When wondering where to stay in Amsterdam for the first time, one has many great options depending on your budget and what reason you have to visit Amsterdam. The city itself attracts all sorts of tourists, some groups who only stay for the weekends and get drunk, while many others come for the culture, architecture, food and vibe.

For the first group, the local government is trying to reduce the possibilities of hedonistic travelling, but the red light district, underground clubs and local nightlife are hard to ban. For the latter group, the possibilities are endless, which we all discuss. So, in this article, we dive deeper into the best areas to stay in Amsterdam the first time and tell you why each recommended area is so special so that you can make the perfect choice when visiting Amsterdam for the first time.

At the bottom of this article, you can find a map with all recommended areas including some of the city highlights. Public transport is amazing in Amsterdam, so moving around is a piece of cake. With that all being said, let’s jump straight to our recommendations.
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where to stay in amsterdam first time
Where to stay in Amsterdam first time? Keep reading!
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In short:
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Where should I stay in Amsterdam for the first time?


The best areas in Amsterdam for first-timers are the Old City Centrum (Oud Centrum), Canal Belt (Grachtengordel), the Jordaan and Plantage & Jewish Quarter as these neighbourhoods are located in the city centre and close to the city’s highlights. There are, however, alternative and definitely interesting places you should consider, namely De Pijp, Vondelpark and Westerpark. All these recommended areas will be discussed in detail in the next paragraphs. 
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Amsterdam attracts a lot of tourists and many of them only stay there just a few days, or just for the weekend. It’s not a city to visit and enjoy some peace. It’s either sightseeing, shopping or partying and abusing the liberal policies. This attracts all sorts of tourists and visitors. When visiting Amsterdam for the first time, like every other city you visit, you want to move around easily and cheaply. The best way to move around is using public transportation or renting a bike. Keep in mind that most citizens move around by bike as well and they drive reckless on the designated bike lane. In every Dutch city or town, the bike has the priority in traffic, but in Amsterdam, where everyone is driving fast on their bikes, the cyclist don’t appreciate tourists walking on “their” lane and this can cause dangerous situations. So make sure to follow the rules and avoid walking on these red-coloured bike lanes. 
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where to stay in amsterdam first time - canal
The canals of Amsterdam with their iconic architecture.

where to stay in amsterdam first time - jordaan
The Jordaan, a picturesque neighbourhood.

where to stay in amsterdam first time - rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum (National Museum).

where to stay in amsterdam first time - flowers
Flowers at the Albert Cuyp Market.

where to stay in amsterdam first time - bridge
Kees de Jongen Bridge.
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The best areas to stay in Amsterdam for first-timers are:

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1. Oud Centrum


Oud Centrum, or Old City Centre, is for many tourists the best place to stay in Amsterdam. The Central Train Station is just a few minutes away and many of the city’s highlights are within reach. There is an abundance of great restaurants, shops and cafes. You can also find a lot of coffee shops in this area, for which people don’t come for a cup of coffee. As mentioned in the introduction, Amsterdam attracts many weekend tourists who visit the city for its liberal soft-drugs policy and red-light district. Amsterdam’s red-light district, the Wallen, is located in the Old City Center. Then there are other parts that are more sightseeing-friendly such as the Rembrandtplein, named after the famous painter, and the Leidseplein, for local nightlife.

Those who absolutely want to avoid the nightlife-minded, hedonistic tourists should stay in a different area than Oud Centrum, but for the majority of the tourist, it’s the perfect area. The architecture, the canals, the food, the business, it’s all typical Amsterdam. The Old City Center can be pricy, so connecting neighbourhoods that are located slightly further from the highlights of Amsterdam can be a better option for those who are looking for slightly more affordable accommodation. 

Many hedonistic tourists tend to stay near or on The Wallen, the Red Light District of Amsterdam. These hotels are cheap. The majority of the tourists who want to stay in Old Centrum should pick a hotel closer to the Spuistraat where the atmosphere is much nicer than in the Red Light District. This area which includes iconic buildings such as Damrak, Dam, Rokin, Kalverstraat, Heiligeweg and Nieuwendijk is commonly known as the Paleiskwartier and is suitable for most tourists as well as those who are visiting Amsterdam for shopping. In and around the so-called Kalverstraat, there is an abundance of shops from all the big brands you can possibly imagine. 

