Well-known for its magnificent architecture, picturesque canals, and vibrant nightlife, Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations. The Dutch capital boasts an impressive range of attractions including world-class museums, luscious parks, canal boat excursions, and much more. Whether you wish to rent a bike in Amsterdam and explore the city’s colorful neighborhoods, hop on one of many canal boat excursions, or discover historical landmarks and attractions such as Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum, there are many seriously awesome things to do in Amsterdam. This travel guide will tell you everything you need to know about Amsterdam, a city on every explorer’s bucket list.
For finding the best places to eat during your trip in Amsterdam read our article about The best brunch places in Amsterdam.
1 Discover Amsterdam’s Hidden Courtyard
There many picturesque courtyards surrounded by cute town houses in the Netherlands, but Begijnhof in central Amsterdam is definitely one of the most famous hidden courtyards in the country. Built in the 16th century for religious Catholic women called beguines, Begijnhof is one of the must-visit places when exploring the streets of Amsterdam. Admire the courtyard’s tiny lanes and pathways that are surrounded by some of the oldest houses in Amsterdam. For example, the only remaining wooden house here dates back to the 14th century. There is also a small chapel worth checking out.
2 Take Your Kids to the Nemo Science Center
Travelers visiting Amsterdam with kids will be happy to hear that the Dutch capital is home to many family-friendly attractions including the world-famous Nemo Science Center in Amsterdam. Situated inside a ship-like building right on the harbor, the Nemo Science Center will keep your kids occupied for at least a couple of hours. From hands-on exhibits and chemistry experiences to learning how science has evolved with time, this science center has it all. After you’ve explored every corner of the center, make sure to stop by the rooftop terrace which offers spectacular views of Amsterdam.
3 Visit Amsterdam’s 400-year-old Garden
No trip to Amsterdam is complete without paying a visit to the lovely Hortus Botanicus, one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens. Located in the Plantage district in Amsterdam, this botanical garden was founded in the 17th century and originally served as a small herb garden for local pharmacies and doctors. Nowadays, Hortus Botanicus houses more than 6,000 tropical plants and trees, as well as a lovely butterfly garden. In case you get hungry or wish to have a drink, visit the garden’s nicely decorated Orangery café.
4 Listen to a Free Concert at Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw
Catching a free concert at the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam should definitely be on every traveler’s bucket list. This beautiful concert hall on the Museumplein is one of the greatest music halls in the world attracting thousands of both locals and tourists every week. The Main Hall is famed for its extraordinary acoustics, while the enchanting Recital Hall offers free Lunchtime Concerts on Wednesdays. For free evening concerts in the Main Hall, no tickets are needed and it is just a matter of first come, first served. Guided tours of the entire building are available on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
5 Visit the Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam
Heineken is one of the world’s most famous beers and a tour of their facilities is available in Amsterdam. A fun-filled attraction, the Heineken Experience guided tour that allows visitors to learn about the history of the brewery and helps them understand the brewing process while enjoying a couple of cold ones. During the tour, visitors will have a chance to see the large hop tanks, watch how the beer is bottled, and even taste the pure alcohol. Heineken Experience also offers guests to create their own Heineken bottle with a personalized label. At the end of the tour, you can chill at the lounge area which is decorated with cans and beer bottles.
6 Catch a Movie at the EYE-Film Museum
Movie buffs who wish to see a movie in a unique setting while visiting Amsterdam are in for a real treat. Welcome to the EYE-Film Museum, an expansive archive for Dutch movies situated inside a unique spaceship-like building on the city’s main waterfront. This contemporary, waterside culture center is an ideal place in Amsterdam to watch screenings of both Dutch and International movies. As for the museum itself, it offers four different exhibitions on the first floor that focus on visual art and a presentation about the history of the film that can be found on the ground floor. There is also an on-site restaurant with a beautiful waterside setting.
7 Explore Amsterdam’s Municipal Museum
The Stedelijk Museum houses one of Europe’s most impressive modern art collections, so it comes as no surprise that this Municipal Museum in Amsterdam is frequently visited by a large number of locals and international travelers daily. Expect to see 19th and 20th-century Dutch and French paintings including works by artists like Van Doesburg, Mondrian, and Rietveld. You will also find some of the finest examples of Pop Art here at the Stedelijk Museum including works by Andy Warhol and Rosenquist. Guided tours of the museum are available, as well as family workshops.
8 Hop on a Canal Cruise
Going on a canal boat cruise is one of the best ways to experience the city of Amsterdam and see the Dutch capital from a different perspective. From admiring Amsterdam’s stunning architecture to taking a break from sightseeing on foot and admiring the city’s finest attractions from the water, there is plenty to look forward to when going on an organized canal boat tour. There are many amazing canal tours to choose from ranging from candle-lit romantic boat rides and family-friendly trips to eco-conscious canal tours.
