Last Updated: 7/22/23 | July 22nd, 2023
I first went to Amsterdam in 2006 as part of my grand backpacking tour of Europe. It’s a rich, exciting, multilayered place. I fell in love with it so much that I stayed for a month. Since then, I’ve gone back dozens of times, even leading tours there for a number of years. I’ve explored the nooks and crannies of this compact, historic city.
Famed for its canals, parks, and weed, Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities in the world not because of its wild nightlife but for its beautiful setting, multiculturalism (half of its 800,000 residents were not born in the Netherlands), and low-key vibe.
Though it’s small, there are still a number of neighborhoods to choose from, depending on what kind of vibe you want. In this post, I’ll break down the various neighborhoods so you can get a sense of what area of town is best for your stay.
Here’s a more detail overview of suggested accommodations for various neighborhoods:
Amsterdam Neighborhood Overview
Where to Stay for First-Time Visitors: De Wallen
De Wallen is home to Amsterdam’s oldest church, a great craft brewery, plenty of cool cafés and restaurants, and, of course, the famous Red Light District. This area is the heart of Amsterdam tourism and where you will find the vast majority of hostels and backpackers. If you want to be in the heart of it, stay here. But expect a lot of crowds and late night partying.
Best Places to Stay in De Wallen
- BUDGET: Durty Nelly’s Inn – This is your classic, fun backpacker hostel. It’s tiny, cozy, and cheap. The beds are decent and each comes with its own reading light and power outlet. The staff are super knowledgeable and there’s a hearty breakfast too. If you want cheap accommodation and a place to meet travelers, this is one of my favorite hostels in the area.
- MID-RANGE: Hotel Rho Hotel – Located right at Dam Square at the very edge of the neighborhood, this hotel offers simple but comfortable rooms in a gorgeous former Art Deco-style theater. You can’t beat its central location and price point.
- LUXURY: Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky – The 451 rooms at this lavish hotel across from the Royal Palace feature natural muted hues, hardwood floors, plus-sized plasma TVs, super comfortable beds, and amazing showers. The in-house Michelin-starred restaurant, The White Room, also serves Dutch fare too.
Where to Stay for Budget Travelers: Centraal/Centrum
I like to define Amsterdam’s Centrum as the area within the Singel Canal to the west and south and De Wallen to the east. A local might not define it that way but, for a traveler, this distinction makes sense. In the center, you’ll find Dam Square, the Centraal train station, a bunch of museums, cool restaurants, and tons of shopping. I love this area because it’s central (hence the name), close to the train station, and is quiet at night.
Best Places to Stay in Centraal/Centrum
- BUDGET: The Flying Pig Downtown – Known for its fun and bustling atmosphere, the Flying Pig is one of the best hostels in the city. It’s an institution, with cozy beds with comfortable pillows, a nice courtyard, and a bar that hosts fun events. Stay here to meet other travelers.
- MID-RANGE: Park Plaza Victoria – This hotel has Egyptian linens, walk-in showers, in-room coffee and tea, great views of the city all set in a 19th-century neo-classical building hugging Centraal Station. I love staying here. It’s great value for your money.
- LUXURY: W Amsterdam – Located right across the street from the Royal Palace, the W has its own with a heated rooftop pool and lounge, an award-winning spa and gym, and four restaurants on site (including one with a Michelin star). The luxurious rooms are spacious, with pillow top mattresses, rain showers, and a hearty breakfast each morning. All what you would expect from a global luxury brand.
Where to Stay for Art Lovers: Museum Quarter
If you dig art, staying in this area is a no-brainer. The most renowned art museums are here in Museumplein: the Van Gogh Museum, the contemporary art museum Stedelijk, and the legendary Rijksmuseum. This area is a bit far from the center (well, relative to how far anything can be in such a small city) but it’s a lot more spacious, green, and quieter than other parts of the city. If you want a more tranquil stay or are with your family, this is a good area to stay in.
Best Places to Stay in the Museum Quarter
- BUDGET: Hostel Van Gogh – Conveniently located in the heart of the Museum Quarter, this Van Gogh-inspired hostel has artsy murals, spacious and tidy dorms, and friendly staff. I think it’s the best place in the area if you’re looking to stay on a budget.
- MID-RANGE: Max Brown Museum Square – Max Brown kicks it up a notch for a mid-range hotel. Rooms here have lots of natural wood tones, tons of light, comfortable beds and cozy sheets, and good water pressure. And the hotel’s beautifully designed cafe has daily bread delivery from local bakeries.
- LUXURY: Conservatorium Hotel – This erstwhile conservatory set in a gargantuan neo-Gothic building is the epitome of Dutch luxury. The 129 rooms have great views of the neighborhood, plush mattresses, rain showers, and stunning hardwood floors. There’s also free bike rentals, a state-of-the-art indoor swimming pool, and a yoga studio. It’s the nicest place in the neighborhood!
