Venice of the North, as Amsterdam is often referred to, is popular with both locals and tourists. The vibrant city oozes a free spirited atmosphere that welcomes a versatile crowd. Characteristic neighborhoods like the Jordaan, Pijp and Canal Belt all have their own identity that can be experienced by walking through them or joining the Dutch in one of their favorite things to do; watching people go by from a street terrace sipping on a drink. Visitors are attracted by the lenient drugs laws, the infamous Red Light District and all-night-long clubbing scene. But Amsterdam has so much more on offer, and we gladly show you the way. Our Trip Profiles filter the seemingly endless amount of possible ways to spend your days in Amsterdam, so you easily plan your trip, enjoying things that match your personality. And to enhance the fun of planning even further, we selected the top 10 ultimate things to experience in Amsterdam!
Top 10 things to do in Amsterdam
We count down from 10 to 1 and have made a selection you, provided you have early starts and late finishes, could experience in a day or two. But if you love Amsterdam as much as we do, you should definitely visit for more than a weekend. Our picks for what to do in Amsterdam are created by mixing our personal favorites with feedback from visitors of our website. So feel free to browse the rest of the site to get inspired even further. And please don’t hesitate to let us know if you think there are any attractions, points of interest or companies missing that really belong in this top 10. You can comment on this article or inform us via the contact form on the contact page. Doing so helps us tremendously keeping our content up-to-date and of high quality. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media is also greatly appreciated!
Her diary is one of the most widely read books in the world. Some 70 years after Anne Frank wrote down her most inner thoughts about her life as a Jew in the midst of the Second World War, she still inspires people from all over the world. Over a million every year visit the hiding place on the Prinsengracht 263 where Anne and 7 others, including her parents and sister, spend two years in hiding from the German Nazi regime.
And while it might not be one of the most joyous things Amsterdam has to offer, it is quite inspiring. The attic rooms behind the secret annex of the house, situated behind a book case that functioned as a hidden door, still exude the atmosphere of the hiding period. The tightness you experience in the living quarters gives a deeper meaning to the free-spirited atmosphere Amsterdam is known for nowadays.
Besides Anne Frank’s hiding place, the museum also features a new exhibition every six months themed around the prosecution of the Jews and discrimination in general.
And don’t be put off by the long queues at the entrance of the museum. A little planning ahead ensures that you can just bypass them. When you buy a ticket online in advance, you can use the special fast track cue to get inside.Buy a ticket in advance online and stroll along its waiting through the special row inside. Or take advantage of the particularly long opening hours of the Anne Frank House. In summer, the museum is open in the evenings up to 10 PM.
No doubt something will tickle your fancy on the Albert Cuyp, as the largest outdoor market of the Netherlands has over 260 market stalls to choose from. And that’s not it’s only special feature, because unlike most markets, the typical Amsterdam merchants welcome you from Monday to Saturday. Only the Sunday is skipped, formerly because of religious considerations, nowadays because the market vendors must at least have one day to recharge their batteries. Three times a year they truly work like a mule, as then there’s also a themed Sunday Market.
Visiting the Albert Cuyp, located right in the heart of the working class neighborhood the Pijp, is a unique experience. The typical Amsterdam merchants, with their distinctive humor, get you in the mood for spending as they loudly praise their merchandise. Shopping on the ‘Cuyp’, as locals lovingly refer to their market, therefore is appealing to bargain hunters, cooking enthusiasts and tourists. Vocal traditional market traders work side by side with international colleagues from countries like Suriname, Turkey and Morocco, making the offering international and diverse. Stroopwafels are sold next to roti, and where cassava, Garter and Madame Jeannet peppers are sold on one side of the street, Dutch cauliflowers, strawberries and chicory is sold on the other side. A motley crew; both the people and the merchandise. That makes it a popular market, but because of the vastness of the market, it feels never too crowded.
‘Hier is je gulden een daalder waard’ as the Dutch saying goes. When the guilder was not yet replaced by the euro, it was said that a one guilder coin could get you as much as 2,5 guilders worth of produce on the market. And that still holds true for shopping on the Albert Cuyp market nowadays, as your money goes a long way here. But even if you are not spending anything, visiting the market is fun and informative. You get to experience the Amsterdam way of living and a sense of what life looks like if you are a local.
