By Samantha Karen
Solo travel to Amsterdam is simple and straightforward, making this one of the best solo travel destinations in Europe if you’re looking for beauty, culture and history.
Two important things make Amsterdam one of the best places to travel solo: first, Amsterdam is an exceedingly safe city for solo female travel and second, it is one of the most beautiful places in Europe and one of the most welcoming on earth.
For centuries, Amsterdam has attracted visitors, from traders to tourists, yet somehow, the city’s unique character has survived.
This is a city that will charm you from start to finish, and have you dreaming about it long after you leave – not to mention that it’s ideal for first time solo travel. Yes, it’s one of the best cities to visit in the Netherlands.
WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE A SOLO TRIP TO AMSTERDAM
Amsterdam is the type of travel destination that will surprise you. A certain seedy reputation has followed it throughout the years due to its legal marijuana and legal prostitution, but this side of Amsterdam is only a fraction of what the city is truly about. While many people do come to visit the Red Light District, drink all day and party all night, there are just as many people who visit for the art, history, and culture of the city.
This is the breathtaking side of Amsterdam. Its architecture is among the most unique and quirky in Europe. The lopsided houses built shoulder to shoulder in neutral tones are unique to this city. What makes Amsterdam even more beautiful are the plethora of canals, which leads to unique, and confusing, explorations.
Amsterdam is also the perfect place to visit for history and culture lovers.
It is full of historic buildings and monuments and many museums, such as the famous Anne Frank House, where a young Jewish girl lived during World War II before she was taken to Auschwitz. Find out more on this walking tour of the Jewish quarter will put it all into perspective.
Amsterdam’s range of unusual and unique museums include art museums, history museums, tulip museums, body museums, glow in the dark museums and many more.
Another aspect of the city that makes it especially attractive is its welcome and open nature. As a solo female traveller, you will feel completely comfortable walking around and exploring the city.
IS AMSTERDAM SAFE FOR SOLO FEMALE TRAVELLERS?
Overall Amsterdam is a very safe city. You can walk the streets alone during the day, and in some places at night, and feel completely safe and comfortable in a relatively harassment-free environment.
There are always other people out and about in the city center. This makes exploring feel more comfortable and, if something ever happened, you’d have people around to help.
What makes Amsterdam feel even safer is the lack of a language barrier: almost everyone speaks English, and many signs and information are also in English.
However, that is not to say Amsterdam is 100% safe. Things can and do happen.
Since Amsterdam is seen by some as a party town, large groups of men travel here, pumped for the weekend and often drinking copious amounts of alcohol. During the day, these groups are harmless and typically less aggressive. But at night, once the sun sets, the drinking and partying begin in earnest and more caution is needed. If you want to explore at night, it is best to stay in popular areas and avoid the Red Light District area (and any quiet side streets) after 9pm.
Some good areas to explore at night are Museumplein, Liedsplein, and Rembrandtplein. While this is also where most bars are, there are many people around at night and you can always find a quiet place to sit for a drink or a meal on your own.
AMSTERDAM SOLO TRAVEL: HOW TO GET AROUND
Amsterdam has an amazing public transportation system that consists of trains, metros, busses, and trams. These three things can get you all around the city easily and quickly, but the costs can add up.
The best thing to do is get a refillable OV-chipkaart from one of the stands in the metro stations. You can top up the card with cash and avoid having to buy individual tickets all the time. Just note that the trams stop running at midnight, after which you will have to plan your transportation with a bus. (You can also buy a GVB pass for unlimited public transport.)
The favorite way to get around Amsterdam, however, is by bicycle and there are actually more bikes in Amsterdam than people. If you are a cyclist, then this is the cheapest, quickest and most fun way to get around.
You will quickly notice upon arrival that the bike culture in Amsterdam is unlike any other. There are bike parking stations all around the city and bike lanes weaving their way through the streets. Do keep an eye out for cyclists in Amsterdam: many tourists walk unsuspectingly into their paths and very nearly get hit and hurt.
There are plenty of bike rental places throughout Amsterdam and prices are affordable. Just remember to stay on the right side of the bike lane, and if you hear a bell, move over to the right, and use your hand signals if you are turning any direction.
That said, you should only rent a bike if you feel 100% comfortable riding one. Biking in Amsterdam is quite stressful and if you feel uncomfortable, you could get hurt. If you’d rather have safety in numbers, this is a good time for a biking tour of Amsterdam’s highlights and hidden corners.
Two final transportation options are walking and Uber.
If you choose an accommodation within the city center, walking around Amsterdam is perfectly feasible. Amsterdam is a very small city and easily walkable. It is also beautiful and many say walking around is the best way to discover it.
All that walking may be tiring, however, so Uber would be another option, safer and less expensive than taxis, especially if you need to return to your accommodation at night.
