Cruise from Amsterdam – the essential guide

Amsterdam has long been a city on our bucket list. It’s a small but wonderful place. When we booked a cruise from Amsterdam, we spent two days pre-cruise exploring by bike and by boat along the canals and one day on an excursion visiting the Dutch countryside – both magical and memorable!

Enjoy The Netherlands by starting your cruise from Amsterdam, the capital city. 

While The Hague is the beating heart of the Dutch government and politics, Amsterdam is its capital – a scenic, historical gem that’s become the commercial pulse of an area well over-crowded during the peak holiday season.

Everyone wants to see Amsterdam, and it’s easy to see why.

Explore the City of Canals by walking, biking, taking a tram, or riding a barge on the canal. If you walk, wear good shoes as the city is spread out, albeit small in scale.

Use our 3-day guide to make your visit memorable before you begin your cruise. Most cruises depart from Amsterdam Passenger Terminal, which is only about a kilometer and a half from Amsterdam’s central station. Check your cruise ticket to be sure, and find more details on how to get to the port at the end of this article. 

We recommend that you live as centrally as possible in Amsterdam. The city is pricey, but it will be more convenient, so you have time to enjoy all the main tourist sights during your visit. 

Focus on the city center for the first two days, then get out into the Dutch countryside to see more of this beautiful country and its way of life. 

Transport options from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to the city center

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is 20km southwest of the city. Home to KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, KLM is a member of the Skyteam alliance of airlines, including Air France and Delta Airlines. It is a central airport hub in Northern Europe.

You can find our expert tips on booking your flights here.

Here are the transport options for you from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) to your city center hotel.

Airport Train

The airport train gets you to Amsterdam’s central station in about 17 minutes. The train station is just below the terminal building. Head to Schiphol Plaza in the arrivals lounge and find the yellow NS ticket machines.

You can buy a one-way ticket to Amsterdam Central Station by following the instructions. You can pay by credit card; the current price is around 6 euros per person. The journey time is about 20 minutes.

Alternatively, we like to book train tickets before we leave home so we can go directly to the platform. Omio has an easy-to-use website that offers all train options from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) to Amsterdam Central.

You can also opt to purchase an Amsterdam Travel Ticket. It’s good for value if you use buses and trams in the city. It also includes your train journey from the airport. Choose the number of days you want to use the ticket; multiple days give you extra discounts. The price includes the following:

  • Airport transfers from and to the airport by train or shuttle service
  • Public transport, including buses, trams, metros, and ferries within Amsterdam (operated by the municipal public transport operator, GVB)

The price, for example, for a 2-day pass is around 22 euros per person. Find out more and see updated prices for the Amsterdam Travel Ticket here.

Bus

When you exit Schiphol Plaza, you will find the bus stops for all the city buses and shuttle buses that can get you to the city center. Use your Amsterdam Travel Ticket or buy a ticket from the yellow ticket machines. You must check in when you enter the bus and check out when you leave. 

An express bus takes you straight to the city center and gives you your first glimpse of the city, which is something one misses on the train.

Taxi

Taxi stands are outside of all terminals. Check the price with your driver before you depart. A one-way journey from the airport to the center of Amsterdam will be roughly 40 euros.

Follow the taxi signs at the airport to get to the taxi rank. This way, you will know you are getting into an approved licensed taxi. Taxis are always available, and your ride is metered. 

Choose a regular taxi if you are four people or less, a luxury business taxi, or a minibus taxi if you are more than four people. 

Where to stay in Amsterdam

These hotels are our favorites for cruise passengers and ourselves when visiting the city. They are centrally located, have great service, and offer an excellent breakfast. The rooms are comfortable and modern, and the prices are fair for the city. These are ideal hotels to stay in before your cruise from Amsterdam.

Click to search, compare, and book your accommodation in Amsterdam.

Radisson Blu Amsterdam City Center

You reach Radisson Blu Amsterdam within a 6-minute walk from the central station. It’s a large, glossy, super modern hotel with stylish rooms. The hotel’s outdoor plaza is excellent for an evening cocktail in an area buzzing with activity. This is not for you if you prefer a hotel with a more intimate, traditional feel.

Click to search, compare, and book your accommodation in Amsterdam.

Park Plaza Victoria

The Park Plaza Victoria is our favorite hotel in Amsterdam. We love the historic Victorian building and the warm and friendly service. Close to the central station, the hotel is a landmark building dating back to the 1600s. If you love a vintage atmosphere while enjoying modern-day comforts, this is the place for you too.

