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When I first started blogging about Amsterdam I tried to advise people to get off the beaten track and see, explore and discover the least touristy of attractions. I still try to help visitors to Amsterdam do this (and you can find many such suggestions in this list of over 100 free things to do in Amsterdam, or this guide to visiting Amsterdam with children, and in this Amsterdam neighbourhood guide). However, time and again I would receive emails from blog readers, friends, and friends of friends who were planning a trip to Amsterdam and they would want to know if Amsterdam had a city pass, and if so was an Amsterdam city pass really worth getting?
In line with my initial approach to blogging about Amsterdam, my instinctive response was to say that they shouldn't bother with an Amsterdam city pass, and that they should instead just wander around and see what they find. But there is a flaw in this logic. In fact, it's not logic at all. People come to Amsterdam to do touristy things. They want to go to the Van Gogh Museum, they want to see Rembrandt's Nightwatch at the Rijksmuseum, and they want to go on a canal boat tour. I have also been wrong in assuming everyone wants to come to Amsterdam and go cycling (I even wrote these helpful cycling tips so you can do just that without causing yourself or anyone else an injury) but actually not everyone does want to do this (indeed I've discovered just how many of my friends can't actually ride a bike) and so they want to know about public transport options and if this is also included in a city pass.
It's taken a long longer than it should have but now I finally can see the visitors getting an Amsterdam city pass - namely the I amsterdam City Card - could be a very beneficial thing. especially if you're travelling to Amsterdam on a budget. This was confirmed a few years ago when my parents came to visit and they got I amsterdam City Cards for themselves. They bought 48-hour cards and used them to see museums, make their way across the city by day and night, and they took advantage of the free canal tour that was included. They said the card made their exploring very easy - no rummaging around for change for tram tickets or long queues for museums - and they didn't feel pressure to stay in a museum or attraction for a long time if it wasn't to their liking as they knew they could find another one to enjoy - with free entry - very easily.
With this in mind, and with more people asking me if the I amsterdam City Card is worth it or good value, I thought I would put down my thoughts on Amsterdam's city pass, and that I would summarise whether I think it's worth you getting one, or not!
Is there an Amsterdam City Pass?
Yes, and it's called the I amsterdam City Card and it's been a thing since 1966, something I didn't know until I was writing this article. The I amsterdam City Card is available for the following time periods; 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, 96 hours and 120 hours (so effectively 1 -5 days).
You can buy the I amsterdam City Card online and get it delivered to your hotel, or you can get it sent (overseas) to your home address, meaning you can be ready to start exploring the city as soon as you arrive. Just be sure that you are ordering your card direct from the I amsterdam website for the most secure and reliable transaction.
Alternatively, you can wait until you are in Amsterdam to buy your pass. There are a number of places where you can buy it including tourist offices in Schiphol Airport and at Centraal Station, as well as in museums and hotels across the city. There's a map with sales and pick-up locations here.
What do you get from the I amsterdam City Card?
In short, you get three things with the I amsterdam City Card; free entry to museums and attractions, free unlimited public transport, and one free canal boat tour. More specifically, the card includes free entry to 65 museums and attractions (as of 2019) in Amsterdam and the surrounding region, free transportation on the trams, metro (underground) and city buses of Amsterdam, and a free one-hour canal tour with participating companies (there are several to choose from and likewise many times of day you can go for your tour). Then there are also discounts and free gifts or giveaways available when you show your card at other museums, attractions, restaurants, bars, shops and cafes. It should be very clear already that there are more things you can go to for free with an I amsterdam City Card than you can pack into even a five-day stay in Amsterdam, so don't worry that there isn't enough to do with it.
However, before we dive deep into more detail about what is included there are some things you need to know about what isn't included in your I amsterdam City Card. Because I think these are things you will want to know before you go any further I want to highlight them now.
Important things to know about your I amsterdam City Card
Below I've listed a collection of things about the I amsterdam City Card that I think are pretty important to know before buying our using your city pass. These facts may also influence your decision to buy one.
- Anne Frank House is NOT included in the I amsterdam City Card. You will need to book separate tickets online to visit Anne Frank and you can now only do this online and in advance. It also doesn't include entry to the Royal Palace or to Moco Museum, (although you can get a 25% discount) which is home to a huge private collection of modern artwork including lots of Banksy (you can buy tickets to go there in advance here.)
- To visit Van Gogh Museum you will need to book a time for your visit. There is information in the booklet accompanying your I amsterdam City Card on how to do it but be sure to go online to book your time slot.
- The card is activated not from when you buy it but from the very first moment you use it in a museum or on public transport. Therefore, be very careful carrying your card in a bag or pocket whilst travelling on public transport and you are not actually using or intending to use it at that very moment. Trams have check-in and check-out spots to tap cards in and out so it's possible you will trigger your card by accident if you have it in a bag or pocket.
- The public transport that your I amsterdam City Card covers includes trams, the metro (underground) and city buses. It does NOT include overground trains and buses travelling further distances.
