15 Best Things to Do in Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

Written by Veronique Raes
Updated on
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Amsterdam is the thriving capital of the Netherlands and the countries most populated city with approximately 842,000 people living in the central municipality.

During its early years a major city, Amsterdam saw a great boost due to trade with the Hanseatic League and then became a centre for free press in the 16th century after the Dutch revolt and the eighty years’ war.

After a decline in fortunes and development during the 18th and 19th centuries, in modern times Amsterdam has become a modern and diverse city that is famed worldwide.

With a wide range of historical architecture, public parks, quality museums and diverse attractions, it offers endless opportunities and is one of the prime tourist destinations in Europe.

1. Anne Frank House

Anne Frank HouseSource: Rob Atherton / shutterstock
Anne Frank House

A trip to Amsterdam is not complete without visiting this historic house.

Anne Frank was a girl who hid from the Nazi’s during WWII and left an extensive diary that has been punished worldwide and provides a look at what it was like for the Jewish people during this troubled and dark period.

The actual building where Anne and her family hid not contains a museum dedicated to her and inside you can find reconstructed rooms, many artefacts from the time and the original house, and even a reconstructed bookcase that was used to hide the entrance to the secret annex the family hid in.

This truly is an interesting and poignant museum to visit, be wary of the queues however as you may be in for a long wait.

2. Heineken Brewery Tour

Heineken Brewery TourSource: Nicole Kwiatkowski / shutterstock
Heineken Brewery Tour

Home of the famous brew, Amsterdam presents the Heineken Experience which is a really fun filled attraction where you will both learn about the brewing process and also enjoy a couple of cheeky drinks.

The tour section takes you through the brewery and shows you how the drink is created – You get to see the large hops tanks, taste the pure alcohol and watch the beer being bottled.

There are also many cool historical artefacts from the history of Heineken such as different beer mats.

There is also a 3D ride that takes you through the creation process and is quite entertaining and surprising in places.

To top it off there is a lounge area decorated with beer bottles and cans, and a section where you can create your own Heineken bottle with a personalised label.

3. Canal Boat Tour

Canal Boat Tour, AmsterdamSource: Yasonya / shutterstock
Canal Boat Tour

This might be considered a clichéd touristic thing to do, but you simply cannot go to Amsterdam without taking a boat tour on the canal system.

The canals are one of the main reasons that Amsterdam is so famous, so why not experience them first hand on a guided tour? The majestic waterway that runs through the Centrum ins Amsterdam stretches for miles and creates many stunning parts of the city such as the Emperor’s Canal and its beautiful architecture.

There are many boat tours, but the most notable one is run by Grayline and has collection points and ticket stands in the Damrak canal near the train station.

4. Emperor’s Canal

Emperor’s CanalSource: Dennis van de Water / shutterstock
Emperor’s Canal

This is one of the main canals in Amsterdam and is named after Emperor Maximilian (Of Austria). The Emperor’s Canal is the central of three of the main waterways that form the semi circular ring around the Centrum and old town.

The canal is 31m wide and in winter, the waters often freeze and you can skate along the ice.

This stretch of canal is one of the most beautiful in Amsterdam; trees line the water, opulent bridges cross the water and are lined with many bicycles and the buildings that run parallel with the water have a typical Dutch style with gabled roofs and a myriad of colours.

Attractions on the canal include the House with the Heads, the Homo monument, the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Greenland Warehouses.

5. Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh MuseumSource: www.hollandfoto.net / shutterstock
Van Gogh Museum

Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most renowned and intriguing artists in history and the museum that holds his namesake is a fantastic place to learn about the man and his works.

The museum is located not far from Vondelpark on Paulus Potterstraat and in close proximity to the Rijksmuseum.

This extensive art museum contains a huge amount of paintings from Van Gogh together with select collections from other artists such as Monet and Matisse.

Aside from the stunning artworks, there are also a selection of letters and drawings and also information about why he is such a renowned and iconic figure.

6. Rijksmuseum

RijksmuseumSource: SAKhanPhotography / shutterstock

Another of Amsterdam’s fine museums, the Rijksmuseum has it all – A stunning building that has a similar design and style to the Centraal station, a huge collection of crafts, art and history dating back as far as the 1200’s and also the amazing I Amsterdam sign that stands outside on the art square.

The museum contains over 1 million objects in total, of which only 8000 are on display (that’s still a large amount!). Displays include paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, the stern of the HMS Royal Charles and a dedicated Asian pavilion.

You could spend hours in this delightful and eternally interesting establishment.

7. Vondelpark

VondelparkSource: Z. Jacobs / shutterstock

This fantastic park is an absolute pleasure to walk through on a summers day and is a haven in the centre of Amsterdam.

The park lies on the edge of the canal rings and is close to the Rijksmuseum and the Heineken Experience.

The grounds of the park are well tended and there are several small lakes surrounded by trees and sculptures that the locals and tourists of Amsterdam sit by and relax.

Free concerts are played here at the open air theatre and you can also hire a bike to cycle through the many winding paths.

If you have children, the park also has six play areas – There is something for people of all ages.

