Travel Advice

The 12 essential things to do in Amsterdam

Last update : 25/02/2024 11:23

Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is a fascinating and dynamic city that seamlessly blends its rich historical heritage with vibrant modernity. Here's a description of Amsterdam at various levels:

  • Canal Belt: The heart of Amsterdam is adorned with a semi-circular canvas of canals, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The canals, lined with narrow and elegant facades of houses, create a picturesque and romantic atmosphere. Strolls along these canals offer captivating views of historical architecture and iconic bridges.

  • Art Museums: Amsterdam is home to some of the world's most renowned art museums. The Van Gogh Museum showcases an impressive collection of works by the famous artist, while the Rijksmuseum exhibits artistic and historical treasures, including works by Rembrandt and Vermeer.

  • Anne Frank House: A poignant witness to history, the Anne Frank House is where Anne Frank and her family hid during World War II. The visit provides a moving perspective on this dark period of history.

  • Eclectic Nightlife: Amsterdam is famous for its lively and diverse nightlife. From traditional cafes to trendy bars and electro music clubs, the city offers a myriad of options for those looking to enjoy the night.

  • Cycling and Active Lifestyle: With its extensive network of bike lanes, Amsterdam is undeniably a biking city. Bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation for locals, adding a unique dimension to urban life.

  • Tolerance and Diversity: The city is also recognized for its open-minded and tolerant spirit. Amsterdam has been ahead on many social issues, including the legalization of certain soft substances and early recognition of LGBTQ+ rights.

  • Cafés and Markets: Outdoor cafes along the canals provide ideal spots to relax and observe local life. Markets such as the floating flower market, Albert Cuypmarkt, and the Waterlooplein flea market add a lively touch to daily life.

  • Festivals and Events: Amsterdam hosts a variety of festivals throughout the year, from cultural celebrations to artistic and musical events.

Amsterdam is a city where history, culture, creativity, and modernity converge, creating a captivating destination for travelers from around the world.

1 - Canal cruise

Canal cruise

A canal cruise in Amsterdam is a must-have experience for any visitor. Whether during the day to admire iconic architecture and historical sites or in the evening to enjoy the city's sparkling lights, here's what you can expect from a canal cruise in Amsterdam:

  • Panoramic Views: Cruises provide panoramic views of Amsterdam's picturesque canals, lined with elegant facades, iconic bridges, and historic landmarks.

  • Informative Commentary: Most cruises offer multilingual commentary, providing historical and cultural insights into the places you traverse.

  • Iconic Sites: You'll likely pass by iconic sites such as the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, the Red Light District, and the Royal Palace.

  • Romantic Atmosphere: Evening cruises create a romantic atmosphere with the sparkling lights of buildings reflecting in the water.

  • Relaxation and Comfort: Cruise boats are comfortable, typically offering indoor and outdoor seating. Some even provide snacks and drinks onboard.

  • Themed Options: There are themed cruises, including cheese-tasting cruises, romantic dinner cruises, or brunch cruises, adding a special touch to your experience.

  • Flexibility of Timing: With multiple departures throughout the day, you can choose a schedule that best suits your plans.

Whether you're interested in history, romance, or just a leisurely way to explore the city, a canal cruise in Amsterdam offers a unique perspective on this captivating city.

2 - Visit to the Rijksmuseum

Visit to the Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum located in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It is dedicated to arts and history and is one of the most famous and visited museums in the country. Here are some key points about the Rijksmuseum:

  • History: The Rijksmuseum was founded in The Hague in 1800 and moved to Amsterdam in 1808. The current building, designed by architect Pierre Cuypers, opened its doors in 1885.

  • Collection: The museum boasts an extensive collection of Dutch art and history, spanning from the Middle Ages to the contemporary period. The collection includes paintings by renowned Dutch artists such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals. The most famous painting in the collection is Rembrandt's "The Night Watch."

  • The Night Watch: Rembrandt's masterpiece, "The Night Watch" (1642), is one of the most iconic paintings in the museum. It is displayed in a specially designed gallery known as the "Gallery of Honor."

