Amsterdam is the capital city of the Netherlands, and one of the most iconic cities in Europe. This city is famous for its charming streets, the romantic canals, Dutch paintings and museums, and of course the liberal philosophy that makes it one of the European party capitals. It doesn’t matter, what are you searching for in Amsterdam, we’re sure that you will find it. In this article, we will share with you the best things to do when you’re in Amsterdam!
Wandering around the Amsterdam canals and the city center
If you only have one day or a short time in Amsterdam, don’t miss out on the city center!
You can easily walk around the canals and get amazed by the unique canal system of Amsterdam. There are a total of 165 canals that make this city a very magical place. You can wander around and find a lot of nice spots. Check around the cafeterias and galleries that decorate the streets. This is definitely one of the first things to do in Amsterdam.
Take a photo at the charming gingerbread houses of Damrak
The most charming photo spot is definitely at Damrak. This place is very close to the Central Station of Amsterdam (you can actually walk 5 minutes to reach it from there). We can call this the classic view of Amsterdam. These beautiful houses have been giving the classic view since the 19th century. The Damrak main avenue is also a great starting point to start the exploration of the old town and reach the little famous streets.
Visit the Prinsengracht and the 9 Streets
Prinsengracht is one of the main canals of the city. It runs parallels to the Keizersgracht canal in the middle of Amsterdam. It was constructed during the year 1612 and it is one of the streets with some of the most beautiful architecture and also interesting stories.
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Wandering around the Bluemenmarkt
The Blumenmarkt is also parallel to Prinsengracht, here you can find and buy a lot of different plants, bulbs and seeds perfect for making your home more colorful or even your garden. The 9 streets are also located here. It is full of boutiques and interesting places, but the street itself is an amazing spot for taking photos.
Get amazed by the design of the 7 houses
One of the most famous streets parallel to Prinsengracht is the street with the 7 houses. These houses are constructed one to each other and are constructed with the styles of different European nations like Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, England and the Netherland itself. Some of them are hotels, restaurants, and private houses, but you can admire the exterior for free.
Van Gogh Museum
This was our favorite museum in the whole of Amsterdam. We both love the artwork of Van Gogh, and the interesting story of his life as well. For entering the museum you can choose between buying a ticket in the place or buy it online. We strongly recommend you to buy it online due to two reasons.
- As you can imagine, this museum is very crowded all the time. Getting tickets can be difficult sometimes. If you buy your ticket online you will save time.
- Apart from the ticket, you need to get a time slot. If you buy your ticket online you can choose the perfect time slot for your visit.
Rembrandt is another of the most famous Dutch painters of all time. You can admire some of his artwork (and other incredible Dutch artists) in this museum. You can also buy your ticket and time slot online to save time. This museum is not as crowded as the Van Gogh Museum so you may find a lot of space to enjoy all the artwork. The museum is very big, so we recommend you to go early in the morning.
The famous painting “The Night Watch” from Rembrandt is located here. The painting is so famous that even if it is under restoration, you can still admire it and the specialists during their work.
Choose one interesting museum from a lot of museums in Amsterdam!
Apart from the most famous museums, you can find very interesting and unique museums in Amsterdam as well.
NOTE: These museums are not included in the I amsterdam City Card, so you will need to pay for the entrance.
Amsterdam is a very liberal city. Sexuality is not a taboo topic in this European capital. The Sex Museum of Amsterdam is the best place to learn about everything related to sexuality, reproduction, erotism and the everyday life of the crazy nightlife of Amsterdam.
Banksy is a worldwide famous graffiti artist that has artwork all around the world. His work gives voice to social causes and justice, and it is always portraying the human condition over the problems of the world. This museum keeps some reproductions and original works of Banksy. If you are a fan of street art, you can’t miss this one.
Anne Frank House
WW2 affected the lives of millions of people. Anne Frank lived the horror of the Nazi occupation and the persecution of her people. You can visit the house where she lived her last 2 years of life. A time when she couldn’t go out of the place at all just to be captured and die just days after the ending of the war.
