So I’m at that stage in life where when I travel, I travel on a budget. Maybe one day I’ll attempt luxury travel, but honestly? I like a challenge.
My latest travelling on a budget came in the form of an Amsterdam city break, and it felt wonderful to return to one of my favourite places. Amsterdam is a place filled with history, culture, drugs and alcohol, and it’s somewhere you should definitely visit if you ever have the opportunity.
However, along with this, Amsterdam is often regarded as an expensive destination to visit in Europe, but it doesn't need to be; so here is my guide to an Amsterdam city break.
I shall base this on flying from London (since that’s where I have flown from), but according to Skyscanner (whom we always use to compare flights), the cheapest month to fly to Amsterdam is June, which is when we decided to go.
Regardless of which destination you travel to, you can use Skyscanner's “cheapest month” search tool to find the perfect time to fly! Which is great if you have some flexibility on your city break dates. Return flights to Amsterdam can average at around £80. We paid £54 for return flights.
This is entirely based on what you want to gain from Amsterdam, but I’d say 3 nights and 4 days is a decent amount of time for a city break, however, you could definitely achieve what you want in less or more. You won’t go bored! We stayed for 3 nights and had 4 days. It was the perfect amount.
The easiest and cheapest option is to get the train. Follow the signs from arrivals to the train station and buy your tickets on a machine. It’s 4.70 Euro (June 2017) for a one-way journey and remember to validate your ticket on the machines (they look yellow and blue) by “scanning” your ticket so it beeps. When you get to the other side you need to beep to get out of the barriers and if you haven’t beeped in- there is a risk of a fine!
Again this depends on what you want. If you're looking to have a great time and meet new people, then why not opt for a hostel?
I stayed in the Hans Brinker hostel which actually prides itself on being the “worst hostel” in Amsterdam...don’t worry, this is just a marketing ploy, it’s actually a decent place in a good location!
The thing about Amsterdam is, accommodation isn’t dirt cheap like Asia or South America, and a hostel can cost you more than you’d expect.
This time around I decided to stay in a hotel since it was my sister's birthday. Trying to find a hotel for a good price, with good reviews and in a good location was a challenge, but I managed to find the perfect place for us. We stayed in Rembrandt square at the Rembrandt Square Hotel.
We paid £120 each for a twin room with breakfast. Now, this hotel is located above a “coffee shop” (the weed kind, not the Starbucks type), and next door to one of the bigger clubs in Amsterdam.
Rembrandt Square is basically full of clubs and bars, and if you seriously can’t handle the smell of weed, then it’s not the place for you (but then again, all of Amsterdam constantly smells of weed). The location was great for us because we were here to do some partying!
The club beside the hotel stays open until 4 am, so request a top floor room or a pair of earplugs and you’ll be just fine. Otherwise, the breakfast was great, the staff were lovely, and my room had comedy central so I could watch friends when I was hungover; Perfection! One problem though, WiFi is pretty bad, but I put that down to being on one of the higher floors.
What not to do should be the question! I’ll take you through my itinerary!
Amsterdam is considered the Venice of the North, simply because of the sheer amount of beautiful canals that run through the centre. You can get a “hop-on-hop-off” boat to navigate your way around the city, or you can take one of the many touristic tours available such as a cocktail boat canal ride, a lovers canal ride, a burger canal ride, basically just take a canal ride in any form.
Whether you want a full tour is up to you but there are many wonderful options and something to suit absolutely every budget. A one-hour canal tour is as little as 9 Euro, check out Viator for more deals.
You can’t go to Amsterdam and not get a picture at this massive sign! Work quickly though as getting a letter to stand by is difficult in busy periods.
This is an absolute must see whether you’ve heard of Anne Frank or not. I’ve been twice and it just oozes history and a feeling of motivation, admiration and regret. Regret at what happened to the Jewish people, admiration for Anne Frank and her sheer bravery and stories, and motivation to never let history repeat itself.
It’s a surreal experience standing amongst the house, and I really don’t want to give much away because it’s just worth seeing and hearing about it for the first time in person.
The problem with Anne Frank is the queues. There is now a system in place where up until 3.30pm you pre-book tickets online for an allocated time slot. These go on sale months in advance, and they sell out months in advance. I did try to get tickets but unfortunately, I was too late.
They let “non-ticket” holders in from 3.30pm, but in order to get in the door anywhere close to that time, you need to queue from 2pm. Trust me. I did it. I actually arrived at 1.45pm and a queue was already there, so I suggest buying a sandwich or salad from the supermarket, bringing a coat to sit on and a deck of cards and take advantage of the free WiFi.
