Rick Steves Amsterdam & the Netherlands


By Rick Steves

By Gene Openshaw

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Bike cobblestone streets, cruise on charming canals, and stop and smell the tulips: experience the Netherlands with Rick Steves! Inside Rick Steves Amsterdam & the Netherlands you'll find:
  • Comprehensive coverage for spending a week or more exploring Amsterdam and the Netherlands
  • Rick's strategic advice on how to get the most out of your time and money, with rankings of his must-see favorites
  • Top sights and hidden gems, from the Van Gogh museum and Rembrandt's home workshop, to cozy "brown" cafés
  • How to connect with local culture: Explore Amsterdam by bicycle, sample distinctive Dutch cheeses, and chat with a friendly local over beer brewed from 1,000-year-old recipes
  • Beat the crowds, skip the lines, and avoid tourist traps with Rick's candid, humorous insight
  • The best places to eat, sleep, and relax over a pint
  • Self-guided walking tours of lively neighborhoods and incredible museums
  • Detailed maps for exploring on the go
  • Useful resources including a packing list, a Dutch phrase book, a historical overview, and recommended reading
  • Over 500 bible-thin pages include everything worth seeing without weighing you down
  • Complete, up-to-date information on Amsterdam, Haarlem, Delft, Alkmaar and Zaanse Schans, Edam, Volendam, Marken, Hoorn, Enkhuizen, the Historic Triangle, Flevoland, Keukenhof, Aalsmeer, Leiden, The Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Arnhem, and more
Make the most of every day and every dollar with Rick Steves Amsterdam & the Netherlands.

Spending less than a week in Amsterdam? Try Rick Steves Pocket Amsterdam.



The Netherlands at a Glance

Map: Map Legend






Map: Top Destinations in the Netherlands



Traveling as a Temporary Local

Rattling your bike over cobbles, past a line of gabled houses reflected in a mirror-smooth canal...it’s just like you imagined it.

This book presents the best of Amsterdam and the Netherlands—its great cities, small towns, fine food, rich history, and sensuous art. You’ll experience both the quaintness of the countryside as well as the modern scene in the Netherlands’ forward-thinking urban centers.

This book covers the predictable biggies while mixing in a healthy dose of Back Door intimacy. In Amsterdam you can see Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers...and climb through Captain Vincent’s tiny houseboat museum. Besides the city’s many historic sights, you’ll explore everyday neighborhoods, with their chiming carillons, cannabis coffeeshops, and one-of-a-kind fashion boutiques. Beyond Amsterdam, you’ll discover the hidden charms of Haarlem, where a market bustles around a historic church. The Hague has Vermeer paintings in its top-notch museums, while placid Delft is a Vermeer painting come to life.

Because transportation is a snap, much of the country is an easy day-trip from anywhere. There’s no end of cozy towns—Edam, Alkmaar, Hoorn, and on and on—as well as open-air folk museums. Along the way, you’ll meet intriguing people who will show you how to swallow a pickled herring, paddle a canoe through polder waterways, or slice off a hunk of cheese from a giant wheel. It’s as if the tourist clichés of the region—whirring windmills, Dutch Masters, dike hikes, and tulips—all come to life in the Netherlands.

Along with sightseeing, this book gives you tips on how to save money, plan your time, ride public transportation, and avoid lines at the busiest sights. You’ll also get recommendations on hotels, restaurants, and entertainment.

This book is selective, including only the top sights. The best is, of course, only my opinion. But after spending much of my life exploring and researching Europe, I’ve developed a sixth sense for what travelers enjoy.

Use this legend to help you navigate the maps in this book.

Amsterdam and the Netherlands are ready for you. Sample a little, then a little more.


Rick Steves Amsterdam & the Netherlands is a personal tour guide in your pocket. Better yet, it’s actually two tour guides in your pocket: The co-author of this book is Gene Openshaw. Since our first “Europe through the gutter” trip together as high-school buddies in the 1970s, Gene and I have been exploring the wonders of the Old World. An inquisitive historian and lover of European culture, Gene wrote most of this book’s self-guided museum tours and neighborhood walks. Together, Gene and I keep this book up-to-date and accurate (though for simplicity, from this point “we” will shed our respective egos and become “I”).

This book is organized by destination. Each is a mini-vacation on its own, filled with exciting sights, strollable neighborhoods, affordable places to stay, and memorable places to eat.

The first half of this book focuses on Amsterdam, Haarlem, and Delft, and contains the following chapters:

The Netherlands offers an introduction to this fascinating land, including its long fight against the sea.

Orientation to Amsterdam includes specifics on public transportation, helpful hints, local tour options, easy-to-read maps, and tourist information. The “Planning Your Time” section suggests a schedule for how to best use your limited time.

Sights in Amsterdam describes the top attractions and includes their cost and hours.

