The best areas to stay in Amsterdam
Our top three picks of Amsterdam districts
Where to stay in Amsterdam
If you've never been on a city break to Amsterdam before, the first thing to do is decide where to stay.
Do you want to be in the heart of the action for bar-hopping, eating out and all-night clubbing? Are you planning on spending most of your time in museums admiring the Old Masters? Or do you prefer exploring on two wheels (or feet), through colourful markets flanked by galleries and cheery cafés?
Whatever your preference, budget or type of trip, you'll find what you're looking for in this compact, fun-filled city.
The ancient heart of Amsterdam is a lively tangle of narrow streets, inviting restaurants and historical monuments. It's at its best in summer, when you could spend leisurely hours strolling down Singelgracht, Amsterdam’s innermost canal, or checking out the blooms at the floating Bloemenmarkt. Here's a little taste of what else you'll find.
Dam, 1012 NP
A favourite with street performers, this grand plaza has been around since the 13th century, and is a hot spot for royal events in the city.
Coronations and royal weddings are celebrated in the Gothic Nieuwe Kerk, while the Royal Palace next door is where King Willem-Alexander hosts official receptions.
When he's not entertaining world leaders or holding gala dinners, the palace is open to the public.
It's well worth a peek, but check beforehand to make sure there are no princesses or presidents in town for tea.
Oudekerksplein 23, 1012 GX
Steps away from the heart of the red light district, the Oude Kerk acts as an important link between the Golden Age and the city of today.
Amsterdam's first church and its oldest standing building, it now embraces a contemporary perspective thanks to a thought-provoking programme of international art.
Expect experimental music and site-specific installations.
Pijlsteeg 31, 1012 HH
No stay in Amsterdam would be complete without sampling some traditional Dutch jenever, the juniper-flavoured ancestor of gin.
At this hole-in-the-wall distillery, it’s all about the ritual.
The liqueur is tasted hands-free: bend down to the bar to sip on the various flavours before picking up and enjoying the rest of the glass in this cosy, old-world sanctuary.
Dijksgracht 4, 1019 BS
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone not at Hannekes Boom on a sizzling summer day.
With a laidback picnic vibe, live music and tasty Dutch snacks, this boho waterside hangout is the perfect place to catch some rays and watch the boats bob by.
Needless to say, with no neighbours to fret about the noise, the party here goes with a swing until way past sunset. Plus, you can try out a wide selection of local beers from the likes of Two Chefs and Oedipus breweries.
Sint Antoniesbreestraat 25A, 1011 HB
Why face the throngs on the high street when you could have an unhurried trawl through Amsterdam’s vintage treasures?
This retro emporium sprawls across three stores stocking army-sourced basics, unique clothes for men and women and a collection of shoes, bags and other accessories.
The prices are wallet-friendly, too.
A picturesque grid of canals, cobbled streets and lofty houses, the Jordaan neighbourhood has bags of laid-back, bohemian charm. Once one of the city's more down-at-heel areas, it's now one of the most beautiful, where buzzy bars, friendly restaurants and outdoor shopping streets embody gezelligheid – that's Dutch for cosiness.
In the shadow of the impressive Noorderkerk, this lively market has been drawing visitors in for centuries.
These days, you’re more likely to find organic food and vintage goods than the pigeons and canaries once peddled here.
Drop by on a Saturday and grab a bite to eat from one of the international food stalls, before meandering around the market in search of souvenirs.
Anne Frank House
The house where Anne Frank and her family hid for two years during the Nazi occupation is a must-see for first-timers in Amsterdam.
Now it’s a poignant monument to the humanity of Anne’s diaries, and the inhumanity that curtailed them.
Book online before you go as tickets aren't available on the door. At busy times like school holidays, slots get snapped up well in advance, so plan ahead to avoid disappointment.
The Danes have hygge, the Dutch gezellig – and it doesn’t get much cosier than this stalwart brown café.
Famous with fans of Dutch detective TV series Baantjer, it was the scene of many a cognac for Inspector De Cock and his sidekick, Vledder.
Order a vaasje (‘little vase’) of lager and check out the snaps on the walls of the stars in action.
Be sure to listen out for the backing track of sentimental Jordaanlied – nostalgic songs dedicated to this distinctive neighbourhood.
The capital’s former gas works-turned-events complex has hosted dos from Fashion Week to house parties, arthouse screenings to talk show recordings.
So, if you're after art and culture or just the chance to dance until 5am, this is the place for you.
It's also a fun spot for an aimless wander, with plenty of restaurants and cafés and a waterside terrace that's hot property on warm days.
Calling all dairy-lovers. Heaven is indeed a place on earth, and it's called Kaaskamer.
