Amsterdam is the capital city, commercial and financial center of the Netherlands. It is also one of the world’s most romantic tourist destinations.
Amsterdam is known for its charming canals, world-renowned museums, delicious Dutch cuisine, lively nightlife, bike cultures, and liberal attitudes towards drugs and sexuality.
Some of the best things to do in Amsterdam include taking the canal cruise, renting a bike, visiting famous museums such as Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Stedelijk Museum, as well as the Anne Frank House, the Red Light District, exploring the Heineken Experience and Jordaan.
The city also offers delicious local food such as the stroopwafels and Bitterballen, lovely coffee shops, and vibrant nightlife with many bars, clubs, and music venues in the Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein areas.
27 Best things to do in Amsterdam, Netherlands
1. Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House is one of the top attractions to see in Amsterdam. The canal house has a secret annex where Anne Frank and her family hid from Nazi persecution during WW2. It is now converted into a museum with exhibits about the persecution of the Jews during the war.
Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt in 1929, and moved to Amsterdam with her family in 1933. When the Netherlands was controlled by Nazi Germany during WWII, the Frank family went into hiding in conceal rooms, the secret annex.
The secret annex was later discovered by the Germans. The family was deported to the concentration camps. Anne and her older sister Margot Margot died in 1945, only her father Otto Frank survived the Holocaust and returned to Amsterdam, and published Anne’s diary.
You can spend an hour to see the exhibits, Anne’s original diary, and hidden rooms. It is located in Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam’s city center. You can book a ticket online at their website.
2. Jordaan neighborhood
Jordaan is one of the trendy neighborhoods in the city center of Amsterdam that is known for its charming houses, lovely restaurants, narrow streets and canals. It is home to the famous attractions such as the Prinsengracht canal, the Anne Frank House, and the nine little streets.
Jordaan was built in the 17th century as a working class neighborhood for refugees, emigrants and workers. It was restored in the 1970s, and today has become an expensive, upscale location of the city.
You can wander around its side streets, the canals, or take a food tour to try Dutch food. While walking the neighborhood, you can view courtyards and stone tablets which were built centuries ago.
There is also a Saturday Lindengracht Market selling fresh fruits and vegs where you can experience local daily life, as well as the Noordermarkt organic food market, a flea market, and a Lapjesmarkt fabric market on Westerstraat.
3. Heineken Experience Brewery Tour
If you are interested in the brewery and Heineiken, you must take a Heineken Brewery Tour. During the tour, you will learn the history, brewing process, and taste various types of this famous Dutch pilsner.
Heineken Brewery was founded in 1864 in Amsterdam, and has become one of the largest beer producers in the world.
The self guided tour takes about an hour and a half to complete. It is open daily, but the schedules can vary, so it’s best to check their website or contact them for more information before visiting.
The Heineken Experience can be reached by taking the metro, bus, and tram from the Central Station.
4. Canal Boat Tour
A trip to the capital city of the Netherlands is not completed without taking a canal boat tour. It is a great way to see the famous attractions from the water.
The tour typically lasts around an hour and takes you through the city’s main canals, including the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, and Herengracht.
Many tours also include commentary from a guide, providing information about the history and architecture of the city. Some tours also offer live music or refreshments on board. It is generally recommended to book in advance.
5. Emperor’s Canal
The Emperor’s Canal, also known as Keizersgracht Amsterdam, is one of the main canals in the city, along with Herengracht (Gentlemen’s Canal) and Prinsengracht (Prince’s canal).
The canal was named after emperor Maximillian of Austria. It is Amsterdam’s widest canal, with only 31 m wide. The canal is frozen in winter, and is a place for ice skating.
Highlight attractions along the canal are the Greenland Warehouses, House with the Heads, Foam photography museum, Museum Van Loon, and Syrian orthodox church.
The Emperor’s Canal is also home to many houseboats, which are a unique feature of Amsterdam’s waterways.
Museumplein, or Museum square, is a famous public square in Amsterdam where you can find world-renowned museums such as the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, and the Concertgebouw performance space.
The square is the venue of many demonstrations, festivals, and events, including the Uitmarkt. In winter, the pond becomes an artificial ice skating area, making it a great place for children.
Museumplein is part of the Oud-Zuid district, located close to the nightlife area of Leidseplein, as well as the Vondelpark, and Hooftstraat and Van Baerlestraat shopping streets.
7. Van Gogh Museum
Van Gogh Museum is one of the top attractions that you shouldn’t miss while visiting Amsterdam. The museum has the world’s largest collection of artworks by Vincent van Gogh including paintings, drawings, and letters.
