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Affectionately known as the Venice of the North, Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ cultural and political hearth. This booming capital city of more than one million inhabitants is a fascinating destination, complete with a dazzling old town centre, an impressive museum quarter, plenty of shopping and dining facilities, and a host of tourist attractions. Even though much of downtown Amsterdam can be explored on foot, driving to the many landmarks surrounding the capital city is advised.
Who to Book With
The centre of Amsterdam is dotted with more than a dozen car hire firms, some of which are globally renowned operations like Hertz, National, Sixt and Avis. In addition, Amsterdam’s local rental suppliers are well-worth visiting too, such as Ouke Baas Autoverhuur and Adams Beheer. Instead of travelling all over town looking for vehicle rentals, make reservations online before reaching Holland’s capital city.
Best time to go
Being a major European destination, Amsterdam is suitable to explore at any time of the year. However, the winter months are quite cold and the days are relatively short, making it less convenient for tourists. The warmest time of the year, which falls between the months of July and August, is also the busiest, so prices generally increase across the city. Spring is also relatively busy due to the blossoming tulip fields in April and early May.
Need to Know Essentials
If tourists desire to rent cars in Amsterdam, several documents need to be prepared in advance:
- An original and valid driving license, more than one year old
- Passport or EU Identification card
- Rental confirmation sheet for pre-bookings
- Valid credit card
Driving within Amsterdam’s city centre should be avoided. The roads are mostly narrow laneways and often shared with cyclists and pedestrians. This makes navigation slow at the best of times. Parking is not only limited within the city, but also very expensive. The farther away from the downtown area tourists go, the easier and cheaper it is to find parking. If you want to explore the many sites farther away from central Amsterdam, car rental is recommended, as the roads are in great condition and safe to drive.
Thankfully, public transportation in Amsterdam is not only efficient and convenient, but also surprisingly inexpensive. The downtown area is served by several public transport options, including trams, trains, buses and taxis. Don’t forget that Amsterdam’s city centre is one of the best destinations in Europe for walking or cycling. As visitors move farther away from the heart of Holland’s capital, public transportation becomes more limited, so driving is recommended.
All travellers riding public transportation in Amsterdam will need to purchase the new contactless card known as OV-chipkaart. Most tourists choose to purchase a disposable card, which is only valid for a certain number of trips or hours and doesn’t incur a charging fee. Personal and anonymous cards can also be used, but these incur a fee of €7.50 plus at least €4 for travel validity. OV-chipkaarts can be bought at stations around the city, some hotels and shops like major news agents.
Taxis shouldn’t be used if travelling short distances in the city centre. As a matter of fact, most drivers will refuse to take passengers in the Old Town district, demand ridiculously high rates or simply take a longer route. Flagging down taxis on the street is not recommended, so head to the nearest rank or book cabs over the phone. The, Holland BV company is among the more reliable cab services operating in Amsterdam.
Buses are plentiful in the city and boast an extensive route system that connects to most areas inside and around Amsterdam. Gemeentevervoerbedrijf (GVB) operates the public bus services within the city. However, EBS and Connexxion are separate bus companies that provide services within Amsterdam and out to nearby destinations like Haarlem and Uithoorn. To travel on buses you will need an OV-chipkaart, the new ticketing framework used in the Dutch capital.
The city’s metro system includes four above ground train lines that pass through the centre of the capital. Centraal Station is the largest metro hub in Amsterdam, hosting most of the city’s lines. Trains are run by Gemeentevervoerbedrijf (GVB).
Like buses and trains, the tram system within Amsterdam is operated by Gemeentevervoerbedrijf (GVB). There are 16 tram lines found throughout the city, although they only run between the hours of 5:00 and midnight. Outside of these hours, buses provide transport where trams do not. Both regular tickets and OV-chipkaarts can be used on the tram network.
Although tourists will have a tremendous holiday exploring the city of Amsterdam in its entirety, visitors should also allow time to discover the outer areas of the capital. Amsterdam is located in the centre of the Netherlands, so with car hire in the city, tourists can head to a variety of interesting sites, towns and cities in northern or southern Holland. Destinations like Texel Island and Zaandam’s well-preserved historical highlights are just a short daytrip from the heart of Amsterdam.
Zaanse Schans - Located just 20 miles to the north of Amsterdam, near the town of Zaandam. This open-air museum is displayed in the style of a historic village, boasting old timber houses, windmills and operating craft houses. It is easy to wander around this beautiful site for an entire day, taking in the phenomenal culture of old Holland.
Texel - A remarkable island that can be easily reached from Amsterdam. Simply take the A9 directly north from the capital city to Den Helder, where a ferry awaits. The island is famous for its beautiful landscapes, which include sand dunes, beaches and some amazing lagoons. Visitors shouldn’t miss Eierland, home to more than 1,000 bird species.
Keukenhof - This should certainly be on your itinerary if visiting during the spring. Just 15 miles from Amsterdam, Keukenhof is the main attraction in the city of Lisse, as it is where the world famous tulip exhibitions are held for two months in spring. More than 800,000 visitors flock to this amusement park during spring, so be ready for crowds. Crowded or not, the blanket of tulips is a marvel to behold.