Top 10 Tourist Traps

by Tanja
Souvenirshop in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a lovely city to visit. But just like any other famous city, you gotta be wary of those Amsterdam tourist traps: streets you should avoid, museums you shouldn’t visit, places you shouldn’t go.

Here is a Top 10 list of Amsterdam Tourist Traps:


1. Central Station & Damrak

Like any other international railway station, Amsterdam Central Station is the place where you should Be Aware. That means: watch your luggage, keep you wallet out of sight and be cautious about any seemingly friendly people offering you help and assistance. You look like you don’t know where to go and what to do. That makes you a target.

At Amsterdam Central Station you will be hassled with people offering you help finding accommodation and other ‘spectacular offers’ for tourist attractions. If you don’t need any help, be blunt. Tell that person to go away and if you are feeling unsafe, notify the police.

If you need a hotel or any other information, go to the tourist information desk located outside, across from the station. They can find hotels and information you need.

Damrak

Damrak is the street that leads you from Amsterdam Central Station to Dam Square. If you arrive to Amsterdam via the station, you will need to walk this street when you come and when you leave. Outside of these two instances, do NOT go to Damrak or Central Station, because Damrak is one big tourist trap. Damrak is a weird street with an international feel to it, because it serves only to tourists. I don’t think anyone I know living in Amsterdam has ever walked on Damrak (we bike).

Fast food alley

Terrace along Amsterdam canal

Walking along the canals of Amsterdam and stopping at a terrace for a beer. Cheaper and more fun and more authentic than the Heineken Experience.

Damrak is lined with souvenir shops, selling coffee mugs, t-shirts and a bunch of other useless stuff decorated with large penises (after all: this is Amsterdam!). You’ll find some of the worst restaurants in town here. Outlets of all well known international and national (Febo!) fast food chains next to dodgy looking currency changing offices give it that really international tourist look we call shady.

Many times, you will be tempted to walk into the – recently appearing like magic mushrooms in autumn-Tours and Tickets’ agencies trying to sell you entrances to all of the Amsterdam attractions listed in this article.

And when you leave Damrak, trying to get away by turning into one of those small urine-smelling back alleys that lead you up to the part of the Haarlemmerstraat that is actually one of the most tacky shopping streets of the city, you will understand that you should have followed my advice when I told you: Do NOT go to Damrak.

2. Amsterdam Bus Tour

Hop on, hop off, a trip in ‘original American schoolbus’, an open-top bus tour, the Amsterdam Tourist Bus, they are all the same: Amsterdam bus tours are a waste of time and a waste of money. The thing is: Amsterdam is too small to see by bus. The most interesting parts of the city you can not visit by large transport. Check out the prices, bus stops and conditions of the Amsterdam Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour.

Red light district

The Red Light District (old centre) and Nieuwmarkt, which are the oldest parts of the city can only be visited walking. Then there is the 17 th century canal belt, which you can’t visit on any bus, tram or metro, but only by foot and by bike.

The best thing to do in Amsterdam is to stroll around the small, quiet streets lined with flowers, crossing its romantic bridges, taking pictures of left over bikes locked to them and the reflection of the canal houses in the water while listening to the cheerful sound of the 18th century bell tower. A bus follows the tracks of the tram, just outside the historic centre. You’ll just be in traffic. Instead, if you don’t want to walk, try the hop on hop off cruise by boat, you will definitely see more and actually enjoy the ride.

3. Heineken Experience

The same way the word ‘Amsterdam’ just shouts sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, the Heineken Experience still enjoys its reputation of ‘the museum where you get drunk for free’. Time has turned both facts into myths, however.

Visiting the Heineken factory once was one of the most appreciated tourist attractions of Amsterdam because it meant you would pay around €1 to enter, endure a guided tour through the factory to finally make your way towards the bar: where you could drink as much Heineken beer as you wanted! Those days are gone. The Heineken Experience is still housed in the former brewery of Heineken. And that’s about all that’s interesting about the current Heineken Experience.

The Heineken Experience is not a museum or an ‘experience’, but more so a tedious advertisement of one of the biggest players in the international beer brewers. Though the rise of Amsterdam brewer Heineken comes with some very interesting stories, Heineken prefers to leave out these important background facts (read more in 10 Facts about Dutch beer ) and instead stages one big show off with 4 floors of multi media presentations. Sure, there is interactive stuff. You can fabricate your own personalised label on your Heineken bottle. You can star in your own music video. You see how it feels to be a beer bottle. Or something.

In the end you get two free half pints of Heineken beer and you’ve spend almost 1,5 hours digesting Heineken public relations.If you really are interested in Dutch beer, visit a local Amsterdam beer brewery. Most of them have free tours and the beer is always better.

