A short while ago I found myself stuck in an airport with my Mum having to somehow book and plan a trip within a few hours after we missed our flight to Stuttgart. Thankfully it all worked out and we managed to find flights for that afternoon to Amsterdam! 😀 You can read all about what happened and read my last-minute booking tips here.
The purpose of this post is to give you ideas on what to do, where to go, how to get there and lots of other ideas about visiting Amsterdam based on my own experiences. This is not a be-all-and-end-all guide to Amsterdam merely tricks I have learned on my travels and places I have loved.
If you are flying in to Amsterdam (for a last-minute flights guide look here) you will be flying in to Schiphol airport which IS NOT IN THE CITY CENTRE. However, this did not give us a problem at all, inside of the airport is a train station, if you have ever caught a train into Manchester or Birmingham airport it works much the same. I would recommend going to the help desk if this is your first time as the ticket machines can sometimes be a little confusing. You can either purchase a single or return in to Amsterdam Centraal Station which is where all of the trams (and pretty much everything else here) go from.
Tip: when using public transport the paper tickets have a built in chip system so you MUST touch in and out at the start and end of your journey so that it registers (a bit like an Oyster card but paper).
From here it will depend on where you are staying as to your next move, if your hotel is quite a way away from the train station then you can buy a variety of travel cards to cover your journey on the trams. If you are getting there late then the one-hour card will cover it and be your best option.
The thing to remember with Amsterdam is that a lot of the tourist areas are closer than they look on a map. When we stayed in Amsterdam we were near to the Palace in Dam and discovered that we could walk there pretty easily from the station, so if you are in the area it may be worth skipping the tram and walking to save pennies (depending on how heavy you have packed of course) but if you are further out the trams are incredibly inexpensive and easy to navigate.
Again, this is not all that Amsterdam has to offer, just a few of the things that stood out for me. Before you book any tickets it is worth looking in your hotel lobby as a lot of the attractions have credit card-sized coupons with special offers on that could save you a bit of money or at least get you a free something.
- The Heineken Experience was definitely a highlight of my trip, even if you don’t drink (like me) it is still a fun experience with the interactive exhibits and they even have (spoilers alert) HORSES there! :D.
You can book the tickets in advance on their website to save time on the day but have a look in your hotel lobby as there are usually a lot of money-off coupons.
Tip: If you book the tour you also get a FREE BOAT RIDE along the canals which makes the trip even more worthwhile, as well as this, if you buy a beer onboard they come around with little snack boxes 😀
2. Anne Frank’s House. I cannot say this enough, BOOK ONLINE. Below is just a section of the horrendously long queue you will have to join if you don’t. Again, ask at your reception or a tourism shop (there are hundreds, we booked ours at the airport) as if they book online for you they can sometimes give you a discount, look yourself first though as this is not always the case. Even if you are not familiar with Anne Frank’s story this place is worth a visit, turn back to look at the suitcase once you get up there and it will definitely make you gulp a bit. NOTE: if you struggle with stairs or have a walking disability then this is not the place for you, the stairs up to the annex are VERY steep.
3. If you want to make it reeeeeally obvious where you went (and take some cool pictures whilst you are at it) then visit the giant I Amsterdam letters on the Museumplein. This is a pretty cool area and there are plenty of tram stops dotted around so it is very easy to visit.
One thing people may miss when they go on a trip to Amsterdam is the food and I that is one aspect I have to admit I got rather stuck into. My main advice is to just try EVERYTHING, stay away from the restaurant chains you recognise and find one of the many backstreet restaurants.
If you visit the Heineken Experience and find yourself with a little extra time before the boat trip then just around the corner is an Irish pub and these guys were AMAZING, because we had had a bit of a walk around before getting there we were running out of time a bit but still wanted to try something new. Our knowledge of Dutch food was slight to say the least so after explaining what each of the items were (and how to say them) they brought us out a selection of pretty much all of the snacky items and they were GLORIOUS.
If you just fancy a cuppa, or a Bailey’s hot choccie there are also some beautiful cafe’s in the area, we stopped at the Cafe Mulder (this place also has free wifi) and their hot chocolates were AMAZING.
If you are visiting the Anne Frank House it is worth popping into their cafe as they have some lovely big slices of cake and lots of reading material to have a look at whilst you enjoy the view of the canals (and the queue of people below still waiting for a ticket). This is a great place to catch a breather and plan your next step.
Which brings me to my favourite restaurant… just around the corner from our hotel (so near to the Palace) there is a Dutch restaurant with a great atmosphere but reasonable prices and such good food! Haesje Claes was recommended to us by someone working at the hotel and as it was just around the corner we thought we would give it a try and it is one we will be going to again on future trips! They have a website, so if you don’t fancy trying to pronounce the name it will tell you how to get there.
Whatever your preference, there is EVERY type of cuisine in Amsterdam as it is an incredibly multicultural place, one thing that surprised us was the amount of Argentinian restaurants (which do awesome burgers by the way see above…)
Ready for more? Click that lovely button below for my latest wanderings and be sure to check back soon for more!