Best Things To Do in Amsterdam
Amsterdam offers a lot more than vice. There's the world-class Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and shopping on Nine Little Streets for culture hounds. Those traveling with kids might enjoy a visit to the Vondelpark and the NEMO Science Museum, a family bike ride or an introduction to Amsterdam's love of pancakes. But of course, the party scene of coffee houses, gay bars, nightclubs and more is not to be missed.
Updated May 3, 2019
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Located southwest of the city center, the 116-acre Vondelpark is the favorite leafy retreat of just about everyone. Not only is it the largest city park in Amsterdam, it's also one of the most revered in all of the Netherlands. Most recent travelers said they enjoyed people-watching and picnicking at the park, but other reviewers recommend avoiding a late-night visit as the park can be a little frightening once the sun sets. During the day, though, the park is filled with couples, families and friends, and is definitely worth a visit.
Ponds, fields and playgrounds are connected by winding paths, which also run by an open-air theater, a rollerblade rental, a rose garden, several cafes and a range of statues and sculptures. Open dawn to dusk, you can take trams 1, 2 or 5 to the Leidseplein, and you'll have just a quick two-minute walk to reach the park's entrance. The park is free to visit.
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If you love history, culture and food, then you'll want to save time for a stroll through Amsterdam's Jordaan area. Located a few blocks west of the city's main train station and bordered by the Brouwersgracht, Prinsengracht, Leidsegracht and Lijnbaansgracht canals, this scenic neighborhood is packed with eateries, specialty shops, bars and art galleries. Plus, you'll find the Anne Frank House and the Nine Little Streets just east of the Jordaan's eastern perimeter.
Travelers highly recommend walking around the Jordaan, adding that its cool vibe, beautiful setting and top-notch cafes and restaurants more than justify a visit. Don't forget to bring your camera, since visitors say the area offers ample photo opportunities. For a more in-depth look at the neighborhood's food scene, consider signing up for Eating Amsterdam Food Tours' Jordaan Food Tour. Or, visit on a Saturday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to enjoy the Jordaan's Biologische Noordermarkt (a market with vendors selling baked goods, local cheeses, crepes and more).
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Inside the Anne Frank House, travelers will see the location where not so long ago the 15-year-old Anne Frank penned a journal that would become a best-seller. Travelers can imagine what it'd be like to stay hidden away for more than two years, only to be betrayed and taken to a concentration camp. Artifacts inside the museum include historical documents, photographs, film images and belongings from those in hiding and those who assisted them. Frank's original diary and other notebooks are also on display, though original objects from the annex are not on display, as it was stripped of its contents during the war. A free audio guide – available in nine languages – is included with admission.
Visitors described the experience as educational but emotional, despite the relatively short time it takes to tour the house (about an hour). Travelers also said that there are most always heavy crowds and long lines, so you'll want to plan ahead.
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The Verzetsmuseum (the Dutch Resistance Museum), located by the Artis Royal Zoo, has been called the city's best-kept secret by some. The informative – even inspiring – museum tells the stories of those who lived in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation and explains how the atrocities of World War II transpired. Through authentic objects, photos and documents, film and sound fragments, visitors will learn how the resistance manifested in the Netherlands.
Recent travelers said the thought-provoking museum leads you to ask yourself what you would've done during the Nazi occupation of your country. They were also pleased with the audio guides that are given with the ticket price, as well as with the exhibits which are translated into both Dutch and English.
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The Van Gogh Museum holds the world's largest collection of Van Gogh's paintings and drawings, including "Sunflowers" and "Almond Blossom." The museum itself regularly tops the list as the most-visited museum in not only Amsterdam but in all of the Netherlands, as travelers come from near and far to see the artworks created by the tortured artist, who cut off his own ear and committed suicide at the rise of his success.
Because of Van Gogh's popularity, some travelers highly recommend purchasing online tickets ahead of time to avoid lengthy museum lines. Others advise visiting on the museum's late Fridays (when the building stays open until 9 p.m.) for ambient music and drinks. Though some were disappointed that the museum does not house some of the artist's more famous paintings (many of them are featured in other museums across the globe), reviewers did praise the museum's layout and its display of his earliest works.
- #6View all PhotosfreeLeidseplein#6 in AmsterdamSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
If you're looking for a tamer alternative to Amsterdam's Red Light District, Leidseplein or Leiden Square, may be for you. The center of Amsterdam's entertainment scene, Leidseplein sits southwest of the city center and is filled with nightclubs, movie theaters, concert venues, casinos and, of course, some coffee shops. For the performing arts, the Melkweg (Milky Way) concert hall and the hotel or hostel here – or maybe head to the nearby Vondelpark instead. Travelers were also pleasantly surprised by the quantity and variety of restaurants huddled in the neighborhood, though they do warn of high prices at the bars.
