The Old Centre is the mediaeval heart of Amsterdam.
Most visitors arrive in Amsterdam at the Central Station, and then walk south over the streets Damrak and Rokin. In mediaeval times, both these streets actually were the final end of the Amstel River. They used to cut Amsterdam in half: east of the Damrak-Rokin-axis was the Old Side (Oudezijde) of Amsterdam, the oldest part of the city dating from the 13th century. West of the Damrak-Rokin-axis was the New Side (Nieuwezijde), which was constructed later, but still dates from the late Middle Ages. Now Damrak and Rokin are the glue that hold both sides of the city together, and while walking there, you probably won't even notice that this once was a river.
The division between the Old Side and the New Side never faded away however, and both have a lot to offer for visitors. The Old Side is home to the Nieuwmarkt, a large square that recently turned into a Chinese neighbourhood (though it doesn't match up with Chinatowns in other cities). The Zeedijk particularly offers some great Asian restaurants an snack joints. Nearby is the Red Light District located at the Oudezijds Burgwal, the oldest profession of the world at the oldest part of the city. The New Side's most iconic square is Dam Square, considered the ultimate centre of the city. It's a spacious area dominated by the Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis) and the New Church (Nieuwe Kerk). Around it are the city's prime shopping areas with the Kalverstraat, Nieuwendijk and the Flower Market, and the bars at the Spui.
An outlying area is the Old Jewish Quarter. As the Netherlands had a relatively high level of religious freedom from the 16th century onwards, many Jewish communities had migrated to this area. In the 1920s this was one of the busiest areas of town with large open-air markets and smoky factories. This changed in World War II, when Nazi Germany occupied Amsterdam and most Jewish citizens were deported to concentration camps. The area went into decay and even today isn't quite as interesting as one might hope. It nowadays has turned into a big traffic junction, but the Jewish Historical Museum (Joods Historisch Museum) keeps the history of the neighborhood alive.
Next to the more official cultural venues, the old centre of Amsterdam offers the usual tourist traps. On Damrak you can find for example the Amsterdam Vodka Museum and the Sex Museum, and in the Red Light District you can find the Hash and Marihuana Museum.
The Central Station at the north of the Old centre is the centre of Amsterdam's public transport network. Most tram lines start, finish or pass through it.
Allard Pierson Museum, Oude Turfmarkt 127 (Tram Muntplein), ☎ +31 20 525 2556, . M-F 10:00-17:00, Sa-Su 13:00-17:00. The Allard Pierson Museum is the archaeological museum of the University of Amsterdam . The ancient civilizations of Egypt, Cyprus, the Greek World, Etruria and the Roman Empire are revived in this museum. Art-objects and utensils, dating from 4000 B.C. till 500 A.D. give a good impression of everyday-life, mythology and religion in Antiquity.€6.50.
Amsterdam Dungeon, Rokin 78 (Tram Spui), ☎ +31 20 530 8500, . 11:00-17:00 daily, 24 Dec-8 Jan 10:30-17:30 daily, 2 Jul-4 Sep 11:00-18;00 daily. The Amsterdam Dungeon is a horror tour through several dark chambers with live actors. It ends with a roller coaster raging through a real 13th century church.€21.
Amsterdams Historisch Museum, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 357 or Kalverstraat 92 (Tram Spui), ☎ +31 20 523 1822, . M-F 10:00-17:00, Sa-Su 11:00-17:00. The city’s historical museum, there is a free gallery of paintings & art that you walk through to get to the museum entrance.€10.
Hash, Marihuana and Hemp Museum, Oudezijds Achterburgwal 148 (Metro Nieuwmarkt), ☎ +31 20 624 89 26, . 10:00-23:00 daily. Opened for over twenty years, the Hash Museum is dedicated to debunking the lies and demonization about one of our most useful plants, the hemp plant. Although small, busy and seriously overpriced, it is a well-done museum where people go to get informed.€9.
Joods Historisch Museum, Nieuwe Amstelstraat 1 (Metro Waterlooplein), ☎ +31 20 531 0310, . 11:00-17:00 daily (except some Jewish holidays). Jewish Historical Museum. History of the Jewish people, culture and religion.€9. (52.36735,4.9037)
Medieval Torture Museum (formerly Vodka Museum), Damrak 33 (Tram Centraal Station), ☎ +31 20 528 6035, . 09:00-22:00 daily. The latest gimmicky tourist attraction near the Central Station, it's a small museum about medieval torture and torture devices. In the Middle Ages, torture was a widely known punishment for almost all crimes committed, ranging from rape to murder, and above all for heresy. The type of punishment depended on the victim's crime and social status. The Medieval Torture Museum displays over 100 devices used to torture people. Before its make-over, it used to be a vodka museum; the vodka shop is still open in the basement with free entry.€12.50.
