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A Traveling Insider's Guide To Amsterdam

From breathtaking architecture and celebrated museums to canalside bike rides and delicious Dutch delicacies, our expert guide to Amsterdam has got it all. | By Paul Oswell | April 1, 2022

Amsterdam is an intriguing mix of history, hedonism and high culture, all of which keep this lively port city at the top of many people's travel lists. Its world-class museums house Old Masters and new talents, and visitors can admire 17th-century townhouses or wander into converted warehouses that are now cutting-edge venues.

The infamous Red Light District and coffee shops are undoubtedly a presence in the city center, but there’s so much more to Amsterdam than its stereotypes. The Nieuwe Zijde (New Side) offers street art and nightclubs while the Oude Zijde (Old Side) has a 14th-century church and the Rembrandt House Museum (Museum Het Rembrandthuis).

Here are some ideas to make the most of your time (and memories) in the Dutch capital:

  • High culture: See art that has influenced generations of creators

  • Long boats: The beautiful canals are an integral part of city life here - take a tour of the city by barge to appreciate it's history

  • Deep history: Buildings dating back to medival times still stand today

Why visit Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is an exciting destination by any definition. It is also a famously liberal and inclusive city that has embraced its edgier scenes while also fostering plenty of family-friendly activities as well.

Amsterdam’s history is evident all over the city. Its canal houses with their bright colors and exterior pulley systems are the legacy of its merchant past, dating back to the 18th century and now converted into apartments or venues. The Amsterdam School was an influential architectural movement, with prime examples around neighborhoods such as The Pipe (De Pijp) district.

Visitors will love the photo opportunities of buildings from the 16th-century Golden Age churches to the maritime modernism of the ship-like NEMO Science Museum. Enjoy it all while feasting on fresh salted herring, deep-friend meatballs (bitterballen) and deliciously sweet pancakes (pofferjes) at Albert Cuyp Market.

Amsterdam rivals any vacation destination, and with that laid-back Dutch temperament ready to welcome you, it’s a hard place not to love. Enjoy some relaxed, canal-side living, especially (at the central Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, just off the historical Rembrandt Square (Rembrandtplein).

When Should You Visit Amsterdam?

The warm summer months bring the crowds, and so April to May or September to November are the sweet spots either side of peak season. Winters can be chilly and rain can come in with some vigor from the nearby seaside, but affordable prices and fewer people make it an attractive opportunity for some. Be sure to bring warm clothing for the colder months. The city hosts more than 300 cultural festivals a year, so there’s likely something of interest happening no matter what time you decide to visit.

Getting to and around Amsterdam

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is a major international hub for air routes from around the world. The airport is extremely well connected to Amsterdam’s city center by train, bus and taxi. It’s about a 25 minute drive into the city center. Car rental facilities are available, although public transportation here is excellent, so avoid the stress of navigating by car.

The city’s Central Station is similarly a busy center for train travel. It’s a great place to begin or end a rail tour of Europe, and Eurostar, Thalys and NS International all have high-speed routes out of the station.

Amsterdam’s excellent, integrated public transport system, GVB, is also based out of Centraal. To travel on metros, trams and buses, buy an OV-chipkaart, either a disposable, one-time use card or a reloadable pass. Both can be bought and topped-up at stations and newsagents. All forms of transport use the same distance fees, so they all cost the same.

Cycling is a great way to travel around Amsterdam and the city is one of the most bike-friendly in the world. There are protected bike lanes and bicycle parking and rental facilities across the city center and beyond, just be very careful to lock up your bike, even if only leaving it for a few minutes.

Make your Amsterdam memory

Amsterdam is a city that can cater for all tastes. Its mix of the centuries-old historical and the cutting-edge modern is one that many places boast but few deliver. Travel with an open and curious mind, and Amsterdam will reward you with beautiful memories of Old Masters and new experiences.

Go DutchView list of Hilton hotels in Amsterdam

Paul Oswell is an award-winning travel writer, and has been reporting from all seven continents for over twenty years. He is based in New Orleans and is the author of “The Bucket List North America: 1,000 Adventures Big and Small.”

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