When you say New York, Central Park automatically comes to mind. Amsterdam’s equivalent is the ever bright Vondelpark. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city it’s a breath of fresh air. Located just behind the Leidseplein, the park is perfect for escaping the excitement of the city and getting back to nature without going overboard. Do like the locals and stroll along the footpaths, passing charming little ponds, quacking ducks and people chilling out. Or have a drink or a bite to eat at one of the laid back establishments like the Vondeltuin and get revitalized that way.
Are you a Bargain Buster travelling on a tight budget? The Vondelpark hosts an open air theater during the weekends of the summer months, showcasing free performances by well-known comedians (mostly in Dutch) pop groups and other artists. Bringing your own beverages and snacks is allowed, but you can also get reasonably priced refreshments from the pop-up catering stalls that open up shop during the shows.
Time for breakfast, lunch or high tea! At one of the three branches of the Bakkerswinkel, the company name directly translates as the bakery shop, you can choose from all sorts of sweet and savory delights. The enticing smell of freshly baked Artisan bread gets your appetite going for their wide selection of pies and scones, either sugary of hearty (we love the caramel – walnut cake). So get a foaming macchiato and blend in with the local and diverse crowd of chatting girlfriends and businessman. If you choose to go to the Bakkerswinkel located on the Westergasterrein, you can even do so in the sunshine on their summer terrace. It’s an ideal location if you like getting away from the beaten path, but still want to stay within walking distance of the main attractions. A 15 minute stroll through the lovely Westerpark and lively neighborhood the Jordaan takes you back to the bustling city center of Amsterdam.
Fancy one of their mouthwatering cakes, but just not right now? Take-away is also an option 😉
If you are going to do something, then do it right! At Hotel Sofitel The Grand sleek design is combined with five star facilities, making sure you sleep in style. And the hotel not only looks fantastic, the service is great too. Not that we would expect anything less for rooms that easily cost € 250 a night. For this you sleep in complete luxury right in the heart of the city, close to all the main attractions and just a 5-minute walk from Dam Square. Even the standard room is extraordinary, complete with a rain shower that resembles a waterfall, a high quality Bose sound system and unlimited access to the hotel spa that has an indoor heated swimming pool, sauna and even a private Haman. For those who can’t quite fit this hotel within their budget, the hotel’s Michelin Star restaurant Bridges is a must, serving excellent organic fish dishes.
In the days the building was still in use as City Hall, marriages were performed regularly. Now princes, former queen Beatrix, even married her Prince Charming here. Nowadays the hotel has a wedding chapel where you can be joined in matrimony. The historic ambiance with classic French allure of the hotel makes for a fairy tale wedding ceremony.
Tip! Because of the enormous popularity of the hotel (many international pop and movie stars and politicians also like to sleep in the hotel) booking well in advance is highly recommended.
It’s the ultimate way to ignite your senses and set your taste buds alight. You will notice textures you didn’t before, experience intense aromas and yes, at times you will be searching for your cutlery without having a clue. At restaurant Ctaste you dine in pitch darkness and that changes everything. Finding the last bite on your plate might be challenging, but not seeing what you are eating, makes for an intense tasting experience. Disabling a single sense turns your remaining senses such as smell, touch and taste into overdrive. You taste something familiar with a mouth feel that evokes memories, but what is it exactly?
Don’t you want to turn off the light for too long because of the good looks of your companion? At Ctaste you can also opt for some drinks with nibbles, like a high wine or high beer with matching snacks.
Going on a first date can be quite nerve racking. The ‘dating in the dark’ package might relieve the tension a bit as any spinach between your teeth will go unnoticed. Together you will enjoy a five course dinner and at the end of the evening a night shot photo of the two of you is taken. Guaranteed a very special (first) date!
Please do touch! The motto of the largest technology museum of the Netherlands is to interact, experience and learn hands on about chemistry, physics and biology. In their lab you become a real scientist mastering test tubes and liquids in measuring cylinders to comprehend complex natural processes like the functions of the human body. Throughout the museum interactive quizzes and games help to explain the workings of everyday life, like the aging-machine that shows what you will look like in 30 years.
