It took me 27 years to visit the wonderful city of Amsterdam but I’ve made up for it by going twice within 10 months. I once again visited Amsterdam solo, it’s a city I thought wasn’t possible or at least worth visiting solo, and although I fully agree that you can visit Amsterdam alone, there is an area that makes me a little wary because of a lot of the things Amsterdam is associated with, and also overwhelmed because it’s so busy! That area is Central Amsterdam or Amsterdam-Centrum as it’s known to the Dutch, specifically around by Centraal Station, the Dam, and De Wallen aka the Red Light District.
Centraal Station and the Dam are very busy with tourists and very commercialised, the Red Light District is well, the Red Light District, and although I know it’s perfectly safe, the groups of stag do’s, hen do’s and generally the ‘boy’s trip’ groups do make me feel a bit uneasy.
On my second trip to Amsterdam I didn’t want this to put me off walking around the area, especially as I had been for brunch with my friend Jess from the travel blog A Wanderlust For Life who lives in Amsterdam, I said bye to her at Centraal Station and I needed to head back to Stayokay Hostel in Vondelpark where I had been staying which is near the Museum District.
Luckily the Marco Polo Amsterdam Guide I had taken with me has a guided walk in it which takes you from Centraal Station to the Rijksmuseum and provides a pleasant way to walk between these 2 important city buildings, taking in historic and scenic spots along the way.
This is what my guided walk through Central Amsterdam looked like and it’s a self guided Amsterdam walk I recommend you do too so you can see the best part of what to some people, is the not so nice part of the city!
The Marco Polo Guides offer fantastic self guided walks. I did the Brewer’s Canal to Nemo walk on my first visit to Amsterdam which took me in a semi-circle from one side of Centraal Station to the other via the beautiful Herengracht Canal. Marco Polo have now released a new Amsterdam Guide with even more walks in it and lots of up to date information so I would really recommend checking that out and taking the guide with you on your trip to Amsterdam. You can purchase it here on Amazon for a great price!
To start, get yourself to Centraal Station, there are plenty of trains and trams that stop at the station.
Looking away from the station and into the city, cross the bridge over the canal and veer left slightly to where Zeedijk Street starts. This street is very much a representation of what Amsterdam Centrum and the ‘tourist’ area is like, the street is pretty narrow with lots of restaurants, pubs, kebab shops and some coffeeshops lining it.
The guide informed me that Zeedijk once had a very seedy and dangerous reputation due to its Eastern boundary of the Red Light District but these days although it’s not the prettiest part of the city, it is highly monitored by surveillance so it is very safe.
One restaurant a long here is Little Thai Princess which my friend Charlie visited on her recent trip to Amsterdam and she really recommends it so you if you fancy Thai in Amsterdam, be sure to head back here to check it out!
In a few meters, Zeedijk Street crosses a small section of water which gives a nice view onto Oudezijds Kolk and Oudezijds Voorburgwal, if this is your first real canal sighting in Amsterdam, it’s a good way to start as it gives you a nice sneak peek and will get you excited to see more because this is just the start!
You’ll soon start seeing a few Chinese signs, and lots of Chinese and Asian restaurants which indicate that you are now on the border of Amsterdam’s Chinatown. You’ll walk past Fo Guang Shan Holland Tempel, a bright orange and red Buddhist Temple which looks extremely out of place in the city and especially on this street however both times I’ve been to Amsterdam and walked by it I’ve been inside and I’m glad I did. The inside is only small but the smell of the incense took me straight back to being in South East Asia, and it’s a nice respite to the busy outside streets.
A little further up is Waag which can’t be missed, the Marco Polo Guide describes it as a Disneyesque medieval gatehouse which is now a cafe and restaurant. Behind the building in the market square or Nieumarkt, will be a few stalls selling souvenirs, hippy like clothing and fresh fruit and veg.
Walk along the right side of Waag and the right side of the Kloveniersburgwal canal which despite the traffic does feel less busy than the area you would have just walked through. A few streets up and around the corner is the East India House. I did a free walking tour the day before in Amsterdam and we stopped outside to learn about the role it played in the past in the Dutch Golden Age which was really interesting to hear, now it is home to the University of Amsterdam.
Up on your left will be a lifting bridge crossing the canal, the first lifting bridge to be built in the city my guide informed me, and behind it is the impressive Doelen Hotel. Cross the bridge, but not before you take a few photos as looking directly down the canal gives you the great symmetrical canal view, and then make an immediate turn right continuing along the Kloveniersburgwal canal for a few metres before crossing the wider canal in front of you.
All of a sudden, you will be taken back to the busy city life and the tourist hoards but only for a short while I promise.
Head up Halvemaansteeg, a pedestrian street, onto Rembrandtplein, it’s a very touristic part of the city and explained well in the Marco Polo Guide by saying it’s a square now largely devoted to serving tourists food and beer.
Keep heading straight out of the square, cross the canal in front of you and then stay left along the Reguliersgracht which has just formed. This part of the walk is really nice and similar to a lot of other sections of canal found elsewhere in Amsterdam and a bit further out from Amsterdam-Centrum, it’s a lot quieter with beautiful residential houses and lots of houses that lean I noticed, so keep a look out for these!
Walk straight over another bridge and before you reach the third canal in this section, turn right along Prinsengracht canal. Prinsengracht is one of the 3 main canals that circle the Centre of Amsterdam and provide an outlay of the city, a project which started in 1612 and took 50 years to complete!
Really take in the quietness of Prinsengracht, it feels a long way away from the busy area of Centraal Station but it really isn’t. Also be sure to get lots of photos of the iconic Amsterdam houses from the other side of the canal.
When you reach Spiegelgracht turn left for the last section of the walk to the Rijksmuseum and the Museum District. This area is a lot busier and I find that a lot of tourists use this street to bike up and down so be careful and look out for them.
Before you reach the main road taking you over to the Rijksmuseum, stop on the bridge over the Lijnbaansgracht canal for a great shot of the Museum ahead with its twin towers, and if you’re in Amsterdam when it’s in bloom like I was, you should get a nice view with some flowers in it too.
Carry on straight, across the main road to the Rijksmuseum. The Rijksmuseum is not the only museum in the area, very close by is the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum and the Moco Museum. I visited the Moco Museum on my first day in Amsterdam to see the Banksy Exhibition which I really enjoyed and would recommend.
If you want to continue seeing a pretty part of Amsterdam, find Vondelpark which is just behind the Museum District, I stayed at Stayokay Vondelpark Hostel and found it to be a lovely area of the city. You can read here my suggestions of things to do in and around Vondelpark.
I hope you found this useful and now know the best way to walk through Central Amsterdam to help avoid the crowds and some of the more seedy areas of the city.
As I said, I used my Marco Polo Amsterdam Guide to help me get around Amsterdam and learn lots about the city. There is now a brand new guide out with lots of up to date information and new walks, you can purchase it here for a great price on Amazon.
For more of my Amsterdam posts see:
To SEE my trip to Amsterdam, check out my video:
This post is sponsored by Marco Polo Guides but all thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links but at no extra cost to you.