First time in Amsterdam? Prepare yourself for an explosion of colours, culture and variety when visiting Amsterdam.

Know these travel tips for Amsterdam to prepare for your travels there. 

What to do in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Visit markets in Amsterdam

If it’s your first time to Amsterdam, you’ll absolutely LOVE visiting these food, flower and second-hand markets. Here are but some to visit:

1. Noordermarkt

ONLY open on Saturdays! A farmer’s market selling organic food.

2. Bloemenmarkt

Flower market

flower market, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time

flower market, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time

3. Albert Cuypmarkt

My favourite market because they have food stalls as well as knick knacks e.g. bags, winter accessories, clothing at affordable prices!

4. Waterlooplein

Flea market selling second-hand goods and antiques.

shopping second hand vintage, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time

Go shopping in Amsterdam

amsterdam building shopping street, amsterdam famous for

Amsterdam, Netherlands

You want to be hanging around Dam Square. You can find never-ending shopping on the streets surrounding Dam Square. Brands such as Forever 21, H&M, Esprit, Urban Outfitters, Timberland, Body Shop.

  1. 9 Straatjes (Nine Streets) – is a lovely trendy boutique shopping area, a grid of 3 streets crossing 3 canals, one-off and vintage shops but also Paul Smith and other big names including Amsterdam Scotch & Soda (local version of Hollister / A&F, v good )- good for browsing and a wonder, everywhere has lovely cafes to stop.

  2. PC Hooftstraat– the designer street like old Bond St, massiveG Star Raw shop at the top of the road, and Viktor & Rolf – the most famous Dutch brands, also Tiffany etc.

  3. Kalverstraat – is the Oxford St, big versions of all the high street style shops, it crosses Dam Square – not somewhere I would spend too much time on a weekend.

  4. Cornelis Schutstraat – a lovely up-market shopping street in Oud Zuid is a small but lovely place to wander.

Check out the Red Light District

Red light district, amsterdam famous for, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time

In case you can’t tell… They are condoms!

Condoms in every imaginable cartoon, hell yeah.

The Red Light District is quite possibly the best part of Amsterdam, and what Amsterdam is most famous for. Who knows, you’ll be smoking weed for the first time in Amsterdam too, since it’s so commonplace. 😛

The ‘XXX’ sign is one of Amsterdam’s trademark. It indicates the Red Light District.

Thanks to Florian, we found the Blue Light area that we never knew existed! Who would have known they are hidden in this red light district?! It was pretty amusing looking at the transvestites bathed in blue light. chuckles

It surely is entertaining peering into the windows of this district. We spotted one really steamy window pane and sneered. I did what I do best – checking out them chicks. 😉

Weather in Amsterdam, Netherlands

amsterdam bridge reflection summer, Red light district, amsterdam famous for, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time, amsterdam weather

Also learned that Netherlands is very flat hence the strong winter winds. 

Weather is unpredictable at best. It’d be bright and clear one minute and a downpour or snow-pour in the next, for about 30 minutes or so, then (thankfully) it’ll clear.

Getting Around Amsterdam, Netherlands

Public transport in Amsterdam is a pain when I first went to Amsterdam for the first time. I tried to master it but the long names don’t help me one bit.

The best way? Go on foot, since everywhere in the city centre is reachable by walking!

Otherwise, being the cycling capital of the world, you can definitely get around easily 

Interesting Facts about Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam has a really small population of 800,000.

Already the tourist numbers way surpass this population, at 3 million per year.

Amsterdam’s city branding is EVERYWHERE.

Reminds me a lot of New York‘s. You see “I Amsterdam” plastered on every imaginable souvenir item.

There are 165 canals in Amsterdam alone!

Love every single house along the canal. These long house boats on the river are also liveable. It can occupy up to 80 square metres, and apparently the rent is exorbitant!

amsterdam houses, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time

How do you bring up furniture up the narrow houses along the canal?

Because the houses along the canal are very narrow, it is difficult to move bulky items (e.g. furniture) up the house.