  • Other Highlights: Apart from "The Night Watch," the Rijksmuseum houses an impressive array of artworks, including Vermeer's "The Milkmaid," Jan Steen's "The Merry Family," and many other notable pieces from the Dutch Golden Age.

  • Decorative Arts and History: The museum also features a wide range of decorative arts, historical artifacts, and objects that provide insights into Dutch culture and history.

  • Library and Research Center: The Rijksmuseum has a library and research center that houses a vast collection of books, documents, and archives related to art and history.

  • Renovation: The Rijksmuseum underwent an extensive renovation that lasted for almost ten years and was completed in 2013. The renovation aimed to modernize the facilities while preserving the historic character of the building.

  • Gardens: The museum is surrounded by beautiful gardens, providing a pleasant outdoor space for visitors to relax.

The Rijksmuseum is a cultural treasure trove and a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts and history lovers visiting Amsterdam.

3 - Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh Museum

The Van Gogh Museum is another iconic museum located in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Here are some key details about the Van Gogh Museum:

  • History: The Van Gogh Museum is dedicated to the life and works of the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries. It opened its doors to the public in 1973.

  • Collection: The museum houses the largest collection of Van Gogh's paintings and drawings in the world. It features over 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and 700 letters by Vincent van Gogh.

  • Masterpieces: Some of the most famous paintings by Van Gogh in the museum's collection include "The Bedroom," "Sunflowers," "Irises," and "Almond Blossom."

  • Exhibitions: In addition to Van Gogh's works, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions that explore various aspects of his life, art, and the art world of his time.

  • Documentation Center: The Van Gogh Museum has a documentation center that includes the artist's letters, sketches, and other archival material. This provides insight into the artist's creative process and personal life.

  • Building Design: The museum's building was designed by architect Gerrit Rietveld and opened in 1973. It underwent a renovation in the late 20th century, and the new exhibition wing was added in 1999.

  • Museum Shop and Café: The museum has a shop where you can purchase reproductions of Van Gogh's artwork, books, and other art-related items. There's also a café where you can take a break and enjoy refreshments.

  • Visitor Tips: Like the Rijksmuseum, it's advisable to purchase tickets in advance to avoid long queues. Consider getting an audio guide to enhance your understanding of the artworks.

  • Educational Programs: The museum offers educational programs for various age groups, including workshops and guided tours.

  • Interactive Elements: The museum often incorporates interactive elements and multimedia displays to engage visitors and provide a deeper understanding of Van Gogh's art and life.

Visiting the Van Gogh Museum is a must for art enthusiasts, and it offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of one of the most influential painters in art history.

4 - Walk in the Red Light District

Walk in the Red Light District

The Red Light District of Amsterdam, also known as De Wallen, is a famous district in the city center of Amsterdam, Netherlands. Here are some key points about the Red Light District:

  • Legalized Prostitution: The Red Light District is known for its windows where sex workers display their services. Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, and the Red Light District is one of the areas where it is practiced openly.

  • Illuminated Windows: Sex workers present their services behind illuminated windows along the narrow streets of the district. The characteristic red lights indicate that sex workers are available.

  • Cafés and Bars: In addition to prostitution, the Red Light District is home to numerous cafés, bars, and restaurants. It's a lively area with diverse nightlife.

  • Historic Architecture: De Wallen is one of Amsterdam's oldest neighborhoods, with preserved historic architecture. You'll find traditional Dutch buildings, picturesque canals, and cobblestone streets.

  • Museums: The district also hosts interesting museums, including the Museum of Prostitution (Red Light Secrets), which provides insight into the history of prostitution in Amsterdam.

  • Tourism: The Red Light District is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Amsterdam. Visitors can explore the area on foot, but it's crucial to respect the privacy of sex workers and adhere to established rules.

  • Tolerance Policy: Dutch authorities have adopted a policy of tolerance toward prostitution and the Red Light District, while implementing regulations to protect sex workers and ensure a safe environment.

  • Safety: While the Red Light District is generally safe for visitors, it's advisable to remain vigilant, especially at night, and to show respect for those who work and live in the area.

