past the regular tram/bus/metro service hours (approximately half past midnight). They take reservations 24 hours a day on 0900 99 333 99 and there is a fee of €0.55 per call.

See

Architecture

Idyllic canals and houses with hoists

Amsterdam has one of the largest historic city centers in Europe, with about 7,000 registered historic buildings. The street pattern has been largely unchanged since the 19th century — there was no major bombing during World War II. The center consists of 90 islands linked by 400 bridges, some of them beautifully lit at night.

The inner part of the city center, the Old Center, dates from medieval times. The oldest streets are the Warmoesstraat and the Zeedijk located in the Nieuwmarkt area of the Old Center. As buildings were made of wood in the Middle Ages, not much of this period's buildings have survived. Two medieval wooden houses did survive though, at Begijnhof 34 and Zeedijk 1. Other old houses are Warmoesstraat 83 (built around 1400), Warmoesstraat 5 (around 1500) and Begijnhof 2-3 (around 1425). The Begijnhof is a late-medieval enclosed courtyard with the houses of beguines, Roman Catholic women living in a semi-religious community. Beguines are found in Northern France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and north-western Germany. House number 34 at the Begijnhof is the oldest home in Amsterdam. Entry to the courtyard and surrounding gardens is free, but be careful not to disturb the local community still living here.

One of the most prominent features is the Canal Ring, a concentric ring of canals built in the 17th century. The merchant-based oligarchy that ruled the trading city of Amsterdam built canal houses and mansions in the most prestigious locations here, especially along the main canals. Typical for the country are its traditional white draw bridges. The best example has to be the Magere Brug in the Canal Ring, which is over 300 years old and nearly in its original capacity. It is a beautiful place to overlook the river and take in some traditional Dutch architecture.

The Jordaan was built around 1650 along with the Canal Ring, but not for the wealthy merchants. For a long time it was considered the typical working-class area of Amsterdam, and included some notorious slums. The name probably derives from the nickname 'Jordan' for the Prinsengracht. Apart from a few wider canals, the streets are narrow, in an incomplete grid pattern (as the grid followed the lines of the former polders located here in medieval times). This district is the best example of "gentrification" in the Netherlands, as recently it turned into a hip boutique district.

There are several large warehouses for more specific uses. The biggest is the Admirality Arsenal (1656-1657), now the Maritime Museum (Scheepvaartmuseum) at Kattenburgerplein. Others include the former turf warehouses (1550) along the Nes, now the municipal pawn office; a similar warehouse at Waterlooplein 69-75 (Arsenaal, 1610), now an architectural academy, and the warehouse of the West India Company (1642) at the corner of Prins Hendrikkade and 's-Gravenhekje. The city office for architectural heritage BMA [33] has an excellent online introduction to the architectural history and the types of historical buildings available. The website includes a cycle route along important examples.

Modern architecture is under-represented in Amsterdam (as opposed to Rotterdam), but as the outer districts were built in the 19th and 20th centuries, there is definitely some to be found. Immediately outside the Singelgracht (the former city moat) is a ring of 19th-century housing. The most prominent buildings from this period are the Central Station (1889) and the Rijksmuseum (1885), both by P. J. H. Cuypers. Amsterdam West, especially the neighborhood De Baarsjes, was built in the Amsterdam School and New Objectivity architectural styles from the 19th century. A completely different approach to architecture has been the Bijlmer, built in the 1970s and forseen as a town of the future for upper-middle class families. Large apartment buildings and relatively large rooms were combined with common grass fields and a separation of pedestrian and car traffic. It has been a revolutionary way of thinking in the architectural world, but eventually the neighborhood turned into a lower-class residential district home to people of over 150 nationalities, and it is often associated with crime and robberies. It has improved remarkably the last years though, and adventurous travelers might be interested to know more about the history of this bizarre district.

Churches & Synagogues

Since the Middle Ages and throughout the 17th century, the Netherlands was a country with a relatively high degree of freedom and tolerance towards other religions and cultures, especially compared to other countries in Europe. Between 1590 and 1800, the estimated foreign-born population was never less than 5 percent, many of them settling in Amsterdam. This led to a large diaspora of Jews, Huguenots (French protestants), Flemish, Poles and other peoples in the city. Especially the Jewish have always had a large presence in Amsterdam, notably in the Old Jewish Quarter (though this quarter has been in a status of decay since World War II). The most prominent synagogue is The Esnoga (or The Portuguese Synagogue) , built in 1675 in an austere Classicist style.

As the Dutch were a protestant nation, most of the churches are from this branch of Christianity. Some of the most notable churches:

  • Oude Kerk (1306) [34] Located on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, in the red-light district. The oldest of the five main churches in the historic centre. You can climb the tower from April to September on Saturday & Sunday, every half-hour. Also open in the winter by group appointment (maximum 10 people) cost €70 per hour. Email anna@buscher-malocca.nl for more information.
  • Nieuwe Kerk (15th century) [35] Located on Dam Square. Used for royal coronations, most recently the crowning of Queen Beatrix in 1980, and royal weddings, most recently the wedding of crown prince Willem-Alexander to princess Máxima in 2002. Today, the church is no longer used for services but is now a popular exhibition space.
  • Zuiderkerk (built 1603-1611) [36] Located on Zuiderkerkhof ("Southern Graveyard") square. Now an information centre on housing and planning. You can visit the tower from April to September Monday to Saturday (with guide only) every half-hour, cost €6. Also open in the winter by group appointment (maximum 15 people) cost €70 per hour. Email anna@buscher-malocca.nl for more information.
  • Noorderkerk (built 1620-1623) [37] Located on Noordermarkt on the Prinsengracht.
  • Westerkerk (built 1620-1631) [38] Located on Westermarkt near the Anne Frank House. The church is open (free) for visitors from Monday to Friday, 11:00-15:00, from April to September. You can also climb the tower (with guide only) every half-hour, Mon to Saturday €6. The tower is also open in the winter by group appointment (maximum 10 people) cost €70 per hour. Email anna@buscher-malocca.nl for more information. In good weather you can see all of Amsterdam, and as far as the coast.

The late-medieval city also had smaller chapels such as the Sint Olofskapel (circa 1440) on Zeedijk, and convent chapels such as the Agnietenkapel on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal 231 (originally 1470), now the University of Amsterdam museum. Later churches included the Oosterkerk (1669) in the eastern islands, and the heavily restored Lutheran Church on the Singel (1671), now used by a hotel as a conference centre. Catholic churches were long forbidden, and built again only in the 19th-century: the most prominent is the Neo-Baroque Church of St. Nicholas (1887) opposite Central Station.

Also, investigate some of the "hidden churches" found in Amsterdam, mainly Catholic churches that remained in activity following the Reformation. A prominent hidden church is Amstelkring Museum (Our Lord in the Attic Chapel)[39] Well worth the visit.

Modern architecture

Since there was little large-scale demolition in the historic centre, most 20th-century and recent architecture is outside it. The most prominent in architectural history are the residential complexes by architects of the Amsterdam School, for instance at Zaanstraat / Oostzaanstraat.

