The Amsterdam hop-on hop-off Guide

How to explore the Netherlands' most vivid and cosmopolitan city in just a day or two... 

Amsterdam hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus tour, Red-Lights by night

The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive in Amsterdam is that it’s a city of narrow canals. And then you’ll become aware of the proliferation of bicycles. Yes, people cycle everywhere in Amsterdam, although this charming little city is also a pleasure to stroll around and explore.


The city’s narrow streets are a delightful maze, always culminating in a pretty cobbled square. The buildings alongside the canals and in these narrow streets are tall and skinny, and the bridges across the little canals are just tall enough to allow barges to sail underneath.


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Take your time exploring this charming city, for it has many interesting stories to tell. You’ll find out all about Anne Frank and her family, who hid in an annex for two years to escape the Nazis during the Second World War. You’ll visit fascinating museums with historic items on display, including some of the most beautiful works of art in the world. You’ll bargain at a choice of markets, sample beer at excellent bars and nightclubs, or enjoy fresh herring from a streetside stall, cause no matter where you go and what you do in Amsterdam, you’ll find yourself enthralled...


Our Amsterdam hop-on hop-off Guide will show you how to explore this beautiful and lively city in a fun and easy way, and without wasting any precious holiday time (or money)...  


How much does it cost?

At the time of writing the basic tour costs US$ 22.5 for and adult and US$ 17 for a child (4-16), but you can also "upgrade" to a combo-ticket which includes a canal cruise and costs US$ 33 for an adult / US$ 27.50 for a child.  


The ticket is valid for 24 hours and includes as many hop on, hop off stops as you wish to make. To orientate yourself in the city, simply take the entire 60-minute tour first, and then you can hop on and off as you please, once you’ve chosen the places you want to visit.


Departure times 

The first bus leaves Central Station at and there is a bus every 20 minutes throughout the day. The last bus departs at 5.20pm.


Places to see and things to do along the route


1. The bus tour starts at the busy Central Station, which is The Netherlands's main transportation centre for trains, and Amsterdam’s centre for trams and buses. The station is also near the famous (or rather infamous) Red Light District, which is well worth exploring, especially at night, when the canals are lit up.


The NEMO Science Museum is also in the vicinity. It’s the largest science centre in the Netherlands, and boasts five floors full of exciting scientific and technological displays. Also nearby is the Scheepvaartmuseum, which was once used as a naval storage depot, and is now a fascinating maritime museum.


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2. Your first hop off point is along the busy street called Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, which literally means "New Side Forward Bastion Wall". Located in the centre of Amsterdam, it boasts some famous buildings, including the magnificent Royal Palace and the Nieuwe Kerk ("New Church"). The beautiful17th Century palace was designed to reflect the power and status of the Dutch Golden Age of prosperity. It was used as the Town Hall until 1808, when Louis Napoleon, Bonaparte’s brother, moved in during his brief reign as King of the Netherlands. Next to the palace is the 15th Century Nieuwe Kerk, or New Church, which was once the most important church in the country. The church, which is now used for art exhibitions and organ recitals, has been restored to its former Renaissance glory and it’s a pleasure to explore, with its elaborate altar, huge pipe organ, arched nave and sepulchral monuments... (Click here to see what exhibitions are currently on view)


You’ll find the shopping haven, Kalverstraat, nearby (Almost behind the palace – walk for a couple of minutes along Paleisstraat) , as well as the Amsterdam Museum, which boasts an excellent art collection, some archeological finds and other items that tell the story of the city’s history.  


Madame Tussauds Amsterdam is also just a minute away, facing the famous Dam Square, and right next to the corner of Kalverstraat.


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The "Westerkerk" can be seen along the Amsterdam hop-on, hop-off bus route

the Renaissance-style Westerkerk

3. At your next stop you can hop off the bus to explore the Renaissance-style Westerkerk. Rembrandt is buried in the church in an unmarked grave and it’s also famous for being where the present Queen Beatrix married Prince Claus in 1966. The church, which was built in 1631, has a beautiful organ worth taking a look at. You can also climb the 186 steps to the top of the church tower, or Westertoren, for a spectacular view of the city below. At the top of the tower there’s a red, blue and gold Imperial crown, donated to the city in 1486 by Emperor Maximilian.


Near the church you will find the famous Anne Frank House. This is where Anne and her family lived in hiding for more than two years during the Nazi Regime. In the museum located here you will see Anne’s original diary and other items of interest.


