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The Best Things to Do in Amsterdam

Photo by Shane Aldendorff

Amsterdam is a city of contrasts in the Netherlands, where rich history meets modern vibrancy. From its iconic canals to its world-class museums and vibrant neighborhoods, there is no shortage of things to do and see in this remarkable city. Whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, a foodie, or simply looking for a good time, Amsterdam has something for everyone. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore some of the best things to do in Amsterdam, ensuring that your visit to this European gem is nothing short of spectacular.

Explore the Canal Ring

Amsterdam’s famous Canal Ring is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a testament to the city’s engineering prowess. The concentric canals, including the Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht, are adorned with picturesque bridges and 17th-century gabled houses. Take a leisurely stroll along the canals, or better yet, hop on a canal cruise to gain a unique perspective of the city. Sunset or evening cruises offer a particularly enchanting experience as the city lights up.

Visit the Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national treasure, housing a remarkable collection of art and history. It is home to iconic works by Dutch masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer, including the world-famous painting “The Night Watch.” The museum’s stunning architecture is an attraction in itself, making it a must-visit for both art connoisseurs and those with a passing interest in art and culture.

Wander Through the Van Gogh Museum

Dedicated to the life and works of Vincent Van Gogh, this museum offers a deep dive into the troubled genius’s art. You can see famous paintings like “Sunflowers” and “The Bedroom,” as well as a range of his drawings and letters. The museum’s well-organized exhibits provide insight into Van Gogh’s evolution as an artist and the tumultuous life he led.

Discover Anne Frank House

A visit to the Anne Frank House is a powerful and moving experience. The museum is located in the house where Anne Frank, a Jewish girl, and her family hid from the Nazis during World War II. Anne’s diary, detailing her experiences in hiding, has become an enduring testament to the human spirit in the face of adversity. The museum preserves the secret annex where Anne and her family lived and the original diary.

Immerse Yourself in the Flower Market

Amsterdam’s Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market) is the only floating flower market in the world. Located along the Singel Canal, it is a fragrant and colorful place to explore. You can purchase tulip bulbs, fresh flowers, and a variety of souvenirs. Tulips are an iconic Dutch flower, and you can even buy a range of tulip bulbs to take home.

Bicycle Around the City

Amsterdam is renowned as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. Rent a bicycle and experience the city like a local. Ride along the dedicated bike lanes, through parks, and along the canals. It’s a fun and eco-friendly way to explore the city, and you’ll quickly discover why the Dutch are so passionate about cycling.

Enjoy a Windmill Tour at Zaanse Schans

The Netherlands is synonymous with windmills, and you can see them up close at Zaanse Schans, a picturesque village just a short trip from Amsterdam. These well-preserved windmills offer a glimpse into the country’s industrial heritage. You can even tour the interior of some windmills and learn about their various functions, from grinding grain to sawing wood.

Try Dutch Cuisine

Amsterdam is a culinary delight, offering a wide range of Dutch specialties. Don’t leave without tasting Dutch cheese, particularly Gouda and Edam, which are famous around the world. Try traditional Dutch herring from a street vendor, savour bitterballen (deep-fried meatballs) or erwtensoep (pea soup). For the sweet tooth, stroopwafels (waffle cookies) and poffertjes (mini pancakes) are a must-try.

Experience the Nightlife

Amsterdam’s nightlife is famous for its diversity and vibrancy. Whether you’re looking for a quiet night at a traditional Dutch brown cafe, an evening of live music, or a wild night out in the city’s many clubs, Amsterdam has it all. The Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein areas are popular nightlife hubs.

Explore Vondelpark

Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s largest and most famous park, offering a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. You can rent a bike, have a picnic, or simply relax amidst lush greenery. The park often hosts open-air performances and cultural events during the summer, making it a great place to soak in some local culture.

