The Dutch capital of Amsterdam is, by a comfortable margin, the largest city in the country. But the millions of tourists that come to visit Amsterdam every year quickly find that getting around the city isn't as challenging as you might think. That's mostly due to the fact Amsterdam has a fantastic public transportation system that makes use of trains, trams, buses, and other methods to make just about every neighborhood in this fascinating city easy to reach.
Plus, many of the city's top attractions, such as its infamous red light district and its fascinating Museum Quarter, are located right in the city center and are walkable from Amsterdam Centraal Station. As a result, you won't have a tough time finding your way around and experiencing some of the best of what the city has to offer. Whether you're an early bird or night owl, you'll find Amsterdam's public transport options easy to use, so you can explore some of the best things to do in Amsterdam at night. Plus, if you take advantage of the I Amsterdam City Card, you can prepay for unlimited public transport on the city's bus and tram network, so you won't have to worry about finding ticket vending machines and making sure you have the means to pay for them.
Getting around Amsterdam isn't hard. However, heavy bags can make even an easy trip into something of a nightmare. That's why Bounce has partnered with local businesses in hundreds of cities around the world, including Amsterdam. Drop off your belongings at a luggage storage location in Amsterdam, and you'll have a much easier time experiencing everything the city has to offer.
How to get around Amsterdam by train
When visiting Amsterdam, a train trip is more or less unavoidable. That's because Schiphol Airport lies nine km southwest of the city it serves, and the express train is by far the quickest and cheapest way to reach the heart of the city. The train runs from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Central Station, known as Amsterdam Centraal Station, in about 15 minutes. Additionally, there are over a hundred and 60 trains per day, meaning that no matter when your flight comes in, you won't have long to wait for the train that will bring you to Centraal station.
Of course, there are other ways to reach the city center. Taxis are available from the airport, and though they are no quicker than catching the train and much more expensive, they may be a viable option if you have a lot of heavy bags. Likewise, you can take the Amsterdam Express bus 397 from the airport to the center of the city, but it takes longer than the train and doesn't cost much less. However you choose to reach the central station, you'll find both trains and buses just a short walk from the Arrivals portion of the airport, and plenty of ticket vending machines where you can buy a ticket for either. Note that the I Amsterdam City Card covers not only travel in the city center but also your train ride to and from the airport for a 48 hour period. As well as day tickets, you can buy unlimited travel cards that are good for longer periods.
One thing you won't find yourself using much among the public transport options of the city is the subway system. That's because the city of Amsterdam is located slightly below sea level, and any attempt to dig here to establish Metro lines quickly fills up with water.
There's not to say the city doesn't have Metro services, because it does. Amsterdam metro's four lines radiate out from Centraal Station to the surrounding districts such as Amstelveen and Bijlmer. Metro trains connect the central station to tourist attractions such as Dam Square, Rembrandtplein, and Artis Zoo. However, in the most heavily touristed part of the city, Metro stations are relatively rare. Still, Amsterdam's network of tram routes, bus routes, trains, and bike lanes more than make up for the lack of Metro stations, and you're very unlikely to need a car here.
Amsterdam Central Station is not quite the biggest in the Netherlands; that honor goes to Utrecht. However, Centraal Station is still one of the biggest and busiest in the entire country, and a central hub not only of the Dutch train system but of train lines from all across northern Europe. Therefore, even if you don't arrive in Amsterdam by plane, chances are good you'll end up at Centraal anyway. Trains call here from around the country and across the continent, making the city easy to reach from just about anywhere.
How to get around Amsterdam by bus
GVB administers the public transportation system in Amsterdam, including the buses and trams. GVB tickets come in a variety of different options to better serve the city's needs. The simplest ticket is the one-hour ticket that allows for unlimited use of the public transport system until it expires. Notice that even though usage of the ticket is unlimited for one hour, you still need to validate your ticket when you get on and get off any buses or tram in order to keep it working. It's a good idea to have your ticket with you before boarding a bus in Amsterdam, though you can buy one from the bus driver, and you can buy tickets on a tram. You can also buy them from ticket machines at bus and tram stops throughout the city, or buy a digital version with the GVB app.
Tickets cost €3.20, with an additional supplement if you want to bring a bike on board. You should also be aware that the one-hour GVB tickets are not valid for the city's night buses. There are no one-hour tickets for the night buses, so you'll need to pay per trip.