SOLO TRAVEL TO AMSTERDAM: THINGS TO DO
Go to a Museum
Amsterdam has a wealth of museums and you can easily spend hours exploring them. Not to mention that museums are often best seen solo…
Here are some of the top museums in Amsterdam, along with links to skip-the-line tickets where they are available:
- Rijkmuseum, Amsterdam’s largest, with artefacts and exhibits dating back to medieval times
- Anne Frank House, where the Jewish girl Anne Frank lived behind an attic bookshelf during World War II until she was captured by the Nazis
- Moco Museum: this is the museum of Modern Art, displaying such artists as Banksy and Andy Warhol (get your ticket here)
- FOAM museum, contemporary photography exhibitions
- Van Gogh Museum (get your ticket here)
- Stedelijk Museum, the “other” contemporary art museum
There are many more museums worth seeing in Amsterdam and the I Amsterdam City Card gives you free admission to 60 of them, as well as to public transportation city-wide.
Eat at a Cafe
Amsterdam is packed with delicious and unique cafés that are perfect for a drink and a bite to eat.
Many of them are in Jordaan, a neighborhood listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you’ll find plenty to choose from, where you can eat a delicious meal while admiring the views of the city and watching the people mill about.
Some great café options include Coffee and Coconuts, Pluk, and Mr. Stacks, but there are hundreds more. You can easily find a cafe on every street and around every corner!
Take a Canal Cruise
The 160 canals in the city make Amsterdam one of the loveliest European cities and provide it with the nickname, “Venice of the North”.
One of the best ways to get around and see everything quickly and easily is by taking a canal cruise, most of which are relatively inexpensive. The cruises usually last between 1-1.5 hours and take you to some of the most important and historical places in the city. The guided commentary also tells you a bit about what you’re seeing.
Explore the 9 Streets
The 9 Streets are some of the most famous shopping streets in Amsterdam. They are located in the stunning Jordaan area, the city’s most beautiful. This is the perfect place to venture to if you want to do some shopping while admiring the city. You’ll find vintage shops, local jewellery shops, and tons of cute cafes. This is an extremely safe place to explore and always lively.
Amsterdam is extremely photogenic and walking around is the perfect way to make sure you’ve got plenty of pictures.
There are plenty of walking tours if you’d rather be guided (including free, tip-based tours).
Go on a Day Trip
The Netherlands is a small country and there are many places you can visit on a day tour.
The Dutch train system is excellent and you can get from one city to another in 20 minutes (check out Dutch train schedules and fares).
Some easy train day trips include Haarlem, Utrecht, Muiderslot Castle, The Hague, and Rotterdam.
If you’d like to go further afield, you can also take a few organized trips, for example to the remarkable tulip fields of Keukenhof Gardens or to Zaanse Schans, famous for its wooden windmills and green-painted houses.
WHERE TO STAY IN AMSTERDAM
As I mentioned earlier, booking accommodation that is centrally located will make it easier for you to sightsee. Here are some recommended hotels to give you an idea of prices and location:
- Felicitas, inexpensive and centrally located houseboat
- Linden Hotel, in the heart of Jordaan
- The Highland House, a luxurious but affordable boutique hotel
- Banks Mansion, for central luxury
Here’s a breakdown of Amsterdam travel costs to give you a better idea of how to budget for your visit.
AMSTERDAM FEMALE SOLO TRAVEL TIPS
Here are a few tips to help you get around if you’re traveling to Amsterdam alone:
- Beware of pickpockets. Although Amsterdam is a safe city, there are still pickpockets, which is why keeping your things close to your body or using an anti-theft purse is essential.
- Avoid the Red Light District after dark. The later it is, the seedier it gets, and 9-10pm should be your cut-off point if you’re on your own. Otherwise, it is as safe as other parts of Amsterdam, although this is one area where pickpockets thrive.
- The emergency number in Amsterdam is 112.
- Consider buying a prepaid SIM card from KPN with a data package. The cheaper options will provide you with sufficient data to keep in touch through WhatsApp or iMessage, although you can of course get more expensive packages that will provide you with full Internet service. That said, many cafés will provide you with free WIFI. (Just make sure you use a VPN, or virtual private network, to safeguard your data on public open WIFI. You can sign up for a month if you want: it’s cheap, and your private information will stay safe.).
- Once you leave the tourist trail, not all shops will accept credit cards, or even foreign debit cards, so beware. Some places will only take Maestro, widely used in Europe.
- Make sure you carry some spare change with you in case you need to use a public toilet. Or, simply use one in a café.
As a solo female traveller, you’ll enjoy Amsterdam – its diversity, compactness and safety. There is much to do here to keep you busy. As in any world-class city, keep your wits about you, your belongings safe, and enjoy your visit!
Samantha Karen is the founder of the travel bog Sam Sees World, filled with valuable information on the best things to do, see, eat, and experience while traveling and making memories along the way. You can follow Sam on Pinterest and Instagram.