Things to know before you arrive in Amsterdam

Urban Sketchers Netherlands are proud to host the 10th International Urban Sketchers Symposium in cooperation with the international Urban Sketchers organisation. The local symposium team would like to give you some ideas on how to prepare for the symposium.

Sketch: Cafe ‘t Molentje, Singel, by Christiaan Afman

Welcome to USk Amsterdam 2019! Here are a few things that you need to know before you start packing for the 10th International Urban Sketchers Symposium in Amsterdam. The Frequently Asked Questions article is also a good must-read if you haven’t yet. We update it often so be sure to check it in case you have some questions.


We are looking forward to seeing you at check-in on Wednesday July 24th 2019 between 15:00 and 18:00 hr in the Zuiderkerk, Zuiderkerkhof 72 in Amsterdam. (We are using 24-hour time for the schedule, so, 15:00 = 3:00 PM, etc.) You can arrive and check in at any time between 15:00-18:00 hr. If you happen to arrive late please check in at the registration/information desk a.s.a.p.

For details of the schedule and program please check the Program & Schedule page. You will receive more information about meeting locations at the check-in.


  • Bring your Eventbrite ticket and schedule! Either print, or keep a soft copy on your phone. Log in to your Eventbrite account (use the same email you purchased your ticket with), click on the link for 10th Urban Sketchers Symposium – Amsterdam 2019 under Upcoming Events, and click Print Tickets on the left menu to download a PDF of your schedule.
  • Be prepared for the elements. July is summer in Amsterdam, but this is the Netherlands, so you never know… An umbrella is handy, but don’t forget the sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, and water bottle.
  • Bring your favorite sketchbook and sketching materials. There will be an art supplies market onsite.
  • If you have a Symposium Pass, remember to check the art supplies lists for the workshops you have selected. Click here to check the Workshops Lineup document for descriptions of the workshops, including the materials you will need to bring to the workshops. 
  • Some sketchers like to bring a small, portable stool or a sitting mat.
  • Remember to leave some space in your luggage for the materials you will receive or purchase at the art supplies market onsite.
  • Consider bringing pre-printed or handmade cards with your contact information to trade with other sketchers. This is by no means obligatory, but very popular with many, and it may help to keep in touch after the symposium.


Especially for the entertainment areas of the city center, the city has a code of conduct.
Please keep the following in mind:
The city of Amsterdam welcomes all tourists, but it’s an undeniable fact that some of these groups cause problems for the inhabitants.
Especially in the evening in the centre of town (the red light district), where some tourist, together with noisy and nosy guided groups are a nuisance to those living there.
If you want to sketch as a large group at some point during, before or after the symposium, be warned that you don’t do it in below area.

Sketching individually, or just with a few persons together (max 4) would be no problem. But even then, sit in a safe place, don’t obstruct passages, roads and bridges. Please do not draw the sex workers behind the windows. Here is a map showing the area involved. At the streets with the red dot’s it not even allowed to stand still (it’s where the “Red Light windows” and small passages are):

Red Light District Area in with grey dotted line
Sketch: Amsterdam Central Station, by Christiaan Afman


Amsterdam in July is very, very popular with tourists. This means that it gets busy, and that accommodation is expensive and hard to find. So please book early! For those of you on a budget, here are some suggestions for more affordable accommodation:

  • Apart from hotels, you may want to consider hostels, bed & breakfast, or Airbnb.
  • Especially the city centre is very expensive. The further you are from the city centre, the more affordable the hotels are. Also, consider Amsterdam-North: from there to the city centre/venue you need to cross the water IJ, but ferries are frequent and free, available 24/7, and only take 6-7 minutes to cross the IJ.
  • Fortunately, public transport in and around Amsterdam is very good (see also below). Also, Amsterdam is a relatively small city, and there are several cities in the area with good connections to Amsterdam city centre. We especially recommend cities with direct train connections to Amsterdam, and staying within walking distance of one of those train stations. Below are some examples. All of these cities have frequent direct train connections to Amsterdam Central Station. The approximate duration of the train ride is listed after the name. From Amsterdam Central Station it takes less than 10 minutes to get to the venue (see below).
    • Cities (which are worth a visit themselves!): Haarlem 15-20 min, Utrecht 25-30 min, Leiden 35-40 min, The Hague (i n Dutch:Den Haag) 50 min, Rotterdam 40-70 min.
    • Smaller towns nearby: Diemen 10 min, Zaandam 10-15 min, Purmerend 35 min, Weesp 15-20 min, Abcoude 15-20 min.
Sketch: Singel, by Christiaan Afman


