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14 Best Things to Do in Amsterdam

Wide view of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam with water and reflection in the foreground

14 Best Things to Do in Amsterdam

It’s no surprise that Amsterdam is a hugely popular tourist destination. The capital city of the Netherlands is truly unique and welcomes millions of foreign visitors all year round. Amsterdam is most famous for its canals, beautiful, crooked houses, art, culture and “coffee” shops.

Girl looking up at huge palm leaves

Things To Do In Amsterdam

Amsterdam is definitely one of our favourite city destinations in the whole world. We’ve both been a few times and can never wait to return! We could easily write a longer list here, but we’ve cut it down to some of our favourite places. So, without further ado, here is our list of the best things to do in Amsterdam.

Girl standing by the canals in Amsterdam surrounded by pink and white flowers

14 Best Things To Do In Amsterdam

I Amsterdam City Card

The first thing to mention is the I Amsterdam City Card. It grants you access to over 70 places in the city, many of which feature on our list.

1. Rijksmuseum

A girl sat outside the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam reflected in the water feature

For any art buffs out there, a visit to the Rijksmuseum is surely essential. It boasts a huge number of pieces, spanning almost a millennium. The collection includes masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age, with works from Vermeer, Steen and most notably Rembrandt.

Even if art isn’t “your thing”, it’s still really worth considering. Entry costs €20 or free if you did buy the ‘I Amsterdam’ card (just make sure to book in advance) and you’ll see some of the greatest oil paintings ever created.

2. Boat Cruise on the Canals

Girl steering a canalboat in Amsterdam

Famed for its huge number of canals, this might be the best way to explore some of the city. It’s a great way to see the tilted houses and old bridges.

You can rent boats to steer your own way around, or join one of the many trips and leave it to the professional! We actually took the second option but the friendly captain offered us to steer so we took it in turns.

3. Anne Frank House

The sign outside Anne Frank's house, a white sign with the words 'ANNE FRANK HUIS' written in black, block capitals

The house where Anne Frank and her family went into hiding during World War II is now a museum. There’s a more traditional museum area, but the most moving part is actually walking through the secret annex that the Frank family and others called home.

It’s important to book Anne Frank House tickets in advance as it’s normally fully booked at least a few days or sometimes weeks in advance.

4. Van Gogh Museum

A museum dedicated to the life and work of Vincent van Gogh. It houses some of his most famous paintings along with works from other artists.

We’d recommend taking the audio tour. It gives a great background to his life and some history about the works you can see there.

5. Micropia

A large sculpture of the microbes known as waterbears

This has got to be one of the more unusual things you’re likely to do in Amsterdam. It’s a museum dedicated to microbes! Yes, you read that correctly!

It’s surprisingly a really cool, interesting trip around the many micro-organisms that live around, on, and even in us. There are microscopes, giant sculptures, and an ant farm that we could have watched for days.

6. Botanical Gardens – Hortus Botanicus

The botanical gardens are a lot smaller than we were expecting, but still a very peaceful, beautiful place to wander and take photos.

There’s an outdoor area with a huge array of plants and trees. They also have a palm house, a large greenhouse with cactuses and a butterfly house.

7. NDSM Wharf

The area is an old shipping wharf which has been converted into a cool, hipster area. The industrial buildings combined with the vibrant street art, as well as a host of quirky bars and restaurants, make this a must visit area.

There are also a few second-hand markets there on weekends where you can scope out some vintage clothing, vinyl or maybe a unique trinket as a memento of your trip.

An industrial building with large sculptures of theatre masks in the foreground

There are free ferries that run from the centre of Amsterdam. These are the blue and white ferries that cross the river IJ (pronounced like the word “hey” without the “h”).

8. Heineken Brewery Tour

Okay, so Heineken is far from the best beer out there, particularly for craft beer fans like us. But it’d be rude not to visit, they do brew and sell billions of litres of this stuff a year!

The tour is fun and interesting. They walk you through the process of brewing lager, and you get to see the original brew room filled with the equipment. The ticket also comes with a couple of beers at the bar after the tour. Cheers! Or as the Dutch say: Proost!

9. This is Holland

‘This is Holland’ was a really fun experience. We didn’t have high expectations as it was clearly a very touristy attraction. But we thought we’d give it a go anyway and it was great.

The less we say the better as it leaves room for surprise. But it’s a cinematic experience where you learn some history about the Netherlands. The effort and execution to produce something of this quality is impressive.

10. A’DAM Tower

A’DAM Tower is a 22-storey building with great views over Amsterdam. There’s a 360-degree sky deck to walk around and admire the sights from up high.

As well as the sky deck, it’s home to the ‘Over the Edge’ Swing, which they proudly boast, is Europe’s highest swing. Swinging out over the tower, 100m up, is an awesome adrenaline rush that you cannot miss!

They also have a nice sky bar to relax and have a beer to calm the nerves after.

11. City Beach

The beach probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Amsterdam. But the city boasts a number of cool beaches. Our favourite was Pllek’s beach over on the NDSM Wharf. You can grab a beer or food and bask in the sunshine on a man-made beach.

There are other beaches dotted around Amsterdam like Sloterplas to the west and Strand Zuid to the south.

12. Wander Around the Red-Light District

Long exposure of a city tram with streaked red lights

Okay, we admit, this one might not be to everyone’s tastes. For us it was something that we wanted to see for ourselves, and somewhere we always walk around when we’re in Amsterdam. You can’t say it’s not a unique place!

Of course, there are ladies of the night behind rows of red lit windows, but there’s also museums, coffee shops and even a church!

Be sure not to take any photos or videos while visiting the district. As well as being rude to the workers here, it’s actually illegal.

13. Moco Museum

So, you’ve seen the oil paintings from the Dutch Masters and van Gogh’s back catalogue, but you’re craving something modern? Well, look no further.

Moco Museum has curated an eclectic mix of cool modern art from artists that include Banksy, Emin, Hirst, Warhol and many more.

As well as the traditional artworks, there are colourful themed rooms which make for some Instaworthy photos!

14. Visit a “Coffee” Shop

Outside an Amsterdam coffee shop

As everyone knows some of the “coffee” shops in Amsterdam also sell weed. Okay, so it might be a tourist cliché to partake while here, but it’s a novelty you can’t enjoy many places around the world.

If smoking’s not your thing, then they also do edibles like brownies, cakes, and sweets. Be careful with going overboard on the edibles, they take a while to kick in, and before you know it you’ve eaten too many!

Places to Eat & Drink

If you’re after an incredible burger, we can’t recommend Vegan Junk Food Bar enough! There are 4 locations spread around the city. These guys serve some epic burgers, loaded fries, cocktails and craft beers. All in a vibrant interior filled with street art and neon lights.

Talking of craft beers, Amsterdam (and Netherlands in general) is loaded full of high-quality craft breweries and bars. One of our favourites is Gollem Craft Beers, they have 20 beers on tap and over 200 bottles and cans from all over!

Still have time?

NEMO science museum in Amsterdam, an industrial looking building with cranes nearby

If you have longer and are looking for more things to do in Amsterdam, then there are also day trips from the city to see the windmills or tulip fields. Or you could even take a 40-minute train journey to the nearby city of Rotterdam.

There’s also the NEMO Science Museum. It’s mainly aimed at kids since it’s an interactive experience, but there’s something for everyone. If you’re a big kid, then you can still have fun here.

Looking For More Adventures?

Amsterdam made it on this list of Top 6 Adventure Travel Destinations for First-Time Travellers by our friend Hayley over on Wild Ever Since. Check out her post for some more adventurous ideas!

14 Best Things To Do In Amsterdam

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