  • Museum of the Amsterdam School [40]. The best-known example of their architecture. Open Tuesday to Sunday 11AM to 5PM, entrance € 7.50, includes 20 min. guided tour.
  • Eastern Docklands. The largest concentration of new residential buildings. The zone includes three artificial islands: Borneo, Sporenburg, and KNSM/Java-island. The latter has been built as a postmodern interpretation of the old canal belt. Across from it, is the brand new Piet Heinkade, and some adjoining projects. Accessible by tram 10, tram 26 to Rietlandpark, or best of all by bicycle.
  • The largest concentration of box-like office buildings is in Amsterdam Zuid-Oost (South-East) around Bijlmer station (train and metro), but the area does have some spectacular buildings, such as the Amsterdam ArenA stadium and the new Bijlmer ArenA station.
  • Amsterdam is replacing older sewage plants by a single modern plant, in the port zone. Connecting existing sewers to the new plant requires long main sewers, and the use of sewage booster pumps - a new technique at this scale. The new booster pump stations are a unique type of building, designed by separate architects. The three complete pumps are located at Klaprozenweg in the north, on Spaklerweg (just east of the A10 motorway), and beside and under Postjesweg, in the Rembrandtpark.

Windmills

Windmills were not built in urban areas, since the buildings obstructed the wind. The Amsterdam windmills were all originally outside its city walls. There are a total of eight windmills in Amsterdam, and most of them are in Amsterdam West. However, the best one to visit might De Gooyer, which is not far from the city centre, and is being used as a brewery for you to enjoy. The only windmill fully open to the public is the Molen van Sloten in Sloten, a former village now part of West.

Museums

Amsterdam has an amazing collection of museums, ranging from masterpieces of art to porn, vodka and cannabis. The most popular ones can get very crowded in the summer peak season, so it's worth exploring advance tickets or getting there off-peak (eg. very early in the morning). Some of the quality museums that you can't miss:


  • Anne Frank House - Dedicated to Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who kept a diary while hiding from Nazi persecution in hidden rooms at the rear of the building (known as the Achterhuis). It's an exhibition on the life of Anne Frank, but also highlights other forms of persecution and discrimination.
  • Rijksmuseum - Absolutely top-class museum that has a large collection of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. Some artists you can't overlook are Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jan Steen. The must-sees are Rembrandt's Night Watch and Vermeer's Milkmaid. The museum also boasts a substantial collection of Asian art. The Rijksmuseum is under heavy construction until at least late 2012. Until then, there is a limited collection on display called 'the Masterpieces', showing all the highlights that are absolutely worth a visit.
  • Van Gogh Museum - Even someone with little knowledge of art must have heard about Vincent van Gogh, the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th century art for its vivid colors and emotional impact. This museum has the largest collection of Van Gogh's paintings and drawings in the world.


The other museums are described in the district articles.

The Museum Card (Museum Jaarkaart) [41] costs €39.95 (or €22.45 for those under 25 years old). It covers the cost of admission to over 400 museums across the Netherlands and you can buy it at most major museums. It is valid for an entire year, and you will need to write your name, birthday, and gender on it. If you are going to the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, those are at least €10 each, so this card can quickly pay for itself. The tickets to the major museums, including the audio guide, can be bought early from the tourist information desk at no extra cost. Alternatively, for short stays, you can consider buying the I amsterdam card [42], starting at €38 per day, which includes "free" access to Amsterdam museums, public transport and discount on many tourist attractions.

Zoo and botanical garden

For Artis Zoo and botanical gardens, head for Plantage.

Attractions and tours

  • The Heineken Experience. Former Heineken Brewery , Stadhouderskade 78 [43]. Do not expect a beer museum but rather to be flooded with Heineken advertisements. M-Su 11AM-7PM, last entry 5:30PM
  • Vodka Museum Amsterdam[44]. The Vodka Museum Amsterdam is located in an old townhouse on Damrak 33, the main entrance of the city. The small, and modern museum is also a party and events venue. During a visit to the Vodka Museum you will receive a personal guide who will walk you through the 3-story museum. The museum tells the story of the history of vodka, the production process and the different types of vodka. At the end you get to drink some.
  • The Amsterdam Dungeon [45] is a horror tour through several dark chambers with live actors. It ends with a roller coaster raging through a real 13th century church.
  • Organised city tours. Several operators offer tours, visits to diamond factories, other guided visits, and canal cruises. Unless you really need a guide - for instance if you speak only Chinese - it is cheaper to visit everything yourself.
  • New Amsterdam Tours [46] offers a free three-hour guided tour (tips accepted at the end of the tour) of the major Amsterdam sites and history twice a day at 11AM and 1PM and once a day in Spanish at 11AM. Meet in front of the tourist information office across from Amsterdam Centraal Station, near the tour guide in a red "Free Tour" shirt. The company also offers a two-hour guided tour through the Red Light District at 6:45PM that meets at the same location for €10 per person (€8 for students).
  • Amsterdam City Tours [47] is a tour company offering bus, bike, boat, and walking tours through some of the most fascinating places in Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands. Call +31 299-770799 or see their website for more information.
  • Amsterdam City Guide [48] Is Amsterdam City Guide with touristic articles, attractions, tips, tours services, concert tickets & accommodation. Customized Amsterdam maps are available as well and answers to most touristic questions.
  • Homomonument [49] Is a memorial to gays and lesbians murdered in the Second World War, a call for vigilance against homophobia, and an inspiration for gays and lesbians the world over. Three equilateral triangles made of pink granite that are connected by an inlaid band of pink bricks. These three triangles represent the past, present and future. It is located between the Westerkerk [50]and the Keizersgracht canal
  • World of AJAX [51] AJAX offers multiple daily tours through the ArenA stadium and the 'world of AJAX'. See their website for more information, no reservation applicable.

City beaches

Amsterdam has three trendy city beaches:

  • Blijburg (take tram 26 to 'IJburg')
  • Stand West (take bus 22 or 48 to 'Spaaarndammerstraat')
  • Strand Zuid (take tram 4 to 'Europaplein' or metro 51 to station RAI)

Red Light District

The Red Light District consists of several canals, and the side streets between them, south of Central Station and east of Damrak. Known as 'De Wallen' (the quays) in Dutch, because the canals were once part of the city defences (walls and moats). Prostitution itself is limited to certain streets, mainly side streets and alleys, but the district is considered to include the canals, and some adjoining streets (such as Warmoesstraat and Zeedijk). The whole area has a heavy police presence, and many security cameras. Nevertheless it is still a residential district and has many bars and restaurants, and also includes historic buildings and museums - this is the oldest part of the city. The oldest church in Amsterdam, the Netherlands-gothic Oude Kerk on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal at Oudekerksplein, is now surrounded by window prostitution. The area has many sex shops and peep show bars. Note: Don't try to take photos of prostitutes even from the streets, or you might lose your camera without any warning. This section of town is a common attraction for bachelors celebrating a stag night, if you ever get hassled, a firm and loud "Leave me alone" will work most of the time.

Entering and exiting the premises is half of the job that might take some strength for first timers as you might hear some chuckles from people you'll never see again in your whole life. This part of town gets very crowded, especially on a normal weekend night, sometimes up until 3AM. A fifty euro bill will get you either oral sex or a girl laying on her back, the rest is up to you. Although every room is booked by the girl herself, some of the sex workers are still being pimped by outsiders.

