Amsterdam is a city like no other. With its gorgeous canal ring, it’s ‘silicon valley of Europe’-status and its inhabitants that love biking everywhere – even if they’re carrying a chair or a Christmas tree, you’ll notice the city has its own vibe. In Amsterdam, there’s always something to do or something to visit. You can sample Dutch beers and cheeses, stare in awe at paintings from Dutch masters or cruise the Red Light District when it gets dark. We promise you that you won’t get bored in Amsterdam! But because there’s so much to do, it can be hard to know for sure which things you just háve to do or see. We know this city like the back of our hand, so that’s why we made our ‘top 10 things to do in Amsterdam-list’!
1. Visit Museumplein and its impressive museums
When you’re in Amsterdam, you have to clear your schedule a bit for some culture. The city has tens of museums, so whether you like impressive oil paintings, modern pop art or the history of Dutch prostitution, you’ll find a museum that suits your interests.
We recommend visiting Museumplein, a square with a park – ideal for sunny days!- around which you can find four of the biggest museums in Amsterdam: the Rijksmuseum, Moco Museum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum. From the early works of Van Gogh to the most famous works of Rembrandt and Banksy; at Museumplein you can find it all. If you want to spend some time immersing yourself with art or you just want to escape the unpredictable Dutch weather on a rainy day, the museums of Museumplein are there to welcome you.
If you’ve seen every museum at Museumplein and you’re still hungry for culture, there’s so much more to visit. From the Museum Heer op Solder (“Lord in the Attic”) to the National Maritime Museum (Scheepvaartmuseum) and the NEMO Science Museum – there’s enough to do and to see!
2. Discover The ‘Negen Straatjes’ & The Jordaan
Amsterdam has so many interesting neighborhoods. From the up-and-coming NDSM to multicultural East, there’s a lot to see and discover. If it’s your first time in Amsterdam, we recommend you to start with the Nine Little Streets and The Jordaan. De Negen Straatjes is a neighborhood consisting of nine streets between the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Singel. The streets are filled with typical Dutch pubs, restaurants and tons of shops. Here you won’t find the typical ‘high street’ shops, but small boutiques and shops selling vintage clothes, jewelry and gifts. The neighborhood is fun to take a stroll through, because the shops are located in gorgeous houses.
From the Negen Straatjes you can walk further into the Jordaan, a fancy neighborhood filled with art galleries and specialty shops. The Jordaan is one of the favorite neighborhoods of born-and-raised Amsterdammers. Did you know Rembrandt spent the last years of his life in the neighbourhood Jordaan? If you’re in the Jordaan, check out if there’s a market next to the Noorderkerk. You can often get organic groceries on Saturdays and Monday mornings.
3. See Amsterdam’s beauty from the water
Did you know that the canal ring of Amsterdam is UNESCO World Heritage? Not surprisingly, the Dutch capital is a sight for sore eyes! When you’re walking along the canals – watch out for cyclists! – you can already spot majestic 17th century canal houses, inhabitants drinking their morning coffee on the steps of their stairs when the sun is out, houseboats on the water and more.
And while it’s impressive to walk along the water and photograph the city from one of its many bridges, you just have to see Amsterdam from the water! During a canal cruise, your (audio) guide tells you everything you need to know about the city and its famous canals. While your boat glides through the water of the canal belt, you’ll feel like a proper local … Another recommendation is to choose an evening cruise: when the night falls, Amsterdam looks even more magical! When it’s dark, you can see the bridges light up, it’s quite an experience! They might say Paris is the most romantic city, but believe us: when your canal cruise glides over the Amstel and you see the lights of the Skinny Bridge, you’ll see that Amsterdam also has a lot of romance to offer!
4. Visit up-and-coming ‘Noord’
All neighbourhoods of Amsterdam have their own charm. Many Amsterdammers even vow to never move because they love their area too much. In the last few years, ‘Noord’ (or the neighbourhoods north of the IJ bay) have become increasingly popular, especially the area of NDSM. From the Central Station, you can take the free ferry to the NDSM-Werf. You pass by the ‘botel’ (a boat-hotel) and a decommissioned Russian submarine.
