Connected by a net of charming canals, Amsterdam is a city that leaves a lasting impression on any visitor. Narrow, atmospheric lanes will take you on an adventure into the unknown, and you’ll never know what awaits at the end. From quiet, beautiful gardens, through vintage shops and cosy eateries, to the hottest clubs of Europe, Amsterdam offers a mixture of emotional and aesthetic thrills. Fall in love with niche restaurants, impressive art galleries, museums and post-industrial architecture. Between visiting the world famous Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum, and shopping in some of the most fashionable clothing shops in the world, Amsterdam offers plenty of charm for casual, lazy strolls. That seamless diversity is what discerns Amsterdam from among the other capitals of Europe. The feeling of being at home is further enhanced by the fact that Amsterdam is one of the most tolerant and open-minded cities out there. Whether you’re after the wild nightlife, looking for a romantic getaway with your significant other, or just looking for an interesting place to visit, Amsterdam will surely deliver.
Top 10 Things to See and Do in Amsterdam
Van Gogh Museum
One of the most popular museums in Amsterdam, the Van Gogh Museum, offers over 200 paintings, 500 drawings and over 750 letters from Van Gogh. It includes a range of permanent and temporary exhibitions and covers various aspects of 19th-century art history.
Explore the famous Rijksmuseum, which houses over 5000 paintings and an impressive collection of works covering the span of over 800 years. The main focus of this museum is on the Dutch Golden Age. In addition to the paintings, Rijksmuseum includes a vast collection of sculptures, clothes, weapons and ship models.
Learn about the history of Heineken, right from the place where the beer was brewed for the first time. The Brew U ride gives insight into brewing and bottling the Heineken beer. You will also learn the art of pouring Heineken. This attraction includes 2 drinks and tasting of Heineken.
Jewish Cultural Quarter
Explore the culture and customs of Dutch Jews in the Jewish Quarter. This educational tour will take you on a walk through the Jewish Historical Museum, Children’s Museum, the Hollandsche Schouwburg (Dutch Theatre) and the famous Portuguese Synagogue. The museum visit includes a renowned exhibition: Religion in the Great Synagogue (1671).
City Canal Cruise
Explore Amsterdam by boat with the City Canal Cruise attraction and admire the most picturesque sights of the city. This boat trip includes discovering the city’s historical centre, including the Golden Bend, the Skinny Bridge and more of the 17th-century architecture.
Bus Tour to the Zaanse Schans
Visit the picturesque village of Zaanse Schans near Amsterdam. This 3-hour tour will allow you to explore the contents of this open-air museum, which includes a collection of working windmills, wooden houses, and barns dating back to 18th and 19th century.
The National Maritime Museum
An interactive tour covering the span of 500 years of maritime history of the Netherlands. The museum’s exhibition includes the famous replica of the ship from the Golden Century of the East Indiaman “Amsterdam”. Throughout this tour, you will learn about the important figures in the history of Dutch Maritime, such as Michiel de Ruyter.
The Red Light Museum
Explore the museum of the Red Light District, the famous paid sex neighbourhood of Amsterdam, and discover all of its secrets. The museum is located in a former brothel in a monumental, 17th-century canal house. There, you will get the opportunity to experience how it feels to sit in the famous window, listen to the secrets of prostitutes, visit the room they work in, and read the secret confession of visitors.
The Rembrandt House Museum
Learn about the life of Rembrandt and admire his works at the Rembrandt House Museum. This is where Rembrandt lived and worked between 1639 and 1658. What’s even better, this attraction includes a continual workshop free of additional cost, which allows you to do your own etching in Rembrandt’s student studio.
Learn about the history and culture of Amsterdam – once, a small settlement along the Amstel, soon to become the centre of seventeenth-century world trade. A tour of the Amsterdam Museum is a fascinating journey through different stages of the city’s development. Discover how Amsterdam became what it is today – a colourful metropolis with an extraordinary appearance!
Other Things to See and Do
Hop on a bike
Did you know that there are more bicycles than people in Amsterdam? That’s right! With over 800,000 of bikes, Amsterdam is the true capital of cycling. That’s why, when in Amsterdam, you just have to hop on a bike, even if for a few hours only! The bike lanes are some of the best in the world and considering that Amsterdam is flat like a pancake, it’s a real pleasure to explore the city on two wheels!
Try the herring!
Haringkarren (herring carts) serve this Dutch speciality all over Amsterdam. Even if you’re not that big of a fan of herrings, when in Amsterdam, do as the Dutch do! Just ask for a “broodje haring”, and get the fish served in a sandwich with onions and pickles. Locals say that the best time to try raw herring is from May to July.
Anne Frank House
To enhance your visit to Amsterdam with a more serious note, visit the Anne Frank House. The front of the house is a museum, while the back annexe has been preserved to show the everyday life of Anne and other families she hid with. It’s best to book your visit beforehand, as the lines tend to be quite long.
Drinking beer under a windmill
Eight windmills remained in Amsterdam, and one of them is certainly worthy of a visit, especially if one fancies some quality beer. We’re talking about the de Gooyer in the Oostelijke Eilanden (Eastern Islands) neighbourhood, which houses the award-winning artisan microbrewery Brouwerij ’t IJ. Complete with a large outdoor drinking terrace, this place allows you to experience a 30-minute guided brew tasting tour.
