Amsterdam canal

Amsterdam: A Comprehensive Guide to the Top Things to Do

Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands, is a vibrant and diverse destination that offers a multitude of experiences. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, history buff, food lover, or simply seeking a unique adventure, this city has it all. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the top things to do in Amsterdam, providing you with valuable insights and recommendations to make the most of your visit.

Top attractions in Amsterdam

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Van Gogh Museum

Amsterdam is home to a plethora of iconic attractions that showcase the city’s rich history and culture. One must-visit landmark is the Anne Frank House, where you can learn about the inspiring story of Anne Frank and the Holocaust.

The Van Gogh Museum is another must-see, housing the largest collection of Van Gogh’s artworks in the world. For a taste of Dutch history, visit the Rijksmuseum, which displays an extensive collection of art and artifacts from the Golden Age of the Netherlands. The museum is one of Amsterdam’s most popular attractions, and is renowned for displaying over 8000 European masterpieces.

Exploring the canals of Amsterdam

Amsterdam Canals
Amsterdam Canals

Amsterdam is famous for its intricate network of canals, which have earned it the nickname “Venice of the North.” Exploring the canals is a quintessential Amsterdam experience that can be done in various ways. One of the best ways is to take a canal cruise to admire the city’s stunning architecture and picturesque bridges.

Alternatively, rent a pedal boat or kayak to navigate the canals at your own pace. Don’t forget to wander along the canal-side streets, known as “grachten,” to soak up the charming atmosphere and discover hidden gems.

Exploring Amsterdam by bike

Cycling in Amsterdam
Cycling in Amsterdam

Cycling is an integral part of Amsterdam’s culture, and exploring the city by bike is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the local lifestyle. With its extensive network of bike lanes and flat terrain, Amsterdam is incredibly bike-friendly. Rent a bike from one of the many rental shops and pedal your way through the city’s charming streets and along the scenic canals.

You can follow the designated bike routes to discover lesser-known neighbourhoods, parks, and attractions. Just remember to follow the traffic rules, be mindful of pedestrians, and lock your bike securely when not in use.

Exploring Amsterdam’s neighbourhoods

Albert Cuypmarkt in De Pijp, Amsterdam
Albert Cuypmarkt in De Pijp

Amsterdam is divided into several distinct neighbourhoods, each offering its own unique charm and atmosphere. The Jordaan neighbourhood, known for its narrow streets and trendy boutiques, is a favourite among locals and tourists alike with its picturesque canals, art galleries, and cosy cafés. De Pijp is another vibrant neighbourhood, known for its lively street market, Albert Cuypmarkt, and its diverse culinary scene.

The Red Light District, although controversial, is a part of Amsterdam’s history and offers a unique insight into the city’s liberal attitudes. Other neighbourhoods worth exploring include Oud-West, with its trendy bars and boutiques, and De Wallen, known for its historic buildings and vibrant nightlife.

Enjoying Amsterdam’s nightlife

Red Light District at night, Amsterdam
Red Light District at night

Amsterdam is renowned for its vibrant nightlife, with a plethora of options to suit every taste. The city offers a diverse range of bars, clubs, and live music venues, ensuring that there is something for everyone. Start your evening with a visit to a traditional Dutch “brown café,” where you can enjoy a local beer in a cosy atmosphere. For a more sophisticated experience, head to one of the city’s stylish cocktail bars or rooftop lounges.

If you’re a music lover, check out the city’s live music scene, which offers everything from jazz and blues to electronic and indie rock- but if you’re looking for something a little less PG, head to the aforementioned infamous Red Light District for a taste of Amsterdam’s unique after-hours culture.

Shopping in Amsterdam

The Mill Diamonds Diamond Factory, Amsterdam
The Mill Diamonds Diamond Factory

Amsterdam is a shopper’s paradise, offering a wide range of shopping opportunities to suit every budget and style. The city is known for its trendy fashion scene, with numerous boutiques and concept stores showcasing both local and international designers. The Nine Streets (De Negen Straatjes) is a charming area filled with unique shops, vintage boutiques, and artisanal stores.

For high-end shopping, head to the luxury shopping street, P.C. Hooftstraat, where you’ll find renowned fashion brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci. Take a tour at one of the city’s many diamond factories and watch rough diamonds being cut, polished and set. Amsterdam has been a diamond trading centre for centuries. As such, you’ll find very competitive prices at the multiple diamond shops in the city.

Don’t forget to explore the city’s vibrant markets, including the aforementioned Albert Cuypmarkt and the Waterlooplein flea market, where you can hunt for vintage treasures.

Where to eat in Amsterdam

Amsterdam cheese deli
Amsterdam cheese deli

Amsterdam’s culinary scene is diverse and vibrant, offering a wide range of international cuisines as well as traditional Dutch dishes. Indulge in delicious Dutch cheese at one of the city’s cheese shops, such as De Kaaskamer or Reypenaer Tasting Room. For a traditional Dutch meal, head to a “bruin café” and try dishes like stamppot (mashed potatoes with vegetables) or bitterballen (deep-fried meatballs).

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to try Indonesian cuisine, a remnant of the Netherlands’ colonial past, at one of the city’s many Indonesian restaurants.

Amsterdam also boasts a thriving street food scene. The many food trucks and stalls offer everything from delicious stroopwafels to mouth-watering falafel.

Famous museums in Amsterdam

Eye Film Museum, Amsterdam
Eye Film Museum

In addition to the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam boasts several other world-class museums that provide visitors with a glimpse into its fascinating past. Two of the main historical museums in Amsterdam are the National Maritime Museum and the Amsterdam Museum. These museums have been modernized and prepared to offer an immersive experience for visitors, as does the Eye Film Museum which houses an extensive film archive and film museum, as well as a cinema showing both Dutch and foreign films.

