A Weekend Guide to Amsterdam

The I am Amsterdam sign in Museumquarter

Travelling to and Around Amsterdam

Amsterdam has become a popular tourist destination with accessible travel connections from all over the world.

Flights

Direct flights depart from all major UK airports with an average flight time of 55 minutes. Amsterdam has one main airport, Schiphol (AMS) and is Europe’s 5th busiest in terms of international passenger volume. Airlines that fly to Amsterdam include EasyJet, Jet2, and British Airways. I would recommend booking your flights around 15 weeks before you depart to try and secure a discounted price, as demand is always high.

Eurostar

Since April 2018, Eurostar trains run direct from London to Amsterdam twice a day on weekdays and once a day at weekends. Journey times are 3 hours 41 minutes and this is an alternative to flying. Return journeys are not yet direct, and require a Thalys high-speed train to Brussels and then the Eurostar to London. However, this is all set to change in 2019 once the Dutch Government formally approves passport control in Amsterdam.

Train

The quickest and cheapest way to travel from the airport to the city centre is to take the train from the main arrival’s hall direct into Amsterdam Centraal Station. Tickets cost €7.20 and trains depart from Platform 1 and 2, with an approximate journey time of 20 minutes.

Train at Schiphol Airport going to Amsterdam Central Station

There are of course alternative ways of travel, including the Connexxion Airport Hotel Shuttle which stops at over 100 hotels en route from the airport, or alternatively a taxi which costs in the region of €40 to €50.

Upon arrival in Amsterdam, you will quickly notice that few people travel by car. In fact, this city discourages driving within the canal ring and the majority will either cycle, walk or catch a tram.

Number 5 tram in Amsterdam city centre

There are a multitude of cycle hire shops around the city, but a few to look out for include Green Budget Bikes, MacBike and Bike City. TIP: Pack comfortable footwear for walking. Your step count will be high.

Single, day or multi-day tickets can be purchased for public transport, at a reasonable cost. Ticket machines can often be found at metro stations around the city. TIP: Do remember to tap in and out by presenting your ticket to the validator on board.

Attractions / Things to Do

Amsterdam has a wealth of attractions to see; in fact some careful planning in advance really goes a long way to make the most out of your trip.

The Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank House was my main priority. Ever since reading the diary as a teenager, I have been interested to see the museum in the flesh. Currently, there is a ticketed system for entry which means that you must purchase your tickets online in advance for a specific date and time. Around 80% of tickets are released two months in advance, with the remaining 20% released on the website on the day. I spent weeks logging on every day trying to secure a ticket and was disappointed not to get one. However, upon arriving in Amsterdam and signing on to the hotel Wi-Fi, I was able to buy two tickets online for that same day.

Once you have bought your tickets, ensure that you arrive at the museum in plenty of time. You will have the opportunity to visit the Secret Annex where Anne Frank and seven other residents lived for a total of 761 days between 1942 and 1944, as well as reading extracts from her diary.

Memorial of Anne Frank outside Anne Frank Museum with fresh tulips

Dam Square

Dam Square or “the Dam” is at the heart of Amsterdam and will often be bustling with tourists, street performers and events. The Dam was built around the River Amstel in the 13th Century and the square marks its site. A must see is the Royal Palace, where official receptions take place, and the National Monument commemorating the Dutch who lost their lives during World War II.

Keukenhof

Now let’s talk tulips. These flowers bloom in March, April and May and if you visit Amsterdam in the springtime you will see them everywhere. I visited in late April and it was the perfect time to catch the hop-on hop-off bus to Keukenhof. Over seven million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are planted each year by 100 flower bulb companies. A small team of 40 gardeners maintain the world’s largest spring garden. There are a vast selection of flower shows and exhibitions to see, a flower mosaic, as well as perfectly manicured lawns and magnificent flowerbeds – not forgetting the Dutch bulb fields with their never-ending rows of reds, blues and yellows. It is simply beautiful.

Pink, purple, orange and yellow tulips in Keukenhof tulip gardens

Bloemenmarkt

You may like to visit Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam’s floating flower market. Here you can purchase your tulip bulbs from the floating barges ready for planting in the spring. Each airline passenger is allowed to fly home with 2kg of bulbs. However, I recommend checking the Border Control website before you travel.

