From the breathtaking canals to floating flower markets, the city of Amsterdam is home to millions of visitors a year. Whether you’re peddling through the city on a bicycle or exploring the red light district by foot; this vibrant and electric city will have you begging for more. Full of museums, coffee shops and a very famous brewery; you won’t want to leave any stone unturned. Follow along as we explore the beautiful city of Amsterdam and recommend the top twelve things to see and do while you are there.
1. Visit the Red Light District
Most people think of the red light district when they think of Amsterdam and that’s how it ends up as number one on our list of things to see and do in the city. There are lots of guided walking tours through the district if that’s what you prefer but most people choose to walk freely down the streets. An old and beautiful area of the city with winding cobblestone streets and 14th century architecture the district is best seen during the day and at night. Appreciate the beauty and serenity during the day and come back at night to witness the liveliness of the streets. The Sex Museum, the Condom Shop known as Condomerie and theaters such as Moulin Rouge along with the infamous “window girls” are all what you will find here. Appreciate the cleanliness, the freedom of expression and the uniqueness of the Red Light District in Amsterdam.
2. Find a Coffee Shop
With over 200 coffee shops (not to be confused with cafes) in Amsterdam; finding one to visit isn’t hard. Whether you decide to visit the original coffee shop; Mellow Yellow which takes you back to the 1970’s or choose to visit a hip non touristy location such as De Graal which includes a recording studio in the back, this is a tradition for any visitor to the city. Sit back, relax and join in on the slow paced lifestyle that the locals live by. A good tip to remember is to ask the person at the counter for a menu and suggestions; they often know best.
3. Visit a Museum
Amsterdam is home to the largest collection of Van Gogh’s drawings and painting with over 700 pieces of work housed in the Van Gogh Museum. Organized in chronological order and over several floors this museum starts with the first pieces from Van Gogh and advances all the way until his death. Along with the paintings and drawings, there is a collection of tools that Van Gogh used. We recommend either pre-purchasing tickets or going first thing in the morning as the line up tends to get quite long later in the day. If Van Gogh isn’t your forte head over to The Rijksmuseum where a large collection of Dutch art and history is on display. Pick up a free map at the front and weave your way through this beautiful recently renovated impressive collection of paintings, sculptures and culture.
4. Floating Flower Market
Stroll over to Singel next, a canal that is famous for its floating flower market. All the vendors set up their merchandise on floating barges, making this experience unlike any other. Discover the multitude of tulips bursting in different colors, cacti and many other indoor plants. Bulbs are perhaps the most popular item to snag here at a great price. Souvenir shops also line the canal and it’s a good spot to pick up any little gifts before heading home. Spend an hour or two strolling through the fragment market that has become an Amsterdam attraction and chat with the locals, grab a coffee and enjoy the atmosphere.
5. Try a stroopwafle (or 2 or 3)
If there is one food you cannot miss out on in Amsterdam it is the infamous stroopwafle. They can be described as a waffle made with two thin layers of dough with a sticky sweet caramel or molasses like syrup in the middle. There is much debate on who offers the best stroopwafle in Amsterdam so here are a couple places to get you started. We suggest visiting them all. Lanksroon is a canal side bakery that creates fresh stroopwafles throughout the day. This historic bakery makes the waffles a bit thicker and larger than the traditional method but taste just as good, if not better. The other most popular place to get a stroopwafle is from the man at Albert Cupymarkt. The single vendor that sells stroopwafles at this market, he offers up a traditional thin wafer with extra sweet syrup inside.
6. Explore Albert Cupymarkt
While you’re eating your delicious stroopwaffle from the vendor, why not take some time to explore this local street market. One of the oldest markets and definitely the largest daytime street markets in Europe you can find anything from fresh fish for sale to unique items you can’t find anywhere else. Open six days a week with over 260 stalls you will find hours of entertainment in shopping and browsing everything from luggage to fresh fruit and veggies. The perfect place to enjoy Amsterdam’s laid back attitude and sense of humor, and a great place to pick up anything you might have forgotten to bring with you. When you are all bargained out head to the Heineken Experience for a much needed beverage.