The wait doesn't feel as long as it is, but it’s worth it when you're the first group to get through the door at 3.30pm. The queue on the street is miles long, and I am not exaggerating. You don’t want to be in that queue.
If you can’t make it at 2 pm, then wait until after 7 pm to go see Anne Frank where the queue will start to die down- the museum is open until 10 pm, so you’ve got plenty of time! Tickets are 9 Euro at the door and it takes approximately an hour to explore and grab a coffee.
Oh my- it’s not for the faint hearted.
The prostitution isn’t a new thing, it’s been around...forever and in Amsterdam, it’s all legal and licensed, so whether you agree with it or not shouldn't put you off having a nosey.
It’s certainly a surreal experience, you find yourself walking into the first “street” by accident and you’ve suddenly got beautiful women to the left and right of you, mostly standing on their phones, sipping on red bull, or luring a guy in. You can’t take any pictures, so just respect that.
As you walk through you’ll see women of all kinds, and honestly, you’ll not know whether to make eye contact or not, it’s funny and strange, but it’s a new experience all the same, and one you don’t get every day. I’ll not go into the pricing structure since I ain’t going to promote it (haha), but if you're wondering, knock on a window and ask!
After you’ve had a nosey at the windows, which there seems to be more than a hundred of, you can grab a drink at one of the many bars, or opt for a sex show. Not my cup of tea, but I hear they are interesting and the Moulin Rouge show has been recommended to me which is 30 Euro for around 6 shows, and 40 Euro for shows with drinks.
You could also check out the Museum of Prostitution which is 8 Euro if you book online and you’ll have the opportunity to stand/sit in a window & see a room in which the girls work!
There is a sex museum and erotic museum in Amsterdam, I visited the former (it’s located near Amsterdam Central Station) It’s 5 Euro and not something I’d recommend. Not because it’s not interesting, but it’s just bland.
It’s basically porn through the ages, and some mildly entertaining talking machines etc, and it just didn’t thrill me, plus it took around 10 minutes to explore- but if you want the opportunity to take a picture next to a massive oversized penis then maybe it’s worth it for you!
Dedicated to the works of Vincent Van Gough, if art is an area you are interested in then perhaps this is a must-see. I personally haven’t been as it’s not my cup of tea, but I have heard good reviews from fellow travellers. The entrance is 17 Euro or free with the IAMAMSTERDAM card.
If you are in Amsterdam to party (which I always am), then you should take advantage of its brilliant bars and clubs. What better way to do that than with a bar crawl.
I’ve taken a bar crawl with two different companies, both of whom I had an AMAZING night. You meet so many amazing people just wanting to have a good time. Free drinks help keep the spending money low, and clubs on route sell shots for 2 Euro, which is cheaper than back home!
There's so much more to do in Amsterdam that I haven’t done! Here is a list of recommendations:
This completely depends on what you want to do. You can buy passes for 24 hours/ 48 hours and more, and you get free access to certain museums, a free canal cruise and free public transport. It starts at 57 Euro for a 24-hour card, but I just don’t think that’s worth it for me.
That’s because I wasn’t going to all the museums so didn’t need to pay out, and honestly, everything in Amsterdam can be walked to. It’s a beautiful place to walk within so put on your comfortable shoes and use those feet.
Amsterdam is a wonderful place to “get lost”, you’ll eventually find yourself at where you need to be. If you don’t want to walk….remember Amsterdam is a bike city, so rent one! You can find out more about the I AM AMSTERDAM CARD here.
If you want to eat fairly cheaply then head to the Leidseplein area where there are lots and lots of cheaper places to eat and drink.
If you are in the Remandrant Square area then I recommend St James Gate Irish bar because they do great food and lovely wine and prosecco. Wine is fairly cheap in Amsterdam with a glass averaging at 3-4 Euro.
You can get bottles of Prosecco for 18 Euro and beer is also reasonable. If you are wanting a cheap casual spirit, then you will struggle a little more, a vodka and mixer averages at 8 Euro.
If you want to save money and have a drink in your room then head to a Lidl, there's lots of them and wine starts at 2 Euro a bottle and prosecco is 2.50 Euro- you can't complain!
If you can fine dine and splash the cash then there are lots of places for you to choose from. Check out trip advisor to find the top spots.
If you have a recommendation or tip for Amsterdam, comment below!