I thought about writing this guide on how to staycation Amsterdam style at least a year ago, if not longer, but as with 50% of my blog post ideas, I didn't get around to it in 2020 because... well, you know. Back then, I also didn't think it would interest many people. Fast forward to the beginning of 2021 and I know for certain that many people living in Amsterdam or in other cities in the Netherlands are wanting to know some great ideas for an Amsterdam staycation.
Of course this is very much related to the fact that not many of us can travel abroad like we used to, and so if you already live in the Netherlands, finding out fun, interesting and unusual ways to take a staycation in Amsterdam may be suddenly top of your bucketlist for the domestic travel you can safely take.
So here I am with a guide that will hopefully share all the above and more when it comes to staycations in Amsterdam.
A Local Resident's Guide to Staycations in Amsterdam
I am writing this as someone who has called Amsterdam home for over seven years, and as someone who has been blogging about travel to Amsterdam for just as long. While most of the time I write about Amsterdam with those who don't live here in mind, I would like to think that most of the content is still helpful for people who do live here, especially my seasonal guides for Amsterdam, or tips for things to do in Amsterdam with kids, things you need to know about living in Amsterdam with a dog, or visiting Amsterdam with teenagers.
For a number of years I have been having staycations in Amsterdam for both work/press trips and just for fun, and I have to say it is one of my favourite things to do to have a mini-reset; it really does feel like a mini vacation or holiday!
This really became something I enjoyed more and more once I had kids and treasured a break or 24 hours of solo-time. As someone who likes to travel in relative luxury (yes, even with my kids!), it's been so fun to try out many of Amsterdam's 5-star and luxury hotels, and also over the years, it's been great to try out a few of the city's tours and experiences. So consider this guide the culmination of all these trying out of fun things to do in Amsterdam even for a resident, and also my tried and tested reviews of the best Amsterdam hotels for a staycation.
That is why this guide comes in two parts. Firstly, you will find some general tips about how and when to enjoy a staycation in Amsterdam, and there are also some ideas for what to do on an Amsterdam staycation. Secondly, there will follow some recommended hotels for a staycation in Amsterdam in two sections depending on your budget; the best luxury hotels to treat yourself in Amsterdam, and the best affordable hotels in Amsterdam if you are on a budget.
One small note to make before we go deeper into these tips for a staycation in Amsterdam; I'm writing this at the beginning of 2021 and there are many restrictions on what you can and can't do in Amsterdam, and I suspect that for the rest of this year, if not more in the future, some kind of social distancing rules in Amsterdam, as well as travel restrictions from other countries, will be in play. However, because nobody knows this for certain, and because I want this guide to be useful for many more years to come, I have written it as if we are talking about a "new"
DISCLOSURE: Just a heads up, this post contains affiliate links. I always try to get the best deals and prices from websites and providers I personally use and recommend so you can trust these links. Thanks for your support!
The Best Time to Take a Staycation in Amsterdam
When you live in Amsterdam, or close to Amsterdam, you may already know a bit about the ebbs and flows of tourism in the city. Yes, in a normal year, it is true that many would consider there are always too many tourists in Amsterdam but it's also true that certain seasons of the year have more tourists than others and this can greatly impact when is the best time to have a staycation in Amsterdam depending on what you want to achieve with this little mini holiday in your home city. (You can read more about this in this post all about the best time to visit Amsterdam.)
For example, Amsterdam in summer is typically when the city is at its busiest, so you will find that attractions are busy, the city's streets, bars and restaurants can be crowded, and hotels may well be booked up or at their most expensive. By contrast, winter in Amsterdam is often a quiet time - especially over Christmas and New Year - with many (but not all!) travellers opting to stay at home to celebrate and even some residents will escape the city to see family and friends. This means that attractions and the streets of Amsterdam are less crowded, and hotels will often have more availability and better deals.
As for autumn and spring, these can vary almost week by week in terms of tourist numbers, with the warmer months of each season (so May in spring, and September in autumn) being much busier than other months in the same season (e.g. March in spring and November in autumn). It's always worth knowing when there are school holidays too as this will also impact tourist numbers and therefore availability; even if you don't have kids - you'd be amazed how you can get caught out in Amsterdam visiting during a British half-term when you see countless families with kids everywhere.
