Inspiration for your next holiday
Inspiration for your next holiday
Amsterdam is the vibrant capital of the Netherlands. The city is famed for it's canals, museums, bikes and liberal attitudes – and as a tourist destination has something for everyone.
This diversity of Amsterdam is reflected in the many varied districts and neighbourhoods. There is 'De Wallen' with it's Red-light district, the upmarket Jordaan district or the artisan neighbourhood of De Pijp. Each of these areas may be fantastic for one style of tourist but unsuitable for another.
This article will help you choose the best district to be based in for your visit to Amsterdam
Although there's lots to see and do in Amsterdam, the city itself is fairly compact and highly walkable. No matter which neighbourhood you stay in, the main tourist attractions can be easily reached on foot, by public transport or - if you prefer to live like a local - by bike.
If this is your first visit to Amsterdam, the best districts to be based in are: 1) Grachtengordel, 2) Jordaan, 3) De Pijp 4) De Wallen 5) Leidseplein
Note: Most of the historic centre of Amsterdam lies within the Centrum district. This large area is divided into Centrum-West and Centrum-Oost, with Centrum-West containing the tourist neighbourhoods of Grachtengordel and De Wallen.
The map below shows the main tourist areas of Amsterdam.
Key: 1) Centrum-West 2) Grachtengordel 3) De Wallen 4) Jordaan 5) De Pijp 6) Leidseplein 7) Centrum-Oost 8) Oud-West 9) Oud-Oost 10) De Baarsjes 11) Westerpark
Amsterdam may be one of the most famous tourist destinations in northern Europe, but the city has a surprising shortage of mid-price hotels and rental rooms. This shortage is especially true from Fridays to Sundays during the peak season, with visitors seeking weekends away. To get the best prices, always book your accommodation as far in advance as possible.
The map below shows the location of hotels and rental rooms in Amsterdam. By altering the dates to suit your trip, the map will display current prices and availability.
Grachtengordel is a fantastic district to choose for your first visit to Amsterdam. Also known as Amsterdam Centrum, this neighbourhood is clean, safe and centrally located. From here, you can easily access all the city's main landmarks, attractions and neighbourhoods.
Insight: It's just a 15-minute train ride from the Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam's Central Station.
Business travellers wishing to stay at a luxurious hotel near the heart of the city should consider Jordaan. This neighbourhood offers some of the city's best shopping at 'De Negen Straatjes' (The Nine Streets) and has a reputation for providing a more high-end experience than Amsterdam's other districts. While the area is popular with tourists by day, it is quieter at night and offers a fantastic variety of stylish restaurants and chic bars.
Always choose the location you'd like to be based in before looking for accommodation in Amsterdam. This may sound obvious, but it is all too easy to be sucked in by an amazing discount or outstanding reviews without really considering which area you will be staying in.
The best base for your trip will depend on what you are looking for. Each district offers a different atmosphere, with some more suited to sightseeing while others are better for nightlife or culture. This section will provide an overview of the most popular areas of the city to help you choose.
Grachtengodel, also referred to as Amsterdam Centrum, lies in the heart of the city and is close to all of its iconic landmarks and attractions. Home to narrow canal-side shops, cafes and restaurants, this district offers quintessential Amsterdam. You can also cruise along the iconic canals and soak up Dutch history at the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum.
Grachtengodel is just a short walk away from Amsterdam Central Station, and is the perfect base if you want to explore the city and other regions across the Netherlands. The canals are the definite highlight of this neighbourhood, but you'll also see De Oude Kerk (a 13th-century church), Dam Square and many other sights.
De Wallen, also known as Amsterdam's infamous red-light district, is the oldest neighbourhood in Amsterdam. While it's not the only red-light district in the city, it's certainly the most popular.
Located near Grachtengordel, De Wallen offers medieval architecture, neon red-lit streets and unique bars and clubs. This area has a rich history and is unlike anywhere else in the world. As a residential area, you'll find places to stay here. However, due to its popularity among tourists, it's always very busy and tends to be more expensive. It may be better to visit De Wallen and stay in a different neighbourhood.
Jordaan is a sought-after area located west of the Canal District. Built in the early 17th century, this upscale district offers lavish accommodation in historic buildings, along with markets, boutiques, galleries and cafes.
Here you'll also find the world-famous Anne Frank House museum, Noodermarket and 'De Negen Straatjes' (The Nine Streets) - Amsterdam's chic and central shopping area. Jordaan is only a 20-minute walk from Central Station, making it a great spot for travellers who want a high-end getaway that is still centrally located.