4. At the next stop you can explore Amsterdam’s vibrant Leidseplein Square, one of the citys’ most popular dining and nightlife destinations, full of coffee shops, theatres, restaurants, clubs and cinemas. If you like, you can just sit at one of the coffee shops, relax with a cup of coffee and people watch. The square is busy day and night.  After dark, street musicians and other performers add to the colour and excitement. While you’re here, take a look at some of the historic buildings on the square, including the American Hotel Amsterdam, which is famous for its Art Déco interior, and the Renaissance-style Municipal Theatre, the Stadsschouwburg.


5. The next stop where you can hop off the bus is at Museumplein ("Museum Square"), where you can explore a number of famous museums, including the spectacular Rijksmuseum, or State Museum, one of the most magnificent museums in the world. Museumplein is also used for concerts and other events, so when you’re not busy exploring the museums around, you can enjoy a breather in the square itself.


Amongst the museums on the square you’ll find the stunning Van Gogh Museum, which boasts the largest collection of this famous artist’s works. The Stedelijk Museum contains an excellent collection of modern artworks, Dutch photography, design and furniture. You will be able to see some works by Matisse, Picasso and Andy Warhol up close here.  The Diamond Museum of Amsterdam, also in Museumplein, is home to some stunning historic diamond-jewelleries, and also explains how diamonds were created and how they were used along the history…


Near the square is the huge public park, the Vondelpark, home to a fine film museum, an open-air theatre and a playground.


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Amsterdam is best known for its picturesque canals

6. Your next hop-off point is along Stadhouderskade Street, in a precinct called "De Pijp" (The Pipe). This famous area is known for its excellent cafes, coffee shops, bars and Syrian, Moroccan and Surinamese restaurants. The Albert Cuyp Market, one of the city's most popular market streets, is also located here – and you can pick up all sorts of item at the market, from food and clothing to cameras. Behind the market stalls there’s a selection of interesting shops, including Islamic butchers, Turkish, Indian and Spanish delicatessens and grocery stores.


The famous Heineken Experience, where you can visit the former brewery and find out how the famous ale is made, is right next to where the bus stops, and so is the jetty from where you can board on your free canal-cruise (that is if you bought the more expensive ticket, which includes it).


7. Hop off at the next point at Waterlooplein, a square that’s famous for its Flea Market, where you can purchase excellent second hand clothing and bric-a-brac. Nearby is Rembrandt House, a museum with items on display that tell the story of the artist’s life and work.


Other noteworthy spots around the square include the 17th-century Portuguese Synagogue, as well as the Joods Historisch Museum (Jewish Historical Museum) and the Hermitage Amsterdam, which is the local offshoot of the world-known Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg, Russia


8. There’s a lot to see at your next stop, in the Muntplein (literally "mint square"), a centrally located square that is actually the widest bridge in the city. It crosses the Singel Canal at the spot where the canal flows into the Amstel River. The square is named after the Munt Tower, or Munttoren, which is also found here – it was once part of three main medieval city gates. The guardhouse attached to the tower was built in the 19th Century.


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Amsterdam is home to the world's only floating flower market

Rembrandtplein, just a few minutes' walk away, is a square that boasts a vibrant nightlife. The patch of lawn in the middle of the square houses a statue of Rembrandt, and in front of it you’ll see a number of smaller statues that represent the artist’s most famous painting, The Night Watch.  Amsterdam’s renowned Floating Flower Market is also in the area, located on one of the city’s oldest canals, and If you’re in the mood for some really ancient history, why not visit the Allard Pierson Museum, the archaeological museum of the Amsterdam University, which has some very interesting artifacts on display from the civilisations of ancient Egypt, the Near East, the Greek World, Etruria and the Roman Empire, dating from 4000 B.C. till 500 A.D.


9. The next stop along the route is at the Damrak, the city’s main street. Its name comes from the fact that the street was located on a ‘rak’ or ‘reach’, a straight part of the Amstel River located near a dam.


10. Your last stop is outside St. Nicolaaskerk (Church of St Nicholas), the city’s main Catholic church, built in 1887. Take a look inside at its beautiful black marble pillars, and look out for the murals that illustrate the story of St Nicholas’ life.


And here is something that is well worth knowing about: Taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour is one the best ways to explore any large city, as it saves you lots of precious holiday time and takes you EXACTLY to those places you really want to visit... (Not to mention the great views you can enjoy from the open top...). We have dozens of free "Hop on hop off guides" that cover quite a few cities across the world, including SingaporeHong KongSydney,  MelbourneAucklandShanghaiAthensIstanbul and many other destinations..... Simply click here to see them in a webpage format (with embeded videos), or here, to view and download them as eBooks (PDF format).


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