The capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam, is famous for its coffee shops, red lights, and canals. Founded in 1275 (supposedly by two fisherman and their dog), the city grew in importance and wealth over the centuries as Dutch colonies were set up around the world and companies like the Dutch East India Company (VOC) began transferring wealth to the city. Many travelers tend to frequent the coffee shops or wander the red light district but the city features amazing art museums, beautiful parks, and wonderful cafes. This city is by far one of the most beautiful in the world. There’s nothing like cruising around the canals on a sunny day or lying in Vondelpark reading a book! I used to live in Amsterdam, and I can tell you the best of Amsterdam is found outside the city center in the smaller neighborhoods with their canal-side cafes. This travel guide can help you find your way there!
Hostel prices – Dorm prices vary a lot in Amsterdam. You can find beds ranging from 20-40 EUR per night depending on the place’s popularity and location. Private rooms with your own bathroom cost between 70-90 EUR (they aren’t that great of a deal). My favorite hostels are The Flying Pig, St. Christopher, and The Meeting Point.
Budget hotel prices – Rooms start at around 90 EUR per night for a double room at a hotel in Amsterdam. In the low season, you can almost cut that price in half. Expect closer to 55 EUR for a double room. There are a lot of Airbnb and room-sharing options in the city now that are much cheaper than hotels. Private rooms usually start around 40 EUR and are an important budget option to consider.
Average cost of food – There are plenty of budget-friendly fast food restaurants in Amsterdam, ranging from McDonalds to Maoz to Wok to Walk (which is by far the best). These meals will cost you between 5-15 EUR. Restaurant meals average around 20-25 EUR for a main dish with a drink. If you choose to cook food for yourself, you can expect to pay an average of 45-55 EUR per week for groceries. Cheap Dutch food at the famous FEBO is around 2-7 EUR, but don’t expect anything fancy for vending machine food. (FEBO is Dutch drunk food!) I love Cafe de Jardin, Pankcakes!, Modoers, and Burger Bar for places to eat. For even more places to eat, check my in-depth guidebook to the city below!
Transportation costs – A tram or bus will cost 2.90 EUR for a one-hour ticket. Travelers looking to use public transport for just a day or two might find the most affordable and easiest option day tickets valid for 24, 48, 72 or 96 hours. Prices range from 7.50-21 EUR. These tickets are available from drivers and ticket sellers (only the 24-hour ticket), GVB outlets, tourist offices and kiosks.
Money Saving Tips
Get the IAmsterdam Pass – This offers free entrance to most of the major museums and attractions as well as free public transportation. If you’re going to be bouncing between museums a lot, get this card.
Get the Museumkaart (Museum Card) – Good for one year, this card gets you into museums in Amsterdam and beyond for only 60 EUR. With the Museum Card, you get access to 32 museums in Amsterdam and more than 400 throughout the Netherlands. It’s also good for repeat visits as well!
Drink in hostels – Hostels have the best drink deals in the cities. Even if you aren’t staying at them, most have bars open to the public where you can get 2 EUR beers and other drink specials. Belushi’s Bar at The Winston is very popular among locals too.
Take a free walking tour – If you want an overview of the city, take a one of the free walking tours. This way you’ll get to learn about the city without spending money. The biggest one is offered by New Europe tours.
Grab an Amsterdam Nightlife Ticket – This ticket is valid for 7-days and costs 10 Euros. It gets you unlimited access to eight clubs, a welcome drink at five of the clubs, access to the Holland Casino, discounts on your Uber ride, and more. If you’re going to party in Amsterdam, this nightlife ticket will definitely cut down the cost of partying in the city.
Hire your own boat – Instead of taking an expensive canal cruise, you can hire your own boat. If you have three or four people, it works out to be about 6 EUR a piece and you can bring alcohol, food, or smoke on it.
Eat on the cheap – Febo, Walk to Wok, Maoz are all cheap places to get food. Moreover, cafes in the city for many prix-fixe lunch specials for between 10-15 EUR. If you’re going to eat out, lunch is the best time to do it in Amsterdam!
Cook – Dutch food isn’t going to win any awards. Try a few places but cook often (or at least make lots of sandwiches). Eating out in the city isn’t cheap and if you’re paying a lot for your accommodation, your daily costs can shoot through the roof. Head to the supermarket and get some food to cook! You’re not missing out on anything.