Mild or mature, cow’s, ewe’s or goat’s, with nettles, truffle, sea lavender, cloves or cumin… This treasure trove sells more than 350 varieties of the yellow stuff, so set aside plenty of time for a browse.
Time it right and you can also indulge in one of their simple but delicious lunchtime rolls or an obscenely tasty toastie.
OU. Boutique Stories
Stock up on holiday essentials at this cute boutique. Founders Val and Rose carefully curate a roster of international brands for a casual-cool take on Dutch style.
Pick up statement boots, subtle slogan t-shirts and animal-print ensembles.
The lifestyle section is worth a browse, too, with its selection of stylish exercise accessories and quirky ceramics, smart stationery and striking prints.
Bordered by stately Vondelpark and Museumplein to the south, Singelgracht to its east and the shops of De Clercqstraat to the north, picturesque Oud West sits just outside the canal belt. Lots of the city's main sights are still within strolling distance, but you might find more budget-friendly options when it comes to accommodation. Perfect for window-shopping and boutique-hopping, the area's also home to some of our favourite spots in the city.
The Rijksmuseum was originally designed by PJH Cuypers and opened in 1885 as the nation’s ‘treasure house’.
A decade on from its epic renovation by Spanish architects Cruz and Ortiz, Amsterdam’s Golden Age art trove continues to dazzle.
Rembrandt’s The Night Watch remains the big draw, but there’s much else besides, from model battleships to YSL's Mondrian-inspired dress. Book tickets online to avoid queuing.
The green lungs of the city, Amsterdam’s most impressive park was designed in the 19th century in the English garden style.
There are all manner of ponds and lakes, children’s play areas and cafés, including the relaxed Blauwe Theehuis.
The park fills up at the merest glimpse of sunshine, and there’s a programme of free open-air performances during summer months. So grab your suncream and follow the crowds.
Bellamyplein 51, 1053 AT
This monumental hangar for electric tram maintenance was the jewel in the crown of Amsterdam’s early 20th-century expansion.
After falling to squatters in the 1980s it’s back on track, thanks to the gourmet FoodHallen.
This covered food court rivals those of London and Madrid, with stalls serving everything from fully loaded pittas to picture-perfect gâteaux. The summer rolls from Viêt View come highly recommended.
Marnixstraat 246, 1016 TL
This multi-storey car park was famously used as a location for one of photographer Spencer Tunick’s mass nude installations.
Its most recent incarnation though is as Waterkant, a chilled-out bar and terrace overlooking the wide Singelgracht canal.
A magnet for sun-seeking revellers, it serves spicy Surinamese food and at dusk the scene can’t fail to captivate, even if your coat stays on.
The latest addition to the ever-growing George family of brasseries and cafés, Georgette takes its visual cues from its designer surroundings on PC Hooftstraat.
Think Flos lighting, gorgeous green marble counters and Missoni-esque seating.
The menu is inspired by flavours from Paris to New York, via Amsterdam of course.
With Philly steak sandwiches, shrimp croquettes and picture-perfect pâtisserie, Georgette makes for a chic pit-stop between bouts of retail therapy.
Frequently asked questions about staying in Amsterdam
Our top three cool areas to stay in Amsterdam are Amsterdam Centrum, Jordaan and Oud West.
Amsterdam Centrum is the oldest part of the city and includes everything within the canal belt. Wherever you stay, you'll be a stone's throw from all the main sights and surrounded by picturesque streets and cafés, bars and restaurant for every mood. Amsterdam Centrum hotel prices tend to be on the higher side, but a central location might be worth it if you're only in town for a couple of days.
Jordaan is within central Amsterdam and has its own unique village vibe. It's where you'll find the artists and bohemian dreamers, along with outdoor shopping streets, quaint cafés and lashings of gezelligheid (the Dutch answer to hygge). Thanks to its central location and quirky vibe, the cost of hotels in Jordaan Amsterdam is on a par with other areas within the canal ring.
Sitting just outside the canal belt, Oud West is handy for Vondelpark and Museumplein (though nowhere's far away in this pocket-sized city). Thanks to being slightly further out, you're likely to get more for your money when it comes to accommodation, so it's well worth checking out.
Despite being in the centre of the city, Jordaan has its own distinct village vibe, with a friendly thriving café and restaurant scene.
Once the home of Amsterdam's working class and immigrant population, it's still got a tight-knit community feel among its modern bohemian inhabitants.
Amsterdam Centrum is the ancient heart of the city and home to its famous canal belt, along with many of the most popular spots to visit.
Think medieval lanes and a floating flower market, historic churches, a Royal Palace and lots of friendly restaurants. And that's before you hit the night life
It's also where you'll find the station, Amsterdam Centraal – a four-hour hop from London by Eurostar.