Hence, at the tip of every house, a hook is installed, where former sailors would use a pulley system to pull the items up.

Because of this, most houses are tilted forward. Interesting fact! I never noticed these details until a local shared it with me.

amsterdam building house, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time

They space upwards instead of sideways.

This means not having to pay extra tax tax for a larger area of the house, since tax is calculated based on area of land occupied.

Most of the houses are slanted and never parallel to the ground.

That is because Amsterdam was built on marshland. So, houses slant and lean on the neighbouring house, which leans on another. Funny how they won’t collapse! Once I found out about this, I cannot help but notice the off-kilter houses lining the canals. Ha!

These houses used to be made from wood, but because wood catches fire, most houses along the canals are made of bricks now.

Bike rides, amsterdam famous for, amsterdam building house, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time


Add to the lit lamp posts along the canals at night, it lends such a romantic feel to it, especially when it was snowing heavily on the first night we arrived! I would brave the cold to soak in the sight once more…

amsterdam cathedral canal, Bike rides, amsterdam famous for, amsterdam building house, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time

The trees by the river are not for decorative purpose.

They are elm trees, used to hold the canal in place with its roots.

graffiti, street art, amsterdam famous for, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time

LOVE this street with all the vibrant colours. I was so happy when RQ and I chanced upon all the graffiti. We easily dubbed it one of our best highlights in Amsterdam. Every brick was shouting in different colours at me.

So love-lock bridges don’t solely exist in Paris…


This building below is the widest house by the canal aka most expensive.

Know why? They used to own a weapon & trade business.

amsterdam famous for, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time

This restaurant below, In de Waag, was part of a border that allows people into Amsterdam.

Now it’s transformed into an expensive restaurant in the middle of a square at Nieuwmarkt.

in de waag, amsterdam famous for, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time

A temple actually exists in Amsterdam, right in the heart of the Chinatown street.

This goes to show what a cosmopolitan city Amsterdam really is.

chinese restaurant, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time

These cars are supremely tiny they can fit & squeeze in at any corner of any tiny little street. Once we saw 2 humungous guys sandwiched in this car- it was such a hilarious sight! I’m pretty sure I could drive that car too… It looks like a toy.

amsterdam famous for, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time

There are 1753 bridges in Amsterdam.

That is almost 3 times more than Venice! Below shows a crowned bridge, the Blue Bridge. It’s situated near Intercontinental Hotel, which explains its royalty.

blue bridge, royal bridge, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time

The Dutch are one of the tallest people in the world.

I tried going on a Dutch hunt but it was so so difficult to identify a genuine Dutch because everywhere we go, tourists infiltrates! So based on Florian’s description, a stereotyped version of a typical Dutch male is: tall with long hair swept behind. Haha!

The first gay marriage in the world happened at Waterlooplein, Amsterdam.

Gay flags are displayed proudly at a couple of shops here.

My tour guide claims Amsterdam is a pretty liberal and diverse place that is comparable to NYC. But I’m skeptical about that after having witnessed New York for 14 days.

I haven’t seen any peculiar or queer living beings in Amsterdam either, except on 1 encounter, where a guy wore matching blue with white stars pyjamas & socks on the street.

Amsterdam is a predominantly black population.

This is true where I lived, in the residential neighbourhood.


So we were approached by a Singaporean, who noticed our accents. Turns out he’s here on exchange too at Delft and travelling alone in Amsterdam. I thought that was the end of our brief encounter with a Singaporean in a foreign city.

Fancy bumping into Christopher again, as I was leaving Amsterdam! It was unbelievably coincident. I just happened to turn around to have my last wistful glance at this beautiful city that I may never step foot in again and I came face to face with this familiar face!

amsterdam map, amsterdam famous for, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time

Street names were a little confusing ‘cuz Dutch words are so long. Streets appear long too ‘cuz they are shaped like a horseshoe surrounding the Centraal Station. (observe map above!)

Another strange but noteworthy phenomenon is that the shops are open the latest on Thursday (9pm), and close the earliest on Sundays (6.30pm).