- With the above in mind, your I amsterdam City Card DOES NOT include transport to and from Schiphol Airport so you will need to buy separate tickets for this journey.
- There isn't a child's version of the I amsterdam City Card. However, most museums and attractions do not charge an entry fee for children under the age of four, and if adults have an I amsterdam City Card then children with them will receive discounts on entry fees for many museums and attractions where the city pass is accepted. Please also note that children under the age of four can travel for free on public transport but kids over that age will need a ticket for trams, metro and city buses, even if they are travelling with adults with an I amsterdam City Card.
- The I amsterdam City Card does include some tours and free entrance to attractions outside of Amsterdam urban area, for example, a canal tour in Harlem or museums and in picturesque Dutch towns and villages like Zaanse Schans and Volendam, but it DOES NOT include your transport there. You will have to pay for a separate ticket for your train or bus. Read more about a day trip to Zaanse Schans here.
- There is a separate travel pass that will cover more public transport out of the city, if you wish to explore the area and sights surrounding Amsterdam. The Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket is available to buy here, and you can indeed use this card on overground trains and regional buses including those going to and from Schiphol. This pass does not include entry to museums or attractions so is best used in combination with the I amsterdam City Card or as a standalone travel ticket only.
- Do not get an I amsterdam City Card just for free transport and the odd museum entry. This is not value for money as a 24-hour public transport card costs just €8.00 so you will be seriously over-spending.
- You can buy your I amsterdam City Card online in advance and get it conveniently delivered to the hotel you will be staying in or to your home address. You can also buy it at a number of places in Amsterdam including tourist offices near Amsterdam Centraal train station, in Schiphol Airport and on Museumplein, as well as in a number of hotels and in the museums themselves.
- You can't buy your I amsterdam City Card online and have it sent to an Amsterdam residential address - at least I couldn't see a way to do this. I had wanted to get one delivered to my home address but couldn't find the option online. This is worth knowing if you're staying in an Airbnb or self-catering accommodation during your Amsterdam visit. However, you can buy one in advance and then pick it up at one of the sales locations if you want to spread your costs over more time.
The best museums and attractions that are free with the I amsterdam City Card
The following are my personal favourite museums that are free entry with an I amsterdam City Card:
The Rijksmuseum - The national museum of the Netherlands it's quite difficult to spend a short time here as there is so much to look at - it's huge! However, if you're in Amsterdam for more than a few days (and have a City Card covering you for three or more days) you could easily pop in and out each day. However, if there are queues for the Rijksmuseum, it's my understanding that you can't queue jump with the I amsterdam City Card. If you only want to go here and you want to queue jump you will be better off getting a ticket like this one in advance.
Van Gogh Museum - Much to my surprise in 2017 Van Gogh Museum was the most visited museum in the whole of the Netherlands so it's very likely you want to go there. The museum is free with an I amsterdam City Card but you MUST book a time slot to visit in advance. You can do this online and should do it ASAP as there are a limited number of slots available. With this booking you can then skip the queue and go straight into the museum. I was also advised that If you are going with young children (who are free to visit anyway) then you will still need to register them with the same time slot. Alternatively, if the city pass isn't for you, you can book a separate ticket for the museum.
Stedelijk Museum - Amsterdam's premier modern art and design museum is just a short walk away from Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh, making this a trio of museums that are easy to visit one after the other. It also has a fantastic shop so don't forget to pop in there after your visit. Queue jumping tickets for the Stedelijk are also available.
Foam Photography Museum - I'm never disappointed by visiting Foam with its regularly changing exhibits sharing the most famous and also up and coming, undiscovered shining stars of photography. I also nearly always want to buy all the books and prints in their shop. If photography is your thing, you may also want to go to Huis Marseille, also free with your I amsterdam City Card.
Tassenmuseum Hendrijke (Museum of Bags and Purses) - Even if you have half an interest in fashion, you will be fascinated by the Tassenmuseum Hendrijke, a once private collection of bags and purses, you can learn about the history of purses and bags and see some of the most iconic fashion accessories from the last century. They also have a beautiful cafe that is a great spot for a spot of afternoon tea.
Versetz Museum (Dutch Resistance Museum) - This is one of my favourite museums in Amsterdam and it's nearly always empty, or at least not as busy as many of the others. It shares the history of the Resistance movement during the Second World War and compliments or substitutes a visit to Anne Frank well if you're particularly interested in this part of history. (And if you are you should also consider going to the Joods Historisch Museum (the Jewish History Museum) which is also free entry with an I amsterdam City Card.
ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo - This is definitely one of the most expensive entry tickets to get free with your Amsterdam city pass and should definitely be taken advantage of if you are visiting Amsterdam with children. You could even just pop inside the zoo for a spot of lunch or a drink next to the penguins, elephants or monkeys. Why not? It's free!