You can book a tour of the Red Light District via the I amsterdam information booths. The tour starts at 5PM at the VOC Cafe and is found to be very informative and entertaining.

Do

  • Several companies offer canal cruises, usually lasting from one to two hours. Departures from: Prins Hendrikkade opposite Centraal Station; quayside Damrak; Rokin near Spui; Stadhouderskade 25 near Leidseplein.
    • The Canal Bus [52]. Runs three fixed routes, stopping near major attractions (Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank's House, etc.). You can get on or off as often as you like, but it is expensive—€20 per person per 24 hours. The first boats start between 9.15 a.m. and 10.45 a.m. depending on which stop you get on. The last boats start dropping off at around 7 p.m.
    • Lovers Canal Cruise [53] start opposite the Rijksmuseum. It is €12 per person, but you cannot get on and off. The cruise is about one-and-a-half hours.
    • Amsterdam Boat Guide [54] Local company offering private boat tours in classic boats. Canal cruises, dinner cruises etc.
    • Amsterdam Jewel Cruises [55] offers an evening dinner cruise. It is the only classic boat offering a private table for a romantic dinner cruise. A la carte dining, but not cheap! The cruise starts at 7.30 pm and lasts just under three hours.
  • You can cruise the canals yourself, without the commentary with a canal bike (pedal boat) or rented boat.
    • Canal Company [56]. Has four rental locations; two-seater canal bikes cost €8 per person per hour.
    • Rent a boat Amsterdam [57].
  • Ultimately you can also rent a Venetian Gondola, hand made by an Amsterdam girl who traveled to Venice to learn the craft and build her own Gondola . [58] which she brought back to Amsterdam for you to enjoy.
  • MEETin Amsterdam [59]. A not-for-profit social group to help expats meet new people away from the bar and dating scene. The site's primary focus is to provide a relaxed, 'non-pickup-scene' social environment for people to enjoy without paying membership fees. For people who have either just moved to Amsterdam or lived there for a while, this group can be a great way to meet new people in the area. Events are arranged by MEETin members and include a variety of activities such as pub crawls, potlucks, movies, concerts, day trips and much more. You have to register and create a profile in order to participate. The group consists mostly of expats from around the world and has grown to more than 1,400 members (January 2008). The site is financed through voluntary donations.
  • CityNavigators [60]. Offers handheld GPS tourist maps for rent through participating hotels or online. The GPS devices are pre-programmed to take you to popular attractions or to guide you through walking (or bicycle) tours. E-mail info@citynavigators.com for more information.
  • Play Futsal [61]. Football tour organisers Eurofives stage special tournament weekends in Amsterdam at which you can enjoy some Dutch-style five-a-sides.
  • Amsterdam Weekly [62]. It is an Entertainment magazine in English on the Internet. You can find weekly Amsterdam events.
  • De Poezenboot [63]. You really like cats? The poezenboot (cat boat) is an refuge for cats awaiting adoption. Located in the centre of the city, a must for any cat lover.
  • Rialto Cinema [64]. For all arthouse cinema freaks. All films are shown in their original language with Dutch subtitles. They have late night and classic showings too. Just a short walk from the Albert Cuyp-Market/Heineken Brouwery, in a nice non-touristy neighbourhood.
  • Wynand Fockink [65]. Pijlsteeg 31 - 1012 HH Amsterdam - 020 639 26 95 - contact@wynand-fockink.nl Wynand Fockink is a distillery started in 1679. Right near Dam Place, they offer distillery tours (must reserve at least a week in advance as they fill up quickly), great liquors, and a great time in the back alleys of Amsterdam. They have numerous liquors, brandies, and jenevers and encourage you to try them all. It is traditional to stoop and sip the first drink and not spill.

Several companies offer private tours by car, van, or mini bus for groups of up to 8 people. Bike tours are also available at a more affordable price, and offer a more authentic dutch experience.

Boaty Rental Boats [66]. Boaty offers rental boats (max. 6 persons) for your own private tour: decide where to go yourself or choose one of Boaty's free canal routes. These rental boats are electrically driven which means they are silent and free of exhaust fumes. They are charged with renewable energy every night so you can enjoy your time on the water as long as you like. The boats are very stable, unsinkable and of course the rental is accompanied by free life vests in different sizes.

Festivals

Amsterdam is a cultural haven with year-round festivals for every pocket.

  • February
    • Chinese New Year: Festival through Zeedijk and China town.
  • April
    • Queensday April 30: The national holiday, nominally in celebration of the Queen's birthday (in fact the previous Queen's birthday) is hard to describe to anyone who's never been there. The city turns into one giant mass of orange-dressed people (all Amsterdam locals, and another 1 million or so from throughout the country visit the parties in the city) with flea markets, bands playing, and many on-street parties, ranging from small cafes placing a few kegs of beer outside to huge open-air stages hosting world-famous DJ's. The Vondelpark is the place for children selling and performing. An experience you'll never forget! April 30th - but if that is a Sunday, it is one day earlier (to avoid offence to orthodox Protestants).
  • May
    • Art Amsterdam: a modern art fair in the RAI exhibition and conference centre. If you want to know what the latest developments are in Dutch galleries, this is where to find them all in one place.
  • June
    • Holland Festival: famous around the world, this Netherlands performing arts festival brings events from all over the world on the fields of music, opera, theatre and dance.
    • Taste of Amsterdam: A culinary festival where you can explore the food of famous Amsterdam restaurants and their chefs.
    • The Open Garden Days: Normally you can see only the front of the canal houses, but during the Open Garden Days you get to go past the entrance and see the green world behind them, many times bigger than you would have expected. You can buy one ticket that gives you entry to all participating gardens, and there is a special canal boat to take you from one location to another.
    • Amsterdam Roots Festival: an open-air (free) festival with music from non-western countries accompanied by paid film and theatre performances in the surrounding area theaters.
  • July
    • Julidans (July Dance): International Contemporary Dance Festival, always showing the latest developments in modern dance.
  • July/August
    • Vondelpark Open Air Theater: This free festival offers many different performances every day. Go to the open air theatre just by the fountain and let the entertainment do the work. From cabaret to drama to concerts to dance, there is something here for everyone and of all ages.
    • Amsterdam International Fashion Week: Twice a year, this event presents young and upcoming fashion in Europe and with a focus on Dutch design.
    • Robeco Summer Concerts: affordable classical music concerts taking place at the prestigious Amsterdam Concertgebouw.
  • August
    • De Parade: Martin Luther King Park. Circus turns vintage, on an old-fashioned fairground with many different tents, the performers are each trying to attract their public, featuring spectacles of dance, theatre, magic, art, animation and music.
    • Canal Pride: [67]. Amsterdam gay pride on the first weekend in August. One of the biggest festivals in Amsterdam with parties, performances, workshops and a boat parade on the Prinsengracht on Saturday afternoon which is always well worth seeing.
    • Prinsengracht concert: third weekend of August each year. A free open-air classical music concert is held every year on a stage in the middle of the Prinsengracht canal. If you have a little boat, join the crowds and make sure to bring your rose wine or prosecco for full enjoyment.
    • Sail Amsterdam: tall-ships from all over the world come to visit the Amsterdam harbour every 5 years, the next time in 2015.
    • Uitmarkt: The opening of the cultural season in the last weekend of August, it offers a taste of the year to come with 30-minute performances at different theaters, an extensive book market and many open-air concerts. All free.
  • September
    • Flower Parade Aalsmeer: First Saturday in September. A million flowers are used to decorate the many cars that will line up in the flower parade.
    • Jordaan Festival: A big inner city street festival celebrating the diversity of this former working class district. Features can include drum bands, a children's festival, opera and cabaret, a boules competition, a flea market and an auction.
    • Robodock arts festival: A unique festival presenting contemporary art shows in the huge, old NDSM shipyard depot, in the Amsterdam North. The atmosphere is rough, industrial, experimental. A lot of loud music, fire, smoke, noise and heavy machinery are usually elements of these performances.
    • National Restaurant Week: Two times a year, participating restaurants offer a full 3 course dinner for a mere € 25 (excl drinks), allowing you to experiment a different restaurant for a change or a chance to eat affordably at one of the famous 5-star restaurants.
  • October
    • Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE): Usually held during the second last weekend in October, this electronic music annual festival gathers cream of the crop faces from the house and techno scenes. Buy your tickets in advance to avoid paying more at the door and queueing for hours on. Besides partying for four nights in a row, the conference offers workshops, seminars, presentations etc.
  • November
    • Museum Night – Museumnacht: Long before the film came out, this night at the museum attracts new crowds at the traditional Amsterdam museums with special performances at unusual locations. Do as the locals do and hire a bike to go from one place to the other.
    • pAn Amsterdam – Art and Antique Fair: Third week of November. The biggest national art and antiques fair in the Netherlands.
    • IDFA - International Documentary Filmfestival of Amsterdam: Leidseplein, (various times). International documentary festival screening some 200 documentary films and videos.