8. Dam Square

Dam SquareSource: Steve Photography / shutterstock
Dam Square

This is the main square in central Amsterdam and lies only a 10 minute walk from the Centraal Station.

The square was build in the 1400’s and has been a central point for the city ever since.

On the square you will find the amazing Royal Palace which is a brilliant destination in its own right, the National Monument that pays tribute to fallen soldiers, the Nieuwe Kerk church which often contains art exhibitions, and a selection of architecturally rich hotels and shops including a Madam Tussauds waxworks.

9. Red Light District

Red Light DistrictSource: Rostislav Glinsky / shutterstock
Red Light District

Although not to everyone’s taste, the Red Light District is part of what makes Amsterdam famous and it is a great idea to visit this part of the town, just to see what the fuss is about and the often bizarre shops and displays that you can find here.

Otherwise known as De Wallen, the district is located in the centre of Amsterdam around the Damrak canal.

Take a walk down the streets and see the variety of shows, shops, and the infamous cannabis cafe’s.

Always take precautions and keep your wits about you – Although this area is highly policed there are some less than reputable characters so keep a close eye on your belongings.

10. Centraal Station

Centraal Station, AmsterdamSource: V_E / shutterstock
Centraal Station

This Central Station is the main railway station in Amsterdam and the largest in the Netherlands.

It is primarily a great transport hub and can provide direct transport to Schiphol Airport, but it is a stunning building in its own right.

The station was first opened in 1889 and was created with a Gothic/Renaissance style and an immense cast iron roof.

The front facade looks more like a palace or a cathedral than a station with its towers and stone reliefs.

With its central location next to the IJ lake and the Damrak canal, the station is a fantastic piece of architecture in central Amsterdam.

11. Body Worlds

Body Worlds, AmsterdamSource: Alexey Pevnev / shutterstock
Body Worlds

The body worlds museum contains something completely different and unique compared to most museums.

In the heart of Amsterdam you will find this intriguing place that features an exciting and revealing display about the human anatomy and what makes it so special.

Find out about what makes our bodies work, and why they are so fragile but at the same time so resilient.

With over 200 anatomical displays you get a true visual insight into what’s inside our bodies.

If you are looking for something out of the ordinary and want to understand more about our special race, then the Body Worlds exhibition is the perfect place to visit.

12. Artis Zoo

Artis ZooSource: Robin Nieuwenkamp / shutterstock
Artis Zoo

The Artis Zoo is the oldest zoo in Holland and also one of the oldest in mainland Europe.

Aside from the various zoological displays, there is also an aquarium and planetarium.

There are over 700 species of animal, 200 varieties of tree, a fantastic Botanical Garden and Micropia which features a mindboggling amount of information on microorganisms.

The planetarium will provide a huge amount of vivid information on the solar system, planets and the universe.

All the animals in the zoo have spacious enclosures and are well cared for, and there is even a petting zoo for younger children together with a wealth of information on each species and its habitation etc.

13. Sex Museum

Sex Museum, AmsterdamSource: NORTHERN IMAGERY / shutterstock
Sex Museum

The sex museum is exactly what you think – A museum about sex, the human body and the evolution of this human interaction and how its portrayal has evolved over the years.

The museum contains various displays, statues and figures such as Venus, Mata Hari and Marilyn Monroe plus two ginormous phalluses.

The different rooms in the museum are themed according to the story or person they are detailing and you can learn about their sexual history with an accompaniment of audio backings.

This museum is more subtle than the bluntness of the Red Light District and provides an entertaining look at the nature of sex.

14. The Flower Market

Amsterdam Flower MarketSource: Mario Savoia / shutterstock
Amsterdam Flower Market

The flower market is a true delight to the senses and shows a different side to Amsterdam.

This is the only floating flower market in the world and can be found on Singel street in-between Vijzelstraat and Koningsplein.

Here you will find row after row of market stalls selling flowers, seeds, spices, herbs and plants – The display of colours and the amount of different aromas is truly wonderful.

The market is open Monday to Saturday until 17:30 and even if you do not want to make a purchase, you should still walk through this marvellous place.

Expect to find plenty of tulips for sale in a myriad of different colours.

15. The Royal Palace

Royal Palace, AmsterdamSource: TTstudio / shutterstock
Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is located in Dam Square and is an imposing structure that gives the square an air of importance and culture.

The palace was originally built as a town hall, however it was later used as a palace for the Dutch Royal house.

The striking front faced of the palace and the large central tower make for an impressive building, but the interior is even more so.

The central hall in the palace is over 100ft long and its marble floor contains a huge and detailed map of the world that shows the exploration of the Dutch East India Company.

The palace is open to the public and you can admire the various galleries containing historical works of art and the fantastic decorations of the palace rooms; guided tours are also available at certain times.

15 Best Things to Do in Amsterdam (The Netherlands):

  • Anne Frank House
  • Heineken Brewery Tour
  • Canal Boat Tour
  • Emperor’s Canal
  • Van Gogh Museum
  • Rijksmuseum
  • Vondelpark
  • Dam Square
  • Red Light District
  • Centraal Station
  • Body Worlds
  • Artis Zoo
  • Sex Museum
  • The Flower Market
  • The Royal Palace