Apparently, Tuesdays and Thursdays are the days for students to spend late nights here. Saturdays are also the party nights. I spent 3.5 days and I found our itinerary to be pretty packed.

I love looking at old couples holding hands and walking down the streets of Amsterdam. I thought the photo below with the couple’s silhouette against the (rare) strong sun was particularly mesmerising.

amsterdam street couple sunset, amsterdam famous for, Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time

Average spend in Amsterdam

Travelling experts have made a study to see what exactly is the average amount spent by travellers in Amsterdam while taking in the full experience of the city.

This reflects what everyday travellers tend to spend in Amsterdam. Think mid-range – most of the major attractions, a few cab rides, maybe a big night out, and a bit of shopping on the side.

It doesn’t include the cost of hotels or car hire in Amsterdam as these are often booked in advance.

Eating Out: €34 per day

Entertainment (tours & attractions): €34 per day

Transport: €20 per day

Shopping: €48 per day

Want to see where it all goes? Read on!

Cost of Entertainment in Amsterdam

Real Traveler Average Daily Spend: €34

Rijksmuseum – €17.50

Vondelpark – Free

The Jordaan – Free

Lovers (boat trip) – €10

“Staff Pick” Over the Edge Swing €17.50

Cost of Food and Drink in Amsterdam

Real Traveller Average Daily Spend: €34

“WeSwapper Favourite” The Pancake Bakery €8 (Average traveler transaction)

Wildschut – €30 per head

Rijsttafel (a type of Indonesian food) – pricey vary

Cup of coffee – €2.50

“Staff pick” Loetje – €59 (average traveler transaction)

Cost of Transport in Amsterdam

Real Traveller Average Daily Spend: €20

Taxi from airport to the center: €45

Train from airport to city center: €4.20

Bus to Venice dock from the airport: €9

24hr water bus pass: €20

Cost of a Shopping Trip in Amsterdam

Real Traveller Average Daily Spend: €48

Recommended number of days in Amsterdam

amsterdam itinerary, first time in amsterdam, visiting amsterdam for the first time

4 full days, if you want to do everything I listed at a leisurely pace yet be able to people-watch and leave time to shop. If not, 3 is enough.

Strangely, we always have the 7pm-8pm block where we’ll find ourselves with nothing to do. Done with dinner but too early for drinks.

We didn’t have time to people-watch, on hindsight. The only time I did that was when I was in the car on the way to the Centraal Station when leaving Amsterdam… :/ It was then that I saw how the cyclists do their thing, how girls cycle in heels without effort, how they carry their handbags and still were able to cycle so effortlessly. Didn’t club nor try their “specialty” too, which is a pity.

All in all, my first impression of Amsterdam is that it’s a beautiful city with beautiful people, both inside and out. There was a time when a passer-by called out “beautiful ladies!” to us as we strutted past him along the streets. They all have good hearts. 🙂 Everyone dresses well here.

This was my first trip out of France and first time to Amsterdam. I’m so glad RQ and I managed to make it happen. We were planning it months before I left for France (on NYE).

I will miss the tourist crowd that’s absent where I lived in Rouen, France.
I will miss the rows of shopping stores that make the whole place so lively.
I will miss conversing in English.

Being brought back into a land of my native language made me realise how I’ve become more acute to body language when you don’t understand the language being conversed.

That said, I hope to be able to understand French better by the end of this trip!

amsterdam itinerary, first time in amsterdam, visiting amsterdam for the first time

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
– Florian.

Oh, how I will miss you too. Who knows when I’ll see you again.

Train from Rouen, France-Amsterdam: 140 € return

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30 Jan 2015, Fri – 3 Feb 2015, Tue
Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

An explorer at heart, the world is Isabel's playground. She enjoys seizing every moment exploring every hideout and doing the unimaginable, like bungee jumping in Phuket and couchsurfing in Europe. If she had wings, she’d definitely be soaring right now. Also a fitness trainer, if she’s not at the gym, you can find her doing yoga or rock climbing! Read more about her on

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