Located in the south, De Pijp is a hip and vibrant neighbourhood that is popular among young people, students and artists. Frequented by Dutch locals, it's a great choice for travellers looking for a fun atmosphere that is central but less touristy. De Pijp is known for its exceptional entertainment, including quirky coffee shops, cosy bars, fashionable nightclubs and restaurants.
The area boasts some sprawling markets, where you can find one-of-a-kind pieces made by local artists. For those looking to relax outdoors, it's also close to the famous Vondelpark, and is within walking distance of major attractions, including the Heineken Museum, Rijksmuseum and more.
Leidseplein is a bustling neighbourhood found at the southern part of Amsterdam's central canal ring, offering a great blend of nightlife and culture. It is close to Vondelpark, a beautiful park that is considered one of the best in the city, as well as the Museum District.
If you're looking for a livelier stay, you can take advantage of the buzzing bar and restaurant scene at Leiden Square, or watch the talented street performers that frequent the area.
While Oud-West is gaining popularity, it remains a quieter spot that is tucked away from the tourist crowds. Surrounded by green space, including Vondelpark and Remembrantpark, the Oud-West is still close enough to explore the Centrum by foot. One of the most unique attractions of Oud-West is Ten Kate Markt – a market with fresh produce, baked goods, iconic Dutch cheese and handmade goods. This residential neighbourhood is family-friendly and is a great choice if you want to explore incredible restaurants and shops at a slower pace.
Families with younger children who are looking to spend time in Amsterdam - as well as other Dutch districts - might want to stay in Haarlem. Located just 15-minutes from Amsterdam by train, this district offers a more relaxed pace with fewer tourists.
Alternatively, families who want to be close to the attractions might want to consider Oud-West, a family-friendly neighbourhood situated away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Tucked away from the crowds, the area is still close enough to visit Amsterdam's top tourist spots. It is also near to Vondelpark, the city's largest green space, and has many shops and markets where you can find souvenirs for all ages.
De Pijp is popular among younger couples, as its location is perfect for seeing the city's attractions during the day and then enjoying drinks and dancing on your doorstep at night. For couples looking for a romantic getaway, its luxurious hotels and restaurants offer an unbeatable ambience. For a more relaxing stay, consider Oud-West. Here you'll find green spaces and markets frequented by locals, rather than streets and attractions bustling with tourists.
De Wallen has a reputation for its party scene. However, this district tends to be flooded with tourists wanting to check out the red-light district at all hours of the day, making it expensive and crowded. For that reason, you might want to consider staying in Leidseplein. Located towards the south of the city, it's a fantastic alternative that boasts some of the city's hottest bars, clubs, coffee shops and live music venues.
If you're set on De Wallen, consider Grachtengordel as your home base, as it's the most central area and only a short walk to all of the nightclubs and bars in Binnenstadb.
De Wallen, also commonly referred to as the red-light district, is a major tourist attraction. This area is known for its nightlife scene, making it a less desirable choice for families, business travellers and couples looking for a romantic stay.
Partygoers may choose to stay in this area to take advantage of its proximity to some of the city's best bars and clubs. However, it may be in their best interest to stay in a neighbouring district to avoid the constant tourist crowds and noise.
Much like the city of Amsterdam, the Netherlands is easy to explore without a car. The country has great transport links, making it easy and affordable to travel to neighbouring towns, cities and countries like Belgium and Germany. If you're planning on spending time outside of the city, here are a few popular spots to visit for a day or more, all of which can be easily accessed using public transport.
Utrecht is a beautiful city that is well worth a day trip. The city's medieval centre has beautiful canals, unique cave bars and offers unparalleled views from Dom Tower. Utrecht is considered the student capital of the Netherlands, making it a great choice for travellers on a budget or those looking for a fun night out.
If you find yourself visiting the Netherlands in the spring, check out the world-famous Keukenhof gardens to see the tulips. Located just outside the town of Lisse, this picture-perfect 79-acre field is home to over 700 types of tulips and flowers.
This town was made famous for its blue and white Delftware porcelain, dating back to the 1600s. Here you can wander along quaint streets, admire the gothic architecture and watch local artists at work.
Giethorn is a real-life fairy-tale setting. This quaint village doesn't have roads, instead only canals. Though it's about a 2-hour journey via train and bus from the city, it's an idyllic escape unlike any other.
Unlike the narrow historical buildings that are found throughout the Netherlands, Rotterdam is a more modern city. If you're fascinated by architecture, you're sure to like exploring this unique and bold city and will love the tilted, yellow houses this city is known for.
Haarlem offers a change of pace from the bustling streets of Amsterdam, despite being only 15 minutes away by train. Here, you can wander along historic cobblestone streets, admire 18th-century windmills and visit a sprawling tulip field for an authentic Dutch experience.