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. There are many original things to do in Amsterdam, but this is a list of the ones you can't miss.
1. Visit the Anne Frank House
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 to 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. Discover the bohemian district of Jordaan
If you go to the Anne Frank House you may have already passed through its narrow and winding streets. If not, it is still worth going specifically to discover this neighborhood in the heart of Amsterdam. And is that the Jordaan houses through its charming canals, classic architecture and flea markets an ideal place to stroll and immerse yourself in the urban life of Amsterdam.
But this neighborhood has history as it was formerly one of the poorest in the city, being in the 90s when it began to be inhabited by artists and students who gave that bohemian and relaxed air to this place. If you sign up for one of the guided tours of the city you will learn more about this essential place of the Dutch capital.
3. Tour the Van Gogh Museum
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 'The Sunflowers', 500 drawings and hundreds of Van Gogh's letters.
You can visit the Van Gogh Museum by purchasing an individual ticket, but it is also one of the attractions included in the Amsterdam Pass. Still do not know the benefits of this tourist card? I have prepared this article about Amsterdam Pass and Other Passes where you can investigate whether or not you should get a tourist pass for the city. Many recommend getting this pass as one of the fundamental tips for traveling to Amsterdam.
4. Marvel at the Rijksmuseum
It is the National Museum of the Netherlands and the best in the country as it covers the history of art of the Dutch Golden Age among its more than 8,000 works, with notable paintings such as 'Round by Night' by Rembrandt, The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer, and 'The Joyful Drinker' by Frans Hals.
To visit the Rijksmuseum it is best that you get the Amsterdam Pass, as its influx of 2 million visitors a year predicts long queues at the entrance, or take a guided tour included in the Amsterdam City Sightseeing Bus Tour.
5. Cruise the canals of Amsterdam by boat
The canals of Amsterdam 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 and if you still have doubts I clarify that there are canal cruises of all prices and also at all times of the day so do not rule out a night cruise to know the night of Amsterdam fromanother perspective.
6. Get close to the curious Begijnhof Courtyard
A corner of the city of Amsterdam that many overlook is the charming Begijnhof Courtyard. Although it is very close to Dam Square, it is a hidden place that you can not miss because it is a magical inner courtyard garden very bright and surrounded by the houses of the ancient Beguines. These were religious women who in the twelfth century dedicated their lives to the care of sick and disadvantaged people and some of their houses still retain the Gothic structure of the time.
It is a curious and very quiet place to visit in Amsterdam, which is why you should respect the silence of this private neighborhood and preserve the essence of this small oasis in the center of the city.
7. Visit the churches of Amsterdam
Nieuwe kerk is the 15th century New Church, with pointed arches and impressive stained glass windows, which has hosted royal weddings and the coronation of Dutch monarchs since 1814.
Oudekerk is the Old Church and the most important church in Amsterdam, being its oldest historic building. Paradoxically, it is located in the heart of the most controversial and 'debauched' district of the city, the Red Light District. You can visit it within the walking tour of the Red Light District of Amsterdam.
Amstelkring Museum is the site of one of the most surprising churches in Amsterdam as it is in the attic of a former commercial building. Curious, isn't it? After the Protestant Reformation Catholic worship was banned and soon emerged such clandestine 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.
8. Visit the Vondelpark, Amsterdam's largest park
Another of the ideal places to tour by bike is the great green lung of Amsterdam, the Vondelpark. It is an urban park with more than 47 hectares, where tourists and locals go to relax and disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the city. Very close to the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, it is open 24 hours and is a highly recommended place if you are traveling with your family or if you want to enjoy outdoor activities such as watching a play or having a coffee.
9. Treat yourself to a brew at the Heineken Experience
One of the most fun activities in the city of Amsterdam is touring the old Heineken brewery, with two centuries of life and where the country's most famous drink originated in the world.
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 are still not convinced, I tell you my chronicle of this experience in my article about the Heineken Experience.
10. Cycle around the city
The bicycle is the number one method of transportation for getting around Amsterdam, so if you want to explore the city like a local taking a bike tour of Amsterdam is one of the most genuine experiences you can choose on your trip. Moreover, the city is so prepared for it, that there are all kinds of bike tours and bike rentals available.
11. Take a tour of the Red Light District
Controversial and fascinating in equal parts, Amsterdam's Red Light District is a must-see, surprising and totally safe place to visit for its famous coffee shops, where you can consume a variety of legal drugs, and its incredible red-lit storefronts, where prostitution is completely legal.
You can get to know the Red Light District on a guided tour or visit it as part of an Amsterdam sightseeing bus tour.
12. Have a drink in the typical brown cafes
This is the name given to the mixture of cafes and taverns in Amsterdam where you can go to have a snack or taste the delicious Dutch beer. The Brown coffees are named for their dim lighting and wooden decor, are usually very small and some retain their authentic air of the seventeenth century. The most popular among amsterdaneses are:
13. Soak up the atmosphere of Amsterdam in its squares
Leiden Square (Leidseplein) is one of the most visited areas by the inhabitants of Amsterdam 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 later 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 sightseeing cruises that travel through Amsterdam. I leave you here linked my article on the best Amsterdam sightseeing buses so you can explore this option in depth.
14. Look for the famous I Amsterdam sign
The iconic city sign I Amsterdam has changed its location several times, so I recommend before you visit the Dutch capital that you find out where it is if you are looking to take a selfie on it. Here's a hint: when you get off the plane at the airport you can already find one of them. And there are several of them. Find out more about the now historic symbol of Amsterdam at .
15. Go hunting for the best sunset from the A'dam Lookout and other viewpoints
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 church: it has a tower 85 meters high. Its access is paid and costs 7,50€, but the views will not leave you indifferent.
