Amsterdam City Guide - World of Wanderlust
1 THE WOW
Guide to Amsterdam
“Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin,
but in truth it is a city of freedom.
And in freedom, most people find sin.”
– John Green
Before you go inspiration
A brief history
Top 5 sights and attractions
Top 10 free
5 photos you can’t leave without
5 things unique to Amsterdam
Where to stay
Where to eat
Where to shop
2 AN INTRODUCTION
Few cities are quite so tactical at blending history and
urbanisation such as Amsterdam. On the one side you
have tree-lined canals with seventeenth-century
buildings, and on the other you’re bound to notice the
wafts of greenery protruding from the local cafes.
Amsterdam is liberal and at times ludicrous, but there’s
no city in the world quite like it.
Before you go inspiration
Song: Amsterdam by David Bowie
Book: The Fault in Our Stars (2012)
Film: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, also known
Population: 1 million+
Time Zone: CET
Telephone area code: +20
Language: Dutch (official), 90% speaking English as a
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Climate: Tourists visit year-round, however in winter the
days are short (8 hours daylight) and the weather is cold.
Get around: Amsterdam is best enjoyed on foot and of
course the occasional canal cruise and bike ride through
[#1] Old Centre (Dam Square and Red Light District)
This is the core of Amsterdam. From here the city has
expanded in every direction over the years, so it is here
where you will find the oldest buildings such as the Old
Church and the Waag (old weighing house), as well as the
smallest houses in the city.
Dam square is the city’s meeting point, which is located
close to the Royal Palace. This is also where you will find
the main shopping streets and of course the famous Red
Light District (filled with sex shops and coffeeshops
Head here first to get a feel for the city and work your way
to the outer neighbourhoods from here.
[#2] Canal Ring (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without visiting
the canals – be it walking the canal ring or hopping on a
guided boat tour.
However you decide to explore the canals, be sure not to
miss the Anne Frank House on the west side, as well as
the famous stretch of “nine streets” filled with fantastic
antiques stores, boutiques, and small art galleries.
The best nightlife and restaurants are located on the
south side and this is also the perfect spot to enjoy a long
afternoon of people watching.
4 [#3] Jordaan (hipsterville)
Just as Paris has Montmartre, Amsterdam has Jordaan. It
is here where you will find the artists, intellectuals,
liberals, and creative of Amsterdam. There are also
fittingly many art galleries, art stores and small
boutiques… it’s the cool side of town the locals hoped
you’d never learn about.
Jordaan is also an area where you can discover “hofjes” –
hidden courtyards behind old sturdy doors, making it the
perfect neighbourhood to tactfully waste time.
[#4] The Museum Quarter (Museums of course)
Built in the early 1900s, the Museum Quarter was
intended to be a neighbourhood for the very wealthy,
hence why you will notice large squares and mansions in
this area. As the name suggests, this is where the most
well known museums reside as well. This neighbourhood
is located on the south side of Amsterdam just beyond
A BRIEF HISTORY
Amsterdam was a key player in the Golden Age of the 17th
century, when modern day Capitalism was born. Since
then the small city centre has rapidly expanded beyond
the small medieval centre, and the Canal Belt earned its’
status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. The city
has always been non-conformist, progressive and
encouraging of a relaxed lifestyle. With liberal policies that
allow cannabis and prostitution to become a normal part
of culture, the city is quite the quirky destination and
indeed unlike any other.
5 TOP 5 THINGS TO DO
Van Gogh Museum
As the name suggests, this museum is dedicated to the
works of Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries.
Located in the Museum Square, this is the world’s largest
collection of Van Gogh paintings and drawings and
attracts upwards of 1.5 million visitors per year.
After a 10-year restoration process that was completed in
April 2013, the Rijksmuseum is considered to be one of
the great hotels of the world. The museum is home to
more than 8000 works of art and is consistently rated as
one of Amsterdam’s must visit attractions.
Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House is located on the Prinsengracht
canal and as the name suggests, is the museum
dedicated to the Jewish journalist, Anne Frank, who hid
from Nazi persecution with her family inside the building
where the museum now exists. The hiding place has been
well-preserved and is certainly one of the most popular
attractions in Amsterdam, so aim to arrive early in the day
or be prepared to spend up to hours in the cue to enter.
This public urban park in Amsterdam is kind of like
Amsterdam’s answer to Hyde Park in London or Central
Park in New York. Filled with locals in the summer, it’s a
great chance to mingle and integrate to experience what
life must be like as a local in Amsterdam.
Cruise the Canals
Taking a canal cruise in Amsterdam is almost like a right
of passage. It’s a great introduction to the city for first
timers and will provide you with ample photo ops to turn
your friends green with envy. Don’t worry about booking
in advance, there’s plenty of options to choose from on
the day as this is one of Amsterdam’s biggest tourist
7 TOP 10 FREE THINGS TO DO
Walk the canal ring
Did you know that Amsterdam has more flowing canals
than Venice? The waterways of Amsterdam are 400 years
old and hold UNESCO World Heritage status. Not only is
this a free activity, it will also leave you feeling free, alive,
and soaking up the effortless charm of Amsterdam.
Up-and-coming artists are showcased throughout the city
in a range of independent galleries, many of them offering
free admission. WOW recommends Aschenbach &
Hofland (www.gerhardhofland.com); Galerie Fons Welters
(www.fonswelters.nl); and Kulter (www.kulter.nl).
As the largest street market in the city, Albert Cuypstraat
(www.albertcuypmarkt.nl) is a great free attraction to visit
and witness hagglers make their purchases for the likes of
cheese, socks and jocks, fabrics, and an array of other
typical market goods.
The flower market is seasonal, but if you’re visiting in
spring it is an absolute must do whilst in Amsterdam. The
Bloemenmarkt is home to tulips, roses, yellow daffodils,
and many others.
8 The Condomerie
Situated on the outskirts of Amsterdam’s red light district
is one of the more colourful attractions in the city – the
world’s first specialist condom store. Established in 1987,
the store now welcomes thousands of blushing tourists.
The Begijnhof secret courtyar is located off Gedempte
Begijnensloot (www.begijnhofamsterdam.nl). As you
approach the stiff wooden door and push it open, you will
step inside an oasis lined with traditional 14th-century
houses and gardens galore - the perfect afternoon
Droog design stores are the epitome of contemporary
Amsterdam. If you’re interested in contemporary design,
Droog is an absolute must visit.
Sandeman’s New Amsterdam Tours
This free walking tour operates on a tipping only basis, so
while it is offered free, be sure to provide a small gratuity
if you enjoyed the tour. The tour will take you through the
Jordaan District, walk you through Jewish history in
Amsterdam, and provide you with a great introduction to
the city (www.newamsterdamtours.com).
Hollandsche Manege (Riding School)
The riding school is the perfect place to view regal trotting
and take a look inside the equestrian world. It might not
9 suit everyone, but you know what they say – horses for
Amsterdam Architecture Foundation
The foundation was established in 1986 and is the perfect
opportunity to indulge in new and old architecture of
10 5 PHOTOS YOU CAN’T LEAVE
If you enjoy history, architecture, art, culture (and so
much more), you are going to find yourself constantly
trying to capture the beauty of Amsterdam in your photos.
But to ensure you don’t leave without the best photos of
Amsterdam, here’s a list of the top 5 photos you cannot
11 7 bridges
When you stand at this intersection you can see 7 bridges
in a row down one of the canals. Located at the
intersection of Keizersgracht and Reguliersgracht, the
perfect time to visit would be a short time before sunset
so you can get a photo both in daylight and as the lights
are turned on to create stunning reflections in the water.