  • Tolerance Policy: Dutch authorities have adopted a policy of tolerance toward prostitution and the Red Light District, while implementing regulations to protect sex workers and ensure a safe environment.

  • Special Events: The Red Light District can host special events and festivals throughout the year. It's recommended to check for local events before planning a visit.

The Red Light District is a unique blend of culture, history, nightlife, and controversy, attracting visitors from around the world. If you decide to visit, make sure to respect the environment and the people who live and work there.

5 - Coffee shops

Coffee shops

In Amsterdam, coffee shops are unique establishments where it is legal to purchase and consume cannabis within a regulated framework. These should not be confused with regular cafés. Here are some key points to know about Amsterdam's coffee shops:

  • Cannabis Sales: Amsterdam's coffee shops are authorized to sell cannabis to customers who are at least 18 years old. These establishments are often known for their variety of cannabis products, including pre-rolled joints and edibles.

  • On-Site Consumption: In most coffee shops, customers can consume cannabis on-site, usually in a relaxed atmosphere. Some establishments also have designated smoking areas.

  • Quantity Limits: Customers are typically limited to purchasing a certain amount of cannabis per visit. Specific rules vary between establishments and are regulated by the municipality.

  • Mandatory Identification: To enter a coffee shop and purchase cannabis, a form of identification proving that you are at least 18 years old is usually required.

  • Alcohol Sales Prohibited: Most coffee shops do not sell alcohol. The consumption of alcohol and cannabis in the same establishment is generally prohibited.

  • Respect for Rules: It is important to respect the specific rules of each coffee shop and adhere to applicable laws. Establishments are regularly inspected to ensure compliance.

  • Variety of Strains: Coffee shops often offer a variety of cannabis strains, each with its own characteristics in terms of taste, aroma, and effects.

  • Cannabis Education: Some coffee shops strive to provide educational information about cannabis, including advice on responsible consumption.

It's crucial to remember that while cannabis consumption is legal in Amsterdam's coffee shops, it is still subject to strict rules. Visitors should be informed and respectful of local laws and the policies of each establishment.

6 - Visit to the Anne Frank House

Visit to the Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is a museum dedicated to the story of Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who wrote a diary during World War II. Here are some key points about the Anne Frank House:

  • History: The Anne Frank House is located in the center of Amsterdam and is the house where Anne Frank and her family hid during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.

  • Anne Frank's Diary: Anne Frank wrote her diary, "The Diary of Anne Frank," during the time her family was in hiding. The diary was discovered and published after the war, becoming one of the most moving accounts of that era.

  • Museum Visit: The museum is set up in the secret annex where Anne Frank and her family lived in hiding. Visitors can see the original rooms, historical documents, and exhibitions related to the Holocaust.

  • Collections: The museum displays original objects, photographs, and documents related to Anne Frank's life and the persecution of Jews during the war.

  • Historical Testimony: The Anne Frank House serves as a poignant testimony to the horrors of persecution during the Holocaust and emphasizes the importance of combating discrimination and intolerance.

  • Visitation: Due to its historical significance, the Anne Frank House attracts a large number of visitors from around the world. It is recommended to book tickets in advance to avoid long queues.

  • Education: The museum offers educational programs for young people and school groups to raise awareness about themes of tolerance and respect.

  • Events: The museum occasionally hosts special events, temporary exhibitions, and conferences to deepen understanding of this dark period in history.

The Anne Frank House is a moving place that provides visitors with an opportunity to reflect on the past and remember the atrocities of the Holocaust. It is a must-visit historical site for those traveling to Amsterdam.

7 - Vondelpark

Vondelpark

Vondelpark, a renowned public park in Amsterdam, takes its name from the Dutch playwright Joost van den Vondel. Established in 1865, the park has undergone expansions and renovations over the years, evolving into one of the city's most beloved green spaces. Nestled in the southwest of the city center, Vondelpark is surrounded by residential neighborhoods and is easily accessible on foot or by bike from various parts of the city.

This picturesque park boasts a range of facilities, including playgrounds, ponds, cycling and walking paths, sculptures, sports fields, cafes, and landscaped gardens. It serves as an ideal retreat for locals and visitors alike to unwind amidst nature.

