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Destination Spotlight: Amsterdam Travel Guide
Issue #26-23 features a Destination Spotlight travel guide on Amsterdam including highlights of the city, as well as a look at the best places to stay, where to eat and the top things to do and see
Destination Spotlight travel guides from The Family Travel Guy are delivered to your inbox on the last Friday of the month highlighting a new location each time that we have visited, as I previewed at the beginning of the year: Here's what you can expect in 2023 from The Family Travel Bulletin
Destination Spotlight on Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is the capital city of the Netherlands and is known for its picturesque canals, historic architecture, and vibrant cultural scene. It is located in the western part of the country on the Amstel River and has a population of around 900,000 people.
Amsterdam is famous for its rich history, dating back to the 13th century, and its well-preserved canal belt, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Amsterdam is often called the "Venice of the North" due to its numerous canals and bridges that crisscross through the city. Exploring Amsterdam by boat or bike is a popular way to experience its unique charm. The city is also home to many beautiful parks, such as Vondelpark, where locals and visitors enjoy outdoor activities.
Amsterdam is also renowned for its cultural attractions. The Rijksmuseum houses an extensive collection of Dutch art, including works by Rembrandt and Vermeer. The Van Gogh Museum showcases the works of the famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. Additionally, the Anne Frank House offers a glimpse into the life of Anne Frank during World War II.
The city has a diverse and liberal atmosphere, with a reputation for tolerance and open-mindedness. It embraces a variety of cultures, making it a multicultural and cosmopolitan destination. Amsterdam's vibrant nightlife, with its cafes, bars, and clubs, attracts both locals and tourists.
Apart from its cultural and historical significance, Amsterdam is a major economic and financial center. It is home to the Amsterdam Stock Exchange and the headquarters of many international companies. The city has a strong focus on sustainable development and is often considered one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world.
Know Before You Go
Here are a few things to know before you visit Amsterdam
The currency used in Amsterdam, as well as in the rest of the Netherlands, is the Euro, abbreviated EUR.
The Euro comes in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euro bills, as well as 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cent coins, and 1 and 2 euro coins.
The exchange rate, as of June 2023, for $1 USD is 0.92 Euro.
If you are exchanging money at an ATM, ensure you always use a debit card that offers fee free cash withdrawals and you never select the option for the ATM to the conversion for you. Always let your bank make that conversion as you will get a better exchange rate and won’t have to pay a huge markup.
In Amsterdam, the electrical sockets used are Type C and Type F sockets, which are also used in many other European countries.
A standard universal travel adapter will allow you to plug a variety of plugs into a variety of sockets. It is also important to note that a travel adapter will not convert the voltage or frequency. If your device/appliance is not rated for 230 V, you will also need to bring a voltage converter.
The official language of Amsterdam is Dutch, but English is spoken widely as well.
Climate During the Year
Amsterdam experiences a temperate maritime climate throughout the year, characterized by mild summers and cool winters.
When we were there earlier this year at the end of March, it got very cold at night, but not unbearable and warmed up a little during the day. However, the weather in Amsterdam can change quickly, so it is a good idea to pack for all types of weather.
Transportation System in Amsterdam
The transportation system in Amsterdam (and throughout Europe) is extensive and efficient, with a variety of options to choose from.
In the city center it is much faster to walk or ride a bike. You could also take the Metro or the Bus, but we found it easy to walk from one end of the city to the other.
It's worth noting that Amsterdam encourages the use of public transportation and bicycles as sustainable alternatives to cars. The city has limited parking spaces and can be congested, especially in the city center. Therefore, it's often more convenient and efficient to rely on public transportation options when exploring Amsterdam.
The only time we didn’t use public transportation or walk, was from the airport to our hotel and back. For this, we used Blacklane, which is a global chauffeur service we typically rely on for airport transfers when traveling.
When to Visit
The best time to visit Amsterdam largely depends on your preferences and what you plan on visiting during your stay, but I would say the best time to visit Amsterdam is during the spring (late March to May) and autumn (September-October) for mild weather and fewer crowds.
How to Get There
Amsterdam is a major transportation hub and there are several ways to get there by air or rail.
Flying: Amsterdam is served by Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) and is one of Europe's major airports and serves as a hub for international flights.
Many airlines offer direct flights to Schiphol from various destinations worldwide. Once you arrive at Schiphol, you can easily reach Amsterdam city center by train, bus, or taxi.
Train Service: If you're traveling from neighboring countries, such as Belgium, Germany, or France, you can consider taking a train to Amsterdam.
The city is well-connected to the European rail network, and Amsterdam Centraal Station serves as a major transportation hub.
High-speed trains, such as the Eurostar, provide efficient connections to Amsterdam from major European cities. From London it is approximately three and half hours to Amsterdam.
Where to Stay
There are many great options to consider staying at when visiting Amsterdam that depend on your particular preferences (travel style, hotel location, etc) and budget.