Learn

Amsterdam is home to two universities, both offer summer courses and other short courses (with academic credits).

  • Vrije Universiteit (VU University) [68]. Founded in 1880, the VU campus is located southwest of the city centre, and approximately 20 minutes away by bicycle. It is the only Protestant general university in the Netherlands.
  • Universiteit van Amsterdam [69]. Founded as the Athenaeum Illustre in 1632, in 1877 it became the University of Amsterdam. With about 25 000 students, the UvA is on three separate campuses in the city centre, plus smaller sites scattered over Amsterdam.

The Volksuniversiteit [70]. Despite the name, it is not a university, but a venerable institute for public education. Among the many courses are Dutch language courses for foreigners.

Work

Many people plan to move to Amsterdam for a year to relax before "settling down". This plan often falls apart at the job phase. Many people will find it difficult to get a suitable job, if they do not speak Dutch. However, hostels and hotels in Amsterdam may need bar staff, night porters etc, who speak English and other languages. There are also specialist websites for English and non-Dutch speakers looking to work in Amsterdam and they are a often a good place to start; Blue Lynx - Employment by Language [71], Undutchables [72], Unique [73] and Xpat Jobs[74] are all useful resources.

Immigration matters are dealt with by the Immigration Service IND [75]. Registration is done by both police and municipalities. Immigration policy is restrictive and deliberately bureaucratic. That is especially true for non-EU citizens.

European Union citizens do not require a work permit. Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians are afforded a one year working-holiday visa. In general the employer must apply for work permits. Immigration is easier for "knowledge migrants" earning a gross annual salary of over € 45 000 (over € 33 000 for those under 30).


There are many flexible office solution in Amsterdam that enable you to rent office space for a short term. See for example

Regus[76] or the Ph120 flexible office solutions at Prins Hendrikkade 120 [77]

Buy

The main central shopping streets run in a line from near Central Station to the Leidseplein: Nieuwendijk, Kalverstraat, Heiligeweg, Leidsestraat. The emphasis is on clothes/fashion, but there are plenty of other shops. They are not upmarket shopping streets, and the north end of Nieuwendijk is seedy. Amsterdam’s only upmarket shopping street is the P.C. Hooftstraat (near the Rijksmuseum).

Other concentrations of shops in the centre are Haarlemmerstraat / Haarlemmerdijk, Utrechtsestraat, Spiegelstraat (art/antiques), and around Nieuwmarkt. There is a concentration of Chinese shops at Zeedijk / Nieuwmarkt, but it is not a real Chinatown.

The ‘interesting little shops’ are located in the side streets of the main canals (Prinsengracht / Keizersgracht / Herengracht), and especially in the Jordaan - bounded by Prinsengracht, Elandsgracht, Marnixstraat and Brouwersgracht. The partly gentrified neighbourhood of De Pijp - around Ferdinand Bolstraat and Sarphatipark - is often seen as a 'second Jordaan'.

For general shop info and their openings hours you can visit 'Openingstijden Amsterdam' [78] it shows an overview of the most popular shops and their location on the map.

  • The Nine Streets, De Negen Straatjes,[79]. Nine narrow streets between the main canals from the Prinsengracht to the Singel, south-west of Dam Square. Boutiques, specialist shops, galleries and restaurants.
  • Santa Jet, Prinsenstraat 7, tel (020) 427 2070. This little boutique specializes in hand-made imports from Latin America. You can find everything from mini shrines made of tin, to lamps, to kitschy postcards.
  • De Beeldenwinkel Sculpture Gallery. This is a gallery for sculpture lovers, with bronze statues, pottery, abstract sculpture, raku-fired statues and marble figures sculpture to suit every budget and taste.
  • Jordaan [80]. One of the most picturesque 'village' areas of Amsterdam, the Jordaan has always been a centre for artisans, artists and creatives, today, this area has a wonderful selection of goldsmiths and jewellers, fashion boutiques, galleries, designer florists, and specialist shops.
  • Fashion & Museum District [81]. Located in Amsterdam Zuid, this is considered the chic area for shopping in Amsterdam, close to the Museum district, the PC Hooftstraat and the Cornelis Schuytstraat have some of the finest designer shops in the city, including designer shoes, health and well-being specialists, massage, fashion boutiques, designer interiors, designer florists and specialist shops.

In the older areas surrounding the centre, the main shopping streets are the Kinkerstraat, the Ferdinand Bolstraat, the Van Woustraat, and the Javastraat. The most 'ethnic' shopping street in Amsterdam is the Javastraat. There are toy stores and clothing shops for kids in the centre, but most are in the shopping streets further out, because that's where families with children live.

You can find plus size clothing in the center of Amsterdam. C&A, and H&M are both on the main shopping streets from the Central station. A bit further from the city center you can find Mateloos, Promiss, Ulla Popken as well as several stores by chain M&S mode.

A give-away shop can be found at Singel 267, open Tuesdays and Thursdays 1700-1900 and Saturdays 1200-1700.

For books, your best bet is The Book Exchange at Kloveniersburgwal 58 (tel (020) 6266 266), diagonally across from the youth hostel. It is a second-hand bookstore specialising in English books, and has a large selection, with an especially good selection of travel writing, detectives, and SF/fantasy. Open Mon- Sun 10AM- 4PM, Sun 11:30-4:30PM. For English literature and books, you can also try The American Book Center [82] store on Spui square. Waterstone's (Kalverstraat 152) is also a good tip for English literature. Large Dutch bookstores also carry a selection of foreign language books.

