We flew with EasyJet to Schiphol airport, the main international airport of The Netherlands. When you exit the airport you are met with dozens of yellow self-service ticket stations where you can purchase a train ticket to Amsterdam Central Station for €5.10. The trains depart around every 5-10 minutes and take approx.15 minutes to get to Central Station. When we arrived at the station we decided to purchase tram tickets as our hotel was a little out of central, these trams make Amsterdam so easy to get around, especially if you have luggage however if you are travelling light and staying more central you could definitely get around everywhere on foot. Initially we purchased a 24hr ticket at €7.50 and then opted for a 3 day pass at €16.50
We booked our accommodation through booking.com, and after reading countless reviews we decided to stay at the Poet Tyrp Hotel for 4 nights, just around the corner from the Rijksmusem. The hotel room was clean, the staff were very friendly and helpful, there was a lovely breakfast included in the price and just outside the hotel there was a tram stop. The only issue with this hotel is that it was extremely warm. We stayed on the fourth floor, with a window that barely opened for safety reasons, and at night the heat was unbearable. In retrospect we wished we had booked with Airbnb as we could have had a bigger space, with our own kitchen to cook in, for a much cheaper price. So I would definitely suggest looking at Airbnb for accommodation in Amsterdam.
What attractions to visit and where to buy tickets
We hadn't booked anything prior to arriving in Amsterdam, as soon as we arrived we headed straight to Tours & Tickets on Damrak 26, 1012 LJ. I would 100% recommend this ticket company, it was the cheapest one we found. It is so easy to be conned into paying €16 for a Canal trip that you can get one for €14 at Tours & Tickets, and for even cheaper at €11 if you purchase another attraction ticket with them! Altogether I paid around €40 for tickets for a 1 hour canal cruise with Lovers Cruise; the Rijksmusem including access to all the exhibitions and tickets to the Xtracold Ice Bar, which included 3 drinks.
I think the canal cruise is definitely a must do on your first day in Amsterdam. It helps you to get your bearings, and see the leaning buildings that Amsterdam is so famous for. If you are one of the first in line for your cruise you may be able to snag one of the limited outside seats at the rear of the boat, if you can do this definitely do! We were lucky enough to get a seat outside, and were really able to soak up the atmosphere of Amsterdam, feeling like were right out there in the water.
We only had time to do one museum and choose the Rijksmusem. You need a few hours to be able to visit all 4 floors, which are divided up into different time periods. For example, floor 1 contains art from 1700-1800 and from 1800-1900. It really is a fascinating place to visit if you are interested in art, history and culture. There is an app created by the museum, which you can download via iTunes and listen to as you wander around the exhibitions, providing you with the stories surrounding each piece of art, and each collection.
The Ice Bar is a must-do if you ever find yourself in Amsterdam. On your way in, after passing a polar bear and some penguins, you will be given three coins, two are gold which are to be used for two drinks when you are in the ice bar, and one silver so you can have a drink at the regular bar before you leave. The room is around -9.5 degrees, and with glasses made of real ice you start to freeze pretty quickly, however it is an amazing experience, and definitely worth the €17.50 even if I did have to warm my numb fingers under warm water afterwards!
If you do any of the things mentioned in this guide while you are in Amsterdam, visit the Anne Frank House. When we initially queued up at 10am on Sunday morning we were told it would be a 4 hour wait, we decided to leave and come back later. When we returned around 5pm the queue was unbelievably shorter, and we ended up waiting just over an hour outside. I think most people think that early in the morning is the best time to go, but as I've learnt if you wait until later in the day you will waste less time queueing, and have more time to explore the city which is always a plus. Tickets cost €9, and if you are organised enough you may be able to purchase your tickets online, a few months before your trip. Give yourself 1 1/2 to 2 hours to make the most of your time in the museum, and make sure you sign the guest book on your way out!
Hollandsche Schouwburg, also known as the National Holocaust Memorial is another spot for those interested in the history of Amsterdam and the Second World War. There is an admission fee €15 which allows you to visit the memorial room in where the walls are covered with the names of those Netherland Jews who died in the Second World War, and includes admission into the fascinating exhibitions that showcase hundreds of pictures, videos, historical documents and objects from 1940-1945.
Keukenhof Gardens are a must-see if you are visiting Amsterdam between March and May. Open for only 8 weeks of the year, with over 7 million bulbs and 800 types of tulips you are sure to get a pretty picture of Amsterdam's famous flower here. Tickets cost €15.
Things to do for free
Visit the Rijksmuseum gardens, take a seat by the water fountains and just relax, people watch, and enjoy the beauty and chilled atmosphere of Amsterdam.
Stop by the I AMSTERDAM letters just outside the Rijksmuseum and attempt to scramble up onto the letters for a picture, or if like me you are the worst at climbing, settle for a picture sitting inside one of the letters…
Get lost in the gorgeous Vondelpark, at over 3km long you could literally spend hours here admiring the beautiful flowers, some of which I managed to take a few snaps of. I've also heard that the park is a great place to cycle around, allowing you to indulge in the cycling hype of the city without risking your life out on the main roads!! There are a few places to rent bikes just outside the entrance of the park and around the Rijksmuseum and are around €9 for 3hours.