Paper bags selling multi-coloured tulip bulbs

Heineken Experience

If you are over the age of 18 and you like a tipple or two then make your way to the Heineken Experience. It is an interactive and informative tour around the famous brewery, learning about the history of Heineken with a visit to the copper stills and stables, plus the chance to enjoy some tasters.

Black and white picture of Heineken Factory in Amsterdam with cyclists outside

Moco Museum

To see one of the largest exhibitions of Banksy street art, then head to the Moco Museum. There is a wide range of modern, inspiring and contemporary art on show including Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. This boutique museum overlooks Museumplein and is the perfect place to grab a snap by the iconic ‘I am Amsterdam’ sign.

Roy Lichtenstein’s version of Van Gogh’s The Artist’s Room

De 9 Straatjes

My final and favourite place to go in Amsterdam is De 9 Straatjes, or ‘The Nine Streets’. This little neighbourhood is the perfect place to see the grandest canals and waterways including Keizersgracht and Herengracht. This area is so pretty and picturesque, with lines of bicycles placed in front of the canals. The streets here are bursting with vintage and designer shopping, as well as boutique hotels and cosy cafes and eateries. It is a definite must full of locals.

Bicycles parked up by the side of De 9 Straatjes

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17 Comments

  1. Dave G
    January 6, 2019 / 2:24 pm

    Well done Nikki, you’ve been busy setting this all up

    • January 6, 2019 / 6:41 pm

      Thanks so much David, yes I have spent a long time perfecting the website but I am so excited to share it with you all. Nikki

  2. Jane Hall
    January 6, 2019 / 2:43 pm

    Very informative Makes me want to visit again, especially to see the flowers. Well done and look forward to reading the next one

    • January 6, 2019 / 6:43 pm

      Thanks Jane, I am glad to have inspired you to return. If you are keen on flowers, then I would definitely recommend a visit around April when the tulips are in full bloom. Nikki

  3. January 6, 2019 / 3:04 pm

    What a great first post! Always wanted to go to Amsterdam, so you’ve given some awesome looking recommendations on what to do! Really looking forward to reading some more posts in the future!

    • January 6, 2019 / 7:34 pm

      Thanks so much Mark, I am glad you enjoyed reading it. Do keep an eye out for a food related blog post to follow which will also assist when planning your trip. Nikki

  4. January 6, 2019 / 8:24 pm

    I’ve travelled to a few places in The Netherlands but have not made it to Amsterdam yet. I’ll definately be saving this post as you have shared some great tips! Keukenhof is so beautiful isn’t it, I took my Mum for Easter.

    Jaz

    • January 6, 2019 / 9:47 pm

      Thanks for your message Jaz, yes Keukenhof is beautiful. My favourite flowers are tulips so I felt like I was in flower heaven. Amsterdam is a fantastic city to visit and explore, you will love it! Nikki

  5. January 7, 2019 / 3:25 am

    Really good first post, Nikki! Love the look of the blog too

  6. January 8, 2019 / 1:03 am

    I’m so excited to visit Amsterdam when my partner and I move to the UK later this year – actually I’m excited to visit lots of parts of Europe within close distance of England! I’ll definitely be bookmarking this page to help plan when we do travel to Amsterdam.

    • January 8, 2019 / 8:55 am

      A move to the UK is so exciting, it’s a fantastic place to live. Amsterdam is a beautiful city to visit and very close by. Do subscribe to the Smiling Food Journal to receive emails notifying you when new posts go live as there will be plenty more on Europe. I hope you have a safe move! Nikki

  7. January 8, 2019 / 10:24 am

    I love it Amsterdam and I’ve visited twice now, the second time on a day trip from Rotterdam (which I’d also recommend). It looks like you packed a lot into your time there as well. I’ve followed you on Instagram now too.

  8. January 20, 2019 / 4:59 pm

    Great first post! I’ve never been to Amsterdam but hoping to go there soon. You have given me some great idea on what to see once I get there. Thanks for sharing!

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