TRAVEL || EUROPE > Benelux > THE NETHERLANDS > NORTH HOLLAND > AMSTERDAM

“Venice of the North”

On the peninsula of North Holland, the Dutch national capital of Amsterdam has expanded over the centuries as a trade city through its direct access to the North Sea.

From its core at Amsterdam Centraal, the city radiates outward in a semicircular layout. The center is composed of the “canal ring”—land segments between waterways—and is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is very accessible on foot. We chose accommodations in the southern ring in a flat overlooking the canal.

From its core at Amsterdam Centraal, the city radiates outward in a semicircular layout. The center is composed of the “canal ring”—land segments between waterways—and is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is very accessible on foot. We chose accommodations in the southern ring in a flat overlooking the canal.

8 Districts of Amsterdam
Centrum — Central historic district
Basics

City: Capital of the Netherlands
Languages: Dutch and English
Currency: Euro €
When to go: Spring from March to May is the best time to see tulips in bloom and prime for the flower market, Bloemenmarkt;
Autumn temperatures are pleasant; Summer is the busier peak season with warm days and long daylight hours;
Winters are relatively mild and gray but may get cold enough to ice skate when the lakes and canals freeze over.
Airport: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Train Station: Amsterdam Centraal
Transportation: metro and tram stops link with train stations of a well-connected Dutch rail system — purchase all-in-one, metro/tram/bus passes at tourist office across from Centraal Station (Note: many automated machines only accept Dutch credit cards);
Bikes and boats are popular forms of transportation
Waterways: Amstel River connects with several canals in a semicircular ring and flows into the Het IJ river channel (once a bay)
Safety: Amsterdam ranked a safe city, but be aware of trams, fast-moving bikes, and scams and pickpockets, particularly in tourist areas and public transit areas

Rail

  • EuroStar — the high-speed train connecting Amsterdam to London via a 3 1/2-hour ride through Brussels, Belgium; reservations are required
  • Thalys — another high-speed train option, takes under 3 1/2 hours to travel between Amsterdam and Paris, France through Belgium (also to Germany); reservations are required
  • Rail Europe is a great source for making necessary train reservations—find more travel information at Northwestern Europe
  • InterCity Express (ICE) trains operate between Amsterdam and major German cities; reservations are not required, but recommended when busy
  • Relatively fast InterCity (IC) trains link larger Dutch cities—some continue on to Brussels, Belgium and Berlin, Germany—while slower Sprinter trains connect regional Dutch stations; reservations are not required, but recommended when busy
  • Our Eurail passes covered our train travel between cities and villages within our selected countries on the continent
  • For local travel throughout the Netherlands, we purchased OV Chipkaart tram/metro passes from the GVB (transportation) office at the tourist office (located in the Stationplein, across from Amsterdam Centraal Station)
  • Metro maps were stored on our phones for quick reference, such as this one for Amsterdam:
Amsterdam Tram/Metro Map
Amsterdam Tram/Metro Map

Explore Amsterdam

Weekend in Amsterdam

Diversity is embraced here. “Weird” might be the Dutch norm due to pragmatic tolerance. This trade city has been accustomed to associating with different cultures, ideologies and lifestyles for centuries. Cooperation defines the Dutch. Tolerance makes Amsterdam’s heart beat. Rather than losing control to the social issues that can’t be eliminated through legislation—such as soft drugs,…

Continue reading → Weekend in Amsterdam