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Biggest Mistakes Amsterdam Visitors Make

Avoid These Common Blunders and You'll Enjoy Your Time Much More


Be an informed traveler on your trip to Amsterdam. Learn what most visitors do that you shouldn't!

Walking in the Bike Lanes

Amsterdam tourists who don't know they're walking in a bike path
© 2008 Shannon McAllister, licensed to About.com
If there's one mistake almost every Amsterdam visitor is sure to make, it's walking -- unknowingly -- in the paths of speedy bikers zipping through the city. Much like it takes non-British London tourists some time to get used to looking right (instead of left) before crossing the street, Amsterdam visitors on foot must be extra-observant when wandering. Look right, look left, look behind you, repeat. And if the sidewalk ends, don't just hop off into the street. Listen for the bike bells ding, or you'll surely get pinged!

Wasting Time on the Tackiest Streets

Damrak, the street between Centraal Station and Dam Square in Amsterdam
Charles Briscoe-Knight / Getty Images
Every day, hundreds of eager Amsterdam visitors pour out of Centraal Station and begin their journey down Damrak, the main drag between the train station and Dam Square -- and perhaps Amsterdam's ugliest street. Chock-full of terrible tourist-trap restaurants (see below for more on those), tacky souvenir shops, and a smattering of cafés, bars and coffeeshops with no character at all, this street gives tourists a horrendous first impression of Amsterdam, and a misrepresentation of the real heart of the city.

I suggest either hopping on a tram at Centraal Station to zip beyond Damrak quickly, or walking west (to the right out of the station) and making your way to the western canal belt or Jordaan neighborhood.

Succumbing to Tourist-Trap Restaurants and Bars

Linked to wasting time on tacky streets is choosing a bad restaurant, as there are plenty of them nearby. Bypass the neon signs of various "grill" houses and unauthentic pizzerias with special "tourist menus" made from not-so-special ingredients. There are plenty of better options just off these beaten paths, you just need to be a little more in-the-know. Check out my Amsterdam Restaurant Reviews to find plenty of dining choices.

Similarly, if you want to find a bar or café with more than a tourist scene, explore beyond main squares. There are plenty of brown cafés with a local flavor to choose from.

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