Click to search, compare, and book your accommodation in Amsterdam.

Hotel Prins Hendrik Amsterdam City Centre

The Hotel Prins Hendrik is close to the main train station and to the port, and a short walk to many great sights in Amsterdam. The family rooms are spacious and well-priced- all quite basic but clean and in an excellent location. We can also recommend the traditional café, De Groote Swaen, which is part of the hotel and has a lovely atmosphere in the evening.

Click to search, compare, and book your accommodation in Amsterdam.

Hotel V Nesplein

This stylish hotel is just a short walk from the central station and close to Anne Frank’s house and the Royal Palace. You will love the location if you want to be surrounded by pubs, restaurants, and cafes – right outside your door. The price is good for this top location.

Click to search, compare, and book your accommodation in Amsterdam.

Mövenpick Hotel

A perfect choice for cruise guests wanting to stay adjacent to Amsterdam Port. The Mövenpick Hotel is a 20-minute walk from the historical center, has over 400 rooms, and offers an excellent fitness center with saunas. Choose a junior suite if you are a family traveling with young children and need extra space.

If you arrive by train at the central station from the airport, use the hotel’s free shuttle bus. Send an email to the hotel when you have made your booking, and ask for instructions on where to find the shuttle bus when you arrive at the train station.

Click to search, compare, and book your accommodation in Amsterdam.

Kimpton De Witt Amsterdam

The Kimpton De Witt Hotel is a beautiful boutique hotel in the city center. It’s just a 5-minute walk from the central station. Join their loyalty program (they are a member of IHG Resorts and Hotels) and expect some perks as you accumulate hotel nights. Kimpton is a fantastic brand with over 6000 hotels worldwide. It’s one of our favorites.

Click to search, compare, and book your accommodation in Amsterdam.

How to spend 3 days before your cruise from Amsterdam

Day 1- Canal boat tour, Van Gogh Museum, The Royal Palace, and Anne Franks House

Start your first day by making your way to Rembrandtplein (Rembrandt Square). You are now standing in one of the main squares in the city center. Named after Rembrandt, you will see some of his most famous painted characters in statues around the square.

This is an excellent spot to orientate yourself with the city and its winding canals. If you want a morning coffee with a slice of traditional Dutch apple pie, try the cosy Café de Schiller.

Three main squares in Amsterdam are good to know: Rembrandt Square, Leidseplein Square (good for music venues, evening entertainment, theaters, and coffee shops), and Dam Square (a beautiful historic square, home to the National Monument and the Royal Palace). 

They are all within a 30-minute walking distance of each other in central Amsterdam. They make good meeting points if you are in a group wanting to split up during the day to do your own thing.

One of our favorite things to do when in the city - whether for the first time or if you are a returning visitor - is to take a boat cruise through the canals. It never gets dull, on the contrary there is always something new to see. It’s a fantastic way to get to know the layout of the city and your kids will love it too.

After your boat ride, visit the Van Gogh Museum. It’s only a 20-minute walk from Rembrandt Square but will take you much longer. You’ll cross over the canals as you walk and want to stop and photograph the scenes of Amsterdam and visit the local shops.

Discover Vincent Van Gogh’s life and some of his original, most important works at the museum. We recommend that you book entrance tickets or even a guided tour before you leave home to skip the rather long queue.

Dam Square, The Royal Palace, The Royal Mile, and Anne Franks House 

After lunch, stroll towards Dam Square. You can easily walk to the Royal Palace within a few minutes. This stunning palace is beautifully renovated and is open every day except Mondays and for special events. Kids are free, and an adult ticket costs around 10 euros each.

Walk the area known as The Royal Mile from The Royal Palace, past the National Monument, following Damrak, toward the central station. This whole area is a shopper’s paradise.

An Amsterdam must-do and on the list of many visitors is the Anne Frank House. Note that queues can be exceptionally long to get inside, with only a few visitors allowed in at one time due to the small size of this historic house. 

You must book in advance online if you want to visit. Discover the moving story of Anne Frank and book tickets here.

Day 2 -The Nine Streets, Dutch houseboats & antique shopping in the Jordaan district

You can spend your second day in the city visiting more museums, art galleries, and churches if you wish. But we would much rather recommend quaint shopping areas and some quirky, unusual sights where you can get to know the city.

