We spent only a weekend in Amsterdam, but it was enough to fall in love with it. Amsterdam has ‘that something special’ and we could easily live there. The city centre architecture and canals are charming, but the architecturally harmonious suburbs also impressed us. We had the impression that everywhere (except the red light district in the evening and early morning in the centre) is very clean and green. In addition, cycling is extremely pleasant, and where isn’t possible to go by bike it can be reached by bus and metro. We decided to share the sightseeing route, practical tips and a trip cost estimate to help you organize your own. We hope that following our footsteps you will fall in love with Amsterdam as much as we did!
Day 1 – weekend in Amsterdam
Zaandam Intel Hotel -> bus to Amsterdam, (train from Zaandam station to Amsterdam Centraal station or buses 391 and 394 from Zaandam, Het Mennistenerf stop to the center is the nearest if you get off at Prins Hendrikkade stop) -> Oude Kerk -> walk around De Wallen towards Dam Square -> Dam Square where Die Nieuwe Kerk and Royal Palace are -> Walk towards Spui Square -> Spui Square -> Herring break at Jonk Volendammer Haringhandel and beer at Hoppe -> Bloemenmarkt Flower Market – > visit to the cheese shop -> discover the Jordaan district -> entrance to the Westerkerk church tower -> walk to Rembrantplein and dinner in the area -> evening canal cruise (we bought a cruise in the Bloemenmarkt area) -> walk around the red light district after dark -> train station Amsterdam Centraal (the station and surrounding buildings are beautifully lit at night) -> return to Zaandam
Day 2 – weekend in Amsterdam
Zaandam -> Amsterdam Centraal -> De Waag -> walk to the Rijksmuseum via Rembrandplein -> Rijksmuseum -> bicycle rental at MacBike -> De Gooyer -> visiting the De Pijp district by bike on the way back to the centre -> ride through Vondelpark and rest on grass -> return of bicycles -> walk to Amsterdam Centraal where we caught the train to the airport
Visited places – weekend in Amsterdam
In Amsterdam, we focused mainly on feeling the atmosphere of the city, and not running around from one sight to next monument and so on. For this reason, we saw most of the known monuments only from the outside and we see nothing wrong with it. We didn’t care about looking inside every church, especially since the pictures we saw on the Internet didn’t encourage us, and admission prices aren’t low at all. We willingly spent the saved money on food, but if you want to watch every place inside carefully, it would be good to spread the places from our plan into 3 days of sightseeing (or reduce the time spent eating and relaxing).
Zaandam Intel Hotel
The Intel hotel is located in the city of Zaandam near Amsterdam (by the way, Zaandam is a very good base – accommodation is cheaper and communication is good). The hotel is distinguished by its amazing architecture – it looks like irregularly stacked wooden Dutch houses, one on top of another. Both the hotel and the entire bypass are impressive, especially since everything around has been designed in a style that matches the hotel.
Oude Kerk – the oldest church in Amsterdam
The oldest church in the city! The most unusual is that the church is literally in the middle of Sodom and Gomorrah, in De Wallen, the red light district. The contrast between the old church and the windows illuminated in red is impressive and raises some internal opposition. On the other hand, the parish is still working, and there is no indication that in easy going Amsterdam one is clashing with another. Right next to the church there is a charming cafe De Koffieschenkerij where we stopped for coffee.
The main point of the city with a monument commemorating the Second World War located in the heart of Ametrdam. At the square there is the Royal Palace and the church Die Nieuwe Kerk. The square itself didn’t make a particular impression on us – a square like a square, we didn’t particularly feel the spirit of the city. We were impressed by the luxury goods store – De B’jenkorf. The place is particularly interesting due to the fact that it has many limited edition perfumes in its assortment (including those that are no longer sold at all) that you will not buy in too many places around the world.
Die Nieuwe Kerk
The new church owes its name only to the fact that it was built as the second church after the Oude Kerk, so it isn’t that new at all. Nieuwe Kerk performs many important functions, it’s there where the kings of the country are sworn in, and there are also weddings of monarchs taking place.
The palace can be visited, although we limited ourselves to seeing it from the outside. In addition to the interiors themselves, which are impressive in the palace, you can also see various exhibitions. The palace can be visited from 10-17, but not every day. The days when the palace is open to visitors can be checked here. It’s worth doing it because there are no specific days of the week when Palace would be closed – available to visitors whole summer, but in the off-season these periods fall out differently. The ticket price for an adult is 10 euros, students pay 9, and persons up to 18 years old enter for free.