Some of the best hotels in Amsterdam for first-time visitors in this particular area are visually listed below.
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2. Grachtengordel


The Grachtengordel, which translates as the Canal Belt, is the area around the Old Centrum with the iconic, slightly tilted houses that are built close to the canals. These historical buildings, which are part of the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2010, are tilted as rich merchants back in the days used these houses to store trading goods which came in by boat. At the top of the roof, a pulley was placed so that the goods could be lifted from the boats. If the houses were perfectly straight, it would impossible to lift crates from the boat into their houses. So, these houses are tilted on purpose. 

As you can imagine, these historical houses are in high demand and the rich and famous all (want to) live here. Contrary to cities like Rotterdam, Amsterdam was not affected by World War Two bombings and the old buildings are in perfect shape. Many of these old buildings are restored and some of the finest craftsmen are hired all over the country so that the authenticity stays unspoiled. Wandering through these streets with canals on your side is what you as a tourist want to do. You can find unique restaurants and shops that let every foodie’s heart beat faster. Staying in this neighbourhood is pricy, but you will stay exactly in the area where many billboard pictures of Amsterdam are taken. And almost all the highlights of Amsterdam are nearby. 

Tip: one of the highlights of the Grachtengordel is the Negen Straatjes (the Nine Streets). Here you can find all sorts of charming and trendy shops and restaurants including Van Stapele Koekmakerij, which makes the best cookies in Amsterdam!

Note: In August, there is a festival called the Grachtenfestival, which is definitely worth the visit! For those visiting Amsterdam during the winter, the Keizersgracht is suitable for ice-skating if the temperature allows it. 

Some of the best hotels in Amsterdam for first-time visitors in this particular area are visually listed below.
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3. Jordaan


The Jordaan, which is located northwest of the Old Centre, was built during the Golden Age in the 17th century to function as a working-class neighbourhood. Over the years, this iconic neighbourhood changed into a slightly upscale neighbourhood but is still home to typical local bars where they play typical Dutch songs that originated from this area. Wandering through these iconic streets is a tourist attraction on its own. There are still working-class people living in the Jordaan who are unique in many ways, but among the Dutch, people from the Jordaan are the ones that tell you exactly what they think without even considering it rude or inappropriate in a certain good sense. The people from one of Amsterdam’s most famous neighbourhoods are always in for fun and laughter, which makes it such an interesting area to stay in Amsterdam for first-timers. You can enjoy these typical characteristics along with its central location: you’re near the Old City Center and the previous recommended Canal Belt.

Fun fact: it’s not only the working class who end up living to hear during the Golden Age. Rembrandt van Rijn, the most famous painter of the Netherlands, lived here as well. 

Some of the best hotels in Amsterdam for first-time visitors in this particular area are visually listed below.
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4. Plantage & Jewish Quarter


The Jewish Quarter (Jodenbuurt) is located behind the Old Centre on the east side of Amsterdam. This area is much quieter compared to all the previously recommended areas. Connected to this neighbourhood with some of the most important city highlights lays the Plantage. As the name of the first neighbourhood suggests, the Jewish Museum, the Holocaust Monument and the Resistance Museum are all located in this part of Amsterdam. During the Second World War, the dark period was perfectly documented by Anne Frank in her famous diary. What most people don’t know is that similar to the Jordaan, life in the Jewish Quarter was tough, even before the Second World War. But nowadays, this area is more bustling with tourists who want to know more about the history of the Jews. The Anne Frank House, however, is located on the Westermarkt, which is located on the Canal Belt (Grachtengordel).