It's also true that in general all year round, weekends will always be more busy than weekdays and hotel prices can go up for weekends too; BUT not always as some hotels may have higher weekday prices for the business traveller market, so if your hotel is a popular choice for business travellers or its close to business areas of the city, you can expect higher prices for rooms.
Answering the question when is the best time to take an Amsterdam staycation, may be more about your own situation and when you have the opportunity to go. In other words, if you only have a short window of time, just go - you can still make the most of it (especially if you check out the tips below)!
If you have the choice of times of when to go and you want it to be less busy with other visitors, I would say going in colder months (so November - March) will generally mean fewer tourists, more availability and better deals on hotels and attractions. If you're wanting to do tourist things during your Amsterdam staycation, don't be put off by going in late autumn, winter, or early spring because the city sometimes never looks better than when the trees have shed all their leaves, and the low sunlight in autumn and winter can make for some of the most beautiful photos (and you don't need to wake up at 5am or 6am to enjoy magic hour because it will hit at around midday!).
It should also be said that in November, Amsterdam can often still have beautiful fall foliage and autumnal scenes on the canals and in the city's parks. Spring flowers start popping up in late January, and by March and early April, tulips can be found everywhere in Amsterdam, and the cherry blossom in Amsterdam is also easy to find and enjoy.
Tips for Taking an Amsterdam Staycation
Before you go ahead and book your Amsterdam staycation, have a little think about what you actually want to do. Do you want to simply pick a luxury hotel and spend 24 hours in a plush white dressing gown? Or do you want to actually have a more fuller "travel" experience whereby you do some of the most popular, or possibly the most unusual, tourist attractions and tours in Amsterdam? Or do you want to do a bit of both?
The good news all this is available to Amsterdam residents, and more. Below are some tips and ideas for an Amsterdam staycation you may want to consider.
You Don't Need to Stay Overnight (But it Helps!)
I think when we talk about a staycation anywhere, we think about staying overnight somewhere, and it's true that the majority of what I'm writing about in this post has this in mind too. However, if your time or your budget doesn't allow for it, it's very possible to feel like a visitor or like you're on a mini-holiday in Amsterdam, without actually booking a hotel for a night or two. For example, you can have a look at some of these great one day in Amsterdam activities, or you can work you way through the places on this Amsterdam bucketlist.
I've tried my best to write most of the following tips keeping this in mind, and then you can skip the sections below about best hotels to stay in for a staycation in Amsterdam. Don't forget, if you live in Amsterdam or near it, that you can make your own home feel more like a hotel to book-end a day's sightseeing vacation in Amsterdam
Play Tourist in Amsterdam!
I lived in London for many years and did very little of the typical tourist attractions people go to London to do. It's fair to say that most people that visited London for a weekend would have done more than I have. Now I've left London I feel a bit sad about that. I suspect I didn't think them interesting or great ways to spend my time when I had London on my doorstep all the time.
When it comes to Amsterdam, I have done more of the typical bucketlist Amsterdam things to do, and I am happy to say many of them were worth my time and money. Most of Amsterdam's museums are really brilliant and well worth visiting if you haven't already. Honestly, even just a couple of hours spent in Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, Van Gogh Museum, FOAM Photography Museum, or Rembrandthuis Museum, can make me feel like I am a tourist in Amsterdam, so that's a really quick and easy way to experience a mini-staycation in Amsterdam. But if you have more time on your hands, then the possibilities are endless. I also still feel like a bit of a tourist when I just wonder around the city's canals and take some photos.
Go on a Tour
Leading on nicely from playing tourist, one of the best things I like to do to feel like a tourist in Amsterdam is go on a city tour. There are SO MANY different kinds of tours you can do in Amsterdam these days, but my very favourite tours include Black Heritage Tour of Amsterdam where you learn about the not-so-hidden history of Black lives and communities in Amsterdam, and I really did enjoy the Eating Europe Food Tour of Amsterdam's Jordaan neighbourhood, back when I took it many years ago.
Other really fun tours that I've enjoyed or have been recommended is a personal tour of the Red Light District from a sex worker (and indeed I think personal or small group tours are the only ones permitted now), an Anne Frank walking tour of Amsterdam, an Exploration Sight-Seeing Tour of Amsterdam where you solve puzzles along the way, and a LGBTQ+-focused History in Amsterdam tour.
Do Something a Bit Different.
Doing other unusual tours and experiences in Amsterdam is a great way to feel like a new visitor in the city if you have done many of the typical walking or bike tours (with visiting friends and family, for example).