One of the things to consider when traveling to Amsterdam (and Europe in general) with kids is being able to find hotels that accommodate up to 4 people in one room or suite. Most hotels have a maximum occupancy set at 2 or 3 people per room, even for larger suites sometimes, so it can become very challenging to find a hotel and room category that will work for you and not break the bank at the same time. If if you can't find a room for at least 4 people, then you may end up having to book two rooms (and not break the travel budget) and hope the hotel offers connecting rooms.
For our most recent trip to Amsterdam, we stayed at the Amsterdam Marriott Hotel. We selected this hotel due to the family rooms that it offered for a family of four and since we have hotel status (Marriott Bonvoy Titanium) that unlocks extra benefits/amenities like daily breakfast that easily saved us ~$80-$100 a day.
Other great hotel options I would recommend include:
Virtuoso Travel Hotels in Amsterdam: Hotels where you can get extra value and benefits/amenities lie daily breakfast, hotel credits and more.
Other hotels I would recommend include W Amsterdam, Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht, as well as other hotels that can offer value-added benefits from Marriott STARS/LUMINOUS, Hyatt Prive, Hilton Impresario and more.
Things To Do
There is no shortage of things to do and see while visiting Amsterdam, as the city is full of iconic landmarks, world-class museums, and a vibrant cultural scene with a rich history.
Here are some of the top attractions and activities to consider during your visit to Amsterdam:
Take a canal cruise: Experience Amsterdam from the water with a canal cruise from a beautiful sloop or saloon boat that takes you through the UNESCO World Heritage listed canals sailing past beautiful sights and monumental buildings in the heart of the city.
This is a great way to see the city's canals and bridges. There are many different companies that offer canal cruises, but we enjoyed a cruise with Flagship Amsterdam
Amsterdam is home to many world-class museums including:
Rijksmuseum, which showcases Dutch art and history, including works by Rembrandt and Vermeer
The Van Gogh Museum is a must-visit for art enthusiasts
Anne Frank House offers a poignant glimpse into the life of Anne Frank during World War II. This is a moving and educational experience about the Holocaust and Anne Frank's life.
The Moco Museum features modern and contemporary artwork
See the Royal Palace in Dam Square
Visit the Bloemenmarkt (a floating flower market) or the Amsterdam Tulip Museum, and immerse yourself in the vibrant colors and fragrances of flowers, bulbs, and souvenirs. It's a great place to pick up some tulip bulbs as a souvenir.
Visit Vondelpark: Relax in Vondelpark, Amsterdam's largest city park, and enjoy its green spaces, ponds, and walking paths. It's an ideal spot for picnics, bike rides, or simply soaking up the outdoors.
Discover the Red Light District: Experience the unique atmosphere of Amsterdam's Red Light District. While known for its adult-oriented businesses, it also has historic architecture, bars, and restaurants.
Be mindful if walking through this area with kids, even during the daytime, as they may see things in the windows you may not want them seeing.
Visit the Our Lord in the Attic Museum, which was former Hidden Catholic Church
Visit the Heineken Experience: Beer enthusiasts can tour the Heineken Experience, a former brewery turned interactive museum. Learn about the history of Heineken and enjoy beer tastings.
With its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning canals, Amsterdam is a city that has something to offer everyone.
Where to Eat
The city of Amsterdam is very walkable and no matter where you are in the city, it seems like there is a cafe or restaurant around every corner.
The places we ate at largely depended on which part of Amsterdam we were in around lunch or dinner time and location mainly dictated the available restaurant options for us.
For example, I always like to plan ahead and research food options closest to where we would be in the city, so we don't have to hunt around too long to get a bite to eat. Knowing what options we have near us and where they are located comes in handy when traveling with younger children, but for this trip I didn't make a list of places to eat at and figured there would always be something close by where we were that would work for everyone.
For breakfast each morning, we ate at the hotel (Marriott Bonvoy Titanium breakfast benefit) at the M Club Lounge, which helped us save over $$80-100 a day on breakfast alone.
While exploring Amsterdam, other sit-down restaurants we enjoyed on this trip included:
Het Groene Paleis
And during your visit to Amsterdam, be sure to try Dutch dishes like Stroopwafel, BitterBallen, Dutch Cheese, Dutch Pancakes and the local beer Heineken.
Amsterdam is a beautiful and captivating city that is worth visiting at least once in a lifetime. We flew direct from San Francisco to Amsterdam on KLM and stayed for 4 days before flying over to Italy. I wish we had spent an extra day or two in Amsterdam, as there is so much to see and the city is so unique with all of its canals.
If you're considering a trip to Amsterdam, I hope some of the information here can help you plan out your next trip. There is so much to see and do, so be sure to plan ahead and add some of the city's top attractions to your itinerary. Or better yet, consider a private or semi-private guided tour so you don’t miss out on anything and learn all about history along the way. I highly recommend Context Travel or Family Twist. Other tour companies available on Viator and GetYourGuide can be good as well, but I always prefer a private tour at our own pace or a semi-private/smaller group.
I hope this destination spotlight guide helps you plan out your next trip to Amsterdam and gives you a glimpse into highlights of the city, as well as a look the best places to stay and things to do and see in this unique city.
The Family Travel Guy
I hope this email helped spark some travel inspiration!
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