  • Cracked Kettle [83]. Located at Raamsteeg 3, 1012VZ Amsterdam, this beer, wine, and spirits shop carries independent, unique, and rare bottles. The staff are friendly, but the space is quite confined and obtaining bottles from the very top shelves requires assistance and a dust rag. 12.00 - 22.00 everyday

Street markets

Street markets originally sold mainly food, and most still sell food and clothing, but they have become more specialised. A complete list of Amsterdam markets (with opening times and the number of stalls) can be found at online at Hollandse Markten [84] and Amsterdam.info [85] in English.

Albert Cuyp Market
Bloemenmarkt
  • Ten Cate Market. 3rd Largest in Amsterdam. Monday to Saturday from about 8AM until around 5PM. Food, households, flowers and clothing.
  • Albert Cuyp. Largest in Amsterdam, best-known street market in the country. Can get very crowded, so watch out for pickpockets. Monday to Saturday from about 9AM until around 5PM.
  • Dappermarkt. In the east, behind the zoo, and was voted best market in the Netherlands. Monday to Saturday from about 8AM until around 5PM.
  • Waterlooplein. Well-known but overrated flea market. Monday to Saturday until about 5PM.
  • Lindengracht. In the Jordaan, selling a wide range of goods, fruit and vegetables, fish and various household items. Saturday only. 9AM to 4PM. Tram 3 or 10 to Marnixplein, and a short walk along the Lijnbaansgracht.
  • Spui. Fridays: Books. Sundays: Art and Antiques.
  • Bloemenmarkt. Floating flower market, open daily on the Singel canal, near Muntplein. Very touristy, but you could do worse than buy your tulips here. Make sure you buy pre-approved bulbs if taking them to the US or Canada. They will have the holographic licence and export tag on the bag.
  • Lapjesmarkt. Westerstraat, in the Jordaan. A specialist market concentrating on selling cloth and material for making clothes, curtains etc. Mondays only. 9AM to 1PM. Tram 3 or 10 to Marnixplein.
  • Noordermarkt. In the historical Jordaan area of the city. On Monday morning (9AM to 1PM) the Noordermarkt is a flea market selling fabrics, records, second-hand clothing etc, and forms part of the Lapjesmarkt mentioned above. On Saturday (9AM to 4PM), the Noordermarkt is a biological food market, selling a wide range of ecological products like organic fruits and vegetables, herbs, cheese, mushrooms etc, there is also a small flea market. Tram 3 or 10 to Marnixplein, and a short walk down the Westerstraat.

Other

  • Treinreiswinkel is a travel agency specializing in rail travel. They are well informed and can arrange international train tickets and even a complete package tour if you wish. They also sell interrail tickets. It's at Singel 393, 1012 WN +31 (0) 71 5137008. They also have an Leiden office which is their main office.

Eat

This guide uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget Below €20
Mid-range €20-50
Splurge €50+


Smoking Ban
Smoking is banned in all Dutch bars and restaurants, although many bars and cafes have sealed smoking rooms (rookkamer) in which smoking is permitted.


There is a large diversity of restaurants in Amsterdam, especially if you are looking for Asian cuisine, although much of it is tailored to the fairly bland local tastes and might not have the fire you would expect. The influence of the Dutch colonial past is apparent, as can be seen in the wide array of Indonesian restaurants. Most Asian restaurants are clustered at the Zeedijk in Nieuwmarkt, for this reason often dubbed as Amsterdam's Chinatown. It's also home to many tokos, small Asian grocery stores that sell Eastern food and spices. Indonesian restaurants are usually of excellent quality, but Indian ones can be expensive and of poor quality. Chinatown also offers plenty of Chinese, Thai and Japanese restaurants. Nearby is the Damstraat, a fairly busy road filled with small and cheap Chinese and Middle Eastern restaurants - expect sticky tables, but it's definitely a good place for budget travelers. The numerous falafel bars have a good value, often sporting a "all you can pile" salad bar.

Surinamese food is widely available and worth a try. The highest concentration of Surinamese restaurants can be found in the South, especially in the Albert Cuypstraat. And the Vlaamse Frites -- large Belgian fries served with mayonnaise -- are great. Eetcafe's are pubs serving dinner too. Many restaurants of all kinds can be found in the Haarlemmer Neighborhood (north of Jordaan), and in the narrow streets crossing the two. Also worth trying is the Van Woustraat in the Pijp, or continue to the Rijnstraat in the Rivierenbuurt. Exquisite but expensive restaurants can be found in the Utrechtse Straat.

Local cheese is marvellous, buy some at the Albert Cuyp market, or at specialist cheese shops found around central Amsterdam. Dutch cheese is traditionally firm, and is made in large wax-covered wheels, and falls into two main categories - Young and Old. Within those categories, there exists a rich variety. Among the more unusual young cheeses is cumin (Komijn) cheese, which is particular to the Netherlands. Sheep (Schapen) and goat (Geiten) cheeses are also common. Old (Oud) cheese can be made of any sort of milk, and is often reminiscent of Italian parmesan in consistency and sharpness of flavour.

Don't forget to taste the main culinary contribution of the Amsterdammers to the world: Heineken it tastes no better here. Try some of the other excellent beers you can get from this part of the world such as "witbeer" (white beer). Also check out "bitterballen", a kind of fried meatball, and the "kroketten" (the same, but shaped like a cylinder). Last but not least, don't forget to try a traditional herring or a "broodje haring" (herring sandwich), available from fish stalls around the city. Herring in Amsterdam is usually served onions and pickles. A good try is the fish stand on the Koningsplein near the Flower Market. If you're visiting in late November or December, you can enjoy oliebollen, which are round blobs of sweet fried dough embedded with raisins (sultanas) and dusted with powdered sugar.

Avoid at all costs any steak house in the centre - they are well known tourist traps. You will also never be hungry enough to make Febo [86] a good idea.

Try `Studio 2` located at flower market in center especially for breakfast. Nice atmosphere and good service with nice staff with resonable prices.


  • Long Pura, Rozengracht 46-48, +31(0)20-6238950, [87]. 6-11 pm. Some of the most excellent Indonesian food to be found in Amsterdam. Try the rice table; the flavors are amazing and you will not go away hungry.

Budget

For food during the day, the Albert Heijn supermarkets (largest national chain) usually have cheap ready-to-go meals on hand, from pre-packaged sandwiches and salads to microwavable single-serving meals. There is one right behind the Royal Palace on Dam Square, on the Nieuwmarkt, on Koningsplein and in the Vijzelstraat.

For budget meal, check out also the various Falafel and Shoarma restaurents around the Damstraat and Muntplein. They usually include in the dish a large amount of salad. Lange Leidsedwarsstraat (just off Leidseplein) has about five Italian restaurants that sell pasta or pizza for €5.

Drink

Amsterdam's famously wild nightlife caters to all tastes and budgets.


