Old Center, Amsterdam Travel Guide
Old Center Summary
- Beautiful medieval architecture
- Tons of restaurants and bars, particularly surrounding Dam Square
- Home to Central Station, the main hub of transportation
- Numerous museums and markets, including the famous Flower Market
- Lively nightlife (but not as crazy as some spots in other big cities)
- Range of hotel styles and prices
- Significant petty crime, such as pickpocketing
- Some areas, like the red light district, are not kid-friendly
- Crowds, lots of noise, and several tourist-trap museums and shops
What It's Like
Its name may suggest otherwise, but Old Center remains the bustling center of Amsterdam's activity today. It is a popular tourist destination with museums, shops, restaurants, and the infamous red light district.
Once divided by a now dried-up river, Old Center has two main parts: the Old Side and the New Side. Both sides feature gorgeous medieval architecture, and they overlap in places, but each side has its own vibe. The New Side is home to the most activity. Dam Square, which some consider to be the connector between the New Side and the Old Side, technically sits in the New Side and is surrounded by great shops and bars, as well as the beautiful Royal Palace. The Old Side is home to a burgeoning Asian district (Amsterdam's version of Chinatown) as well as the historic De Wallen neighborhood. Parts of De Wallen are lined by quaint bookshops, but it is most famous for it's red light district. This area, with it's glass storefronts and suggestive signs, is not family-friendly, but it's a small area, making it easy enough to peruse Old Center without stepping foot into the district.
As the main tourist area in Amsterdam, Old Center has plenty of tourist traps such as the Hash Museum and the Sex Museum. However, it is also home to some cultural museums, such as the Amsterdam Historical Museums, as well as the must-see Flower Market; the market may also be tourist-y, but it's worth braving the crowds for the only floating flower market in the world.
All of Old Center is usually crowded, so visitors must keep a watchful eye over their belongings, as pickpockets run rampant. Plenty of locals can help lost tourists find their way, and travelers can always head back to Dam Square, where it's easier to get your bearings.
Where To Stay
Most hotels in Amsterdam can be found in Old Center. As long as you stay away from the red light district, which can get particularly sketchy at night, anywhere in the area should be safe and convenient. To avoid a lot of traffic noise, stay farther away from the Central Station.