City breaks in Amsterdam: the best travel deals
Just a quick trip from many cities in the U.K., Amsterdam is ideal for a cheap weekend away. Walk along the romantic canals, peek into museums, and watch as the soft neons come alive each night in the well-known Red Light District. Whether you’re there to delve into Amsterdam’s history, explore the city on foot, or if you’re just stopping in on a longer trip, we’ve got the best deals for your next Amsterdam holiday.
Check out our best deals for a short break in Amsterdam:
The top 12 things to do in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is one of the best cities in Europe. There is so much to see and do that you won't have a spare second to feel bored if you choose to visit. Amsterdam has all the typical attractions you'll find in a major city, like family-friendly sights, museums, shops and hundreds of cafes, bars and restaurants. However, there are also more unusual spots that you can't find anywhere else, such as the infamous Red Light District. Amsterdam is also famous for its cannabis coffeeshops, but take note that the Government is currently considering banning tourists from entering these cafes.
Amsterdam is a perfect destination for a weekend away. While the city is not known for being cheap there are many free or affordable activities. With fairly little time, your itinerary will inevitably be limited. But don't worry! Take your pick from our list of some of the best activities for your short break in Dutch capital.
The Anne Frank House is a must-visit while in Amsterdam. This is the very house where Anne Frank hid with her family to escape the persecution of the Jewish people during Second World War, and it is where she wrote her famous diary. The house is filled with history, and the exhibitions show visitors what it was like to live under Nazi rule.
The house is located on a canal called the Prinsengracht and has been converted from a private home into a museum. Tickets usually go on sale 2 months in advance of the visit date, so be quick to book the time slot you want as tickets sell out fast. Tickets can only be purchased online but 20% of tickets are released each day for a visit on the day itself. They are released at 9am (CET time) online but we recommend buying your tickets well in advance. Despite having tickets you should arrive early and don't be surprised if you have to queue! Prices are €10.50 for adults, €5.50 for children aged 10-17 years old and €0.50 for kids 9 and under, all includng booking fee.
You can also choose to book an introductory programme before your entry to learn more about what you are about to see.
The museum is a must-visit in Amsterdam. The history of the how the family lived in the secret annex is brought to life as you walk through the very walls and through the hidden entry to the attic where they resided for years. The story is heart-wrenching and the mystery of who betrayed the Franks remains. Questions are asked and Anne's diary is also displayed for viewers. The house is both a fantastic part of a holiday in Amsterdam for both young and old.
2. The Canals
We've all seen pictures of the gorgeous canals in Amsterdam. While there are only 3 main canals, there are over 150 in total. The city has an impressive 100km of canals with about 90 islands and around 1,500 bridges to help you get around the city and explore.
The 3 main canals are Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht. The canals are mostly used for boating and it's worth enjoying a boat ride during your stay. Don’t try taking a dip though! The water isn't suitable for swimming.
3. The Red Light District
The Red Light District is for sure out of the ordinary! For some, it’s a must-see, while for others it's a ‘not in a million years’.
In the Red Light District, you will find many things that you will never see in the UK (or that would be criminal if you did see them!). There are brothels, sex shops, museums and even a Red Light District pub crawl. Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam (although not on the street) and the Red Light District gets its name from the neon lights in the windows of the 'storefronts' where the women are working. In general, the Red Light District is friendly and safe—although perhaps not the best for the faint-hearted!
4. Heineken Experience
Of course, drinking beer can be a fun experience in itself! You might not think that learning the history of beer or how it's made would be as interesting as drinking it—but the Heineken Experience will prove that wrong. The Heineken Experience takes you on the journey of Heineken, which started out as a small brewery and ended up as a world-famous beer.
The tour lasts about 90 minutes. You can take it at your own pace—even if that means rushing through to the end to enjoy a chilled beer or two. To receive a discount, book the Heineken Experience online.
5. The Avocado Show
The Avocado Show is a cafe dedicated to serving you sit-in and takeaway meals containing (you guessed it) the most famous of superfoods—the avocado. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is all vegetarian or vegan food! There are plenty of dishes that include your favourite proteins such as chicken, bacon and salmon. The Avocado Show also offers a range of drinks including tea, coffee, beer, wine, spirits and cocktails.
The Avocado Show is not just a dining experience. You can also buy some merchandise during your visit, including a cookbook, clothing, accessories and even a giant avocado inflatable pool float.
6. The 9 Streets
This quaint and quirky small neighbourhood is home to funky shops, cosy cafés, artisanal food shops and loads more. This is Old Amsterdam at its best with plenty of beautiful places to get that perfect holiday snap or Instagram picture -- grab a pastry and your camera and go for a little wander. The 9 streets are located right in the middle of Amsterdam's UNESCO world heritage canal belt. If you're here in spring or summer, stroll along the streets and take in the relaxed vibe or head in to one of the many bakeries, cafes and shops. Highlights include the Bloemenmarkt, the floating flower market, and the Anne Frank House is just around the corner.