Vondelpark also comes alive with a variety of cultural events, open-air concerts, artistic performances, and festivals. Whether for jogging, cycling, or simply relaxing, many people frequent the park to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Due to its proximity to the city center, Vondelpark is easily reachable by public transportation. It stands as a green oasis in the heart of Amsterdam, providing a peaceful haven for those seeking nature and outdoor leisure.

8 - Shopping in Jordaan

Shopping in Jordaan

Shopping in the Jordaan district in Amsterdam offers a unique and diverse experience with its picturesque streets, original boutiques, and bohemian atmosphere. If you're interested in exploring the shopping scene in Jordaan, here are some places to check out:

  • The 9 Straatjes (The 9 Streets): This neighborhood, located near Jordaan, is famous for its nine picturesque streets filled with unique shops, art galleries, concept stores, and cafes. You'll find a wide variety of clothing, accessories, vintage items, and artistic creations.

  • Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk: These two streets, also nearby Jordaan, offer a diverse selection of shops, design boutiques, vintage fashion stores, bookshops, and cafes. It's an excellent area to discover one-of-a-kind items.

  • Noordermarkt: This market takes place on Mondays and Saturdays, offering a variety of products, including vintage clothing, accessories, jewelry, organic products, and more. It's a lively market that's worth exploring.

  • Brouwersgracht: Often considered one of the most beautiful streets in Amsterdam, Brouwersgracht features antique shops, art galleries, and small boutiques. It's also a delightful area for a canal-side stroll.

  • Westerstraat: This street is known for its flea market held on Mondays. You can find vintage clothing, retro furniture, decor items, and more.

  • Concept Stores: Jordaan is home to several concept stores offering a variety of products, from fashion to art and design objects. These stores often feature unique and trendy selections.

By exploring these places, you can discover a wide range of items, from vintage treasures to contemporary fashion, all while enjoying the charming atmosphere of Jordaan.

9 - Visit the Johan Cruijff ArenA

Visit the Johan Cruijff ArenA

Visiting the Johan Cruijff ArenA, formerly known as the Amsterdam ArenA, is a great experience for football enthusiasts. Here are some useful tips if you plan to visit the Johan Cruijff ArenA:

  1. Guided Tours: The best way to explore the stadium is by taking a guided tour. These tours take you behind the scenes, including the locker rooms, stands, and other areas typically reserved for players and staff.

  2. Hours and Availability: Check the schedule for guided tours and make sure to book in advance, especially during peak times or on match days. Tour schedules may vary based on scheduled events at the stadium.

  3. Discovering History: The Johan Cruijff ArenA has a rich history, hosting major sporting events, including FIFA World Cup matches. Take the opportunity to learn about the stadium's history and the Ajax football club during your visit.

  4. Panoramic View: Make sure to climb up to the stands for a panoramic view of the stadium. It's an excellent opportunity to take memorable photos of the interior and the pitch.

  5. Ajax Museum: If you're a football fan, don't miss the Ajax Museum inside the stadium. You'll find trophies, historic jerseys, and other items related to the club's history.

  6. Official Store: The Johan Cruijff ArenA has an official store where you can purchase souvenirs, jerseys, and other items related to Ajax and the stadium.

  7. Access and Transportation: Check transportation options to get to the Johan Cruijff ArenA. The stadium is well-connected by public transportation, including the metro.

Before planning your visit, make sure to check the latest information on tour schedules, availability, and any events that might impact the stadium tour. Take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the unique atmosphere of a venue steeped in football history.

10 - See the windmills of Zaanse Schans

See the windmills of Zaanse Schans

The windmills of Zaanse Schans are iconic attractions in the Netherlands. Zaanse Schans is a historic village near Amsterdam, known for its well-preserved windmills and traditional wooden houses. Here is some information about these windmills:

  • History: The windmills of Zaanse Schans are part of a collection that has been moved to the region over the centuries. They were used for various industrial activities such as oil and flour production and wood sawing.