Visit the mesmerising tulip fields
No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a visit to the tulip fields. Granted, that attraction is only available in spring. However, if you happen to be in Amsterdam during this time, you just have to see the colourful tulip strip (Bollenstreek). Tulip fields stretch across miles between Harleem and Leiden, and are a truly one-of-a-kind sight!
Explore the markets
Markets are a part of the Dutch culture. There are many of them in the city, each unique and interesting. From clothes, vintage furniture, and food, to books and art, you can find anything on the markets of Amsterdam. The most popular include the Waterlooplein flea market and the Albert Cuypmarket in De Pijp.
See the EYE
One of the most iconic examples of modern architecture in Amsterdam, the EYE Film Institute, is as interesting on the outside as it is on the inside. It houses an exhibition space, which showcases both contemporary and retrospective exhibits, plus a vast film library. The marvellous restaurant bar with a terrace overlooking the water is an additional attraction. Did we mention you can get there for free, by catching a Buiksloterweg ferry from behind the Centraal Station?
Relax in the parks
Parks are another important element of the Amsterdam way of life. The city includes over 30 parks, which basically guarantees that you will never be far away from at least one. Vondelpark is the largest of them, covering some 47 acres, and housing an outdoor theatre with live concerts in the summer!
Get lost in Amsterdam’s Canal Belt
Amsterdam is encircled by 165 canals, which connect the city with bridges. This creates a truly one-of-a-kind net of small, nearly desolate strips of land, inhabited by all kinds of arty locals. Here, you will find an eclectic choice of interesting shops, cafes, and galleries. In our opinion, Prinsengracht is the most picturesque. Find your own favourite one!
Hit the Red Light District
Mysterious, intriguing and tempting – the Red Light District is a must-see when in Amsterdam. It is the oldest part of the city, which certainly adds to the atmosphere. Filled with sex shops, brothels, and coffeeshops (yes, the ones serving marijuana), it’s a place that every tourist has to visit, even if only for some window shopping!
Enjoy the cutting-edge street art
Amsterdam is famous for the street art – given the artsy nature of locals, it shouldn’t come off as a surprise. You can encounter some form of street art around every corner, and usually, it’s as impressive as the traditional art you’ll find in the museums all over the town. There are even some urban galleries, such as Go Gallery, which picked up on the street art scene!
Regain your peace of mind at the Begijnhof, the secret garden
Absolutely mesmerising and mysterious at the same time, the Begijnhof is one of Amsterdam’s secret gardens – it’s like a sanctuary, absolutely devoid of the everyday hustle and bustle of the city. It used to house the religious and liberated sisterhood of the Beguines but now serves as an oasis to escape the noisy city life.
Smoke some weed at one of the coffeeshops
But only if you’re 18, and in some establishments, 21 years old. There are about 250 coffeeshops in Amsterdam, with the majority located in the Red Light District. It’s important to remember that you’re allowed to buy the maximum of 5 grams per day, and the use of any hard drugs is strictly forbidden.
Skate through the canals
If you will be visiting Amsterdam in the winter, one of the most popular activities of the locals is skating on the frozen canals. They even hold a marathon-style event, called Elfstedentocht, which is a 200km skate race around Friesland. Unfortunately, due to weather conditions, it hasn’t been held since 1997.
Catch a jazz concert
The Eastern Docklands are famous for the new music theatre, Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ. Designed by the Danish architects 3xNielsen, this amazing music complex is one of the most innovative and impressive in the whole of Europe. This is where the jazz buffs from all over the Netherlands come to get their fix!
Explore the churches of Amsterdam
Amsterdam is filled not only with museums, but also with historic churches. Don’t let the bohemian front deceive you – religion still plays an important part in Dutch life. The most famous church of Amsterdam is the Oude Kerk, which used to have 38 altars, back in the mid-1500s.
Have some fun at Madame Tussauds
For a bit of modern entertainment, visit the Madame Tussauds museum. Meet all the celebrities and the most important people of this world in one place, and in person! The mesmerising world of Madame Tussauds allows you to see your idols with your very own eyes. State-of-the-art wax figures at this museum are hard to tell apart from the originals!
Visit the ICE Bar Amsterdam
One of the coolest bars on Earth, the ICE Bar Amsterdam, is a must-see when in the city. It gives you the opportunity to experience the feeling of living on the famous Mercury ship, which belonged to Willem Barentsz, a famous Dutch explorer. You’ll be given a thermal coat and gloves to survive the cold. You’ll need them, as even the glasses are made from ice!
Try the Amsterdam Beerbike
The Beerbike is an experience that’s certainly hard to forget. 1.50m wide, it gives you the opportunity to enjoy the beer while cycling at the same time. It accommodates up to 17 people, while the minimum number of participants is 5. The ride starts and ends near the Centraal Station. We can’t think of a more pleasant way to explore Amsterdam!
Escape the Amsterdam Dungeon
The history of Holland isn’t only about the tulips and art. It also has a darker side to it, one that dates back to the times when danger lurked around every corner. Survive the Plague, meet the Angel of Death and step aboard a 17th century VOC ship. A visit to the Amsterdam Dungeon, located at Rokin 78, Amsterdam, is a truly thrilling experience!