Museum Amstelkring (Our Lord in the Attic), Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40 (Tram Centraal Station), . M-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su 13:00-17:00. Most locals don't recognize the official name, but will know what you mean if you say "Our Lord in the Attic." This is a Catholic church stuffed into the upper stories of a house built in 1663, when Catholics were persecuted and had to disguise their churches. It's amazing to see how they fit worshippers, an organ, and an altar into such a narrow place.€7.
NEMO, Oosterdok 2 (Bus IJtunnel), ☎ +31 20 531 3233, . Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. NEMO is the biggest science centre in the Netherlands; an educational attraction where you can discover a world of science and technology in an entertaining way. NEMO takes you on a voyage of discovery between fantasy and reality. You will discover how scientific phenomena influence your daily life. You will learn about technology and engineering, ICT, and bio- and behavioural sciences. This is a great place to take kids and is best for those ages 11 and below — teenagers will probably get bored.€11.50.
Rembrandt House, Jodenbreestraat 4 (Metro Waterlooplein), ☎ +31 20 520 0400, . 10:00-17:00 daily. This is where the artist Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn and his wife, Saskia, lived between 1639 and 1658. The house is a reconstruction of the painter’s life at that time and provides interesting insight. You will be able to see 260 of his 290 etchings, find out about how they were created, see where he worked and explore the nooks and crannies of this fascinating building.€8.
Royal Palace (Paleis op de Dam), Dam (Tram Dam), ☎ +31 20 620 4060, . Tu-Su 12:00-17:00. The Royal Palace is one of the three official palaces of the Netherlands. It is at the disposal of Queen Beatrix by the Act of Parliament. It was built in 1651 as the city hall of Amsterdam, in a period known as the Dutch Golden Age. Many school children learn that because of the swampy soil, it was built on no less than 13,569 wooden poles. In 1795, the French Empire of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded the Netherlands, and his brother Louis Napoleon became the first King of Holland in 1806. He acquired the city hall in that year and turned it into a royal palace. It was restored to the original owners when Prince William VI returned to the Netherlands in 1812, but when he was crowded as King William I, he decided that Amsterdam should be the official capital and acquired the city hall once again as a royal palace. This still brings out feelings among the locals, some of who would like to see the palace returned to Amsterdam. It has been completely renovated in 2009 and is now open again. It is mainly used for diplomatic receptions and to welcome visiting heads of state, not as a royal residence.€7.50.
Sexmuseum, Damrak 18 (Tram Centraal Station), ☎ +31 20 622 8376, . 09:00-22:00 daily. The largest and most prestigious museum for sex art and sex history in the Netherlands. It shows a lot of sex oddities. Only ages 16 and up are allowed entry.€4.
Torture Museum, Singel 449 (Tram Koningsplein), ☎ +31 20 320 6642, . 10:00-23:00. This museum depicts the history of different torturous techniques used over the centuries.€7.50.
Schutters Gallery, Between Kalverstraat and Begijnhof. Plenty of 17th-century portraits.Free.
The most prominent synagogue is The Esnoga (or The Portuguese Synagogue)  (1675) located at Mr. Visserplein 3, in an austere Classicist style.
Beurs van Berlage. Take a guided tour and check out the view from the top of the old stock exchange tower. It was built in 1903 (by Hendrik Petrus Berlage) and is considered the beginning of modern Dutch architecture. Costs €3.50, located on Beursplein near Dam Square.
Wynand Fockink. Pijlsteeg 31 ☎ +31 20 639 26 95 (mailto:email@example.com) 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.
Flower Market. The world's only floating flower market, open daily on the Singel Canal near Muntplein. It is very touristy, but you could do worse than buying your tulips here. Make sure you buy pre-approved bulbs if taking them to the U.S. or Canada. They will have the holographic licence and export tag on the bag.
Spui. Every Friday and Sunday, there is a market held on the Spui. Friday has books on sale, while Sundays are all about art and antiques.
Waterlooplein. M-Sa until about 17:00. A well-known but fairly overrated flea market.
The American Book Centre, (on Spui), . Excellent shop for literature and books in the English language, particularly on American culture.
