Across the main road from this canal are souvenier shops, pseudo-museums, department stores, and all sorts of places that can suck up your time and your money.
Now don't get me wrong, I had fun wandering this area and even going into some of these 'museums' (like the sex and torture museum) ... but if you are limited in time and funds ... take a picture and walk away! Otherwise, plan a few hours to wander about and explore ... you'll even find a McDonalds if you can's bring yourself to eat somewhere else :)
This is essentially the region you see when you leave Centraal Station ... lots of hostels, hotels, shops, and restaurants .... easy to navigate despite being full of little tiny side streets - they all seem to lead back to the same place :) The main Canal!
Damrak - the long street running from Centraal Station to Dam Square - is basically one big tourist trap. It's full of souvenir shops, bureaux de changes, tacky bars and fast-food joints.
Unique Suggestions: Go to the sexmuseum. It's completely aimed at tourists and a bit tacky, but for 2.50 is well worth the price and a is a bit of fun.
The Damrak just did not really appeal to me. Too commercial, too many stores, fast food places.... I dunno. Just not my cup 'o tea.
Unique Suggestions: Hit the American Express office and cash in some traveler's checks.
Fun Alternatives: Anywhere else in Amsterdam!
Walking down Damrak, especially at the weekend, you might easily think you are back in Britain. I have never seen as many English football supporters congregate, nor heard as many English accents, in any one place outside Britain as in Amsterdam. If you want to see the 'real Amsterdam' avoid Damrak for the weekend.
Unique Suggestions: Don't wear a premiership football club shirt - you won't stand out!
A rip off restuarant right on Damrak that entices people in the door. Beware! It is real bad, the food, the service, and even the prices. Don't go there!!
Fun Alternatives: Close by is Rancho, much better value with good service and food.
The most horrible and touristy place in Amsterdam is the long, wide street running down from Central Station. Avoid it!
Fun Alternatives: Instead, turn right before entering this street and keep going. Turn left at the first canal you see and then start wandering the beautiful little streets and canals you see there. This quarter is called the 'Jordaan'.
If you goto Amsterdam, hold on tightly to your travel buddy, your wallet, and your sanity!
The entire CITY is so congested and packed full of tourists that it's almost threatening, and definitely extremely frustrating! The strip closest to Centraal Station is particularily bad.
I wont ever be going back to Amsterdam because of this. It was just way too much.
Unique Suggestions: go with plenty PLENTY of time. If you are in a rush, you will get frustrated, and it will ruin your experience. If you don't have an agenda, then you can't be late.
Fun Alternatives: Don't go!
Goto Utrecht insted! Utrecht is 1000000x better than amsterdam!
You might get caught on the Damrak, the main road leading from Centraal Station. There are tons of tourist buskers and sex shows all over the place. My girlfiend insisted that we check out the Sex Museum, which was... interesting... and very out of character for her. But then, Amsterdam does have that effect on people.
Perhaps con men is bit harsh, but these people were very annoying. As we stepped off of the train in Amsterdam central, we were bombarded by people trying to 'help' us find a hotel/transportation, etc. They were inevitably doing it for commission and despite us telling them that we already had accommodation booked, he continued to follow us down the road, pestering us all the while. He didn't leave until we eventually had to tell him quite bluntly to go away.
Unique Suggestions: If you think that their assistance would be of use to you, then please I emplore you to at least check what they are looking for out of it first.
Fun Alternatives: If there is any information you require then there is a tourist information centre very close to the station. As you head out and down the main steps, the centre is on your left, right next to the canal.
Dam Square is as much a Must See as it is a Tourist Trap...though it is free...so you aren't really trapped!! Just have fun...and watch your step!!