A bustling square where we came for herring, because that’s where Herring Stall Jonk is located. In addition, we stopped for a beer at the Hoppe pub. A place where it’s pleasant to sit for a while, but on weekends in the afternoon it’s very crowded.
Flower market on the water. Small shops are located in moored barges. You can buy there both fresh flowers and bulbs of various flowers, including of course tulips. Additionally, many shops sell souvenirs. We expected Bloemenmarkt to make a greater impression on us, but the reality didn’t quite coincide with our imaginations. Our feelings certainly had a significant impact on the crowd of people who are hard to break thru there, if able to plan a visit when there are fewer people, we highly recommend this option!
The Netherlands is famous for Gouda cheese and proper one which doesn’t resemble a cheese-like product sold in our supermarkets under this name. In Amsterdam, there are plenty of stores where you can buy it, and there are so many that it’s hard to go out with one! Several types of tasting are also available in each store. A large shopping area is located at the flower market, but this isn’t the only place. Shops are scattered all over Amsterdam and you can’t miss them, and those around the market are more crowded. We recommend a classic called ‘Old Amsterdam’ with an intense flavour. In addition to cheese, we also brought a special cheese knife as a souvenir, reminiscent of a vegetable scraper. However, we don’t recommend lavender cheese, it simply taste like soap and it’s difficult to swallow more than a tiny piece.
An extremely atmospheric district of Amsterdam in a slightly hipster-artistic style. The district is quite in fashion, so the prices of apartments in Jordaan are reportedly reaching sky-high amounts. We wrote more about Jordaan here.
The interior of the church when we visited Amsterdam was under renovation, but we most wanted to climb the tower. Entry must be pre-booked for the given hour at the ticket office – only 6 people with a guide can go to the top at the same time, and the trip lasts 30 minutes. We have never met such a demanding way to the top, the stairs in the last part are definitely closer to the ladder. Elderly people, as well as those suffering from fear of heights can have huge problems there, so it’s good to think about it twice. The view from the top didn’t knock us down, because Amsterdam is probably the city that looks best from the sidewalk or canal. Entrance to the tower costs 8 euros.
The square where youngsters loves to hang out, on Saturday evening it was so crowded that we escaped from there like it was a fire. It was much better in the morning when there was not even a trace of evening crowds.
It would be a sin to come to Amsterdam and not cruise the famous canals! We agree with the opinion that from water level the city looks even better! We went on a cruise just before sunset to hunt down the best light for photos. We would like to repeat it again after dark, but this option was out of the question in June – the last cruise ended at 10pm when it was still bright. There is no shortage of cruise options, and you can easily get tickets almost anywhere, just buy them a few hours before (you could probably risk and buy just before the cruise). We chose the cheapest and the most economical option for 12 euros, the more expensive options include such goodies as drinks or food on board. The cruise lasted an hour.
Red Light District
On one hand we had to see it, on the other we had mixed feelings. First of all, we were rejected by a mob of people, such crowded places always push us away. Secondly, however, we felt uncomfortable there, although you have to admit that lanterns glowing light reflecting in the channel create a specific atmosphere. If you feel that this doesn’t go along with your beliefs, it isn’t worth a struggle because everyone says it’s a ‘must visit’. It’s a bit sad that the city that has so much to offer is most associated with the red light district and coffeeshops.
Amsterdam Central Station
If your starting point isn’t in the city centre, you will probably see this building every day. The advantage of the station is that the building doesn’t repel (like many stations in large cities), but pleases the eye and is an attraction itself.
De Waag Building
The building is located in the centre of the Nieuwmarkt square, which is now part of the small Chinatown. Although the building itself was on the list to see, in this area we found ourselves by accident on the way to Rijksmuseum. We heard that you can eat tasty and cheap food in this area, but we didn’t get there at the time of the meal. In the past, the building was part of the city gate and walls, and was later transformed into a ‘city scale’ (its name comes from this function), where goods imported into the city were weighed.
Amsterdam is a place where there is no shortage of interesting museums, and the Rijksmuseum is a real gem. There is, among others, a substantial collection of Rembrandt’s works with the Night Watch to start with (from July 2019, the painting is being renovated in front of visitors). At the Rijksmuseum, you can also admire the Van Gogh Self-portrait (for more of the painter’s works, see the Van Gogh Museum). At Rijksmuseum you have to spend at least 1.5 hours and this is only if you aren’t mad into art. We also liked the library, where walls from the floor to the ceiling are filled with books. Tickets to the Rijksmuseum cost 19 euros per person online and can be bought here (no paper version needed, tickets on the phone are sufficient).
