Amsterdam is an ideal city for a solo traveler to visits. The Dutch people’s down to earth, rather egalitarian social attitudes and curiosity about foreigners means people are open, friendly, and welcoming to tourists.
The city itself is relatively small and compact, too, meaning it doesn’t take long to get familiar with the main landmarks and general layout, so you can feel confident navigating the city on your own.
For a solo traveler, the Netherlands is cosy and accessible, with a variety of cultural attractions, great food, lively city life, and a wealth of year-round events to keep you busy. Here are some Amsterdam solo travel tips for you.
Arriving in Amsterdam
To get from Schiphol airport to the city center, your best option is to take the train. As you walk out of the arrivals area, the airport integrates with the train station fluidly: you don’t even have to go outside to catch the train.
Trains are accessed by escalators to the platforms below ground level, and tickets can be bought from yellow ticket machines standing in the airport plaza, or from the staffed ticket window. Tickets to the city centre cost €5.30 one way, and trains take about 20 minutes.
Alternatively, a taxi to the centre will cost you about €50, and can be found outside the terminals. Some hotels offer airport shuttle buses, so it’s worth asking before you arrive.
Where to Stay in Amsterdam
Finding a great area to stay in Amsterdam is relatively easy; the city has a lot to offer, and caters to visitors of different budgets. If you want to stay as close to the city centre, stay away from the tony townhouses of The Nine Streets area, and consider Centrum or the Jordaan.
Centrum (Binnenstadt) is the most central district in Amsterdam, and has all the conveniences inner-city life provides. Across a canal from the main train station, you are immediately surrounded by boat companies offering tours on the canals, big shops, and fast food restaurants.
It can feel very touristy, especially around the city’s main square, Dam Square, and in De Wallen (the Red Light District). Staying in this area is convenient, but not charming.
The Jordaan is one of the most picturesque neighbourhoods in the city. Originally a district for boat and dock workers built in the 17th century, and then effectively a slum, it is now one of the most sought-after areas in Amsterdam.
Higgledy-piggledy, yet still chic, houses lean against each other and over the canals, creating an “only in Amsterdam” look and feel. Here you can find bed and breakfast and guest houses for a cosy and affordable stay.
There are many cafes, restaurants and shops throughout the Jordaan, and another great market called Noordermarkt. Even if you don’t stay here, it’s certainly worth exploring.
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Things to Do in Amsterdam for Solo Travelers
There are so many things to do in Amsterdam and so many places for a solo traveler to visit. You can take your pick from a glut of museums, galleries, and historical landmarks, and then keep your explorations going on the many picturesque streets to wander.
There is also some great shopping and entertainment, and lekker (tasty) food to be found everywhere. Here are some of the things you can do, and places to visit while in Amsterdam.
- Amsterdam has some of the best museums in the world, including the not-to-be-missed Rijksmuseum, where you could easily spend an entire day, and the nearby Van Gogh Museum. These museums get busy during the day, so buying tickets in advance is recommended.
- The Anne Frank House is another of Amsterdam’s most popular things to do. Located on the Prinsengracht canal, this is the house in which Anne and seven others hid from the Nazis for more than two years, before finally being discovered and deported to a concentration camp.
- De Wallen (the Red Light District) is one of the most famous areas in Amsterdam, and offers an eye-opening introduction to the Netherlands’ liberal attitudes toward sex work. Brothels, sex clubs and escort services are legal in the Netherlands, but are licensed and the sex workers should never be younger than 21. While this area is safe to walk through, we suggest going during the day or in the evening, rather than late at night, when the drunkenness of others might become a nuisance.
- A canal cruise is another great way to see Amsterdam, especially if you have nice weather. There are many, many canal boat operators to choose from; you won’t have trouble finding one in the city center!
- The Negen Straatjes, or Nine Streets, takes up the southern end of the Jordaan between the Singel and Prinsengracht. These blocks are packed with boutiques and small shops, cafes, beauty salons, supermarkets, and the obligatory weed-smoking coffee shops. It’s a lively, cheerful place to browse independent shops or drink coffee in a cosy café.
- In Centrum, the city’s oldest building, Oude Kerk (“Old Church”) is a nice stop. Consecrated as the Roman Catholic St Nicholas Church in 1306, this beautiful building now functions as a cultural centre, with exhibitions, concerts, discussions and screenings. It has retained its impressively distinctive atmosphere, sharply in contrast with the busy Red Light District it sits in, and hosts very special projects and contemporary art. Entrance is €10.
