One of the greatest city and safest to travel to in Europe is Amsterdam, the capital city of The Netherlands. This tiny urban capital is packed with about a million inhabitants plus about 7 million visitors on the average each year. There’s so much to see and do here, from art museums to old churches, giant windmills, canal boat rides, it’s cobbled stone streets, you gotta pack extra batteries for your camera when visiting.
Amsterdam is famous for its elaborate canal system and narrow houses with gabled facades, 17th-century buildings, and where its legal to get high. Its Museum District houses the Van Gogh Museum, works by Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum, and modern art at the Stedelijk. Cycling and walking is key to discover the city’s character.
Planning to visit Amsterdam soon? Here are 5 essential things you need to know before you go.
Your debit card may not work.
No it’s not your bank or your account. It has something to do with network in EU zone. Mine didn’t work at the luggage lockers at the Central Amsterdam Train Station when I needed to leave my backpack, it also didn’t work at the pastry shop there and in one of those souvenir shops. Good thing I have another credit card with me, so not much of a problem. Keep this in mind if you plan to mostly use debit card during your trip here.
Do not book for bus tours.
It’s a big mistake. Huge. Amsterdam is a walking city! It is best to do a photo walk here. Walk along the side streets while enjoying the narrow houses that almost seem to collapse towards you. But watch out also for fast small cars navigating these narrow streets. It’s like Jason Bourne practised his driving skills here. Stop and sit for a while at the banks, and admire the navigation skills of the canal boat drivers as the canals get narrower in every turn and how they are able to turn their long boats.
Another amazing thing about Amsterdam is it’s also a biking city. There are more bike parks than car parks here. There are also a lot of bike rentals in every street. And you can bike your way thru the small side streets too.
You can book a ticket for Anne Frank Huis online.
One of Amsterdam’s famous landmark is this building on Prinsengracht street in Central Amsterdam. This is where Anne Frank and her family went into hiding for more than 2 years during World War 2. This is also where she wrote her diary. Believe me, the epic long line here seems to never get shorter. It even extends to around the corner building and behind the church. (Not shown in the photo) But the tourists doesn’t seem to mind because most of them come in groups so they can keep each other company while standing and waiting for hours.
But if you travel solo, it is best to buy the ticket online to save time. Here is the link to their website. Bring a printout of your ticket and take note of your time slot. They will only let you in during your slot. For more information about their operation and updates, click here. Oh and bring a pack of tissue with you. I cried after watching a short film about the Frank family at the end of the tour.
The red light district never sleeps.
If you are searching for accommodation, try to steer clear of the red light district in Central Amsterdam. The accommodations in this area are pricier plus you will probably not be able to get some sleep from all the bars and the party noises that lasts through the night. Mind you the houses here are erected side by side, narrowly constructed due to building code regulations, and with super steep wooden staircases that will make you throw your suitcases with rollers out the door.
I opted to stay outside central Amsterdam, in the district of Reigersbos near Reigersbos Metrostation. It’s a bit of travel from Central Amsterdam but I don’t mind walking thru this beautiful path to and from my host’s place everyday.
There’s more to see outside Central Amsterdam.
There’s a tourist spot just 15 minutes train ride from Central Amsterdam where you can experience authentic Dutch windmills, historical houses, small picturesque coffee shops with lots of kinds of pastry and of course, their cheese. You will want to kill the bake shop owner for beautifully laying out all the deliciously glazed pastries. Never mind the calorie count my dear. Oh I liked it better paired with their Euro2,00 fresh orange juice. This place is called Zaanse Schans. You need to come here when visiting Amsterdam. I have no words, just go and book a day to visit. Here is their website. I regretted spending only a few hours in this magical place because simply there is so much to see! I will definitely be back soon! If you want to rent a bike, there is one bike rental shop right on the train platform. Hard to miss it.
If you’ve been to Amsterdam and have more tips to share for first-timers, share it in the comment section below!
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