Amsterdam's bus network makes it easy and convenient to get around the main tourist attractions and shopping areas of the city, and if you're wondering where those are, check out our guide to everything you need to know about shopping in Amsterdam. However, GVB trams offer another convenient way to get around the city. You'll find tram stations close to just about all of the main attractions in the city center, and the same tickets work on both the bus and tram network to make things easier. As well as the unlimited travel offered by the Amsterdam city card, GVB offer day passes that will keep you covered for both bus and tram travel anywhere from one to seven days. These passes can be bought at any GVB ticket machine, but the easiest way is probably by using the app.
How to get around Amsterdam by car
You should never bring a knife to a gunfight, and you should never bring a car to Amsterdam. That may be something of an exaggeration, but as is often the case with major European cities, driving in Amsterdam is no picnic. In fact, it's virtually a guaranteed way to turn what should be a fun and relaxing trip into a stress-filled nightmare.
As the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is plagued by traffic. Driving is also made difficult by the narrow streets of this ancient city, and the endless canals. Plus, you'll need to keep your eyes out for cyclists, who are absolutely everywhere. Bikes always have the right-of-way, and they won't hesitate to remind you of that fact if you happen to forget. Add the outrageous cost of city parking to all these problems, and you'll understand why virtually no one recommends driving to get around Amsterdam.
If for whatever reason you do have to drive in the city, remember to always drive on the right side of any canal. The streets that run along the canals in the city center are on a one-way system. Be very careful as you approach a bridge, which is something you will do a lot. Always stop and look in all directions before crossing. Treat it like you would a four-way stop. If a delivery truck is unloading in the street, you have no choice but to wait behind it. Truck drivers usually do their best to get their stops done quickly, but they have the right to block the street when necessary, and there's nothing you can do about it but wait.
How to get around Amsterdam by bike
Now we're talking. This flat and low-lying city is practically perfect to be explored on two wheels. And with so many dedicated bike lanes in the city, it's both easy and fun to get just about anywhere in Amsterdam by bike. You'll find bike rental shops just about everywhere in the city, and bike rental companies can help you out with any necessary safety gear and maps of the city's extensive bike lane network. Besides, riding a bike here is such a quintessentially Dutch experience that you should try it for at least a couple of hours, even if you're not trying to get anywhere fast. Try to rent an Omiafiet, the classic Dutch road bike, for a truly authentic experience.
Thanks to more than 400km of bike lanes in the city, Amsterdam is a very safe place to ride a bike. Dutch drivers are used to sharing the road with cyclists, and bikes always have right-of-way. That makes biking in the city a great family activity, and you'll see all ages and economic classes of people riding bikes in the city, including high-ranking politicians.
To get used to biking in Amsterdam, it's a good idea to take a cycling tour. Not only will this help you see some of the top attractions in the city, but the guide can also help you understand cycling etiquette. You can also choose to go it alone, but beware that bicycle theft is common, especially in tourist areas. Luckily, you'll find secure bike storage lockers at train stations, museums, and other points of interest throughout the city.
Can I get around Amsterdam on foot?
You absolutely can. And in many ways, traveling as a pedestrian is one of the best ways to see the city. Most attractions in central Amsterdam are within easy walking distance of Amsterdam Central Station and each other, so if you don't want to rent a bike, you still won't have any trouble getting around. Getting around Amsterdam on foot is also the cheapest option, letting you travel free while you get some exercise and see most of what the city has to offer. However, while Amsterdam is a very walkable city, be prepared to rack up the miles. And remember that at many of Amsterdam's top attractions, such as its fabulous museums, you'll be walking a lot inside as well as outside. But if you do find your feet getting tired, it's easy to hop on a bus or tram or rent a bike to give yourself a break.
Amsterdam has a public transportation network that puts many other cities to shame. Often, you'll have a choice of whether you want to take a tram or one of the city's buses to get to your chosen destination. Plus, the ease and cost-effectiveness of renting a bike or just walking means you'll have no problem exploring the capital of the Netherlands. And as you ride through the narrow streets, you'll be glad you didn't bring a car.
Getting around Amsterdam is easy, but you can make it even easier by dropping off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in the city. Traveling light means you won't have to struggle with unnecessary items on the city's public transit options, making for a much more enjoyable and more relaxing trip.