The exterior of this national Dutch museum is arguably
more impressive than the interior collection of arts and
history of the country, so be sure not to miss this photo
This clever marketing ploy has quickly become a
photographic icon for all visitors to Amsterdam. There are
more than one throughout the city, but if you visit just
one, make it the sign located out front of the
Rijksmuseum, as it is the most famous.
The famous floating flower market (Bloemenmarkt) is a
must-visit in Spring when the tulips are in full bloom. It’s
also great for photos as the market is bursting with
colours and liveliness.
Leidseplein is one of the most popular plazas in town. It’s
a great place to visit and people watch if you want some
interesting photos showcasing the business of
Amsterdam and the al fresco dining culture.
12 5 THINGS UNIQUE TO AMSTERDAM
While it’s not all about cannabis and joint-smoking
Sunday afternoons, it certainly is a large part of the
culture in Amsterdam – that much cannot be ignored.
Coffee shops in Holland are permitted to sell small
amounts of cannabis to customers, with an age restriction
of 18 years minimum. Whilst this sounds super new-agey
to an outsider, be aware that hard drugs are strictly
The most unique way to experience Amsterdam is to rent
a bicycle. The city is very bike-friendly, and you will notice
there are hundreds of thousands of bikes in the city – in
fact, there is at least one for every person living here.
Expect to pay anywhere between €9 to €20 per day.
(www.rent-a-bike-amsterdam.com are centrally located).
It was in the early 1950’s when tulips were introduced to
the Dutch, sparking what has been dubbed in history as
‘tulip mania’ or tulpenmanie in Dutch. Nowadays tulips
continue to have a longstanding presence in all of
Holland, and Amsterdam is no exception.
Amsterdam has over one hundred kilometres of canals
and over 1,500 bridges… believe me when I say there will
be plenty of photo ops in front of, on top of, and next to
The Red Light District
The area known as De Wallen is the largest and bestknown red light district in Amsterdam. While it might not
be everyone’s cup of tea, it is certainly worth a visit to see
the various sex shops and establishments that leave very
little to the imagination.
14 WHERE TO STAY
BUDGET: The Flying Pig Hostels
From €35.90 per person, per night
With two locations (one downtown, one uptown), Flying
Pig Hotels are a great option for youthful visitors to
Amsterdam looking to have a good time with likeminded
individuals from around the globe. These hotels are world
famous for their relaxed atmosphere and hosting some of
the best parties in the evenings. Included in the price is
breakfast; bed linen’ wifi’ lockers’ maps; guides and free
MEDIUM: NH Amsterdam Centre
From €144.00 per room, per night
This four star hotel in Central Amsterdam is perfectly
situated, just a stones’ throw away from the flower market
and nearby shopping streets.
SPLURGE: Hotel De L’Europe
From €359.00 per room, per night
This luxury five star property is located right in the historic
heart of Amsterdam. While it doesn’t come cheap, it is the
perfect choice for a luxurious escape in the city.
ADVENTUROUS: Rent an Apartment
A great alternative to hotels in a city like Amsterdam is to
rent an apartment and live like a local.
15 WHERE TO EAT
For Dutch Eats:
Moeders (or Mothers in English) is wall-to-wall plastered
with photos of mothers and serves all of the Dutch
classics you will be able to consume in one sitting.
Loetje (or website in English) is renowned for having the
best steak and chips in town. Leave the vegetarians at
home; this is one for the carnivores.
3. Haesje Claes
Haesje Claes is housed inside historical buildings but
your eyes won’t be the only senses to step back in time.
The menu is entirely old-fashioned Dutch food and won’t
Another great Dutch home cooked meal with a more
welcoming atmosphere than its’ counterparts. Sort of like
sitting down for dinner at your family friends’ house.
This cheap eats choice is a local fave, so you can rest
assured you will meet some Dutchies inside. Dinners start
at just €7.50 – who could resist that offer!