NDSM is the terrain of a former shipbuilding company, and that’s still very visible: in the middle of the terrain, there’s still a huge crane that’s now an exclusive hotel with three suites. NDSM has a very urban vibe: there’s graffiti everywhere! NDSM is often used as a festival and concert space and also holds Europe’s biggest flea market every month: the IJ-Hallen. When you’re in Noord, don’t forget to get a drink at one of the waterfront bars and see the boats pass on the IJ.
5. Follow in Anne Frank’s footsteps
In some places in Amsterdam, it seems like time has stood still. The Anne Frank House on the Prinsengracht is one of those places. In the ‘Achterhuis’ or Secret Annex, she, her family and four other people hid from the Nazis during WWII. When you visit the museum, you can walk through the Achterhuis and see how small it was and visit the exhibition about her life. If you’re interested to know more about her life before she was forced to live in the Annex, the Anne Frank Story and Neighborhood Walking Tour might interest you. During this tour, you’ll learn more about this fascinating girl and you’ll see all the places she loved in Amsterdam. Amsterdam also has a Jewish Quarter, where you’ll find the Jewish Historical Museum.
If you want to know more about the atrocities of Nazi Germany, check out the guided day tour Camp Vught National Memorial & Den Bosch in WWII. During this day trip, you get picked up in Amsterdam and visit ‘s-Hertogenbosch, where you will get a taste of what it was like to live in a Dutch town during WWII. Afterwards, you’ll visit the former SS camp Camp Vught. You’ll be shown around the museum, memorial centre, wall of reflection and the gas chambers.
6. Taste the local cuisine
While many Dutch might argue what would be considered ‘local cuisine’ because their food is heavily influenced by many different cuisines, there are a few things you have to try when you visit the Netherlands. If you see ‘stamppot’ on the menu in a restaurant, you’ve probably picked the most Dutch meal there is! When you’re in Amsterdam, you also have to try some incredible Dutch cheeses, for instance in a ‘Kaasproeverij’ (cheese tasting). Taste some incredible cheeses, paired with a specialty beer. Just like the Dutch do! If you want to try some more dishes, we recommend Dutch herring with onions, bitterballen and poffertjes.
7. Try the local beers
After you’ve tasted local cuisine, it’s time to discover the drinks! There’s of course the famous Heineken beer, which you can learn everything about in the Heineken Experience, but Amsterdam also has many more breweries. Especially the last few years, Dutch IPA’s and craft beers have become really popular.
Want to visit some more breweries? Check out the windmill De Gooyer in the Oostelijke Eilanden, that’s the home space of Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Taste the IJwit or any of the other beers on their large outdoor terrace! Another fun brewery is Brouwerij Troost, in the middle of the Westerpark!
8. Dance all night
In Amsterdam, locals and tourists alike love the night. Not surprisingly, the city has a bustling nightlife! There are tons of concert venues such as Paradiso (housed in an old church!) and Melkweg, but also many bars that offer live music. If you want to party, clubs like Chin Chin, NYX or the underground techno club Shelter are there for you. Tip: if you happen to visit Amsterdam during the end of October, check out ADE (or the Amsterdam Dance Event) with about a 1000 events and parties!
9. Explore the city like a local: by bike
Have you even been to Amsterdam if a local hasn’t yelled at you because you were walking in the bike path? While the city is lovely to discover by foot, if you want to join the locals, rent a bike! Biking is fun and a good way to discover small streets you might not see when you’re walking. Just make sure to only bike with 2 people next to each other if you’re in a big group. The locals will thank you! You can make your own bike tour, from the Royal Palace on Dam Square to the Oude Kerk and maybe even the Hortus Botanicus and the Artis Amsterdam Royal Zoo … Are you ready to explore Amsterdam by bike?
10. Chill out in one of the city’s many parks
If the weather is nice and you feel like you want to take a break from exploring, we recommend you to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet in one of the city’s many parks. Of course the Vondelpark is the most well-known park, but there are many other fun parks, such as Oosterpark in East, Westerpark in West and Sarphatipark in De Pijp. On sunny days, you’ll see people working out, playing all kinds of sports, having lunch or just enjoying time with friends.
What are your favourite things to do in Amsterdam? Let us know!