De Gooyer Windmill
Although the Netherlands is famous for its windmills, there aren’t many of them in Amsterdam. There is basically only one – De Gooyer. It’s located about 3 km from the city centre and on a nice day it’s best to go there by bike. The windmill can only be seen from the outside. In its vicinity you will find two nice pubs – Brouwerij ‘t IJ and De Kop van Oost. If you have more time than we had, take the train to the Zaanse Sanchs museum near Amsterdam, where there are more windmills, and there is also a museum. It is worth to be there in the morning, because it is a very popular place among tourists.
The most famous and popular park in the city. On hot days, literally every patch of grass is occupied by locals and tourists. The Dutch are happy to organize picnics there. We really liked this place and we were happy to spend a few hours in the park giving our legs a rest.
De Pijp District
Another atmospheric district of Amsterdam where we were wondering on bicycles. We wrote more about De Pijp here.
Approximate weekend costs in Amsterdam
For tickets from Dublin and back in June we paid 73 euros per person (it can be definitely cheaper – we chose flights Friday-Sunday in the season).
Accommodation in Amsterdam is unfortunately cosmically expensive, especially in the summer season. For this reason, we decided to stay in Zaandam, which is quite well connected with Amsterdam. Using the discounts we had on AirBnb ($$$ for recommendations from other users), we paid 103 euros for two nights (the price without discounts in June was around 130 euros for two nights). Finding a hotel at a price below 100 euros (100 euros is a very optimistic price) per night in the season is almost a miracle, so look around on AirBnb or choose a shared room in the hostel.
As everyone knows, food spend is individual thing, we give some examples of prices for dishes in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, we don’t have much information about prices in stores, because we didn’t make any grocery purchases.
• roll with smoked eel – 4.3 euro
• herring – 3 euros
• kibbeling – 4.3 euros
• big Amstel in the pub – 6 euros
• coffee and cake (pastel de nata) – 5 euros
• burger with fries – 11-13 euros
• food from vending machines – 2.7-5 euros
• cola in a restaurant – 2.5-3 euros
• stroopwafel without additions – 3.5 euros
• juniper shot – 2.9-3 euros
• a glass of wine – 3.5-4.5 euros
• fingerfoods – 5-12 euros (depending on the portion size)
• sandwiches and toasts – 3-4.5 euros
• joint – 3.5 euros (mixed with tobacco), 6 euros (clean)
• 5 tasting beers in the brewery (approx. 200-250 ml) – 10.5 euros
• lunch in a burger place – 25 euros for two
• dinner in a fashionable pub with alcohol – 60 euros for two people
• hot dog in a street booth – 2.5-3.5 euros, burger – 3.5
• fries – 2-4.5 euros
The most cost-effective option for getting around Amsterdam (if you have to use trains or buses) is the OV-chipkaart card. The fee for the card itself is 7.5 euros, and the card works on a prepaid basis – we pay money in, bounce the card at the entrance and at the exit and on this basis a fee is charged. For example, from Zaandam to the centre of Amsterdam we paid 3.81 euros for one bus ride. We gave up the idea of moving by trains due to the fact that you should have at least 20 euros on your card to travel by train (even if the ride itself is much less). It’s true that unused money can be recovered from the card by going to the cashier, but we thought it was too much hassle. The upside is that the card works throughout the Netherlands and is valid for 5 years after purchase, so it can be useful in the future
Transportation from the airport
We got from the airport to Zaandam by train, we paid 5.3 euros per person for a one-way ticket, a ticket from the airport to the centre costs 4.5 euros. Ticket prices may vary depending on the place where you buy them, we recommend you to buy them online here (you can be sure that you don’t have to run and look for a place where you can buy a ticket, tickets don’t have to be printed). You can also get to the centre from the airport by bus.
• Rijksmuzeum – 19 euros (bought online)
• Entrance to the Westerkerk church tower – 9 euros
• Canal cruise – from 12 euros
• Royal palace – 10 euros
• Van Gogh Museum – 19 euros
• Anne Frank Museum – 10.5 euros
• Church of Nie Niewe Kerk – 10 euros
• Oude Kerk- 12 euros