amsterdam guide, coffeeshops, amsterdam bars


 City & Country Guides > Europe > Amsterdam

Amsterdam is like a breath of fresh air, famous for it's tolerance to soft drugs and sex industry, cultures mix together in complete harmony, helping to create a laid back environment in which to wile away the hours. Often described as the 'Venice of the North', Amsterdam has fine examples of 17th/18th Century architecture, impressive art collections, affordable restaurants, bars for all walks of life and an excellent transport system feeding the rest of the country. Unlike other capital cities, Amsterdam remains vibrant and busy throughout the entire year.


As Holland is part of the EU, fellow Europeans will need only a valid passport and relevant travel insurance, this should also apply to visitors from the USA, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Singapore, but check first. Other visitors will need a Schengen Visa which is valid for 90 days, it is advisable to check well in advance of your trip. Amsterdam is easily walkable so a stout pair of walking shoes is recommended.

The Dutch unit of currency is the Euro, all major credit cards including Visa and American Express are all accepted widely in Amsterdam, although some shops add a 5% surcharge to your bill. ATM machines or the GWK bank are the best way to get cash on your credit card and may be a better option than changing traveller's cheques. Mobile phones from other countries can be used in Holland, text messaging to to other phones in the area is cheap but making a call could cost you an arm and a leg as the calls are usually directed via your local network. Some newer phones offer much better international rates. It is polite to learn a few phrases in Dutch, but on the main, English is widely spoken everywhere.



If flying to Amsterdam you will almost certainly land at Schiphol Airport, from there you can get a train direct to Amsterdam Centraal station (approx. f6.5 one way), the trip only lasts about 15 minutes and is considerably cheaper than a taxi. If you are a resident of the UK, I recommend Easy Jet, as we recently paid only $39 return from Luton Airport, with a flight time of 45 minutes. Luton is about 45 minutes from central London by train (approx. £9 single fare). I'm not sure whether Easy Jet operate for other European countries, the best bet is to check their web site. Failing that newspapers always offer great flight deals, as do STA travel. Visitors from further afield should use the web to search out cheap deals. If you are intending to drive, you can hire a car at the airport, the A4 freeway links the 'rim' cities of the Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. But be warned there are strict parking rules in Amsterdam, as the bike is the favoured form of transport. If travelling by train, you will arrive at Amsterdam centraal station. The Eurostar service runs to Brussels, where you must then catch a connecting train, when you add up the relative costs and travel times, flying may actually be the more attractive and cheaper option.

Amsterdam is served by a good tram network, but is just as easy to navigate the city on foot. If you are planning a few trips on the tram buy a book of tram tickets, always make sure you have a ticket before entering the tram, the yellow machines validate your ticket. Although I do admit to having taken a few 'free' tram rides in my time!

Taxis are notoriously expensive and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

Bicycles can be hired, but always check the state of them before parting with any cash, this is not necessary if just staying in the central part of the city, but could be useful if planning a trip into the countryside (take the ferry across the river from behind the station). As Amsterdam is a city of bikes, cycle lanes rule, straddlers and wayward pedestrians are cursed, bike theft is quite common so a hire bike is always advisable (it is why everyone has battered old bikes!). A word of warning for drinkers and smokers, make sure you remember the cycle lanes are there or you could become part of a nasty collision!

Boat tours range from the large touristy canal boats that roam the main water ways to the smaller tours that take in the narrower canals. I recommend the Boom Chicago night tour, which is reasonably cheap, seats only 12 people, allows you to take your own booze and smoke with you and goes through the Red Light District.



The weather in Amsterdam is comparable with London, bitterly cold in the winter months, but mild in the summer. So make sure you wrap up warm if coming in the winter months, as you are likely to be walking outside quite a lot.


Accommodation varies in Amsterdam from expensive tourist hotels to cheap, smokey, backpackers hostels. Be sure to book well in advance if coming in the high season, hostels in particular get very busy even in the low season. Those who are planning to stay in a hotel should check out the larger travel site listings, but here are some great budget hostels:

Flying Pig Palace Hostel (Vossiusstraat 46) - Overlooking Vondelpark, this is one of the best hostels in Amsterdam if you are up for late nights and parties. It is run by backpackers and gets very busy, so it is advisable to try and book in advance if you can, otherwise arrive by 10am to get a bed. Dorm rooms cost between f26.50 - f41.50, depending on the amount of beds, most include a shower and a WC. Breakfast is served between 7-10.30 and consists of rolls and tea/coffee. The hostel also has a bar where you can have a beer or a spliff which stays open till 2am most nights.

Flying Pig Downtown (Nieuwendijk 100) - The more central of the Pig hostels, same as above, but not as chilled.

Bob's Youth Hostel (Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 92) - Beds cost approx. f26 including breakfast, very relaxed place, perhaps not as good as Flying Pig.

Hostel BA (Martelaargracht 18) - Near the station, doubles (No.12) with shared shower from f75 including breakfast, dorm beds (No.18 with breakfast room downstairs) are available from f25.