  • Operation: Some of the windmills at Zaanse Schans are still operational. You can witness demonstrations to see how they were used in the past to generate power. Some windmills also offer guided tours to explain their history and operation.

  • Types of Windmills: The windmills at Zaanse Schans include various types, such as oil mills, flour mills, and sawmills. Each had a specific function related to the local industry.

  • Panoramic View: Climb to the top of a windmill to enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding Dutch countryside. It's an excellent opportunity for taking photos and appreciating the picturesque landscape.

  • Activities at Zaanse Schans: In addition to the windmills, Zaanse Schans offers other attractions, including museums, craft workshops, traditional wooden houses, and shops selling local products.

  • Access: Zaanse Schans is easily accessible from Amsterdam. You can take a train to Zaandijk-Zaanse Schans station and then walk to the site. It's also possible to reach Zaanse Schans by boat from Amsterdam.

  • Opening Hours: The opening hours of the windmills may vary depending on the season. It's recommended to check the schedules before your visit.

Visiting the windmills of Zaanse Schans provides a fascinating glimpse into the industrial history of the Netherlands and offers a picturesque experience for history and culture enthusiasts.

11 - Day trip to Keukenhof

Day trip to Keukenhof

Keukenhof, also known as the "Gardens of Europe," is one of the largest flower gardens in the world. Located in Lisse, the Netherlands, Keukenhof is renowned for its extensive fields of tulips and other bulb flowers. Here is some useful information about Keukenhof:

  • Tulip Season: Keukenhof is open each year during the tulip season, typically from mid-March to mid-May. The exact period can vary depending on weather conditions.

  • Variety of Flowers: The park showcases an impressive variety of flowers, with millions of tulips in various colors, as well as daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses, and other spring flowers.

  • Garden Design: Keukenhof's gardens are artistically designed with beautiful floral patterns. Visitors can stroll through winding pathways, picturesque bridges, and pleasant resting areas.

  • Special Events: Keukenhof organizes various special events throughout the season, including floral exhibitions, flower parades, and other cultural activities.

  • Windmills: In addition to the flower fields, Keukenhof is home to traditional Dutch windmills, adding to the picturesque ambiance.

  • Photography: The park provides excellent opportunities for photography, especially with the flower fields as a backdrop and carefully arranged floral displays.

  • Children's Activities: Keukenhof offers special activities for children, including playgrounds, mazes, and floral treasure hunts.

  • Access: The park is accessible by car, bus from Amsterdam, or through organized tours. Parking is available on-site.

  • Shops and Restaurants: Keukenhof has souvenir shops and several restaurants where you can enjoy local dishes.

  • Purchase Bulbs: At the end of your visit, you have the opportunity to buy flower bulbs to plant in your own garden.

Keukenhof is a must-visit destination for flower and garden enthusiasts, providing a spectacular visual experience in spring. Make sure to check the exact opening dates before planning your visit.

12 - Excursion to Giethoorn

Excursion to Giethoorn

Giethoorn, often called the "Venice of the North," is a charming car-free village in the Netherlands, famous for its canals and thatched-roof houses. Boats are the main mode of transport, making it a tranquil and unique destination. Boat tours offer a serene way to explore the picturesque waterways. Walking and cycling paths provide alternative views of the village.

The traditional Dutch houses along the canals, adorned with thatched roofs, contribute to Giethoorn's idyllic atmosphere. Museums like the Museum Giethoorn 't Olde Maat Uus showcase the village's history and culture. Giethoorn is surrounded by lush gardens, and waterside restaurants offer delightful dining experiences.

Beyond its watery charm, Giethoorn is near De Wieden National Park, known for its diverse landscapes. The village occasionally hosts local events, adding to its cultural appeal. Giethoorn provides a peaceful retreat, inviting visitors to experience Dutch life amid canals, thatched roofs, and natural beauty.

Amsterdam - Where to Stay?

