The complete guide to: Amsterdam travel

The complete guide to: Amsterdam travel

Travelling to the Netherlands and checking out the sights in the capital? Our local Amsterdam tour guides have put together everything you need to know about visiting the city, from getting to and from the airport, to the best Amsterdam-themed books you should read before you go, to the cool local spots you should check out.

View our day tours in Amsterdam

Getting to and from AMS

Taking the train from the airport in Amsterdam is a good option to get to the city centre. Direct trains to Amsterdam Central Station run every 10 to 15 minutes between around 6am and 1am (every hour during other times). The trip takes about 15 to 20 minutes. You can buy tickets either at the ticket desk on the arrivals level, or from the yellow machines (with euro coins or selected credit or debit cards). Trains leave from platforms 1, 2 or 3, one floor below the airport terminal.

On your return trip, we recommend using a taxi airport service, especially if you have a lot of luggage. With most private services like these, you need to book at least 24 hours in advance and have a number they can call 10 minutes before they pick you up, to tell you where they are parked or when they will arrive. This is the most reliable way to get from the city centre to the airport, and should cost around EUR 34.

Getting around Amsterdam

Amsterdam bicycles

Explore on two wheels in Amsterdam | Photo by Amsterdam Urban Adventures

Taking public transit makes it easy to get around Amsterdam. We have 15 tram routes, 43 bus routes, four metro routes, and six ferries (free of charge). One day or multi-day tickets provide you with unlimited travel on all GVB routes (GVB is the city transport operator), regardless of distance, both day and night. The ticket becomes valid the first time you check in. A one-day (24 hour) ticket is EUR 7.50 and you can purchase tickets from AKOs newspaper stands at Schiphol Airport, various hotels, GVB yellow add-value machines in most shops downtown, and GVB ticket vending machines (at metro stations and metro stops).

Walking will get you to the majority of city sites. Amsterdam is small but its even more interesting to start outside of the city centre by taking public transport, and then walk back into the city. Whichever way you look at it, locals say it takes 20 minuts to get anywhere.

Biking (by either renting a bike or taking a bike taxi) is also a great way to get around the city, since Amsterdam is so cycling-friendly. Plus, you’ll feel like a local, which is always a bonus.

Things to do in Amsterdam

Explore Amsterdam

Scenic Amsterdam | Photo via Pixabay

For those who like to explore local museums, there’s no shortage in the city. But while the Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum are icons that you should see, Amsterdam is also home to more than 30 museums that many travellers don’t even know about. You can check out the Jewish Historical Museum, Tropenmuseum, FOAM photography museum, the Canal House Museum and even a Funeral Museum and Museum of Prostitution.

If you’d rather get outside, head to one of the city’s major parks. Vondel is the only one you’ll find on a tourist map, but there are plenty more to be discovered, so just ask around (locals will know where to go). Grab a snack from a local sandwich shop, then plant yourself in the sun. Amsterdam North is a local favourite, right along the water. Alternately, you could head to the Artis Royal Zoo, which is ethically operated, or to Hortus Botanicus, the oldest botanical gardens in the world. You could also grab lunch at Frankendael Park, or go for a canoe ride or watch some Shakespeare in Het Bos.

Parks in Amsterdam

Park life | Photo by Mario Gogh on Unsplash

For something a little different, a short (free) ferry trip will take you to a number of areas, including NDSM, a former shipyard that has been transformed into an arts and culture-driven neighbourhood. The vibrant artist community is home to bars and restaurants, a beach along the River IJ, an industrial crane you can stay in or bungee jump from, cafes, and loads of festivals and cultural events. In the summertime, there are outdoor movies to enjoy, on Tuesdays from June through August.

Make your way to Westerpark in Amsterdam West to experience a one-stop-shop for great food, vibrant outdoor space, events, galleries, festivals and more. Here you’ll find the cultural complex of Westergasfabriek, which hosts regular festivals and markets throughout the year, including the Sunday Market on the first Sunday of every month featuring food trucks, live bands and the chance to browse and shop a variety of unique items. There are also two breweries in Westerpark: Troost and De Prael.

