Amsterdam may be known for the risqué Red Light District and legalised cannabis but it’s memorable for the charming architecture, sense of community and rich culture. The Dutch capital embraces old-world customs and celebrates its quaint landmarks despite being known as one of the most liberal cities in Europe. Canals, bridges, bicycles, tulips and wooden clogs remain a strong part of a culture that celebrates antiquity.
The city has warm summers and cold winters with medium to heavy snow. Although the city’s official language is Dutch, most Amsterdam locals are fluent in English and happy to strike up a friendly conversation with visitors.
Access and transport
The closest airport to Amsterdam is Schiphol Airport, about 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) southwest of the city centre. That’s about half an hour by car or taxi. You can also catch a shuttle bus or train. The train ride to Amsterdam from other European cities such as London, Brussels, Prague or Paris is scenic and drops you straight into Amsterdam Centraal Station.
Once you arrive, do like the locals and cycle around the stunning flat city.
Discover Amsterdam’s history and art culture in the many fascinating museums including post-Impressionist masterpieces at the Van Gogh Museum. Don’t miss the famous Rijksmuseum, which reveals Dutch history through inspiring works of art.
You can take a canal cruise from the museum to Anne Frank’s House. Walk through the famous house and see where she hid with her family from the Nazis during German occupation. You can even see Anne’s actual diary – one of the most moving and celebrated war memoirs in history.
Uncover the rare and unusual side of the city with a visit to the Museum of Bags and Purses where you will see accessories dating back to the Middle Ages. Alternatively, spend an afternoon at the The House of Bols Cocktail & Genever Experience to learn about liquors or take the Heineken Experience tour through the historic brewery.
Cafe's and dining
Amsterdam may not be a well-known foodie destination but there is no shortage of restaurants, cafes, patisseries, bars and surprisingly delicious fast food options.
FEBO is a Dutch fast food restaurant chain with a twist. Fried snacks, including croquettes, fries and small burgers, are available to purchase from the ‘wall vendor’. Pop your coins into the money slot, open the little glass window and pull out your snack of choice.
Be sure to try some local specialties while visiting Amsterdam including bitterballen (fried balls of beef, butter and herbs), stroopwafels (syrup waffles) and stamppot (mashed potatoes, vegetables and smoked sausage).
Outdoors and markets
Amsterdam is a stunning city with plenty of parks, canals and markets that come alive on sunny days.
Vondelpark is Amsterdam's most popular park attracting 10 million visitors per year. Located near the the centre of the city, Vondelpark boasts plenty of space, sculptures designed by Pablo Picasso, ponds, cafes and so much more. Take a picnic and settle into Vondelpark for some people-watching.
The city is also home to a number of exciting open air markets and bazaars. Whether you're interested in organic groceries, flowers, handmade artisan products, pre-loved goods or antiques - you'll find it here. Like so many things in Amsterdam, the markets have a long and important history - the famous Waterlooplein Flea Market dates back to 1893!
Be sure to unwind and take a relaxing boat cruise through the canals. You'll find boat hire and tour operators all over the city along the water and there’s no better way to see Amsterdam than from it’s famous canals.
The Red Light District and coffee shops
If you’re feeling adventurous, take a walk or guided tour around the notorious windows of the Red Light District or visit a coffee shop, not to be confused with a regular café, where legalised cannabis is available. The distinction between a coffee shop (legal cannabis) a café (usually a restaurant or bar) and a koffiehuis (coffee and meals) is an important one for visitors to remember.