Athenaeum Boekhandel, Spui 14-16 (Tram Spui), ☎ +31 20 514-1460, . M 11:00-18:00, Tu-W, Sa 09:30-18:00, Th 09:30-21:00, F 9:30-18:30, Su 12:00-17:30. One of the most renowned book stores of Amsterdam, because of its wide array of fiction and more academic titles. It is very popular among local students; however, their study books are also interesting reading material for non-graduates. They have a particular large selection of books in the humanities, including history, media, language, culture and international relations.
The Book Exchange, Kloveniersburgwal 58 (diagonally across from the youth hostel), ☎ +31 20 626-6266. M-Sa 10:00-16:00, Su 11:30-16:30. 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.
Waterstone's, Kalverstraat 152. Another good tip for English literature.
Cracked Kettle, Raamsteeg 3. 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 noon-10PM everyday.
This guide uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
OCHA, Binnen Bantammerstraat 1 (Metro Nieuwmarkt), ☎ +31 20 625-9958. Tu-Su 16:00-22:30. This used to be just the little "Thai snackbar around the corner", but since a raving review in the local newspaper Het Parool, big crowds are waiting in line to get seated during dinnertime. The scenery is simple and the restaurant is very small and cramped. However, the hype is all about the food, which is absolutely mouth-watering. They have the usual Thai fare, but the dish to go for is the massaman curry, their specialty.€15.
Rapper, 30 Oudebrugsteeg (Tram/Metro Centraal Station). Offers delicious sandwiches in freshly baked wraps and salads with a selection of home sauces. Prices vary from €3.95 for vegetarian wrap to €5.95 for Black-Angus Entrecôte wrap.
Bird, Zeedijk 72 (Metro Nieuwmarkt). Very crowded little snack bar with Thai food. Not to be confused with the restaurant of the same owner, on the other side of the street. Try the chicken in oyster sauce.
Bar Italia, Rokin 81 / 83 - Nes 96, ☎ +31 20 6202442, . Monday-Fr 10:00-03:00, Weekends 10:00-04:00. The unique sellingpoint of Bar Italia is that it consists of three different areas; a Restaurant, Café and Espressobar. During the day you're welcome in the Espressobar for lunch, around 5pm the Café opens for drinks and during the evening the Restaurant offers a menu full of authentic Italian dishes.
Gebr. Niemeijer French style bakery, Nieuwendijk 35, ☎ +31 20 7076752, . Tu-Fr 08:15-18:30, Sa 08:30-17:00, Su 09:00-17:00. French-style bakery with pastries, croissants, breads, sandwiches all baked fresh on premises. Open for breakfast and lunch, eat-in or takeaway. Bring the kids and eat in the small playroom upstairs.
Gary's Muffins, Jodenbreestraat 15, . Oversized cups of coffee, muffins and bagels. Muffins, brownies, giant cookies, cheesecake and bagels spread with various toppings are served at reasonable prices to a clientele that is a mix of locals and tourists. American themed. There are 3 locations in the city.
Greetje, Peperstraat 23-25, ☎ +31 20 779 74 50, . Traditional Dutch, alongside French classics. Located in an historic building on a quiet side street near Central Station; it's off the beaten track so most of the diners are local. Open 6 days a week (not Mondays); a reservation is usually necessary.
Kantjil & de Tiger, Spuistraat 291. Great spices and meat dishes, Indian/Indonesian food. Try the Nasi Goreng Rames.
Rembrandt Corner, Jodenbreestraat 2. Around the corner of the "Rembrandt Huis" is a very nice "Eetcafe" with fresh food, WiFi hot spots and internet workplaces. Try the dish of the day or the mussels.
Bars and pubs
Belgique, Gravenstraat 2 (Tram Dam), ☎ +31 20 625 19 74. One of the smallest bars in Amsterdam, there is seating for at most 15 people. Specialising in Belgian beers, extensive menu that includes some hard to find beers on tap. This place is smoke friendly so don't be surprised to see people rolling joints as they drink.
Cuba, Nieuwmarkt 3 (Metro Nieuwmarkt). Great bar, really nice atmosphere, close to the Red Light District with a nice terrace in the summer. Selection of cheap cocktails and long island ice tea.
De Bierkoning, Paleisstraat 125 (Tram Dam), ☎ +31 20 625 23 36, . Not a café, but a 'supermarket' specialized in beer.
Gollem, Raamsteeg 4 (Tram Spui), ☎ +31 6 53 780 273, . A special beer café, serving many beers, especially from Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic and other countries.