Amsterdam Day Tours

Looking for more things to do? Urban Adventures offers several day tours in Amsterdam, all led by local experts who will give you a taste for local life in the city:

In the City of Bikes
Inspired by Pete Jordan’s book In the City of Bikes, this is an Amsterdam bike tour like no other. Get the ultimate local perspective on the city’s incredible array of canals, dykes, and culture, complimented by a healthy dose of Amsterdam’s quirkiest tales. Hup hup!

The Original Amsterdam Beer Tour
Bask in the glory of liquid sunshine on this tour that covers the best bars, breweries, and beer halls of this brew-loving city. From a place where nuns used to brew ales to that mothership of Dutch beer brewing, the original Heineken building, you’ll taste the Netherlands’ strong brewing history.

Amsterdam Food by Foot
From snacking on salty fries, to savouring rich cheeses and sipping boozy spirits, this indgulent Amsterdam tour should come with a health warning!

Home Cooked Amsterdam
The Dutch don’t talk much about their food, unless it’s about pancakes! Pannekoeken are a traditional Dutch treat — sometimes sweet, sometimes savoury, but always delicious! Enjoy this two-hour pancake lunch with a local cook in a 14th century monastery turned into 20th century housing.

Made In Amsterdam: A Super Local Souvenir Tour
Uncover authentic Amsterdam souvenirs on this shopping tour that takes you to a t-shirt shop, a portrait studio and a store selling artistic pieces from recycled materials. You’ll have a spending allowance of EUR 55 included, and if you don’t spend it all, it won’t be wasted — anything saved from your bank will go to help cancer and diabetes research.

In Focus: The Faces of Amsterdam
This In Focus tour brings immigration to the forefront of the conversation, by examining Amsterdam’s proud history of welcoming settlers from all over the world. We will delve into the city’s history of inclusivity, and meet first and second-generation migrants who have benefited from it. We’ll also visit a local foundation that is helping refugee artists in Amsterdam to tell their stories on their own terms.

Amsterdam Private Tour
Put our team of local experts to work to build the perfect itinerary just for you. You can include some of the components of our regular tours, or none at all. If you’re not sure, we’ve got plenty of ideas for what you might want to include. Let our team of expert locals know your interests, and they’ll come up with all kinds of things! 

Amsterdam on the big screen

Get in the mood for Amsterdam’s scenery with Ocean’s Twelve. The movie was shot on location at the Pulitzer Hotel, Koningsplein Square, and Coffeeshop De Dampkring, along the streets Kalverstraat and Heiligeweg, and at the Gouden Bocht (Golden Bend) of the Herengracht Canal (home to Amsterdam’s wealthiest residents in the 1700s).

Amsterdam on record

Originally by singer-songwriter Jacques Brel and reworked by David Bowie, among others, In the Port of Amsterdam is a melancholy tale about sailors having wild nights and sad stories while on shore leave in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam in books

Two books we’d recommend are Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City by Russell Shorto, and In the City of Bikes by Pete Jordan. Both are great pre-trip reads with catchy narratives and unique approaches to the city’s history. (In fact, we were so inspired by these reads that our In the City of Bikes tour was created based on these two books!)

What’s on in Amsterdam

A good reference for big yearly concerts and art events is I amsterdam. It lists local sporting events, cultural happenings and festivals, as well as restaurants, museums, galleries, shops, attractions and more.

Amsterdam Tours | Urban Adventures

Bikes and beers – two of our favourite things about Amsterdam. You can find one (or both!) of these on an Urban Adventures Amsterdam tour, but we have plenty more to offer too. Discover Amsterdam’s super cool architecture, savour some delicious classic Amsterdam food, and explore the very best things to do in Amsterdam with a local guide.

About author

Sean Jendlin

Manager and Guide @ Amsterdam Urban Adventures. Seasoned traveller, painter, backpacker, brewer of small beers, and world resident.

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