The museum also has a permanent collection displaying paintings by Van Gogh’s Contemporaries.
The Van Gogh Museum is conveniently located in the Museum Quarter, close to both the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum. It is easily accessible from the Central Station.
Rijksmuseum is one of the most visited attractions in Amsterdam and is one of the world’s finest art museums. It displays masterpieces from the Middle Ages to the modern days with 8000 objects in 80 rooms.
You can check out highlights from the Dutch Era are the Night Watch of Rembrandt van Rijn and The Milkmaid of Johannes Vermeer.
The museum’s Philips Wing hosts exhibitions each year, and is home to the coffee shop.
Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s largest park and is a popular place to do outdoor activities such as jogging, cycling, picnic, relaxing, and enjoy a cup of coffee at one of its cafés and restaurants.
Vondelpark attracts millions of visitors each year. It covers an area of 470 000 square meters, and is the location of numerous children’s playgrounds, concerts, and open-air theater throughout the year.
Vondelpark is centrally located close to Leidseplein, and the Museumplein with its famous museums such as the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, and Van Gogh Museum.
10. Dam Square
Dam Square is an important square Amsterdam, located within walking distance from the Central station. It is a popular meeting place for both tourists and locals, and is surrounded by important buildings.
Dam Square was initially established in the 13th century as a central marketplace, when a dam was built around the Amstel River.
You can find the 17th century Royal Palace, the Hotel Krasnapolsky, Madame Tussauds, and Nieuwe Kerk. There is also the National Memorial statue at the south side of the square.
In addition to historical attractions, Dam Square is surrounded by food stalls, restaurants and shops, especially along the Damrak, Rokin street, as well as the De Bijenkorf department store, Amsterdam Diamond Centre, and Magna Plaza.
Amsterdam has loose laws surrounding marijuan where you can try them in coffee shops. You can check out the original Dampkring Coffeeshop for a great feel.
11. Red Light District
Amsterdam’s Red Light District, also known as De Wallen, is the oldest neighborhood located in the heart of the city. There are plenty of things to do and see in the red-light district from sex shops and brothels to museums.
The Red Light District in Amsterdam is known for its rows of windows and doors illuminated by red lights, which indicate the presence of legally-operating prostitution. Visitors can stroll down the streets and observe nearly undressed females sitting inside the windows, waiting for clients.
The Red Light District has a high concentration of coffeeshops, which is legal to buy and smoke marijuana. You should visit at least one coffeeshop in the area.
You can visit attractions such as the Body Worlds, Rembrandt House, Amsterdam Museum, Marijuana museum, Oude Kerk, Amsterdam dungeon, and Torture museum.
De Wallen is overall a safe for tourists as there are policemen and private bodyguards, but you should always watch out for pick-pocketers, and do not buy anything from the dealers, and do not take pictures of the sex workers.
12. Amsterdam Centraal Station
Amsterdam Centraal Station is the Netherlands’ busiest station, with hundred thousands people crossing each day, as it is a hub of domestic and international transportation, connecting bus, tram, and cross-canal ferries.
Amsterdam central station was constructed in 1885, on the site of the former Amsterdam City Hall, with the Beaux-Arts architecture style. building. It was designed by Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers, the designer of Rijksmuseum.
Amsterdam Centraal is located only 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. It is located within walking distance from the Dam Square and the Red Light District.
Amsterdam Central Station is a safe area, but as in any crowded station, you should alway be aware of pickpocketing and take care of your belongings.
13. Body Worlds
Body Worlds is a traveling exhibition of preserved human bodies & body parts that have been chemically treated to reveal inner structures.
The exhibition was created by German anatomist Gunther von Hagens, and has been displayed in various cities around the world, including Amsterdam.
The exhibition uses a technique called plastination, which involves removing the water and fats from the specimens and replacing them with plastic, in order to preserve them for display.
The Happiness Project shows how happiness affects the human body, our health, and general wellness.
Visitors to the exhibition can learn about the human body and see real specimens of muscles, organs, and other structures. It is set between Dam Square and Central Station in the heart of the city.
14. Artis Royal Zoo
Artis Zoo is one of the best things to do in Amsterdam for families with kids. It is one of the oldest zoos in the world, established in 1838. The zoo is home to more than 700 animal species and 200 tree varieties.