Self-Guided Walks and Tours take you through characteristic neighborhoods and interesting museums. In Amsterdam, these include walks through the city center, Red Light District, and Jordaan neighborhood, plus tours of the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, and more. In nearby Haarlem, tour the Grote Kerk and Frans Hals Museum. In Delft and Rotterdam, take the informative city walks.

Sleeping in Amsterdam describes my favorite hotels, from good-value deals to cushy splurges.

Eating in Amsterdam serves up a range of options, from inexpensive cafés to fancy restaurants.

Smoking covers Amsterdam’s best “coffeeshops,” which openly sell marijuana.

Amsterdam with Children includes my top recommendations for keeping your kids (and you) happy.

Shopping in Amsterdam gives you tips for shopping painlessly and enjoyably, without letting it overwhelm your vacation or ruin your budget.

Entertainment in Amsterdam is your guide to fun, including music, theater, comedy, movies, and more.

Amsterdam Connections outlines your options for traveling to destinations by train, bus, and plane (with information on getting to and from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport).

Several chapters on Haarlem cover the highlights of this inviting Dutch town. If you’d rather base in a small town and day-trip to Amsterdam, Haarlem is a good choice.

The Delft chapters introduce you to the charms of this well-preserved city with a youthful atmosphere. Delft is another good home base, especially if you’ll be day-tripping to The Hague and Rotterdam.

Day Trips, the second half of this book, has chapters on destinations to the north, south, and east of Amsterdam, ranging from cities—The Hague, Leiden, Rotterdam, and Utrecht—to sojourns into the Dutch countryside to see world-class art near Arnhem, quaint villages such as Edam and Marken, and open-air museums such as Enkhuizen.

The History chapter gives you a quick overview of Dutch history and a timeline of major events.

Practicalities is a traveler’s tool kit, with my best travel tips and advice about money, sightseeing, sleeping, eating, staying connected, and transportation (trains, buses, car rentals, driving, and flights). There’s also a list of recommended books and films.

The appendix has nuts-and-bolts information, including useful phone numbers and websites, a festival list, a climate chart, a handy packing checklist, and Dutch survival phrases.

Browse through this book, choose your favorite destinations, and link them up. Then have a fantastisch trip! Traveling like a temporary local, you’ll get the absolute most out of every mile, minute, and dollar. As you visit places I know and love, I’m happy that you’ll be meeting some of my favorite Dutch people.


This section will help you get started planning your trip—with advice on trip costs, when to go, and what you should know before you take off.


Your trip to the Netherlands is like a complex play—it’s easier to follow and really appreciate on a second viewing. While no one does the same trip twice to gain that advantage, reading this book before your trip accomplishes much the same thing.

Design an itinerary that enables you to visit the various sights at the best possible times. Note festivals, holidays, specifics on sights (such as days when sights are closed or most crowded), and crowd-beating strategies. For example, to avoid the lines, you can reserve ahead for Amsterdam’s major sights—the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and Anne Frank House. To get between destinations smoothly, read the tips in Practicalities on taking trains and buses, or renting a car and driving. A smart trip is a puzzle—a fun, doable, and worthwhile challenge.

When you’re plotting your itinerary, strive for a mix of intense and relaxed stretches. To maximize rootedness, minimize one-night stands. It’s worth taking a long drive after dinner (or a train ride with a dinner picnic) to get settled into a town for two nights. Every trip—and every traveler—needs slack time (laundry, picnics, people-watching, and so on). Pace yourself. Assume you will return.

Reread this book as you travel and visit local tourist information offices (abbreviated as TI in this book). Upon arrival in a new town, lay the groundwork for a smooth departure; get the schedule for the train or bus that you’ll take when you depart. Drivers can find out the best route to their next destination.

Update your plans as you travel. You can carry a small mobile device (phone, tablet, laptop) to find out tourist information, learn the latest on sights (special events, tour schedules, etc.), book tickets and tours, make reservations, reconfirm hotels, research transportation connections, and keep in touch with your loved ones. If you don’t want to bring a pricey device, you can use guest computers at hotels and make phone calls from landlines.

Enjoy the friendliness of the Dutch people. Connect with the culture. Set up your own quest to find the best salted herring or canal boat ride. Slow down and be open to unexpected experiences. Ask questions—most locals are eager to point you in their idea of the right direction. Keep a notepad in your pocket for planning your day and organizing your thoughts. Wear your money belt, learn the currency, and figure out how to estimate prices in dollars. Those who expect to travel smart, do.


Five components make up your trip costs: airfare, surface transportation, room and board, sightseeing and entertainment, and shopping and miscellany.

