Trams and buses are an ideal way of travelling around the centre. A PT Smart Card can be used for multiple journeys. Similarly, Amsterdam's underground metro system provides a cheap way to travel, although you lose out on the view. Ferries also travel the river heading to destinations north of the city. Ferries depart from behind Central Station.
Amsterdam is a city of bicycles and it's one of the most enjoyable, if hair-raising, ways of getting around the city. There are bike lanes on the right-hand side of the road to make things easier and many rental shops scattered around the city. Take care not to get the wheels stuck in the tramlines and wear a helmet.
Taxis are plentiful in Amsterdam, and easily hailed on the street. They can't always stop in the centre though, so it might be better to catch one from a rank, of which there are more than 50 around the city, all marked by a blue board. Taxis are metered and they don't charge if you are stuck in traffic.
Parking in Amsterdam's centre is something of a challenge. Added to this, the streets are narrow and clogged with traffic, trams and cyclists. However, compacts and Smart cars are still a great way of getting around and ideal for travellers wanting to venture further afield. All major rental companies have offices in the centre and at the airport.
The best time to visit Amsterdam is in April or May, when the tulips for which the country is famed are in full bloom, and before the crowds get too much in July and August. The summer can be hot but, like most of northern Europe, there's a strong chance of rain year-round. Winters are atmospheric but often very cold.
You can smoke marijuana in any of the 300+ coffee shops in Amsterdam that sell it. However, you can't smoke in other public places. Also, beware the strength of the weed here, and be sure not to leave any marijuana in your bag when crossing a border. The rest of Europe doesn't share the same liberal attitude as the Netherlands.
While the official language in the Netherlands is Dutch, almost everyone speaks fluent English – and probably one or two other languages as well. It's easy to spend your entire trip not having to reach for the phrase book or resort to sign language, though learning one or two greetings will please the locals and smooth the way in social settings.
In restaurants and cafés, service can sometimes be slow but tipping is still expected. Don't take it personally or let it stop you from tipping. Tax and service charges are normally included in the bill but you're expected to tip on top by adding around 5 per cent. If you really want to thank your waiting staff, a 10 per cent tip should do it.
Flying time is approximately 21 hours, 30 minutes from Sydney to Amsterdam. There will be at least one stopover with Qantas or Emirates.
Take one a flight from Melbourne and get to Amsterdam in approximately 21 hours. Qantas has daily flights.
From Perth you can fly to Amsterdam with Qantas or Cathay Pacific. Flying time is approximately 17 hours, 30 minutes and has at least one stopover.
Schipol airport has a train station beneath it. From here express trains leave for Amsterdam Central Station, Rotterdam and Breda. Slower, national trains also depart for destinations including Amsterdam City Centre, Amsterdam World Trade Centre and the Exhibition Centre. Journey time from the airport is approximately 25 minutes. You can transfer to other locations from the main station in Amsterdam centre.
Travellers can buy a Connexxion Amsterdam Tourist Ticket and take one of their regular buses from the airport plaza straight into the heart of Amsterdam. It's 19 euros for a return ticket. There are three alternative bus lines - Schiphol Sternet, Zuidtangent and Interliner - providing services from the airport to the centre as well as to other surrounding destinations.
The taxi rank at Schipol is located outside the exit to the arrivals terminal. Depending on the time of day, a taxi ride into the city centre will take as little as half an hour and will cost approximately 40 euros. There are several unofficial taxis touting for business, so it's advised to check the taxi is officially registered.
Most of the airport hotels provide a free shuttle bus. Contact your hotel to arrange pickup. To reach hotels in the city centre your best bet is to take the Connexxion hotel shuttle bus, which travels between the airport and more than 50 hotels in Amsterdam. The buses leave every 20 minutes. The Connexxion counter is in Arrival Hall 2.
The secret annex where Anne Frank and her family hid for two years from the Nazis, and where she wrote her famous diary, is a heart-breaking museum but an important one well worth a visit. Try to time your visit so that you get there an hour or two before closing, when the crowds are less hectic.
