Amsterdam

What to see and do in Amsterdam / tips from locals

In this guide:
Introduction
Chill out tips
Cultural tips
About bicycles

Introduction

Amsterdam attracts heaps of visitors every year, and with reason. It’s a great city to come to for anyone, especially in the summer. Best time to visit is late spring or summer (May until October), as the weather will be nicest then. There’s always loads of backpackers around, and there’s plenty to do and see in Amsterdam. Here are tips from a few locals.

Chill out tips

Coffee shops

You’ll find them just about everywhere in the city centre, and a visit to the Dutch capital just won’t be complete without stepping inside and checking out the Dutch grass, which is allegedly the best (and strongest) to be found anywhere on this planet. Don’t spend your entire stay just in coffee shops though. Make sure you stay clear of the ones in the Red Light District, and do NOT under any circumstances go to ‘The Bulldog’. These are horrifying tourist traps. Go to ‘De Rokerij’ near Leidseplein, or a small coffee shop outside the touristy areas.

Canal, Amsterdam

Canals

Rent a water-bike or take a (rather touristy) canal cruise and see the street life from another perspective. A nightly walk along the canals is also recommendable, just about the most beautiful thing in the world.

Vondelpark

This huge city park is the place to chill on a slow summer afternoon with a nice Heineken in your hands, or a spliff, or a combination of those.

Begijnhof

A courtyard with antique little houses and a church. It’s hidden behind ‘Spui’, a very busy shopping area in the city centre. Upon entrance, you’ll all of a sudden find yourself in an almost unreal oasis of peace. Most of the Dutch don’t even know it exists.

Rent a bike

Do like Amsterdammers do: go by bike. This will enable you not to be the victim of all those other bikers, but to hit other tourists yourself. It is also simply the easiest and most fun way to get around in Amsterdam.

[ You can rent bikes at Rent a Bike or MacBike. ]

The Royal Palace on Dam square, Amsterdam

Cultural tips

The Royal Palace

Amsterdam’s original town hall from the 17th century, and very likely the most beautiful building of the country. Take a free tour on Wednesdays and Sundays at 14:00.

[ More information on the Royal Palace. ]

The Rijksmuseum

The Louvre or Prado of the Netherlands. Houses The Nightwatch and a thousand other marvellous things. Currently most of it is closed for renovation, but the wing that is still open houses all of the major works.

[ The official and absolutely beautiful website of The Rijksmusem. ]

The smaller museums

If you really want to know about Amsterdam, go cultural and visit: Museum Amstelkring, The Jewish Historical Museum, the Amsterdam Historical Museum, and the old Synagogue.

Bike

About bicycles

Bicycles are everywhere in Amsterdam. As most foreigners don’t have much experience with this extremely useful method of transportation, here is the most important thing to remember: don’t walk on the bicycle paths!! They are for cyclists, NOT for pedestrians!! Most Amsterdammers can’t stand the fact that most tourists do not seem to understand the difference between sidewalk and bicycle-path. So if someone uses his uses his bike-bell: move aside! You will be given no quarter and will be annihilated if you don’t.

The problem with bikes is that they do not make noise. They are, however, just about as hard to stop or to turn as, say, a scooter. So if a drunk/stoned tourist crawls back to his youth hostel at 8 a.m., and some of the inhabitants of the city are just going to work, this tourist might stumble onto the bicycle path, completely oblivious to the silent bikes approaching him from both sides at about 20 kilometres per hour. The sound of a bell might reach his ear, but before the sound has reached his battered brain, let alone that it has been analysed, he is already ruthlessly driven into the asphalt by a biker who saw him too late to be able to stop or evade him. This kind of thing happens about 1.675.382 times per day in Amsterdam and leads to sincere mutual hatred between tourists and bikers.

About half of these accidents take place in one particular street (which self-respecting tourists should steer clear of anyway): The Damstraat (called Nieuwe/Oude Hoogstraat later on) This street is the dead centre of the greatest tourist trap in the city (the worse parts of the red light district), and is also the main bicycle connection to Dam square. Most tourists spend about half of their time there. I recommend walking through it once, and then not going there again. It is horrible and has nothing to do with Amsterdam. (Nevertheless, the big Chinese restaurant is pretty good.)