Where to Stay for Partying: Leidesplein
Leidseplein is an area just north of the museum quarter. It’s a central square that’s home to a lot of bars and clubs. (The casino is here too, in case you feel like losing a few bucks.) I also like the area because it’s right across from the massive Vondelpark. This area is always busy, especially at night. If you’re looking for a main area with a lot to do, especially at night but don’t want the crowds of the Red Light District, here is a good place to stay!
Best Places to Stay in Leidesplein
- BUDGET: Amsterdam Hostel Leidseplein – This youth hostel boasts free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, and free walking tours around town. It’s a no-frills option perfect for frugal travelers looking for a basic, social accommodation.
- MID-RANGE: Hotel La Bohème – This hotel features simple but clean and comfortable rooms. Single rooms have shared bathrooms while all others have en suite toilets. There’s free breakfast and the staff is really nice. There’s not a lot of mid-range hotels in this part of town and I think this one is the best value for your money.
- LUXURY: Weber Studios – This eight-room boutique hotel is set in a lovely townhouse. Rooms are huge with beautiful art on the walls and lots of natural light. They also have their own kitchenettes! I think this is the nicest hotel in this part of town with a staff that treats you right!
Where to Stay for Locals: De Pijp
De Pijp is my favorite part of town. The streets are lined with cool bars and restaurants. One of the main attractions is the Albert Cuyp Market, the biggest street market in Amsterdam. There’s a relaxing park here too (Sarphatipark) with a small lake and English-style gardens. This is one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods and a place to stay to get away from the tourists. It’s total local vibes here.
Best Places to Stay in De Pijp
- BUDGET: The Arcade Hotel – Simple but clean, the Arcade’s rooms offer the usual perks (large TVs, free Wi-Fi), but also there’s an interesting twist: since this is a video game–themed hotel, so all rooms have a game console! It’s a fun and inexpensive place to stay.
- MID-RANGE: Sir Albert – Located on the edge of De Pijp (bordering on the Museum Quarter), Sir Albert’s rooms have high ceilings and big windows (upgraded top-floor rooms have cathedral ceilings) plus the in-house izakaya serves up scrumptious Japanese tavern fare.
- LUXURY: Hotel Okura – This high-rise hotel in the southern part of the neighborhood is located next to a canal and has incredible views of the the city. The rooms here are opulent with incredibly plush beds and furniture. You’ll find an indoor pool, wellness center, gyn, and two in-house Michelin-starred restaurants. This is one of the nicest hotels in the city. If you want luxury, you stay here!
Where to Stay for Charm: Jordaan
Jordaan, on the west side of the canal ring, is just a short walk from the center of town. The narrow streets and canals are flanked by achingly cute rowhouses. Historically, a working class neighborhood, Jordaan is now crammed with upscale boutiques, elegant restaurants, laid-back cafés, and, and fun pubs. It was revitalized a few decades ago and is now bustling with life. After De Pijp, it’s my second favorite part of Amsterdam. Keep in mind there’s not a lot of hotels directly in the neighborhood. Most line the canals between Dam square and Jordaan.
Best Places to Stay in Jordaan
- BUDGET: Melrose Hotel – This three-star hotel is as budget as it gets in Jordaan. Rooms are modern and spacious and the hotel is right near Anne Frank House. It’s your pretty standard hotel. Nothing amazing but nothing terrible.
- MID-RANGE: Bed & Breakfast WestViolet – This cozy bed and breakfast with a resident cat is in the heart of Jordaan on a quiet neighborhood street. There’s a guest kitchen and breakfast is complimentary. The simple rooms come with a desk. It’s cozy spot with really welcoming owners.
- LUXURY: Hotel Mercier – This boutique centrally located and stylishly designed 4-star hotel has a beautiful lobby, lots of exposed wood, and cozy rooms with homey colors, plush beds, and wonderful rain showers. The lobby bar serves up some delicious cocktails too.
Amsterdam is pretty small so nothing is too far. The city is well connected by tram and a long walk is about forty five minutes. You just need to pick the vibe you want. I’d just recommend that you stay in Amsterdam for longer than the couple of days most travelers give it. There’s a lot to do here and I want people to love the city as much as I do!
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Book Your Trip to Amsterdam: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
If you’re looking for more budget places to stay, here is a complete list of my favorite hostels in Amsterdam.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for nomads)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Need a Guide?
Amsterdam has some really interesting tours. My favorite company is Take Walks. They have expert guides and can get you behind the scenes at the city’s best attractions. They’re my go-to walking tour company.
If you prefer food tours, Devour is the best company in the city. I always learn a ton and eat incredible food on their tours!
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They can save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on Amsterdam?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Amsterdam for even more planning tips!