Leidseplein is accessible via the 1, 2, 5, 7 and 10 tram routes via the Leidseplein stop.
- #7View all PhotosfreeDe Pijp#7 in AmsterdamFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
De Pijp, which is also called the Latin Quarter, is known for its 19th-century architecture and its collision of different cultures. Here, you'll find ethnic restaurants, eclectic shops and the tranquil Sarphatipark. The Heineken Experience sits on the northern edge of the neighborhood. Travelers say that De Pijp feels less touristy and more like authentic Amsterdam. They also call it the heart of the city for young people thanks to its beatnik vibe and trendy eateries.
You'll also find the famous street market, Albert Cuyp Market, here Mondays through Saturdays. To start wandering, you might want to find Gerard Douplein square on your Amsterdam map, hitting a cafe and starting your meanderings from there. You can also take either the 3, 4, 12, 16 or 24 tram to reach this happenin' neighborhood, or just walk about a mile south of the city center.
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De Negen Straatjes, or the Nine Little Streets, are exactly that – nine streets that run between the Prinsengracht and Singel canals and are lined with shops and boutiques. (For your orientation, the Singel is the first main canal that wraps around the city center.) Vintage clothing shops nestle alongside accessories stores and interior design boutiques, and hours vary by store.
Recent travelers called the area a lovely place to stroll and said it was less touristy than other parts of the city. Though you'll likely rub elbows with plenty of other travelers, you'll also encounter your fair share of locals.
- #9View all Photos#9 in AmsterdamParks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDParks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Originally used by Dutch royalty to grow fruits and vegetables, Keukenhof now welcomes travelers in search of Holland's famous tulips. Every year between late March and mid-May, the 79-acre park – which sits about 25 miles southwest of Amsterdam in Lisse – turns vivid shades of pink, red, purple, yellow, white and orange as more than 7 million tulip bulbs bloom. The park also offers kid-friendly amenities like a playground, a maze and a petting zoo.
Travelers use words like "amazing," "fantastic" and "beautiful" to describe the park and its blooming flowers. To do the property due diligence, plan on spending at least a few hours here. Several past travelers suggest arriving early for more elbow room, while others recommend paying extra for a boat ride through the tulip fields that surround the park. Boat ride tickets cost 4 to 8 euros (about $4.50 to $9) per person and can be purchased at the on-site windmill.
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Few things are as representative of Amsterdam as its picturesque canals. Home to 165 waterways (including the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Amsterdam Canal District), the city prides itself on its impressive canal system.
It's easy to see the canals during a bike tour or while walking around the city center, but for a closer look at the water network, sign up for a canal cruise. Many tour operators offer different kinds of boat tours around downtown Amsterdam. The following are some of the city's most popular options:
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Biking is one of the most popular ways to get around Amsterdam. In fact, cycling is such a quintessential Amsterdam activity that the city's tourism website offers pages with free route maps and cycling safety tips.
But if you don't feel like renting a bike and exploring on your own, you'll find an array of bike tours catering to every kind of visitor. Below are several traveler-approved cycling tour companies:
- #12View all Photos#12 in AmsterdamSightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRead More
Measuring more than 6 feet tall and 77-plus feet wide, the red-and-white "I amsterdam" sign is a prime place for a photo op. You'll find the main set of letters situated inside Amsterdam Airport Schiphol; however, multiple versions are typically on display throughout the city.
Although some previous visitors were disappointed that the main sign no longer sits in front of the Rijksmuseum, many enjoyed snapping pics of the smaller version at the airport. An additional set of letters appears at various events throughout the year, so if you plan on attending a large festival while in town, look around to see if the sign is on-site. You can also spot the letters while jogging the track by Sloterplas lake, but some characters in this set lie flat, so it's not ideal for photographing.
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Considered one of Amsterdam's top museums (along with the Van Gogh and Anne Frank museums), the Rijksmuseum (or State Museum) features an impressive collection of artists, including Rembrandt and Vermeer. As befits a state museum, the ornate building contains mostly Dutch works from the 15th to 17th centuries – though its entire collection stretches across 800 years.
Visitors recommend getting to the Rijksmuseum as early as possible in the day to avoid standing in a line to enjoy both the breathtaking building, grounds and art. According to the museum, the busiest times are Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. And once you've finished touring the interior, step outside and enjoy the gardens – a recommendation from past visitors. Though some reviewers griped about the museum's confusing layout, they still said it was among their top to-dos in Amsterdam.
