The Old Center is the historical heart of Amsterdam.
Most visitors arrive in Amsterdam at the Central Station, and then walk south over the streets Damrak and Rokin. In medieval 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 feel 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 Chinatown district (though it doesn't match up with Chinatowns in other cities). The Zeedijk particularly offers some great Eastern cuisine. 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 center of the city. It's a spacious area dominated by the Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis) and the New Church (Nieuwe Kerk). It's the prime shopping area with the Kalverstraat and the Flower Market.
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.
The Central Station at the north of the Old Center is the center of Amsterdam's public transport network. Most tram lines start, finish or pass through it.
- Allard Pierson Museum, Oude Turfmarkt 127 (Old Side, tram: Mint Square), ☎ +31 20 525 25 56, . M-F 10AM-5PM, Sa-Su 1PM-5PM. 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.
- Amsterdams Historisch Museum (New Side), Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 357 or Kalverstraat 92, ☎ +31 20 523 18 22, . M-F 10AM-5PM, Sa-Su 11AM-5PM. The city’s historical museum.. €6.
- Hash, Marihuana and Hemp Museum, Oudezijds Achterburgwal 148 (Old Side), ☎ +31 20 624 89 26, . 10AM-11PM 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.
- Hermitage Amsterdam, Amstel 51 (Old Jewish Quarter), ☎ +31 20 530 87 55, . Recently opened and an annex to the famous Hermitage museum in st Petersburg (Russia). This museum hosts exhibitions with paintings and other cultural artifacts from the vaults of its Russian parent.
- Museum Amstelkring, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40 (Old Side, inside the Red Light District), . M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 1PM-5PM. 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 a beautiful place to visit, and amazing to see how they fit worshippers, an organ, and an altar into such a narrow place. €7.
- NEMO, Oosterdok 2 (Old Jewish Quarter), ☎ +31 20 531 32 33, . 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 behavioral 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 (Old Jewish Quarter), ☎ +31 20 520 04 00, . 10AM-5PM 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, Dam Square, ☎ +31 20 620 40 60, . Tu-Su noon-5PM, M closed. This former City Hall (built in 1651) has recently been completely renovated 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, ☎ +31 20 622 83 76, . 9AM-10PM 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. €3.
- Torture Museum, Singel 449, ☎ +31 20 320 66 42, . This museum depicts the history of different torturous techniques used over the centuries.
- Damrak 33, ☎ +31 20 528 60 35, . 9AM-10PM daily. The latest gimmicky tourist trap near the Central Station, claims to be the world's first and only museum devoted to the drink. €7.50.
- Schutters Gallery, Between Kalverstraat and Begijnhof. Plenty of 17th-century portraits. Free.
- Dim Sum Court Chinatown, Zeedijk 109 (Chinatown). Just like the Rokin-branch, also offers all-you-can-eat for €7.50.
- Dim Sum Court Rokin, Rokin 152 (New Side). It offers an all-you-can-eat (maximum one hour) Chinese buffet for €7.50 (beverages not included, but available for an additional fee). Vegetarian and vegan options are available, just ask the cashier/waitress about the contents of individual dishes.
- Rapper, 30 Oudebrugsteeg (New Side). Offers a delicious sandwiches in freshly backed 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.
- Thaise Snackbar Bird, Zeedijk 72 (Chinatown). Very crowded little snack bar with fantastic 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.
- Gary's Muffins, Jodenbreestraat 15 (Old Jewish Quarter), . A pleasant, warm cafe with oversized cups of coffee, muffins and bagels galore. It's a combination of a New York deli and a California cafe where American-style products are baked on location and available to eat there or to take away. 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, tourists, and expatriates hungry for a taste of home. There are 3 locations in the city.
- Greetje, Peperstraat 23-25 (Old Jewish Quarter), ☎ +31 20 779 74 50, . Interesting, traditional Dutch dishes which you will not find elsewhere, alongside French classics. Excellent food combined with friendly, professional service. 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 (New Side). Great spices and meat dishes, Indian/Indonesian food. Try the Nasi Goreng Rames.
- Nam Tin, Jodenbreestraat 11 (Old Jewish Quarter, near Waterloo Square just opposite Rembrandt's House). A huge Chinese restaurant. Very authentic food: about half of the customers are Chinese tourists or expats. They serve cheap but delicious dim-sum at lunchtime.
- Rembrandt Corner, Jodenbreestraat 2 (Old Jewish Quarter). Around the corner of the "Rembrandt Huis" is a very nice "Eetcafe" with fresh food, wireless hot spots and internet workplaces. Try the dish of the day or the mussels, this always seems to be a good choice!
Bars and pubs
- Belgique, Gravenstraat 2 (New Side, Tram: Dam Square), ☎ +31 20 625 19 74. Easily one of the smallest bars in Amsterdam, there is seating for at most 15 people, but if you can get in you will enjoy it thoroughly. Specializing in Belgian beers, Belgique's menu is extensive and it 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 (Old Side, Tram/Metro: Nieuwmarkt). Great bar, really nice atmosphere, close to red light with a nice terrace in the summer. Good selection of cheap cocktails, best long island ice teas in the world! No smoking naughty stuff though.