The zoo is home to an aquarium zone with animals from Amsterdam’s murky canals, as well as a botanical garden with a diversity of plants, trees and shrubs; the Zoo micropia the world’s only microbe museum, and a planetarium, and Zoological Museum.
ARTIS Zoo is also known for its conservation and research efforts, and it is involved in a number of breeding programs for endangered species. The zoo is open to visitors all year round.
15. Sex Museum
The Sex Museum in Amsterdam, also known as the Venus Temple, is the world’s first sex museum. It is one of Amsterdam’s most visited museums and is an important part of the cultural heritage of the city.
The Sex Museum shows the history of human sexuality, including ancient erotic art, paintings, photographs, statues & recording.
It is located in the heart of Amsterdam’s red-light district, on the busy street of Damrak, within walking distance from Central Station. It is open to visitors over the age of 18.
16. The Flower Market
The floating flower market, also known as Bloemenmarkt by locals, offers a diverse range of flowers and gardening tools. The market is set on houseboats, on the Singel canal between Koningsplein and Muntplein.
It was originally located at St. Luciënwal until 1862, and a year later moved to its current location. Locals come here for tulips in the spring, for roses in summer, and Christmas trees in winter.
You can buy Dutch souvenirs such as clogs, wooden tulips, and try the varieties of Dutch cheese.
17. The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace Amsterdam, also known as Koninklijk Paleis by locals, is used by the royal family during state visits, ceremonies and receptions. It is not the residence of King Willem-Alexander.
The Palace was originally built as the City Hall of Amsterdam, and was converted into a Palace . in 1808 by King Louis Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Royal Palace is open for the public where you can view marble floors, paintings, sculptures, chandeliers.
The Royal Palace is located on the Dam Square, in the heart of the city, within walking distance from the Centraal station following Damrak.
18. Nine Streets
The 9 Streets, or De 9 Straatjes, is a haven for shoppers, filled with designer boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and art galleries. It is located between the Singel and Prinsengracht canals.
The 9 Streets neighborhood include the streets of Berenstraat, Wolvenstraat, Reestraat, Runstraat, Gasthuismolensteeg, Hartenstraat, Wijde Heisteeg, Huidenstraat, and Oude Spiegelstraat.
In addition to shopping, you can visit the Bible Museum & Dutch Institute of War Documentation on the Herengracht, the Felix in de Steigers, and the Flower Market.
19. Rent a bike
Amsterdam is famous for its bike culture with many bike lanes & paths, so renting a bike is a popular way to explore the city.
It is easy to cover a lot of ground quickly on a bike as the bike capital of the world is small, as well as it is a cost-effective way to get around and also an environmentally friendly way.
There are many bike shops around the city, with some located near the Central Station, the Leidseplein and Dam Square.
Before renting a bike, make sure to check the bike’s condition and ensure that it is properly adjusted to fit you, and also make sure you have a helmet and lock.
20. Visit Keukenhof Tulip and Flower Gardens near Amsterdam
Keukenhof Tulip & Flower Gardens is a popular day trip from Amsterdam by public transport. It is one of the largest flower gardens in the world, with over 7m tulip bulbs, offering beautiful photos.
The best time to visit Keukenhof is during 8-weeks in the spring and the tulip season from mid April through the first week of May. During this time the chance to see the flower fields in full bloom.
Keukenhof also holds events throughout the season. The Bloemencorso Bollenstreek, Holland’s popular flower parade, is held on the 23rd of April .
Keukenhof Tulip Gardens provides guided tours, bike rentals, and several activities for visitors.
Foodhallen is a foodie hotspot that offers more than 20 different cuisines, ranging from international street food to Michelin-awarded concepts.
Foodhallen is an indoor food market, and is part of De Hallen Amsterdam, which was used as a tram depot, built in 1902.
It is a great place for lunch and dinner where you can try fish soup, typical Dutch Bitterballen, as well as international food of Vietnam, Japan, and Indian.
22. Dutch food
While traveling to Amsterdam, you must try Dutch food. Some of the popular local dishes include:
- Stamppot, kale mashed potatoes, topped with smoky sausages.
- Erwtensoep, Dutch pea soup
- Bitterballen, Dutch meatballs
- Herring, forage fish in the wild
- Patat Frites, fries with mayonnaise
- Kaas (Dutch Cheese)
- Hagelslag, chocolate sprinkles
23. Shop at the markets
Shopping at the local markets is a popular way to experience local daily life, and to find good food and souvenirs for families and friends.
