Few European cities are as charming as Amsterdam. For the estimated 20 million visitors to the city each year, there's so much to see and do – world-class museums, quirky markets, glorious canals, and incredible architecture are just some of the things that make Amsterdam one of the most visited cities in Europe.
While some regard it as a liberal paradise and one of the premier party destinations, the Dutch capital has much more to offer, with a treasure trove of historical and cultural landmarks to discover and plenty of stunning natural beauty on the city's outskirts.
Best Things To Do in Amsterdam
Let's take a virtual wander through the streets of the city known as "the Venice of the North" to break down the best things to do in Amsterdam.
1. Buy an I Amsterdam Card
The I Amsterdam Card is a must-have for tourists visiting Amsterdam. For a fixed price, it offers unlimited access to public transportation, free entry to major attractions, discounts at museums, restaurants, and shops, and a complimentary canal cruise.
Save money, skip queues, and explore Amsterdam hassle-free with the Iamsterdam Card!
Prices range from €60 for 24 hours to €125 for 120 hours per person.
2. Marvel at the Van Gogh Museum
A fascinating glimpse inside the life and work of one of the world's most renowned artists, the Van Gogh Museum is an essential experience for anyone visiting Amsterdam. The museum contains more than 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and 700 letters from the great man and various other artists who influenced him; the museum is great for art lovers and the more casually curious visitor.
Keep in mind that you'll need to pre-book tickets online! Better yet, pre-book a private guided museum tour to skip the lines and get an expert's insight into Van Gogh's most iconic masterworks, as well as the lesser-known gems.
3. Be moved by the Anne Frank house
The Anne Frank Museum is the former residence and writer's house of legendary Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank. Visiting the house is an incredibly moving, unforgettable experience, giving a unique perspective on how the city's Jewish population suffered during the Second World War.
Anne Frank's story is told through an audio tour that helps further immerse you in the house's history. It was a very emotional visit for me, yet it was essential to understand the history of Amsterdam and Europe in general.
Again, like most museums in Amsterdam, the Anne Frank House can only be visited by pre-booking a ticket bought online for a specific time slot.
4. Get regal at the Royal Palace Amsterdam
The former home of the Dutch Royal Family, the Royal Palace was also once the city's town hall, and it still hosts many prominent events and is open to visitors throughout the year. If you're a fan of jaw-dropping façades and majestic interiors, it's a must-see – particularly the stunning central hall, with its Ancient Rome-style columns and marble flooring.
Although it's one of Amsterdam's most popular tourist attractions, wandering around the spacious Royal Palace – otherwise known as the Koninklijk Paleis – is quite a tranquil experience – especially in spring or late summer, when the crowds are less intense.
Prebook your Royal Palace tickets with an audio guide for a deeper insight into one of Amsterdam's most iconic historic buildings.
5. Take a canal cruise
An all-inclusive canal cruise should be right towards the top of your list of things to do in Amsterdam. Cruising the canals and taking in the city's beautiful sights is Amsterdam's most popular tourist activity, with an estimated 3 million passengers a year.
The historic canals were formed in the 17th century and today are a UNESCO-listed landmark. You can learn all about the history of the canal ring and stories of all the major cultural attractions in Amsterdam as you pass by while sipping drinks and enjoying snacks as you soak up the city's beauty.
You could also escape the crowds and enjoy a private canal cruise, ideal for those traveling as a couple.
6. Discover national history at the Dutch Resistance Museum
One of Amsterdam's most increasingly popular attractions, the Dutch Resistance Museum – also known as Verzetsmuseum – tells the story of how the Dutch resisted the Nazi occupation during World War II. It recounts the horrors of life in Amsterdam under the Nazis and the ingenious efforts to break free from the oppressors – from underground newspapers and strikes to creating secret hideouts for those persecuted.
The Resistance Museum comes with archive film and audio that evoke the hopes and fears of the Dutch population at the time and many other interactive elements that make it a highly immersive historical experience.
