While doing research on my trip to Europe, I came across a concept that was new to me: The City Card. A City Card is a tourist card (or ticket) that’s valid for up to three days and provides the bearer free entry to certain attractions, discounted entry to others, and a host of other privileges, such as express entry into some attractions or free gifts at select establishments. Usually included is a transport pass that allows one unlimited rides on that city’s public transport. The City Card is supposed to help you save money, not to mention avoid the hassle of having to cough up cash for each new ticket.

I picked up three-day cards in Amsterdam (I amsterdam City Card) and Berlin (Berlin WelcomeCard), thinking and hoping that they’d help me save cash and make my visit to those cities easier. But were they worth it?

In Amsterdam, I got the three-day I amsterdam City Card worth €59. This included three days of unlimited public transport (which, purchased on its own, costs €15.50). Let’s compare how much my Amsterdam stay would have cost without the City Card, and how much I actually spent with the City Card.

WITHOUT I amsterdam Card WITH I amsterdam Card
3-day I amsterdam City Card N/A €59
3 days of unlimited public transport €15.50 FREE
Heineken Experience €15 €11.25
Rijksmuseum €12.50 FREE
Canal Bike €8 €6
TOTAL €51 €76.25

 

In the end, I spent €25.25 MORE with the I amsterdam City Card than if I didn’t buy it. Only two items on the list were totally free with the City Card, while the rest were discounted attractions. If I didn’t buy the City Card, I would have even spent €8 less than the actual cost of the card.

Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Next, let’s look at my Berlin experience. I picked up the 72-hour Berlin WelcomeCard which included Potsdam for €24.90. Once again, let’s compare how much it would have cost without the Berlin WelcomeCard, and what I actually spent with it.

WITHOUT Berlin WelcomeCard WITH Berlin WelcomeCard
3-day Berlin WelcomeCard N/A €24.90
3 days of unlimited public transport €20.40 FREE
Olympiastadion €4 €3
TOTAL €24.40 €27.90

 

Not so bad, as it just ends up costing €3.50 more than if I didn’t have the Berlin WelcomeCard. Still, that €3.50 could have gotten me a beer, or another döner kebab. If I didn’t have a City Card, I would have once again paid less in total than when I purchased the card. Plus, since I never even made it out to Potsdam, I could have saved an additional €1.50 by picking up three transport Day Tickets that didn’t include Potsdam.

Olympiastadion in Berlin, Germany

Before we all leap to conclusions, I need to come clean. I don’t know if you noticed, but I didn’t really do too much with my City Cards. I only went to one museum with free entry in Amsterdam, while in Berlin, I only went to one attraction where the WelcomeCard was valid. In other words, I didn’t really make the most out of my City Cards.

If I had gone to a few more attractions in either city, then I would have definitely ended up saving cash. Given a hypothetical scenario, here’s a comparison of how much this itinerary would cost without the I amsterdam City Card, versus with the City Card.

WITHOUT I amsterdam City Card WITH I amsterdam City Card
3-day I amsterdam City Card N/A €59
3 days of unlimited public transport €15.50 FREE
Heineken Experience €15 €11.25
Rijksmuseum €12.50 FREE
Van Gogh Museum €14 FREE
De Nieuwe Kerk €8 FREE
De Oude Kerk €7.50 FREE
Canal Bike €8 €6
TOTAL €80.50 €76.25

 

That’s total savings of €4.25 Euros, which would increase with more free attractions.

So, to answer, the original question…

You SHOULD get a City Card IF…

1. …you have a set itinerary. If you know exactly what you’re going to do in a city, then you could easily do the necessary research as to find out which attractions are covered by the City Card. (The official website usually has a list of attractions you can use the card in.) Then, after doing the math (like I’ve done above), you’ll be able to determine whether or not it’s worth it. You could even alter your itinerary to increase your overall savings!

2. …you’re a culture vulture. The I amsterdam City Card includes free entry into a good number of museums, including heavy hitters like the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. If you’re interested in museums, and will probably spend most of your time in one, then it’s worth it to get a City Card. Not only that, but it can also allow you to skip the long queues in some museums, saving you not just money but precious time as well. (Do note that you’ll need to get a special Berlin WelcomeCard if you’re including Museumsinsel, or Museum Island, in your cultural itinerary.)

3. …you’re staying for more than one day. A 24-hour I amsterdam City Card is 39 Euros, while a 72-hour one is 59 Euros, or roughly 20 Euros per day. More time in a city also means more attractions to see, and ultimately, that means more savings for you.

You SHOULD NOT get a City Card IF…

1. …you’re a wanderer. I enjoyed getting a feel for the city by wandering its streets and side streets, as well as hanging out in the many public parks. I was content to wander around without going inside any attractions. When you’re more attracted to spending more time in the great outdoors rather than walking through museums, then you won’t get too many chances to use your City Card.

2. …you’re not a “checklist tourist.” I had a very easygoing attitude on my trip, and didn’t want to be tied down to any sort of itinerary. If you’re not fussed about missing out on a city’s “must- see attractions,” then a City Card is probably not for you. I missed out on my fair share of museums and attractions, and generally couldn’t care less. After all, I was also spending a lot of time meeting with friends, who had other ideas on fun things to do in their city. I probably saw the inside of a pub more often than the inside of a museum during my entire trip.

3. …you only have a day or less in the city. For the 24-hour I amsterdam City Card, you would need to visit at least three museums to have any sort of savings with the card. Unless you rush through each museum, there’s a very slim chance that you’ll be able to accomplish that. A public transport day pass should be enough to help you save cash if you’re spending just 24 hours in one city.

At the very least, it makes a great souvenir.