This place is open to make us not forget about the horrors of the war, how stupid is to hate someone else just because they have a different race or religion. It is a great place to learn and keep the memory of all the victims alive.
Wander around the Dam Square
Dam Square is one of the most important places around the city. There are a lot of interesting landmarks here like the Royal Palace, the Madame Tussaud Museum, and the National Monument in honor of the victims of WW2. This place has been the witness to a lot of important events in the modern history of the city.
Look at the view at the A’Dam Lookout
If you want to watch Amsterdam from the top, this is the best place to do it. The building of the A’Dam Lookout is crossing the river. You can take one of the ferries from the Amsterdam Central Station, don’t worry, they are free!
The best part of this place is that you can sit on a swing on the top of the building and balance yourself on the edge! It is an amazing experience.
Take a cruise
You can’t leave Amsterdam without taking a romantic cruise on the canals! You can find cruises with different focus or theme, and your guide will tell you interesting stories and legends about Amsterdam for sure.
Three cruises are also included in the I amsterdam City Card:
- Central Station
- Anne Frank House
- Flower Market
- Town Hall, Amstel 1
- Nemo Museum
Every day from 10:00 till 18:00 every 30 minutes.
- Stadhouderskarde 501, in front of the Hard Rock Cafe
- Stadhouderskarde 550, in front of the Heineken Experience
Every day from 10:00 till 18:00 every 30 minutes in summer, and every hour in winter.
- Central Station Bridge
- Damrak Pier 5
Frequently daily from 09:00 till 19:00 in summer and 10:00 till 18:00 in winter
- Prins Hendrikkade 25, in front of Central Station
- Pier Leisake, next to the Hotel American
- Leliegracht 15, next tot he Anne Frank House
- Central Station West
Every day from 09:00 till 21:00 in summer, and from 09:30 till 21:00 in winter.
In case you want to cross from one side to the other of the river. You can take one of the ferries from the GVB for free. These ones depart from the Central Station of Amsterdam every 15 minutes.
Take a little boat tour
There aren’t only big cruises, but also boat tours you can choose from. The little boats have fewer passengers, and they can take you to smaller and more narrow canals, where the bigger ships can’t go! Our favorite was definitely the boat tour of Romantic Tours of Amsterdam!
13. Explore the coolest neighborhoods!
It’s very easy to get caught up in the city center of Amsterdam, but let’s not forget about the neighborhoods! There is a total of 13 neighborhoods in the city. Each one of them has a unique character. Let’s see, what can you visit in our favorite neighborhoods:
The main attraction in this neighboorhood from the other side of the river is the amazing A’DAM lookout. The surrounding area is full of interesting restaurants with international kitchens and bars to have a fun evening after an exploration day.
This neighborhood has some of the best landmarks in the city like the Rembrandt House, the Hortus Botanicus, and the Hermitage Museum of Amsterdam. This last two have a system between them to spare energy and air conditioning to keep the ideal temperatures inside of the buildings and the greenhouses.
The west neighborhood is full of wine restaurants and very creative landmarks. You can find a lot of fine terraces and there is plenty of space for making outdoor activities, The Tropenmuseum is a great ethnographic museum that holds a lot of elements and objects from a lot of cultures around the world.
The Rijksmuseum is located in this neighborhood, but there are also other interesting landmarks and activities to do here. We can recommend you to visit the Frietboutique, here you will be able to try some of the traditional croquettes and fries of Amsterdam.
Westerpark neighborhood is one of the oldest in the whole of Amsterdam. In the past, it used to be a very important port where a lot of species and products from Asia and Africa used to arrive. Nowadays, this neighborhood is an amazing example of the modern architecture trend in Amsterdam, including a sustainable one!
We personally had an amazing time staying at the Conscious Hotel Westerpark. If you want to read about our experience there, click here!
Special experiences, food and other interesting things to do in Amsterdam
Try the best fries!
Dutch fries are worldwide famous, you can’t say that you have visited Amsterdam without trying some of the fries that you can find literally at every corner around the city. They are usually very big portions (even de medium ones) so be ready to eat fries the whole day!
Eat the traditional Dutch waffles and croquettes!