7. Tour the Heineken Brewery
A staple on our list when it comes to Amsterdam is to get the full Heineken experience. Although the brewery no longer brews any beer, it has been turned into an informative and fun experience to learn the history behind one of the largest beer producers in the world. Tour four levels of historical artifacts with a guide who will speak to you about how Heineken got started, how they brew the beer and give you free product samples. In recent years Heineken has introduced interactive exhibits to the experience and you will find yourself surrounded by a photo booth, videos and even a 4D ride. Learn how to pour the perfect European pint, admire the authentic historic photographs and enjoy a couple of pints. Proost!
8. NDSM Wharf
Find the ferry behind Central Station and hop on the free ferry to NDSM Wharf and enter into a different world. What looks to be an abandoned shipyard is actually a cultural hotspot brimming with hundreds of studios and theaters. A city sponsored art community has taken over the shipyard and transformed it into an extraordinary artistic workplace. Shipping containers turned into beachside bars, warehouses turned into art studios, revamped buildings turned into headquarters for companies such as MTV and street art now make up this site. Come to wander around and explore a different side of Amsterdam, view the street junk turned art and grab a beer and a bite to eat at one of the unique restaurants that line the water. NDSM Wharf is the beginning of something new and exciting for the city and you won’t want to miss being a part of this epic adventure.
9. Take a Canal Tour
Discover the beauty of Amsterdam by hopping aboard one of the many canal tours that are offered in the city. A history rich tradition of inviting royalty and VIP’s on to the boats in the canals lives on today as one of the more popular things to do here. Glide between the walls and look up to admire the awe-inspiring architecture as you gently float through the canal waters. Choose from guided tours to dinner cruises to sunset romance tours; with over 200 vessels the choices are endless. Learn about the history of the city through audio guided tours and discover a view of the city that is unlike anywhere else. Sip a cocktail, sit back and let the gently lapping water lull you into a dream like state of mind.
10. Anne Frank Museum
Perhaps the most important place to visit in Amsterdam in regards to history is the Anne Frank Museum. Visiting the actual location where Anne Frank hid during the Second World War and wrote her diary is unlike any other experience in Amsterdam. Tour the house which includes her hiding spot, exhibitions on the life of Anne Frank, original pieces of the diary and an exhibit on the forms of persecution and discrimination. This happens to be one of the busiest places to visit on our list and we do encourage visitors to buy their tickets in advance or be prepared to wait in a long line. Visiting after 5pm seems to be the least busy if you want to avoid large crowds. The Anne Frank Museum will stir your emotions and certainly have you reflecting on your own life and is an absolute must when in Amsterdam.
Hop on a bike and take the day to explore Vondelpark. The largest city park in Amsterdam, it’s home to more than 10 million visitors each year. Loaded with lakes, trees, green space and friendly locals this is the perfect place to take a break from the bustling city. Catch a free summer concert at the open-air theater or at the parks bandstand. Traverse the bike paths with inline skates or a bicycle. Pack a picnic and laze in the grass all afternoon catching rays of sunshine. Visit the historic pavilion and grab a drink on the outside patio or admire the grand statue of Vondel. If you have the kiddies in tow, make sure to visit the huge playground and let them run free throughout the park. Vondelpark is the perfect getaway to relax, enjoy and take in the beauty of nature right in the midst of the city.
12. Stroll The Nine Streets
Enter into the hip and happening melting pot of this beautiful city when you stroll through The Nine Streets. In the heart of the canal district is one of the most delightful places to shop in the city. A combination of small unique boutiques, fashion shops and big name designers make up this trendy area. Get lost wandering through the streets, stopping to dine at one of many small cafes or restaurants. A blend of modern and vintage comes together to enthrall any visitor. You won’t find hordes of tourists here; instead you will find genuine local shops offering authentic cuisine and merchandise. Trust us; you don’t want to miss out on this hidden gem.