9 See the Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House on the Prinsengracht is without a doubt of Amsterdam’s most visited attractions. For those who don’t know, little Anne Frank was a young girl who hid from the Nazis during WW2 inside a house in Amsterdam where she left an extensive diary that showcases the life of the Jewish people during this dark period. Nowadays, the museum boasts a variety of artifacts ranging from the original copy of the diary to photographs and other items that belonged to the family. Keep in mind that the Anne Frank House is quite popular and you may be in for a long wait.
10 Rent a Bicycle in Amsterdam
Cycling is the number 1 form of transportation in Amsterdam and the Dutch capital is considered as the world’s most cycle-friendly city. Thanks to its well-planned infrastructure, the city features many bike paths and most streets have separate bike lanes. Renting a bike in Amsterdam has never been easier, as rental shops like MacBike can be found in every corner of the city. Travelers who don’t want to be seen as tourists while visiting Amsterdam will be happy to hear that many bike rental shops offer bicycles that help you blend in. Wish to hear more good news? You can take your bike on all ferries over the IJ for free.
11 Dam Square
Steeped in history, Dam Square used to be the city’s central market in medieval times and a place where students protested the Vietnam War in the ’70s. Today, it still serves as the main square in Amsterdam and is surrounded by landmarks such as the Royal Palace, the National Monument, and the 15th-century Nieuwe Kerk. You will also find the famous Madame Tussauds wax museum here, as well as dozens of touristy cafes and bars.
12 Smell the Flowers at Bloemenmarkt
A rainbow of colors awaits travelers at the popular Amsterdam Flower Market, also known as Bloemenmarkt. Located right on the Singel Canal on several houseboats, Bloemenmarkt is a floating market where visitors can admire a variety of colorful flowers including sunflowers, roses, tulips, carnations, and many others. There is also a nice shop in the market selling Dutch souvenirs. To see the freshest blooms, make sure to visit the market early in the morning.
13 Discover Art at the Rembrandt House Museum
Amsterdam is home to many world-renowned museums and the Rembrandt House Museum is one of them. Situated inside a building where the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt worked and lived from 1639 and 1656, this extraordinary museum features some of the artist’s best works. From Rembrandt’s etchings to many of his prints, visitors will come across many contemporary art pieces. An interesting fact is that Rembrandt had to take a huge loan to purchase the house since he spent most of his money on various antiquities, paintings, and rarities.
14 Admire Works of Art at Civic Guard Gallery
Art lovers visiting Amsterdam should not leave the city before heading out to the Civic Guard Gallery where they will find enormous golden-age paintings depicting civic guards. A part of the Amsterdam Museum, the gallery is also home to modern portraits of contemporary Dutch celebrities including football players, boxers, ballet dancers, and many others. There is also a huge wooden figure of Goliath at the end of the gallery. Visitors will be happy to hear that the entrance to the Civic Guard Gallery is free of charge.
15 Get Lost in Vondelpark
Okay, you probably won’t get lost here, but Vondelpark is simply a must-visit location when exploring Amsterdam. It is the city’s most popular park, boasts picturesque lawns, ponds, and rose gardens, and even has an Open Air Theatre show in summer. So, what’s not to like here? Ideal for leisure walks and cycling, the park is also home to many cute restaurants and bars including Blauwe Theehuis, Café Vertigo, and Vondelpark3 where you can unwind with a drink or a snack. Families with kids can pay a visit to Vondelpark’s Kinderkookkafé, a lovely café where kids can test their cooking skills under supervision.
16 Go Crazy in the Infamous Red Light District
Describing the infamous Red Light District in Amsterdam to first-time visitors is a challenging task. Let’s try it like this. The popular De Wallen (Red Light District) is full of sex shops, brothels, and peep shows, but at the same time it has 24/7 video surveillance, a rigid no photos of sex workers code, and everything seems to be strictly regulated. With many bars and coffee shops, it is one of the most popular areas to hang around in the evening. If you are traveling solo to Amsterdam, you can book one of the guided Red Light District tours and meet fellow travelers.
17 Have Fun in Leidseplein
Packed with theatres, discos, bars, restaurants, and cinemas, Leidseplein is Amsterdam’s central square where both locals and tourists gather to enjoy a vast array of activities. Whether you wish to catch a live music show at De Melkweg, admire the neo-Renaissance Stadsschouwburg, or have a drink at the popular Bulldog, the options for having a good time at this central square in Amsterdam are endless.
18 Try Local Food Delicacies at Foodhallen
Situated inside a former tram depot in the classy Oud-West neighborhood, Foodhallen is an indoor food market where even the pickiest eaters will find something to satisfy their taste buds. Experience the convivial vibe and choose between both local and international foods such as fresh oysters, herrings, Vietnamese summer rolls, wood-fired pizza, Southern BBQ, etc. For the best views of the hall and to take some cool pics, head out to the market’s gallery. To sum it all up, Foodhallen is a great place to hang around on the weekends and sample high-quality foods from all over the world.
