Tourist Do's And Don'ts In Amsterdam

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Amsterdam is one of Europe’s greatest cities, with its magnificent cultural heritage, historical resonance, and it’s erm...famous coffeeshops (more later), but there are some do’s and don’ts you need to adhere to if you're’ thinking about visiting Netherland’s capital city. Consider the following.


Do visit the Red Light District. It’s what Amsterdam is famous for (amongst other less salubrious things), but it’s not all about sex! Okay, so it is, but there are a number of boutiques and cafes to visit away from the saucy side. And if you are interested in finding out more about this infamous district, there is a 17th-century brothel which acts as a museum with interesting (and hard-hitting facts) about the prostitutes who have plied their trade here.

Don’t take photos of the girls in the Red Light District. One or two may smile and and pose, but it really isn’t polite to stop and stare, and taking photographs is a big no-no. You may get your camera or smartphone confiscated if you become too snap-happy, so be polite, wave and be on your way.

Do hire a bike. There is a lot to see and do here, but with the expensive transport costs and narrow streets filled with traffic, you will save yourself a lot of time and money if you opt for two wheels instead of four. There are plenty of places to pick one up but go to a reputable seller, as there are plenty of stolen bikes on offer from disreputable con men.

Don’t walk on the cycle lanes. It’s easy to get these mixed up with regular pavements, but with the amount of bikes on the road (nearly everybody uses them), you are going to wind up a cropper if you come into contact with one. If you aren’t planning on cycling yourself, check for dedicated pedestrian areas, or avoid the streets altogether and travel around the city by boat on the canal.

Do pack the right gear. Taking the weather, culture, and fashion into account when visiting the city, you do need to sort out your Amsterdam packing list.  The weather is changeable, so an umbrella is a must, and bearing in mind the cobbled streets and cycle rides, your outfits need to be practical as well as fashionable. Hint: people in Amsterdam wear clogs for a reason!

Don’t bring loads of luggage. Seriously, the streets are difficult enough when carting luggage with you, but considering most hotels and eating establishments in the city centre are at the top of huge flights of stairs, you will do your arms and back a favour if you carry light. Focus on the barest of essentials, with a carry-on beauty pack in your hand luggage, and a change of outfits for each day, rather than for every occasion.

Do take time to explore. There is much to see in Amsterdam, whether it’s the shopping boutiques, glorious canals, tulip fields, or hangout bars. Make an itinerary before you arrive by checking out the highlights of Amsterdam and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells on offer.

Don’t stop off for a coffee in the wrong places. While you explore, don’t confuse a coffeeshop for a cafe. These places do sell beverages, but their primary purpose is to sell small quantities of cannabis for recreational purposes. That’s fine if you want to partake, but if all you want is a hot drink and a sandwich, you are better off going elsewhere

DON’T expect to walk straight into the Anne Frank museum. If you’re a history lover, like myself, I imagine this biographical museum would tell the perfect story of arguably the most renowned holocaust victim. I say ‘imagine’… because we didn’t manage to get in! From 9am-3.30pm the museum was reserved for people who had booked online. From 3.30pm a GIGANTIC queue formed which was at least 3 hours long, at which point we abandoned the idea and went to grab a pint.

My advice is DO buy tickets online if you want to visit without the hassle. Plus, I’m aware tickets online sell out quickly so book asap!

DO visit Vondelpark. Lots of people hire out bikes purely to cycle around this serene environment (and it is quite big so if you want to see all of it, biking is probably the way to go). On a sunny day, it’s full of people listening to music, having picnics and lazing about on the grass. It’s incredibly beautiful and a relaxing pit stop from the business of the city centre.

DO visit A’DAM toren (tower). This 22-floor tower is a bar/restaurant and gives an amazing 360˚ bird’s-eye view of Amsterdam. Drinks are a little on the pricey side but remember, you’re paying for the experience as well- it’s a second to none vantage point and the cocktails are huge! Also, if you are a bit of a daredevil, A’DAM lookout- ‘Over the Edge’ is Europe’s highest swing. You get to swing 100 metres above the ground right at the top of the building (fair to say I was not tempted).

DON’T expect drinks to be cheap. Generally, alcohol is expensive, so pre-drinks are essential and supermarket prices aren’t bad for a bottle of wine or a few cans! This capital is obviously known for its cannabis culture and a wide range of coffee shops (which are just as common as bars). Prices are much cheaper so it’s a sound alternative- when in Rome, do as the Romans do (Or in this case, when in Amsterdam, do as the Dutch do!) …

DON’T always assume the best restaurants are in the city centre. Like most cities the further into the city centre you go, the more expensive things become. This is the case for both food and drink. Some of the best bars and eating places were scattered on the outskirts! Check out the map at the bottom of this post for a few ideas!

DO take time to explore. The great thing about Amsterdam is the diversity and element of surprise around each corner. Whether it’s exploring the Red Light District, coffee shops, museums or just strolling by the gorgeous canals, it’s impossible to be bored so allow yourself to wander and take it all in!

We hope our simple do’s and don’ts guide helped! Send us a postcard if you do visit, and report back with your own list of what you should and shouldn’t do. Thanks for reading!

Ellie Dickinson