Weekend Travels: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Weekend Length: Long (4 days)


We were lucky to find reasonably priced non-stop tickets to Amsterdam through Delta Airlines that fit our schedule perfectly. Despite just having a long weekend, we had a lot of time to walk around the city and explore the different neighborhoods in between our major stops, which we list on the daily breakdown below. The streets of Amsterdam looked similar at first glance, but once we got to know the neighborhoods, such as the Red Light District, Jordaan, Chinatown, and the Museum District, we realized how different they are from each other. We basically just kept walking all weekend in whatever direction we felt like, rarely glancing at our maps. It was a great way to find hidden gems and learn different paths.
Day 1 (Friday, arrived at 11am)

  • Canal cruise
  • Red Light District

Day 2

Day 3 (Easter)

Day 4 (flight departure time of 15:15)

  • Brunch in Nieuwmarkt Square
Red Light District in the day and at night

Lodging

Amsterdam is an expensive city to stay in, unless hostels are an option. Hotels in the city’s Old Center are more expensive due to their proximity to popular attractions and the main transit hub, Amsterdam Centraal. Hotel prices go down the farther they are from the Old Center, but can still be at least €200 per night even for the basic hotels far from the center.

Bethanienstraat--the street outside the Tulip Little B&B
Bethanienstraat–the street outside the Tulip Little B&B

We found that B&Bs are the way to go in Amsterdam, not only for the more reasonable prices even for B&Bs right in the city center, but also to truly feel part of the neighborhoods. We found a room through the Tulip of Amsterdam B&B for €180 per night called Tulip Little, which is inside a two-bedroom home right between Nieuwmarkt Square and the the Red Light District. We had our own en-suite bathroom and shared a kitchen and dining area with the other renters (although we never met the other renters—we could just hear them walking around since we occupied the lower-level room).

Although we recommend B&Bs, available rooms are very difficult to find especially during holiday weekends. We were lucky that the people at the first B&B we contacted, Barangay B&B, were nice enough to e-mail us a list of B&B recommendations, including the Tulip of Amsterdam, when they informed us that they were fully booked for our dates. The following are the B&B recommendations from Barangay B&B:

Transportation

Outside the Amsterdam Centraal Station

Bicycles are everywhere. However, since we were not confident enough to navigate the unfamiliar streets on two wheels, we immediately purchased transit passes from the IAmsterdam shop at the airport. We knew we wanted to explore Keukenhof and Zaanse Schans outside the city, so we purchased the three-day Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket for €33.50 per person. It provided us with unlimited train and bus rides for three days to and from the airport, within the city, and to Keukenhof and Zaanse Schans.

  • From Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Centraal Station and vice versa – The fastest way is to take the Intercity train.
  • From Amsterdam Centraal Station to Keukenhof – Intercity or sprinter train to Schiphol Airport, then head outside the main airport entrance. Walk towards the right (to the giant Tulip) to the Keukenhof Bus Stop.
  • From Amsterdam Centraal Station to Zaanse Schans – Sprinter train to Zaandam Kogerveld, then take the 391 bus to Zaandam Zaanse Schans OR take the 391 bus straight to Zaandam Zaanse Schans. (The bus is slower since there are more stops.)
  • From Schiphol Airport to Zaanse Schans – Sprinter train to Zaandam Kogerveld, then take the 391 bus to Zaandam Zaanse Schans.

Food

Meals in sit-down restaurants cost approximately €15-20. Although we were looking forward to checking out the Amsterdam food scene, we did not want to run out of pocket money on the first day. So other than the brunch we had on our last day and the Pannekoeken we tried from a pancake house, we instead searched for cheaper fare we could carry around with us as we walked around the city, such as Vlaamse Frites with curry ketchup and mayo, pickled herring sandwiches from haringhandels, and stroopwafels from bakeries and supermarkets. These usually cost around €5. FEBO is also a cheap alternative, although fried food from what seemed like a vending machine was more of a novelty item for us than an actual meal. Waffles, crepes, and pannekoeken are also must-eats when in Amsterdam since every street seems to have these delicious treats.

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We also found freshly baked pastries in the Albert Heijn supermarkets located throughout the city, including inside the Amsterdam Centraal station. We also bought snacks, such as sliced bread, chips, and large bottled water at the Albert Heijn supermarkets to keep in the house for late-night cravings and to bring with us on our day trips.

Budget

We quickly realized that our expenses would depend on what we wanted to get out of our trip. We could have easily depleted our budget if we ate full meals at restaurants three times a day, drank heavily at bars, or splurged in coffee shops. Fortunately, we knew our goal was to get to know the city. So we limited our meals to food we knew we couldn’t acquire in our hometown; we partied moderately—just enough to understand the culture and vibe of the city; we shopped only for items that we already planned to buy (clogs!) and budgeted for before our trip.

So for a four-day trip to Amsterdam during a major holiday (Easter) weekend for two people, plan on a budget of about €200-250 per night for B&B lodging for 3 nights right in the city center, transportation tickets, a canal cruise, and food.

Tips

  • Stairs in houses/apartments are tall and narrow, which make it difficult to carry huge luggages up the stairs when renting B&Bs.
  • Public restroom use costs about €0.50 to €1.00.
  • Comfortable shoes are a must.
  • Bikers have the right of way.
  • Most parking spots in the city require parallel parking next to the canals.
  • Intercity trains have fewer stops compared to sprinter trains and buses.
  • Smoking (of any kind) is legal to do out on the streets, but not drinking alcohol, or drinking anything on the streets out of glass containers.
  • Bring a poncho or umbrella; it can rain anytime with little warning.
  • Picnic in Vondelpark. We weren’t able to because it was mostly rainy and overcast when we were in Amsterdam.
  • When using the bus/train travel tickets, make sure to scan the ticket on the yellow posts on the train stations or on the yellow screens inside the buses to check-in before riding the bus/train and check-out after the trip. Otherwise, the tickets may be forfeited and may not be replaced/refunded.
  • Tickets to Keukenhof can be purchased either at the park (lines can be long) or in advance from IAmsterdam kiosks or the Keukenhof desk at the airport.
  • Most streets have designated enclosed areas for men (or anyone who can pee standing up) to pee in.
  • Buy advance/online tickets to the Anne Frank House as soon as they are available (about 2 months before) because lines can have 2-3 hour wait times. Visitors without advance tickets can only enter after 330pm.

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