Venture to where Herengracht and Leidsegracht meet to find the location of the famous 'The Fault in Our Stars' bench from the book and film. The real bench from the film was actually stolen, however it has been replaced with something similar and is now covered in quotes, and messages of love from fans.
Take a stroll along Bloemenmarkt, the world's only floating flower market, pick up some tulip bulbs, souvenirs and vibrant photos to take back home with you.
At night experience the unique culture of Amsterdam by taking a walk through The Red Light District, and feel a little bit like you are in a completely different world for a little while. There are also loads of bars in this area, as well as a few clubs, such as Escape, which I have heard great things about.
Where to eat
For a quick lunch I recommend Bagels and Beans, where you can get a yummy bagel and cappuccino for under €5.
For a quick dinner stop by Wok to Walk, which opens until 2am, for a large portion of tasty stir-fry that costs around €8, with the option of either eating in or taking away.
If you are looking for a good, home-made meal in a quirky location head to Vapiano, an Italian restaurant at Amstelstraat 2-4 1071, where the chef will make your dish right in front of you! Not only do you get to watch the chef make your dish exactly how you want it, you are also given a card upon entry that the chef will swipe, when you have finished your meal you take your card with you and pay on the way out. For good Italian food, at a good price (My pasta dish and drink came to only €9 all together), Vapiano is definitely worth a visit.
If you are looking for something sweet find an Ice Bakery (it shouldn't be too hard, they are everywhere!!) for a nutella waffle, pancake or other sweet treat. If you're looking for something a little different head to Yogen Fruz for frozen yoghurt, and choose some extra treats to add to your yoghurt from the array of chocolate toppings, and gummy sweets on offer.
For somewhere chill to have a drink at night try Dan Murphy's Irish Bar in the Leidseplein area. Hop on one of the faded bar stools inside or take a seat in the heated outdoor seating area and watch the world go by. There are tonnes of other bars in that area, if Dan Murphy's isn't your thing it won't take you long to find somewhere else to go!
Although the weather was predicted to be warm and dry, it wasn't all that great and rained throughout the days that we visited, sometimes light rain and sometimes verging on torrential. Although the sun did always break through the clouds in the afternoon I got barely any wear out of the summery clothes I had packed, wishing I had brought something warmer. We were told that was the worst week of weather they'd had in a while so it may have been a one off for that time of year, but I'd definitely recommend taking a good jacket, jumper and maybe even a scarf and gloves in the winter months!
Despite the fact the official language of the Netherlands is Dutch, everyone we came into contact with spoke English, and although we felt ignorant not knowing a word of Dutch, we had no issues communicating with anyone. It is super easy to get yourself around Amsterdam, and talk to anyone without knowing a single word of Dutch!
What our days looked like…
Saturday we arrived, purchased some attraction tickets and made a speedy coffee and pancake stop before checking into our hotel. We then headed back into Dam Square for a canal cruise with tickets for Lovers Cruise that we had purchased at Tours and Tickets. That evening we had a quick dinner at Maximus Steakhouse in a plaza near our hotel and then had an early night as we had been travelling since 4am.
Sunday morning, following the mishap at the Anne Frank House, we decided to use the tickets we had purchased for the Rijksmusem. We spent hours strolling around the museum, admiring the fascinating art. We ate lunch at an over-priced restaurant called Luden, (would not recommend!) before heading back to the Anne Frank House in the evening. For dinner we ate in at Wok to Walk, and then ventured into the Red Light District to explore.
Monday brought us a rainy, bleak morning which we spent wandering around Vondelpark which was, despite the rain, beautiful and very peaceful in the stillness of the morning. That afternoon we visited the Ice Bakery in Dam Square for a nutella waffle and browsed the high street shops. On our way back to the hotel to get ready for the evening we got sidetracked and spent an hour or two sitting in the Rijksmusem gardens, by the water fountain, soaking up the sun that appeared that afternoon. On Monday evening we dinned at the amazing Vapiano, before heading to the Ice Bar.
Tuesday was our last full day in Amsterdam and so we made it our mission to find the shooting location of the bench scene from the film The Fault in Our Stars before we left. We then made our way to the Jewish Quarter, following a quick stop at the Bloemenmarkt to purchase some souvenirs, visiting the National Holocaust Memorial, and the Synagogue. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at Yogen Fruz for some frozen yoghurt and found ourselves back in our favourite little spot in the Rijksmusem gardens, before taking some pictures at the I amsterdam sign. That night we had dinner in an Irish Pub, before doing the rounds of the Irish bars in the Leidseplein area (our favourite was Dan Murphy's Irish Bar!)
All you need is a map and an open mind and you are guaranteed to have an amazing time in Amsterdam.