16 For Cheap Eats:
A budget-friendly choice serving up healthy snacks and
fresh juices. Vegetarian-friendly and open 7 days a week.
You won’t find a seat unless you’re lucky, so plan to
takeaway your cheap eats from Foodware. You’ll find
great sandwiches, soups and salads to takeaway and
enjoy at a nearby bench or canal.
3. ‘t Kuyltje
Open weekdays, ‘t Kuyltje has ridiculously cheap and
delicious sandwiches. Find them on Gasthuismolensteeg
Firstly, it’s a chain found elsewhere in the world.
Secondly, it’s all about falafel. Thirdly, it’s flippin’
delicious and ridiculously cheap.
A sparkly diner at the back os a gay lounge and the
perfect place to take a cheap date for a colourful evening!
17 For A Romantic Evening:
If it’s French cuisine you desire, it’s unmistakably French
cuisine you’ll find inside Michelin-starred Vinkeles. This is
indeed one of the most romantic settings in all of
Amsterdam – located inside The Dylan hotel.
2. La Rive
Getting a table at Michelin-starred La Rive will not be an
easy task, but you can rest assured your patience will be
rewarded. Expect Mediterranean-French cuisine with an
extensive wine list.
Head to Beddington’s for French-English-Japanese
fusion cuisine with impeccable flavours and modern
twists. Beddington’s has wowed critics since its’ opening
so be sure to book a table in advance.
4. Restaurant Vermeer
Restaurant Vermeer is located inside four 17th century
buildings, making it the perfect choice for a typical
Northern European evening. If you want to experience
something extra special to commemorate your trip, this is
an evening to remember.
Yamazato was designed to represent a 16th century
Japanese tea house, making it the perfect choice for a
romantic evening should you have an appetite for
classical Japanese Haute Cuisine.
18 WHERE TO SHOP
Enticed by the idea of shopping up a storm in the Dutch
capital? Expect the unexpected. Amsterdam is all about
diversity – from modern to antique, luxury to cheap…
Amsterdam has something to suit all tastes.
De Negen Straatjes (“The Nine Little Streets”)
Head to the nine little streets area for designer boutiques,
quaint cafes, vintage stores and many of Amsterdam’s
specialty stores. Look for “De 9 Straatjes” on street signs
in Amsterdam’s Central Canal Ring.
You’ll be brushing shoulders with tourists and wading
your way through crowds, but if you simply want to spend
time sifting through international mainstream brands
looking for a quick buy, this is the place to do so. Just
steer clear of the tacky souvenirs!
Looking for quirky bohemian-turned-yuppie designs and
second-hand thrift stores? Head for Jordaan
neighbourhood and peruse the many streets that have
become a mecca for hipsters in Amsterdam.
Pieter Cornelisz (P.C.) Hooftstraat
If its high end labels and designers you want, that is
indeed what you will receive in the P.C. Hoofstraat,
located in the Museum Quarter neighbourhood. Think
high-end stores like Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton and
It should hardly come as a surprise that Amsterdam is
home to some of Europe’s most enticing music and
nightlife scene. Of course the scene is always changing,
so we’ve picked our favourite go-to’s for a guaranteed
good night out…
Best For: Clubbing any night of the week
Open every night and home to house music, Club NL is
one of the coolest places to find yourself any evening of
Chicago Social Club
Best For: Casual drinks with friends
As both a bar and a club, CSC is open Sunday through
Thursday and offers a much more relaxed alternative to
its’ swanky counterparts. Here you can enjoy a cosy
setting with good drinks, good vibes, and good company.
Do however note that this club has a minimum age
restriction of 21 years.
Best For: See and be seen
Three rules for JimmyWoo: Dress to impress, arrive early
to even get past the doorman, and again, dress to
impress. JimmyWoo is renowned for its’ strict door policy
as a members club, so be sure to have a back-up plan
should you not be granted the keys to the kingdom.
20 All you need is...
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