Amsterdam Magazine knows Amsterdam best. We created a list of things to do in Amsterdam, so you don’t have to worry about missing out on the best places. From highlights and must sees, to upcoming areas and hidden gems. A full year’s calendar, tips and tricks on how to get around, excursions and tours and a guide through all of the city’s neighborhoods. We got you covered.
01. Hit one of the over 1000 events taking place all over Amsterdam
During the summer months, starting from May until September, not a weekend goes by without an outdoor festival. From food festivals, offering the best local and international dishes to music festivals, showcasing world renowned artists.
In October the madness continues with Amsterdam Dance Event. From all around the world over 2.500 DJs and artists will be performing in Amsterdam’s finest and most unique locations. Find yourself dancing in the passage under the Rijksmuseum or in an old church. If you love clubbing this is an event that is not to be missed.
Winters can be pretty cold in The Netherlands but that doesn’t mean it is less fun. Ice skate on Museum Square or stroll past the stalls at one of the Christmas markets.
If you want to experience a true Dutch festivity, Kingsday is the day to be in town. Dressed in orange, the Dutch celebrate the birthday of their King on April 27. The whole city will turn into a big party with music, plenty of drinks, food and flea markets by locals selling anything you can imagine. You should reall cross this one of your Amsterdam bucketlist.
02. Satisfy your art loving heart at an Amsterdam museum
Rembrandt van Rijn, Vincent van Gogh, Johannes Vermeer; just to name a few of the Dutch old masters. If you are a lover of arts Amsterdam will make your heart beat a bit faster. If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, Museum Square is the place to go. Here you will find 3 of the 10 best museums in Amsterdam: the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum. All three showcase an incredible collection of world renowned artworks. A less known yet worthy alternative is the Amsterdam Museum with their collection on the city’s history and its development over the years.
Amsterdam has over 75 museums showcasing anything from modern and classical paintings to bags and photography. For a full overview check out the list with museums we created.
03. Eating out: A mouthwatering journey through local and International cuisines
From street food to Michelin dining, Amsterdam is packed with restaurants offering mouthwatering dishes. Although the Dutch love to eat at home and bring their own lunch to work, eating out has become more popular over the years. From brunch, to high-wines and fine dining.
The city inhabits almost 180 different cultures, which can all be discovered in Amsterdam’s culinary scene. Asian, Italian, French and Moroccan are just a few of the International cuisines that are well represented. But while in Amsterdam you should certainly take the opportunity to try out a traditional Dutch dish. Try a variation of the ‘stamppot’, which is a mix of mashed potato and different kinds of vegetables, served with gravy and meat. The Dutch also make some mean pancakes, great for either breakfast or lunch. Rather go for savory? We selected the best breakfast spots in town for you because Amsterdam has it all.
If you’re looking for a fine dining experience, reserve a table at one of the many Michelin star restaurants such as Librije’s Zusje. The chefs here will take you on an amazing culinary journey that you will not soon forget.
04. Discover stuff to do in the Amsterdam Red Light District
The Red Light District, known to locals as the Wallen, is one of Amsterdam’s best-known attractions. Although very interesting indeed, there is much more to the area than peep shows, sex shops and brothels. The Red light district is home to a few of the oldest buildings and churches in town; The Old Church dates back to 1200. Back then Amsterdam was nothing more than a few rows of houses along the Amstel river. The city expanded throughout the years with new canals used for transportation and defense. The passing of sailors and traders during that time brought a large number of sex workers to the area and they have stayed ever since.
Even though the red lights will always be the main attraction of the area, the cultural activities are becoming just as important. The Warmoesstraat, Zeedijk and nearby Nieuwmarkt square are filled with interesting shops, fashion boutiques and good restaurants. There are a million things to do in the Red Light District. Wander around and prepare to be amazed. Fun fact: if you really want to get to know the area, you can have an ex-sex worker guide you around.
05. Make it around town: public transportation and how to do it like a local
What better way to get around in Amsterdam than by doing it the local way: by bike. Did you know Amsterdam has more bikes than citizens? It is said that the city counts over a whopping 880.000 bikes. You can rent one at MacBike for just a few hours or the entire trip if you’re up for it. Cycling is an experience on its own and a quick and easy way to explore. It gives you the opportunity to stop at unexpected highlights where and whenever you like, so you can fill up your thing to do in Amsterdam list with unique experiences.
If you’d rather use public transportation the city of Amsterdam offers a wide range of options. The public transportation network is extensive, including metro’s, trams, ferry’s, busses and trains. The 24-, 48- or 72-hour tickets can be used in all GVB transportation and will save you money compared to buying one-way tickets. Another way to enjoy the beauty is by taking a cruise through the canals past iconic bridges and 17th century houses. Take a hop-on-hop-off to visit highlights like Anne Frank House and Rijksmuseum or sit back and relax during a guided dinner tour.
06. Exploring the Amsterdam countryside: ready for adventure
Going around Amsterdam is one thing, but if you have an extra day or two a trip outside the borders of the city might be a wonderful idea. One of the best excursions to do is the countryside tour. Visit the windmills that helped build Amsterdam, wander around in the picturesque village Volendam and get a taste of the world famous Dutch cheese. Trying on a traditional costume and watching a clog maker demonstrating his craft will make this true Dutch experience complete.