De Jaren, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 20-22 (Tram Muntplein), ☎ +31 20 625 57 71, . A minimal art-deco interior next to Hotel d'Europe and a great view of where all the main canals come together. Sip a cup of coffee or tea and read a newspaper.
In De Wildeman, Kolksteeg 3 (Tram Nieuwezijds Kolk), ☎ +31 20 638 23 48, . A very well stocked beer café, or actually beer tasting room (bierproeflokaal) in the centre of the inner city. 17 beers (usually from various countries) and a cider on draught, and about 250 different bottled beers offered. There is no music played, which makes for a very friendly and talkative atmosphere, and it has a separate non-smoking room.
Katoen, Oude Turfmarkt 153 (Tram Muntplein), ☎ +31 20 626 26 35, . Close to the southern part of the Grachtengordel. Alternative music and cozy atmosphere also in the evenings.(52.367718,4.894004)
Molly Malones Irish Pub, Oudezijds Kolk 9 (Tram Centraal Station), ☎ +31 20 624 11 50, . Authentic Irish pub with food. Mix of expatriates, locals and tourists, friendly staff. Situated on a canal off the Zeedijk, close to Centraal Station and Warmoesstraat. Open every night, live music in the week-ends and large-screen television.
d'Oude Herberg, Handboogstraat 17/19 (Tram Spui), ☎ +31 20 623 18 40, . 09:00-04:00 daily. One of the oldest original brown cafés in the central district op Amsterdam, a side street of the famous Spui. Get a stool at the bar or get comfy in one of the three wood panelled booths. On weekdays a highly popular student bar and in the weekend the hangout for the more adult locals and travellers from Couchsurfing.com.
Schuim, Spuistraat 189 (near Dam), ☎ +31 20 638-9357. The super comfy cafe is a great place to spend entire rainy days at a time. It heats up quite a bit at night. Pot smoking seems to be tolerated even though Schuim is definitely not a "coffeeshop".
Cafe Speijk, Nieuwesijdsvoorburgwal 260 (behind Koniklijk Paleis), . Awesome bar with lost of fun, artsy crazy locals. Various DJ play different styles. Open till late in the morning. Best place to meet laid-back and awesome Amsterdamers!!
Bitterzoet, Spuistraat 2 (Tram Martelaarsgracht), . 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.
Winston Kingdom, Warmoesstraat 131, . Music venue and nightclub in the red light district.
This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
€80 to €150
Intersail Hostel-Christina, Oosterdok 2 Dock 3 (Tram Centraal Station), ☎ +31 6 5478 5934 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 11AM. Floating hostel. Close to Central station. Small cabins, bedlength is 1.90 m, but great staff and a nice spacious sun deck. Breakfast, sheets, towels are included in the price. 4 person cabins are better to be used for only 3 adults. Don't take too much lugage in these cabins.Shared shower and toilet, 4 bed private from €22,50 to €27,50 per bed per night. 2 and 3 bed private from €25-€30,- per bed per night ..
Bulldog, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 220 (Tram Dam), ☎ +31 20 620 3822, . Friendly hostel in the heart of the red light district. A coffeeshop is conveniently located on the ground floor, this is also where you get your breakfast.Breakfast, sheets, shower and a locker starting at €22..
Durty Nellys Inn, Warmoesstraat 117 (Tram Dam), ☎ +31 20 638 0125, . 5 min walk to central station. Dorms are clean and the beds comfortable. The Irish pub downstairs gives discounts to people staying in the hostel (€3.5 for a pint of Amstel, 6€ for a burger and chips). Breakfast 9AM-11AM. No common area apart from the bar itself.dorm €17 per person.
Flying Pig (Downtown Branch), Nieuwendijk 100, ☎ +31 20 420 6822 (email@example.com), . The Uptown is supposed to be a bit more quiet compared to the Downtown location, which has more of a party vibe. Both hostels are famous for their laidback atmosphere, bars and indoor smoking areas. Free extras, check out the facility page on their website.€70, dorm €14 per person, €33 in high season.
Flying Pig (Uptown Branch), Vossiusstraat 46 (Tram Centraal Station), ☎ +31 20 400 4187 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Noisy at times, kitchen is closed, as are some showers. Lockers require lockpads, which are not available for rent, only sale for €5.dorm €25 per person.
Hans Brinker Hostel, Kerkstraat 136-138 (Tram 1: Keizersgracht), ☎ +31 20 622 0687, . Very light atmosphere and doesn't take itself seriously. Bar and downstairs club. Happy Feelings coffeeshop is opposite.dorm €24+ per person.
