Posted: 9/28/2021 | September 28th, 2021
I first went to Amsterdam in 2006 as part of my grand backpacking tour of Europe. It’s a rich, exciting, multilayered place. I fell in love with it so much, I stayed a month. Since then, I’ve gone back dozens of times, even leading tours there for a number of years. I’ve explored the nooks and crannies of this compact, historic city.
Famed for its canals, parks, and weed, Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities in the world not because of its wild nightlife but for its beautiful setting, multiculturalism (half of its 800,000 residents were not born in the Netherlands), and low-key vibe.
Though it’s small, there are still a number of neighborhoods to choose from, depending on what kind of vibe you want.
In this post, I’ll break down the various neighborhoods so you can get a sense of what area of town is best for your stay!
What’s the best neighborhood for budget travelers?
City Center, Centraal, Centrum…whatever you want to call it, the area around the main railway station is a hub of activity and also loaded with cheap accommodation. Warmoesstraat, on the outer edge of De Wallen has lots of hostels.
What’s the best neighborhood for families?
Plantage is a leafy oasis of calm and home to a great zoo and science museum.
What’s the best neighborhood for first-time visitors?
De Wallen contains the infamous Red Light District but also some of the oldest churches in town, as well as a handful of cultural institutions.
So, with that, here’s an overview with suggested accommodations for various neighborhoods:
Amsterdam Neighborhood Overview
Best Neighborhood for First-Time Visitors: De Wallen
Everyone knows the Red Light District, which makes up part of De Wallen. But don’t let that overshadow all the great things about this oldest part of town. De Wallen is home to Amsterdam’s oldest church, a great craft brewery, and plenty of cool cafés and restaurants. You’ll also find the quirky Our Lord in the Attic Museum, a 17th-century canal house turned clandestine church.
Best Places to Stay in De Wallen
- BUDGET: Durty Nelly’s Inn – This is your classic, fun backpacker hostel. It’s tiny, cozy, and inexpensive. The beds are decent, and each comes with its own reading light and power outlet. The staff is super knowledgeable, and there’s a hearty breakfast too. Given its location, it’s a party hostel.
- MID-RANGE: Hotel Swisshôtel Amsterdam – Housed in a handsome, 19th-century red-brick building on Dam Square, this pleasant property has soundproof windows, a pillow menu, Frette linens, and Nespresso coffee machines.
- LUXURY: Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky – The 451 rooms at this lavish hotel across from the Royal Palace feature natural muted hues, hardwood floors, plus-sized plasma TVs, and, in some cases, stunning views. The in-house Michelin-starred restaurant, The White Room, serves Dutch fare with a global flare.
Best Neighborhood for Budget Travelers: Centraal/Centrum
I like to define Amsterdam’s Centrum as the area within the Singel Canal to the west and south and De Wallen to the east. A local might not define it that way, but for a traveler, that works. In the center, you’ll find Dam Square, the Centraal train station, a bunch of museums, and tons of shopping. It’s the hub for tours and locals alike, so it can be quite busy.
Best Places to Stay in Centraal/Centrum
- BUDGET: The Flying Pig Downtown – Known for its fun and bustling atmosphere, the Flying Pig is a three-minute walk from the main train station and has dorm rooms of various sizes (sleeping from 4 to 32 budget-minded travelers). The bar hosts fun events, including DJ nights.
- MID-RANGE: Park Plaza Victoria – Egyptian linens, walk-in showers, in-room coffee and tea, great views — these are some of the nice perks guests get at this hotel, set in a 19th-century neo-classical building hugging Centraal Station.
- LUXURY: Eric Vökel Suites – All the suites have fully equipped kitchens, blackout blinds, and the great amenities you’d expect from this luxury-level accommodation, just steps from the main railway station. Some also have incredible views of the city.
Best Neighborhood for Art Lovers: Museum Quarter
If you dig art, this one is a no-brainer. The most renowned art museums are here in Museumplein, as the locals call it: the Van Gough Museum, the contemporary art museum Stedelijk (which resembles a giant bathtub), and the legendary Rijksmuseum, which houses Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch,” Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid,” and hundreds of other Dutch masterpieces. Be sure to spend some time wandering Vandolpark, a large park perfect for picnics and lounging.
Best Places to Stay in the Museum Quarter
- BUDGET: Hostel Van Gogh – Conveniently located in the heart of the Museum Quarter, this Van Gogh-inspired hostel has artsy murals, spacious and tidy dorms, and both co-ed and female-only rooms.
- MID-RANGE: Max Brown Museum Square – Rooms here have lots of natural tones, plus offer great, unique perks like daily bread delivery from local bakeries. Max Brown kicks it up a notch for a mid-range hotel.
- LUXURY: Conservatorium Hotel – This erstwhile conservatory set in a gargantuan neo-Gothic building is the epitome of Dutch luxury. The 129 rooms have great views — some have loft beds — with rainfall showers, hardwood floors, and superlative perks. Other amenities include free bike rentals, a state-of-the-art indoor swimming pool, and a yoga studio.
Best Neighborhood for Partying: Leidesplein or De Wallen
Leidseplein is an area just north of the museum quarter. It’s a central square that’s home to many fun bars and clubs. (The casino is here too, in case you feel like losing a few bucks.) I also like the area because it’s right across the canal from the massive Vondelpark.