- De Bierkoning, Paleisstraat 125 (New Side, Tram: Dam Square), ☎ +31 20 625 23 36, . Not a café, but a 'supermarket' specialized in beer.
- De Jaren, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 20-22 (Old Side, Tram: Mint Square), ☎ +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. It's mostly a nice place to sip a cup of coffee or tea and read a newspaper. It's hip interior attracts many students, as well as the upper class.
- Gollem, Raamsteeg 4 (New Side, Tram: Spui), ☎ +31 6 53 780 273, . A special beer café, serving many beers, especially from Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic and other countries.
- In De Wildeman, Kolksteeg 3 (New Side, 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 even has a separate non-smoking room.
- Katoen, Oude Turfmarkt 153 (Old Side, near Mint Square), ☎ +31 20 626 26 35, . Nice bar/cafe 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 (Old Side, Tram: Central Station), ☎ +31 20 624 11 50, . Authentic Irish pub with affordable, high quality food. Pleasant mix of ex-pats, locals and tourists and a friendly staff. Situated on a romantic 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 (New Side, near Spui Square), ☎ +31 20 623 18 40, . Daily 9PM-4AM. One of the oldest original brown cafés in the central district op Amsterdam, a side street of the famous Spui Square. 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. Low prices for a centre pub!
- Schuim, Spuistraat 189 (New Side, near Dam Square), ☎ +31 20 638 93 57. 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 "coffee shop".
- Bob's Youth Hostel, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 92 (New Side, Tram: Nieuwezijds Kolk), ☎ +31 20 623 0063 ([email protected]), . Breakfast, shower, dorm bed at €22 a night. Private rooms with a kitchen are €70 for two persons and €90 for three people..
- De Oranje Tulp, Damrak 32 (New Side, Tram: Central Station), ☎ +31 20 428 16 18, . Expensive, but posh. €50.
- Bulldog, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 220 (Old Side, Tram: Dam Square), ☎ +31 20 620 3822, . Friendly, cheap hostel right in the heart of the red light district. The Bulldog Coffeeshop is conveniently located on the ground floor (also where you get your breakfast). Breakfast, sheets, shower and a locker starting at €22..
- Durty Nellys Inn, Warmoesstraat 117 (Old Side, Tram: Dam Square), ☎ +31 20 638 01 25, . Good location (5 min walk to the central station). The staff was friendly, the dorms clean and the beds confortable enough. There is an Irish pub downstairs with discounts for people staying in the hostel (€3.5 for a pint of Amstel, 5€ for a burger and chips). Breakfast was served 9-11am and it was quite good compared to other hostels. The hosted didn't have any common area though (apart from the bar itself). Breakfast, sheets, shower and a locker starting at €17.
- Flying Pig (Downtown Branch), Nieuwendijk 100, ☎ +31 20 420 6822 ([email protected]), . Wide range of prices and accommodations, f 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. A lot of free extra's, check out the facility page on their website. From €14 for a dorm bed to €70 for a private room..
- Flying Pig (Uptown Branch), Vossiusstraat 46 (New Side, Tram: Central Station), ☎ +31 20 400 4187 ([email protected]), . Wide range of prices and accommodations, f 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. A lot of free extra's, check out the facility page on their website. Undergoing renovations, noisy at times, kitchen is closed, as are some showers. Lockers require lockpads, which are not available for rent, only sale for 5 Euro. From €25 for a dorm bed.
- Hans Brinker Hostel, Kerkstraat 136-138 (Tram 1: Keizersgracht), ☎ +31 20 622 0687, . Very light atmosphere, one of the hostel's cleaners also moonlights as a lesbian vampire in one of Amsterdam's infamous sex shows. Doesn't take itself seriously. Very fun bar and downstairs club. Also has the Happy Feelings coffeeshop opposite. A must for students! From US$32.10/€24.00/£17.09 per person..
- Hostel Cosmos, Nieuwe Nieuwstraat 17 (New Side, Tram: Nieuwezijds Kolk), ☎ +31 20 625 24 38, . Friendly, cheap youth hostel right in the Centre of Amsterdam. As far as location goes, Hostel Cosmos is hard to beat. It is in central Amsterdam, a four minute walk from Central Station and within walking distance of most of the city’s major tourist attractions - including Dam Square, the Anne Frank House, the Rembrandt Square and the famous Red Light District. And if the fabulous location were not enough, the hostel has a resident cat so you can get a pet fix while you are away from home. (Of course, if you are allergic to cats, that is another problem entirely.) Breakfast, sheets, shower and a locker starting at €24.
- Hotel Brian, Singel 69 (New Side, Tram: Nieuwezijds Kolk), ☎ +31 20 624 4661, . Very basic hotel, but free breakfast and free internet included.