Starting again at Dam Square, follow the narrow canals and streets to the trendy Jordaan District. It’s a great place to find independent shops and markets selling vintage, ceramics, and unusual art. 

Visit the Houseboat Museum, where you can explore an actual houseboat. The 2 km stretch of canal is known as the Amstel route and contains fantastic examples of houseboats.

You are going to love this green, leafy area of the city. It’s just as you imagined Amsterdam would be.

Walk just a few minutes from the Houseboat Museum to De Negen Straatjes (The 9 Streets). This is our favorite area in the whole of Amsterdam. It’s jam-packed with vintage shops, tiny restaurants, unusual shopping, and cobbled sidewalks.

A further 20 minutes by foot towards City Hall, you will find the Waterloopleinmarkt flea market. It’s one of Amsterdam’s best and biggest flea markets if you enjoy outdoor shopping and finding unusual and quirky bargains. 

Discover the non-touristy hot spot of Czaar Peterstraat

Another great shopping area, but lesser known to the average tourist, is the trendy area of Czaar Peterstraat. You will need to take a tram from the city center as it’s too far to walk. Number 14 should take you straight there. Check with the driver when you climb aboard.

Czaar Peterstraat was once an industrial area in the Eastern Docklands area of Amsterdam. It is now a lively shopping area of tree-lined streets offering unusual boutiques, cafes, and bars. Here, you will also find an array of local food hotspots. 

There is a great little brewery here, Brouwerij ‘t IJ, beside a windmill where you can order a brew and mix with the locals.

Day 3 – Get out of the city and into the Dutch countryside

Our favorite day trip outside of Amsterdam, if you only have one day to spare, is Zaanse Schans and the village of Edam. Book a guided tour or rent a car for the day.

Both of these destinations are so quintessentially Dutch.

Zaanse Schans is located in town of Zaandam. Think historic windmills, wooden clog carvings, and 17th-century houses, and you will feel like you have returned to a much simpler time. 

Located on the coast, walk the area for one of the most picture-perfect Dutch scenes you will ever find.

In the afternoon, visit the village of Edam. Not just the name of a cheese covered in a red, waxy coating. But the place, of course, where the cheese originates. 

Edam is a beautifully preserved historic village in the heart of the Dutch countryside, nestled on the side of the canal. Visit the cheese market and the Edam Museum.

If you visit during the peak summer season of July and August, the weekly market sees local farmers and cheese-makers bringing their goods to market the old-fashioned way, by canal boat or horse and cart. 

Of course, Edam is an unashamed tourist trap, but a beautiful one is worth visiting.

Click to search, compare, and book entrance tickets, guided tours, and shore excursions in Amsterdam.

How to get to Amsterdam Cruise Terminal for your Cruise from Amsterdam 

The cruise passenger terminal is only a 15-minute walk from the city center.

However, with cruise luggage, we suggest a taxi from your hotel. Ask your concierge to arrange one for you on the morning of departure. It’s the quickest and most convenient way to get to the cruise port from your cruise from Amsterdam.

Check your cruise ticket for instructions about your departure port and allocated boarding time. Note that some cruise lines use a second port outside the city. If this is the case for your cruise, you will need to allow extra transfer time.

The best cruise itineraries for a cruise from Amsterdam.

There are many exciting itineraries on offer from major cruise lines with embarkation in beautiful Amsterdam. Destinations include the Norwegian Fjords, iconic Scandinavia visiting Copenhagen and Stockholm, the Baltic cities of Riga, Tallinn, and Helsinki, the stunning Mediterranean countries, and unique cruises to Iceland and Greenland.

Amsterdam is also a popular embarkation port for river cruises, visiting, for example, cities along the Rhine, including Cologne, Passau, Melk, Vienna, and Budapest.

The best way to choose among the many cruises available and to search for your favorite cruise offering these itineraries, is to start by visiting Cruise Direct, and comparing prices for itineraries and cabin categories. This will give you an idea of the price picture. From here, you can narrow your choice to the dates that suit you the best and what is included in the cruise fare.

Click to search, compare, and book a cruise from Amsterdam.

Meet the author: Sarah has created and booked hundreds of travel itineraries for thousands of customers during a career in the travel industry that spans 20 years. Having worked hand in hand with cruise lines, hotels, airlines and tour operators worldwide, she offers inspiring & detailed insights in the world of travel and tourism.

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