De Wallen is another good area to party in since it’s also home to the Red Light District and everything that goes along with that (and Warmostraat buttresses the area too, which is home to lots of coffee shops and hostels).
Best Places to Stay in Leidesplein
- BUDGET: Amsterdam Hostel Leidseplein – This youth hostel boasts free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, and free walking tours around town. It’s a no-frills option perfect for frugal travelers looking for a basic, social accommodation.
- MID-RANGE: Hotel La Bohème – Simple but clean and comfortable, the 18 rooms here make for a nice base for a few days. Single rooms have shared bathrooms; all others have en suite toilets. Breakfast is complimentary.
- LUXURY: Hotel Weber – This eight-room hotel is set in a lovely townhouse. Rooms are big, and perks include daily breakfast (stored in the rooms’ refrigerators) and daily bread delivery. Rooms also have their own kitchenettes.
Best Neighborhood for Hipsters: De Pijp
One of Amsterdam’s most diverse neighborhoods is De Pijp. It’s my favorite part of town. If you want to feel more like a local without trudging out to the suburbs, De Pijp is a pretty good place to chill out for a while. The streets are lined with cool bars and restaurants. One of the main attractions is the Albert Cuyp Market, the biggest street market in Amsterdam. There’s a relaxing park here too (Sarphatipark) with a small lake and English-style gardens.
Best Places to Stay in De Pijp
- BUDGET: The Arcade Hotel – Simple but clean, the Arcade’s rooms offer the usual perks (large TVs, free Wi-Fi), but also there’s an interesting twist: this is a video game–themed hotel, so all rooms have a game console and headphones too — just in case you want to get sucked into a game instead of exploring Amsterdam.
- MID-RANGE: Sir Albert – Located on the edge of De Pijp (bordering on the Museum Quarter), Sir Albert is loaded with perks. Rooms have high ceilings and big windows (upgraded top-floor rooms have cathedral ceilings), plus the in-house izakaya serves up scrumptious Japanese tavern fare.
- LUXURY: Hotel Okura – This high-rise hotel in the northern part of the neighborhood has a room with a view for you. Different packages offer various perks: some have welcome drinks, some offer VIP lounge access, and others entry to the wellness center and gym. The hotel also has two in-house Michelin-starred restaurants.
Best Neighborhood for a Quiet Stay or for Families: Plantage
If you’ve had enough ruckus from staying in city centers, ultra-leafy Plantage is the place to plant yourself in Amsterdam. It’s walkable to other, more bustling parts of town and if you have kids, there are plenty of things to keep them occupied, such as Europe’s oldest zoo; NEMO, an interactive science museum; and Micropia, a fun and engaging museum focused on microorganisms. The botanical garden, as well as a somber memorial to Auschwitz, can also be found here.
Best Places to Stay in Plantage
- BUDGET: Hotel Park Plantage – Basic rooms but with coffeemakers and free Wi-Fi, the Park Plantage is a cozy place to spend a few days. Upgraded rooms are bigger, on the top floor, and have slanted ceilings with skylights.
- MID-RANGE: Parklane Hotel – Parklane is located near a strip of good restaurants. Rooms are clean and fairly basic but have the usual 21st-century amenities. Book through the website and you get free breakfast.
- LUXURY: Anna’s B&B – This charming houseboat B&B is parked at the edge of Plantage, offering youa unique stay with a rustic, quiet ambiance.
Best Neighborhood for Charm: Jordaan
Jordaan, on the west side of the canal ring, is just a short walk from the center of town. The narrow streets and canals are flanked by achingly cute rowhouses (be sure to look above the doors, where there may be a stone tablet with an object carved into it, usually the profession of the person who lived there). These days, Jordaan is crammed with upscale boutiques, elegant restaurants, laid-back cafés, and, and fun pubs. It’s really a wonderful place to stay. After De Pijp, it’s my second favorite part of Amsterdam.
Best Places to Stay in Jordaan
- BUDGET: Hotel Il Fiore – With just 14 rooms with AC, desks, flat-screen TVs, and large beds, the family-run Fiore is a true boutique hotel, and one of the few affordable options in Jordaan.
- MID-RANGE: Hotel Wiechmann – This canalside, 37-room, family-run hotel offers guest rooms in different sizes and canal views or spots in the back of the hotel (to ensure peace and quiet). Breakfast is complimentary.
- LUXURY: The Pulitzer – Spread out among 25 canal houses, this posh property has thought of it all, including in-room bicycle repair kits. (I mean, how Dutch is that?) The 225 rooms are bedecked individually, so your room will be different each time you stay there. It’s located right across the canal from Jordaan.
In the end, Amsterdam’s charming neighborhoods are all so filled with candlelit bars and cafés, painfully attractive aesthetics, and friendly bike-riding locals, it doesn’t really matter so much where you stay but that you stay in Amsterdam for longer than a couple of days. It’s a singular city, and you’ll be better off in the end that you actually got to spend a few days or a few weeks of your life here.
Book Your Trip to Amsterdam: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
If you’re looking for more places to stay that what is listed in this post, here is a complete list of my favorite hostels in Amsterdam.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for nomads)
- World Nomads (most comprehensive)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They can save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on Amsterdam?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Amsterdam for even more planning tips!
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