Bars and pubs

The archetypical Amsterdam watering hole is the bruine ("brown bar" or "brown café"), a neighborhood pub of sorts with gorgeous dark wood panelling — hence the name — and booths. These do not sell cannabis, see coffeeshops below for that. Popular entertainment areas with lots of bars are the Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein.

Clubs

Amsterdam features many famous clubs, including:

  • AIR [88] Amstelstraat 16 (near Rembrandtplein)
  • Bitterzoet [89] Spuistraat 2. This placed used to be alternative, but changed ownership and is now more hip hop and R&B oriented. Check their agenda to see what they're doing.
  • Club HOME [90] Wagenstraat 7 (near Rembrandtplein, at the old Sinners in heaven location)
  • Club 8, Admiraal de Ruijterweg in West. A large alternative place with lots of art on its walls. There's ping pong, a very local and fairly young crowd.
  • Escape [91] Rembrandtplein 11, a large, fairly uninspiring club that plays mostly mainstream house music.
  • FlexBar [92] Pazzanistraat 1 (in the Westerpark), a small venue off the beaten path in Westerpark that plays electronic music, often until 5am.
  • Jimmy Woo [93] Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 18 (near Leidseplein) is an upscale, relatively small club with table service and a notorious door policy. Boys, don't come alone.
  • Korsakoff [94] Lijnbaansgracht 161 (near Leidseplein) A more alternative, run-down but cheap place that often has live music.
  • Melkweg [95] Lijnbaansgracht 234 (near Leidseplein) can be compared to Paradiso, although its live venues and events can eat up some of the nights. Check their listing.
  • OCCII is a rock venue for cutting edge music (punk, noise, riot grrrl, etc).
  • Odessa [96] Veemkade 259
  • Panama [97] Oostelijke Handelskade 4, quite far away but can have its nice nights and the view on the water is excellent.
  • Paradiso [98] Weteringschans 6 (near Leidseplein). Somewhat the safest bet in town. It's impressive, walks a fine line between pop and alternative, gets a mixed crowd and isn't too crazy expensive. It popularity is obvious by the huge line on the weekends.
  • Studio 80 [99] Rembrandtplein 17 Is an somewhat more underground, intimate club that's easy to miss because of its flashy neighbours. It prides itself by trying to stay on the forefront of electronic music in the city.
  • Sugar Factory [100] Lijnbaansgracht 238 (near Leidseplein)
  • The Power Zone [101] Daniel Goedkoopstraat 1 3 (metro to Spaklerweg)
  • Tonight club (in Hotel Arena) [102] 's Gravesandestraat 51
  • Trouw is club that opened in 2009 in an old newspaper building with the same name. Far away, amazing space, and great music. Can be a little expensive because of its cool.

Coffeeshops

Amsterdam is renowned for its liberal drug policy. Coffeeshops, not to be confused with coffeehouses or cafes, are allowed to sell cannabis and hash for personal use (not more than 5 grams). While technically still illegal, mostly to comply to international treaties, personal use of (soft) drugs are regulated by the Ministry of Justice under an official policy of gedogen; literally this means to accept or tolerate, legally it is a doctrine of non-prosecution on the basis that action taken would be so highly irregular as to constitute selective prosecution. The city council of Amsterdam allows coffeeshops to operate only with the provision of set, non-transferable licenses as shown by an official green and white sticker on the window of a coffeeshop. Coffeeshops are to sell only soft drugs (such as cannabis), selling of other drugs is not allowed. Also selling of dried halugenic mushrooms is not allowed.

That said, drug usage is increasingly being strictly controlled by the Dutch government. Garish advertising is not allowed (look for red-yellow-green rasta colors and the English word "coffeeshop"); no alcohol or edible cannabis products may be sold inside a coffeeshop; customers who want to smoke their weed mixed with tobacco are limited to special sealed 'smoking areas'; the amount of coffeeshops has decreased significantly since 1995; coffeeshops within a '250 meter school zone' have been closed down; and the usage of magic mushrooms has been forbidden since December 2008 (after two fatal incidents with foreign tourists).

Still there are about 250 coffeeshops in Amsterdam, most of them in the Old Center. Prices hover around €7.50 for 1 gram, with the average joint holding around 0.33g and a 5g/person sales limit. Most coffeeshops are happy to recommend varieties and prepare your joint for you. Some offer vaporizers/inhalators for people who don't want to smoke.

Using (soft) drugs is not allowed in public places, though in reality it will never be an issue. Just stay away from children's playgrounds and schools.

  • Bulldog, [103]. Chain of touristy coffeeshops.
  • Grey Area.
  • The Bluebird - one of the best selections of pot in Amsterdam.
  • De Kuil (420 Cafe)
  • Global Chillage - Good produce and nice tunes but uncomfortable seating.
  • Barney's [104]. Multiple Cannabis Cup winner.
  • Rokerij[105]. Four coffeeshops.
  • Kadinsky
  • Hill Street Blues - lively atmosphere but buy cannabis elsewhere.
  • Club Media - Completely organic menu, fair selection, good prices, lovely staff, free fruit!
  • Katsu - Just around the corner from Media, good prices + nice atmosphere.
  • The Greenhouse - usually pretty crowded but when warm or if you can get a seat definitely one of the nice coffeeshops near the red light. Also has a bar next door.
  • De Dampkring - three locations, bought out Pink Floyd and renovated it. Original shop featured in a scene in Ocean's 12.
  • De Kroon.
  • Abraxas.
  • Homegrown Fantasy.

Sleep

Individual listings can be found in Amsterdam's district articles
This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under €50
Mid-range €50 to €150
Splurge Over €150


Amsterdam has over 400 registered hotels of varying standards from budget facilities to some of the most expensive hotels in Europe. Advance booking is recommended, especially for weekends and holidays. Most hotels and hostels can be found in the Old Center, notably south of central station, and in the South around the Museum Quarter. Charming boutique accommodation can be found in the wealthy residential Canal Ring, home to the rich and famous and its squares are the prime nightlife spots of the city. The Jordaan is another area for hip boutique accommodations, slightly upmarket, but still for mid-range prices. Some cheaper hostels can also be found in the Red Light District.

A simple bed in a hostel starts around €15 on weekdays in the winter and up to €30 on a weekend in the summer. A twin room in a budget hotel, 1-2 stars, might cost around €40 on weekdays in the winter and up to €100 on summer weekends. In a three and four star hotel, the prices would range from €100 to €200, depending on season, and five stars hotels can cost between €150 and €400 a night.

Do not expect a wide amount of services from cheaper end hostels and hotels. Most of these do not have elevators and have the usual steep staircases; if you suffer from vertigo, do get an assurance that you will be getting a first or second floor room or book a hotel that has an elevator.


Contact

Internet

The first internet cafes of the country opened in Amsterdam, but they vanished as quickly as they appeared. Only a few smaller internet cafes remain in the Old Center. Outside of it, you might want to try your luck at one of the phone shops (belwinkel), which cater for immigrant communities in the Netherlands, but they usually have only one or two terminals. The Amsterdam Public Library (Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam) offers free internet access. It is limited to web-only access though and is located near the Central Station in the Old Center.