  • Amsterdam Airport Schiphol – also known as Schiphol Airport – is located only 17 kilometres from the city center of Amsterdam. Alternatively, some of you may want to consider Rotterdam The Hague Airport. This is a bit further away from Amsterdam (about 70 min by public transport), but with affordable flights to and from many (especially European) destinations.
  • From Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam, you can easily take the train, catch a bus, or take a taxi. For many passengers the train is the cheapest and most convenient way of getting to Amsterdam city centre. The NS train station is located below the terminal building. The train gets you to Amsterdam Central Station in 14-17 minutes (single €5.30 for 2nd class, including €1 surcharge for a disposable ticket; buy your ticket at the yellow&blue NS ticket machine). The Amsterdam Airport Express (bus 397) has a fast and direct connection to Amsterdam (single € 6,50, return € 11,25, 20-25 mins). The Schiphol Hotel Shuttle can drop you at virtually every hotel in Amsterdam (single €17.50, return €28, 30-45 mins). Taxis can be found at Schiphol’s official taxi rank in front of Schiphol Plaza. Always follow the signs for taxis so you know you are getting into an approved taxi (standard metered fare will be €45-€50 to central Amsterdam; fixed fare discounts offered by some companies; or use taxi app Uber). More information on getting from the airport to Amsterdam here.
  • Travel to the venue (Zuiderkerk) from the Central Station takes less than 10 minutes total if you use the metro. Take metro line 51, 53 or 54 to Nieuwmarkt or Waterlooplein (2 mins), and from there walk to Zuiderkerkhof (4-5 mins). Or walk from the Central Station to Zuiderkerk in 14 mins. Note that if you choose to walk, you may pass through Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District.
  • To plan your journey, use 9292 which gives you door-to-door public transport advice (including all types of public transport), the GVB website (within Amsterdam only), or NS (trains only). Also consider Google Maps, which provides distances,  travel times (on foot, by bike, or by public transport), and also reviews of restaurants.
  • Many Dutch people use a public transport card called the OV chip card (‘OV-chipkaart’) which can be used on all public transport in the Netherlands. However, it is relatively expensive. The most convenient option for visitors in Amsterdam is a disposable one-hour card or day/multi-day card (valid for one to seven days; prices starting from €7,50) of the Amsterdam transport provider GVB. One-hour tickets can be bought from the conductor or driver on the tram or bus. Day tickets can be bought on the tram (not on the bus!) or purchased in advance – see here. Tickets are valid across the whole GVB network of metros, trams and buses from the first use, allowing you to take as many journeys as you choose within your chosen time-frame. Note that cash is no longer accepted on buses and trams! If you are staying outside Amsterdam, or take a day trip in the region, you can buy bus or train tickets at the station or consider the Amsterdam and Region Travel Ticket. For more information about public transport (including more discount and day passes) see here, and for routes maps of GVB public transport within Amsterdam here.
  • Or, rent a bike. But please be careful and make sure you bike safely!
  • Those who plan to come by car can find information on local motorways, roads and parking here. We would advise not to use a (rental) car to travel to the Zuiderkerk. Amsterdam city centre is old and streets are narrow. There is little parking space, and parking is very expensive. The centre is small enough to use public transport or walk. Check in advance if your accommodation provides parking space.
  • Download useful apps for your visit to Amsterdam here. This page includes links to apps of the above mentioned transport information of 9292, GVB and NS, maps, and more. For a map, you could also use the app and download the map of Amsterdam for offline use.
  • For all kinds of maps of Amsterdam see here. This website also has a map that shows locations of public toilets.


