Cookies help us to deliver our services. By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies. By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn more.

Best things to do in Amsterdam

Vicky Del Moral

Vicky Del Moral

Aug 31, 2021 • 10 min read

Best things to do in Amsterdam

Typical Dutch canal-side houses | ©Javier M.

Amsterdam has a rich cultural heritage of churches, monuments, and museums, with works by great Dutch artists such as Van Gogh, Vermeer, and Rembrandt. Its particular geographical location also makes it a good base from which to make excursions to the surrounding area.

1. Visit the Anne Frank House

Ana Frank House-Museum | ©Guilhem Vellut
Ana Frank House-Museum | ©Guilhem Vellut

An unmissable activity in Amsterdam is to visit the house that sheltered the Frank family and where the young Anne wrote her famous diary, a memoir of the tragic days of the Jewish community during the Nazi occupation in World War II.

It is a moving and tough experience, and I recommend you make the visit to the Anne Frank House with the explanations of a professional guide about its history and that of the large Jewish community settled in Amsterdam since the eleventh century.

2. Tour the Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh Museum | ©Alan de la Cruz
Van Gogh Museum | ©Alan de la Cruz

The world's best museum about the brilliant post-impressionist artist and the second most visited museum in the Dutch capital, with more than 2 million tourists a year. Admire closely more than 200 paintings, such as 'The Room in Arles' and a version of 'Sunflowers', 500 drawings and hundreds of letters from Van Gogh.

You can access the Van Gogh Museum by purchasing an individual ticket, but it is also one of the attractions included in the Amsterdam Pass. Still not up to date with the benefits of this tourist card? I have prepared this article on I Amsterdam Pass and Other Passes where you can investigate whether or not you should get a tourist pass for the city.

3. Marvel at the Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum | ©Ed Webster
Rijksmuseum | ©Ed Webster

It is the National Museum of the Netherlands and the best in the country as it traces the history of Dutch Golden Age art among its more than 8,000 works, with notable paintings such as Rembrandt's 'Night Watch', Johannes Vermeer's 'The Milkmaid' and Frans Hals' 'The Joyful Drinker'.

To visit the Rijksmuseum it is best to get the Amsterdam Pass, as its influx of 2 million visitors a year always translates into long queues at the entrance, or take a guided tour included in the Amsterdam City Bus Tour.

4. Treat yourself to a brew at the Heineken Experience

Entrance to the Heineken Experience | ©Elroy Serrao
Entrance to the Heineken Experience | ©Elroy Serrao

One of the most fun activities in the city of Amsterdam is touring the old brewery of Heineken beer, with two centuries of life and where the most famous drink of the country in the world originated.

You can learn the secrets of its history and production in an interactive tour of its original facilities, try to make your own beer, and taste two glasses of Heineken. If you're still not convinced, you can read about this experience in my article on the Heineken Experience.

5. Explore the Rembrandt House Museum

Rembrandt House-Museum | ©Lukas Koster
Rembrandt House-Museum | ©Lukas Koster

Rembrandt is in all probability the most important artist in the history of the Netherlands. In his original 17th century house, which has been restored and converted into a museum, you can immerse yourself in the personal and professional history of this master of engraving, painting, and drawing.

You can visit the Rembrandt House Museum quickly and inexpensively with the Amsterdam Pass and reach it as part of the sightseeing bus tours with free stops.

6. Visit Amsterdam's churches

Oude kerk | ©Christophe PINARD
Oude kerk | ©Christophe PINARD

Nieuwe Kerk is the 15th-century New Church, with pointed arches and impressive stained glass windows, and has hosted royal weddings and the coronation of Dutch monarchs since 1814.

Oude Kerk is the Old Church and the most important of Amsterdam, being its oldest historic building. Paradoxically it is located in the heart of the most controversial and 'libertine' district of the city, the Red Light District. You can visit it within the Amsterdam Red Light District Walking Tour in small groups. You can read my article on Amsterdam Tours if you are thinking of taking a guided tour of the city.

