Amsterdam is a city of endless activities. It’s a great place to visit all year round and has something for every kind of traveler. Originally a fishing village and a major hub for trade, Amsterdam today is famous for its canals, beautiful houses, coffee shops, the Red Light District, and of course bicycles. To discover the best of Amsterdam keep reading.
Amsterdam Travel Guide Quick Links
- Best Time of Year to Visit Amsterdam
- Best Ways to Explore Amsterdam
- Best Food and Drink in Amsterdam
- Best Unique Things To Do in Amsterdam
Let’s be real. Amsterdam is busy all year. There’s something to do, see, or celebrate almost every month. We’ll break it down anyway.
The high season in Amsterdam is April and May, when the famous tulips bloom in the countryside, and the country comes together to celebrate Kings Day on April 27th.
Another popular time is right in the thick of summer in July and August when temperatures hover around 68°F (20°C). Amsterdam also draws a crowd for the winter holidays, so expect to see the city flood with tourism again for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Let’s walk through the seasons, shall we? The coldest month in Amsterdam is January, where temperatures dip down to 37°F (3°C), but can feel much colder due to the wind. You’ll get rain in April, bringing the May flowers and a real spring atmosphere, before summer takes full charge. The rain comes back in September and pours down until December, when the cold weather takes over.
The best time to visit Amsterdam depends on what you want to experience in the city:
- Blooming tulips - late-March, April and May: The crisp spring air and the breathtaking blooming flowers (more than 800,000 tulips, actually) all around make this one of the busiest times of the year.
- Street parties and celebrations: Kings Day is celebrated with parties, markets, special events, live music and more. The city and the people in it are dressed head-to-toe in orange. There’s always a lot going in May, as there are quite a few long weekends.
- Fewer tourists and cheaper accommodations - November and February: Considered to be the low season, you’ll get the best deal and no crowds.
- Holiday magic - December and January: Many flock to Amsterdam during these months to spend Christmas and New Year’s eve. If it’s cold enough, you can even ice skate on the canals.
- Warm and dry weather - June, July and August: Most European cities are busiest during school holidays and Amsterdam is no exception. These are the warmest but busiest months.
- Museum-going - March and September: If you can stand a little bit of rain but no lines out the door, plan your visit in this low-season.
Cycle cycle cycle. Did we mention, cycle? Whether you book a bike tour or rent one to explore yourself, cycling around Amsterdam is a bucket-list must do. The city is built for it, with over 320 miles of dedicated cycle tracks, it’s the best way to see the city. Start by cycling around the city’s largest park Vondelpark, explore the canals and grab a beer at this microbrewery.
I amsterdam City Card. This is the ultimate way to get the best bang for your buck if you intend to do all the things in Amsterdam. The I amsterdam City Card gives you access to all major attractions, over 70 museums, and acts as a transit pass for city-wide public transport. You also get a bike rental with it and a canal cruise. Starting at €65 for 24 hours, the card also lets you skip some lines and get discounts around the city. Buy it online (and get it delivered to your home or your hotel), or get it at one of their Sales & Pick up points.
Pack Smart. If you plan on doing a lot of cycling, which we recommend that you do, think about leaving the mini skirts and short shorts at home. Amsterdam’s weather is relatively predictable, but still anything can happen, especially if you’re visiting between seasons. Always bring a daypack with you with a bottle of water, an extra layer and a light rain jacket.
Photo credit: Canva
Amsterdam is so much more than pancakes. Waffles, donuts, fries, oh my!
- Oliebollen: These Dutch donuts are next level indulgent. Think an ice cream scoop of dough full of apple bits, deep-fried and sprinkled with icing sugar, sometimes cinnamon, and you’ve got Oliebollen. You can get them year-round, but they’re a specialty of New Year’s Eve.
- Pannenkoeken: Call it the Goldielocks of pancakes. Pannekoeken are larger in diameter but thinner than American pancakes but thicker than French crépes. They can be prepared sweet or savory. Enjoy these Dutch delights at a traditional pancake house like Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs or a modern one like PANCAKES Amsterdam Westermarkt, where you have to try their apple crumble pancake.
- Stroopwafels: Two thin waffle wafers with a layer of caramel syrup in between make soft and chewy stroopwafels. These Dutch favorites are often served on the rim of a cup of coffee. Get the best stroopwafels in town at Albert Cuyp Market.
- Fries: Canadians enjoy them with gravy and cheese curds, Belgians double-fry their fries and the Dutch love their fries with mayonnaise. Get the best ones in town at Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx or Vita’s Friet, a food truck that’s been around since 1972.
Photo credit: WONDR Experience Instagram
So you want to go off the beaten track? Here are three must-do unique activities in Amsterdam.
WONDR Experience. Just check WONDR’s Instagram account and you’ll see why this artistic playground for adults is so popular. It’s an Instagrammer’s dream and a wonderland of fun for the child in all of us.
IJhallen. Europe’s biggest flea market is calling. It runs from mid-March to mid-September and is a thrifter’s paradise. It doesn’t run every weekend, so make sure to check the schedule before you go. From books, furniture and clothing to jewelry, art and car parts, of over 700 vendors there’s bound to be something that will catch your eye. To get there, just take the free ferry from Central Station to NDSM Wharf. Finish your day by wandering over to Noorderlicht Café, a bohemian hang out inside of a greenhouse.
Odd Museums. Amsterdam has over 75 different museums. Many are art museums, like the Van Gogh museum or history museums, like Rijks museum or the Anne Frank House. But if you’re into something a little different, check these out:
- Electric Ladyland - A museum of fluorescent art
- Red Light Secrets - An erotic museum
- Tassenmuseum Hendrikje - A museum of bags and purses
- FOAM - A photography museum, where there’s also a great cafe
No matter the reason you find yourself in Amsterdam, you can’t go wrong by cycling around with no plans. Sometimes no plans are the best plans. So, grab a pint of Heineken, dutch donuts and enjoy this wonderful city. Goede reis!