19 Rent a Private Boat with your own Private Chef
Amsterdam’s canal belt is one of the city’s main attractions, which means that a canal boat ride is something that every first-time visitor should experience while staying in the Dutch Capital. Instead of going on a guided canal boat tour with a bunch of other people, you can charter a private boat with your own private chef. This is one of the best ways to experience the canals from a more intimate perspective.
20 Visit Amsterdam’s Cultural Hub, Westergasfabriek
Westergasfabriek is a complex of former industrial buildings located on the edge of the popular Westerpark. Nowadays, the complex is a cultural hub with numerous art and exhibition spaces, a coffee roaster, an art-house cinema, and a microbrewery. Attracting a more alternative crowd, Westergasfabriek is a great place to take a break from the busy streets in the center of Amsterdam. It is also home to Arcade Paradise where visitors can play games on all of those old-school games machines from the 90s.
21 Take Your Kids to the Artis Zoo
One of the oldest of its kind in Europe, Artis Zoo is a great place to spend the day with the entire family. A vast array of animals can be found here including elephants, big cats, monkeys, giraffes, caiman, and lizards. Dangerous predators like jaguars, lynxes, Alaskan wolves also call Artis Zoo their home. This Amsterdam Zoo also boasts a nice planetarium, microbe museum, and an impressive aquarium. Special tours and one-off performances are also available.
22 Master your Bargaining Skills Albert Cuyp Markt
Located in the heart of De Pijp neighborhood, Albert Cuyp Markt is an excellent destination to mingle with the locals and practice your bargaining skills. The market is home to more than 260 stands where you can buy various items. From clothes, souvenirs, and household items to fresh chicken, fish, veggies, and fruits, there is no shortage of cool things you can purchase here. Some of our favorite vendors at the market are De Peperbol where herbs and spices are sold and Johan Kaas where you can purchase fresh cheese.
23 Experience Amsterdam’s Creative Spirit at NSDM Wharf
Located on the northern banks of the IJ, NSDM Wharf is a former shipyard turned into a cultural hotspot for locals and travelers alike. Boasting an arty and laid-back vibe, the area can be easily reached with a ferry and offers a mix of bars, restaurants, and various events. Enjoy the beach-front bars, explore one of Europe’s largest flea markets, or check out local exhibitions. NSDM Wharf makes for a refreshing escape from the more touristy parts of Amsterdam.
24 Spend a Day at the Van Gogh Museum
No bucket list of things to do in Amsterdam is complete without paying a visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Dedicated to the works of the artist himself and his contemporaries, this extraordinary museum houses more than 200 paintings and 500 drawings and etchings by Van Gogh including some of his most famous works such as The Potato Eaters and Sunflowers. You will find the Van Gogh Museum just around the corner from the Rijksmuseum.
25 Guided Tour of the Royal Palace
Amsterdam’s Royal Palace serves as the King’s residence and is one of the most beautiful palaces in the Netherlands. Although the exterior of the palace can be described as classical, the interior with nicely-decorated apartments, marble sculptures, and ceiling paintings by artists like Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck looks like something out of this world. Some of the other attractions inside the Royal Palace include the Council Hall which is one of Europe’s most beautiful staterooms, City Treasurer’s room which boasts a fabulous marble fireplace, and Hall of the Aldermen where paintings by Bol and Flinck can be found.
26 Enjoy Nature at Amsterdamse Bos
Once you get tired from all the attractions in the city center and wish to get away from all that hustle and bustle, it’s best to head out to the beautiful Amsterdamse Bos. Here, you will find dozens of relaxing jogging and biking trails, as well as small pools and many cute picnic sites. Not to be missed is the Dutch Wetlands Canoe Safari where you can experience close encounters with a range of bird and aquatic life.
27 See the Sun Set on the Amsterdam Canals
Sunset views from Amsterdam’s lovely canals are simply breathtaking and must-have experience for every traveler visiting the Dutch capital for the very first time. The good news is that you can book a private canal boat tour late in the afternoon and experience the sunset on the Amsterdam canals without other fellow travelers on the boat. A private sunset cruise is definitely an unforgettable experience when visiting Amsterdam.
28 Feel MOCO’s Uniqueness
The Modern Contemporary Museum, also known as the MOCO Museum is one of Amsterdam’s finest modern museums. Focusing on the life and works of artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, and Keith Haring, MOCO is all about art showcased in the 20th and 21st century. Besides the museum’s permanent collection which can be found on the top floor, there are also many temporary exhibits worth checking out.