Are you heading to Amsterdam for the first time? Here is your first time guide to Amsterdam that breaks down where to stay, things to do, and where to eat.
Seeing Amsterdam and visiting the Netherlands during tulip season have been the top 5 experiences on my bucket list for so long. This past April, I visited Amsterdam for the first time. I’m so glad I’ve finally explored Amsterdam and seen the tulip fields in Lisse. And I’m thankful my friend and photographer Karya shared her prior experiences visiting Amsterdam to help plan this trip.
Where to Stay in Amsterdam: Hotel Van Gogh
Address: van de Veldestraat 5, 1071 CW Amsterdam, Netherlands
My friend Karya booked us a private room at Hotel van Gogh. This hotel offers both private rooms as well as hostel rooms. We loved that this hotel is in the middle of the Museum Quarter. We could walk to the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum in less than 10 minutes.
We stayed in a standard twin room, so we each got our own bed. The beds were comfortable, and the room was a fair size. It was a great location.
Things to Do in Amsterdam:
Stop by the I Amsterdam Visitor Centre to buy the I Amsterdam City Card
Purchasing the I Amsterdam City Card is a must on the list for your first time guide to Amsterdam, even if you’re only staying a few days. The I Amsterdam City Card allows access to city-wide transportation (the trams and subways are a significant way to get around the city) and more than 70 museums.
Suppose you’re arriving via train at Amsterdam Central Station. In that case, I recommend stopping by the I Amsterdam Store inside Amsterdam Central Station to purchase your I Amsterdam City Card. Karya and I initially made the mistake of going to the old I Amsterdam Store outside of Amsterdam Central Station. The new I Amsterdam Visitor Centre is INSIDE the building – you do not need to leave the train station to find the store.
Take a canal cruise
If you’ve purchased the I Amsterdam City Card, a canal tour is a part of the excursions covered with the card. The canal tour is a great way to learn some history and see the city’s canals.
Visit the Rijksmuseum
Address: Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam, Netherlands
In addition to the canal cruise, the I Amsterdam City Card gives you access to the Rijksmuseum. Founded in 1800, the Rijksmuseum houses more than 800 years of art and artifacts. This was my favorite museum we visited in Amsterdam.
Visit the Van Gogh Museum
Address: Museumplein 6, 1071 DJ Amsterdam, Netherlands
Nephew of Vincent van Gogh, Vincent Willem van Gogh (1890-1978) founded the Van Gogh Museum. Vincent established the Vincent van Gogh Foundation and worked with the State of the Netherlands to build the Van Gogh Museum. The museum opened to the public in 1973.
The Van Gogh Museum houses the most extensive collection of Van Gogh’s paintings, drawings, and letters. You can find Vincent van Gogh’s original works of art like Sunflowers and self-portraits like the Grey Felt Hat.
Admission to the Van Gogh Museum is not included in the I Amsterdam City Card. You must purchase tickets ahead of time before visiting the Van Gogh Museum. We found that buying tickets the day of was not an option. I recommend reserving your tickets online at least a few days before you decide to visit.
Stop by the Amsterdam Tulip Museum
Address: Prinsengracht 116, 1015 EA Amsterdam, Netherlands
Suppose you’re interested in learning more about Holland/the Netherlands’ long history with tulips. In that case, I recommend stopping by the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. It’s a small museum compared to the other museums in the area. Plus, this museum experience is covered with the I Amsterdam City Card.
Visit the Moco Museum
Address: Honthorststraat 20, 1071 DE Amsterdam, Netherlands
On the same block as the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum is the Moco Museum. This independent museum has a wide range of modern and contemporary art. You can find exhibits by Yayoi Kusama, Andy Warhol, Banksy, and more.
Reserve tickets ahead of time to visit Keukenhof
Address: Stationsweg 166A, 2161 AM Lisse, Netherlands
If you’re heading to Amsterdam in April, checking out Keukenhof is high on the things to do on the first time guide to Amsterdam. Keukenhof is the largest flower show in Europe and is in Lisse. This past year, Keukenhof was open from March 23rd-May 14th.
There are direct buses from Amsterdam to Keukenhof. We hopped on the Keukenhof Express Bus (Bus 852), and it took us straight to Keukenhof. I highly recommend purchasing a Keukenhof combination ticket if you’re staying in Amsterdam and want to take the day trip out to Keukenhof.
Wander through the Bloemenmarkt (Amsterdam Flower Market)
Address: Bloemenmarkt, Singel, Amsterdam, Netherlands
This iconic floating flower market opened in 1862. You can find fresh flowers, seeds, bulbs, and plants.
Where to Eat in Amsterdam:
Eat breakfast or brunch at Bakers & Roasters
Address: Eerste Jacob van Campenstraat 54, 1072 BH Amsterdam, Netherlands
We went to Bakers & Roasters for lunch on our first day in Amsterdam. A friend recommended this spot, and we’re so glad we stopped by. I ordered the matcha latte and Eggs Royale from the menu.
Eat a stroopwafel at van Wonderen Stroopwafels
Address: van Wonderen Stroopwafels, Kalverstraat, Amsterdam, Netherlands
If you’re in Amsterdam for the first time, I recommend trying a stroopwafel. van Wonderen Stroopwafels is in the main shopping area in Amsterdam. So, if you’re doing some shopping and need a snack, I recommend stopping here.
Stop by Rainbowls Amsterdam for a smoothie bowl
Address: Frans Halsstraat 40, 1072 BS Amsterdam, Netherlands
If you’re looking for something fresh and refreshing, I recommend grabbing a smoothie bowl at Rainbowls Amsterdam. Their smoothie bowls are both beautiful and healthy. We ended up grabbing a smoothie bowl for lunch one of the days.
Eat the best apple pie slice and drink mint tea at Café Winkle 43
Address: Noordermarkt 43, 1015 NA Amsterdam, Netherlands
If you’re looking for the best slice of apple pie, I highly recommend stopping by Café Winkle 43. Karya highly recommended we stop here on our first day in Amsterdam.
This spot is quite popular, so just know there is usually a line to be seated inside. There is more seating outside, so if you’re okay sitting outside, I recommend bringing a coat to enjoy your apple pie.
Grab matcha or coffee at Coffee District Willemsparkweg
Address: Willemsparkweg 8h, 1071 HD Amsterdam, Netherlands
Karya and I needed an afternoon matcha latte. We walked to Coffee District because it was only a short walk from our hotel. I loved my matcha latte. I recommend stopping by this coffee shop if you’re staying nearby.
Eat breakfast at Blushing
Address: Paulus Potterstraat 30A, 1071 DA Amsterdam, Netherlands
If you’re looking for a breakfast and coffee spot, I recommend stopping by Blushing. This restaurant was just on the corner of the street of our hotel, so it was an easy spot to swing by and grab breakfast before we explored Amsterdam.
What other things to do and places to eat would you add to a first time guide to Amsterdam?
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Thank you for reading!