With its rich cultural atmosphere and historical cache, Amsterdam undoubtedly offers a wide array of attractions from world-renowned museums, picturesque canal networks, vintage-filled shops to hyper-creative drinking, dining and design scenes. To lead you through the quest for wonders in the city of sin, we’ve narrowed down the selection in this guide. So without further ado, here are some of the best things to do in Amsterdam:
Check out Rijksmuseum
Rijskmuseum is home to the largest and oldest library in Netherlands as well as the world-class masterpieces including Rembrandt’s humongous Night Watch and Vermeer’s Kitchen Maid. You can also browse through badass antique ship models, savage-looking swords, crystal goblets and magic lanterns. Free sculpture-studded gardens also surround the monumental building, which now also shelters a Michelin-starred restaurant, Rijks.
Ogle at the masterpieces at the Van Gogh Museum
Housing the world’s largest collection of artist Vincent van Gogh, this museum is as much a tour through the painter’s troubled mind as it is a tour through his body of work. More than 200 canvases are on display, from his dark, potato-filled early career in the Netherlands through to his later years in sunny France, where he produced his best-known work with its characteristic giddy color. Paintings by contemporaries Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet and Bernard round out the retrospective.
Amsterdam Brown Cafes
For a quintessential Amsterdam experience, pull up a stool in one of the city’s famed bruin cafés (brown cafes; traditional Dutch pubs) such as Inʼt Aepjen. This historic Amsterdam bar has been in business a while and gets its name from centuries’ worth of smoke stains on the walls. Brown cafes have candle-topped tables, wooden floors and sometimes an affectionate house cat. Most importantly, brown cafes induce a cozy vibe that compels friends to linger and chat for hours over drinks – the same enchantment the cafes have cast for centuries.
Get lost in Jordaan
Arguably the most famous neighborhood in Amsterdam, Jordaan’s intimacy is contagious, with modest old homes, offbeat galleries and vintage shops peppering a grid of tiny lanes. This is the place for jovial bar singalongs and beery brown cafes, the neighborhood where you could spend a week wandering the narrow streets and still not discover all the hidden courtyards and tucked-away eateries.
Take a spin around Vondelpark
Vondelpark is a public urban park that nestles itself in the Old South. Opened in 1865 as Nieuwe Park, it was renamed Vondelpark to honor the 17th-century dramatist Joost van den Vondel. On a sunny day it seems the whole city converges on this sprawling urban oasis. Couples kiss on the grass, friends cradle beers at the outdoor cafes, while others trade songs on beat-up guitars. Street performers work the crowds, joggers and cyclists loop past, and kids romp in the playgrounds. It’s all very democratic, and sublime for people-watching. The English-style layout offers an abundance of ponds, lawns, thickets, sculptures and winding footpaths that encourage visitors to get out and explore the free-wheeling scene.
Mosey through Outdoor Markets
From antique markets, farmers markets, art markets to food halls and fleas, Amsterdam is market-mad, and its streets lay out spreads from silks and coins to organic cheeses and bike locks. The Albert Cuypmarkt in De Pijp is king of the lot. Here stalls hawk rice cookers, spices and Dutch snacks, such as sweet stroopwafels (syrup-filled waffles). Bulbs fill the Bloemenmarkt, while porcelain teapots and other bric-a-brac tempt at Waterlooplein Flea Market. The Oudemanhuis Book Market has been selling tomes for a few centuries.
Amsterdam Canal Trips
Amsterdam has more canals than Venice and getting on the water is one of the best ways to feel the pulse of the city. You could catch the vibe by sitting canal-side and watching boats glide by: myriad brown cafes seem purpose-built for this sport. Or you could stroll alongside the canals and check out some of the city’s 3050-plus houseboats. Better yet, hop on a tour boat and cruise the curved passages. From this perspective, you’ll understand why UNESCO named the waterways a World Heritage Site.