7. Get cultural at the Rembrandt House Museum
A celebration of one of the most famous Dutch painters, the Rembrandt House Museum is a restored 17th-century house that reconstructs Rembrandt's rooms and art workshop.
Just like the Van Gogh Museum, Rembrandt House is an art lover's dream, with selections of some of Rembrandt's best works as well as many pieces from other artists who the Dutch master influenced.
Be sure to pre-book your Rembrandt House Museum tickets, including a free audio guide. Remember that the museum is set over four stories, and there is no lift between floors, so the museum might not be fully accessible for some visitors.
8. Explore the Rijksmuseum
Amsterdam has incredible art galleries and museums, and the Rijksmuseum is one of the best. While the Van Gogh and Rembrandt museums focus on those specific masters, the Rijksmuseum showcases the work of many of the best painters in the Golden Age of Dutch art, including Vermeer, Steen, Asselijn and Rembrandt.
The Rijksmuseum has recently been the art world's focus with the announcement of the historic Vermeer Exhibition, the largest exhibition of the artist behind one of the world's most famous paintings, 'Girl With a Pearl Earring.' Although the exhibition is completely sold out, you'll be able to see some incredible works of art in the museum's permanent collection.
Buy your Rijksmuseum tickets ahead of time to guarantee your spot at this beautiful Amsterdam art gallery.
9. Get spooked at the Amsterdam Dungeons
If you're into fun interactive experiences, you can't get much better than the Amsterdam Dungeons. A deliciously dark journey through 500 years of history, the Amsterdam Dungeons uses live actors, make-up, and special effects to tell the chilling story of life and death in the Dutch capital.
Tales of torture, plagues, the Spanish Inquisition, and insights into the origins of the Grim Reaper myth are sure to keep you gripped from beginning to end. This is the ideal Amsterdam activity if you're into weird and wonderful tales and horrible histories. It's also great for families with older kids, as there's so much fun! Of course, if you're squeamish, you should miss this one.
Don't forget to pre-book your Amsterdam Dungeon tickets to save time at the turnstiles.
10. Go deep at the NEMO Science Museum
The biggest and best science museum in the Netherlands, the NEMO Science Museum, looks like a giant green ship rising out of the ocean at Amsterdam's dock —the iconic exterior hints at the creative activities inside, which will fascinate visitors of all ages.
The interactive nature of Amsterdam's premier science museum makes it particularly appealing for kids – especially those ages six to twelve. Those visiting the museum should also check out the rooftop terrace with its magnificent city center views.
Overall, it is a fantastic experience, particularly for families visiting Amsterdam. My daughter loved this venue and pleaded to go back the next day but we ran out of time!
Remember to pre-book your tickets for the NEMO Science Museum!
11. Take in the beauty of Westerkerk
This Renaissance-style church is the biggest in Amsterdam and a must-see for those looking for beautiful buildings and exciting architecture in Amsterdam. Located next to the Anne Frank Museum, Westerkerk – which means 'West Church' in Dutch – was built in the 17th century and has a stunning ornate interior. You'll even have the chance to learn about the church's history and the surrounding area as you take in the sumptuous visuals.
If you're brave enough, climb to the top of the bell tower for a breathtaking panoramic view of Amsterdam and its outskirts – it's one of the best views in the city!
12. Stedelijk museum
Another of Amsterdam's long line of impressive art museums, the Stedelijk Museum is regarded as the most important museum of modern and contemporary art and design in the whole of the Netherlands.
With works by the likes of Dumas, Matisse, Chagall, Picasso, and Malevich, as well as 20th-century Dutch artists such as Rietveld and Mondrian, the Stedelijk showcases art that is rebellious, imaginative, humorous and inspirational.
13. Relax at the Hortus Botanicus
With all the incredible museums, galleries, and cultural locations in and around the city, it's essential to catch a little respite. Luckily, there are places like the Hortus Botanicus in central Amsterdam.
Amsterdam's botanical gardens are full of various weird and wonderful plant species and prove to be the perfect inner-city nature escape for those tired of the busy city center streets. This is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, giving it an extra historical context.
