10 Things You Need To Know About Amsterdam

Find out the best way to get around the canals in Amsterdam, its best museums and more with Hostelworld.com's Colm Hanratty.

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Fact Sheet

What's in our video about Amsterdamprint

1. The best way to get around is by bicycle
Making up approximately 50% of Amsterdam's traffic, the bicycle is by far the easiest way to get around the Dutch capital. And after a number of hours of walking around it will dawn upon you that there really are people on bikes absolutely everywhere. There are lots of places around Amsterdam where you can rent bikes. Some companies rent bikes just like the ones residents use, while others rent bikes with their logos all over it. Our advice is rent a bike without logos on the bike to fit in with the locals better. Somewhere that rents unbranded bikes is Rent-a-bike Damstraat on Pieter Jacobszdwars Straat just off Dam Square. And if cycling isn't your thing, you can use the city's trams to get around.
2. It's intersected by lots of canals
The Dutch capital has more than 160 canals and over 1,250 bridges. Make sure to take some time out to stroll along the different canals, admiring the houseboats and architecture along the way. And there are lots of different boat tours in Amsterdam. but if you're looking for a fun way to get around the city's canals, try a canal bike. Canal Bus operate the bikes and they can be rented at four different locations throughout the city, including Leidseplein and the Anne Frank House.
3. It's full most famous park is called Vondelpark
Amsterdam's largest and most famous park is Vondelpark which is just south of Leidseplein. It opened its gates back in 1865 when it was originally called Nieue Park. But after a statue of famous Dutch poet Jost van den Vondel was erected in 1867 it adopted the name Vondelpark. And if you're looking to get away from the hustle and bustle for a few hours, this is the perfect place to do it.
4. It's great for shopping
Amsterdam is a shopper's dream come true and there are lots of places to treat yourself to some retail therapy. The two main shopping streets are Leidestraat near Leidseplein and the pedestrianised Kaizerstraat which closer to Centraal Station, while the imposing Magna Plaza on Spuistraat is the city's number one shopping centre. Also, if you're looking to pick up a bargain probably the best place to find one is in the Albert Cuyp Markt which is Amsterdam's number one street market. It's located in an area called De Pijp which is just behind the Heineken Brewery, and here you can pick up everything from clothes to food.
5. See the neighbourhoods most people don't
Too many people who visit Amsterdam only see the touristy areas around Leidseplein Dam Square and the Red Light District. But the city has so much more to offer.
  • Jordaan: This neighbourhood near the Anne Frank House is full of quaint streets and boutiques.
  • De Pijp: Along with the Albert Cuyp Markt you'll also find bars and cafes along Eerste Van Der Helst Straat.
  • Nieurmarkt: Found just beside the Red Light District, here you'll discover Amsterdam's Chinatown.
  • 9 Streets: Located just west of central Amsterdam is one of its most charming areas and one that isn't visited enough by people coming to the Dutch capital. This small area is full of specialist stores and second hand shops, most of which are independently run and owned by locals. It's also got some really cool cafes and restaurants.
  • 6. Here are some free things to do
  • Begijnhof: Located behind the square known as Spui, Begijnhof is a tranquil courtyard that was once home to female religious community and entrance is free.
  • Go on a free walking tour: Another cool thing to do is go on a free walking tour operated by New Amsterdam Tours from Dam Square at 11am and 3pm.
  • Take a ride on a ferry: if you want to see Amsterdam from the water without spending a cent, take a trip on one of the free ferries from behind Centraal Station.
  • 7. It's full of world-class museums
  • Van Gogh Museum: Houses the world's best collection of the famous painter's work.
  • Rijksmuseum: The Netherlands' largest museum and is home to many famous works by Rembrandt.
  • Anne Frank House: Tells the story of the famous teenager who kept a diary while hiding from the Nazis during World War II in the house where the museum is housed.
  • Hermitage Amsterdam: Found on the Amstel River, this is one of the Dutch capital's newest and biggest attractions. It has exhibitions on 19th century Russia and more.
  • 8. There are hundreds of restaurants
    Like in most capital cities, the Dutch capital has a seemingly endless amount of restaurants, and here you can choose from everything from Greek cuisine to Thai, while in particular there are lots of Indonesian restaurants and steak houses. But something that you will only find in the Netherlands is a chain of fast-food restaurants called Febo. The way they work is simple - you choose what you want from a host of small compartments in each restaurant. Then after you've chosen, you pop in your coins into the slot provided and enjoy! And there are Febo restaurants all over the city.
    9. Check out the 'brown cafes'
    While Amsterdam is better-known for its cafes that sell hash and marijuana, all over the city are older cafes known as brown-cafes. These are traditional Dutch bars that get their name from their brown-stained caused by all the cigarettes smoked in them over the years. They're a great place for a coffee in the morning or a beer any time. Ones to look out for include:
  • Cafe Heuvel (Prinsengracht 568): Hostelworld's favourite brown cafe is near the Rijksmuseum and is a great place to grab a beer and meet locals.
  • Cafe Chris (Bloemstraat 42, Jordaan): This brown cafe not far from the Anne Frank House dates back to 1624.
  • Cafe Hoppe (Spui 18-20): An Amsterdam institution and arguably the most famous brown cafe of the lot.
  • 10. To appreciate the nightlife, go on a bar-crawl
    As there are so many pubs and bars in Amsterdam, the best way to experience it is to go on a bar-crawl. Ultimate Party Pub Crawl operate a pub crawl that visits lots of the city's hotspots before ending up in a top club. To book the crawl, click here.
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