Airbnb Experiences have also opened up this market quite a lot and you can find some really unusual Amsterdam activities that I think would make a really fun Amsterdam staycation, like making your own edibles, tour of cool new hang-outs or find out about a secret jazz club in Amsterdam.
This post with things to do in Amsterdam with teenagers has some of the more unusual and "cooler" things to do in Amsterdam.
Cruise Amsterdam's Canals
Yes, this is another typically touristy thing to do in Amsterdam, but before you go ahead and dismiss this because you've done a few already and they weren't really up to much, you should know that there are a few more unusual ways to see Amsterdam by water.
In this post all about hiring your own boat to cruise Amsterdam's waters, I also include other ways you can get around the canals without being in one of those unmissable and unforgiving tourist boats. You can go stand-up paddle-boarding, you can rent a pedalo for an hour, and you can even do you bit to keep Amsterdam clean by going on the Plastic Whale, a boat where participants learn about the city but also scoop up rubbish that is in the canals. Other more unusual (and more fun!) canal tours include ones where you can smoke cannabis or one that includes a luxury afternoon tea.
Try a Coffeeshop!
Soooo this won't be for everyone, but I wanted to include it because I have to say I know many fellow Amsterdam residents and none of them (that I know of) are regular customers at any of the many Amsterdam coffeeshops scattered all over the city. While I don't feel comfortable myself now trying out cannabis products as I have young kids (and never have to be honest - it makes me feel sick!), I can imagine this would be a very quick and relatively easy and cheap way that I would feel like a tourist in Amsterdam.
If you want to know the best coffeeshops in Amsterdam, a little history and information about cannabis culture in Amsterdam, and find tips on what to buy and do when in a coffeeshop, you can read all about it in this guide to coffeeshops in Amsterdam.
Use a Different Mode of Transport
This is a silly little suggestion, but it's my experience that it works in enhancing the sensation of travel when you arrive somewhere new, by using a new-to-you mode of transport. These days, I rarely go anywhere in Amsterdam without my bike, so just getting on a tram or even walking somewhere can feel new and exciting.
I also got my first ever Uber earlier this year and that in itself felt like I was in a whole new city, not least because driving a car around Amsterdam is a much slower and more stressful experience than cycling in the city.
Get an Iamsterdam City Card
If getting public transport AND going to a few museums is on your Amsterdam staycation agenda, you should definitely think about getting an I amsterdam City Card. Giving you free public transport, free entry to most museums, free or money-off canal tours discounts on shops and restaurants, and some free gifts too, the Iamsterdam City Card will not only save you money, but it will also make you feel like you're REALLY on vacation.
I did a full review of why and when the I amsterdam City Card card is worth getting here, but in short, if you plan on using public transport as well as visiting two or more museums, it is 100% worth getting as it will save you money and time. You can also order your card and get it sent to the hotel you're going to stay in which I think is a really fun little way to make you feel more like a visitor. Each card comes with a map and details on all the discounts, and will make a cute little souvenir from Amsterdam.
Explore a Different Neighbourhood
I am very guilty of not leaving my own neighbourhood as much as I could or should. I could blame my kids that having them slow me down or make me want to choose easy or convenient over exploring and new, but I was like this before I had children and when I lived in De Pijp too.
The truth is Amsterdam has many wonderful different neighbourhoods and each one has its own special personality, and lots to offer visitors. When I do venture outside of my own neighbourhood (Oost Amsterdam) I am always pleasantly surprised.
One easy way to do this is to pick one of Amsterdam's best parks and public spaces across the city from where you live and when you get there do some research into what hotels, shops, cafes, restaurants or other attractions you can find in the area.
It should also be noted that neighbourhood hotels, i.e. hotels outside of the city centre, are often going to be much cheaper and have more availability than accommodation in Amsterdam city centre, or in neighbourhoods that are more popular with tourists (like around Museumplein or in De Pijp).
Go to Amsterdam North
One Amsterdam neighbourhood that too few residents explore is Amsterdam Noord, or Amsterdam North. The best thing about getting there - although it's arguably also the thing that puts people off going there - is that you have to cross some water. This is easy to do thanks to free public transport boats that run from the back of Centraal Station to various points in Amsterdam North. This always feels like a bit of an adventure for me.