Aside from all the different plant species, the Amsterdam Hortus Botanicus also contains a butterfly house. This zoological museum showcases microorganisms and a planetarium, where you can enjoy a virtual, interactive solar system tour.
14. Escape the hustle at Vondelpark
Every good city has a beautiful park, and Amsterdam's is as good as it gets. The largest park in Amsterdam and the most famous in the country, Vondelpark is a sprawling 47-hectare park in the city's center with lakes, lawns, water features, and a beautiful rose garden.
With a beautiful atmosphere, particularly during summer, Vondelpark is a trendy hangout for locals and visitors alike. If you're looking for the perfect picnic spot between trips to Amsterdam's top tourist attractions, this is the place!
Experience the tranquillity of Vondelpark as part of a guided walking tour of Amsterdam.
15. Get merry at the Heineken Experience
Beer lovers rejoice! Amsterdam is home to one of the world's most popular beers, and visitors can discover its origins and learn everything about how it's made with an interactive tour at the Heineken Experience.
As well as discovering the story of the first Heineken brewery and learning everything about the beer and its history, you'll get to whet your whistle at the tasting room finale. You'll even have the chance to show your bar skills with the Pour the perfect pint challenge!
Overall, it's great fun – especially with a big group. If you're keen to make it a centerpiece to your Amsterdam visit and go all out... get a guided Heineken Experience VIP Tour Ticket and make it all the more memorable!
16. Hit the heights at the A'DAM LOOKOUT and THIS IS HOLLAND
A 22-story, 80-meter-high observation deck with the best views of Amsterdam, the A’DAM LOOKOUT is a great way to cap off a visit to Amsterdam. You'll learn about the history of Amsterdam through an interactive exhibition while you make your way up to the top-floor lookout. You'll find Europe's highest swing, which dangles 100 meters above the ground. Dare to have a go?
The adrenaline rush doesn't end there, though. At THIS IS HOLLAND you'll find four different attractions, including a 5D flight simulator that takes you for a bird's eye tour of the whole city of Amsterdam.
Experience the thrills of these two attractions by pre-booking A'DAM LOOKOUT and THIS IS HOLLAND tickets.
17. Our Lord in the Attic Museum
Down an unassuming street near the Amsterdam docks is a hidden gem that tells just one of the many incredible stories in the city's history. The ordinary façade of the building doesn't give much away, yet in the attic of this incredible museum you'll find a full-size hidden church, built during the years when practicing Catholicism in public was forbidden.
A free audio guide at the Our Lord in the Attic Museum will help to immerse you in the story of the Protestant and Catholic divide in the city. It's a fascinating museum.
18. Awaken the senses at the floating flower market
For a quintessential Dutch experience, a visit to the world's only floating flower market is a must. Located onboard the houseboats that line the picturesque Amstel riverside, the Bloemensingel dates back to 1862 and sells all kinds of typical Dutch flowers, including the famous tulips.
Many of the flowers at the market are approved for import to other countries, meaning visitors can buy perfect sensory souvenirs to take home.
19. Go shopping in the Nine Streets
The Nine Streets, or De Negen Straatjes, is a mini-neighborhood located in the center of the Jordaan canal belt and consists of a network of narrow cobblestone streets, each with its unique charm. With independent boutiques, vintage stores, artisanal cafes, and hip restaurants, Amsterdam's coolest shopping district is the perfect place to pick up a handmade souvenir when visiting the Dutch capital.
Explore the Jordaan neighborhood and the Nine Streets as part of an Amsterdam walking tour, learning about the history of the hidden courtyards and cobbled streets of one of Amsterdam's most charming areas.
20. Visit the National Monument
Located in the city's center in Dam Square, the National Monument is a 22-meter-high stone cenotaph that pays tribute to the people who lost their lives during World War II. It's the centerpiece of Dam Square, which is like the heartbeat of Amsterdam.