Hostel Cosmos, Nieuwe Nieuwstraat 17 (Tram Nieuwezijds Kolk), ☎ +31 20 625 2438, . Friendly, youth hostel 4 min walk from Central Station.dorm €24 per person.
Hotel Beursstraat, Beursstraat 9, ☎ +31 20 626 3701, . Simple and clean hotel, mostly visited by (young) people who are looking for an inexpensive accommodation.
Hotel Brian, Singel 69 (Tram Nieuwezijds Kolk), ☎ +31 20 624 4661, . Very basic hotel, but free breakfast and free internet included.
Hotel Tamara, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 144 (Tram Nieuwezijds Kolk), ☎ +31 20 624 2484. Cheap "hotel" in a great location with basic clean rooms.€49, dorm €23 per person.
St Christophers, Warmoesstraat 129 (Tram Dam), ☎ +31 20 623 13 80, . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 11AM. Part hostel, part hotel. Each room is designed by local Dutch artists.€44-63.
Stayokay Stadsdoelen, Kloveniersburgwal 97 (Tram Muntplein), ☎ +31 20 624 6832 (email@example.com, fax: +31 20 639 1035), . checkin: early check-in begins at 7:30AM, rooms available at 2PM; checkout: 10:30AM. Stayokay operates a network of 27 hostels in the Netherlands, and is the Dutch affiliate of Hostelling International. A little smaller than Stayokay Vondelpark, this location does not take groups. Free WiFi and pay internet terminals. Free security lockers are provided in the hallways outside the dorms.Dorms €17+, privates €40+.
The Shelter (City), Barndesteeg 21 (Tram Nieuwmarkt), ☎ +31 20 624 4717, . An alcohol and drug-free Christian youth hostel, controversially enough right at the Red Light District. Single-sex dormitories, including breakfast, bed linen.dorm €17-19 per person.
White Tulip Hostel, Warmoesstraat 87 (Tram Dam), ☎ +31 20 625 5974 (fax: +31 20 420 1299), . About a 5 min walk from the central station. Dorms and a few rooms. Really a basic crash-pad, but quiet and relaxed due to their 'No large groups' policy.dorm €20 per person.
City Center Bed and Breakfast, Sint Jacobsstraat 21, ☎ +31 6 4516 0078 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 10AM. 1 min from Central Station and Dam.€115.
Hotel Continental, Damrak 40-41, ☎ +31 20 622 33 63, . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 10AM. 5 min walk from Amsterdam Central Station. Small rooms. Shared toilets.
Hotel Falcon Plaza, Valkenburgerstraat 72 (Metro/Tram Waterlooplein), ☎ +31 20 638 29 91, . 5 min walk to the Waterlooplein flee market and the Rembrandtplein. The trams number 9 and 14, which stop at the Waterlooplein will take you to nearby attractions.€80.
Hotel Y Boulevard, Prins Hendrikkade 145, ☎ +31 20 623 04 30, . Includes a free breakfast.€109.
Rembrandtplein Hotel, Groenbrugwal 27, ☎ +31 20 428 4244, . Sometimes tiny, near the flower market. Friendly staff, bar open all night.€70-90 including breakfast.
RHo Hotel, Nes 11-15, ☎ +31 20 620 7371 (email@example.com), . Rooms are quiet. Parking available. Friendly staff.Doubles €100-190.
Rokin Hotel, Rokin 73, ☎ +31 20 626 7456, . 2 star renovated 17th century mansion. Very clean and good atmosphere, own parking.€100-190.
Estherea, Singel 303-309, ☎ +31 20 624 5146, . 4 star hotel on one of the main canals in the centre, 300 m from the Dam and the Royal Palace. 17th century facade, 75 recently renovated rooms.From €220.
Krasnapolsky, Dam 9, ☎ +31 20 554 9111, . A somewhat seedy location for a 5-star hotel - the entrance may be on the main square but the hotel backs onto the red-light district, with a view of sex-shops and peepshows.€159.
Luxury Hotel Sofitel The Grand, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 197, ☎ +31 20 555 3111, . Close to Dam, offers canal views. Weather permitting, lunch is served in the courtyard.From €365.
Park Plaza Victoria Amsterdam, Damrak 1-5, ☎ +31 20 623 4255 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +31 20 62 52 997), . 4 star opposite Central Station. Free WiFi in public spaces.€104 per room.