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Things to do in Amsterdam

Things to do in  Amsterdam

Welcome to Amsterdam

The Netherlands brims with beauty and adventure, from its picturesque windmills and wondrous fields of tulips to its hip, art-centric capital city of Amsterdam. The most populated region of the Netherlands, historic Amsterdam is renowned for its quaint streets and scenic canals. Take in Amsterdam’s rich tradition of art by touring iconic museums such as the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum; tours offer skip-the-line access to these popular sights. The Anne Frank House is another must-see, attracting visitors from around the globe. A walking tour—or if you want to be like the Dutch, a bike tour—is a great way to get into the culture. For a little romance, enjoy a candlelit cruise at night with Dutch wine and cheese, and watch the city sparkle. Make time to tour the happening Red Light District’s bars and coffeeshops, and sample bitterballen (fried meatballs) and classic pickled herring, along with some of the country’s famed beers. Take a day trip or two to the Dutch countryside to admire Zaanse Schans, with its iconic windmills and clogs; or traditional villages such as Volendam and Marken. Keukenhof Gardens offers the pièce de résistance: a burst of colors from its vast array of flowers and millions of tulips. All in all, Amsterdam’s uniqueness makes it an unparalleled destination in Europe.

Top 15 attractions in Amsterdam

Anne Frank House (Anne Frank Huis)

The bestselling book Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl brought to life one of the greatest horrors of the 20th century in a compelling, personal way. In the true story, a young Jewish girl, her family, and some friends are forced into hiding in Amsterdam to escape the Nazis during World War II. The house that served as the Frank family’s hiding place for two years survived the war and is now a moving museum, with the primary site being the achterhuis (rear house), also known as the secret annex. Here the Franks sat in silence during the day and ate food that was secretly brought to them, before being mysteriously betrayed and sent to Nazi concentration camps. Otto Frank, the only Frank who survived the war, published Anne’s now-famous diary in 1947.More

Amsterdam Central Station

Amsterdam Central Station (Amsterdam Centraal Station) is the largest railway station in the Netherlands, as well as the country’s most visited national heritage site. Serving up to 250,000 passengers every day, it’s the city’s most important transport hub, offering both national and international train services.More

NEMO Science Museum

The largest science museum in the Netherlands, NEMO features four stories of interactive exhibits and hands-on experiments and is housed in one of the city’s most interesting buildings. Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the NEMO building looks like a green, copper-clad ship rising out of Amsterdam’s Eastern Docklands.More


Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum is the largest and most visited art museum in the Netherlands. Its collection, which ranks among the world’s finest, includes nearly 8,000 pieces spread over 80 galleries. Some of the Rijksmuseum’s most revered works are 15th- to 19th-century paintings by Flemish and Dutch masters, including Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals. In addition to the astounding eight centuries of Dutch art and history, the museum has extensive outdoor gardens and an acclaimed restaurant, Rijks.More

Van Gogh Museum

Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of works by the legendary Dutch artist, is a must-see for art and art history lovers. The museum boasts a collection of Vincent van Gogh’s personal effects, plus 200 paintings and 500 drawings by the master and his contemporaries—including Gauguin, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Bernard.More

Skinny Bridge (Magere Brug)

Amsterdam’s Skinny Bridge (Magere Brug) crosses the River Amstel in the city center. The wooden drawbridge features low arches and nighttime illumination. The bridge’s history reaches as far back as 1691, when the original structure was completed in a classic Dutch style that also influenced later renovations.More


Once a working-class neighborhood, Jordaan in central Amsterdam has become an upscale enclave favored by artists and designers. Grand 17th-century houses, art galleries, speciality shops, music venues, cafes, and restaurants line the leafy canals in this quintessential Amsterdam neighborhood, which attracts tourists and locals alike.More

Zaanse Schans

The scenic Dutch village of Zaanse Schans is most famous for its windmills, once used to power everything from paint-making to paper production; today, it’s set up like an open-air museum, with five working windmills. Wander the village, view the preserved architecture, and watch the locals at work—in their traditional wooden shoes and Dutch garb, naturally. Green wooden houses, a historic shipyard, and a pewter factory are among the highlights.More

Westerkerk (Western Church)

Amsterdam’s 17th-century Westerkerk (Western Church) is as known for its architecture, including a spire that measures some 280 feet (85 meters), as it is for its history. Rembrandt was buried here, and in her diaries Anne Frank wrote about the church’s clock chime—one of the few outside-world experiences she had while hiding from the Nazis.More

Amstel River

The Amstel is the great river that runs through Amsterdam and whose water was diverted into the city’s famous canals. The city was first built around the river, giving it the name Amstel Dam, and today the waterway is flows past modern buildings and charming houseboats before winding its way into the Dutch countryside.More

Amsterdam Canal Ring (Grachtengordel)

Amsterdam’s Canal Ring (Grachtengordel)—a charming 17th-century UNESCO World Heritage Site—defines the city with its picturesque waterways. Holding a series of concentric, semicircular canals that are bisected by smaller canals radiating from the middle, like the spokes on a very Dutch bicycle wheel, the Canal Ring is crisscrossed by hundreds of bridges connecting about 90 islands that make up the heart of the Dutch capital.More

Amsterdam Red Light District (De Wallen)

