Once a powerful marine port, Amsterdam is known widely for its decadence and laid-back attitude, which often makes it a hit for travellers who discover its otherwise relatively unknown cultural gems. Not overly expensive, the city is perfect for those who either want a break, or somewhere new and different to explore, and can be a great trip for couples, people travelling alone and even families. There's a lot to take advantage of, and with the scenic architecture and network of canals running through the city, it can be a pretty nice place to even take a walk on a good day.
Staying in Amsterdam
Being a city that's extremely popular with students, gap year travellers, backpackers and tourists, there are an abundance of hostels to suit every kind of taste and budget. Rooms tend to vary from the extremely affordable ‚€15 to an averagely priced ‚€80 a night, depending on where you stay, and what sort of features you expect from your room. Hostels can be extremely social, so it's not worth being put off by its distance from the city centre or it's slightly lower rating on Trip Advisor, it could be worth the experience if you meet other travellers.
Like hostels, are extremely common and range to suit all tastes and budgets. A popular one for students on a larger budget or flashpackers is the Meininger Hotel. Located in the city's western sector, it draws in customers with a cosmopolitan flair and its close proximity to Sloterdijk station. It's prices range from ‚€22 to ‚€114 and amenities include free Wi-Fi (a godsend for travellers), a hotel bar, a guest kitchen and a games room - ideal for tourists of all kinds.
How do you get around in Amsterdam?
Public transport smart card: Amsterdam has a public transport smart card, the OV-chipkaart, which is used for travel on trams, buses and the metro. For visitors, you can get one-hour cards, multi/day cards or an anonymous card that you add credit to and then use as you travel (you can top up at any time). All are available at GVB ticket machines within the city.
There's a four-line Metro system in Amsterdam, including a short underground section in the city centre.
Just like the tram and the metro, buses are operated by the GVB.
There are several free ferry services across the IJ (a former bay which is now a lake that forms Amsterdam's waterfront) to the northern sectors of Amsterdam. All of them leave from a jetty in the northern side of Central Station. There's a ferry which serves NDSM Werf, and the Pancake Boat sails many times each week. Ferries generally leave every 30 minutes.
A great way to cover ground in Amsterdam is to rent a bike. There is at least one bike for every one of the 800,000 people living in the city, so the city's infrastructure is very bike-friendly. Beware that although most major roads have cycle lanes, cyclists in Amsterdam don't actually have right of way - be careful of other cars and cyclists to avoid accidents and remind yourself that the right-before-left rule applies.
It isn't recommended to drive in Amsterdam - drivers can be more reckless than they would be elsewhere, but that isn't to say they are dangerous, just behave differently than what you might be used to. It's a lot more hassle to get to places by car, so sometimes it's just better to get to places by foot - Amsterdam is famously abnormally flat, so walking to most tourist spots isn't much effort.
Where is the best place to eat in Amsterdam?
Dutch cuisine keeps the fair majority of European staples within its recipes (eggs, pork, root vegetables, white fish) with a variety of influences from neighbouring countries like Germany and Belgium. If you're feeling adventurous, try a dish of hutspot - a meal made with potatoes, carrots, onions and served with meats such as rookwurst (smoked sausage), slow-cooked meat or bacon- or boerenkoolstamppot, which both sounds and physically is a mouthful and is made out of curly kale mixed with potatoes, served with gravy, mustard and rookwurst. As one of the oldest and most popular Dutch dishes, you're likely to find it in most traditional restaurants. If you're looking for great places to eat, check out these restaurants below:
For chunky sandwiches, burgers and other bite size snacks: Lombardo's
A small but cute restaurant, all food is freshly prepared whilst you wait. With burgers containing traditional Dutch meats and fresh ingredients, all of which are worth trying, this place offers their snacks for a mere £2, and bigger meals costing around £9.
For coffee, tea, Italian foods and vegetarian dishes: Moods Coffee Corner
Famous for its great service and homely vibe, Moods offers its patrons mugs of warm and milky delights, generous portions and things like smoothies, toasties and pasta dishes. Perfect for setting yourself up for a day of sight-seeing, or warming yourself up and re-fuelling after one. Prices range from the equivalent of £2 to £6.
For a true European/continental snack: Piqniq
Piqniq is a favourite amongst Amsterdam locals, and is priced similarly to Moods and Lombardo's. The food is fresh, wholesome and never disappoints. Whether you want a fresh buttery croissant, a packed soup or salad, the perfect coffee or a bite size quiche, they offer the perfect amount of food for any peckish visitors.
What can I do on a budget?
The Red Light District - something to avoid if you're travelling with family, but if you're with friends or alone, it's something you have to see with your own eyes to believe. Outrageously fascinating and equally intriguing, you can people watch for free in bars or just by walking through the streets.
Get the obligatory 'Guess where I went' photo at the I Amsterdam sign. One of Amsterdam's most popular city squares is Museumplein, where the I Amsterdam sign is - something that has become an iconic symbol of the city, and where pictures of travellers has become almost ritualistic for those who venture there. When in Rome...
Museums alone aren't that cheap in the city, with admission costing between ‚€10 and ‚€15 for an adult. If you buy a museum pass for ‚€55, you are allowed unlimited free entry into over 400 Dutch museums over 12 months, which is a great deal if you plan on visiting many over the course of your visit. Every Wednesday from September to June (the cultural arts season) at 12.30pm (lunchtime), the Concertgebouw treats visitors to a free 30-minute concert, which is often a public rehearsal from world-renowned orchestras or ensembles that will perform 'officially' (and for a cost) later that evening.
It might sound cliche, but with its abundance of canals, Amsterdam has plenty of bridges (over 1,200 to be exact) that add to its scenic cityscape. Some are romantic, and others are awe-inspiring works of engineering. Check our Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge), one of Amsterdam's most iconic drawbridges and one which is featured in many films, or the Python Bridge, which snakes across between Sporenburg and Borneo Island. Plus, bridges seem to be the perfect opportunity to take that picturesque travelling photo.
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