Amsterdam North is fast gaining a reputation for being one of the cooler neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, and it very much has its own feel and scene, with lots of open spaces, cool street art, old industrial buildings and factories that have now been repurposed, and it's also where you can get some of the better hotel deals in the city. There are also some very cool hotels in Amsterdam Noord like Sir Adam Hotel, Double Tree Hilton Hotel Amsterdam NDSM Werf, and Yotel Amsterdam North.
Hit up a Spa
If all this tourist-ing sounds far too exhausting to you - I hear you! - and you really just want an Amsterdam staycation to relax and escape the same-old, same-old of your daily life, then the good news is Amsterdam is home to a number of fantastic spa hotels and spa experiences, and you don't even have to stay overnight to enjoy them if you want. Amsterdam is also home to Spa Zuiver, located just south of the city where they have extensive spa facilities and you can just go for a day, a treatment, or you could stay overnight to make the most of it. It's something many Amsterdam residents do quite often and you can even get annual memberships.
Most of the Amsterdam hotels with spas will let you use their facilities if/when you book a treatment, and some may offer day passes too. The best way to find out
Some of my favourite places for spa treatments and spa facilities - and I have personally tried and tested them all! - include Hotel Okura, the Conservatorium Hotel, the Waldorf Astoria (easily the best massages in Amsterdam, but also possibly the most expensive!), the InterContinental Amstel Hotel, Hotel Jakarta (I haven't had a treatment here but I love the pool!), and if you only wanted a treatment but no facilities, I can't recommend Koan Float enough for their massages too. And for a more traditional and memorable spa experience, you should go check out Sauna Deco.
Do Afternoon Tea
One of the real treats that I love to do in Amsterdam and it really does make me feel like I'm on my travels is enjoy afternoon tea. This is also a great staycation activity if you don't want to do touristy-things but you still want to do something a bit out of the ordinary and a little luxurious.
There are many wonderful places to have high tea or afternoon tea in Amsterdam but my tried-and-tested favourites are the InterContinental Amstel Hotel, the Waldorf Astoria, Betty Blue, Gartine, Greenwoods, and Hotel Droog.
Tips for a Staycation in Amsterdam with Kids
This is going to be a very short section all about how to take a fun Amsterdam staycation with kids. Yep. Notice I said "fun Amsterdam staycation" and not "relaxing Amsterdam staycation" because we all know what is more attainable!
First things first, Amsterdam is a great place to live with kids because there really are so many things to do in Amsterdam with kids. My guide to Amsterdam with children of all ages should give you plenty of ideas on what to do with kids in Amsterdam - both indoors and outdoors - and if you have teenagers or older children, then go read all bout how to visit Amsterdam with tweens or teens.
If you want to stay in a hotel in Amsterdam this post recommends some of the best hotels that have family rooms or suites that will accommodate parents/guardians + kids, but off the top of my head, we have had great experiences staying with our kids in Hotel Okura, the Conservatorium Hotel, and Hotel V so go check those out and ask them about their family rooms.
Great Hotels for a Budget Amsterdam Staycation
And now here we go with my best recommendations for the best places to stay for a staycation in Amsterdam. I have stayed in a few of these hotels, or I have had friends or family who have stayed there so you can consider these personal recommendations. And you can find a full list of Amsterdam hotels for all budgets as recommended by real travellers here.
Student Hotel is going to kick-off this list of budget hotels for an Amsterdam staycation because it's a fun hotel in a great location that could be in a new area to you if you are yet to venture into East Amsterdam. I've stayed in the Student Hotel in Rotterdam and was very pleasantly surprised by the design, space and prices and by all accounts this one delivers all the above and more with a fun bar and restaurant too.
Lloyd Hotel prides itself on being the first 1- to 5-star hotel in the world. This means exactly what you may be thinking; that it's a hotel that offers 1-star and 5-star accommodation and everything in between. I haven't stayed here myself yet but I am so very intrigued by how this would be so please go book it for your staycation and tell us all about it. Also it's in a great location on the water over in East Amsterdam's docklands area with easy and quick access to Centraal Station.
Motel One is much more than a motel so get the idea that it's "just a motel" out of your mind. It's located close to RAI convention centre in Amsterdam which means there will be good deals on when there aren't any events at the centre, and there's excellent transport links to and from the city centre to there. My brother stayed here with his son and found it excellent value for money.
Easy Hotel is everything you expect from this brand; cheap, simple and orange. It also happens to be in a very good location in the trendy neighbourhood of De Pijp if having lots of bars, restaurants and shops on your doorstep is important to you and you're basically going to spend all your staycation money on food and entertainment. I support you in this!
