We arrived in Amsterdam on the last leg of our trip to Europe. After having covered Rome, Florence, Pisa and Venice in Italy. Then Bern, Lucerne, Grindelwald, Interlaken and Mount Titlis in Switzerland. Thereafter spending some time in Paris and a day in Disneyland. We finally arrived in Amsterdam. But little did we know that we are arriving in Amsterdam on King’s day. And the city is going to be super crowded due to it. Nevertheless, we were hell bent on not wasting time. Rather we decided to be a part of the celebrations. And also go on with the self guided Amsterdam city walking tour that we planned for ourselves.
We are so glad we did our self guided Amsterdam city walking tour. Just like our previous walking tour in Europe, including Florence walking tour, Venice walking tour and a walking tour in Lucerne, we enjoyed this Amsterdam city walking tour a lot. We did at our own pace. And also for free. In this post lies the details of the self guided Amsterdam city walking tour. With a map at the end for your convenience. Feel free to tweak and customize as required. Also, if you are in Amsterdam as first timer, here’s a beautiful guide on where to stay in Amsterdam as first time visitor.
Our self guided Amsterdam city walking tour started right at Amsterdam Central. Since we were staying nearer to the Schiphol airport, we took a train from there to Amsterdam Central. Thus arriving at the heart of Amsterdam. The railway stations at Amsterdam have automated ticketing as well as ticket swiping system. So, it took us just 2 minutes to get used to this convenient method. And soon we saw ourselves out of the Amsterdam Central, on the street. We crossed the street and walked towards left, taking the first right as the road turned. This brought us on to the Damark, the north-south road that connects Amsterdam Central to the next destination on our stop, the Dam Square.
The next day we were supposed to take a guided tour to the Tulip Gardens. So, we decided to locate the tour operator whose address was right on the Damark. In the process of locating the office, we scrutinized Damark thoroughly. Either side of the street is full of shops and restaurants, that range from economy to high end. And the shops include literally everything from grocery to garments to souvenirs. So, in case you are planning to shop, particularly high end, then Damark will be a good starting point for you. After having located our tour office and confirmed with them our plan for the next day, we headed further to the Dam Square.
The Dam Square
The next stop on our self guided Amsterdam city walking tour, The Dam Square can’t be missed, as you arrive at the end of the Damark. It is a big square located at the Amstel River dam, built in 1270. It has many notable and significant buildings surrounding it. The prominent one amongst these being the Royal Palace itself. The square also has a national monument to memorize the victims of the world war 2. The place was particularly abuzz on the eve of the King’s day. With lots of youth and old alike celebrating the day, sitting on the Dam Square. Some singing, some dancing and some simply drinking 🙂
The Oude Church
From the Dam Square, we took a left and immediate next left. Then we continued straight to arrive on the next destination on our self guided Amsterdam city walking tour – The Oude Church. The Oude Church, also known as the Oude Kerk, is Amsterdam’s oldest building and also the oldest Parish church. The same itself means “Old Church”. The church is huge, covering an area of almost 36000 sq foot. And Amsterdam being a marshy land, it is really commendable that this building has stood the test of time. Which makes it something not to be missed when taking your self guided Amsterdam city walking tour.
The Red Light District
Well, can a tour of Amsterdam complete without taking a walk in the Red Light District ? No. So, from the Oude Church, one can head to the Red Light District. In fact, there is a Museum of Prostitution at a stone’s throw away from the Oude Church. It takes the visitors through the daily life of the prostitutes, their work, etc. Something that is considered illegal in most of the other parts of world has not only been legalized but also accepted here, that commands a lot of respect. In fact, visitors are also welcome to leave their own secret confession on one wall of the museum! Visit the museum and walk through the Red Light District on your self guided Amsterdam city walking tour, heading to the next destination – Nieuwmarkt.
“Nieuwmarkt” (New Market) is another square located centrally in Amsterdam. A daily market is established around the square. And on weekends, special organic markets are arranged here. There are many restaurants and cafes around the square. So, if you feel tired on your self guided Amsterdam city walking tour, now is the perfect time to grab a coffee. Or a basket of fries with cheese and sauce! You can also rest your foot a bit before continuing further on the self guided Amsterdam city walking tour. Nieuwmarkt is considered a part of the Chinatown area, a chinese settlement in the center of Amsterdam. Walking on, we will continue further to the next destination – the Waterlooplein Market.
Waterlooplein is the oldest flea market, not just in Amsterdam but in the whole of Netherlands. Next we arrive here on our self guided Amsterdam city walking tour. Running 6 days a week, the market hosts hundreds of stalls selling all kind of items. There are many food trucks also stationed here, offering the best of fries, Italian and Greek appetizers and main courses. A world famous flea market, it is a must include in the list of places to visit while on our self guided Amsterdam city walking tour. In fact, those of us, who saved ourselves shopping in the high end malls on Damark can actually look for some souvenirs here. And those who are not into shopping can just enjoy the feel of the place in general.