Visit the National Monument as part of a private walking tour in Amsterdam and dive deeper into the history of Amsterdam in the 20th century, gaining a better understanding and perspective of life for those before, during, and after World War II.
21. Take a tour of the world-famous home of Ajax Football Club
A fantastic experience for lovers of the beautiful game, a trip to the home of Ajax Football Club gives you behind-the-scenes access to one of the most revered teams in Europe.
You'll get to enjoy pitch-side views, a trip to the dressing room and boardroom, plus you'll be entertained with tales of the history of Ajax – including the most famous player, the legendary Johan Cruijff (whom the stadium is named after), as well as a complimentary drink and souvenir scarf.
Book your VIP tour of the Ajax Amsterdam football stadium before you arrive, and skip the crowds.
22. Escape to the picturesque outskirts of Amsterdam
While there's so much to see and do within the city limits, many people overlook the beauty of the surrounding areas of Amsterdam. A full-day tour through the countryside allows you to fully immerse yourself in Dutch culture, going beyond the regular tourist experience to discover what local life is like in the Netherlands.
When escaping to the capital's outskirts, rural windmills, cheese factories, antique clog shops, picturesque villages, and stunning waterways are just some things to expect. A guided day-trip bus tour offers an unforgettable experience when visiting Amsterdam.
City attractions might be why you come to Amsterdam, but a countryside visit could well end up providing your trip's most memorable moments.
23. Take a stroll along the Damrak
When you think of Amsterdam, you think of the Damrak. You may not realize you do... but trust me. You know that image of Amsterdam, with the line of pretty and colorful buildings that line the canals? That's the Damrak. Running between the central station and the Dam Square, in the very center of the city, this gorgeous avenue is Amsterdam at its most iconic.
You'll usually find the Damrak all hustle and bustle – it's the tourist center of Amsterdam, with all manner of souvenir shops, fast food stops, and cafes dotted along the way. Still, strolling along this pretty avenue can be a relaxing experience, particularly in the autumn/fall, when the colors are vivid and the crowds are less dense.
The Damrak is one of the first ports of call during a small group walking tour in Amsterdam – an ideal place to start your adventure through this enthralling city.
24. See the sunset at Pllek
Okay, so Amsterdam isn't the place to go for a beach holiday. That said, there's a great urban beach in the city where many locals and visitors hang out, and it's the perfect place to watch the sun go down, particularly in the summer.
Pllek may not be suitable for swimming, but this is the city's number one place when it comes to waterside hang-out spots. Beach parties with top DJs, group yoga sessions, outdoor cinema screenings, and live concerts are just some of the activities you'll find here.
Yes, it can be crowded during the summer, but if a party atmosphere is what you're looking for, it's a place you should head to when visiting Amsterdam.
25. Flip the script at the Upside Down Museum
Hands down, Amsterdam's quirkiest museum, the Upside Down Museum, is billed as one of Europe's most popular interactive social-media museums. The crazy optical illusions and incredible art-themed rooms create a highly photogenic experience – hence the 'social media friendly' tag. One thing's for sure... you won't be boring anyone with vacation snaps from this place!
The Upside Down takes the museum experience to a new place, making it an ideal alternative to Amsterdam's many history museums and art galleries. Pre-order your tickets for the Upside Down Museum and save time at the turnstiles, giving you more time to get lost in the weird and wonderful world of this fun, original museum.
26. Take an Amsterdam bike tour
The Dutch are Europe's undisputed bike kings and queens – if we all cycled like them, global emissions would drop nearly 700 million tonnes. So, it's no surprise that one of the best ways to experience the Dutch capital is on two wheels.
Experience this wondrous city's highlights and hidden gems with an Amsterdam bike tour. You'll cover much more ground than you ever could on foot with a personalized experience that gives you more of an immersive insight into Amsterdam's history and major landmarks.
What is Amsterdam best known for?
Amsterdam is perhaps best known for its world-famous canals, a significant city feature. It's also renowned as a liberal, tolerant, lively city with a rich history and culture. This is showcased in some genuinely world-class museums, such as the Van Gogh Museum.