4. Pastry Shops in the Red Light District

Around the Amsterdam Red Light District, there are many pastry shops. The chocolate croissants, doughnuts and cream filled cookies certainly look attractive, to some. Take a closer look. Many of these sugary delicacies have been laying around the window for quite some time, just waiting for those hungry, sugar longing coffee shops victims, which have turned ordinarily sweet tooth after that last joint they smoked…

5. The Ice Bar

Do you want to pay €19,50 to have two drinks in a freezer? Doesn’t sound attractive? Ice Bars have been popping up all around the world and funnily, it’s always for tourists. Locals just don’t go there. That at least should give you hint.The Amsterdam. XtraCold Ice Bar is basically a place with lots of ice, blocks of it and sculptures.

It takes a lot of air cooling to keep the temperature low and with recent climate change problems, as a tourist you really ought to wonder about the necessities of this type of ‘fun’ places.

The attraction costs a whooping €19,50 and for that money you get two small drinks and max. 30 minutes inside. You get gloves, but still, most people only last 15 minutes inside because it’s too cold. If you just pop round  Amsterdam in wintertime and open a bottle of beer at night, you get the same idea, but cheaper.

6. Flower Market

Flower Market Amsterdam

Amsterdam Flower Market is a tourist trap

The Flower Market in Amsterdam is not something you should be too enthusiastic about. First of all: the Amsterdam flower market is supposed to be located on boats. It’s true that some are located on barges that float, but you won’t notice that. Websites still write this is ‘typical local market’, but that’s not true. Dutch people don’t buy flowers on the Amsterdam Flower Market. This market is for tourists.

There is a only a small selection of flowers, they are not very fresh and not cheap. The Amsterdam Flower Market has a long history, but as with many things in this list, that doesn’t not automatically make it a must see. It’s just a line of some 15 shops selling mostly tacky souvenirs along with flower pots, seeds and gardening accessories.

Most of the shop sell mostly flower bulbs to tourists. Still I advise you to only buy souvenirs at the Amsterdam Flower Market and NOT buy bulbs. Due to restrictions, many tourist will find at the airport, they are not allowed to bring the bulbs home with them. This is especially true for Americans and of course, Australians.

The bulbs on the Amsterdam Flower Market are not the best quality. Often the bulbs have been laying around there for a while. I advise you to go home and order flower bulbs from Holland online. The quality is better and they are delivered at your door. If you want to buy a big bunch of fresh Dutch flowers, go to a neighbourhood market like Albert Cuyp (everyday except Sunday) or Lindengracht (Saturdays) at the Amsterdam Jordaan Quarter or look at a list of Amsterdam markets.

7. Amsterdam Dungeon

The Amsterdam Dungeon is supposed to be a ‘scary theatre show’, that plays out some of the darker chapters in Amsterdam history, like torture during the Spanish inquisition or when the city was infested by the Plague. The same ‘dungeon’ format is known in other European cities (like London and Edinburgh).

The Amsterdam Dungeon consists of small dark rooms, lit by black light, strobe and other special effects where you will entertained and/or scared by actors dressed up as corpses and ghosts and such. I suppose it could scare a child. At the end there is a one minute roller-coaster ride. On top of all that, the Amsterdam Dungeon have extremely confusing prices. It depends when you buy, where you buy and when you go and how many people.

Don’t be tempted to buy the ‘extra cheap deal’ combination ticket with Madame Tussaud, unless fakeness and large crowds of teenagers is your thing. A ticket to the Amsterdam Dungeon is around €10. At least buy your ticket online if you still plan on going there, to save money. Check to see what you will get and get tickets to the Amsterdam Dungeon.

8. Erotic Museum and Sex Museum

Amsterdam needs to have its sex museums. Because it just does. It doesn’t mean you have to go there. Both Erotic Museum and Sex Museum are mostly funny and sometimes interesting but it’s nothing special. It’s just a couple of floors with sex related object and pictures wanting to shock you.

The objects presented consist of photographs, drawings, sculptures and other artefacts, as well as film and instruments, all related to the sex theme. This means: body parts and pictures of men,  women and, yes, animals engaging in sexual intercourse in very, very varied ways. Some can be quite hardcore, so be prepared. The Erotic Museum is very funny when you are a teenager. According to visitors, the Sex Museum is the better one. The Erotic Museum seems to be more like a large shop, with the artefacts placed randomly in the different room. But who needs the Sex Museum, when there is internet?

9. Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein

Rembrandtplein

Street Artists selling your portrait at Rembrandtplein, Amsterdam

I have heard people say, their favourite place in Amsterdam was Leidseplein. And that to me, is unbelievable. Apart from a tourist office, there is really nothing to see there, besides tourists walking around like zombies trying to find out where to go next. The Leidseplein serves well as a point of reference. It connects the canal belt to the Vondelpark and the Museum Square. The Melkweg concert place is here, the theatre, the cultural centre Balie for your free wifi and Paradiso is around the corner.