- If you’re feeling brave, rent a bike to get around during your time in Amsterdam. Or, better yet, ask your hotel or guesthouse: some places rent bikes directly, or provide them free to guests. It’s an inexpensive, fun way to get around this bike-crazy city, although we wouldn’t recommend it if you’re not already very comfortable on two wheels!
If you want to get off-the-beaten path in terms of things to do, here are some (less known) suggestions for Amsterdam:
The Eye Film Museum sits on the river IJ (pronounced “eye”) and is a short ferry ride from Centraal Station (ferries across the IJ run 24 hours, as frequently as every 4 minutes, and are free).
The award-winning architecture is striking, and contains exhibitions, an extensive archive of film and animation, and cinema rooms which screen Dutch and international films everyday.
The café/restaurant has a great menu, too, and a unique open space with views over the water. The terrace is an ideal place to watch the busy river traffic of cargo ships and sailing boats. Entry to exhibitions is €10, and cinema tickets are also €10.
At the western end of the great shopping street Haarlemmerdijk, you can cross the road to Westerpark, a scenic park. Westergasfabriek, a complex of cultural units in the middle of the park, provides restaurants, bars, venues for music, art and film.
There’s also TonTon, an “arcade paradise” of arcade games, and Yogafest yoga studio, which offers many classes in English.
For refuge from the hustle and bustle, Sauna Deco on Herengracht is a luxurious, beautifully made art deco sauna and spa. Partly decorated using pieces from a 1920s Parisian department store, the stunning interiors accommodate saunas, steam baths, a solarium, lounges and a restaurant.
Massages and beauty packages are also available. Entrance begins at €19.
A lively, fun place to go out in the evening, have a good time and meet people is Mezrab, a cultural centre walking distance from Centraal Station. They have a packed program of storytelling, comedy, music and dance with almost everything performed in English.
The crowd is friendly, the hosts are hilarious, and entrance is free (but definitely worth giving them a donation).
Amsterdam Solo Travel Tips: Safety Considerations
Amsterdam strikes a fine balance between pleasure-seeking hedonism and refined cultural appreciation, with different areas of the city teetering more into one category or the other.
Even with the omnipresent party culture and freely available marijuana, Amsterdam feels remarkably safe. As with any large city, however, there are some things to stay aware of.
Be aware of your important possessions and money; there are pickpockets at work throughout Amsterdam but especially in the busy areas, and in the Red Light District at night. Take standard precautions, such as keeping valuables out of sight. If you’re particularly concerned, take some extra precautions to foil pickpockets.
Be careful around the canals, especially if you’re drunk or high. A shocking number of dead bodies get fished out of the canals each year, and they’re often men with their flies down, indicating they fell in while peeing and were too inebriated to do anything about it.
Drinking on the street is prohibited in many places, and the police can fine you if you get caught. Bouncers at club entrances also have little patience with people who are clearly very drunk or excessively stoned.
For solo travelers, we’d suggest now is not the time to get excessively drunk or high — staying safe means keeping your wits about you, and the best way to do that is to stay sober (or close to it).
This post on Amsterdam solo travel tips won’t be complete if we don’t advise you to beware about getting high as a solo traveler. Despite the fact that drugs seem to flow freely in the city, they are guided by tight regulations and norms. Buying drugs from street dealers might be tempting, but they’re untrustworthy, and hard drugs are still illegal.
If anything happens and you need a doctor, there’s one for tourists at the central train station with its own pharmacy. Alternatively, your hotel should be able to help you find one.
Amsterdam is a beautiful and charming city that can be easily explored on foot, by bike, or using public transport. Cosmopolitan and yet still proud of its Dutch identity, the city is lively, friendly, and full of attractions to enjoy.
From outdoor film screenings and concerts in the summer, to world-class museums and cozy cafes in the winter, Amsterdam has something to offer all year round. It also hosts some of the biggest international festivals in Europe — for documentary film, performance art, and dance music — so be sure to check event listings that correspond to your visit.
Despite its reputation for being a hedonistic party town, Amsterdam has plenty of cultural activities and sightseeing to make it well worth visiting as a solo traveler, any time of year.
About the Author
Perpetually on the hunt for cheap flights, cold beers, and awesome terraces, Katie has been traveling the world since she was 16, when she somehow persuaded her parents to let her move abroad to learn the ways of hygge in Denmark. Picking up a Canadian husband and a Taiwanese street cat along the way, she’s now based in Budapest, where she spends her time blogging at Wandertooth and creating travel-themed adult coloring books with her husband, Geoff. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.