First of all I strongly think Amsterdam is in decline as a touristic destination. The capital of freedom is having enough of the tons of tourists and piss in the street corners. Amsterdam remains a great week-end escape for youngsters and gays, maybe for some art lovers, but the locals don’t want us there anymore, destroying their life; almost like in Barcelona. So you wont find the real Amsterdam on the touristic paths but in some surprising spots. In addition to all that the surroundings are more beautiful and interesting so it is worth getting out of the city.
I usually went to Amsterdam for weekends travelling by car from Brussels and one time I took Flixbus and I strongly recommend it – this is not an add, just my personal experience. I was once for work and I found some interesting spots in this manner, a different Amsterdam from what I knew.
Why a 3 stars destination, considering one star for under rated and deceptive and 5 stars for exceeding expectations? Even if in decline, and the Dutch people not so friendly anymore with tourist (and I really do understand them), there is still a lot to do and a lot of different things to do and see.
Here are my top DON’Ts about Amsterdam, keeping in mind that this is a personal experience, and some DOs and hidden spots between the lines:
- don’t visit if short in budget but don’t like all the sharing – hostels, coach surfers, airbnb. And eating from supermarkets, although they too are expensive.
- don’t enter the town by car as parking is very expensive and there are few places especially if your accommodation is right in the city center, alongside the canals. Instead you can leave it in the parking near the stadium. Very convenient.
- don’t use taxis or uber as it is so expensive, a real budget hole. Use the public transport instead as it is maybe one of the best I’ve seen, similar to Barcelona. For a real feeling of the city I strongly recommend it.
- if you feel capable just rent a bike. Personally I would’n recommend – you shall see exactly why.
- Also use the ferryboats that cross free of charge on the other side of the big canal behind the train station- have a coffee at the terrace nearby and enjoy the sun. This is an interesting experience especially for the events from NDSM-werf, Tt. Neveritaweg 61, 1033 WB Amsterdam, Olanda ndsm.nl . And also for admiring the building of the Eye Filmmuseum.
- don’t be ashamed to ask other passengers to share a cab from the airport or to the airport especially if the flight is too late or too early. I have never been refused, by the contrary. Everyone likes some saving on this kind of expenses.
- this is not a cheap destination so don’t underestimate your budget-transport, accommodation, restaurants.
- this is a gay capital so don’t visit if problems with that or choose out of the gay neighborhood.
- don’t drink or smoke weed in the streets, it’s forbidden. And frankly why should you do it when there are the Coffee Shops for that.
- weather is mainly good only during summer so check the weather apps like accuweather to know how to pack. Don’t over pack for fashion purposes – this is not Milan or Paris. Dress casual, it’s easy to blend with the locals. Have an umbrella.
- don’t think bicyclists pay attention to you. By the contrary, sometimes I had the impression they do it on purpose. So keep the side ways, even along the canals.
- don’t go unprepared on things to see or do and please chose one maxim 2 objectives per day, to have a great trip not a day off when back home. There are a lot of museums….packed with tons of famous artworks. Hunt for the free entries sometimes and choose what to see in that museum.
- don’t save on the IAmsterdam city card – the benefits are greater than the price so this is smart travelling. Even a boat cruise, some entries, some skip the lines, and a transportation pass.
- I wouldn’t visit the big museums at my first Amsterdam trip, maybe in the second one. For the first I would stay in the streets, alongside canals, in the flower market, at the central square for some dutch fast-food.
- book well in advance as it is very expensive in the city center, canal views. For medium price hotels rooms are ugly, honestly, and outdated. It’s only the exterior that looks so appealing with this dutch architecture of Amsterdam, the flowers and the trees, the silent canals.
- airbnb is a poorer option than http://www.trivago.com in terms of rooms quality. I would try next time a boathouse, at least it would be an interesting experience.
- when you book, if you want to sleep avoid the streets near Central Train Station and the famous red neighborhood as they are for late drinking and parties all night long. In my opinion these ares are overestimated and so dirty, sometimes dangerous from all that alcohol and pickpockets.
- Vondelpark is over rated in my opinion. I didn’t get the feeling similar like in the park I described in Lisbon post. Or like the hidden small garden in the city center of Amsterdam – Begijnhof. A top 5 to see in Amsterdam.
- don’t eat in the touristic areas as there is no dutch cuisine and you end up having some over priced european menu. Go out of the city center and don’t avoid the local pastry shops – great option.
- I did’t found Amsterdam to be a shopping destination, although full of shopping centers and streets. Maybe just for some local designers or brands like Rituals.
- don’t buy fridge magnets!!!! there are a lot of options in the flower market.
- don’t go without travel insurance, copies of your papers to go out at night with it, some cash to avoid exchange at the airport although there are ATMs, travel guides, an internet plan to use wikipedia when walking to understand more of the history and culture.
- don’t stick to the city center and look for the farmers markets – this is the real Holland. Buy specific products.
- local street food is not too elaborate but is addictive and a caloric bomb. In fact is about fries with sauce, fried rolled minced meat, smoked hering and sauce. Best fries I had was here – Manneken Piss, Damrak 41, 1012 LK Amsterdam, Olanda mannekenpis.nl
- try also an interesting concept of fast food FEBO, Nieuwendijk 220, 1012 MX Amsterdam, Olanda febo.nl
- try to be polite as the locals love to ask them something in dutch and then pass to English.
- check in advance if any event either national celebrations, carnivals, or concerts – I usually check viagogo. You might end up at a concert and this is a real memory. I have done it once and it’s exhilarating.
- Central Station as a top attraction is a bit forced, but churches are a must to visit. Anyway stay in the streets, alongside canals and MUST take a boat cruise – the best discovery.
- choose your museums visits wisely as there are a lot and most of them are over rated. If going to big ones on the museum plain, really take your time or plan another trip dedicated to that.
I stop here, but there are a lot of things to see and do. Go out of the beaten paths, walk alongside canals in Jordaan, visit Anne Franke museum just to remember that we live now a great era of peace and tolerance, have a coffee, fast food fries, a beer in the evening near the Red Light District – the prostitute area is too over rated, more like a freak show from the American Horror Story series. Go for night life if still into or for the gay life as it is still the capital of freedom for everyone. Have free tours departing from the central square in front of the royal palace, or take cooking classes just to meet the locals.
But pls pls pls go out of Amsterdam and discover an idyllic country side with windmills, cows, tulips, canals, sheep…..