Amsterdam offers a variety of interesting neighborhoods to stay in, each with its own distinct charm. The choice of where to stay often depends on personal preferences, the type of experience you're looking for, and your interests. Here are some popular neighborhoods for staying in Amsterdam:

  1. City Center (Centrum): This is the historic heart of Amsterdam, where you'll find Dam Square, the Red Light District, the Museum Quarter, and many major tourist attractions. It's ideal if you want to be in the thick of the action, but it can be more lively and bustling.

  2. Jordaan: An artistic and trendy neighborhood, famous for its picturesque narrow streets, art galleries, independent shops, and charming cafes. It's a popular choice for those seeking a more laid-back atmosphere.

  3. De Pijp: A bohemian and multicultural district known for its markets, international restaurants, and lively bars. It's also close to the Museum Quarter.

  4. Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein: These central squares are surrounded by theaters, clubs, restaurants, and bars. It's an excellent choice if you're interested in Amsterdam's vibrant nightlife.

  5. Oud-West: A burgeoning neighborhood with a youthful vibe, trendy boutiques, hip cafes, and restaurants. It offers an authentic local experience.

  6. Oost (East): Up-and-coming, this area features trendy cafes, parks, and a more residential atmosphere. It provides a quieter experience while still being well-connected to the city center.

  7. Amsterdam-Noord: Located across the IJ, this former industrial area has transformed into a creative hub with trendy restaurants, art galleries, and a panoramic view of the city from the A'DAM Tower observation deck.

Choose the neighborhood based on your preferences for ambiance, proximity to your favorite sites, and your budget. Most Amsterdam neighborhoods are well-connected by public transportation, and the city is relatively compact, making it easy to move from one area to another.

Amsterdam - How to get around?

Amsterdam provides several transportation options for getting around the city. Here are some popular choices:

  1. Bicycles: Amsterdam is often referred to as the "City of Bikes." The city is highly bike-friendly, with numerous dedicated bike lanes. Renting a bike is easy and affordable, and it's one of the most popular and enjoyable ways for visitors to navigate the city.

  2. Public Transportation: Amsterdam has a well-developed public transportation network, including trams, buses, metros, and ferries. You can use the OV-chipkaart to pay for your public transportation journeys. Trams are particularly convenient for quick travel within the city center.

  3. Boats: The canals of Amsterdam are traversed by many canal cruise boats and water taxis. It's a picturesque way to experience the city from the water.

  4. Walking: Amsterdam is a relatively compact city, and many attractions are within walking distance of each other, especially in the city center. Walking is an excellent way to explore the charming streets, canals, and lively neighborhoods.

  5. Car: While driving may not be recommended in the city center due to dense traffic and limited parking, renting a car can be useful if you plan to visit locations outside the city.

  6. Taxi: Taxis are available in Amsterdam, but they are generally more expensive than other modes of transportation. Taxi stands can be found at key locations in the city, such as train stations and main squares.

In summary, biking and public transportation are typically the most convenient and efficient options for getting around Amsterdam, providing visitors with an authentic experience of the city.

Amsterdam - Best period

The best time to visit Amsterdam depends on personal preferences and the activities you wish to do. Here are some considerations for each season:

  1. Spring (March to May): Spring is a popular time to visit Amsterdam. Temperatures start to warm up, tulips bloom in gardens, and days lengthen. It's also the festival season, and the cafe terraces along the canals start to come alive.

  2. Summer (June to August): Summer in Amsterdam is pleasant with long, sunny days. It's the peak tourist season, and the city is bustling with outdoor events, festivals, and activities. Parks are green, and the canals are particularly charming.

  3. Autumn (September to November): Autumn is a quieter period after the busy summer season. Temperatures remain mild, and the leaves start to change color. It's a good time to enjoy the city with fewer crowds.

  4. Winter (December to February): Winter in Amsterdam can be cold, but the city takes on a magical atmosphere with Christmas lights and markets. The canals may freeze, offering picturesque winter scenes. It's also a time to enjoy museums and cozy indoor spaces.

Each season has its own charms, so the choice of the time to visit depends on your preferences for weather conditions and activities. Keep in mind that July and August are the busiest months, while winter may be quieter in terms of tourism. Regardless of the season, Amsterdam has something to offer throughout the year.

Last update : 25/02/2024 11:23

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