Meeting Point (Woemerstraat) - Situated right at the top near the Grasshopper this is an ideal location for the red light district and the station. It costs €16 per night rising to €18 on the weekend. For this you get a bed in a large dorm (If you require breakfast you will have to pay extra). One of its good points is that it has a 24 hour bar and you can come and go if you please. The only one bad point is that the metal lockers resemble oil cans and can be extremely noisy making sleep virtually impossible!



Restaurants in Holland are notorious for slow service, so allow a minimum of 1½ hours for a meal. Most places I have been to have been OK, but I have had a few bad experiences, especially one where it took 40 minutes to order a drink, we left after 1½ hours when they still had refused to take our order. In most cases, though, as long as you follow recommendations you should be OK. Here are a few that I have tried or have been recommended:

Barney's Breakfast Bar (Haarlemmerstraat 102) - Serves great English breakfasts from 7am-8pm accompanied by Sky Sports.

Balkje (Kerkstraat) - Breakfast/Lunch cafe, reasonably priced, OK as long as not in a hurry.

El Torado (Leidsestraat 46) - Great steak restaurant with good decor, reasonably priced. There are a few dotted about town.

Mister Cocos (Prins Hendrikkade) - English style bar with Sky Sports where you can smoke

Swagaat (Lange Leidsedwarsstraat) - Excellent Indian restaurant with reasonably fast service and very nice, affordable food.

The Old Bell (Rembrantplein) - English style pub serving great pub food at very good prices, fast service.


Fast Food

Because of the nature of Amsterdam, if your on a limited budget or on limited time, you may opt against a restaurant, which can get booked up well in advance in the summer months. There are a variety of fast food places which I have tried which are a cut above the usual McDeath and soggy pizza joints.

Coffee Connection (Nieuwezijds 33) - Small coffee bar close to Central Station serving great coffee and tasty bagels

Herring Stall (Singel) - This is worth checking out for fresh herring, mackerel and other great fish snacks, it is situated at the start of the Singel near the Rockerij and the Door's Cafe.

Maoz - Popular chain, the best in town for falafals, the main one is on Leidestraat near Leidesplein



Bars, as a rule, are not coffee shops and therefore, you should not assume you can smoke dope in them unless otherwise stated. Here are a few that I have visited:

Sky Sports Café (Leidseplein 11) - You can watch an English Premiership game every Saturday, it does get very busy and beer is very expensive. You can always check the full times at 5.45 as they have a small screen outside!

ESPN Sportscafe (OZ Vooburgwal) - English/American Sky Sports bar showing American Football, English Premiership and many other sports, it has a wide selection of beers, as well as a pool table.

The Old Bell (Rembrantplein) - English style pub serving great pub food at very good prices, fast service.

Schaakcafé 't Hok (Lange Leidseedwarsstraat 134) - Bar with chess tables for enthusiasts.


Coffee Shops

Smoking and purchasing dope in Amsterdam is legal, and a variety of different types of grass or solid can be bought, with f25 the starting price for a bag of weed. Some of the grass can be very strong, so if you are not used to it, buy a mild grass to start with. Most coffeeshops insist that you buy a drink, but are quite happy for you to smoke your own stuff. Nowadays most coffeeshops sell beer aswell, if you aren't into getting too stoned. Some coffeeshops also sell hash cake (which can be very strong), herbal ecstasy cocktails and energy boosters, which may be useful if you need to wake up! As a rule, never buy drugs off the street, it isn't worth it, you'll get ripped off. Also, if you are planning to take something back, check with the vendor if it is legal in your country. All hash is illegal everywhere else, but some of the herbal drugs may be OK. Here is a list of coffeeshops that are recommended:

Barneys Breakfast Bar (Haarlemmerstraat 102) - Excellent English breakfasts from 7am-8pm, where you can start the day with a joint and watch Sky Sports.

Rokerij (Singel 8) - An small African/South American style bar with chilled vibes, not far from the station.

Rokerij (Lange Leidsedwarrstraat) - More popular of the two, slightly more dark and dingy, but still well worth a visit. Can get very busy.

The Door's Cafe (Singel 10) - Listen to Jim Morrison all day in this small coffeeshop next to the Rokerij.

Easy Times - Bar/Coffeeshop playing loud reggae music

Rookies (Korte Leidse-dwars-straat) - Great atmosphere with pool table and beer.

Dolphins (Kerkstraat) - Table football, pool tables downstairs, can get quite cold in the winter.

Wild Style Cafe (252 OZ Voorburgwal) - Narrow coffeeshop with good music, minor birds and very friendly staff.

Feels Good (OZ Vooburgwal) - Coffeeshop in the heart of the RLD

Fat City - Pool bar/coffee shop with kicking music.

Global Chillage (Kerkstraat 51) - Relax on couches listening to chilled music.

Greenhouse (OZ Voorburgwal 191) - Indonesian styled coffeeshop with high quality smoke.