Another tour that should be on your to-do list if you enjoy serene settings, is visiting Giethoorn. The only way to get around is by walking or taking a boat, since there are no roads or cars in this unique town. This excursion will have you coming back to Amsterdam calm and relaxed.
07. Cruising the canals: sit back and relax while you get to know the city
Amsterdam is called the Venice of the north for a reason. The 165 canals combined have a length of over 100 km with countless houseboats and monumental buildings alongside. The Canal Ring was dug in the 17th century and became part of the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2010. The almost 1300(!) bridges spread over the city make for an iconic scenery and are a big part of what gives Amsterdam its charm.
Taking a canal cruise is one of the must things to do in Amsterdam during your stay in town. Not only is it a great and relaxing way to get around, you will get to learn some interesting facts about the history of the city as well. Did you know the old part of Amsterdam was built on wooden poles? That is why many houses tend to lean forward or sideways. And if you think that’s boring, think again. Even if your trip to Amsterdam is based around partying, a tour through the canals will be guaranteed fun with the extensive variety in cruises offered by Tours & Tickets. From private or silent disco cruises to a burger or pizza cruise. Pizza on a boat, what’s not to like.
08. Get a locals view on the best Sightseeing routes
The best way to go sightseeing in Amsterdam is by just wandering around. The city has a rich history with loads of classical and modern architectural highlights and therefore a ton of fun sightseeing routes. The Jordaan district is one where the true Amsterdam spirit is still alive. Start at the Noorderkerk and make your way to the Westerkerk via the Westerstraat and Prinsengracht. Along this route you will walk past countless historical buildings, the Cheese Museum and the Anne Frank House. Stop by Kessens for breakfast or lunch before you head on to the Johnny Jordaanplein and end your tour with a drink and bitterballen (a traditional Dutch snack) at one of Amsterdam’s oldest cafe’s, Cafe De Jordaan.
If you want to fit in as many highlights as possible in as little as possible time, start at Dam square. The Royal Palace, De Nieuwe Kerk, Madame Tussaud: it’s all there. From here on make your way to Begijnhof, a tiny green oasis in the midst of the city centre. Walk past the Spui and the Singel to stumble onto the floating flower market after a few minutes of walking. This colorful place will instantly put a smile on your face.
Have a peek inside Amsterdam’s oldest movie theaters Tuschinski before you head over to The Night Watch statue on Rembrandt square. Feeling hungry after all of this sightseeing? Just around the corner you will find De Bajes for a drink and a bite or Guts & Glory offering amazing dishes to end your tour with.
09. Take a walk in the park: Amsterdam’s beautiful outdoor scene
It doesn’t matter if it’s simmering hot or wintery cold, whenever the sun is out in Amsterdam the locals head to the first terrace or park they can find to soak up some vitamin D. Whether you’re looking for a spot to relax, go for a morning run or to have a picnic, Amsterdam has enough beautiful city park options to choose from.
The most popular park in Amsterdam is the Vondelpark, located in the city center. You’ll find groups of friends hanging out, families barbequing and kids playing. ‘T Blauwe Theehuisje is an icon amongst locals and the perfect spot to sit down with a cold beer or a nice cup of hot chocolate after your stroll around the park.
Located in the West district is The Westerpark, which is more of a grass field than an actual park but the neighboring cultural centre Westergasfabriek definitely makes it worth a visit. Another option is the Amsterdam Forest (yes, forest) just on the edge of the city. Rent a pedal boat, go for a serene walk or visit the goat farm for their homemade goat’s milk ice cream and cheese.
10. Shop till you drop: Shopping districts in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is slowly becoming a key player when it comes to fashion. Main shopping streets the Kalverstraat and the Leidsestraat are your go to when it comes to retailers like H&M, Zara and Topshop but there is much more to explore. The negen straatjes (9 Streets) district is known to be the go to for vintage finds and high end, yet affordable fashion pieces. There’s an abundance of good lunch and dinner spots, so there is lots to choose from if you’re feeling tired and hungry after a long shopping spree. Go for a healthy brunch at Pluk or indulge in the modern Italian cuisine at Libertine in the Berenstraat.
The Utrechtsestraat has a similar shop, wine and dine vibe to the one at the 9 Streets. This street runs from Rembrandt square up until Frederiks square, from where it’s walking distance to the De Pijp district. Boutique stores offering unique fashion and interior design have taken this neighborhood by storm. Another good thing to know: De Pijp is home to some of the best breakfast and lunch spots in town.
