Amsterdam is a great place to recharge your batteries and find inspiration. With world-renowned museums, mile after mile of picturesque canals and unforgettable nightlife, the Dutch capital is one of Europe’s gems.
A motorhome makes the perfect base for exploring this wonderful city – and Motorhome Protect can help you find the right motorhome insurance before you set off.
Driving tips and laws
Before heading to the Netherlands, it is important to understand differences between the UK’s driving laws and Dutch law. To drive in the Netherlands, you will need a valid UK driving licence (a photocard – paper licences are not always readily accepted). Your vehicle will need a GB sticker if it does not already have the UK on its number plates. You will also need your motorhome insurance certificate and V5 registration document. As you will be driving on the right, you should fit some headlamp converter stickers on your headlights to prevent dazzling oncoming motorists. It is unclear whether legal requirements for UK drivers will change in the aftermath of Brexit – always check current advice before travelling.
You must check your motorhome insurance policy carefully to make sure it covers European travel, or contact your insurer to add overseas travel to the policy. You should understand what your policy covers, especially in terms of extras like electronic devices that you might take away with you, and whether there are any requirements such as security measures for your home on wheels.
As a small country, the Netherlands is quite easy to explore and the road network is comparatively safe and well maintained. Careful drivers should have no trouble. From Amsterdam, you can easily reach other historic cities such as Delft and Leiden within one hour.
Here are a few pointers for driving in the Netherlands:
- You need to be 18 years old to drive.
- Using mobile phones at the wheel is banned, but you can use hands-free sets.
- Give way to the right at uncontrolled intersections.
- Keep your doors locked while driving and always lock your doors when leaving your motorhome unattended.
- It is illegal to use devices that warn of speed cameras ahead.
- Roads are free to use, but some bridges and tunnels may be subject to tolls.
- Many cities have low-emission zones (LEZs) that restrict more polluting vehicles from entering urban centres.
- It is advisable to carry an emergency triangle and a high-vis vest in your vehicle, although this is not a mandatory requirement.
- Speeds on motorways vary between 80-130 kilometres per hour.
- As a small, densely populated country, the Netherlands polices its roads a bit more heavily than other countries so take extra care.
- Driver alcohol limits are 220 micrograms per litre of exhaled breath (similar to the rules in the UK).
What is there to see and do in Amsterdam?
If your knowledge of Holland goes no further than tulips and clogs, you’re in for a big surprise! Let’s look at the highlights of Amsterdam.
A week’s visit will allow you to see some of Amsterdam’s best attractions…
This extensive art museum will take you through more than 800 years of breathtaking art and history, from both the Netherlands and all over the world. You can see masterpieces by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Van Gogh as well as many others. With more than 8,000 works, this is a treasure trove you’d be mad to miss.
- Anne Frank House
This ordinary-looking house on Prinsengracht was the hiding place for Anne Frank, her family and several others for two years during World War II. The diary written by Anne Frank during her years in hiding is a powerful reminder of the oppressive times. Find out more about Anne’s story in this powerful museum.
- Van Gogh Museum
Although he was never popular in his lifetime, Expressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh changed art forever with his vibrant, evocative paintings and drawings. This collection of over 200 paintings and 500 drawings by the Dutch artist will take you into a world of colour and beauty.
- NEMO Science Museum
If you fancy something a little different after all that art, visit this five-storey museum housed in a landmark building that points out into the Oosterdok like a ship’s hull. Inside, interactive exhibits show you how technology has developed in the last century or so, as well as featuring all kinds of fun science experiments. Don’t miss the rooftop terrace with stunning views over the city.
- Stedelijk Museum
This museum attracts smaller crowds than the likes of the Rijksmuseum, meaning you have more space to explore the amazing collection of modern art – Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, Rothko, Liechtenstein, Van Gogh – all the greats are here.
Sightseeing in Amsterdam
One of the joys of visiting Amsterdam is simply wandering and discovering in this compact, leafy city. These are some of the places that you won’t want to miss.
Amsterdam’s centre is based around a network of canals, which helps give the city its laid-back, peaceful vibe. You won’t be able to resist taking photos of the reflections in the water or pausing for a drink in a canalside cafe. Make even more of the water with a boat cruise for a glimpse of the city from the water.
Amsterdam might just be the world’s most bike-friendly city, with segregated bike lanes everywhere and bike racks all over the place. Bring your own bike on your motorhome (just make sure this is covered on your motorhome insurance or hire a set of wheels for the week. You could even take a bike tour of the city or surrounding countryside with Yellow Bike Tours.
A trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without time spent in Vondelpark, a magical green space which is a site of national pride for the Dutch. On a sunny day, you can watch the world go by, catch a free open-air concert or enjoy a bite to eat at the historical Pavilion restaurant. Laid out for the city’s wealthier residents in the 19th Century, Vondelpark is now open to all, with many fine statues, trees and lakes.
- Albert Cuyp Markt
Amsterdam is blessed with many wonderful markets, but this is a good place to start. Albert Cuyp Markt offers fresh produce, flowers, bikes, cheese, shoes and accessories. Why not spruce up your motorhome with a locally-grown bouquet, or cook up a feast with fresh Dutch vegetables?