Amstelkring Museum is the site of one of the most amazing churches in Amsterdam as it is in the attic of a former commercial building. Unusual, isn't it? After the Protestant Reformation Catholic worship was banned and soon emerged such underground churches for Catholics in the city. Nothing on the outside of the building suggests that a church is located there. To visit Our Lady of the Attic you have to climb some steep and narrow stairs, but contemplating its beautiful altar of "late baroque" style is worth it.

7. Tour the city on a bicycle

Tourists on a canal bridge | ©Abir Anwar
Tourists on a canal bridge | ©Abir Anwar

Bicycles are the number one method of transportation in Amsterdam, so if you want to explore the city like a local taking a bike tour is one of the most genuine experiences you can choose on your trip. Besides, the city is so prepared for it, that there are all kinds of tours and bike rentals available.

8. Get lost in the dreamy Keukenhof Gardens

Keukenhof Gardens | ©yisris
Keukenhof Gardens | ©yisris

More than 7 million flowers are planted in the Keukenhof Gardens each year, which is a spectacular field of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, lilies, and many other flowers. A spectacle for the sight and smell that I recommend you not to miss in a organized excursion to Keukenhof Gardens.

9. Cruise the canals of Amsterdam by boat

Cruise through the canals of Amsterdam | ©Greger Ravik
Cruise through the canals of Amsterdam | ©Greger Ravik

Amsterdam's canals are the essence of the city and you can enjoy a boat ride on its waters. With Amsterdam boat tours you will see the city from a different perspective and with the comfort of a boat seat, a very relaxing experience. Read more about it in my article about Amsterdam canal cruises.

10. Go hunting for the best sunset from Amsterdam's viewpoints

View from A'dam Lookout | ©Moritz Lüdtke
View from A'dam Lookout | ©Moritz Lüdtke
:

A'dam Lookout is the most impressive viewpoint in Amsterdam and is payable, but you can access it with the Amsterdam Pass. Another place to watch a beautiful sunset is at the West Kerk: it has a tower 278 feet high. You have to pay to access and it costs $ 9, but the views will not leave you indifferent.

11. Soak up the atmosphere of Amsterdam in its squares

Dam Square | ©Travelinglao
Dam Square | ©Travelinglao

Leiden Square (Leidseplein) is one of Amsterdam's most visited areas with a lively atmosphere of street musicians, terraces, Art Deco architecture, and intense nightlife.

Dam Square, Dam Square, is the nerve center of Amsterdam and its most important square, with monuments such as the National Monument, 1956 and commemorating the dead of World War II and subsequent armed conflicts, and the Royal Palace Amsterdam, classicist style.

Spui Square is known for being a few meters from Begijnhof, a group of majestic houses built in 1346 to house a sorority of women.

You can visit these squares within the walking tours of the city or as part of the stops made by buses and tourist cruises that travel around Amsterdam. I leave here linked my article on Hop on Hop off Bus Tours so you can explore this option in depth.

12. Take a tour of the Red Light District

Red Light District | ©Pavel Ivanov
Red Light District | ©Pavel Ivanov

Controversial and fascinating in equal parts, Amsterdam's Red Light District is a must visit. As daunting as it is safe, it won't come as a surprise to many that in its various coffee shop you can legally consume various kinds of drugs, and stroll through alleys dotted with red-light illuminated windows that open up to tiny rooms where prostitution is exercised in a completely legal way.

You can get to know the Red Light District on a guided tour or visit it as part of a tour in the Amsterdam tourist bus.

13. Get to know the Jewish Quarter

Interior of the Resistance Museum | ©Ana Paula Hirama
Interior of the Resistance Museum | ©Ana Paula Hirama

This interesting and historic district preserves the areas where the Jewish refugee communities settled since the 11th century due to the freedom of worship prevailing in Amsterdam, then known as 'the European Jerusalem'.

It concentrates numerous monuments, museums, and sites of great interest such as the Anne Frank House and the Resistance Museum, Verzetsmuseum, where you will learn about the turbulent times experienced by this community during the German occupation in World War II.

My recommendation is to get to know the Jewish Quarter with a guided tour walking tour through the old Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam.

14. Take a walk through Westerpark

Westerpark | ©Guilhem Vellut
Westerpark | ©Guilhem Vellut

This dynamic and alternative Amsterdam neighborhood is filled with green spaces, modern restaurants, iconic architecture, and art galleries and you can reach it via a sightseeing bus or cruise.