- #14View all Photos#14 in AmsterdamChurches/Religious Sites, MuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, MuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
For a glimpse at how locals lived and worshipped during the 17th century, visit the Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Soldier. Part-home, part-church, this historic site is the second-oldest museum in Amsterdam (behind the Rijksmuseum). On the lower levels, you'll find period furnishings spread throughout living areas, kitchens and bedrooms, as well as a set of stairs that lead to the attic, where the church is located. Religious services no longer take place at the church, but the property offers various exhibits about religious tolerance in the Netherlands, as the Catholic church had to operate in secret in its early years.
History buffs and religious travelers will likely enjoy wandering around this museum. Visitors praise the property's beautiful interior and interesting exhibits, adding that the complimentary audio tour offers many informative tidbits. There's even an age-appropriate audio guide for kids ages 10 to 12. Keep in mind, the building's small size and multiple staircases may make some parts of the property difficult to access for those with mobility issues.
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Visitors traveling with children in tow might want to make some space in their itinerary for the Artis Royal Zoo. Lions, monkeys and penguins are housed here, along with about another 750 species, and there's also an aquarium, an insectarium, a butterfly garden and a planetarium.
Although most recent visitors described the zoo as lovely, well maintained and a great family day, some of them concede that enclosures for the animals seemed a bit small.
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Situated next to the world-renowned Van Gogh Museum in the Museumplein area, the Stedelijk Museum houses an impressive collection of contemporary art. Inside its permanent exhibit, travelers will find approximately 700 pieces by artists like Piet Mondrian and Roy Lichtenstein. Additionally, the property features a year-round specialty exhibit about pinball machines, as well as temporary collections that may include items like modern sculptures and documentaries.
According to past visitors, the Stedelijk Museum is a go-to spot for contemporary art, especially if you can't score a ticket to the adjacent Van Gogh Museum. After all, the facility boasts a few Van Gogh pieces, plus works by Picasso and Andy Warhol, among other well-known artists. Some previous museumgoers lamented the high entrance fee, but those with the I amsterdam City Card receive complimentary admission.
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The Heineken Experience, which takes place in the old Heineken Brouwerij (Heineken Brewery), is a must-do for fans of the fermented beverage. And according to its website, the Heineken Experience will dip visitors "chin deep" into the popular beer. Among the attractions housed in the century-old factory are a virtual-reality ride, a history of the Heineken family and a free beer tasting. A downloadable app takes visitors on a historical journey through the factory (available for iPhones and Androids). You should note that only those 18 and older are able to partake in the tasting.
Although some recent travelers highly recommend taking the tour at the Heineken experience, others described it as a marketing ploy rather than a tutorial in the beer-brewing process (the real brewery used for production sits on the outskirts of Amsterdam; this location is simply a museum).
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Constructed in 1888, the Concertgebouw (literally Concert Building) hosts 900-plus shows and about 700,000 visitors per year, which makes it one of the world's busiest concert venues. Check the Concertgebouw's website for a list of orchestral and other performances, as well as for ticket prices, which vary by show. From time to time, the venue also offers free lunchtime performances.
Recent visitors called this one of the world's best concert halls, which offers fairly reasonable ticket prices. If you're hoping to attend one of the venue's free concerts, plan to arrive early – past visitors said the staff at Concertgebouw hands out tickets on a first-come, first-served basis.
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Opened in 2016, A'dam Lookout provides some of the best views of downtown Amsterdam from its location in the southern corner of the Overhoeks neighborhood. The property's main draw is its observation deck on the 20th floor, which provides 360-degree panoramas of the city's port and canals. Before admiring the view, visitors can peruse the property's interactive exhibit. Adrenaline junkies won't want to miss Over the Edge (Europe's highest swing) on the outdoor rooftop deck, while foodies should save time for a bite to eat at Madam (an internationally inspired eatery on the 20th floor) or Moon (the 19th floor's upscale revolving restaurant).
Visitors cannot get enough of A'dam Lookout's breathtaking vistas. However, a few lament the extra charge required for the swing. Nevertheless, many recommend paying the additional 5 euros (less than $6) for the fun experience. Because the swing is a popular activity, travelers suggest purchasing tickets in advance on the attraction's tickets page. The property suggests participants arrive at least 30 minutes before their assigned time slots.
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Anyone that says Amsterdam isn't for kids hasn't visited the NEMO Science Museum, housed inside the ship-like green building on the harbor. Filled with hands-on activities, kids can spend hours concocting chemistry experiences and constructing buildings while also learning how science has evolved throughout time.