Some of the best markets in Amsterdam include:
- Antiekcentrum – Antique Center, for jewelry and furniture
- Albert Cuyp Market, for food and general goods
- Postzegelmarkt for stamps and postcards
- Westerstraat Market in Jordaan for clothes and shoes
- Flower Market in Bloemenmarkt
- Waterlooplein Flea Market for second hand goods
- Boekenmarkt Op Het Spui
- Farmer’s Market on Noordermarkt, for fresh fruits and vegs
- Nieuwmarkt in Amsterdam
- IJ-Hallen flea market in Amsterdam
Westergas is a thriving creative hub with hip bars, restaurants, cafes, and cinemas, as well as a playground and a skatepark. It has been converted from the 19th century gas factory.
Westergas is located in the Westerpark neighborhood and features a variety of cultural and recreational activities, including events, festivals, concerts, and exhibitions.
You can chill at the large grass area with a paddling pool, which also offers free wifi, as well as the place where locals make barbecue in summer.
Westergas also hosts Sunday Market selling clothes, shoes, gifts, jewelry, and locally-made products.
25. A’DAM Tower
The A’DAM Tower is a 22-storey skyscraper in the Amsterdam Noord neighborhood of the city. It used to be the Royal Dutch Shell oil company offices, but has been transformed into a popular attraction in the city.
A’DAM Lookout offers the stunning view of Amsterdam, as well as the home of a restaurant Moon and an interactive exhibition. If you are an adventurer, you can take a ride on the OverTheEdge swing.
The Amsterdam Lookout is open from 10:30 to 21:00 everyday. Admission fee is €14,50 for adults, and discounted price for children. The swing ride is extra €5.
26. Oude Kerk
The Old Church, also known as Oude Kerk by locals, is the oldest parish church in Amsterdam, conveniently situated in the Red Light District. It was founded in the 13th century when Amsterdam was a small town on the Amstel river.
The church is known for its impressive Gothic-style architecture, beautiful stained glass windows, and rich history. It is also used as a venue for temporary exhibitions and events.
27. Take the ferry to NDSM
NDSM stands for Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij and is a lively social space that has been converted from a former industrial shipyard.
NDSM is located in Amsterdam Noord, particularly on the banks of the River IJ. It is a vibrant artist community with many bars and restaurants.
NDSM can be reached by crossing the River IJ by a 14 minute by Ferry 906 to the harbor of NDSM, as well as the Houthaven Ferry at Amsterdam West.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Amsterdam best known for?
Amsterdam is the capital city of the Netherlands that is known for its beautiful canals, world-class museums, cycling culture, lively nightlife, and its liberal attitudes towards drugs and sex work.
Where is the prettiest part of Amsterdam?
Some of the most photogenic places in Amsterdam include the canals in the city center, the Jordaan neighborhood, Vondelpark, Rijksmuseum, Dam Square, and A’DAM Toren.
What should you not miss in Amsterdam?
You may not want to miss taking a canal cruise, visiting world-famous museums such as the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, exploring the Anne Frank House, and the Red Light District. The city also offers delicious local food, lovely coffee shops, and the lively nightlife.
Can you do Amsterdam in 3 days?
Yes, it is possible to see the highlights of Amsterdam in 3 days, but to truly experience the city, more time is recommended. To make the best of 3 days, it is best to stay somewhere in the city center, and prioritize attractions you want to see.
Is 4 days in Amsterdam too much?
4 days in Amsterdam can be a great amount of time to see many of the city’s main attractions, including the canals, museums, and historic neighborhoods. However, it ultimately depends on your personal interests and how much you want to pack into your trip.
What are the do’s and don’ts in Amsterdam?
Do respect the city’s bike culture, try traditional Dutch food, and visit famous museums. Do follow the city’s strict drug laws and refrain from using any illicit substances. Don’t smoke marijuana in public, litter, or disturb the peaceful atmosphere.
What are the best things to do in Amsterdam for young adults?
Visit the Van Gogh Museum, take a boat tour through the canals, explore the Red Light District, check out street performers in Dam Square, party at one of the city’s many nightclubs, and try traditional Dutch foods like stroopwafels and Bitterballen.
What to do in Amsterdam for a day?
Visit the Anne Frank House to see where Anne Frank and her family hid during WWII. Then, take a stroll through the charming Jordaan neighborhood. Stop by the floating flower market and take a boat tour through the city’s canals. End the day with a beer and some traditional Dutch food at a local pub.
So there you have it, the best things to do in Amsterdam, Netherlands for your next trip. If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment below.