Top Things to See and Do in Amsterdam
Admire art at the Van Gogh Museum – This museum is where you can view hundreds of Van Gogh paintings, including the famous sunflowers, as well as paintings from other impressionist painters. I’ve been here so many times and can tell you it never gets boring if you are into post-Impressionist art! Note: book your ticket ahead of time online or go in the afternoon to avoid the massive lines.
Educate yourself at the Amsterdam History Museum – Though not exactly off the beaten path, this museum surprisingly sees few tourists compared to the city’s other museums, yet it does a great job of telling the history of the city (there is a cool video showing Amsterdam’s growth at the beginning). The museum is fairly big, so budget a few hours for it. It’s one of my favorite must-do’s in the city. I can’t recommend it enough!
Learn about Jewish history – Located near Waterlooplein, the Jewish History Museum has an excellent section on World War 2, the Holocaust, and how the Dutch dealt with the guilt of mass deportations after the war. It’s a small section in a large museum that is dedicated to the city’s Jews but it’s worth the price of admission alone.
Go flower crazy at the Tulip Museum – Located in a room inside a tulip shop, this little place does an interesting job of telling the history of tulips in Holland and the infamous tulip craze. Best of all: you’ll never find a crowd. It’s pretty off the beaten path! And at 5 EUR, it’s the cheapest museum in town.
Lose yourself in the Jordaan – I’m always amazed at how few tourists visit this area since it is right next to the city center. This former working-class district is now a maze of trendy cafes, little shops, and restaurants. During the summer, it is a popular spot for locals to eat. I absolutely love wandering around here, visiting the weekend farmers market, and sampling Dutch apple pie.
See photography at FOAM – The photography museum houses wonderful pictures and sees few crowds despite being in the main part of the city. I really enjoyed all the black and white photographs and the outdoor garden. They change the exhibits all the time so you never know what is exactly going to be there but it’s always something good. I visit each time I’m in the city.
Squeeze into the Houseboat Museum – Not much of a museum but this decorated houseboat gives you an interesting glimpse into what living on the canals are like. I walked away with one impression of life on the canals: a bit cramped.
Explore Oost – The area east of the city has an amazing park, a zoo, and lots of good Muslim eateries. Wandering around here, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of tourists, most of whom are probably lost. It’s an off-the-beaten path and underrated part of the city.
Relax in Rembrandt Park – Not to be confused with Rembrandtplein in the city center, this park west of the city is a good place to wander. The area around it is pretty working class and a bit more modern – a good contrast to the historic center. You’ll know you are there when signs suddenly stop being printed in English and are only Dutch.
Take a canal tour – The canals of Amsterdam are almost as famous as the houses of Amsterdam. One of the best ways to see the city is from the canals. You can take one of the tours with a big boat or hire your own guide (see tip above). However, if you can’t go with your own boat, skip those massive long touristy boats and take the Eco Tour boat. It’s a small, open air boat that gives you a much more intimate experience of the cancels.
Unwind in Vondelpark – Amsterdam’s main and central park, Vondelpark is where everyone goes to hang out, smoke, bike, run, or have a picnic. Expect huge crowds on a warm day (because the city doesn’t get many warm sunny days and the Dutch like to take advantage of all of them!).
Take in the Heineken Experience – I find it to be overpriced and commercial, but the Heineken Experience will give you an overview of the company, a few drinks, and some silly games to play. Note that this isn’t an actual working brewery.
Visit the Anne Frank House – This house is where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis during WW2. The house showcases her life, what it was like to live in the attic, as well as other information on the Holocaust. It is a sad and moving place. Expect really, really long lines; book tickets online ahead of time to skip past them.
See the windmills – Setting out on an adventure to visit the windmills surrounding the city is another great way to tour. There are eight in total – most of which, are in Amsterdam West. De Gooyer is the closest to the city center and also happens to be a brewery, making it the perfect place to start (and maybe never leave).
Stroll through Plantage – The is an entire district in Amsterdam, comprised of green neighborhoods, several gardens and parks, and the Artis Royal Zoo. Beyond the main zoo area, Artis is also host to a Zoological Museum, a Planetarium, and an Aquarium.
See House of Bols – This is one of the most underrated attractions in the Netherlands. Run by the Bols distillery, this is a Dutch gin museum. The self-guided tour takes about an hour and includes the promise of a cocktail and an interesting smelling test.
Get the In-Depth Budget Guide to Amsterdam!
For more in-depth information and tips, check out my guidebook to Amsterdam (a city I used to call home). This book is written for budget travelers like yourself, cuts out the fluff found in other guides, and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel and save money. You’ll find suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, on and off the beaten path things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, and bars, and much more!! Click here to learn more and get started.