Connected by canal to the North Sea, Amsterdam is a prime departure point for ocean cruises to the Arctic, the Baltic, and river cruises through the Rhine. A charming, melting-pot city, the Dutch capital is easy to navigate because of its compact size and English-speaking residents. The main cruise terminal (PTA) is conveniently located near the city center.
What We Love
Street Markets: Soak up the local culture and shop for food, clothes, furniture, trinkets, and art at more than two dozen open-air markets, some dating back to the 18th century. Some favorites: the famous Albert Cuyp market in the De Pijp neighborhood; the Bloemenmarkt, a floating flower market in the Singel canal; and Nieuwmarkt, a farmers market in the square that bears its name.
Food and Drinks: At neighborhood markets or food stands, you can (and should) sample Dutch favorites like raw herring, local cheese (Gouda, anyone?), frites topped with mayonnaise, and stroopwafels, a wafer-like waffle with a caramel filling. Don’t leave without trying rijsttafel, literally “rice table,” a Dutch colonial feast composed of Indonesian dishes, and of course, Dutch apple pie. Beer lovers can order a frosty pint of Heineken or Amstel, the country’s most well-known exports, or a small-production craft beer at a local brewery.
Best Known For
The Canal Ring: Built in the 17th century, this network of intersecting waterways was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tour the gabled houses on a canal boat ride. If you’re staying overnight, opt for a canal house or houseboat rental instead of a hotel.
Bicycles: With more bicycles than cars, Amsterdam is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, and dedicated lanes, racks, and parking stations make peddling around the urban landscape a piece of cake.
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Who It's Best For
Culture Lovers: The Rijksmuseum is a venerable institution for art lovers, with masterpieces from Dutch-born talents such as Vermeer and Rembrandt. Other favorites include the Stedelijk, housing modern and contemporary art, the Anne Frank House, and the Van Gogh Museum, with famous works like "Sunflowers." If you’re planning to hit multiple museums, purchase an I amsterdam City Card, which includes unlimited public transportation.
Active Travelers: Biking is always an option, but Amsterdam’s beautiful, quaint streets make it a great city for those who prefer sightseeing by foot.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Play by the Rules: Amsterdam is an open, progressive city. Coffee shops and the Red Light District leave little to the imagination. However, there are misconceptions about what is and isn't legal. Make sure you read up on the most current laws — and respect them — to stay out of trouble.
Tourists Are Susceptible to Pickpockets: Leave your fanny packs and Hawaiian-print shirts at home, and stay aware of your surroundings. Obvious visitors are vulnerable targets for pickpockets. Some tips: Only shop with reputable vendors, avoid walking in bicycle lanes, and don’t use unofficial taxis.
Kristen Boatright is the New York City-based senior video editor of ShermansCruise.com.