6 Best Amsterdam Tours
The best option to tour the city is to do it accompanied by a specialized guide. Here is a list of the best tours to get the most out of the city of canals.
Amsterdam is a really comfortable city for the visitor. It is perfectly walkable and a guided tour through its streets will help you to get to know its history and the way of life of its inhabitants.
1. City Center Walking Tours
If you are visiting Amsterdam for the first time, you may want to stroll around its cobblestone streets, charming corners and around its monuments and canals to get an idea of what the Dutch capital is like before you get into the sights. This Amsterdam walking tour in small groups, in which a professional guide will accompany you on your excursion with no more than 15 people, is designed for just that.
The guide will explain in English the highlights of the city and its history, from its beginnings as a muddy village on the Amstel River to becoming the most important commercial city in Europe. He will review its tragic passage through the Nazi occupation during World War II through its old Jewish Quarter and its controversial history around prostitution in the Red Light District and the decriminalization of drugs in its Coffee Shops.
You will explore areas such as Dam Square, the current heart of Amsterdam and from which the city was shaped, with historic buildings such as the National Monument and the Royal Palace. You will visit other neighborhoods of the city such as the Chinatown, where Amsterdam's Buddhist temple is located, and other bustling markets, such as the Nieuwmarkt and the colorful Flower Market.
I have prepared a list of the main points that are included in the most popular tours of the city:
- Dam Square, Dam Square, located in the heart of Amsterdam.
- Oudekerkstoren, in the middle of the Red Light District, where you will also see the Oudekerk, the Old Church.
- Zeedijk, the Chinatown, where the Buddhist temple of Amsterdam is located.
- Nieuwmarkt, the new market and St. Anton's Gate.
- Zuiderkerk, the Jewish quarter and the sad history of the Second World War.
- Begijnhof, on the Spui square, with the gardens and the Church of St. Francis.
- Bloemenmarkt, the flower market.
- Amsterdam Museum, the museum about the history of the city.
- Statue of Multatuli, the statue in honor of the famous Dutch writer.
- Homomonument, The Westerkerk, the memorial to all homosexuals, gays and lesbians persecuted for their sexual orientation.
2. Private and personalized city tours
If you already have a clear idea of what you want to see and do in Amsterdam and you are looking for a different experience than an organized and more conventional tour, I recommend you to take this walking tour in Spanish and fully customized with a local guide, the so-called lokafyers.
These "lokafyers" are inhabitants of Amsterdam who do not dedicate themselves exclusively to the work of a guide, but rather take tours out of devotion to their city and have great knowledge about its history. The curious thing about this tour is that it is organized according to your tastes and interests and has a variable duration, from seeing only the most essential monuments of the Dutch capital, to also know the most everyday areas and visited by locals.
The explanations of these guides are really rich because they not only stay in the most important information about each enclave, but they show you the real life of Amsterdam through their own experiences, anecdotes and stories, as if it were a friend showing you his city!
The tour itinerary will depend on what you choose yourself, with recommendations and tour tips from the guide himself.
3. Alternative neighborhood tours
As in any self-respecting major city there are some imponderables that we must visit in terms of monuments, museums and areas and that we more or less already know before starting our trip. But if you want to delve deeper into the real Amsterdam, that side of the city that locals love and visitors come to discover, I recommend looking for a different tour.
You will discover, in an alternative walking tour guided in English and with groups of no more than 9 people, some of the most typical places of Amsterdam, such as Dam Square, its canals or the Red Light District, but from a more cultural and social point of view. This is the tour with which you will understand the intrahistory of Amsterdam through its alternative life and its subcultures, its relationship with drug use in its Coffee Shops, the origin and functioning of prostitution in its shop windows.
They will also explain the bicycle culture as a way of life, the phenomenon of houseboats and illegal residences produced by the housing crisis after World War II, as well as the countercultural movements that gave rise to its unique urban landscape with exclusive coffee shops. Optionally, you can visit the exhibition of the brilliant Bansky at the Moco, its Museum of Modern Contemporary Art.
You can also take one of the two-wheeled tours available, such as this historical bike tour of Amsterdam, where you will learn the history of the most important monuments while getting to know the cultural life of the city.
4. Sightseeing bus tours
If it is your first time in Amsterdam or you have little time to visit it, this guided tour in English with a stop at the museum is designed to give you a general idea of everything you should see and know about the city through a panoramic bus tour of its main points of interest with the possibility of leaving in the morning or afternoon and adding a sightseeing cruise through its canals or a visit to its main gallery, Rijksmuseum.
About the bus tour
Comfortably seated, with commentary on board by a professional guide and from the heights of the tour bus you can admire places like the Royal Palace and the National Monument on Dam Square, the Magere Brug and the Albert Cuyp Market, the most popular and largest not only in the city but throughout Holland and named after Albert Cuyp, a Dutch painter of the seventeenth century.
