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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.

Vicky Del Moral

Vicky Del Moral

8 min read

Amsterdam Tours

Amsterdam in the sunset | ©Piotr Chrobot

Amsterdam is a really comfortable city for the visitor. It is perfectly walkable and a guided tour through its streets will help you to know its history and the way of life of its inhabitants.

1. Walking tours through the city center

Amsterdam canals
Amsterdam canals

If this is your first time visiting Amsterdam, you may want to stroll a bit through its cobblestone streets, charming corners and around its monuments and canals to get an idea of what the Dutch capital is like before delving into its points of interest. This small group walking tour of Amsterdam, in which a professional guide will accompany you on your tour 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 become the most important commercial city in Europe. You will review its tragic past during World War II's Nazi occupation through its former Jewish Quarter and its controversial history surrounding prostitution in the Red Light District and the decriminalization of drugs in its Coffee Shops.

You will explore areas such as the Dam Square, the actual heart of Amsterdam, and from where the city was shaped, with historical buildings such as the National Monument and the Royal Palace. You will visit other neighborhoods of the city such as the Chinese quarter, where Amsterdam's Buddhist temple is located, and others with bustling markets, such as the Nieuwmarkt and the colorful Flower Market.

Itinerary

I have prepared a list of the main points that are included in the route of 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 Amsterdam's Buddhist temple 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 persecuted for their sexual orientation.

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2. Private and customized city tours

Typical city architecture
Typical city architecture

If you already have a bit clear 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 featured walking tour in English 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 who go on tours out of devotion for 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 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 they were a friend showing you his city!

Itinerary

The tour itinerary will depend on what you choose yourself, with recommendations and tour tips from the guide himself.

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3. Alternative neighborhood tours

Image of the Red Light District
Image of the Red Light District

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 true Amsterdam, that side of the city that locals love and visitors come to discover, I recommend you to look 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 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 history 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.

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4. Sightseeing bus tours

Channel Cruise
Channel Cruise

If this is your first time in Amsterdam or you have little time to visit it, this guided tour in English with a museum stop is designed to give you a general idea of everything you should see and know in 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 along its canals or a visit to its main gallery, Rijksmuseum.

About the bus tour

Comfortably seated, with on-board commentary by a professional guide and from the heights of the tour bus, you can admire sights such as 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 in the whole of Holland and named after Albert Cuyp, a 17th-century Dutch painter.

Combine it with a visit to the Rijksmuseum.

Afterward, you can opt to tour the must-see Rijksmuseum, one of the largest museums in the Netherlands, with over two million visitors annually and home to the best collection of Dutch Golden Century art in the world with seminal works, spanning from 1200 to 2000, such as Rembrandt's 'The Night Watch', Johannes Vermeer's 'The Milkmaid' and Frans Hals' 'The Joyful Drinker', among others by geniuses such as Vincent Van Gogh.

Combine it with a cruise

If, on the other hand, you choose to take the cruise, you'll enjoy another must-do experience 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 in Amsterdam's old harbor before returning to the departure pier.

Itinerary

  • Dam Square, the main square of Amsterdam.
  • Royal Palace Amsterdam, in classicist architectural style, was built as the city's town hall during the 17th century.
  • The Amstel, part of the city's canals.
  • Magere Brug, the narrowest bridge of the canals.
  • National Monument, the National Monument on Dam Square, dating from 1956 and commemorating the dead of the Second World War and subsequent armed conflicts.
  • Albert Cuyp Market, the largest market in the city and the Netherlands.
  • Diamond Museum Amsterdam, a didactic museum on the history of the most important diamond collections.
  • Rijksmuseum, the most important art gallery in the Netherlands.

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5. Anne Frank Jewish Quarter Tours

Anne Frank House Museum
Anne Frank House Museum

This English guided tour of Amsterdam's former Jewish Quarter focuses on the settlement of the Jewish community in the capital since the 1600s with visits to some key points such as the Jewish Historical Museum, the Portuguese Synagogue, and the Auschwitz Memorial and different ones such as the exterior of Anne Frank's 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 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 the 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.

Itinerary

  • Joods Historisch Museum, the only museum in the Netherlands dedicated to Jewish history.
  • Portuguese Synagogue, the Portuguese Jewish Synagogue is a 17th-century Sephardic synagogue.
  • Dokwerker, statue and monument on the Jonas Daniël Meijerplein in memory of the February 1941 strike.
  • Auschwitz Monument, in remembrance of those who suffered in the concentration camp.
  • Dam Square, the historic square of Amsterdam.
  • Statue of Anne Frank, the statue in memory of Anne Frank.
  • Anne Frank House, the museum house of the Frank family.

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6. Red Light District Tours

Streets of the Red Light District at night
Streets of the Red Light District at night

Opinions aside, a visit to Amsterdam's iconic Red Light District is a must-see and totally safe experience. You can visit it on your own along 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 neighborhood 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 showcases bathed by neon and red lights, where prostitution is practiced in a completely legal way since in the seventeenth century the first showcases appeared in the area, making Amsterdam one of the thirteen Dutch cities that have prostitution in shop windows, being legal in the Netherlands since 1911.

Itinerary

  • The Condomerie
  • Oude Kerk, the Old Church
  • Warmoesstraat, the leather quarter
  • Sex Shop
  • Video booths
  • Elite streets
  • The prostitution information center
  • Hidden sculptures

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If you're interested in guided tours of Amsterdam you'll also be interested in...

Once you've done the walking tour of the city, it's time to relax by taking a cruise along its canals 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 read this article on Best Day Trips from Amsterdam, where you can find a selection of what for me, are the best.

Frequently asked questions

  • How long do most walking tours in Amsterdam last?

    Most walking tours around Amsterdam last about 2-3 hours. While there are some that last as long as 4 hours, these usually include the odd break between for food.

  • Which walking tour should I choose?

    The most popular walking tour is the Amsterdam Red Light District Walking Tour, although it is strictly adults-only, you'll be given an escorted walking tour of the Red Light District, followed by a visit to Museum of Prostitution. If a complete delve into the Red Light District doesn't take your fancy, the second most popular tour is the Amsterdam city tour, which gives you a number of insights into how Amsterdam has developed through the ages.

  • What is the best way to move around Amsterdam?

    In truth, the city of Amsterdam is small enough, that simply walking along its canals, and exploring its many nooks and crannies can make for a truly pleasant experience.