16. Taste the local gastronomy in the markets of Amsterdam
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 the Latin Quarter of Amsterdam.
Waterlooplein Market is a daily flea market held in 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.
17. Don't miss the Buddhist Temple in Amsterdam
Yes, Amsterdam never ceases to amaze and another of the curious places you can visit is the Fo Guang Shan He Buddhist Temple, the largest of this cult in Europe. Located in the red light district, specifically at number 106 Zeedijk Street, it is a representation of Chinese architecture in the Dutch capital. Its wooden stairs and statues of Buddha and others dedicated to traditional gods will transport you to Asian culture.
18. Admire the impressive Royal Palace of Amsterdam
Although the Dutch royal family does not reside in it and it is currently used for solemn events and state visits, this majestic Royal Palace can be visited and is, in fact, one of the most popular monumental buildings among tourists as it is located in the central Dam Square.
It features exhibitions of artworks from the Golden Age and its imposing halls and the luxurious decoration inside makes it an obligatory stop on your visit to the city of Amsterdam. In addition, by booking skip-the-line tickets to the Royal Palace you can discover its history with the audio guide included.
19. See the Magere Brug bridge
The typical image of the bridges over the canals of Amsterdam has one as flagship to the Narrow Bridge or Magere Brug, probably the most photographed of the city. It is a drawbridge over the Amstel River that opens and closes every 20 minutes to let boats pass, so it is not possible to cross it on foot or by bike.
But yes, with one of the Amsterdam canal cruises you will see from the best possible perspective this and other bridges in the city. In particular, the Magere Brug I recommend you to see it at night, its lighting will also make you understand why they call it the "Bridge of lovers".
20. Stroll through the Nine Streets
Known in the local language as the Negen Straatjes, this is a neighborhood where art galleries, vintage stores and charming cafes are concentrated. 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.
21. Explore the Rembrandt House Museum
Rembrandt is arguably the most important artist in the history of the Netherlands. In his original 17th century house, which has been converted into a museum and restored, 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 by accessing quickly and inexpensively with the Amsterdam Pass and reach it as part of the sightseeing bus tours of free stops.
22. Go see the lions at the Artis Royal Zoo
Yes, Amsterdam also has its own zoo and it is the oldest zoo in the Netherlands, so it is very worthwhile. It is a historic enclosure with animal species of all kinds, from lions, wolves or elephants, to a botanical garden with hundreds of varieties of plants, through a planetarium or even two museums that you will love. It is open every day and is an ideal plan to go with the family.
23. Fulfill the Dutch dream Keukenhof Gardens
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, lilies, irises, lilies and many other flowers. A spectacle for the sight and smell that I recommend you not to miss on an organized tour to Keukenhof Gardens.
24. Get to know the Jewish Quarter
This interesting and historic district preserves the areas where the Jewish refugee communities settled since the eleventh century by 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 that this community lived during the German occupation in World War II.
My recommendation is to know the Jewish Quarter with a guided walking tour of the old Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam.
25. Take a walk through Westerpark
This dynamic and alternative Amsterdam neighborhood is filled with green spaces, trendy restaurants, iconic architecture and art galleries and you can reach it via a sightseeing bus or cruise ship.
26. Take a tour of rural Holland
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 the Dutch countryside with a tour of the villages near Amsterdam with their iconic windmills such as Vollendam or Marken, stunning tulip gardens and artisan cheese and clog factories.
These excursions can be done on your own, but if I may give you a tip, the experience is easier and more comfortable with an organized tour from Amsterdam. If you are interested in a contrast to the big city, I recommend you to choose the guided tour to Zaanse Schans to see the windmills.
27. Taste gastronomy from around the world at Foodhallen
Located in a former streetcar depot, Foodhallen is a gastronomic market 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 take a good Ikea bag and bring home decorations, they always sell very trendy things.
28. Travel to another world at Electric Ladyland
This small place in the Jordaan district is one of the only museums dedicated to fluorescent light, and ultraviolet light art. It's quite an experience for the eyes, and a curiosity that you will definitely remember long after. You can only enter if you book your visit in advance, but it's definitely worth it.
29. Travel back in time with a visit to Bruges from Amsterdam
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 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 with an organized tour. You can also do one of the most popular tours in the area: Amsterdam, Bruges and Brussels.
A former pier turned 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.
31. Other museums in Amsterdam 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 spend a pleasant 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! In the former they will be able to take pictures with many of their favorite characters such as Marvel superheroes, while in the latter they will learn about science and technology by touching and playing with the museum's interactive exhibits.
However, there are many other museums in Amsterdam where they can have a fun day out! Check out the post the 10 best museums in Amsterdam to put them on your list.
When to travel to Amsterdam
Every time of the year has its advantages, although traveling to Amsterdam in winter means preparing to be cold, seeing Amsterdam at Christmas may well be worth the sacrifice. If you are looking to escape the heat, surely travel to Amsterdam in summer or travel to Amsterdam in spring is a good plan, as this city never reaches the high temperatures that occur in other southern European countries.
- Travel to Amsterdam in January
- Travel to Amsterdam in February
- Travel to Amsterdam in April
- Travel to Amsterdam in August
- Travel to Amsterdam in September
- Amsterdam in October
- Amsterdam in November
- Travel to Amsterdam in December
How many days to spend on a trip to Amsterdam
Both Amsterdam and its surroundings have a lot to offer to the traveler, here is a list of itineraries in Amsterdam depending on how many days you go. I advise you, however, that if you go a few days try to save time with tricks such as booking your transfer from Amsterdam airport (whatever it is) in advance.