Most famous for its streetside brothels, Amsterdam's Red Light District (De Wallen) also houses scenic canals, bustling restaurants, bars, and plenty of shopping opportunities. While this controversial neighborhood may not be for everyone, its winding cobblestone streets and narrow alleys evoke Amsterdam’s rich history and laid-back culture.More

Keukenhof Gardens

With 7 million flower bulbs planted every year across 79 acres (32 hectares), Keukenhof Gardens is a colorful sea of 800 varieties of tulips and other spring flowers, attracting visitors from around the globe who want to see the Netherlands' iconic tulip fields. More than 9 miles (15 kilometers) of footpaths provide space to stroll around the park, take photos of flowers in bloom, and enjoy this Holland tradition.More

Emperor's Canal (Keizersgracht)

The second of Amsterdam’s three major waterways, the Emperor’s Canal (Keizersgracht) is the widest in the city. Its quiet waters wind through otherwise bustling neighborhoods, and it is lined with picturesque old houses—some of which have had famous residents. A boat trip along the canal lends itself to some wonderful photo opportunities.More


Established in 1612, the Lord’s Canal (Herengracht) is one of three major canals in the center of Amsterdam. With its beautiful Golden Bend section, stately mansions, and inner gardens, it has long been one of the snazziest places to live in the city. To this day many of the Dutch capital’s fanciest abodes are located along this canal.More
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Experience Amsterdam with a Local Guide

Experience Amsterdam with a Local Guide

Top activities in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Classic Boat Cruise with Live Guide, Drinks and Cheese
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Van Gogh Museum - Exclusive Guided Museum Tour (Reserved Entry Included!)
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Day Trip to Zaanse Schans, Edam, Volendam and Marken from Amsterdam
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Day Trip to Zaanse Schans, Edam, Volendam and Marken from Amsterdam

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All-Inclusive Amsterdam Canal Cruise by Captain Jack
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Rijksmuseum (with Reserved Entry)- Exclusive Guided Museum Tour
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Amsterdam Open Boat Tour With Live Guide and Unlimited Drinks
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Amsterdam Small-Group Canal Cruise Plus Snacks and Drinks
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A local’s pocket guide to Amsterdam

Christian Peeters

Christian was born in the Netherlands and lived there for over 25 years before moving to the United States. Every time he visits, he makes time to eat a “Bitterbal” and sit by one of his favorite canals on the “Herengracht.”

The first thing you should do in Amsterdam is …...

buy an OV Chipcard that lets you travel on all public transport. When the weather allows for it though, rent a bike—most places in Amsterdam can be reached quickly by bike.

A perfect Saturday in Amsterdam …...

starts with brunch at Bakers & Roasters. After that, head to VondelPark, rent a boat and have a picnic on the Amsterdam canals. For dinner, order “bitter garnituur” (fried appetizers) at one of Amsterdam’s famous brown cafés.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is …...

the Anne Frank House, situated in the heart of Amsterdam. Walking through the historic house while hearing and reading about the history will give you a new perspective on WWII.

To discover the "real" Amsterdam …...

walk through the non-touristy areas. You’ll be surprised by the small boutiques, restaurants, and bars. And try to make small talk with locals—they love to speak English.

For the best view of the city …...

go on the canals. The houses look even more majestic from the water and, if you rent a boat, definitely dock at Hanneke’s Boom, a bar and restaurant where you can grab a drink.

One thing people get wrong …...

thinking Amsterdam is just a party city when you can admire art at the Van Gogh museum or explore the “negen straatjes,” a neighborhood with boutique stores and cafés along the best canals of Amsterdam.

People Also Ask

What is Amsterdam famous for?

One of Europe’s most-visited cities, Amsterdam encompasses attractions both high-brow and risqué. Travelers are drawn here for the city’s rich history and culture as much as its infamous coffee shops and the Red Light District. It’s also the city of canals, which gives it the nickname of the “Venice of the North.”

What should I not miss in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is home to some of the most-treasured artworks in Europe, many of them in the Rijksmuseum alone. Don’t miss Rembrandt’s The Night Watch at the Rijksmuseum; Van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the Van Gogh Museum, and Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring in the Mauritshuis Museum.

How can I spend 2 days in Amsterdam?

Two days in Amsterdam is enough time to take a boat tour through the canals; explore the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Musuem, visit the Anne Frank House, wander around the bohemian Jordaan neighborhood, and relax in charming Vondelpark. In the evening you can take a peek at the Red Light District (De Wallen) on a guided tour.

How can I spend 3 days in Amsterdam?

With three days to spare in Amsterdam you can thoroughly explore the city’s canals by boat, admire some of the world’s great masterpieces in the Rijksmuseum, visit historic attractions such as the Anne Frank House, and even travel just outside the city to the riverside windmills of Zaanse Schans or tulip fields of Keukenhof.

Is Amsterdam very expensive?

Yes, like most major western European cities, Amsterdam can be an expensive destination. Hotels are expensive and admission fees for museums and other attractions are typically on the higher side. However you can easily save money by walking or taking public transport rather than using taxis and dining away from the touristy areas.

Is Amsterdam a dangerous place?

No. Amsterdam is no more dangerous than other major European cities. Pickpocketing is the most common crime against tourists so it pays to keep your wits about you. As for Amsterdam’s notorious side, don’t smoke outside of coffeeshops and book a guided tour if you want to explore the Red Light District after dark.


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