Combine with a visit to the Rijksmuseum
Afterwards, you can choose to visit the essential Rijksmuseum, one of the largest museums in the Netherlands, with more than two million visitors annually and which houses the best collection of Dutch Golden Age art in the world with fundamental works, ranging from 1200 to 2000, such as 'The Night Watch' by Rembrandt, 'The Milkmaid' by Johannes Vermeer and 'The Joyful Drinker' by Frans Hals, among others by geniuses such as Vincent Van Gogh.
Combine with a cruise
If, on the other hand, you choose to take the cruise, you will enjoy another of the must-do experiences in Amsterdam with a stroll along the city's ring of canals, declared a World Heritage Site and lined with elaborate merchant houses, charming brick bridges, warehouses and churches built in the 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age, ending at the old port of Amsterdam before returning to the departure pier.
- Dam Square, Amsterdam's main square
- Royal Palace Amsterdam, in Classicist architectural style, was built as the city's town hall during the 17th century.
- The Amstel, part of the canals of the city
- Magere Brug, the narrowest bridge of the canals
- National Monument, the National Monument on Dam Square, dating from 1956 and commemorating the dead of World War II and subsequent armed conflicts.
- Albert Cuyp Market, the largest market in the city and the Netherlands.
- Diamant Museum Amsterdam, an educational museum on the history of the most important collections of diamonds.
- Rijksmuseum, the most important art gallery in the Netherlands
5. Anne Frank Jewish Quarter Tours
This guided tour of Amsterdam's old Jewish Quarter focuses on the settlement of the Jewish community in the capital since the 1600's with visits to key sites such as the Jewish Historical Museum, the Portuguese Synagogue and the Auschwitz Memorial and others such as the exterior of the Anne Frank House Museum.
The entrance to this museum is not included, but the guide will explain the story of this little girl who left us an icy story but totally necessary to know those dark days after the occupation of the Netherlands by the Germans between 1940 and 1945. A turbulent past that you will relive in groups of no more than 15 people and through monuments and buildings that still show signs of war.
You will discover the places that the Dutch Resistance offered as secret hiding places for families like the Frank family and the effects of this brutal regime not only for the Jewish community but also for the daily life of all Dutch people, discovering how they behaved and why they tried to coexist with the occupying army.
- Joods Historisch Museum, the only museum in the Netherlands dedicated to Jewish history.
- Portuguese Synagogue, the Portuguese Jewish Synagogue is a Sephardic synagogue from the 17th century.
- Dokwerker, statue and monument on the Jonas Daniël Meijerplein in memory of the strike of February 1941
- Auschwitz Monument, in memory of those who suffered in the concentration camp
- Dam Square, Amsterdam's historic square
- Statue of Anne Frank, the statue in memory of Anne Frank
- Anne Frank House, museum house of the Frank family
6. Red Light District Tours
Opinions aside, a visit to the mythical Red Light District of Amsterdam is a must and a totally safe experience. You can visit it on your own with the large number of tourists who stroll through its streets every day or do it in this guided tour in English in which an expert will explain the origin, operation and points of interest of the oldest district of Amsterdam, the Red Light District, in groups of 20 people maximum.
With this tour of Amsterdam's Red Light District you will walk through streets that house a mix of art galleries, important sculptures more unknown to the conventional tourist, cinemas, cafes, coffee-shops, sex shops and some of the most important monuments of the city, such as the Old Church, Oude Kerk.
Not forgetting, of course, its famous shop windows bathed by neon and red lights, where prostitution is practiced in a completely legal way since in the seventeenth century appeared the first showcases in the area, making Amsterdam one of the thirteen Dutch cities that have prostitution in shop windows, being legal in the Netherlands since 1911.
- The Condomerie
- Oude Kerk, the Old Church
- Warmoesstraat, the leather quarter
- Sex Shop
- Video booths
- Elite streets
- The prostitution information center
- Hidden sculptures
If you are interested in guided tours of Amsterdam, you will also be interested in
Once you have done the walking tour of the city, it's time to relax by taking a canal cruise if you haven't already done so. And if you prefer to complete your visit to Amsterdam with a tour around the country, I recommend you to read this article on 5 Best Day Trips from Amsterdamwhere you can find a selection of what for me, are the best.
Frequently asked questions
How long are most walking tours in Amsterdam?
Most Amsterdam walking tours last about 2-3 hours. While there are some that last up to 4 hours, these usually include a lunch break.
Which walking tour should I choose?
The most popular tour is the walking tour of Amsterdam's Red Light District. This is an adults-only tour where expert guides will take you through the Red Light District and show you the Prostitution Museum. If exploring the Red Light District is not to your liking, you can always choose the Amsterdam city walking tour, which will show you how the city has changed over the centuries.
What is the best way to get around Amsterdam?
Actually, the city of Amsterdam is small enough that walking along its many canal-lined streets while exploring every nook and cranny is the most genuine way to experience it.