Dutch waffles are also a must if you visit the Netherlands. Waffles can be found in a lot of streets and are the perfect companion for a coffee. Croquettes are a very important part of Dutch cuisine. We can recommend you to visit the Eetsalon Broodje Van Dobben, the oldest sandwich store in Amsterdam and try the classic crochets. They have also vegan croquettes, so it is perfect for everyone. If you have the I Amsterdam city card, you can get a 25% discount at the restaurant.
Smell the “smell of Amsterdam” – the perfume with the trees
The trees that decorate the borders of the canals give a beautiful sight from the boat tours. Although, the trees had a very important use in the past. Before modern times, hygiene was not a high standard in Europe, and Amsterdam had a very strong smell coming from the canals. The trees were located here to help to avoid the bad smell and also to perfume the ambient.
The trees have actually a great smell and during the summer and early winter, you can enjoy the smell while you walk or take a boat tour.
Try the Dutch cheese
Dutch cuisine is one of the richest in the world, and the cheeses are a very important part of it. Some famous cheeses like Edam have their origin in the Netherlands. If you are vegetarian, cheese is a good compliment for your diet, why not to add some nice and fresh dutch cheese to your meal?
Walkthrough the Red Light District
Amsterdam is the most liberal city where we have ever been, and it is incredible to observe the diversity and freedom that flows through its streets. Prostitution here has been legal for a long time, and the red light district has become one of the most famous spots in the world. Visiting it is a great chance to watch how this society has adopted the sexual profession as something important, respectful and safe for their workers, artists, and professionals.
Buy a hemp product
Marijuana consumption and hemp products are also legal in Amsterdam. Dutch people have been using hemp for centuries, not just as recreational, but as a resource for the navy industry. We believe that everyone has the right to eat or consume what they want as long as that doesn´t have a bad effect on the environment or other people. The marijuana and hemp products in Amsterdam have in their majority a fairtrade origin and the consumption doesn’t mean the support of druglord cartels or bad organizations. So if you want to consume, just check well the origin of your product before buying it.
Tulip season – get to the tulip fields!
At last but not least, don’t forget to get one of the classic tulips from Dutch lands! The sight of the fields with tulips and windmills are a classic postcard in Amsterdam. If you are afraid of ruining your flowers during your way back home, you can always buy a tulip bulb in the Flower market and plant it in your yard or in a pot next to your window.
Be a local! Try out one of the untouristy activities!
Merry a local for one day, or just contribute to the life of the community of Amsterdam! The city of Amsterdam suffered a lot because of overtourism during the last years, as the popularity of the canals and the city center has risen. Read more about the unusual activities you can do in Amsterdam if you want to reduce your eco-footprint and be a conscious traveler.
Take a day trip!
Amsterdam is amazing, but the areas that surround the city are also incredible and it’s really worth to visit them. Taking a day trip to other cities is definitely one of the best things to do when you visit Amsterdam. The Netherlands has a great transportation system, and you can reach a lot of cool places from Central Station in Amsterdam. We recommend you to take at least one of these day trips, all these are included in the I amsterdam card as well.
Visit Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans is the classic postcard place in the Netherlands. A group of beautiful windmills, tulip fields flowering during the spring and summer, and a lot of incredible museums and outside activities. It is a great trip that has everything, and you can enjoy it even better if you have the I Amsterdam card.
Harleem is one of the star cities of the Netherlands You can easily arrive with the train or even with a boat tour, so it is a great opportunity to experience the navy feeling in the Netherlands. The church looks incredible and also the museums there like the Teylers and Franz halls are amazing.
Visit Den Haag
This city is known for being the residence place of the U.N. International court of justice. The most interesting place to visit here is the Mauritshuis, where you can find the famous picture of the Girl with the Pearl Earring from Vermeer.
Get the best accomodation in Amsterdam!
Amsterdam is full of cool places to stay for every kind of taste. Choose the best option for you with our Booking Deals finder and find the best price!
Thank you for reading our travel guide! If you have some questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to comment or send us a message!
Lots of love,
Zsuzsi and Dante