But the terraces and bars are touristy and expensive and don’t carry any charm. Unless the jugglers and acrobats trying to attract a crowd to cheer them on is your idea of entertainment, the Leidseplein should be avoided as much as possible.  The side streets are lined with cheap pizza places. In the weekend the streets and bars around Leidseplein fill up with young (Dutch) people popping in and out of bars where they play loud Dutch music while riot police looks on from the Square.

10. Discount ticket packages

Discount ticket packages are very popular, but it is worth while to consider how many museum you can visit in a short period of time. The IAmsterdam City Card is one of the most expensive cards, so you will need to visit at least 3 museums in 24 hours to make it worth your while.  Also, the Anne Frank House is never includes, because it is a private museum. It is advised to compare Amsterdam city passes.


 

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Leave a Comment


13 comments

Travelhappy March 24, 2015 - 19:40

Fantastic article, heading to Amsterdam this weekend and this is perfect! Thank you.

Reply
agustina May 26, 2015 - 00:32

thanks!

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Jon June 1, 2015 - 10:37

Thanks answered many questions I have been looking for the answers for! 😀

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Michael K July 31, 2015 - 11:26

This article made me laugh a lot. I’ve been to Amsterdam many times since the early nineties and am lucky because I somehow managed to avoid all these things but have seen so many friends fall for them and be really angry at me for saying ‘No…I think I’ll just walk around’ or ‘I’d rather have a drink in the park’ or ‘Is a museum about sex a good idea?’ and things like that.
Maybe I was just poorer than other people and decided to ‘go cheap’ but it also turned out that I had ‘gone Dutch’ and so many people in Amsterdam told me I was ‘a natural local’.

Mind you, if people head for a coffeeshop right after arriving, then everything, even the most obvious scam, will look magical 😛

Reply
Roshan August 21, 2015 - 11:48

I intend to visit Amsterdam from 22nd to 30 of September2015.
Is it a good time to visit?
Anyone else willing to team up pls?

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P.F. Spencer September 16, 2015 - 17:14

We’re heading to Amsterdam at the end of September for 10 days. We are big fans of museums and wonder if the Museum Jaarkaart is worthwhile since we’ll be mostly in the city (maybe a day trip to Haarlem) and will only be there for a fortnight. Or is there another museum card for shorter visits? Advice please.

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Tanja September 16, 2015 - 18:04

Hi, There’s the Iamsterdam City Card, but I find it expensive and it won’t last you for the entire 10 days and you only get a discount at some museums, like the Rijksmuseum. http://www.iamsterdam.com/en/i-am/i-amsterdam-city-card/what-is-included. The Museum Year card is cheaper, it’s valid for ALL museums in the Netherlands (except some private collections) and it’s valid for one year. Also, you can skip the line at many museums (like Rijksmuseum), so it’s also good for a quick visit. The Museum Year Card seems like a better deal to me, but you can read the link to see what suits you best. Enjoy!

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Michael December 2, 2015 - 04:41

As a local who works in the visitor sector a good article from a locals perspective but then some visitors just enjoy the easy places locals find as tourist traps.

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Frank May 13, 2016 - 11:20

The museumjaarkaart not interchangeable. You have to write your name on the card the moment you buy and if not, the card will not be accepted everywhere.

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rolf schreuder May 14, 2016 - 15:34

as a tour guide I know my city well, I must say I feel a bit ashamed not having written this article a long time ago myself!!
All is so true; why on earth would you wanna visit an ice bar when you are in Amsterdam?!
Goto Siberia or wherever for that experience. That hop-on -hop-off bus is indeed a total joke; walk or bike. Nothing to see by bus, you can’t enter the oldest part of town or the Jordaan or Pijp neighbourhoods( tendy..). Or the “9 straatjes” for that matter( shop heaven!).
Don’t visit any diamond factories either; it;’s years ago that Amsterdam played an important role in that line of business and certainly don’t expect to buy anything cheap.
You’ll get a 30% discount after they have raised the item you are looking at with 200%…..
Another main tourist attraction is Wax Museum Madame Tussaud….yeah visit Amsterdam and make a selfie with Obama or Lady Gaga..or maybe Lionel Messi!!! Great stuff, not to be missed when there are so many cool things to do elsewise.

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Michiel Bloemgarten May 15, 2016 - 14:52

Let me add het Grachtenhuis, as a museum to avoid. Go to van Loon, or Geelvinck Hinloopen, free with Museumcard too !!

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ARI February 28, 2017 - 17:53

Thanks for the information,he advise about R R stations applies to Air ports as well the world over,many wait to take advantage of the lost looking tourist,Do not let yur guard down,not all friendly people are crooks but…….

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Prvn G June 22, 2018 - 18:57

Excellent article! I am not a traveler, but plans to be in Amsterdam for a day or two, and want to see best I can without any hassle. Great article!

Reply