What is Amsterdam's most visited museum?
The Rijksmuseum is the most visited museum in Amsterdam. Known as the National Art Gallery, it has over 2.5 million visitors annually. The Van Gogh museum is a close second, with just over 2 million visitors.
Are museums free in Amsterdam?
Most museums in Amsterdam charge an entry fee. However, there are some museums that you can visit for free. These include the Rijksmuseum Gardens and the Open Space Contemporary Art Museum (OSCAM).
Also, head to the Our Lord in the Attic Museum on a Sunday morning, and you'll have a chance to experience services in this incredible Catholic church. Even if you're not religious, it's a very spiritual experience.
Is Amsterdam suitable for couples?
Yes, Amsterdam is most definitely suitable for couples. There are many romantic things to do in Amsterdam, none more so than a private canal cruise. It's also generally a beautiful, picturesque city with stunning architecture and a romantic feel.
Visiting during the spring is an ideal time of year for couples looking for a romantic getaway. At this time of year, the temperatures are warm, and the city parks are full of color as the tulips, daffodils, and crocuses bloom.
What is the most romantic part of Amsterdam?
The sections of the city center beside the Amstel River are very romantic. The buildings are cute and colorful, with plenty to see and do. Head to the Jordaan neighborhood and take a romantic stroll along the narrow cobblestone streets – it's the perfect place for couples to experience the best Amsterdam offers.
What is the Red Light District in Amsterdam?
The most infamous area in Amsterdam, the Red Light District, is home to 'the world's oldest profession.' While prostitution is legal in some parts of the world, few places are quite as open and upfront. In Amsterdam's Red Light District, known as “De Wallen” in Dutch, sex workers can be seen advertising their services in windows, and there are many sex shops, strip shows, and other adult attractions.
There are also many cannabis cafes, cool bars, and quirky museums in the Red Light District. While it was once considered an unsafe part of the city, things have changed significantly.
Now, the Red Light District is one of the most visited parts of Amsterdam, with over 2.5 million tourists going every year. A private tour of the Red Light district is an increasingly popular activity for those visiting Amsterdam.
Is Amsterdam good for nightlife?
It's a fantastic city for nightlife. There's something for everyone in Amsterdam, with large nightclubs with resident and guest DJs and live music venues that feature everything from rock and roll to jazz, swing, hip hop, and funk.
Head to Paradiso – a converted church hosting monumental music nights, or for something more elegant, try Bimhuis – one of the most renowned jazz clubs in Europe. There are a ton of other great bars and clubs in Amsterdam... most are located around the Nine Streets area of the city.
Is Amsterdam suitable for children?
While the city has a reputation for nightlife and hedonism, it's a great place to visit if you have children. There's so much for kids to see and do in the Dutch capital!
For a start, it's a beautiful city! Kids appreciate the sights of the colorful and playful architecture, as well as the beauty of the canals. A private family canal cruise is a great family activity and allows kids to get to know the city in a fun, relaxing setting.
There are also many excellent interactive museums in Amsterdam that children love! The NEMO Science Museum should be at the top of your list of things to do in Amsterdam with kids, while there's also the A'DAM LOOKOUT for older kids, with the highest swing in Europe!
Older kids will appreciate the culture and history on offer in Amsterdam. The Anne Frank House and Museum is a unique learning experience, and the Van Gogh Museum showcases the work of one of the greatest and most influential artists in history.
How many days do you need in Amsterdam?
Is it easy to get to Amsterdam city center from the airport?
Yes, it's straightforward. A train goes directly from Amsterdam's Schiphol International Airport to the city's center. Trains run day and night, and the journey takes around 15 minutes. Train tickets are approximately €5.50 per person.
Is Amsterdam worth visiting?
Absolutely! It's an incredible city with friendly people, beautiful architecture, a fun-loving vibe, and so much culture. A visit to Amsterdam will be an unforgettable experience!