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18 Best Things to Do in Amsterdam

what to do in amsterdam

Don’t know what to do in Amsterdam? Check out these 18 must-see tourist attractions and get to know the main spots in the dutch capital 

Amsterdam has been gaining more notoriety among the European destinations, both for backpackers and for those seeking to go beyond the traditional cities, such as Paris, Lisbon and Madrid. If you are planning a visit to this city, check out 18 of Amsterdam’s tourist attractions that you can’t miss. 

The Dutch capital is known mainly for its tolerance and freedom when it comes to gender issues, recreational drugs and the party atmosphere that takes over the whole city, attracting mostly young travelers. But not only freedom makes up a trip to Amsterdam. The city is crowded with history and art museums, besides the architecture that goes from the European Gothic to more modern features. 

To enjoy the city even more, its flat streets encourage bicycle rides. The means of transportation is so famous in Amsterdam that the number of circulating bikes exceeds that of residents. Another way of getting around the most charming corners of the Dutch capital is on a boat sliding through the canals.  

Check out 18 places you can’t miss during your stay in Amsterdam. Remember that Holland is part of the Schengen Area and visitors need to hire a travel insurance before boarding. 

18 attractions to see in Amsterdam

Van Gogh Museum

Must-see in Amsterdam. Credit: hollandfoto.net / shutterstock

Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most acclaimed artists in Western art history. He has created over two thousand works in just over a decade, including around 860 oil paintings. The Van Gogh Museum brings the largest collection of works by the Dutch painter together, like the famous paintings The Sunflowers, The Room in Arles, Almond Tree in Flower, and his characteristic self-portraits.  

Not only can the visitor observe his work, they can also learn about Van Gogh’s life through letters, drawings and photographs. 

Anne Frank House

Must-see in Amsterdam. Credit: Valeri Potapova / Shutterstock.com

In the heart of Amsterdam, the house where Anne Frank and her family hid during the Nazi invasion of the city, in 1942, tells the story of this little girl who became a landmark in the cruelty the Nazi regime dealt towards Jewish people. Anne, her father, her mother and her older sister remained in hiding together with another Jewish family and a friendly dentist for two years and a month until they were discovered and sent to a concentration camp. 

The story of the girl, who ended up dying in the Bergen-Belsen typhus camp at the age of 15, was told through the publication of her diary by her father, who survived World War II. 

The visit to Anne Frank’s house is very well planned and guided. The space was maintained as it was at the time, recreating environments so that they are almost identical to what the families knew in those two years. 

  • Address: Westermarkt 20
  • Schedule: From November to April: Sunday to Friday from 9am to 7pm/Saturday until 10pm. From April to November: every day from 9am to 10pm
  • Website: https://www.annefrank.org/en/museum/

Rijksmuseum

Must-see in Amsterdam. Credit: shutterstock

After the Van Gogh Museum, the National Museum of the Netherlands is the attraction that receives the most visitors in Amsterdam, receiving more than two million tourists a year. With the largest collection of paintings of the Dutch Golden Century, the museum is considered one of the best in Holland and has eight thousand works in its permanent collection. Among them, pieces by artists such as Rembrandt and Vermeer. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions.

Not only the incredible works covering Dutch history, the visit to the National Museum of Holland is completed by its architecture. Officially opened in 1885, the building that houses the Rijksmuseum combines Gothic and Renaissance styles and still welcomes the visitor with a square and gardens that exhale Dutch charm forming an oasis for tourists to relax in the open air. 

Ride Through the Canals

Must-see in Amsterdam. Credit: shutterstock

With more than 1500 bridges and 100 kilometers of canals, some call Amsterdam a Northern Venice. But the statement is actually a mistake, since the Dutch river system is historically larger than that of the Italian city.

No doubt the canals are one of the most characteristic things in Amsterdam as well as the most outstanding thing about the city. In rented boats, tourists can see examples of the more than 2500 floating houses where thousands of families live, pass by the main tourist spots and also pass by Grachtengordel. This is the name of the ring of the three most important channels in Amsterdam. They were designed in the 17th century to support the growing population and today they have some of the most beautiful mansions in the city on their banks. 

