During my short visit to Amsterdam last week, I attempted to fit in as many museums and sites in the city as I could. After doing quite a bit of research, I decided that the best value for my time and money would be the I Amsterdam City Card.
The I Amsterdam City Card is the preferred tourist card for the city. It comes in 1 through 5 day increments and ranges from 65 Euros to 120 Euros. The longer you stay and more days you buy, the more cost effective the card is. To break even, you will find the best value for money is in the 2 or 3 day card.
The I Amsterdam card allows you to visit over 70 museums in their handy book and includes access to public transportation (bus, tram, ferry), a 1 hour canal cruise and a 1 day bike rental. There are a few businesses, museums and restaurants that will honor a discount if you show them the I Amsterdam card.
Purchasing the Card
The complete list of places to purchase the card can be found on the I Amsterdam City Card website. You have the option to purchase the card online or in person. If you decide to go with the online option, you can have the card sent to you before you leave for Amsterdam, sent to your hotel or pick it up in person. I would strongly advise against the delivery options as they are fairly expensive shipping fees and can take up to a week to reach you overseas.
With that being said there is 1 museum the Van Gogh, that requires advance reservations. The Anne Frank House is NOT included with the I Amsterdam card. You will need the I Amsterdam City card number to make reservations.while it is not super difficult to obtain a time for most days, make one as soon as you are able to. I purchased both of my Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House tickets individually and well in advance of my trip. I didn’t want to take any chances.
If you opt to pick up your card with the voucher you are given from the I Amsterdam website, you can redeem it at any location listed here. The airport supposedly had the shortest wait times according to the concierge I spoke to at the I Amsterdam Visitor Center.
If you buy your card in person, you can pick it up at pretty much any museum or attraction that accepts the card. I purchased mine at the Rijksmuseum. There was no wait and I received the card and information booklet straightaway.
Activating Your Card
The card is activated for museums and attractions the first time it is used. It is then good for exactly the number of hours you purchased the card. If I bought a 48 hour card and used it on a Tuesday at 2 p.m., the card would then be valid until Thursday at 2 p.m. That would be exactly 48 hours from the first use. The same is true for public transportation.
Attractions and Museums
If a location accepts the I Amsterdam Card as the ticket for entry, there is typically a sign indicating so on the entry to a location. You also can find the museums and attractions on the map and places that offer discounts with the cards. With that being said, you will want to be realistic with yourself to make sure it is not cheaper to buy admission to the places you want to go individually.
You will find that the “biggie” attractions and museums included with the card are: the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, NEMO Science Center, Rembrandt House and MOCO museum (modern art).
How many places do you intend to visit in a day? I went through the list on the I Amsterdam site ahead of time and decided the main places I wanted to see for sure were: Rijksmuseum, the Hermitage Amsterdam, the Diamond Museum, a canal cruise and the Artis Zoo. Everything else I squeezed in would be extra. Note that I already had tickets for the Van Gogh and Anne Frank House.
If I were to do the math, individual tickets for the museums would be: Rijksmuseum (21 Euros), the Hermitage Amsterdam (25 Euros), the Diamond Museum (10 Euros), canal cruise (12 Euros) and the Artis Zoo (24 Euros). You can see why I went with the card. I would be visiting the sites anyway and with the card, time permitting, I could visit anything else on the I Amsterdam included list. It is very convenient to have all my tickets through one card.
Looking over the map, I really enjoyed exploring different parts of the city on food and enjoyed finding museums I may not have originally planned or see or known about. Of particular note are the Dutch Costume Museum, Museum Willet-Holthuysen, and Van Loon Museum. I really enjoying all of them. All three of these museums are in old canal houses and let you discover what it was like to live inside them. The Van Loon Museum is still where the current members of the Van Loon family live; they were the co-founders of the Dutch East India company.
If you have kids with you, the more family friendly attractions are the NEMO science center, Artis Microbia and the Artis Zoo. I’ve heard that the Maritime Museum has a spectacular ship you can climb aboard that may make it worth your time. The Vondelpark area near the Museum Quarter is also a nice refresher from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Public Transit and Bike Rentals
The I Amsterdam card includes a public transit pass that is good on all transportation operated by GVB. The GVB runs pretty much all ferries, buses and trams in the city. Train travel is not included and needs to be purchased on a separate ticket and this includes Schiphol airport. I would recommend familiarizing yourself with the Centraal Station area; this is where almost all of the public transit begins and ends their lines.
You don’t need to buy a ticket, using your pass, you will need to tap it on the sensor by the doors when you are getting on a bus or tram and again when you get off. I made the mistake of trying to find a tram during the morning rush hour and would encourage you to avoid 8-10 in the morning and 5-7 in the evening time.
If you decide you would like to try your hand at biking around the city, the card will allow you to rent a bike for one day through one of the companies in your booklet. There are about 4 vendors that will allow you to pick up the bike around the more popular tourist areas like Centraal Station and Dam Square.
You will have to use the dedicated bike lanes and be careful of traffic. The bike rentals that I saw didn’t look like they included helmets. If you have younger kids, I wouldn’t recommend the bike rental unless your kids are older. Amsterdam has the highest concentration of bikes in the world and even as a pedestrian, you need to be careful not to get hit by one.
If you are planning to take a cruise, you have a free 1 hour cruise included with the pass. This was something I really enjoyed and only wish it had not been raining and freezing when I decided to go. You should be aware that pretty much all of the cruises will take through through the same route and leave every 20 to 30 minutes. I would pick the one that is most convenient to you. Looking over the list, I opted for Stromma Canal Cruises as it was the closest company giving tour by my hotel.
The cruise was offered in 20 different languages; after my I Amsterdam card was scanned, I boarded the boat and was issued a pair of headphones to plug into the audio guide. The boat did not have an open top and as it was raining, it was hard at times to see the monuments that were pointed out. It was difficult to take photos; taking the cruise is more something you should sit back and enjoy. I think the cruise was a good introduction to see the city and is especially magical in the evening.
If you want a comprehensive cruise, take one that is longer than an hour. I would also recommend looking for one that has an open top so you can see better. If you do not want to use the 1 hour cruise, the card allows for you to take a boat ride to the nearby city of Zaanse where many of the famous windmills are. If you are in the city of Harleem, there is a company there, Smidtje Canal Cruises, also.
Of the discounts offered, I found the HET Dutch National Opera and Ballet discount of 25% to be the most generous! I love the ballet and I was hoping to be able to get tickets for the new production of Frida offered by the HET Ballet, but they were all sold out. The tickets must be purchased on the same day either at the box office or on the operaballet.nl website.
The food and drink discounts vary and are generally about 25% off your bill. I didn’t take advantage of these, but you will find a large amount of places serving pancakes 24 hours a day. It seems to be a stable. I didn’t feel it worth the time to figure out where the restaurants offering a discount were. I opted to eat at places that looked good that were in the area I ended up in during any given time of day.
I do want to mention the Cat Cabinet; it is a privately owned canal home open to the public that will cost you about 5 Euros with the card that showcases all art related to cats. I loved seeing three live cats when I walked into the foyer of the home and was happy to see such a nice privately owned collection of cat artwork. There are many lovely antique posters from Paris that are of particular note.
I tried to cover a wide variety of what the I Amsterdam card covers and offers and how I used it. I do think if you are staying a couple of days that it is well worth your money. The card has a good basis for you to figure out what you may want to see and do on your visit to Amsterdam, but at the same time, if you are only day tripping it, I don’t think it is worth the purchase. Amsterdam is a place I hope to get back to in the next year or so. I’ll have more posts on Amsterdam over the next few weeks. Until next time, happy travels.