Bulldog (Leidseplein 13-17) - Very commercial coffeeshop, perhaps not the best place to enjoy a quiet smoke.

Smokeys (Rembrandtsplein) - Coffeeshop/bar with 3 pool tables

De Quil (Just off Damrak) - Coffeeshop/bar with pool table, chilled music and a microscope!

Greenhouse Effect (Woemerstraat) - Small coffeeshop with good smoke, shame the seats are a bit uncomfortable.

Hunters (Woemerstraat) - Coffeeshop/Bar with live DJs playing uptodate dance on the weekends. They also sell the sweet Amstel beer (€ 3.60) which is a nice change from Heineken!

La Tertutlia (Prinsengracht 312) - Small canalside cafe/coffeshop with seating outside, they don't serve alcohol but have a wide selection of teas, milkshakesm, juices and coffees

Rick's Cafe (Oudezijds Voorburgwal - nr Damstraat intersection) - Bar/Coffeeshop, the best place to sit outside by the canal in the sunshine and watch passers by.



Be sure to check out some of the Jazz clubs while in Amsterdam, they are well worth a visit, there also a variety of excellent night clubs, make sure you check out exact times, and be prepared to queue.

Jazz Café Alto (Kort Leidsedwarsstraat 115) - Live jazz and blues from 10pm-3am Sunday to Thursday and till 4am on the weekend.

Bourbon Street Jazz and Blues Club (Leidsekruisstraat 6-8) - Blues, funk, rock and roll, 10-4 weekdays till 5am weekend.

Mazzo (Rozengracht 114) - Small club with house, trance and drumn'bass. Wed-Sun 11-4

Escape (Rembrandtplein 11) - Largest club in Amsterdam, 10-4 Thu-Sun, quite expensive and expect long queues

Melkweg (Lijnbaansgracht 234) - The 'Milky Way' does club nights on Thursday and Saturday, need to pay a membership fee on top of admission.

Trance Buddha (OZ Voorburgwal 216) - Open every night till late with a Goa atmosphere, quite expensive.

Check other listings for other clubs, classical and rock venues.



One thing to note about most of the museums is that they don't charge student discounts, so if you are a student you may have to pay the full rate. It may be worth buying a Museumjaarkaart (museum Year Card) which allows free admission to most of the museums except the Anne Frankhuis. It costs approximately f55 (f25 for those under 24, f45 for those 55 and above). Note some of the smaller museums may be shut on Sunday and Monday.

Rikjsmuseum (Stadhouders-kade 42) - With a style of a mixture between neo-Gothic and Dutch Renaissance this large museum has an extensive collection of some 5000 paintings, ceramics, furniture, doll's houses and much more. Allow at least half a day to visit. Open daily from 10-5pm, tickets cost f15 (f7.50) and main entrance is the one facing the city centre. The garden at the back is free entry.

Stedelijk Museum (Paulus Potterstraat 13) - With a focus on modern art, this gallery has a collection including the likes of Mondriaan, Kandinsky, Matisse, Picasso, Cézanne and Kirchner to name but a few. You could compare this to the Tate Britain, as it has very little up to date contemporary art on show. Admission costs f9 (f4.50) and is open daily 11-5.

Van Gogh Museum (Paulus Potterstraat 7) - Includes roughly 200 paintings and 500 drawings by Van Gogh and his contemporaries. It can get very busy in the summer months. Open daily 10-6, admission costs f15.50 (f5 for children and under 12s are free).

The Heineken Museum Stadhouderskade 78) - Tours of this former brewery start at 9.30 and 11am weekdays all year, with extra tours in the summer months (June 1-Sep 15) starting at 1.00 and 2.30 pm. There is a free beer tasting session at the end where you can drink as much beer as you like for an hour. You are expected to pay a f2 donation at the door, which goes to charity.

Museum Het Rembrandthuis (Jodenbreestraat 4-6) - A large collection of etchings by the famous artist can be seen here, as well as where he lived and worked. Open daily 10-5, admission f12.50 with discounts.

Anne Frank House (Prinsengracht 263) - The actual house where the Anne frank and her family hid from the Nazis between 1942-44. Admission costs f10 (f5) and is open daily from 9-5 (till 7 June-August). In the summer months ensure you arrive early to avoid extremely long queues, although in the winter months it should be OK at any time.

Hash and Marijuana Museum (OZ Achterburgwal 148) - Explore the history of this famous drug, and see real plants being cultivated.

Tattoo Museum (OZ Achterburgwal 130)

Erotic Museum (OZ Achterburgwal 54) - Supposedly less entertaining than the sex museum but still worth a look

Sex Museum (Damrak 18) - Open daily 10am-11.30pm, admission price is f4.50, well worth a look, even if it is somewhat an amusing experience rather than an informative one!

De Appel (Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 10) - Centre for contemporary art, open Tue-Sun 12-5pm, check local listings for details of whats on.

SM Bureau Amsterdam (Rozengracht 59) - Show contemporary video work, open 11-5pm shut Mondays.


Info supplied by Andy Webb


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