Airfare: A basic, round-trip flight from the US to Amsterdam can cost, on average, about $1,000-2,000 total, depending on where you fly from and when (cheaper in winter). Consider saving time and money in Europe by flying into one city and out of another; for instance, into Amsterdam and out of Paris. If you’re sticking to the Netherlands, you’re never more than about two hours from Amsterdam’s airport. Overall, Kayak.com is the best place to start searching for flights on a combination of mainstream and budget carriers.

Surface Transportation: For getting around, you’re best off enjoying the Netherland’s excellent and affordable train system. Trains leave at least hourly between its major cities. It costs about $20 for a ticket from Amsterdam to Rotterdam. If you’ll be renting a car, allow $200 per week, not including tolls, gas, and supplemental insurance. If you’ll be keeping the car for three weeks or more, look into leasing, which can save you money on insurance and taxes. Car rentals and leases are cheapest if arranged from the US.

If you’re staying within the Netherlands and relying on trains for transportation, you’ll save money by simply buying tickets as you go. But if you’ll be traveling elsewhere in Europe, consider getting a rail pass (these normally must be purchased outside Europe) or taking a cheap flight, as budget airlines can be cheaper than taking the train (check www.skyscanner.com for intra-European flights).

For more on public transportation and car rental, see “Transportation” in Practicalities.

Room and Board: You can thrive in the Netherlands on $125 a day per person for room and board (more for Amsterdam). This allows $20 for lunch, $30 for dinner, and $70 for lodging (based on two people splitting the cost of a $140 double room that includes breakfast). That leaves you $5 for friets or chocolate. To live and sleep more elegantly, I’d propose a budget of $145 per day per person ($20 for lunch, $40 for dinner, and $80 each for a $160 hotel double with breakfast). Students and tightwads can enjoy the Netherlands for as little as $60 a day ($30 per bed, $30 for meals and snacks).

Sightseeing and Entertainment: In big cities, figure about $15-20 per major sight (Rijks and Van Gogh museums); $6-10 for minor ones (climbing church towers or windmills); $10-18 for guided walks, boat tours, and bike rentals; and $30-60 for splurge experiences such as concerts, special art exhibits, big-bus tours, and guided canoe trips. An overall average of $25 a day works for most people. Don’t skimp here. After all, this category is the driving force behind your trip—you came to sightsee, enjoy, and experience the Netherlands.

Shopping and Miscellany: Figure $1-2 per postcard, tea, or ice-cream cone, and $5 per beer. Shopping can vary in cost from nearly nothing to a small fortune. Good budget travelers find that this category has little to do with assembling a trip full of lifelong and wonderful memories.


With affordable flights from the US, minimal culture shock, almost no language barrier, and a well-organized tourist trade, the Netherlands is a good place to start a European trip. Virtually every city I mention is within an hour (or so) train ride from centrally located Amsterdam. The best home-base cities are Amsterdam, Haarlem, and Delft.

So much to see, so little time. How to choose? Depending on the length of your trip, and taking geographic proximity into account, here are my recommended priorities:

2-3 days: Amsterdam
4 days, add: Delft
5-6 days, add: Haarlem, The Hague, Rotterdam, and/or Leiden
7-9 days, add: Towns north of Amsterdam such as Alkmaar, Edam/Waterland, Hoorn/Enkhuizen, and more
10-11 days, add: Arnhem (with its Kröller-Müller and open-air folk museums), Utrecht, and possible overnight in Otterlo
12 days, add: If you have a car, it’s worth exploring Flevoland.

This includes nearly everything on the map on the next page. If you don’t have time to see it all, prioritize according to your interests. With more time, add more Amsterdam, or dip down into Belgium (covered in my Rick Steves Belgium: Bruges, Brussels, Antwerp & Ghent guidebook).


Although Amsterdam can be plagued by crowds, the long days, lively festivals, and sunny weather make summer a great time to visit. It’s rarely too hot for comfort.

Peak Season: Amsterdam is surprisingly crowded—and hotel prices can be correspondingly high—in late March, April, and May, when the tulip fields are flowering in full glory. Seasonal conferences can also drive up prices in September in Amsterdam. July and August have typical summer crowds.

Shoulder Season: Late spring and fall are pleasant, with generally mild weather and lighter crowds (except during holiday weekends—see here).

Winter Season: Travel from late October through mid-March is cold and wet in this region, as coastal winds whip through these low, flat countries. It’s fine for visiting Amsterdam, but smaller towns and countryside sights feel dreary and lifeless. Some sights close for lunch, TIs keep shorter hours, and some tourist activities (like English-language windmill tours) vanish altogether.


Your trip is more likely to go smoothly if you plan ahead. Check this list of things to arrange while you’re still at home.

You need a passport—but no visa or shots—to travel in the Netherlands. You may be denied entry into certain European countries if your passport is due to expire within three months of your ticketed date of return. Get it renewed if you’ll be cutting it close. It can take up to six weeks to get or renew a passport (for more on passports, see www.travel.state.gov). Pack a photocopy of your passport in your luggage in case the original is lost or stolen.