If you bring a laptop, many hotels in the city offer wifi free of charge for guests, but inform before making a booking. Don't count on this when staying at a hostel or cheaper end hotel. On the go, you can try some of the various coffee houses or fast food chains for wi-fi — but nearly all of them charge for it.

Telephone

The telephone country code for the Netherlands is 31, and Amsterdam's city code is 020.

If making local calls from a pay phone, you will need a phone card (€5 minimum) as many green KPN telephone booths do not accept coins. blue/orange Telfort booths accept both coins and cards. The KPN booths are currently being replaced by newer models, which will accept coins again. There are very few public telephones on the streets or in public transport stations in the Netherlands. If you need to make a call and do not have access to a local phone or hotel phone, it is best to go to a call center or use a calling service over the internet (like Skype, for example). Most payphones require phone cards which can be bought at post offices and some delis, although the cards are increasingly hard to find. Also, as in any area, some of the pay phones are scams. If you do need to use a payphone, call the free customer service number listed on the payphone first to make sure the phone is actually in service. When you call the customer service number listed on the phone, if you get a recorded message or 'number not in service' message in Dutch or English, then DON'T put your money or credit card into the phone. Phones run by BBG Communications, common in Europe and the U.S., have repeatedly been alleged to make fraudulent charges with credit cards used in their phone, for calls that were never made.

There are phone shops ('belwinkel') all over the city. Outside the city center, they mostly serve immigrants calling their home country at cheap rates.

If you have a simlock-free European GSM mobile phone (suitable for GSM 900/1800 networks), consider buying a prepaid simcard. You can buy these in any electronics store, and they are often the same price as buying a KPN phonebooth card. Calling then is a lot cheaper than using pay phones, and you are mobile.

Stay safe

General

You should take normal precautions against pickpockets and baggage theft, especially in the main shopping streets, in trams and trains, at stations, and anywhere where tourists congregate. Street begging is no longer common in Amsterdam, since the police take a harder line. Some beggars are addicts, some are homeless, and some are both.

What looks like a footpath, especially along a canal bank, may be a bike lane. Bike lanes are normally marked by red/purple tiles or asphalt, and a bike icon on the ground. However, the colour fades over time, so you might miss the difference. Don't expect cyclists to be kind to pedestrians: some consider the side-walk an extension of the road, to be used when it suits them. Never stay or walk on the bike path or street for extended periods of time, as you will be greeted only by angry bell ringing. Keep in mind that for many Amsterdammers, the bike is their main means of transportation. For the bike theft problem see above, Get around.

Watch out for trams when crossing the street. Taxis are also allowed to use some tram lanes, and even if not allowed, they often use them anyway.

Groups of women visiting the Red Light District at night might feel harassed in the aggressive environment, though this is said to be the safest area because of the police presence. Keep to main streets and groups. Do not take photographs of the prostitutes!, you will be yelled at or worse.

Although not really dangerous, women especially might want to avoid the narrow lane north of the Oude Kerk (Old Church) after dark as the atmosphere can be quite intimidating.

Neighborhoods

Safe and unsafe neighborhoods in Amsterdam

While there has been a big decline in crime since the 1980s, there are are some neighborhoods in Amsterdam best avoided. Most visitors do not get further than the city center and the South, which are quite safe (with the notable exception of the Red Light District in the Old Side, which feels sleazy and attracts its fair share of crime).

The most dangerous area of Amsterdam is the borough of West; the Old West is actually one of the safer areas in Amsterdam, but the New West is where many of Amsterdam's social problems get together. Especially Slotervaart catches daily headlines in the newspapers for stabbing incidents, burned cars and harassment of gay people. Another district known for its high crime rates is the Bijlmer with a relatively high amount of robberies. With urban renewal projects underway, New West and especially the Bijlmer have made some progress in the 2000s.

It is still best to avoid these districts, as there is not much to see anyway; at least take precautions if you decide on going. At day time, it is still possible to visit these places, though they might fall outside of many travelers' comfort level. Never visit at night though. East and North are safer to visit, but also have their fair share of problems. Some neighborhoods inside these districts are best avoided (Nieuwendam in North, Transvaalbuurt, Dapperbuurt and Indische Buurt in East).

Cannabis and other drugs

It cannot be denied that many tourists come to Amsterdam for the coffeeshops. Coffeeshops (in English but written as one word) sell only soft drugs such as marijuana and hash - asking for other drugs is pointless because coffeeshops are watched closely by the authorities, and nothing will get them closed faster than having hard drugs for sale. 'Café' is the general name for a place licenced to sell alcohol: a bar. Since April 1, 2007, coffeeshops are no longer allowed to sell alcohol.

Quality varies! Coffeeshops aimed at tourists are more likely to have overpriced and poor quality products. A simple rule of thumb is: if the place looks good and well-kept chances are their wares will be good as well. Don't just enter a coffeeshop being overwhelmed that it's possible at all to buy and consume cannabis openly: be discerning as to the quality.

If you're not a smoker, and you really want to try it, start with something light, make sure you don't have an empty stomach, and don't combine it with alcohol. Be forthright with the counter person about your inexperience, they see it all the time. Go with an experienced person if you can. Regardless of the strength, your first experience can be quite a sensation at first, but will quickly decrease in intensity. You may want to plan to return to your hotel and "hole up" for a couple hours until you become comfortable with the feeling. If you do find yourself too strongly under the influence - feeling nauseated, woozey or faint - drink orange juice or eat something sweet like cookies or candy, and get fresh air. Dutch-grown nederwiet (a.k.a. super skunk) is much stronger than you might expect, even if you are experienced. The THC level can be as high as 15%, twice the norm (source: Trimbos Institute).

There's a small chance you will be approached by people offering to sell you hard drugs in the street, especially as you are walking through the Red Light District. Ignoring or failing that a firm refusal is enough - they will not pester you. The selling of drugs in the street is illegal and often dangerous; moreover the drugs sold to strangers are usually fake. When they invite you to see the goods, they can lure you into a narrow street and rob you.

So-called smartshops do not sell any illegal products, but a range of dietary supplements, including 'herbal exstacy' - a legal attempt at an ecstasy pill alternative which is a complete waste of money and various more or less obscure psychedelic herbs and despite a change in the law, one type of magic mushrooms. It is the latter which causes problems as people often underestimate their strength. Magic mushrooms have few physical risks attached to them, but can have a very strong short-acting psychological effect, which can either be great or very distressing, depending on your own mindset (e.g. if you are relaxed, have any serious worries, history of mental illness, etc.) and your surroundings (e.g. if you feel comfortable and safe in them). The first time you try this should always be in a familiar and trusted environment, not on the streets of an unfamiliar city. If you do decide to try it please get informed first. Conscious Dreams [106], the company who invented the entire concept of a 'smartshop' back in 1994 does this clearly (without downplaying the possible risks just to sell more like some other shops do) and responsibly. Also plan well ahead, make sure you have thought out where you will be, most recommended is going to a large park like the Vondelpark, the Rembrandtpark or the Amsterdamse Bos where it is quiet, and there is no risk from traffic. Make sure that being intoxicated will not endanger your safety, or that of anybody else. Be sure to make your purchase in the Smartshops rather than a regular coffeeshop. They are better regulated and information is available from the attendants that work there. They are also of better quality and stronger potency than at the coffeeshops.

