Culture, Let's do This, travel

Unconventional Travel Tips: Amsterdam

When you tell people that you are going to Amsterdam for the weekend they automatically assume the next couple of days will entail hard partying, boozing binges and a weekend of weed. However, I have never been this type of traveller so when I was due to make my return to the Dutch capital at the start of 2019 for the first time as an adult, I was determined to see more of the infamous party city. With a whirlwind weekend spent in Amsterdam now behind me, these are my top tips to consider when visiting the city.

Transport

The transport links from Amsterdam Airport Schipol to the city centre are great. They really need to be considering the airport is the 3rd largest in Europe in terms of passenger volume. Many websites advise you to buy travel cards which can be beneficial depending on how much time you plan to spend there, although with some cards needing a €7.50 payment before even adding credit (similar to London’s Oyster Card system) this was not money I wanted to spend. Given that I was only in the city for 48 hours, I found it to be cheaper to buy a return ticket from the airport to a station called Zuid, which was on the way to my hotel, and then at Zuid, purchase a GVB multi-day ticket which provided me with unlimited travel on all GVB routes, regardless of distance or time of day. The ticket is validated the first time you check in and can be used on metro trains, trams and buses. This was €13.50 for 48 hours. Purchasing this ticket in advance meant that we were not constantly looking for ticket offices/machines on our only full day in the city. You can find out more about travel plans to suit you, here.

You know an airport is big when signs warn of 20 minute walks to gates

Coffee Shops vs Cafes

You do not have to be in the city long before the smell of weed wafts its way into your nostrils. As you are probably aware marijuana is legal in The Netherlands and this is celebrated in the country’s capital. It is important to know the different between cafes and coffee shops and it is vital you do not get them mixed up. A Coffee Shop is somewhere you can buy and smoke weed. A cafe is a regular sort of place you can pick up your flat white. Cannabis based products are abundantly available throughout Amsterdam, from the ‘Happy Shops’ to the regular supermarkets selling the infamous hashcakes and chocolate brownies.

If the window looks like this, it is a CAFE.

Seeing the City on Foot and Dodging the Cyclists

Visiting in January, we were very lucky not to see any rain, the whole weekend regardless of the ever brooding, dark grey skies. I took a few thick jumpers and t-shirts to put under them, a thick woolen scarf and a down filled coat to my knees. I wore leather gloves the whole weekend, my super comfy Ugg boots and some thick, semi-thermal leggings. We walked around the city for OVER EIGHT HOURS in 3’C temperatures, on the Saturday and I never suffered to the cold. I cannot actually ride a bike so was not able to partake in this, however cyclists are all over the place and have a hard job dodging oblivious tourists coming from all directions. Many cyclists ring bells to warm you not to cross the road, others just yell when they are behind you, which can come across as very rude, but I do not think it is intended this way.

Bikes are everywhere. Literally. Chained to all sorts

Taking Photographs

One of most photogenic cities in Europe, Amsterdam has lots of sites that are good for Instagram. From the world famous canals and riverboats to a plethora of architecture from across the ages and stroopwaffles and crepes being sold on the streets, there really are endless photo ops in Amsterdam. One of the most popular tourist areas is the Red Light District. With a very liberal and tolerant attitude towards sex, Amsterdam embraces the fact some people may be into prostitution, soft drugs and pornography. Since 2000 prostitution has been legal in the Netherlands but not on the streets which is why, in Amsterdam, women stand behind windows, under red lights. (Hence the name). The city actually has three different Red districts with the most popular one being in the city centre. However, do not take pictures of the sex workers. It is illegal and very disrespectful to take pictures of the women working in the area, after all they are tax payers too, (yes, really) so just don’t do it.

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I did not take any pictures, obviously, so here are some macrons instead…

Museums

There are famously over 75 museums and galleries peppered in and around Amsterdam with new ones popping up all the time. There is literally a museum for everyone, covering topics like erotica, weed and condoms (all separate ones) to cheese, handbags and cows as well as the more traditional ones focusing on art and history, such as the Rembrant and Van Gogh museums. With many being free and lots being under €10 it is definitely worth checking some out and stepping outside your comfort zone. Some of the more typical museums or exhibits do tend to sell out in advance so definitely look at booking online first. We just wanted to see where the city would take us, so purposely did not book anything, which is how we ended up in the cheese, cow and sex museums on our trip. (All of which are great!)