Amsterdam is famous for the canals that crisscross it. There's almost 100km of waterways to explore, either on foot or by boat, most of them lined with elegant buildings that house museums, galleries and hip cafes. A variety of tour operators offer different types of cruises, from romantic black tie dinners to history tours on open-top canal boats.
Grab a picnic basket and head to either the Amsterdamse Bos, one of the largest city parks in Europe, or to the Vondelpark in the city centre. There are cool cafés inside the park as well as the National Film Museum, which is actually a cinema too. During summer there's a programme of free performances as well as plays and concerts in the park.
This famous art museum displays more than 400 works of art by Rembrandt, Vermeer and other masters, as well as decorative arts including 17th century furniture and art objects. A visit offers a glimpse of what the interior of the canal houses looked like during the era in which Amsterdam first flourished as a centre of trade.
This café close to the centre is a much-loved local hangout, famed for a range of delicious items, including its Broodje Bert sandwich: Turkish bread stuffed with meatballs. It serves a range of burgers, sandwiches and snacks, ideal if you're looking to fill up after a night out or to energise you for a day of sight-seeing.
With a beautiful setting in one of the oldest parts of Amsterdam, Greetje provides one of the most authentic dining experiences in the city. With a focus on forgotten Dutch dishes prepared using only local organic produce, diners can sample exotic sounding fare such as Frysian sugar bread and Waterland Wealth (endive with melted duck liver and mash).
In the heart of one of the hippest areas of Amsterdam, De Pijp, this high-end yet unpretentious restaurant is consistently voted the best place to eat in the city. Though it's not a venue for those on a budget, it's worth splurging out here for special occasions and to enjoy a mouth-watering feast.
Imagine a German grandmother's living room in 1970s East Berlin. If retro furnishing is your thing – as well as German beer – you'll love the vibe in this unique café. It attracts a cool, young artsy crowd who come to enjoy the selection of beer and snacks, and to knit or take part in one of the open mic sessions.
This internationally famous club has shaken off its reputation for being a tourist trap and has recently reclaimed some of its cool, thanks mainly to the up and coming Dutch DJs who have started playing there. On a Sunday night the parties are legendary, with the tables moved to allow for dancing.
Once a squatted film school, OT301 is now recognised as 'official'. It's still got an air of anarchy about it and the underground feel remains. With a killer sound system, a smoke anywhere policy and cheap beer, it's a popular club for lovers of dubstep, old-school acid house and drum'n'bass.
Occupying the 7th floor of what was once a newspaper's office is the ultra-hip Canvas. It's an all-in-one cocktail bar, club and art gallery with an incredible roof top terrace. Music tends to vary and the art on the walls will be a talking point as much as the view.
By day a chilled-out art gallery on a quiet residential street, by night Delicatessen Zeeburg transforms into an intimate bar and music space. Squeeze inside this tiny venue (40-70 max.) and enjoy the cheap veggie food and cheaper beer. There's a programme of acoustic performances from local singer-songwriters, movie screenings and poetry readings.
Visit the medieval old centre. Start in Dam Square then wander the cobbled lanes of this historic area. Browse the boutiques of The Nine Streets before stopping for coffee or a beer in one of the coffeehouses. Finally take an eye-opening tour of the red light district for which the city is famed.
The area known as Jordaan entices visitors with its chic fashion and vintage boutiques, leafy canals, happening restaurants, galleries and bars. Shopping here is a treat. The area was once a working class neighbourhood and the buildings here harbour some beautiful inner courtyards. The Anne Frank Museum is close by and you can sample Holland's most famous dessert – apple pie - at Winkel.
Buy some herring – a traditional Dutch delicacy – and head to the Vondelpark in the centre to picnic alongside most of the other residents of the city. If you're lucky there'll be a free concert going on. If you're not, and it rains, head to the cinema inside the park. Idle away what's left of the afternoon at a canal-side café.
Cycle around the stunning Canal ring, taking in the tree-lined streets and beautiful 17th century houses. The museum quarter of Amsterdam provides plenty to sink your teeth into, including the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk. Afterwards, catch a movie at the art deco Tuschinski Theater close to the floating flower market.
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