Nationale Opera & Ballet
From Waterlooplein market, we head further on our self guided Amsterdam city walking tour. Arriving at the Nationale Opera & Ballet. The place is highly recommended by theater lovers. The shows and Ballets performances are great, and need pre-booking. If you are not into theaters or don’t want to watch the shows, it is still worth visiting this area before heading further on the self guided Amsterdam city walking tour. Since, this area boasts of the best of the houseboats on the canals of Amsterdam. You can easily witness some around. Some are even converted into restaurants and cafes and you can get the feel of one here.
The Amsterdam Flower Market, just like the Red Light District and many others, is one of it’s kind in the world. In fact, it is the only floating flower market in the whole world. And that’s the reason, it must be in the list of places to visit on our self guided Amsterdam city walking tour. So, next you walk here from the Nationale Opera & Ballet. Since 1862, this market is operational 6 days a week (closed on Sunday). And it is best described as one of the most fragrant parts of Amsterdam 🙂 . Here you can buy bouquets, single stems of flowers or even bulbs. And the best part is that the bulbs are ready for export. So, you can easily carry them back home with you.
Next on the self guided Amsterdam city walking tour comes Westerkerk, a church designed in the Renaissance style of architecture. The architect, Hendrick de Keyser, who built this church, is himself buried here. The construction of the church was finished by his son in 1631. It is particularly famous as one of the first purposefully made protestant church. While other older churches were converted during the reform. More than anything, the renaissance architecture of the church is particularly attractive.
Anne Frank House
The second last spot on our self guided Amsterdam city walking tour is the Anne Frank House. To me, it is the most moving as well. If you don’t know about the life and story of Anne Frank, I highly recommend you read the Diary of a young girl. It is a small yet moving true story of a girl, Anne Frank, who lived hidden in this house along with her family and a few other families during the second world war, while the Nazis took control of the city. The house is preserved in her memorial is now open to the public.
The story is really moving, it is all about the human spirit, despair, hope against hope and the zeal to live on in the most pathetic and worst conditions. A story of an individual that brings out and strong the message about how cruel a war can get.
Last but not the least, Jordaan is actually not a building or a museum, or a park. But is is a neighborhood, an area right through which you walk as you start back from Anne Frank House to the Amsterdam Centraal. It is one of the most expensive and upscale locations of not just Amsterdam but the whole Netherlands. “Jordaan” derives from the French word meaning “Garden”. And most streets and locations in this area are named after trees and flowers. Overall, it is a delight to walk through this neat and clean, well structured area, looking at some of the most posh houses of Netherlands.
Canals of Amsterdam
Last but not the least, a trip to Amsterdam won’t complete without a boat ride on the canals of Amsterdam. So, before you end your self guided Amsterdam city walking tour, don’t forget to take a boat ride over one of the numerous gorgeous canals that are like the arteries of this city. It’s always wonderful to be on the canal and have a look at the city go by, along side the beautiful sunset, calling it end of a beautiful day!
Map of the self guided Amsterdam city walking tour
General Tips on visiting Amsterdam
We traveled to Amsterdam for only 2 days. We spent the first one on the above walking tour and the second one in the Tulip Gardens. If you have more time at hand, you can as well take some awesome day trips from Amsterdam. Having said that, let us summarize some useful tips for you when visiting Amsterdam:
- Amsterdam, the capital of Netherlands, is well connected with most of the other cities around the world through air ways, and most of the cities in Europe through rail and road as well. We arrived here from Paris.
- Amsterdam Central is the central railway station in the city, located right near the old city, and is well connected with other railway stations. For instance, there is a train between Schiphol and Amsterdam Central every 10 minutes.
- We visited here on the King’s day. Being a holiday, and a day of celebration, it was super crowded. Vehicles were not allowed on the major lanes. So, it was inconvenient to commute farther. So, if you want to do a thorough exploration of the city, chose a different day. Also, many shops, markets and places of interest are closed on Sunday, so avoid making a plan on Sunday for this kind of self guided Amsterdam city walking tour.
- Wear comfortable shoes as there is a lot of walking to be done around.
- Carry your own refill drinking water. It will be really expensive to buy bottled drinking water in this area.
- There are plenty of cafes and restaurants on this route, so no need to worry about food.
- Apart from the places mentioned here, there are several other notable places to visit in Amsterdam. They are farther apart, so, can’t be covered as a part of this walking tour. However, you can take a public transport or hire a bicycle (cummon you are in Amsterdam!) to go to some of these. Like Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and several other notable museums, Vondelpark, De Gooyer Windmill.
- In May beginning, it was still pretty cold there. Pack accordingly.