What a lot of visitors in Amsterdam don’t realise is how small and compact the city is compared to any other capitals in Europe. The capital of the Netherlands is in fact so small that you can easily explore the city by foot in just a day’s time. Besides being compact, exploring Amsterdam by foot is also a very safe place for pedestrians. In fact, a recent study has shown that The Netherlands is the safest country for pedestrians in Europe. That said, there are some peculiarities to understand about being a pedestrian in Amsterdam to ensure your safety—best learned before you arrive.
While there are pedestrian sidewalks in Amsterdam, these are often narrow and blend into the road or bike lanes without a curb. There may be a difference in colour between the sidewalk and bike lane or road (for instance, most bike lanes are red) but unless you’re used to this system it can be easy to stray into the path of a bike or car without realizing it.
Prime yourself to watch for the red bike lanes or other colour differences in the pavement which are meant to alert you to the division between sidewalk, bike lane and road. Tourists who hail from countries where there’s always a curb dividing the sidewalk and road should take particular care, as they tend to feel safe in areas where they’re not (e.g., walking down the middle of a bike lane).
So now that you’re well informed on walking in Amsterdam, make sure not to miss out on the following highlights, that are all within walking distance from each other;
1. Dam Square
Considered the very heart of the city, you’ll find Dam Square. It’s home to the Royal Palace, National Monument and Nieuwe Kerk. It’s a lively square where you will often find street artists doing live performances. Situated around Dam Square there are several popular attractions, such as Madame Tussauds wax museum and Ripley’s believe it or not.
2. Amsterdam Central Station
Amsterdam Central Station was built in 1889 and was designed by famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers. Cuypers also designed the Rijksmuseum and if you look closely, you’ll see the similarities between both historic buildings. Right across the station, you’ll find the Oude Kerk – Old Church.
3. Red Light District
In between Amsterdam Central Station and Dam Square you’ll find the notorious Red Light District. It might be the most discussed part of town. The area is known as a prostitution area and home to many sex shops, erotic bars and brothels. To learn more about the history of the area and have a look in a former brothel, you can visit the Red Light Secrets museum. Adults can visit the Casa Rosso, the oldest and most iconic erotic theatre with live shows in the Red Light District.
4. The iconic Amsterdam Canal Belt
Probably the most iconic, recognizable area in Amsterdam is the canal belt, officially recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage since 2010. It’s a lovely area to wander around and enjoy the city’s beautiful architecture. In the area, you’ll find the Anne Frank House, Gay Monument and Nine Streets shopping area. One can easily spend up to 3 hours exploring the Amsterdam canal belt.
Amsterdams’ equivalent to New York’s central park is called “Vondelpark“. It’s located centrally in the city and offers a great escape from the busy streets. You can go there for a rest, a peaceful walk or maybe some jogging. In the park, you’ll also find multiple cafes and restaurants.
6. Museum Square area
Museum Square district is a lovely area to walk with some magnificent architecture to be seen. As you can tell from its name, the area is full of unique museums and interesting buildings, including; Concertgebouw (pictured above), Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum of contemporary arts and the less familiar House of Bols Cocktail Museum.
7. Leidse Square nightlife area
The Leidseplein area is known for its vibrant nightlife. On the square and in the surrounding streets, you’ll find countless bars with terraces, restaurants and coffeeshops. It’s a great place to start exploring the Amsterdam Nightlife.
8. Rembrandt Square and Amstel River
Rembrandt Square is also known for its nightlife, restaurants and terraces. It is named after the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn. On the square, you’ll find statues based on one of his paintings. South of Rembrandt Square, you’ll find the beautiful Amstel River, where Amsterdam got its name from. It’s definitely worth to walk along the river and come across iconic buildings such as Hermitage Museum, the Amstel Hotel and the iconic Skinny Bridge for instance.
The beautiful Skinny Bridge crossing the Amstel River