Meininger Hotels is a brand I recommend for hotels all over Europe. They have a hostel-feel and do indeed have dorm rooms, but they also have private rooms with bathrooms too. They are very clean, very affordable and the ones in Amsterdam are very easy to get to. The optional breakfast is excellent value for money and they also have more spacious rooms than most budget hotels in Amsterdam.
Volkshotel is a slightly more expensive option for a staycation in Amsterdam if you want to stay somewhere a bit different for an Amsterdam staycation. Each room is unique and has its own design theme. The communal areas are cool and hip, and there's a rooftop bar and restaurant to give you a very different perspective over Amsterdam. It's also in a great location on the cusp of Amsterdam Oost.
The Hoxton is the only city-centre hotel on this list and for good reason; because Amsterdam city-centre hotels are expensive, small, and over-priced. The Hoxton has a number of smaller rooms that are very affordable but even their bigger rooms are extortionate and are well worth paying for with the cool design, excellent service and unbeatable location if you wanted to stay in the heart of Amsterdam during your staycation.
Great Hotels for a Luxury Staycation in Amsterdam
Last but not least AT ALL, here are the luxury hotels in Amsterdam I would recommend for a staycation where you really relax and treat yourself. I have stayed at ALL of these hotels listed below so really do recommend them for your holiday in your home city.
Waldorf Astoria is possibly my favourite hotel in Amsterdam and for very good reason. It offers serious luxury, an unbeatable location and the best customer service I've experienced at any hotel in Amsterdam. It's a bonus that they have a great spa and serve up delicious food and drinks in their bars and restaurants too. Go for a serious treat, and don't feel guilty at all if you choose not to leave the hotel during your stay.
We stayed at Sofitel Legend The Grand for a mini babymoon just before my second son was born and I still swear it was the last decent night's sleep I had! The beds are so incredibly comfortable and I couldn't believe how secluded and quiet it was in our little courtyard location, and yet we had the Red Light District immediately on our doorstep. That makes Sofitel Legend The Grand a great choice for a luxury staycation in Amsterdam if you do indeed want to be in the city centre and close to RLD.
The InterContinental Amstel Hotel is also considered one of the top hotels in Amsterdam, and while we loved our little one-night staycation there, I think it's fair to say that this hotel isn't modern or particularly stylish, unless you love a more traditional and regal feel to your decor. It's certainly a grand place to stay, and it has some wonderful views over the Amstel River from its rooms, restaurant and swimming pool, but if you wanted to stay somewhere modern, this is not it! Still, excellent service and a lovely warm welcome can be expected and enjoyed.
Hotel Ambassade also has an older feel as it is located in some of the oldest canal townhouses on the Herengracht. However, it has more of an intimate and cosy feel than the Amstel. We enjoyed a special dinner and stay package and were treated to one of the best tables in the restaurant looking out over the canal, and as it was in December we were lucky enough to have great views of an installation for Amsterdam Light Festival. Their restaurant Brasserie is one of the best we have enjoyed in Amsterdam so I highly recommend you book a table for dinner too.
Hotel Jakarta is a very different hotel from all the above. Purpose-built and located in Amsterdam's Eastern Docklands, it prides itself as a sustainable hotel and there is a very obvious focus on nature and the place the hotel is named after with its indoor jungle and plant-life everywhere! This was like heaven for this houseplant fanatic, but it may not be a big attraction for you.
Either way, our room was cosy in size, but very stylish and with great views out over the water towards Centraal Station. We loved using the pool and also enjoyed our meal at the hotel's restaurant during our stay; it was an Indonesian rijsttafel - but of course!
Bilderberg Garden Hotel is a hotel I don't think many people will know about or choose to stay in unless they are looking for a hotel that is a little bit out of the way, which it is, and yet it's also close enough to Museum Square, Vondelpark and De Pijp that you could walk to each.
It's also a great way to base yourself in a sleepy corner of upmarket Amsterdam South. It's a purpose-built hotel so rooms are spacious, it's in a quiet neighbourhood so a good night's sleep is all but guaranteed, and they have bikes to hire should you want to explore the city more (and don't have two-wheels of your own!).
That's it for all my best tips for a staycation in Amsterdam. If you'd like to save or share this post, here are some images you can pin:
Frances M. Thompson
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