Direct flights from Johannesburg to Amsterdam and from Cape Town to Amsterdam are available through KLM. Other airlines that fly to Amsterdam from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Goerge and East London include Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Emirates and British Airways. A direct flight from Johannesburg to Amsterdam takes approximately 11 hours 40 minutes, and flying directly from Cape Town to Amsterdam takes 11 hours 55 minutes. Your flight time to Amsterdam will of course be longer if you have any layovers travelling non-direct from Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban, Goerge and East London. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is located about 20km from the city. There are 3 modes of transportation available from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) to the city centre of Amsterdam: taxi, train and bus. The fastest route to the city centre is by hiring an Amsterdam airport taxi and takes 15-20 minutes to reach your destination. The quickest method of public transportation is the train and it takes around 20 minutes to reach the downtown area. An alternative cheap option is the bus and the journey takes 35 minutes.
Museums and art galleries, a canal cruise and enjoying local Dutch cuisine are some of the must-do’s while you’re in Amsterdam. The Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House rate amongst the top museums to see, but if you want to take a break from the art and history, you can always have a picnic in Vondelpark or head out on a short bus trip for a day in Keukenhof. The end of March to mid-May are the best times to see the tulips there in full bloom. Enjoy a different view of the city from the comfort of a cruise on the canals. Easier and more relaxing than a bicycle tour, you can just sit back and relax. Most canal cruises take around an hour, but there are other hop-on-hop-off as well as romantic candle-lit options. Blue Boat, Stromma and Lovers are some of the most reliable and well-known cruise operators in the city. The Dutch are not necessarily applauded for their contribution to world cuisine, but there are plenty of traditional dishes that are worth trying – stroopwafels, krokette, frites with mayonnaise, poffertjies and bitterballen are amongst the favourites. One of the best ways to try these local foods is through an organised food tour. If, however you’d like a more diverse range of options to choose from, visit the Foodhallen. This indoor food market is very popular amongst foodies, a great spot for people watching and from an architectural point of view this former service station for trams are an example of Dutch innovation.
From luxury brands in big department stores to vintage shops and street markets – Amsterdam is a shopper’s dream. For a true Dutch experience go into the heart of the city’s canal district – De Negen Straatjes. Translated as the 9 streets, this 17th century area is situated close to the well-known Jordaan district and are filled with good restaurants, art galleries, cafes, boutiques, jewellery and vintage shops. If you’re looking for the traditional high-end brands, the city’s best-known department store, De Bijenkorf, or the P.C. Hoofstraat which is home to Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren are recommended. For gifts and souvenirs simply keep your eyes open, there are plenty of shops throughout the city centre where you can buy these. Other good shopping streets are Leidsestraat, Kalverstraat and Haarlemmerstraat.
Cycling through the city is unquestionably one of the greatest ways to explore Amsterdam. There are many places where you can rent a bike, or alternatively you can join a guided cycle tour if you’re not brave enough to hit the streets solo. Public transport in the city includes metros, buses, trams and ferries. You can save money on travel by purchasing the I Amsterdam City Card which offers unlimited use of the public transport system as well as free or discounted access to some of the city’s museums and attractions.
From budget hotels to trendy Airbnb apartments, you can find accommodation throughout the city, with prices increasing the closer you get to the centre. If you’re on a budget, search for cheap accommodation in Oud Zuid – this neighbourhood is one of the cheapest most central areas and home to the iconic Museumplein and one of the most desirable shopping areas, PC Hoofstraat. For a more vibrant stay, consider the Jordaan or De Pijp – both are a little less touristy than the Old Centrum. If travelling with children, keep clear of De Wallen, the city infamous Red Light District.
Cheap flights to Schiphol airport are available from all mayor South African airports, including Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Non-stop international flights are more convenient and pricier than the low-cost flights with stop-overs in Dubai, Doha or Africa. Travel specials can be found in the quieter months, so compare flight prices on KLM, Emirates Airways, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways and South African Airlines to get the cheapest flight tickets. South Africans can apply for a short-stay Schengen Visa for up to three months. Required documents to apply for this visa includes a letter of invitation, hotel reservation, flights, travel insurance and proof of financial support. Make sure you book your Visa appointment in advance.
Your visit to Amsterdam won’t be complete without visiting the Albert Cuyp Market. It’s the largest daily market in the city, and the ideal place to try out some Dutch delicacies like stroopwafels or poffertjies. With over 300 stalls operating, you can find everything from fresh produce to clothes and cosmetics. Buy some local cheese, herring and Vietnamese spring rolls for a well-rounded food experience. The Royal Concertgebouw on Museumplein was originally built in 1888, and apart from the impressive architecture, it also hosts free lunchtime concerts during the week. A day filled with cycling or walking can be exhausting, so sitting down and stretching your legs while listening to charming chamber music can recharge you for your next tourist stop.