It’s easy to find companies that tour the main channels and offer floating dinners and parties. Many of them leave from Amsterdam Central Station.

Vondelpark

Must-see in Amsterdam. Credits: Hung Tran / Unsplash

Vondelpark is one of the most famous parks in Amsterdam and in all of the Netherlands, receiving about 10 million visitors per year. With about 470 thousand square meters of green, the park is the best place in the city to hike, ride bikes, practice sports, have picnics, and enjoy the sunny days at one of its cafes.

Besides a quiet and relaxing tour for tourists, the Vondelpark is also part of the city’s lifestyle. It is used as a passage, weekend and cultural program for local citizens, being sought for shows or outdoor theater plays, barbecues and spending the afternoon at the ‘t Blauwe Theehuis (The Blue Tea House).

Royal Palace

Must-see in Amsterdam. Credit: TTstudio / shutterstock

The Royal Palace of Amsterdam is one of its main tourist spots. Located at Dam Square in Amsterdam, right in the historic center, you can see the memories of the city at every corner. The building, which still receives official visits of the Dutch state and royalty events to this day, was built between 1648 and 1665, and had guided tours dating back to the times when the structure held the City Hall or when the royal family lived there in the 1800s.

  • Address: Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 147, 1012 R
  • Schedule: opens for visitation from 10am to 5pm when the building is not booked for events.
  • Website: https://www.paleisamsterdam.nl/en/

Heineken Experience

Credit: Nicole Kwiatkowski / shutterstock

If you are the type of person who appreciates a good beer and is interested in the drink’s production process and history of this drink, the Heineken Experience can be a very interesting tour. Heineken beer is known and appreciated all around the world, but its story began in a small brewery in the center of Amsterdam in 1864. The Heineken Experience offers three types of tours where the visitor can see the first Heineken brewery and do some beer tasting, and may also include an exclusive backstage visit, gifts, or a cruise through the canals of Amsterdam. Tickets are available from 18 euros. 

Dam Square

Attractions in Amsterdam. Credit: Aero Travel / Flickr

The incredible architecture in itself is enough to justify a visit to Dam Square. As one of Amsterdam’s main tourist spots, the Square is also one of the best meeting places in the city. Built in 1270, right in the center of the city, the attraction holds several entertainment options, historical tours and gastronomic options. Among them, the Royal Palace, an imposing building from 1648, is the one that most attracts attention in the Square. 

Just over one kilometer from the central train station, the square has several bars, restaurants, cafes and shops around it, besides De Bijenkorf, one of the largest department stores in Holland, and Magna Plaza, one of the only malls in the city.

  • Address: Dam 1012 JL

NEMO

Attractions in Amsterdam. Credit: Erik_Lyngsoe / Pixabay

NEMO Science Center is the most important science and technology museum in the country. Its building is in the shape of a five story boat, where the visitors can take part in scientific experiences and have fun in interactive exhibitions about gravity, magnetism and other daily phenomenons. The top floor also has a terrace with a beautiful view of the city, as well as a coffee shop.

The place is a perfect walk for families with children who will have the opportunity to touch and interact with the shows while they discover how the world works. 

Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt)

Attractions in Amsterdam. Credit: Carlotta Segna / Unsplash

A trip to Holland wouldn’t be complete without flowers, especially the famous Dutch tulips. The Bloemenmarkt, “flower market” in Dutch, has been operating since 1860 with the particularity of being the only floating flower market in the world on the banks of the Singel canal. There are about 15 florists offering everything from seeds to grown plants. Among the available species are the famous tulips, which are sold in all possible forms, in pots, cans, wood, bulbs and more. These flowers are widely sold as souvenirs for their local relevance. Other plant options are beautiful bonsai and even cannabis. 