Other notable history museums in Amsterdam, such as the Jewish Historical Museum, the National Holocaust Museum and the Anne Frank House focus on documenting the history of Jews in the Netherlands and the Holocaust.

The Stedelijk Museum showcases modern and contemporary art, featuring works by renowned artists such as Mondrian and Warhol. Meanwhile the Hermitage Amsterdam is another notable museum, displaying rotating exhibitions from the renowned Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

Other museums worth exploring include the Rembrandt House Museum, Muiderslot Castle, Tropenmuseum, Willet-Holthuysen Museum, and the Museum Van Loon. Each museum offers a unique perspective on different aspects of Amsterdam’s history and culture.

Visitors can expect to find a wide range of exhibits, artifacts, and interactive displays that bring the city’s past to life. Whether you’re interested in maritime history, art, or the Holocaust, Amsterdam’s history museums offer something for everyone to explore and learn from.

Visiting the Anne Frank House

Anne Frank House front door
Anne Frank House front door

The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is a significant historical site and museum dedicated to the life and experiences of Anne Frank, a Jewish wartime diarist. Located in the actual house where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis during World War II, the museum opened its doors to the public in 1960. It has since become one of the most visited museums in the Netherlands, attracting over a million visitors annually.

The museum not only preserves the secret annex where Anne Frank lived, but also provides valuable information about her life and the plight of Jews during the war. Visitors can explore the rooms where Anne Frank wrote in her diary and view the original diary itself, along with other related artefacts. As you walk through the rooms and narrow staircases, you gain insight into the harsh realities of life in hiding.

The annex remains empty as per the request of Anne’s father, Otto Frank, adding to the authenticity and solemnity of the experience. The Anne Frank House is a must-visit for anyone interested in learning about this significant period in history and gaining insight into Anne Frank’s remarkable life.

Important information

The museum offers a free audio tour in multiple languages to enhance the visitor’s experience, and there is a shop where visitors can purchase books and other items related to Anne Frank and her story, as well as a cafe. The museum does not accept cash payments, so make sure to bring a card if you intend to buy souvenirs.

Be aware that photography is not permitted inside the house in order to protect the items and avoid causing nuisance to other visitors. Additionally, only bags smaller than a piece of A4 paper are allowed inside as there are no storage facilities.

The museum is an extremely popular attraction and visitors are required to book a time slot in advance online. This is mainly due to the size of the building (it is after all a small canal house). The museum is open as late as 10pm during summer, but closes earlier during the winter.

Unique experiences in Amsterdam

Museumplein ice skating, Amsterdam
Museumplein ice skating

While exploring Amsterdam, consider indulging in some unique experiences that will make your trip even more memorable. If you visit during winter, you may be lucky enough to catch the city’s famous canals freeze over. The canals don’t freeze over every year as the temperature needs to drop below -5°Celsius for natural ice to form that is thick enough to skate on. When it does, the waterways are transformed into magical sparkling highways, allowing locals to travel around the city on their skates.

January is generally the coldest month of the year and the best chance to experience canal skating. If your visit doesn’t coincide with the ice freezing over then Amsterdam has a number of ice rinks open over the winter. These include the famous Museumplein pictured above in front of the Rijksmuseum.

For unique experiences during spring and summer you can visit the famous Bloemenmarkt, the world’s only floating flower market, where you can immerse yourself in a sea of vibrant colours and fragrances. Take a bike tour through the city (cycling being the preferred mode of transportation for locals) and for a taste of the local cuisine, stop to try raw herring from a street vendor or indulge in a traditional Dutch pancake at a pancake house.

Day trips from Amsterdam


While Amsterdam has much to offer, there are also numerous exciting day trips to be taken from the city. Just a short train ride away is Haarlem, known for its stunning architecture, historic landmarks, and vibrant cultural scene. Keukenhof, the world-famous flower garden, is another popular day trip destination. It’s especially during spring when the tulips are in full bloom.

For a historical and cultural experience, visit the picturesque city of Utrecht, with its medieval city centre and beautiful canals. The iconic windmills of Zaanse Schans provide a glimpse into the Netherlands’ rural past and make for a memorable day trip.

Most Dutch cities are reachable within a couple of hours from Amsterdam, including Rotterdam, Groningen, the Hague, Leiden and Maastrict. You can also reach major German cities such as Dortmund, Essen, Dusseldorf and Cologne. In Belgium, Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges are easily accessible. High speed trains offer comfort, while companies such as Flixbus offer intercity bargains as low as €10 for return tickets.

Tips for visiting Amsterdam

To make the most of your visit to Amsterdam, here are a few helpful tips:

  1. Purchase an “I Amsterdam” city card, which provides free or discounted access to many attractions and public transportation.
  2. Be mindful of cyclists and pedestrians when walking on the streets or crossing bike lanes.
  3. Take advantage of the city’s efficient public transportation system, including trams, buses, and metros.
  4. Respect the local culture and be aware of the city’s liberal attitudes, especially in areas such as the Red Light District.
  5. Keep in mind that some attractions, such as the Anne Frank House, require advance reservations, so plan accordingly.
  6. Be cautious of pickpockets, especially in crowded tourist areas. Keep your belongings secure and be aware of your surroundings.

If you require emergency assistance in Amsterdam, dial 112 to contact emergency services.


Amsterdam truly offers a wealth of experiences for every type of traveller. From its world-class museums and historic landmarks to its charming canals and vibrant neighbourhoods, this city is a treasure trove waiting to be explored. Whether you’re immersing yourself in art and culture, enjoying the lively nightlife, or simply strolling along the canals, Amsterdam will captivate you with its unique charm.

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