Things to Know Before You Go to Amsterdam

Famous canals and vibrant nightlife aside, there are more things to know before you go to Amsterdam. That said, This City Knows brings you a quick primer for a well-rounded trip to the heart of the Netherlands.

Canal houses reflecting on the water

Ah, Amsterdam— a city where the bicycle reigns supreme, and the humble two-wheeler outnumbers the human population. Did you know that this enchanting metropolis is home to over 800,000 bikes? That’s right, in this city, two-wheelers steal the spotlight, weaving through streets and alongside canals with the grace of a well-orchestrated ballet. 

Before you pack your bags and join this pedal-powered paradise, there are a few things to know before you go to Amsterdam. From tulip season’s vibrant displays to the whispered secrets of historic alleyways, let this guide be your compass to the wonders that await.

Planning Your Visit to Amsterdam

Amsterdam, a city as rich in history as it is in culture, offers an array of experiences for every type of traveler. 

To make the most of your journey, understanding the things to know before you go to Amsterdam can transform a good trip into an unforgettable adventure.

When to Go and How Much to Bring

The best time to visit Amsterdam is during the spring (March to May) when the city blooms into life with tulip fields painting the countryside in vibrant colors. But summer (June to August) is the real peak tourist season as it offers lively festivals and sunny days perfect for canal cruises. 

For budget-conscious travelers, visiting in the shoulder seasons— either fall (September to November) or winter (December to February), can mean lower accommodation prices and thinner foot traffic.

With that, budgeting for Amsterdam can vary widely. Do note that daily expenses can range from the average €50 for budget travelers to over €200 for those seeking luxury. So, prioritize experiences and dining options to manage expenses effectively, and consider purchasing a city pass for discounted access to major attractions if you can.

Where to Stay 

Choosing the right area to stay in Amsterdam can significantly enhance your visit. 

For a truly unique lodging experience, we highly recommend the following:

While these accommodations offer varying experiences, from local homestays to boutique hotels, there’s always something that caters to every budget and preference when visiting Amsterdam.

How to Get Around

Amsterdam’s compact and flat landscape makes it one of the most walkable cities in the world. However, to truly blend in, consider renting a bike to navigate the city’s extensive network of bike lanes. For longer distances or rainy days, the public transport system— comprising trams, buses, and metros, is also highly efficient and reliable. 

Purchase an OV-chipkaart for convenience across all public transport. Apps like 9292 provide real-time transit schedules, too, making it easier to plan your movements across the city.

Cyclist crossing Amsterdam bridge

Culture and Interaction in Amsterdam

Immersing yourself in the local culture is a vital part of the travel experience, and knowing the things to know before you go to Amsterdam will help you navigate this aspect with ease.

Local Customs and Etiquette

Most Dutch value punctuality, so always push to be on time for your appointments or dining reservations. Greeting locals with a handshake is common, and using polite titles such as “Mr.” or “Ms.” followed by the surname is appreciated until invited to use first names. Tipping is not mandatory in Amsterdam, but it’s customary to round up the bill in restaurants or leave a small gratuity (5-10%) for good service. Lastly, dress codes are generally casual, but smart casual is often recommended for finer dining establishments.

Language Tips

While Dutch is the official language, English is also widely spoken, especially in tourist areas, making communication relatively easy for English speakers. However, learning a few basic Dutch phrases such as dank u (thank you) and goedemorge (good morning) can enrich your interactions with locals. 

For more immersive experiences, especially in less touristy areas, a translation app might prove invaluable. Remember, a little effort in speaking the local language goes a long way in showing respect for the culture.

With that, engaging with the culture and people of Amsterdam not only enriches your travel experience but also opens doors to genuine connections and unforgettable memories. Keep these cultural insights in mind as you explore the captivating streets of Amsterdam.

Couple enjoying canal-side dining

Exploring & Experiencing Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a city where history, art, and vibrant cultural scenes collide, offering an array of experiences for all types of travelers. Discovering the things to know before you go to Amsterdam can turn any visit into an exploration of unforgettable moments.

Must-Visit Attractions

At the heart of Amsterdam’s allure are the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum, both poignant and profound in their historical and cultural significance. If you’re into such nostalgia, venture beyond the well-trodden path to find the Begijnhof, a serene hidden courtyard, offering a glimpse into the city’s medieval past. Also, don’t miss a boat tour through the iconic canals, blending historical insight with stunning cityscapes.

Adding to the tapestry of Amsterdam’s must-visit destinations, the Rijksmuseum also stands as a beacon of art and history, housing an extensive collection that narrates the Netherlands’ rich past through masterpieces by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and countless other artists. 

For a taste of modern flair, the Stedelijk Museum showcases contemporary art and design, offering a contrasting perspective to the city’s historic roots. Meanwhile, the bustling Albert Cuyp Market presents a lively atmosphere where you can savor local flavors and find unique souvenirs. 

Each of these landmarks contributes to the diverse mosaic that is Amsterdam, inviting travelers to immerse themselves in a city straight out of the silver screen.

Food and Drink

For foodies everywhere, Amsterdam’s culinary landscape is also as diverse as its culture. Traditional Dutch dishes like stroopwafel should be on your tasting list if you’re a first-time visitor. 

For an exquisite dining experience, plenty of Michelin-starred restaurants in the city center promise unforgettable flavors. Visitors with dietary restrictions will find Amsterdam accommodating, with plenty of options for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets. International cuisine thrives here, ensuring everyone finds something to their taste.

Friends smiling in a tulip field

Local Experiences

Have we mentioned? Engaging with Amsterdam’s bicycle culture is an absolute must; consider a guided bike tour to see the city from a local’s perspective. For a touch of the unique, attend a workshop in the Jordaan district where you can craft your own Delftware. This way you can explore the vibrant market scene at Albert Cuypmarkt for local crafts and foods. Booking these experiences in advance is recommended, with costs varying depending on the activity.

Staying Safe & Healthy

Navigating Amsterdam is generally safe; however, like any major city, it’s wise to stay alert in crowded places and avoid poorly lit areas late at night. Health-wise, no specific vaccinations are required for Amsterdam, but staying updated on routine shots is advised. Tap water in the city is safe to drink, and medical facilities are excellent, though travelers should ensure they have health insurance coverage.

Equip Yourself with Things to Know Before You Go to Amsterdam with This City Knows

Wrapping up our guide, remember that Amsterdam is more than just its perfect postcard pictures; it’s a city of depth, history, and vibrant daily life waiting to be explored. From the art-laden walls of its museums to the quaint, cobblestone streets hiding centuries of stories, each corner of Amsterdam offers something new.

As your journey unfolds, let This City Knows be your guide to the rich tapestry of experiences that Amsterdam weaves. We’re here to ensure your travels not only take you to new places but immerse you in the essence of every destination. 

Plan your next adventure with us, and discover all the things to know before you go to Amsterdam.

Patty O.
Author: Patty O.

A city girl through and through, Patty has always planned her adventures in and around urban areas. Through her travel writing, she aims to make a compelling case for the global city as a place of endless discovery and satisfaction. Her goal is to detail how urban exploration can fulfill the desires of anyone and everyone, from cultural and culinary adventurers to historical and supernatural enthusiasts.

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