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A familiar Amsterdam scene.
A familiar Amsterdam scene. © Jorge Royan

Amsterdam Travel Guide

A city as famous for its flowers and museums as it is for its liberal attitudes to sex and drugs, Amsterdam is one of the top urban travel destinations in Europe: 

Amsterdam is full of old-world charm, with houseboats, canals, cobbled streets and distinctive Dutch architecture that belong to another age. The city is said to have more museums per capita than any other in the world, providing a treasury of historical information and world-class art for culture vultures. Museums dedicated to icons like Rembrandt, Anne Frank and Van Gogh are perennially popular and the famous Rijksmuseum is reason enough for some people to visit the city, but there are also some quirky museums hinting at the modern, liberal character of this exciting place, like the Amsterdam Sex Museum.

Travel to Amsterdam for a lively nightlife, awesome art galleries, great shopping, the enticing Red Light District, the picturesque canals, the coffeeshops that sell more than coffee, and to liberally sample the indigenous Heineken beer. Amsterdam also has a restaurant scene which will delight foodies, and a calendar bursting with exciting and creative events and festivals.

Best time to visit Amsterdam

Summer (June to August) is the most popular tourist season in Amsterdam. However, spring (March to May) is arguably the best time to vacation in the city: the weather may be unsettled but this is when Holland's great flower shows are in full bloom, providing a bonus for tourists. The King's Birthday in April is also a major event, when street parties abound in Amsterdam. Read more on Amsterdam's Climate and Weather.

What to see in Amsterdam

- Enjoy a performance at the Concertgebouw, one of the finest concert halls in the world.

- Marvel at four centuries of Dutch naval history at the National Maritime Museum.

- Wander around the glorious Van Gogh Museum, one of Amsterdam's most loved attractions.

- Explore the tiny wartime hideaway of Anne Frank House and see the famous diary.

What to do in Amsterdam

- Take a boat tour through Amsterdam's picturesque canal network.

- Learn about the brewing process and sample the beer at the Heineken Experience.

- Picnic or cycle in Vondelpark, the city's most popular green lung.

- Treat the kids to a day of fun at Efteling theme park.

Beyond Amsterdam

Amsterdam is conveniently close to many wonderful cities and towns in the Netherlands and is truly a destination that promises exciting excursions. The quaint city of Haarlem is a short train ride away; the Hoge Veluwe National Park provides a taste of Dutch countryside; Maastricht, the oldest city in the country, is a good weekend getaway; and all the attractions of The Hague, including the Peace Palace, are within easy reach.

Getting there

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, the main air travel hub of the Netherlands, is located nine miles (15km) southwest of Amsterdam. There are regular direct flights to Amsterdam from the US, the UK and all over Europe. Get more information on Airports in Amsterdam.

Did you know?

- Amsterdam started out as a humble fishing village and took its name from the Amstel River.

- There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than there are permanent residents.

- Amsterdam has three times as many bridges as Venice.


Lively, lascivious Amsterdam has a unique atmosphere that makes a mockery of the caricature of the 'conservative Dutch'. Radiating out from Dam Square, the historic centre of the city is ringed by quaint canals and cobbled streets, and throngs with bicycles, tourists, houseboats, students and street performers. Amsterdam wears two faces: on one, it smiles and beckons hedonistic youth with its notorious Red Light District and liberal view of marijuana use; while on the other it offers discerning travellers some of Europe's finest museums and art galleries.

For the tourist, one of the joys of Amsterdam is its compactness. The old part of town is a pleasure to explore on foot, strolling across ancient bridges and down narrow lanes past gabled houses, and dropping in to browse inviting souvenir boutiques crammed with blue and white Delft china, wooden clogs and tulips. Pavement cafes and cosy bars offer rest and refreshment. An alternative is to take a circular canal-boat cruise and see the city from the water, peering in on the lives of the locals who live on houseboats lining the waterways.

At night even the most conservative visitor is drawn by the lively atmosphere of the infamous Red Light District, known as De Wallen, which is bounded by the Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Oudeziujds Achterburgwal canals near Dam Square. Here prostitutes display their charms in shop windows and touts encourage passers-by to view raunchy floorshows. The best nightclubs and bars, and theatres and cinemas are mainly to be found in the bustling Leidesplein and Rembrandtplein.

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