If you're not sure of how much to take, take a small dose. Then you'll know what your "tolerance" level is. People who have bad trips are those who take a dosage over their own tolerance level. Never take more than one packet of mushrooms - usually half is good for your first time. A good smart shop can give you more info about this.

Do keep in mind that all hemp related products (except the seeds) are still illegal. This can be confusing for most tourists, who do think hemp products are legal since they are sold in coffeeshops. Hemp products are not legal, rather they are "tolerated" under the Dutch Opium Act. Read more about the legalities in the article about the Netherlands.

As of April 2009 you can still buy Magic mushrooms.

Amsterdam plays host to the Cannabis Cup, the most important marijuana related event in the world every year during the week of Thanksgiving. The Cannabis Cup is organized by High Times magazine, and offers both tourists and natives the chance to enjoy 5 days of consuming and judging marijuana in different forms. Participants are eligible to pay $199 in advance or €250 at the door to obtain a "judges pass", which allows entry to the event for all 5 days, admission to numerous concerts and seminars held during the event, the ability to vote on numerous awards that are handed out, and free bus tours to and from the event. Day passes are available for €30 for each day, and certain concerts sell tickets at the door provided they are not already sold out.

Cope

Publications

  • Amsterdam Weekly. An English-language free cultural weekly published every Wednesday. It provides coverage of Amsterdam city life, and an arts and entertainment calendar.
  • Mijn NL [107]. A free bi-weekly magazine which lists all events happening in Amsterdam. The section is divided into Music, Night(clubs, DJs), Gay, Comedy, Cabaret, Stage, Festival, Musical, Dance, Expositions, Children, and also Movie listings. It can be picked up at any Albert Heijn supermarket, and many venues. Covers more events than Uitkrant and Amsterdam Weekly. Although written in Dutch, it would be easy to understand the basic idea. Also provides suggestions on bars, restaurants, shops and hair dressers. Check out the online edition.
  • UnderwaterAmsterdam. An online English-language guide to the Dutch capital which evolved from the free magazine Shark. It has an extraordinary number of daily events for English speakers – music, parties, theatre, opera, queer etc – plus annual events and upcoming gigs. It posts the latest gigs as they're announced by via Twitter. Written by an experienced travel writer, it also features a city guide – with the best places to visit in town – plus daily news and horoscopes (written by celebrity astrologer Bridgett Walther) . [108]


  • Uitkrant. A free monthly magazine, listing all concerts, classical, jazz, pop etc., exhibitions, museums and anything cultural to do in Amsterdam. It can be picked up at many spots in the city, e.g. at the Uitburo at the Leidseplein.


  • Amsterdam Spoke. An English magazine featuring Amsterdam’s daily life, its ambiance and trends.[109]

Religious services

Holy mass in Catholic churches (Overview of cath. churches in Amsterdam (dutch): [110]):

  • Begijnhofkapel (HH. Joannes en Ursula), Begijnhof 29. [111] Sun: 10PM 11:15PM (in French); Mon-Fri: 9AM, 5PM; Sat: 9AM.
  • De Krijtberg (St. Franciscus Xaverius), Singel 448 (stop Koningsplein of trams 1, 2, 5). [112] Sat: 12:30PM, 5:15PM; Sun: 9:30AM; 11:00AM, 12:30AM, 5:15PM; Mon-Fri: 12:30PM, 5:15PM.
  • Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk, Keizersgracht 220/218 B (stop Westermarkt of trams 6, 13, 14, 17 or busses 21, 170, 172). [113] Sat: 7PM; Sun: 11:15AM, 1:00PM (surinam.); Mon-Fri (chapel): 12:15PM, 7:30PM.
  • Papegaai (HH. Petrus en Paulus), Kalverstraat 58 (by feet 20 min from central station). Sat: 5:30PM; Sun: 10:30AM, 12:15PM; Mon-Sat: 10:30AM.
  • Zusters van Moeder Teresa, Amsterdam-Badhoevedorp, Egelantierstraat 147 (city center). Sun: 3:00PM; Mon-Sat: 07:30AM.
  • Vrouwe van alle volkeren, Diepenbrockstraat 3 (near to RAI congress centre), tel. (020)-6620504. Sun: 09:30AM, 11:15AM; Mon-Sat: 12:15PM; Tue: 7:15PM.

The older generation of Dutch people tends to be more religious.

Get out

Direct trains connect Amsterdam to Paris, to major Belgian cities like Brussels and Antwerp, and to German cities like Cologne, Frankfurt and Berlin. The ticket machines directly sell tickets to nearby destinations in Belgium and Germany, for longer journeys you will need to consult the international ticket office at the west end of the Central Station. CityNightLine trains run directly from Amsterdam Central Station to Milan, Vienna, Copenhagen, Prague, Warsaw, Moscow, Munich, Innsbruck, and Zurich (reservation compulsory).

Almost any place in the Netherlands can be reached within 3 hours of rail travel. To make more sense, day trips can be divided into those close to the city (about 30 minutes by public transport) and those further afield.

About 30 minutes

  • Broek in Waterland - a 'picturesque' village and a tourist destination since the 19th century
  • Haarlem - the closest of the historic cities
  • Zuid-Kennemerland National Park - a unique national park made of dunes formed over the centuries
  • Monnickendam - a small 17th-century port town
  • Muiden - formerly a small port at the mouth of the Vecht river, it boasts the Muiderslot, the best-known castle of the country
  • Naarden - surrounded by a complete ring of 17th-century fortifications
  • Hilversum - wealthy town known for it's magnificent town hall, also offers interesting cycling tours through forests and the heath
  • Weesp - nearest small fortified town with a quiet historic center on the Vecht river, 14 minutes by train
  • Volendam - once a fishing village, it is now the most commercialised tourist destination in the Netherlands (Edam and Marken are nearby and more authentic)
  • Zaanse Schans - historic windmills, trademen workshops and open-air museum
  • Zandvoort - closest beach resort

About one hour

  • Alkmaar - historic town with its cheese market
  • Delft - well-known for its typical blue and white ceramics
  • Den Bosch - typical city for the Southern Netherlands, goes crazy during carnival
  • Enkhuizen - interesting small town with the Zuiderzee Museum, that shows how people used to live with the persistent danger of the sea
  • Hoorn - historic port that played a large role in the history of the Dutch East India Company (VOC)
  • Kinderdijk - this authentic network of windmills shows the typical Dutch countryside at its best
  • Keukenhof - a seasonal attraction in the Spring, these enormous flower fields are popular among travellers
  • Rotterdam - has a history of rivalry with Amsterdam, and a completely different atmosphere with modern architecture
  • The Hague (Den Haag) - political heart of the country, Madurodam, and Scheveningen, the most popular beach of the country
  • Utrecht - historic town that has a less-ambitious canal system


Routes through Amsterdam
END  W noframe E  DiemenOldenzaal
END  N noframe S  AbcoudeEijsden
END  N noframe S  BadhoevedorpBergen op Zoom
END  SW noframe NE  ZaandamWinschoten
AlkmaarAmstelveen  N noframe S  Diemen





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