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An actual museum for cows 

Other Things To Consider

  • Like many of the cities in Europe, keep your possessions safe at all times. Keep your bag closed/zipped up and know where your valuables (phone, passport etc) are at all times. It goes without saying, but being sensible can go a long way.
  • Know where your umbrella is. The weather can be changeable, even in the summer months.
  • Buy some tulips at a traditional Dutch flower market, especially if you are there in the tulip season, between April and June. Being there in January, I sufficed with looking at the wooden ones sold all over the city which was not quite the same!
  • Pick up some souvenir clogs. Still very popular as footwear in much of Europe, in the UK they are more of a gimmick but they do look nice on Instagram.
Not really my style…

Have you ever been to the Netherlands and did you visit Amsterdam? Or maybe it’s a place you would like to explore one day. Let me know in the comments below.

41 thoughts on “Unconventional Travel Tips: Amsterdam”

  1. I’ve been to it and I loved it like any other place I go to first time haha.
    I love the macaroons there. It’s fun to walk around red light district and casually try 100 percent weed cigarettes for €7.50, from one of the coffee shops and share with your pals ( back in the days obvs).
    The city is beautiful and so different from night time to day time. You wake up in the morning, get out and it feels like you’re in a different city than you were the last night.
    Great tips Ellie 👌🏼👌🏼❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmmm, 7.50 for one joint…that seems a bit steep! Must be the touristy prices – no wonder you split it with your mates! I should get you a hack on getting them for less 😉 Yes, it really does feel like two different places, my friend mentioned that the second we stepped out of the train on the first morning! x

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  2. This post was so helpful to read as I’m going to Amsterdam in the Spring! Thanks for sharing that info about the tickets, I’ve been thinking a lot about transport and booking tickets in advance. The food looks incredible! 😍 I’m so excited to visit the museums as well, particularly Anne Frank House and the other historical places. Berlin prepared me for all the bikes haha (the tram outside my hotel stopped directly next to the bike lane, you had to kind of step off and run for the other side if the coast was clear). I think me and my boyfriend will be hiring bikes as we both enjoy riding around. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so happy you found my post useful 😃 I’d love to visit Berlin. The Anne Frank Musuem has such huge queues, definitely book in advance for that one. We didn’t book anywhere because we just wanted to see where we ended up! Haha a lot of trams in Europe seem to stop like that, opening doors on to a fast lane! Bikes deffo seem most practical. Thank you much for reading. 😍

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  3. Such a helpful post! I’m planning on going to Amsterdam this August so these are very much-appreciated tips, especially regarding the public transport. x
    El | Welsh Wanderer

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading 😘 in glad you found this post useful 😊 I like to try to include transport tips in my travel posts because they’re important (we all need to get around!) and they get left out of most guides! X

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    1. I’d quite like to visit other cities in Holland to be fair, it’s such a small country but has so much to offer! 😍 And I need to see more windmills and tulips ❤️ thank you for reading x

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    1. Haha this made me smile ♥ The city is so much more, and the country is more than the city. I would like to visit more of the country and see tulip fields in the season and somewhere with lots of windmills! I remember being in Amsterdam in summer several years ago and the crowds were crazy, even if the weather was better. Thank you for reading x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ooooh for the windmills Rotterdam is perfect! From there you can take the water ferry to Kinderdijk, a Unesco site with 19 windmills lined up along the dyke. I grew up in the village next to it so if you plan on going there let me know so I can give you some tips ❤️

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    1. Thank you for reading ♥ There is a lot more to this city than boozing and weed for sure! I don’t look for these things either in my travels either – I put more emphasis on the food and in this case/city it was all about the CHEESE.

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  4. I’ve finally got round to reading and commenting on this post! Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities and I’m lucky enough to be going back there in just a couple of weeks, so this post was a great refresher. I can’t wait for all the stroopwaffells! I’m going to explore the museums a bit more this time around because I had no idea that there were smaller ones than the Van Gogh and Rembrandt etc. Great post!

    Olivia – The Northernist x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading Olivia ♥ There are so many – I think you could pick the majority of topics and there would be a museum to cover it! Have a wonderful time in Amsterdam 🙂

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  5. Great post Ellie. Amsterdam is high up on my travel wish list and this has strengthened that want even more. Thank you for the tips about public transport and the museum’s especially; I really want to visit the Van Gogh museum myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading ♥ It’s good that the list strengthened that – it would be awful if my list put you off! I would like to visit that museum too one day – maybe if I plan a return to Amsterdam in more advance than a few days I will be able to arrange it! x

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