Known as the lungs of the city, Vondelpark is a huge 120 acres public park in Amsterdam-Zuid. Opened in 1865, nowadays the park sees around 10 million visitors each year. The park was known as the world's only park where you could smoke joints, barbueque and have sex. That's now illegal, but the vibe here is still super relaxed and it's a great place for a stroll in some green amongst the urban environment.
Between June and August there's an open air theatre that has shows covering loads of musical genres. There are a couple of restaurants and bars, as well as art installations, like the Joost van den Vondel by Louis Royer.
8. Grab a "coffee"
Once you have been through the red light district you will for sure be warmed up and more open to what Amsterdam has to offer. Before you read on, it is important to note that a coffee shop in Amsterdam might not only be a place to get a cappuccino but also to participate in the recreational use of Cannabis. It is also important to note that marijuana is not legal in the Netherlands but you are permitted to use cannabis sold from and in licensed coffee shops and outlets that sell cannabis products. There are several coffee shop tours available and whether you are participating or simply curious, the experience is worthy of a city break.
9. Take the kids to the Science Museum
There is something for everyone in Amsterdam, enrich your kids’ minds and reward their curiosity by taking them to the NEMO Science Museum, where they can participate in science experiments and discover how things work. The visit normally lasts 2.5 hours and costs around 27 Euros per person. The museum is only a 10-minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station so while the kids are exploring the fun of science, you can wander the streets of central Amsterdam.
10. Travel back in time
The Castles and Gardens region around Amsterdam is a spectacular location that transports you back in time into the medieval age of wealthy Dutch merchants. Conveniently located only 30 minutes for the central train station and well within cycling distance, towns in the Castle and Gardens region such as Muiden, Naarden and Weesp are a must for all.
If you love Game of Thrones or fairy tale movies you are in for a treat with the majestic castles and gardens with a modern twist. Take a guided tour or a day trip to the Muiden Castle, believed to date back to the 10th century.
11. Escape the city
Most people hardly get past the magic that lies in central Amsterdam but there is more to this city break than to be expected. The NDSM Wharf is an old shipyard found on the other side of the IJ river. Characterised by its culture-filled atmosphere, the Wharf is a hub for bars, live music, festivals, and flea markets. You can take your pick from the many fun activities that would make an unforgettable day trip; bungee jumping from a crane or just catching some sun on the beach. With eco-friendly cafes, the NDSM Wharf is a great way to spend your day with family or friends.
12. Be romantic
Yes, Amsterdam can also be a romantic city with plenty of things to enjoy as a couple. First thing would be to find the right hotel. There‘s no shortage of romantic places to stay in this city ranging from high-end such as the Amstel Hotel to more affordable such as the Volkhotel. Discover the city by taking romantic walks through the parks or enjoy a bike ride through the city. Then complete your romantic Amsterdam city break by watching the sunset on top of the A’Dam observation deck.
Where should I stay in Amsterdam?
There are plenty of accommodation options available in Amsterdam. The local hostels are full of character and many hotels are located right in the centre. Your biggest decision will be choosing between whether you want to stay in the centre of it all or slightly on the outskirts for a quieter experience. Whether you like camping, hotels, houseboats or hostels, central Amsterdam will provide you with a suitable option for you to rest your head. Hostels such as the Flying Pig and Hotels such as the Ambassader are within walking distance of the central station and for a truly unique experience, you can rent a houseboat B&B.
If you are in search of a more relaxed city break in Amsterdam, you can find quieter neighbourhoods in the outskirts of the Amsterdam central. Bed and breakfasts such as Jolie Shelter are a great way to experience the other side of the city and are in close proximity to museums and other attractions.
When is the best time to visit Amsterdam?
Amsterdam can get busy and its narrow streets tend to get crowded during its peak season in July and August when the sun is out and the weather is warm. That being said, the city stays vibrant all year round so even though it might be quieter to visit the city during the winter season you will not be short of exciting things to do. Temperatures are generally a little bit warmer than the UK, so an Easter or April holiday could be a good idea, but there is a higher risk of rain!
Tips for your break
- Buy a train pass or rent a bike: The city is full cyclists so it is easier to get around on a bike than it is through other means of transportation. If you are staying in the centre it is also fairly easy to get around on foot.
- Learn the cannabis etiquette: Educate yourself on the rules of the Cannabis culture to avoid doing something illegal.
- Go outside central Amsterdam: The is more to the city than just the red lightdistrict, so take some time to explore.
- Learn to like cheese: Gouda, Edam, Maasdam, Limburger – the list of local cheeses is endless.
What are some must eats?
The city offers a culinary experience that encompasses the Dutch culture. Indulge in the famous chunky Dutch fries for lunch or warm Dutch pancakes for breakfast. And on a night out, accompany your drinks with some Bitterballen or grab a late-night snack in the form of croquettes from a vending machine. For a cosmopolitan dining experience, visit popular restaurants such as Guts & Glory or the beautiful Conservatorium Hotel’s brasserie. It wouldn’t be a worthy city break if you don’t try the cheese in Amsterdam. Cheese can be found on almost every corner of the city and also makes a thoughtful souvenir for your friends and family in the UK.