15. Taste the local gastronomy in Amsterdam's markets

Albert Cuyp Market | ©Michael Coghlan
Albert Cuyp Market | ©Michael Coghlan

Albert Cuyp Market is the largest and most popular market in the city and the Netherlands, founded in 1904, with over 300 varied stalls and located in Amsterdam's Latin Quarter.

Waterlooplein Market is a daily flea market held on the touristy Waterlooplein square, where notable buildings such as the Stopera, the seat of the city council, and the opera house stand.

Bloemenmarkt, the flower market, is a floating market 140 years old and is preferred by the inhabitants of Amsterdam to buy their plants. It is an essential place to see the flower par excellence of Holland, the tulip, and buy some seeds as a souvenir.

16. Take a trip to rural Holland

Dutch countryside | ©Vishwas Katti
Dutch countryside | ©Vishwas Katti

In addition to visiting the fascinating city of Amsterdam, there are many other places of interest in the surrounding area that you can discover with convenient and practical organized tours. Immerse yourself in rural Holland with its iconic windmills, charming fishing villages like Volendam or Marken, stunning tulip gardens, and artisan cheese and clog factories.

These excursions you can do on your own, but if you allow me a tip, the experience is more comfortable and easier with an organized tour. You can take a look at my article on Best Day Trips from Amsterdam to see all the options.

17. Stroll through the Nine Streets

The Singel Canal is located within the Negen Straatjes | ©Steve Jones
The Singel Canal is located within the Negen Straatjes | ©Steve Jones

Known in the local language as the Negen Straatjes, this is a neighborhood with a concentration of art galleries, vintage stores, and charming cafes. It is located a few steps from Dam Square, between the Leidsestraat and Raadhuisstraat, and is the ideal place to spend the morning strolling, between shopping and aperitif.

18. Taste the gastronomy of the whole world in Foodhallen

Foodhallen | ©Franklin Heijnen
Foodhallen | ©Franklin Heijnen

Located in a former streetcar depot, Foodhallen is a gastronomic marketplace where you can find literally anything you feel like eating. Gourmet donuts, barbecued meat, dim sum, premium tacos...is your mouth watering yet? Remember to pack a big bag and buy a couple of home decorations, they always sell very trendy things.

19. Travel to another world in Electric Ladyland

Electric Ladyland Museum | ©ilovebutter
Electric Ladyland Museum | ©ilovebutter

This little place in the Jordaan neighborhood is one of the only museums dedicated to fluorescent light and ultraviolet light art. It is quite an experience for the eyes and a curiosity that you will certainly remember long afterward. You can only enter if you book your visit in advance, but it is definitely worth it.

20. Travel back in time with a visit to Bruges from Amsterdam

Bruges | ©Olivier Depaep
Bruges | ©Olivier Depaep

Thanks to the geographical location of Amsterdam, going to Bruges and back in one day is possible. I did it with an organized tour that allowed me to squeeze the most out of my visit time and I recommend it 100%. I leave here my summary of the experience in case you are considering visiting the neighboring country: visit Bruges from Amsterdam.

21. NDSM

NDSM | ©Randy Connolly
NDSM | ©Randy Connolly

A former pier converted into a creative space, with benches, food trucks, street art, and industrial aesthetics. You can find vintage clothing markets, occasional music festivals, open-air film screenings, and relax in the beach atmosphere of this favorite spot for Amsterdam locals.

22. Other Amsterdam museums that will surprise you

The Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House or the Rijksmuseum are probably the most famous museums in Amsterdam but there are many more not so well known where you can have a great time soaking in the Dutch culture.

For example, if you travel with your family to Amsterdam I recommend you to visit the Madame Tussauds Museum or the NEMO Science Museum, where children will have a great time with all the surprises that await them! At the former, they will be able to take pictures with many of their favorite characters such as Marvel superheroes, while at the latter they will learn about science and technology by touching and playing with the museum's interactive exhibits.

But there are many other museums in Amsterdam where you can have a fun day out! Check out the post the 10 best museums in Amsterdam to add some fun visits to your itinerary.

Things to do in Amsterdam