Hortus Botanicus Botanical Gardens- Another non-museum attraction that is therefore not covered by my Museumkaart is Amsterdam's Hortus Botanicus which is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world and is a great place to visit if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, which admittedly isn't very hustley or bustley, but if you like plants this is where you need to go. I also like recommending that visitors to Amsterdam in winter head here to warm up in one of the gardens' elegant glass greenhouses!
The best museums and attractions for children covered by the I amsterdam City Card include NEMO Science Museum, ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo, EYE Film Institute, Tropenmuseum, Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam Museum, Het Scheepvaartmuseum (National Maritime Museum), and a tour of the newly named Johan Cruijff ArenA.
What else do you get with the I amsterdam City Card?
There are also a number of free gifts and some discounted offers with your I amsterdam City Card. Be sure to always show your card in advance of ordering in a place so they know you're entitled to their special offer/s. I've gone through the options available and I would say that the following are well worth looking into taking advantage of:
- Enjoy a free glass of Dutch liqueur genever (similar to gin) at one of the oldest brown bars (pubs) in Amsterdam, De Drie Fleschjes.
- 25% discount on a concert at Concertgebouw which is considered to be one of the best concert halls in the world in terms of acoustics (however, you must purchase your ticket on the day of the performance to enjoy this discount).
- 25% discount on your admission fee for Het Kattenkabinet, a museum dedicated to the curious world of cat art (yes, such a thing exists).
- 25% off your bill at Pancakes Amsterdam or The Pancake Bakery meaning you can get your pancake fix for a little less.
- 25% discount on bike rental with Mac Bikes who have locations scattered all over the city.
- 25% discount at the Heineken Experience, which isn't my favourite museum in Amsterdam but it is quite entertaining. (However, there are nearly always queues so consider getting a queue-jumper ticket in advance).
- 25% off a cheese-tasting session at Reypenaer Proeflokaal (with compulsory reservation).
Is the I amsterdam City Card worth it?
Yes, 100% yes, but... and there is a but, it's only really worth it if you do A LOT. If you get the card and then hit up one museum, take two or three tram journeys and spend the rest of your time in bars or coffee shops (especially the ones that smell nothing like coffee) then it's definitely not worth getting a City Card. You'd be much better off just getting a 24-hour tram card (for €8) and paying for the normal entry fee for the museum you do go to. If you do this you've only spent a third of what a 24-hour iamsterdam City Card would cost. However, if you are planning to squeeze in multiple museums, a canal boat tour, and you want to criss-cross the city by public transport then yes, this city pass would work for you. Even the organisation behind I amsterdam City Card share that if you visit of three museums in that time you will only really save on average around €6.
The savings and benefits of getting an I amsterdam City Card greatly increase the more days you have one. Personally I can see benefits of a 48- or 72- hour card if you are visiting Amsterdam for a long or short weekend (and they claim you can save over €48 or €90 on ticket prices with these respectively). I also think it would be worth getting your card in advance so you are ready to go and start exploring as soon as you hit the ground in Amsterdam. You are therefore saving money insofar as you are saving yourself time and making it possible to see and do more.
I also feel obliged to say that if you only want to visit museums and you're not fussed about the free public transport then you may want to consider getting a museum card. The Museumkaart costs €64,90 (so only €4,90 more than a 24-hour iamsterdam City Card) and will give you one year's free access to nearly all of Amsterdam's museums (there are some notable exceptions like Moco) and so if you were in Amsterdam for three days and more and you visited over five museums you would easily save money with a Museumkaart. That said, the Museumkaart doesn't give you access to non-museum attractions like Hortus Botanicus and ARTIS Zoo, so that is a consideration. You can buy one of these at any participating museums and obviously there is no limit to how long you use it for (within 12 months) and how many museums you go to. Amsterdam is such an easy city to walk around that if you have time and you enjoy strolling the pretty canal streets, I would highly recommend considering this if you're in the city for more than a few days and you do indeed want to visit four or more museums.
And again, if you are really only interested in the free transport, then the I amsterdam City Card is not good value. Here's more information about buying day or multi-day travel cards for public transport in Amsterdam.
I am also hesitant to recommend the I amsterdam City Card for families with children over the age of four as you will still need to pay some entry fees for them in certain museums (you can find out more information about how much and which ones here) and one of the advantages of the City Card is that you can get quick and free entry and access to attractions and museums so this does slightly defeat the purpose.
However, if you are travelling alone or with others and you plan on doing a lot in Amsterdam and you want to really maximise your time, see a lot of the city, and maybe just pop in and out of museums/attractions with no pressure to spend hours in them, and you want to take advantage of Amsterdam's surprisingly decent public transport then getting an I amsterdam City Card will absolutely be worth it. You also get a very helpful map with your card so you will know where everything is, where you get discounts and where you can get that free canal boat tour.
So, that's my evaluation of whether the I amsterdam City Card is worth the money or is good value for your visit to Amsterdam. If you would like more tips and advice for planning a trip to Amsterdam, some of the posts below may be useful:
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Frances M. Thompson
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