Looking for luxury brands? Shop until you drop at Amsterdam’s biggest shopping mall The Bijenkorf on Dam square. From the Bijenkorf it’s a short walk to Gassan Diamonds for the city’s most exclusive jewelry and watches or head over to the P.C. Hooftstraat near Museum square. Here you will find luxury stores from brands like Chanel, Prada, Tiffany & Co and Louis Vuitton
11. Stroll along one of the Street Markets: from vintage to flowers
Amsterdam is known for its abundance in street markets loved by both tourists and locals. Located in the buzzing ‘De Pijp’ area you will find the most famous street market in Amsterdam and the biggest in Europe: the Albert Cuyp market. Stroll along the 260 stalls, try out the newest beauty products, find a fabulous outfit and buy your partner some flowers. Definitely don’t miss out on all of the local treats you can get there. The giant hot stroopwafels (cookie with filling) and poffertjes (mini pancakes) are to die for. Another true Dutch delicacy is a raw herring with onions and pickles. Certainly not everyone’s favorite but if you’re in for something new, tilt back your head and have a bite.
The Wester(street)market is located in the Jordaan district and runs along the Westerstraat. Held every Monday, this originally was a textile market. Nowadays you can go there for second hand clothes, shoes and sometimes even designer labels. If you are looking for vintage picks, make sure to visit the Amsterdam’s oldest flea market on Waterloo square. Art, vinyl, handmade jewelry and clothes, name it and you’ll find it.
Fashion fanatics will have a good time at the huge flea market IJ-Hallen. Go there before the good stuffs gone, from €4 dresses to €40 designer pieces.
12. Delve into the vibrating Amsterdam nightlife
The Netherlands is home to the top 5 DJ’s in the world, so what else would you expect from Amsterdam’s nightlife than for it to be extraordinary. Whether you like to sit back and relax at a bar or you’d rather dance the night away in a vibrating club, Amsterdam has got it all.
You won’t find many locals in the city center bars for they will more likely head to the Pijp or Jordaan area. Great bars and cosy café’s can be found around Marie Heinekenplein, Gerard Douplein and the Westerstraat. Fancy a cocktail? Head over to one of the many rooftop bars Amsterdam has to offer for drinks with a view.
The best-known clubs are situated in the city center around Rembrandt- and Leidse square. Shake it off to some R&B at the Jimmy Woo or visit Escape on Fridays if you like electronic music. In it for the long haul? End your night at the Bubbels: a small dance café packed with students, open until 5:00 on weekends.
13. Check off things from your bucket list: your not so average coffee shop
Don’t mistake the coffee shops in Amsterdam for the typical family friendly ‘get a latte and a slice of pie’ type of place. The menu you will get presented in an Amsterdam coffee shop will be one with marijuana, hash and space cake. Although technically against the law, the selling and buying of soft drugs is condoned in the Netherlands and has given the city its somewhat notorious reputation.
One of the most famous coffeeshops in Amsterdam is ‘De Dampkring’. This coffeeshop became known after the film crew of Oceans 12 was spotted there. A bit touristy but definitely worth taking a peek, even if it’s only for their cosy and space friendly interior. High-quality cannabis can be found at The Boerenjongens (Farmersboys). They are quite new to the scene but rapidly became one of the most popular coffee shop chains in town. No dark and smokey vibes here; their shop in the Utrechtsestraat is designed like and old pharmacy. Barney’s is the place to be for long hang-out sessions. To the content of the high and hungry they serve proper breakfast, lunch and dinner. Bear in mind that you have to be 18 years and over to enter a coffee shop and that smoking regular cigarettes inside is not allowed.
14. Check out a neighborhood upcoming: from hotspots to undiscovered gems
Amsterdam has some world renowned neighborhoods like the Pijp and the Jordaan, but there is a new hotspot in town. Since a few years East turned from a decay neighborhood to one of the hottest areas in the city. Boutique fashion stores, hip lunch spots, restaurants by renowned chefs, it’s all there. Head over to Beukenplein for an amazing burger at Mississippi or walk the Javastraat, where you’ll find a fun mix of cultures, restaurants and bars. When here stop by the Tropenmuseum situated next to the Oosterpark. The buildings architecture alone is totally worth the visit. The east district is also home to one of the prettiest and most undiscovered parks of Amsterdam: The Flevopark. Perfect for a stroll during colder days or a refreshing dive in the outdoor pool Flevoparkbad in Summer.
Another neighborhood you should know about and is worth paying a visit is Amsterdam Noord, going there with the (free) ferry from Central Station is just the start of a fun experience. Arising on the harbour across you’ll find one of Amsterdam’s newest architectural eye catchers, the EYE Filmmuseum. Their collection represents over 40.000 films, from cult and classics to blockbusters. The ADAM Tower just next to the EYE museum has something fun for the daredevils. The futuristic elevator will take you all the way to the top for a view over the city and Europe’s highest swing. Get yourself a table at MOON for some fine dining and a breathtaking 360˚panorama view or walk over to Loetje aan ‘t IJ, offering an amazing waterfront view and their famous beefsteak.
15. Things to do in Amsterdam not to be missed on your to do list
Visiting the Anne Frank House and Museum is often listed in the top 3 of things to do. Get a glimpse on how she hid from the Nazi’s during World War II and learn about her family’s history. It can be an overwhelming experience yet one you will remember forever.
So, there you go. Whenever you’re planning to visit and for however long, we know for sure this article has given you enough inspiration to make your stay in Amsterdam as incredible as possible. Bike around, be amazed, take loads of pictures and stay safe. We hope you enjoy the city as much as we do.
Let us know your favorite things to do or places to visit are in the comments below!
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