Stedelijk Museum

What to do in Amsterdam
Attractions in Amsterdam. Credit: Christian Fregnan / Unsplash

Located in the Museum Square, right next to the Royal Palace, Rijksmuseum and the House of Van Gogh, the Stedelijk Museum is one of the most innovative museums of modern art in the world. Officially opened in 1895, the museum was closed for eight years for renovation and reopened in 2012 with a huge bathtub at the entrance welcoming visitors. 

In its collection, the museum has works from the most important names of the illuminism, cubism and expressionism, like Picasso, Neuman and great Dutch names of these movements. It is also worth checking out which itinerant exhibition the museum is receiving during its stay in Amsterdam. 

Basilica of St Nicholas

What to do in Amsterdam
Attractions in Amsterdam. Credit: soomness / Flickr

The Basilica of St. Nicholas is one of the most impressive temples in the city. If you arrive in Amsterdam by train, the monument will be one of the first views you will have of the capital’s beauty because it is opposite of the Central Station of Amsterdam. 

Opened in 1887, the church was raised to basilica status only in 2012 and exhales the Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque styles. Between its two front towers, the circular stained-glass windows show a spectacular view when the sunlight reflects in its patterns. Inside the church, the religious murals frame Maximilian I’s crown. Masses are frequent, some are even spoken in English. 

Red Light District

What to do in Amsterdam
Attractions in Amsterdam. Credit: Olena Z / shutterstock

Amsterdam is a city better known for guaranteeing lots of freedom considering recreational drugs and sex. The Red Light District is an example of how this works. In the district you will find more than 290 windows from which prostitutes offer their services 22 hours a day. This type of prostitution (in windows, brothels, private houses and agencies) has been legal since the year 2000, and is a type of service that bring labor rights both to establishment owners and sex workers. 

Prostitution began to settle in the neighborhood because of the nearby port that created a great circulation of people, mainly men. Today, the neighborhood also offers sex show houses, coffee shops that sell drugs like hashish and marijuana (also legalized there) and sex shops, as well as museums, bars, restaurants and the oldest church in the city, the Oude Kerk.

Sex Museum

What to do in Amsterdam
Must-see in Amsterdam. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the Red Light District, tourists find the Venustempel (Temple of Venus) Sex Museum, the first and oldest museum dedicated to the theme. In honor of the neighborhood’s the history, the Venustempel has characters, drawings, paintings, sculptures, videos and images on display that analyze how cultures have dealt with sex over the years. It’s a different tour that can end up being very fun and liberating. 

Jordaan Neighborhood

What to do in Amsterdam
Attractions in Amsterdam. Credit: Boudewijn “Bo” Boer / Unsplash

Next to Amsterdam’s most libertarian neighborhood, the Jordaan Neighborhood is the “cool” part of town. Its narrow streets and canals are surrounded by independent boutiques, cozy bars and modern restaurants. Among the attractions here are the Noordermarkt market, which offers jewelry, clothing, antiques and organic food. The Antiekcentrum Amsterdam antique shop sells vintage ceramics and paintings, while the smaller galleries in the area focus on innovative contemporary art. Other points of interest are the Houseboat Museum and the Amsterdam Cheese Museum.

Amsterdam’s Madame Tussauds

What to do in Amsterdam
Must-see in Amsterdam. Credit: PxFuel

The famous Madame Tussauds wax museum enchants thousands of tourists around the world with statues of celebrities and great names in human history. Originally English, the museum has units in several countries in Europe, America, Asia and Oceania. Among them is that of Amsterdam which, besides the famous pop culture icons, sports figures and great world leaders, also puts on display statues of the Dutch monarchy. 

Tropenmuseum

What to do in Amsterdam
Attractions in Amsterdam. Credit: Jakob van Vliet

The Tropenmuseum is a museum of world cultures, installed in one of the most impressive buildings in Holland. From the monumental Great Hall, there is a wide view of what the museum has to offer. Its current permanent exhibition is the Important Things, opened in 2018, placing the museum’s focus on universal themes that connect people around the world. Current social issues such as migration and identity play an important role in this narrative. Engaged exhibits such as Afterlives of Slavery and Longing for Mecca are one example.