10 things to know before you arrive in Amsterdam

AmsterdamEuropeTravel Tips

Amsterdam is a city built on water, traversed by bikes, and loved by many. A visit to this city of canals, will charm you, too.  There is so much to experience with its history, culture, and cosy spaces. Prepare for your trip with these Amsterdam hotels, then you’ll be set to explore the city with confidence. 

1. About Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is spacious with great facilities and easy signage in both Dutch and English. Anything you might want after you arrive is available. Need a Starbucks fix? Forgot your toothbrush? No worries, before you leave the airport, it turns into a shopping centre.

Getting to the centre of the city filled with the classic canal houses is as simple as hopping on a bus, train, or taxi. Depending on where you are headed, the Amsterdam Airport Express, also called bus 197, is a great option to get into the city quickly. Several trains take you right to Amsterdam Centraal Station, where buses, trams, and ferries are waiting to take you to your destination. Of course, taxis are always an option for those with a strict time schedule.

2. Technology needs

To have your tech work in Amsterdam, you may need an adapter or converter. If you already use 220v/230v, you may only need an adapter for the plug. A converter is a must if you’re coming from a country that uses 110v to keep devices working properly.

For getting around and learning about this fascinating city with unexpected history, two apps will be very helpful. Citymapper will guide you around town and help you find the closest public transportation. Rick Steves Audio Europe is a super helpful app that includes three walking tours and various interviews that can be downloaded to listen to off-line. This means free walking tours that you can do on your own and at your own pace.

Top 10 Things To Know Before You Arrive in Amsterdam - Amsterdam Centraal

3. Getting around Amsterdam

Public transit is well-connected and easy to use, and usually on-time. Just outside of Amsterdam Centraal Station you will find a GVB office. This is the place to buy transit cards, get maps, and ask questions. Transit tickets are good on the GVB buses, trams, and metro in Amsterdam. Just remember to tap your card on the reader on the way in and out of any form of transportation.

Of course Amsterdam is famous for its bicycles, and there are many places to rent one. Should you decide to cycle, rent a brightly coloured tourist bike and get a quick tutorial from the shop on the rules of the road. Having a bright bike will keep you safer as locals will give you a bit more room and you’ll hear less “ding-dings” as you ride along.

While public transit and cycling are great options, nothing beats just walking around and getting lost. It’s easy to discover small alleys, grand churches, random markets, and funny store fronts when you’re not on a bike just trying not to run into other people. It’s not only relaxing but you’ll see Amsterdam for what it is, a fun and quirky city where you can see almost anything. From four kids on one bike to people walking around in bizarre outfits to a street party with Electronic Dance Music being played out a window of a side street from an up-and-coming DJ, nothing is off-limits. Every bit of the weird and craziness adds to Amsterdam’s personality.

4. Amsterdam weather and what to pack

While unpredictable some days, the temperatures are fairly mild in both the summer and winter, with an average of 17°C in the summer and 3°C in the winter. It’s the rain and wind you’ll want to look out for. A wind-breaker type of rain jacket should top your list when packing for your visit. The weather can change from rain to sunshine and back again a matter of minutes. Maybe that’s why there are so many cafes throughout the city. They are perfect for popping into when the skies open.

Even on those wonderful, but few days, of really warm temperatures, men don’t typically wear shorts. Other than that, the culture of clothing is more about comfort than style. Women love to wear their athletic shoes, but they will always look pristine and will not be the same ones worn to the gym. Dutch men are all about the casual brown shoe. A bit of a contrast to the shoes women like, but it all is part of the culture.

5. Language barriers

Almost everyone in Amsterdam speaks English well, which comes as a relief to some travellers. The national language of the Netherlands, Dutch, has many similarities to English, so you might catch onto the language faster than you’d think. Even “hallo!” is like “hello!” in English.

Just in case you want to feel more local, there are a few phrases to master: “alsjeblieft” pronounced “alsh-ya-bleeft” is “please” and also is a form of “you’re welcome”.  To say “thank you”, it’s “dank je wel” and sounds like “daank-ye-vell”. There are different forms of each, but these are the most commonly used in Amsterdam. Practice and you’ll sound like a natural.

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6. Get on the canals

One of the best views you can get is from the water. There are plenty of options for canal cruise tours ranging from the traditional long boats to smaller tour boats, and even paddle boats. Tours that share history and fun facts are a great way to learn about the city while offering the opportunity to get some iconic photographs of bridges and leaning canal houses.

Amsterdam can be a magical place if you take your time.  Merely sitting on the side of a canal provides a peaceful, relaxing moment. If a boat passes, feel free to wave, since sunshine in Amsterdam puts everyone in a great mood.

Top 10 Things To Know Before You Arrive in Amsterdam - Dutch herring

7. Tasty treats

The Dutch may not be known for their food, but with over 180 nationalities represented in Amsterdam, there are many cuisines to try.

When in the Netherlands, you must try the traditionally prepared Dutch herring, a lightly pickled fish served with raw onions. There are stands all around the city, just pop into one for a taste.  For an on-the-go snack, try the Flemish fries at Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx. This Belgian technique for making perfect fries has made it to the Netherlands. The secret is all about thick cut potatoes that are fried twice to give a soft inside and crispy outside. Give it a try with mayo.

Another well-known Dutch treat is the stroopwafel, which translates to syrup waffle. This delicious snack is made from dough that is put in a small pan and creates a thin waffle that looks more like a cookie. The already thin cookie is sliced in half and a caramel-like syrup is drizzled inside. Getting a fresh, hot stroopwafel is key. They are available in cafes, so be sure to place the cookie on top of a mug of hot coffee or tea to soften the inside. Then eat and enjoy this addictive snack.

8. Massive markets

Markets are a great way to explore a city as you get a sense of the diversity and the culture. From weekday markets to specialty markets on Saturday and Sunday, it’s a fun and delicious treat. Household goods, toiletries, clothing, and food are all available to purchase. Bring cash and be ready with a bag to carry all your goodies away.

When going to markets, you might think that you can haggle on the price a bit. In Amsterdam, some of the stalls at markets are regular businesses and haggling is not the norm. However, at the Waterlooplein Flee Market and the IJ-Hallen Flea Market, you are able to try and bargain to see how low you can get the price. Have fun with it. The merchants are usually very friendly and if they are up for a deal, they won’t be offended. They will just tell you that the price is what the price is. Are you ready to find some treasures?

9. Festivals galore

In the summer, festivals and events occur almost every day and are a great way to experience the local culture. From free outdoor events like food truck festivals to indoor dance festivals, there’s no reason to miss out on all the fun around the city. A new favourite is Rollende Keukens (meaning Rolling Kitchens) is a huge food truck festival throughout an old industrial area turned cultural park. Here you’ll discover delicious cuisines you’ve never heard of alongside favourites like barbeque.

Top 10 Things To Know Before You Arrive in Amsterdam - Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

10. Museums on everything

So many museums in one city! If you’re a museum fan this is the place for you, with over 50 to choose from. The famous Rijksmuseum is beautiful and filled with priceless pieces, including Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” among many others. Closer to the centre, you’ll find the Museum of Bags and Purses with its fascinating collection of bags from throughout the ages. If you are travelling with children, the hands-on exhibits at the NEMO Science Museum will be an engaging treat as they don’t just walk through this museum; they interact with all the scientific demonstrations.

You are all set to visit a market, grab some fries, see a museum, and so much more while in Amsterdam. Being prepared and knowing what to expect can make such a difference in enjoying a new city. Explore, get lost, eat, and talk to locals to get the best experience. Now get out and enjoy this beautiful city to the fullest.


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