Finding Nemo is easy! The museum is located directly behind Amsterdam’s Central Station on the river IJ, shaped like a giant copper ship.
Nemo Science Center is not just fun for kids. The museum offers a day full of excitement for everyone who is curious about technology and science and answers questions most of us have wondered about. How do bridges work? When do you get to see a rainbow? Why does your sweater sometimes spark? Forget about boring classes in high school and brush up your knowledge while enjoying yourself. And don’t forget the roof of Nemo. On Amsterdam’s largest roof terrace, you can enjoy a magnificent view of the historic city center, 22 meters above water level.
Boasting 165 canals, 1700 bridges and 2500 houseboats in over 100 kilometers (62 miles) of waterways, Amsterdam totally outclasses Venice in Italy. Not surprisingly Amsterdam is often referred to as the Venice of the North. Besides providing a stunning backdrop to the city’s historical center, floating down Amsterdam’s canals is one of the most memorable ways to discover the city. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a local, everything in Amsterdam seems a bit more magical when viewed from the water, almost fairy-tale like. Cruising Amsterdam’s canals therefor comes highly recommended. Not only do the majestic gabled mansions seem even grander, you can also unashamedly peek inside the houseboats you pass. The impressive driver’s skills of the skippers, effortlessly maneuvering boats through the narrow canals, are also quite entertaining.
Because of the obvious popularity of the cruises and water tours, numerous operators are active on the water, offering many different water tours. You can for example opt for a complementary on-board dinner, have some drinks or visit a museum you pass on the way. Hop-on-hop-off tickets turn the water tour boats into a kind of public transport, as you can use them to get through the city where and when is convenient for you.
The world’s oldest distilled spirit brand Lucas Bols, offers an amazing interactive experience of cocktails and bartending in their House of Bols. They have been making liqueurs in Amsterdam since 1575, some of which used to suffer from a quite musty image. Dutch Jenever for example, traditionally is drunk by elderly men in the brown cafes of the Jordaan, accompanied by a glass of beer called a kopstootje (translates as butt to the head). At House of Bols you will find nothing like that. Here they have successfully reinvented their spirits, setting the norm with glamorous cocktails and liquors. Even the building has undergone an impressive transformation, stimulating all your senses with colorful light effects and sleek design. House of Bols certainly proves that heritage and history mix perfectly with innovation and contemporary design.
The self-guided tour offers a fresh approach and an exciting way of exhibiting the various secrets of the art of bartending and blending most diverse types of top-quality alcoholic beverages. If you have Tom Cruise aspirations, you can check out the Flair Booth, where you’ll get the opportunity to use Bols’ special flair bottles and deliver a show like a real professional bartender. Or you can opt for a crash course in bartending to learn to mix the tastiest drinks at home. And to make things even more interesting, 38 mouthwatering liquors can be tasted along the way whilst a skilled bartender mixes up your favorite cocktail at the end. For an extra € 5 you can even enjoy another one. All in all, House of Bols is the perfect way to start your night out in Amsterdam.
If you aren’t afraid of heights, sightseeing Amsterdam in a helicopter definitely is the way to go. Your starting point is Amsterdam Westpoort, a commercial and industrial area on the outskirts of the city along the Noordzeekanaal or North Sea canal, which is used by boats and big ships to enter Amsterdam. Within just a few minutes you’ll hover over trainstation Amsterdam Centraal en just behind that Dam Square and the National Palace. As the helicopter flies just 500 meters above ground, you can easily spot iconic landmarks like the Eye Film Museum and the Amsterdam Tower.
Officially, Amsterdam city centre is a no-fly zone because of it’s close proximity to airport Schiphol, but not for you! After the pilot asks for permission to enter the city centre you’ll hover over the historic canals again with the river IJ and the neighborhoods Zeeburg and IJburg on the backdrop.
All passengers (the helicopters seats the pilot plus four) wear official ear phones that make it easy to talk to each other and you’ll hear the pilot’s conversations with the Schiphol Airport tower. Whenever he’s free, you can ask him anything you want about what you see on the ground.
All in all an absolutely amazing experience you can’t miss out on when visiting Amsterdam! Only negative we can think of is that time really does fly when you are having fun. We want to go again!!