All the Planning Details for Amsterdam

This post is in reference to my post on Three Days in Amsterdam. Refer to that post for more detailed information and a three day itinerary for Amsterdam.

Amsterdam began as a city of fishermen and later boomed as a center of trade and industry. The small city was unable to hold all its inhabitants so in 1612 construction started to build three canals around the city in order to expand. This created the layout we see in Amsterdam today. The center of the city is called the Old Centre and is surrounded by three major canals – Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht. It’s important to understand this layout because it makes directions in the city much easier. 

(If you are interested in learning more about Amsterdam’s fascinating history, you can read more here.)

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Getting to Amsterdam

You have the option of arriving in Amsterdam via train, ferry or plane (depending on where you are coming from). If you are leaving from London, check out the very helpful post from the Man in Seat 61.  KLM is the major Dutch airline and has direct flights from many global airports. Note: one way flights on KLM are actually more expensive than round trip flights – something to think of if you are booking one way flights within Europe.

From Amsterdam Schiphol to the city :

Depending on where your hotel is, you can take either the train, bus or taxi.

Train

The Intercity Direct trains depart from the airport and only take 15 minutes to reach the city center (Amsterdam Centraal Station). You can buy tickets at the yellow ticket machines in the airport or at the ticket desk. The cost is 4.20 euro plus a 1 euro fee for the disposable ticket. If you want to waive the 1 euro fee, you will have to purchase a 7.50 euro plastic card (so this option probably won’t even out). From Centraal station you can hop on a bus or tram to your hotel.

Bus

The 197 bus (also called the Amsterdam Airport Express) leaves from Schiphol Plaza (the bus stop right outside the airport doors) and makes multiple stops in Amsterdam. The ride to the city of Amsterdam is around 30 minutes and costs 5 euro. There is an “airport express” booth at the stop where you can buy tickets. This bus is ideal if you are staying closer to Leidseplein than Centraal station. For a complete list of stops, check out this website.

Taxi

A taxi ride averages around 50 euro.

Amsterdam Tips has a super helpful section on airport transportation if you need more info.

 

Transportation within the city

I found that walking was the easiest way to get around the city. Amsterdam is relatively small and many of the tourist attractions are close to each other. If you need to reach somewhere farther within the city, trams are the easiest form of transportation. The cost is 2.90 euro for an hour or 7.50 euro for a day and can be purchased at a machine or on the tram (check your card in and out when entering/exiting). For tram maps, check out the GVB website.

 

Where to stay

Although it may seem smart to stay near the city center, I would not recommend this. The quaint and quieter side of Amsterdam is farther out along the canals (and is closer to the tourist spots). The Jordaan neighborhood seems to be a popular area because of its location and its charm. I stayed in the Canal Ring area and loved it there. The Traveling Dutchman does a good job at detailing out the best areas to stay. 

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This was near my hotel in the Canal Ring – every street is this picturesque

Addresses and hours of attractions

Van Gogh Museum: Booking tickets ahead of time will let you skip the long ticket line and will let you stand in a much shorter line. Tickets are 17 euro and multimedia guide (recommended) is 5 euro. Hours are generally 9am-5pm except Fridays when it’s open until 10pm. For exact times check their site. Either walk or take tram 2 or 5 to Van Baerlestraat or bus 170 or 172 to either Rijksmuseum or Museumplein. Address: Museumplein 6, 1071 DJ Amsterdam

Rijksmuseum: Booking tickets ahead of time will let you skip the ticket counter at the museum. Tickets are 17.50 euro and the multimedia guide is 5 euro or is free on the app. Hours are 9am-5pm and they are open every day of the year. It is easy to find because it is the biggest building in the square and has the famous Amsterdam sign out front. Either walk or take trams 2 or 5 to Rijksmuseum, tram 12 to Museumplein or bus 145, 170, 172, 174 or 197 to Rijksmuseum. Address: Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam

Anne Frank House: Since the annex is so small, only a certain number of people are allowed in at one time. This creates a long line around the block. (The Anne Frank House is actually known for its long line.)  If you don’t want to wait for hours in line, you can pre book a time slot. Be aware: these tour times book months in advance so I would suggest booking as soon as possible. Time slots are released about two months out. If you are unable to snag an online ticket, continue to check the website. I noticed when I was planning that some tickets would be released the day before. I was able to book tour times the day before I was planning on going to the Anne Frank House. Prebook your tickets here. Ticket cost is 9.50 euro and the hours are 9am-7pm during the low season and 9am-10pm during the high season. Double check the hours of operation here. Walk or take trams 13, 14 or 17 to Westermarkt or buses 170, 172 or 174 to Westermarkt. The house looks like a normal house from the outside, but it’s easy to spot because of the line out front. If you have tickets ahead of time you can skip the line and walk straight to the front of the house. Address:  Prinsengracht 263-267, 1016 GV Amsterdam

Bloemenmarkt: is along Singel between between Muntplein and Koningsplein. If you need an exact address for your GPS, you can use: Singel 600, 1017 AZ Amsterdam

Vondelpark: is easy to spot on any map – just look west of the museums. Vondelpark hosts a variety of concerts over the summer in their open air theater. An exact address within the park is Vondelpark 5a, 1071 AA Amsterdam, Netherlands.