- Hotel Tamara, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 144 (New Side, Tram: Nieuwezijds Kolk), ☎ +31 20 624 24 84. Cheap "hotel" in a great location. Very close to the center, basic but clean rooms. Single/double/triple/quad/dorm, from €23 shared, €49 private.
- St Christophers, Warmoesstraat 129 (Old Side, Tram: Dam Square), ☎ +31 20 623 13 80 ([email protected]), . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 11AM. Also known as St Christopher's @ The Winston, this part hostel, part hotel is in the heart of Amsterdam. Each room is designed by local Dutch artists. €20 with breakfast included.
- Stayokay Stadsdoelen, Kloveniersburgwal 97 (Old Side, Tram: Mint Square), ☎ +31 20 624 68 32, . Stayokay operates a network of 30 hostels in the Netherlands, this hostel is the Amsterdam city centre location. A little smaller than Stayokay Vondelpark, this location does not take groups.
- The Shelter (City), Barndesteeg 21 (Old Side, Tram: Nieuwmarkt), ☎ +31 (0)20 624 4717, . An alcohol and drug-free Christian youth hostel in the heart of Amsterdam, controversially enough right at the Red Light District. Great value for money. Single-sex dormitories (including breakfast, bed linen). From €17, €19 in July and August.
- White Tulip Hostel, Warmoesstraat 87 (Old Side, tram: Dam Square), ☎ +31 20 6255974 (fax: +31 20 420 1299), . About a 5 minute walk from the central station. Dorms and a few rooms right in the middle of things. Really a basic crash-pad, but quiet and relaxed due to their 'No large groups' policy. €20.
- CityCenter Bed and Breakfast, Sint Jacobsstraat 21, ☎ +31 6 451 600 78 ([email protected]), . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 10AM. Just one minute walking from Central Station and Dam Square, in the center of Amsterdam. Famous sights, neighborhoods, museums and nightlife at hand. €90.
- Delta Hotel, Damrak 42-43, ☎ +31 20 620 2626, . Clean rooms and friendly staff. Doubles €65-160.
- Hotel Citadel, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 100, ☎ +31 20 627 38 82, . Doubles €65-160.
- Hotel Continental, Damrak 40-41, ☎ +31 20 622 33 63, . checkin: 14.00; checkout: 10.00. Comfortable hotel located conveniently on a 5 minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station.
- Hotel Falcon Plaza, Valkenburgerstraat 72 (Metro/Tram: Waterlooplein), ☎ +31 20 638 29 91, . Hotel Falcon Plaza is situated in the centre of Amsterdam, on 5 minutes walking distance from the famous Waterlooplein flee market and the buzzling Rembrandtplein, surrounded by cafés and restaurants. The wonderful and attractive location is a great starting point for exploring the city by foot or by public transport. The trams number 9 and 14, which stop at the Waterlooplein, will take you in a few minutes to the nearby attractions, such as the Heineken Brewery, the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House and the Dam Square. €80.
- Hotel Y Boulevard, Prins Hendrikkade 145, ☎ +31 20 623 04 30, . Nice rooms, classy atmosphere, includes a free breakfast. €109.
- Rembrandtplein Hotel, Groenbrugwal 27, ☎ +31 20 428 42 44, . Beautiful but sometimes tiny, near the flower market. Friendly staff, bar open all night. €70-90 including breakfast.
- RHo Hotel, Nes 11-15, ☎ +31 20 620 73 71 ([email protected]), . Although the hotel is in the city centre, rooms are quiet. Parking available. Friendly staff. Doubles €100.
- Rokin Hotel, Rokin 73, ☎ +31 20 626 74 56, . Nice place in 2 star renovated 17th century mansions. Very clean and good atmosphere, own parking. €100.
- Estherea, Singel 303-309, ☎ +31 20 624 51 46, . Four star hotel on one of the main canals in the centre, 300 metres from the Dam Square and the Royal Palace. 17th century facade, 75 recently renovated rooms. From €220.
- Krasnapolsky, Dam 9, ☎ +31 20 554 91 11, . 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 (0)20 555 3111, . Close to Dam Square, offers gorgeous canal views. Weather permitting, lunch is served in the beautiful courtyard. From €365.
- Park Plaza Victoria Hotel Amsterdam, Damrak 1-5, ☎ +31 20 623 42 55, . Historic building (1890) directly opposite Centraal Station and next to Dam Square,four star hotel located in the heart of Amsterdam. €110.
- Radisson Blu Hotel Amsterdam, Rusland, 17, ☎ +31 20 623 1231 ([email protected], fax: Fax: +31 20 520 8200), . Luxury hotel located between two canals in the historical heart of Amsterdam. Formerly called Radisson SAS. €159 per room.
- Renaissance Amsterdam, Kattengat 1 (just off Nieuwe Zijds Voorburgwal), ☎ +31 20 621 22 23, . Four star hotel with conference center, wireless internet access in the lobby and café. From €289.