Recent visitors say this is do-not-miss attraction, for kids but also for those young at heart, since there are interactive exhibits for all curious minds. Even if you don't have time to take a spin through the museum, past visitors said you should still go to access the free rooftop terrace, which offers panoramic views of the city and a cafe and does not charge an entrance fee.
- #21View all Photos#21 in AmsterdamCastles/Palaces, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDCastles/Palaces, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
Built in the 17th century by architect Jacob van Campen, the Royal Palace Amsterdam once served as Amsterdam's town hall. The grand structure, which measures 259 feet wide and 180 feet tall, held the distinction of being the largest secular building in Europe for two centuries. Throughout the years, it's been used by Dutch royalty for official events, such as visits by foreign leaders. Members of the public are welcome to tour the property when the building isn't in use for state visits.
Although visitors offer mixed feelings about the property's exterior, many say the palace's period furnishings and works of art are well worth checking out. Complimentary English audio guides (which travelers recommend for historical context) are available; however, a few caution that the devices are not very comfortable on their own, so consider bringing a pair of headphones to use with them.
- #22View all PhotosfreeZandvoort#22 in AmsterdamBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
You probably knew about Amsterdam's canals, but what about its beach? Just about 20 miles west of the city center is a place called Zandvoort, a strip of sand that borders the North Sea. Experts say Zandvoort is at its best in the summertime, though recent visitors say a trip here in the offseason is also worthwhile since it lacks the summertime crowds.
Along with its wide shoreline, Zandvoort also boasts a variety of trendy beach clubs, including the popular Tijn Akersloot and Safari Lounge. When you've had your fill of the beach, explore the town – a recommendation from past visitors.
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Amsterdam visitors who love learning about a destination through its food scene will likely enjoy participating in a food tour. Traveler-approved Eating Amsterdam Food Tours offers multiple food outings, including the Amsterdam Food & Canals Tour (which tacks on an hourlong boat tour after three hours of tastings throughout the city) and the Taste of Amsterdam at Twilight tour (an evening excursion in Amsterdam's Oud West neighborhood). But the company's most popular experience is its Jordaan Food Tour, a 3 ½-hour tour through the culturally and historically rich Jordaan neighborhood. During the excursion, foodies can try local staples like apple pie, raw herring, Gouda cheese and stroopwafel (a thin waffle with a caramel filling).
Previous participants raved about the Jordaan Food Tour, citing its small group size (no more than 10 people can join an outing), knowledgeable guides and large tasting portions as highlights. Several also appreciated the inclusion of a beer from a local brewery during the tour. To make the most of the excursion, past travelers suggest saving room for every dish by eating a light breakfast (or skipping it altogether).
- #24View all Photos#24 in AmsterdamMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Whether you're a boat enthusiast or want to learn more about Dutch maritime history, Amsterdam's National Maritime Museum is worth a visit. Located about halfway between the Verzetsmuseum and the NEMO Science Museum, The National Maritime Museum houses one of the world's largest maritime collections, with roughly 400,000 different items. Artifacts you'll find here include navigation instruments like compasses, the Royal Barge (an intricate royal vessel commissioned for King William I in the early 19th century) and a life-size replica of the Amsterdam (a ship that wrecked during its maiden voyage to Asia in 1749).
Several visitors raved about the exhibits, especially the one focusing on navigation. Although, a few past travelers warned the museum offers a gimmicky atmosphere, could use additional information and interactive displays, and charges high entrance fees. Many previous museumgoers recommended the virtual reality experience on the Amsterdam ship, which shows you how the city's historic harbor grew to become a bustling port.
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Rembrandt van Rijn (yep, Rembrandt is his first, not last name) once lived and worked in this restored home. So not only will you see the most complete collection of his etchings here, you'll also view his own interesting accumulation of objets d'art, from musical instruments to Roman busts. An audio guide is included in the admission, and many travelers recommend using it. Several travelers also highly recommend watching one of the etching demonstrations, which they say gives a more comprehensive understanding of the art and takes place three times a day. However, if you're traveling with kids, you may want to skip this attraction as past visitors said there is little to interest youngsters.
Keep in mind that there are no Rembrandt paintings – only etchings – much to the chagrin of some recent travelers, though there are paintings by Rembrandt's contemporaries, such as Pieter Lastman. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and charges 13 euros (about $16) for adult admission and 4 euros (about $5) for children ages 6 to 17 (visitors 5 and younger are admitted for free). If you purchased an I amsterdam card, your entry fee is waived. Visitors can take the 9 or 14 tram to the Waterlooplein stop. For more information, visit the museum's website.
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