One of the loveliest cities in Europe (in my opinion), and somewhere I often daydreaming about living one day, is Amsterdam. Although when you first think of the Dutch capital you may think of coffee shops and the red-light district, there really is so much more to this gorgeous city. Here is my weekend guide to Amsterdam!
Things to know: Visiting Amsterdam, Netherlands
Best time of year to visit Amsterdam
Having visited Amsterdam at numerous times throughout the year, I can honestly say that it is a year-round destination. I visited in March, July and November and I personally love the city in the Autumn and Winter. During the summer months, you can expect similar weather to the UK, and during the winter months it can be cold and crisp, but you’ll also get to experience the festivities of the city if you visit before Christmas!
Travelling to Amsterdam
You can fly into Amsterdam Schiphol airport from most major cities in Europe, as well as from further afield countries like the US. I’ve flown a couple of times from London airports, and the flight can take just under an hour, which is amazing! I’ve also caught the Eurostar to Amsterdam from London St Pancras International. Although this journey naturally takes a lot longer than flying, it is a comfortable journey if you’ve got time to spare and a good book with you. If you’re only heading to Amsterdam for the weekend, I definitely recommend flying so that you can make your most of your time in the city!
Getting into the city from the airport
Once you land at Amsterdam Schiphol, head through customs and baggage claim, and then down the stairs into the train station. This is the cheapest and easiest way to get into Amsterdam, since a direct train connects the airport to Amsterdam Central Station. The journey only takes 15 minutes, and the trains depart every 15 minutes between 6am and 1am. How efficient is that?!
Where to stay in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a city full of lovely neighbourhoods, which you can choose to stay in if you’re on a budget. The city centre will naturally be more expensive, even if you are planning to stay in hostels.
The first time I visited Amsterdam, I stayed at ClinkNoord Hostel, located in Amsterdam Noord, just across the river from Amsterdam Central Station. It was actually an amazing location, since every few minutes there is a free foot-ferry which shuttles you across the river. This ferry runs day and night. ClinkNoord hostel was also great, with good sized and clean dorms, and a huge bar area which was great for meeting other travellers. If you’re visiting Amsterdam as a solo traveller, I can definitely recommend staying here.
The second time I visited Amsterdam, I stayed in an AirBnB in Amsterdam-West / Borgerbuurt area, which was a short way out of the city, near to Vondelpark. Although it was plenty outside the city centre, it was still walkable, I didn’t end up cycling or catching taxis at all and instead just walked everywhere.
Time zone in Amsterdam
The time zone in Amsterdam is Central European Time (GMT+1).
In the Netherlands, the currency used is the Euro. In Amsterdam, you will be able to use travel cards like Revolut or Monzo. However, do note that if you’re travelling to smaller, less touristic towns and villages, then only local cards are accepted. This was something I experienced for the first time when visiting Deventer, just an hour outside of Amsterdam.
A Weekend Guide to Amsterdam
Day 1: Saturday
Anne Frank’s house
Whether you choose to arrive late Friday night, or early Saturday morning, you’ll want to get up and out to explore as much of this city as possible. The first stop is the most iconic place to visit in Amsterdam, Anne Frank’s house. You will need to buy a ticket for this as far in advance as possible, unless you fancy queuing around the block for a few hours and running the risk of not being admitted at all. This museum is located inside the house of Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank, where her and her family hid from the Nazi’s during World War 2. Naturally, the house is very small and is quite difficult to navigate around, but it is an interesting and moving exhibition all the same.
Cruise around Amsterdams canals
Amsterdam is famous for its maze of canals that run through the centre of the city. It’s one of my favourite parts of Amsterdam, mainly because we have absolutely nothing like this where I’m from. There are plenty of canal tours that you can choose from – if you don’t fancy mingling with the partygoers, stags and hens, then opt for a sightseeing cruise. Alternatively, you can even hire your own electric boat if you’re travelling with a group and want to go it alone!
There are lots of museums in Amsterdam, but the most well-known aside from Anne Frank’s house is probably Rijksmuseum. This huge museum is located at Museum Square in Amsterdam South and is an incredible showcase of Dutch art and history. Close to the museum in the square, you’ll also find the famous “I Amsterdam sign” which is a great photo opportunity, if you can deal with all the other tourists trying for the same shot! Entrance tickets to Rijksmuseum are €20 or included in the Amsterdam City Pass.
Van Gogh Museum
Right near the Rijkmuseum is the Van Gogh Museum. If museums and art are your thing, it makes sense to visit the two of them on the same day, since they are close to one another. This museum is dedicated to the work of Van Gogh, and often hosts temporary exhibitions that you can visit with your ticket. Entrance to the Van Gogh Museum is €20 for adults, €10 for students (with proof of student ID) and free for those under 18.
Night out: Melkweg
Amsterdam has no shortage of places for a great night out. One of my favourite nights out I’ve had in Amsterdam was at famous club Melkweg. It’s a popular music venue and cultural centre located on Lijnbaansgracht, which is near the prime nightlife area of Leidseplein. They often have a variety of upcoming events which include concerts, film expos and club nights!
Day 2: Sunday
Cycle around the city
Did you even visit Amsterdam if you didn’t hire a bicycle? These are very easy to rent, and the Amsterdam City Pass does include bicycle rental as well so it’s worth checking out where you can get it included if you’ve already purchased the pass. Be careful cycling around the city, it is busy and not only will you need to keep an eye out for pedestrians, but also other cyclists, cars and trams.
If you don’t fancy cycling around the city and canals, then Vondelpark is a huge park just west of Amsterdam city and is a lovely place for a walk or a cycle. The edge of the park is also lined with great food spots and cafes, so you can grab breakfast or a coffee to go for your walk around the park. During the summer, it’s not unlikely to see events being held in the park, so it’s the perfect place for a picnic!
As you wander back towards the centre of Amsterdam, stop by the famous Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market) which lines a section of the Singel canal. This flower market dates back to 1862, where flower sellers would sail barges filled with blooms down the canals trying to attract potential customers. Now, it’s a bright and colourful line of stalls where you can find iconic tulips in literally every colour, and plenty of Dutch souvenirs as well!
Red light district
Many tourists who visit Amsterdam for the first-time flock straight to the red-light district to gawk at the craziness of it by night. It’s certainly something you won’t experience in many places outside of Amsterdam, that’s for sure. It’s a very unusual experience wandering the red-light district at night, and not somewhere I’d personally recommend spending any time. However, during the day, the red light is a gorgeous area of the city, and a stark difference to how it is once the sun has set on the city. In fact, you might not even realise you’re in the red-light district when you visit during the day, with the peaceful canals lined with the iconic ‘gingerbread’ houses of the city
A Weekend Guide to Amsterdam
Thanks to its close proximity to neighbouring countries, and efficient transport links, a weekend is perfect for getting a taste of Amsterdam. As you can see, there are tons of things to do in Amsterdam, and this is weekend guide to Amsterdam is absolutely not an exhaustive list. But it’s a great start for a short weekend in the city, especially for first timers! The Amsterdam City Pass website has a great list of more attractions to visit, if you have longer than a weekend!