The city’s concert hall is a grand setting for unforgettable musical evenings. It has its own symphony orchestra and hosts an impressive calendar of classical music events each year. Perhaps the best events are part of the annual Mahler festival – grab a ticket if you are in Amsterdam in May!
- Amsterdam’s beaches
Residents of Amsterdam know how to enjoy themselves – on sunny days, city dwellers make the short journey to nearby beaches such as Strand Zuid, Dok and Sloterplas, or take a train to Scheveningen, Zandvoort or Bloemendaal. You’ll find sand, water, sports, cafés, bars, and a great atmosphere.
- Royal Palace
Take a step back in time with this fine old building which started life in 1655 before being taken over as a royal palace. The interior is a tribute to the Netherlands’ opulent past, with 51 chandeliers and tons of damask, gold fittings and splendid paintings. It’s right next to Amsterdam’s famous red light district, so you can check out both in one visit.
When you need to take a rest from exploring Amsterdam, step into one of the city’s cool bars, cafés or restaurants. If you get the chance, try one of these local delicacies.
You might have tried these crisp, chewy, caramel waffles before but if you’ve never enjoyed them freshly made, you’re in for a treat. Stroopwafel stalls can be found in markets around the city and they’re best warmed over a coffee until the middle goes gooey.
These deep fried, sausage-shaped snacks have a crunchy coating and are filled with mashed potato and either meat, seafood or cheese. They’re so popular that you can even buy them from vending machines!
- Patatje Oorlog
Make sure you have your stretchy trousers on before trying this gloriously odd carb-fest. Crispy Dutch-style fries are slathered in mayonnaise, topped with a generous helping of raw onion then the dish is crowned with a hefty dollop of peanut satay sauce. It might sound weird, but it tastes like heaven.
- Soused herring
The Netherlands has a long North Sea coastline and a rich tradition of munching on these slippy little fish. You eat them raw, held by the tail then dropped into the mouth and accompanied by pickles and raw onion.
Amsterdam is a city that likes its beer – and we all know what happens if you drink too much on an empty stomach. These deep fried crispy meatballs are the perfect answer. They can be ordered at bars all over the city - dip the little balls into mustard and you’ll be ready for a few more drinks.
- Dutch cheese
The Dutch can’t get enough cheese. They eat it with rolls at breakfast, in sandwiches for lunch and snack on it in cubes with mustard in the evening. As well as the familiar Edam and Gouda, look out for Maasdammer (a nutty cheese with holes), Frisian Clove Cheese (a hard, dry cheese flavoured with cloves), Boerenkaas (an artisanal raw milk cheese) and smoked cheese (often sold in sausage shapes).
The name might not translate well – it’s ‘oil balls’ in English – but this is a Dutch treat you need to try. Deep fried, sweet dumplings are packed with fruity pieces and dusted with icing sugar. They’re only around in late December – what better way to celebrate New Year’s Eve?
Where to stay
You’ll probably use your motorhome as a base for your stay in Amsterdam, rather than a vehicle to get you around the city. All those canals and bike lanes can make for stressful driving, plus you miss out on a lot if you’re stuck behind a wheel. The public transport system is excellent and cheap, or you can jump on a bike to explore the city at your leisure.
In choosing a campsite, you might want to think about the length of time you’re prepared to travel into the city, as well as your usual requirements in terms of facilities and amenities.
These popular campsites are well worth considering.
- Camping Zeeburg
This characterful site is surrounded by nature and has a mini-farm onsite, despite being close to the city centre. It has all the facilities you need for a motorhome stay, including plenty of space to spread out awnings and chairs while you relax. There’s a café/restaurant, a shop and bike hire onsite, as well as free WiFi. The site is also home to lots of brightly coloured eco-cabins, so you’ll feel like you’re staying in a dreamy waterfront village.
- Amsterdam City Camp
This motorhome-only campsite is based next to the NDSM shipyard, giving you wonderful riverside views in the evening. Close to the city centre, you can take a free ferry then walk for a few minutes and you will be in the heart of Amsterdam. The site has no toilets or showers, but there’s a service point for wastewater and chemical toilet disposal. The site does not take reservations and only takes 50 motorhomes, so have a Plan B at busy times of year.
- Camping Vliegenbos
This green campsite is only 15 minutes’ walk from the ferry to Amsterdam city centre, but you’ll feel like you’re in a different place entirely. Situated in a 25-hectare forest, close to the open Waterland area and meadows, Vliegenbos is a perfect base for exploring Amsterdam. There’s a shop, restaurant, laundry facilities and wash block as well as facilities for disabled people. It’s also ideally situated for travel to nearby cities Edam, Marken and Volendam.
- Camping De Badhoeve
Set on the Kinselmeer (Kinsel Lake), this campsite is a little further from Amsterdam centre but offers beautiful surroundings and the opportunity to do watersports, fishing and other lake activities. It’s a peaceful campsite with plenty of hardstanding motorhome pitches, a shop and a restaurant
We hope that’s whetted your appetite for a trip to Amsterdam! If you’re planning a European break soon, make sure your motorhome and its content are protected.
Why not contact us for a motorhome insurance quote today?
Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.