Visit Anne Frank House
Seeing Anne Frank‘s melancholy bedroom and her diary, preserved alone in its glass case, is certainly a powerful experience that draws over a million visitors annually. Step behind the bookcase that swings open to reveal the ‘Secret Annexe’ and go up the steep stairs into the living quarters. It was in this dark and airless space that the Franks hid, observing complete silence during the day, before being arrested by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps. Anne’s father, Otto, was the only survivor.
Cycle Amsterdam to hidden gems
There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than cars. Everyone rides: young, old, club-goers, cops on duty, bankers in suits with ties flapping in the breeze. Pedal power is what moves the masses to work, to shop and to socialize at the city’s brown cafes. Renting a bike not only puts you shoulder to shoulder with locals, it gives you easy access to the city’s outer neighborhoods and their cool architecture and museums, as well the windmill-dotted countryside and its time-warped villages.
Currency Euro (€)
Language Dutch, English
Visas Generally not required for stays up to three months. Some nationalities require a Schengen visa.
Money ATMs widely available. Credit cards accepted in most hotels but not all restaurants. Non-European credit cards are sometimes rejected.
Mobile Phones Local prepaid SIM cards are widely available and can be used in most unlocked phones.
Time Central European Time (GMT/UTC plus one hour)
Tourist Information The I Amsterdam Visitor Centre, located outside Centraal Station, offers maps, guides, transit passes, accommodation booking services and ticket purchases for attractions.
When To Go Summer (June to August) is peak tourist season, with warm weather and lots of daylight for cycling. March to May is tulip time.
Budget: Less than €100
- Dorm bed: €25–60
- Supermarkets and lunchtime specials for food: €20
- Boom Chicago late-night show ticket: €15
- Bike rental per day: €12
- Double room: €150
- Three-course dinner in casual restaurant: €35
- Concertgebouw ticket: €40
- Canal Bus day pass: €21
Top end: More than €250
- Four-star hotel double room: from €250
- Five-course dinner in top restaurant: from €80
- Private canal-boat rental for two hours: from €90
Getting Around Amsterdam
GVB passes in chip-card form are the most convenient option for public transport. Buy them at GVB ticket offices or visitor centers. Tickets aren’t sold on board. Always wave your card at the pink machine when entering and departing.
- Walking Central Amsterdam is compact and very easy to cover by foot.
- Bicycle This is the locals’ main mode of getting around. Rental companies are all over town; bikes cost about €12 per day.
- Tram Fast, frequent and ubiquitous, operating between 6am and 12.30am.
- Bus and metro Primarily serve the outer districts; not much use in the city center.
- Ferry Free ferries depart for northern Amsterdam from docks behind Centraal Station.
- Taxi Expensive and not very speedy given Amsterdam’s maze of streets.
Top Tips for Your Trip in Amsterdam
- Plan your time – lengthy queues can add an hour or so to each museum visit. Wherever possible, pre-purchase tickets; most can be scanned from a phone.
- Make reservations for dinner at midrange and top-end eateries. Many restaurants are small and customers like to linger. Without a reservation, you might well miss out on your favorite spot.
- Walking is one of the best ways to get around this compact city – it’s quick, free, and provides the opportunity to wander by hidden lanes and shops you might otherwise miss.
- Taking a cruise or renting a boat offers a different perspective on this watery city.
- Carry a mix of cash and cards; many establishments take only one or the other.
Amsterdam is a safe and manageable city and if you use your common sense you should have no problems.
- Be alert for pickpockets in tourist-heavy zones such as Centraal Station, the Bloemenmarkt and Red Light District.
- Avoid deserted streets in the Red Light District at night.
- It is forbidden to take photos of women in the Red Light District windows; this is strictly enforced.
- Be careful around the canals. Almost none of them have fences or barriers.
- Watch out for bicycles; never walk in bicycle lanes and always look carefully before you cross one.
Amsterdam… Beautiful, isn’t it? If you would like to discover with us more stunning northern European capital, click HERE!