The Plantage is a neighbourhood full of exciting architecture, greenery and of course the Zoo of Amsterdam named Artis. It’s home to the Waterlooppleinmarkt, which is the most famous flea market in the Netherlands. The Hermitage Amsterdam and National Opera & Ballet are proof that this neighbourhood is full of culture. The Plantagebuurt is a renovated area with iconic buildings surrounded by trees and bushes and is perfect to wander around. Those who are looking for a more quiet stay surrounded by beautiful and important buildings should definitely stay in this area. 

Some of the best hotels in Amsterdam for first-time visitors in this particular area are visually listed below. 
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5. De Pijp


De Pijp is the area where most students and people with all sorts of cultures and origins live as it’s relatively cheap. We have to emphasize the worth relatively because the prices per square meter in Amsterdam are of exorbitant measures. But a neighbourhood full of students and people from all over the world means one thing: there is a ton of local things to do and eat and it’s away from mass tourism. Similar to other recommenced areas in this article, De Pijp used to be a working-class neighbourhood which was mostly occupied by workers from the Heineken factory. One of the highlights is the Albert Cuyp Market, which offers a huge variety of food. If you want to eat typical Dutch snacks such as a Broodje Bal (meatball bun), raw herring with raw onions or the delicious Stroopwafel (a thin waffle with caramel), this is the place to go. De Pijp is excellent for tourists who want to witness the daily lives of the people from Amsterdam where cultures have mixed into something unique, but unfortunately, it's located a bit away from common highlights. But then again, public transport gets you there smoothly. 

Some of the best hotels in Amsterdam for first-time visitors in this particular area are visually listed below.
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6. Vondelpark


This iconic park called the Vondelpark is surrounded by some of the top brands in the hospitality industry. Walking through this large park is a no-brainer if you’re staying near it, but this park is incredibly important for the people from Amsterdam. As soon as the sun shines and temperatures are comfortable, the citizens flock to this park, bring food and drinks with them and enjoy top-notch quality time with friends and family. Close to the Vondelpark is perhaps the most important museum in the Netherlands, namely the Rijksmuseum with paintings of Van Gogh, Rembrandt and many other famous Dutch painters. Food-lovers should be exciting as The Hallen, which is a large food hall with an abundance of insane finger and comfort food is located nearby. Similar to the previous recommended De Pijp, staying around the Vondelpark does require you to travel a bit in order to see the highlights of Amsterdam. 

Some of the best hotels in Amsterdam for first-time visitors in this particular area are visually listed below.
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7. Westerpark


The last recommended area in Amsterdam for first-timers is Westerpark. This area still has the charm of the typical, old, working-class neighbourhood but with a modern twist. Westerpark is located on the west side of the Old Center and is much quieter than other neighbourhoods while you’re still close to the epicentre. It’s home to some cultural venues including the Westergasfabriek, where even concerts take place. Staying near this park gives you the ability to walk around through greenery but there is also plenty of things to do and discover. Like most parts of Amsterdam, you can discover the iconic architecture from the Golden Age as well as nice little bars where you can catch up with open-minded, laid-back people from Amsterdam.

Some of the best hotels in Amsterdam for first-time visitors in this particular area are visually listed below.
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Places to avoid when staying in Amsterdam for the first time


Amsterdam is an amazing city with iconic neighbourhoods as well as hidden gems that you can discover. But for the majority of its visitors, Amsterdam is about the iconic buildings, the typical architecture, a stroll over the red-light district, witnessing the liberal drug policies and enjoying all those fantastic restaurants. You experience that all in and near the Old City Center. Staying in areas far away from the epicentre can maybe save you some bucks, but it will also cost you valuable travel time and most tourists tend to stay just a few days anyway. We would not recommend you stay at Amsterdam Noord, even though other websites might recommend it. 
 
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Map of the best areas to stay in Amsterdam for first-timers


The next image is a map of the best areas in Amsterdam for the first time including the city highlights. The image is in high resolution so you can easily zoom in to see all the details. 
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where to stay in amsterdam first time map
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There you have it, all our recommendations to your question about the best areas to stay in Amsterdam for first-timers. We hope you enjoyed it and hopefully, you can make a good decision and have the time of your life in this amazing city!
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