Amsterdam first-time visitor guide

by Roger

by Roger | May 15th, 2009  

damsquarecarnivalThis site is a detailed and frequently updated guide to one of the finest cities on the planet. In this section we’ll start with introductions to some of the resources that will be very helpful when planning your first trip here, as well as things that will help you once you arrive.

Choosing where to stay

Amsterdam’s city center is remarkably compact, even though it contains everything you’ll really want to see while you are here. If you are a bit light on your feet you can literally walk from one edge of it to the other in 30 to 40 minutes, but still, the area you choose to stay in will have a big impact on your visit. There are hotels and hostels all over the city, and the advice is basically the same regardless of which route you’ll take.

There are 3 primary neighborhoods you’ll want to consider, and which is right for you will depend largely on your budget, your goals, and how long you’ll be staying. We hope you’ll book a hotel or hostel through us, but even if you don’t this information should help your first stay be a successful one.
>>Choosing where to stay in Amsterdam

Suggested itineraries

Even though this is a relatively small city, it’s packed with so many worthwhile attractions that you could stay a month and you’d still miss some things. With this in mind, we’ve put together some suggested itineraries to at least give you a place to start. The average visit to Amsterdam is only about 2 days, and you can actually see many of the famous highlights in that amount of time.
>>2-day Amsterdam itinerary ideas

If you are lucky enough to be able to stay for 4 or 5 days you’ll obviously be able to cover quite a bit more, and you might even have time for one of the quick Amsterdam daytrips that can be done in 4 or 5 hours. Again, this will give you ideas of things to consider yourself, and you’ll be able to tailor your own activities around what really interests you after you know the important things.
>>Suggested 4-day itinerary in Amsterdam

>> Don’t miss these suggestions for day trips from Amsterdam, too.

Things you should know

adamwalkingtour2If you’ve never been to Amsterdam before, or even if you’ve been here on 1 or 2 quick visits, you probably have some impressions on what to expect that aren’t exactly real. With this in mind, we’ve put together a quick and easy-to-read list of 11 things you should know about Amsterdam. Some of them are surprising, some are trivial, and a few will really help you plan a better trip or have a better time here.
>>Things to know about Amsterdam

Recommendations for when you arrive

Especially if you are planning a short 2 or 3 day trip here, you’ll want to maximize your time and familiarize yourself with the city as quickly, and as cheaply, as possible. There are two great ways to do this, and both of them are inexpensive, but neither of them are terribly obvious unless you have solid advice from a pro.

There’s a “free” walking tour of Amsterdam that lasts about 3 hours and is based only on tipping the guide what you think it’s worth at the end. These go twice per day every day, and usually have large enough crowds that you can tip €5 or even less, and everyone is happy, especially you.
>>Amsterdam free walking tours

There are also many companies offering identical one-hour canal cruises that hit all the highlights of the city and give quite a bit of history in a short time. They can be done for as little as €7 per person, and even though they aren’t the best tour you’ll ever take, they are an excellent way to orient yourself when you first arrive so you can go back to the things you are most interested in later.
>>Amsterdam canal tours

Public transportation and getting around

tram5If you are able-bodied, then walking is the best mode of transportation most of the time. The city is almost completely flat, and there are very few cars, so it’s about as easy as it can get. Still, there are times when taking one of the ubiquitous trams is worthwhile, and that can be a bit confusing and intimidating at first. Here you’ll find a quick guide that explains how everything works so you can get around easily without stress. There’s also a guide that explains taxis, bike rentals, and other options.
>>Amsterdam public transportation guide
>>Getting around Amsterdam guide

Attractions and museums

All the other stuff is just about dealing with your visit, but you are really coming here to see the great attractions and museums the city has to offer. There’s the famous Heineken Brewery Tour and the Anne Frank House, plus countless other things that you may not have heard of yet. Here we’ve covered the main highlights in several different categories.
>>Amsterdam attractions
>>Amsterdam museum guide
>>Things to do in Amsterdam
>>Free things to do in Amsterdam

Food

mannekenpisfriesThis isn’t the culinary destination that Paris or London is, but still there are many wonderful things to try while you are here, and most of them are surprisingly affordable as well. One famous thing you’ll want to try are the French fries, and a not-as-famous thing that you’ll want to try is the Indonesian rice table dish, which should be a splurge if you can afford one.

There are different types of food available in different neighborhoods, and the quality isn’t the same from one to the next. Check out the places to eat in Amsterdam article for a quick guide on what you can get where, and the what to eat in Amsterdam article for the most popular and important dishes to consider while you are here.

Shopping in Amsterdam

Like most other European cities, Amsterdam is jammed with chain stores and boutiques and department stores, but here you’ll also find two large and worthwhile outdoor markets that are quite different from one another. There are great places for cheap items and a few areas to find luxury items where money is no object. If you are coming here to shop and buy some clothes or souvenirs, you’ll want to know where to go to save time and money.
>>Amsterdam shopping guide

Nightlife

Believe it or not, for all of the crazy things that go on in this city, it’s mostly very quiet at night. There are quite a few clubs and discos, but most of them are close together in the Rembrandtplein neighborhood. There are two big and famous venues for concerts that also turn into dance clubs after that, but it’s not one of those cities where half the residents don’t go home until the sun comes up.

If you know what is on offer before you go out for the evening, you’ll almost certainly be able to find just what you want, but this isn’t a city to just walk around late at night because the good places are in small pockets rather than all over.
>>Amsterdam nightlife
>>Amsterdam concerts

Cheap guide

Are you on a tight budget, or do you just like to stretch your travel funds to the maximum so you can go more places more often? This city has plenty of cheap things if you know where to look. You can find cheap food and cheap drinks and cheap hostels and free attractions, so we’ve compiled this advice in one place for those on a modest budget.
>>Cheap guide to Amsterdam

Coffee shops

coffeeshopfaqEven if you aren’t a marijuana smoker at home, you might consider trying it here. It’s legal, fairly cheap, and the quality is high. You won’t be driving and chances are you’ll be near your hotel or hostel at all times, so you haven’t much to lose. We’ve got a general introduction to the coffeeshop scene here as well as detailed answers to just about any question you might have in our FAQ.
>>Amsterdam coffee shops guide
>>Amsterdam coffee shops FAQ

Red Light District

The Red Light District is the oldest and one of the most beautiful parts of Amsterdam, and it’s also where the infamous window girls flirt with passersby who might be feeling a bit “lonely.” Believe it or not, this whole thing is a big tourist attraction and at least 99% of the people who come through this neighborhood are only here to look and check things out. You should tour the area at least a little bit as well, and if you are interested in doing more than that we’ve got all the information you need to get involved.
>>Red Light District guide


{ 1 comment }

Pooja Solanki August 18, 2009 at 4:04 am
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Hi,

I plan to visit Amterdam around the 7th of October with another friend. Have been surfing this website and think its the best info I’ve got so far online! We want a mix of everything from the 2-3 days that we plan to be in the city. From the day attractions to the best places to go to for a night out! There is so much to choose from frankly its confusing…
Between Rambrantplein and Leidseplein which would be a good place to stay, considering we would love to see the city attractions during the day and also visit the better night clubs/restaurants/bars on night outs!
Is the city safe for women in general?

Thanks!
Pooja S.

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