Discover the Red Light District

The Red Light District is undoubtedly one of Amsterdam’s most famous and notorious neighbourhoods. It’s a place where the city’s liberal attitudes are on full display, and you can stroll through its winding streets to witness its unique character. While the district’s red-lit windows are a curiosity for many, it’s important to approach this area with respect and open-mindedness. Besides the obvious, the Red Light District also features interesting bars, restaurants, and theaters. The Red Light District may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is an essential part of Amsterdam’s cultural landscape.

Visit the Heineken Experience

For beer enthusiasts, the Heineken Experience is a must-visit. Housed in the historic Heineken brewery, this interactive museum offers an engaging journey through the history and brewing process of this iconic Dutch beer. The experience culminates with a taste of freshly brewed Heineken.

Shop at the Albert Cuyp Market

The Albert Cuyp Market is Amsterdam’s largest outdoor market, offering a wide array of goods, from fresh produce to clothing, flowers, and street food. It’s a bustling, lively place to experience the daily life of Amsterdam and find unique souvenirs and local delicacies.

Visit the Royal Palace Amsterdam

Located on Dam Square, The Royal Palace is a symbol of Dutch wealth and power. Originally built as a city hall, it was later converted into a palace by King Louis Napoleon. The palace is open to the public, allowing you to explore its grand rooms, stunning architecture, and historical significance.

Wander Around Jordaan

Jordaan is a charming and picturesque neighbourhood known for its narrow streets, cozy cafes, and boutique shops. It’s a great place to experience the local culture and soak in the city’s atmosphere. The area is also home to the Anne Frank House and the Westerkerk, where Rembrandt is buried.

Take a Ferry to Amsterdam Noord

Amsterdam Noord, the city’s northern district, offers a different perspective on Amsterdam. You can take a free ferry from Central Station and explore this up-and-coming area. Highlights include the Eye Filmmuseum, A’DAM Tower with a panoramic swing, and the vibrant NDSM Wharf, known for its street art.

Explore Artis Royal Zoo

Artis Royal Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in Europe and a delightful place to spend a day with family. It’s not only a haven for wildlife but also an oasis of greenery and tranquility in the heart of Amsterdam. You can observe a wide variety of animals, including lions, penguins, and butterflies.

Relax in a Brown Cafe

Amsterdam’s brown cafes, known for their cozy and relaxed atmosphere, are an integral part of the city’s culture. These traditional Dutch pubs often have dark wooden interiors, low ceilings, and a laid-back vibe. Enjoy a local beer or a jenever (Dutch gin) and engage in friendly conversations with the locals.

Visit NEMO Science Museum

NEMO Science Museum is an interactive and educational museum that’s perfect for families and science enthusiasts. The distinctive green building, designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano, offers hands-on exhibits and experiments, making it a fun and informative experience for visitors of all ages.

Delve into Dutch History at the National Maritime Museum

Amsterdam’s National Maritime Museum is a treasure trove of Dutch naval history. It features a wide array of exhibits, including historical ships, navigational instruments, and maritime artifacts. It’s an engaging experience that provides insight into the Netherlands’ seafaring heritage.

Attend a Concert at Concertgebouw

The Concertgebouw, one of the world’s most renowned concert halls, offers exceptional acoustics and an impressive program of classical and contemporary music. Whether you’re a classical music aficionado or just looking for a memorable cultural experience, attending a concert here is a treat for the ears and the soul.

Take a Trip to Muiderslot Castle

Muiderslot Castle is a beautifully preserved medieval castle located just a short drive or bike ride from Amsterdam. The castle is surrounded by a moat and offers a glimpse into the Netherlands’ medieval history. You can tour the castle’s interior, visit the well-maintained gardens, and enjoy picturesque views of the surrounding countryside.

Discover Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a city that seamlessly blends its rich history with modern vibrancy. From iconic museums to picturesque canals and vibrant neighborhoods, there’s no shortage of things to do in this captivating Dutch capital. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, history buff, foodie, or simply a curious traveler, Amsterdam has something special to offer you. So, pack your bags, explore the streets, and immerse yourself in the enchanting experiences Amsterdam has in store.

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