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Three Days in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is such a charming city. The canals, houses, and thousands of bikes make every street just as picturesque as the last. Many people think of Amsterdam as a place of drugs and prostitution, but instead I found that it is an adorable city full of fun things to do. It is much more than it’s reputation. I enjoyed three days in Amsterdam and would love to share my “ideal itinerary” with you.

Day 1

City Cruise

The best way to see the city is to hop aboard one of the many city cruises. It’s nice to be able to see both the quaint alleyways of charming Amsterdam and the main canals that resemble the hustle and bustle of a busy highway. Most boat tours also offer commentary so you get to learn about the city at the same time. There are many boats to choose from so I would suggest hopping on whichever one has a convenient starting point in relation to your hotel. I chose to use a company that offered smaller open air boats. Amsterdam also has a lot of larger closed boats that would be more convenient for colder days. You can purchase tickets for a tour at the dock or ahead of time online (depending on the company).

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A “covered” boat

Visit a Museum

Amsterdam has a wonderful selection of museums. The two most popular are the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. I chose to go to the Van Gogh Museum because it was smaller and I could see the entire museum in one visit. The museum is arranged in chronological order so it becomes a journey through Van Gogh’s developing artistic talents and the rise and falls of his personal life. (I would highly suggest getting the audio guide.) The Rijksmuseum is also very dearly loved and has popular pieces from Dutch artists like Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer. Both museums are wonderful choices and you can’t go wrong with whichever you choose.

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The famous facade of Rijksmuseum (that’s me on the t)

Day 2

Anne Frank House

Touring the secret annex where the Frank and Van Pels families lived is a very sombering experience. The rooms are empty today but you can still see the bookcase that hid the entrance and the magazine clippings that Anne kept on her bedroom wall. There is a small museum at the end where you can see the physical diary. Touring the annex gives you a very small glimpse into what it was like to live in hiding. Since the space is so small, not many people are admitted at once. This creates a long wait because it is such a popular tourist landmark (there is always a line wrapping around the block). If you don’t want to wait for hours in line, you can pre book a time slot. Be aware: these tour times book months in advance so I would suggest booking as soon as possible. If you are unable to snag an online ticket, continue to check the website. I noticed when I was planning that some tickets would be released the day before. I was able to book tour times the day before I was planning on going to the Anne Frank House.

Bike Tour

Amsterdam is the city of bikes. It is estimated that there are over 800,000 bikes in Amsterdam. This quadruples the number of cars! Part of the experience of being in Amsterdam is joining this culture of bikes. Riding in the city can be intimidating so read up on some biking tips before you head out on your ride. I decided to take a tour outside of the city and really enjoyed the trip. We visited a windmill and a cheese farm. The cheese farm was one of my favorite memories from the trip. The owner is hilarious and the cheese is to die for. I booked through Mike’s Bikes Tours. They do city tours as well if you would rather stay in town.

 

All of the fun things we saw on our bike tour!

Day 3

Tulips

If you are visiting Amsterdam in the Spring, the famous tulip garden Keukenhof is a must see. Sadly, I was unable to see the garden because I visited Amsterdam after tulip season had ended.  Tulip season is from the end of March through mid-May and the garden in full bloom looks like a dream. For more information about tickets, hours and transportation, visit their website.

If you want to buy and see tulips without leaving the city, then visit Bloemenmarkt – Amsterdam’s flower market. Keep in mind that this market only has fresh tulips during tulip season. (I know that sounds like a given, but I was a bit sad when I arrived in late May to find zero tulips!) In the off season they still sell tulip bulbs and other kinds of flowers. It becomes a bit “touristy” with each stall selling the same things, but it still is a nice place to grab a few souvenirs. Also note that not all tulip bulbs can legally be brought back into the United States. Vendors will advertise if their bulbs will pass US customs. Keep in mind that the Bloemenmarkt is advertised as a “floating market” but actually more resembles a street market. I had pictured hundreds of boats of tulips and was a little disappointed to see stalls set up along the street like your standard city market.

Markets/Vondelpark/Cheese/Shopping

There are so many more activities in Amsterdam to fill the rest of your day that it can be hard to choose, so I’m just going to list the rest out!

Amsterdam is full of many kinds of street markets. For a list check out this site.

Vondelpark (a 120 acre park) is a peaceful change of scenery in the midst of the city.

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Biking through Vondelpark

The Netherlands is known for their cheese, so a cheese tasting is very fitting. (I didn’t get to try this, but it looks so fun!)

I really enjoyed shopping in the boutiques along the streets. I particularly liked the area called De Negen Straatjes (the nine streets) – between Prinsengracht and Singel. For a map and list of boutiques check out theninestreets.com.

When you are ready to start planning your trip, make sure to check out my post on all the details you need to know before heading to Amsterdam!

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Cute stores everywhere!