July generally is the warmest month of the year in Amsterdam, with temperatures ranging between night-time lows of 13° C (54° F) and midday highs around 22° C (72° F). But Dutch weather is precarious… you never know what you are going to encounter. It may be as hot as 34° Celsius (93.2° Fahrenheit), or it may be cold and wet. So, be prepared! Dress in layers, bring your umbrella, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, and water bottle, and check the weather forecast.

Sketch: Victoria hotel, by Christiaan Afman


  • Must try foods in the Netherlands: ‘stroopwafels’ (sweet waffles), cheese, raw herring (July is herring season!), ‘poffertjes’ (fluffy mini pancakes served with powdered sugar), and ‘patat’ (thick-cut fries with toppings).
  • Meals can be as inexpensive as €10 but restaurant meals average around €15-25 for a main dish with a drink.
  • Tipping isn’t really expected in the Netherlands. Service charges are included in (but not specified on) the bill. However, it is common to leave extra change or round up the bill in restaurants and bars, or tip a bit more if you receive great service (5-10% of the bill).
  • For lunch, the Dutch often have a simple sandwich. This can be convenient if you come from a workshop and are on your way to the next sketchcrawl: grab a sandwich or other takeaway lunch from a bakery, supermarket, or small (takeaway) restaurant.
  • If you want to take some time to relax and sit down for a meal, there are several options close to the venue. We are very close to Nieuwmarkt, a square where you can find small authentic Dutch cafe’s (Café Fonteyn at nr. 13-15, Lokaal ’t Loosje at nr. 32, the more spacious Café In de Waag at nr. 4, or Latei Café Rocknroll at Zeedijk 143). Pretty much every place at the square is okay. You can also walk to Waterlooplein, another nearby square with a street market (Mon.-Sat.) where you can get street food from little stands. If you walk via the Sint Antoniesbreestraat and Jodenbreestraat, you will find some nice places in these streets too (e.g. Betty Blue at Snoekjessteeg 1-3, and Soup en Zo at Jodenbreestraat 94).
  • For a sketchable beverage break you could visit De Koffieschenkerij (at the Oude Kerk church, Oudekerksplein 27)  or Café De Sluyswacht (Jodenbreestraat 1) for good coffee. If you prefer a beer, consider the nearby breweries like De Bekeerde Suster (Kloveniersburgwal 6), Brouwerij De Prael (Oudezijds Armsteeg 20), Proeflokaal Arendsnest (Herengracht 90) or Het Elfde Gebod (Zeedijk 5). 


The currency in the Netherlands is the Euro (€). ATMs are easily found in most parts of the city – at bank branches, shopping areas and supermarkets. There are some currency exchange agencies (‘geldwisselkantoor’) in the touristic areas and at Schiphol airport. You can use major credit and debit cards (e.g. Mastercard, Visa) in most (larger) stores and restaurants. Some of the smaller or more remote shops may only accept Maestro or cash. For cash, most shops and restaurants do not accept €100 (or larger) notes.


Electricity in the Netherlands is 230 V, with a frequency of 50 Hz. Power plugs and sockets are of type C (also known as the standard ‘Euro’ plug) and F (also known as ‘Schuko’), with two round pins. This is the same as continental Europe and Russia. Participants from North and Central America, UK, East Asia, and others, will require adapters.


Many restaurants and bars provide free wifi, and so does Schiphol Airport. For an overview of free wifi hotspots in Amsterdam see At the Zuiderkerk free wifi is available; details will be available on location.


In the case of an emergency, call 112. Pharmacies (‘apotheek’) and drugstores (‘drogist’) have varying opening hours; a few are open 24/7.


  • Visit the Symposium website for information from instructors and updates about the event:
  • Visit the website of Urban Sketchers Netherlands for more information from the local team:
  • Follow us on Instagram and Twitter, and join the Facebook group to meet other attendees.
  • Use the hashtag #uskamsterdam2019 to connect on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to share your experience.
  • More questions?
    • Contact
    • At check-in you will receive the program booklet with additional information if you have a symposium pass.

See you in Amsterdam!

Sketch: Doelen hotel, by Christiaan Afman