Book rooms well in advance, especially if you’ll be traveling during peak season (late March-May and Sept) or any major holidays (see here).

Call your debit- and credit-card companies to let them know the countries you’ll be visiting, to ask about fees, request your PIN code (allow time for it to be mailed to you), and more. See here for details.

Do your homework if you want to buy travel insurance. Compare the cost of the insurance to the likelihood of your using it and your potential loss if something goes wrong. Also, check whether your existing insurance (health, homeowners, or renters) covers you and your possessions overseas. For more tips, see www.ricksteves.com/insurance.

The big three museums in Amsterdam—Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh, and Anne Frank—can come with long lines during high season. Consider buying tickets online from home (for details, see here).

If you plan to hire a local guide, reserve ahead by email. Popular guides can get booked up.

If you’re bringing a mobile device, download any apps you might want to use on the road, such as translators, maps, and transit schedules. Check out Rick Steves Audio Europe, featuring audio tours of major sights, hours of travel interviews on the Netherlands, and more (described earlier).

Check the Rick Steves guidebook updates page for any recent changes to this book (www.ricksteves.com/update).

Because airline carry-on restrictions are always changing, visit the Transportation Security Administration’s website (www.tsa.gov) for a list of what you can bring on the plane and for the latest security measures (including screening of electronic devices, which you may be asked to power up).

Traveling as a Temporary Local

We travel all the way to the Netherlands to enjoy differences—to become temporary locals. You’ll experience frustrations. Certain truths that we find “God-given” or “self-evident,” such as cold beer, ice in drinks, bottomless cups of coffee, and bigger being better, are suddenly not so true. One of the benefits of travel is the eye-opening realization that there are logical, civil, and even better alternatives. A willingness to go local ensures that you’ll enjoy a full dose of Dutch hospitality.

Europeans generally like Americans. But if there is a negative aspect to the Dutch image of Americans, it’s that we are loud, wasteful, ethnocentric, too informal (which can seem disrespectful), and a bit naive.

My Dutch friends place a high value on speaking quietly in restaurants and on trains. Listen while on the bus or in a restaurant—the place can be packed, but the decibel level is low. Try to adjust your volume accordingly to show respect for their culture.

While the Dutch look bemusedly at some of our Yankee excesses—and worriedly at others—they nearly always afford individual travelers all the warmth we deserve.

Judging from all the happy feedback I receive from travelers who have used this book, it’s safe to assume you’ll enjoy a great, affordable vacation—with the finesse of an independent, experienced traveler.

Thanks, and have a goede vakantie!


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On Sale
Apr 4, 2023
Page Count
512 pages
Rick Steves

Rick Steves

About the Author

Since 1973, Rick Steves has spent about four months a year exploring Europe. His mission: to empower Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. Rick produces a best-selling guidebook series, a public television series, and a public radio show, and organizes small-group tours that take over 30,000 travelers to Europe annually.  He does all of this with the help of more than 100 well-traveled staff members at Rick Steves’ Europe in Edmonds, WA (near Seattle). When not on the road, Rick is active in his church and with advocacy groups focused on economic and social justice, drug policy reform, and ending hunger. To recharge, Rick plays piano, relaxes at his family cabin in the Cascade Mountains, and spends time with his son Andy and daughter Jackie. Find out more about Rick at http://www.ricksteves.com and on Facebook.

Learn more about this author

Gene Openshaw

About the Author

Since 1973, Rick Steves has spent about four months a year exploring Europe. His mission: to empower Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. Rick produces a best-selling guidebook series, a public television series, and a public radio show, and organizes small-group tours that take over 30,000 travelers to Europe annually. He does all of this with the help of more than 100 well-traveled staff members at Rick Steves' Europe in Edmonds, WA (near Seattle). When not on the road, Rick is active in his church and with advocacy groups focused on economic and social justice, drug policy reform, and ending hunger. To recharge, Rick plays piano, relaxes at his family cabin in the Cascade Mountains, and spends time with his son Andy, daughter Jackie, and his new grandson…baby Atlas. Find out more about Rick at http://www.ricksteves.com and on Facebook.

Connect with Rick:
twitter: @RickSteves
instagram: ricksteveseurope

Gene Openshaw has co-authored a dozen Rick Steves books, specializing in writing walks and tours of Europe's cities, museums, and cultural sites. He also contributes to Rick's public television series, produces tours for Rick Steves Audio Europe, and is a regular guest on Rick's public radio show. Outside of the travel world, Gene has co-authored The Seattle Joke Book. As a composer, Gene has written a full-length opera called Matter, a violin sonata, and dozens of songs. He lives near Seattle with his daughter, enjoys giving presentations on art and history, and roots for the Mariners in good times and bad.

Learn more about this author