Amsterdam had long been a city on our bucket-list. It’s a small but wonderful place. When we booked a cruise from Amsterdam, we spent 2 days pre-cruise exploring by bike and by boat along the canals, and 1 day on an excursion visiting the Dutch countryside – both magical and memorable!
Enjoy The Netherlands (or Holland as we more commonly know it) by starting your cruise from Amsterdam, their capital city.
Whilst 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 at peak holiday season.
Everyone wants to see Amsterdam, and it’s easy to see why.
The city of canals is best seen on foot, by bike, by tram, or by hopping onto one of the many passenger barges that take you around the canals and the many sights to see. If you do walk it, then wear good shoes as the city is quite spread out, albeit small in scale.
We have a detailed 3 day guide to make your visit memorable before you cruise from Amsterdam. Most cruises depart from Amsterdam Passenger Terminal, only about a kilometer and a half from Amsterdam’s central station. Check your cruise ticket to be sure and find more details of 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 2 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 located 20km southwest of the city. Home to KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, KLM is a member of the Skyteam alliance of airlines which include, amongst others, Air France and Delta Airlines. It is major airport hub in Northern Europe.
You can find our expert tips on booking your flights here.
Here are the transport options you have to get from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) to your city center hotel.
The airport train gets you to Amsterdam’s central station in about 15 minutes. The train station is located below the terminal building and is very convenient. Head to Schiphol Plaza in the arrivals lounge and follow the signs. There is a meeting point at the Plaza where you can purchase train tickets.
The Amsterdam Travel Ticket is excellent value for money and highly recommended. Choose the number of days you want to use the ticket for, multiple days gives you extra discounts. The price includes:
- Airport transfers from and to the airport by train or shuttle service
- Public transports of 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.
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 as you leave the bus.
There is an express bus which takes you straight to the city centre and gives you your first glimpse of the city as well, which is something one misses on the train.
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 4 people or less, or a luxury business taxi, or a minibus taxi if you are more than 4 people.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
These hotels are our favorites for cruise passengers and for ourselves when visiting the city. They are centrally located, have great service and offer an excellent breakfast. Rooms are comfortable and modern and the prices are fair for the city. This are ideal hotels to stay before you cruise from Amsterdam.
Radisson Blu Amsterdam City Center
A 6-minute walk from the central station and you can check into Radisson Blu Amsterdam. What we love about this hotel is the outdoor plaza. It’s a great place for a cocktail in the evenings, in an area buzzing with activity.
It’s a large, glossy, super modern hotel with stylish rooms. If you prefer a more intimate, traditional feel then this is not the one for you.
Park Plaza Victoria
This is our favorite hotel in Amsterdam. We love its historical Victorian building and the warm and friendly service, every time.
Close to the central station it is a landmark building dated back to the 1600s. If you love a vintage atmosphere whilst enjoying modern-day comforts then this is the place for you too.
Hotel V Nesplein
This stylish hotel is just a short walk from the central station.
Close to Anne Frank house and the Royal Palace, what we truly love about this hotel is the location. It’s surrounded by pubs, restaurants and cafes – right outside your door. The price is good for the excellent location.
This is a great choice for a 4-star hotel if you want to live as close to Amsterdam port as possible. This hotel has over 400 rooms and a great fitness area with saunas. There are junior suites if you are a family travelling with young children and you need the extra room.
The hotel is located a 20-minute walk from the historical center, and adjacent to the cruise port.
All they offer free shuttles from the central station. Just ask the hotel when you book for instructions on where to find the shuttle bus when you arrive into the station by train from the airport.
How to spend 3 days before you 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 a good 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.
There are three main squares in Amsterdam that 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 a group wanting to split up during the day to do your own favorite things.
One of our favorite things to do when first 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 it will take you much longer. You’ll cross over the canals as you walk and you will want to stop and photograph the scenes of Amsterdam and visit the loal shops.
At the museum, discover the life of Vincent Van Gogh and see close up some of his original, most important works.
Dam Square, The Royal Palace, The Royal Mile, and Anne Franks House
After lunch, stroll towards Dam Square. From here you can easily walk to the Royal Palace within a couple of minutes. This stunning palace is beautifully renovated and is open to the public daily except Mondays and for special events. Kids are free and an adult ticket is priced around 10 euros each.
Walk the area known as The Royal Mile, from The Royal Palace, pass the National Monument following Damrak toward the central station. This whole area is a real shoppers 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 number of visitors allowed in at one time due to the small size of this historic house.
To visit 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
Your second day in the city can be spent visiting more big museums, art galleries and churches if you wish. But we much prefer to recommend quaint shopping areas and some quirky, unusual sights, where you can really get to know the city.
Starting again at Dam Square, follow the narrow canals and streets to trendy Jordaan District. It’s a great place to find independent shops and markets selling vintage, ceramics and unusual art.
From here 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.
From the Houseboat Museum, walk just a few minutes to De Negen Straatjes (The 9 Streets). This is our most favorite area in the whole of Amsterdam. It’s jam-packed full of vintage shops, tiny restaurants, unusal shopping and cobbled pavements.
A further 20 minutes by foot towards City Hall, you will find the Waterloopleinmarkt flea market, one of the best and biggest flea markets in Amsterdam, if you enjoy the outdoor shopping and finding unusual and quirky bargains.
Discover the non-touristy hot spot of Czaar Peterstraat
Another great shopping area, however 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, located in Eastern Docklands area of Amsterdam was once an industrial area. Now it is a lively shopping area of trees-lined streets offering unusual boutiques, cafes and bars. Here you will also find an array of local foodie hotspots.
There is a great little brewery here, Brouwerij ‘t IJ, located right besides 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 carving and 17th century houses and you will feel as if you have gone back 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 you visit the village of Edam. That’s right, it’s not just the name of a cheese covered in a red, waxy coating. But the place, of course, where the cheese comes from.
Edam is a beautifully preserved historical 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 by horse and cart.
Of course Edam is an unashamed tourist trap, but a beautiful one at that and is definitely worth visiting.
How to get to Amsterdam Cruise Terminal for your Cruise from Amsterdam
The cruise passenger terminal is located only a 15 minute walk from the city center.
But as you will have all your bags and packing for your cruise with you, we suggest a taxi from your hotel. Ask your concierge to arrange one for you on your morning of departure. It really is the quickest and most convenient way to get to the cruise port from your cruise from Amsterdam.
As always, check and double check your cruise ticket for instructions about your departure port and your allocated boarding time. Note that there is a second port further outside of the city which can be used by some cruise lines. You will need to allow extra transfer time if this is the case for your cruise.