You’ll never run out of exciting options.
Welcome to beautiful Amsterdam. The capital and largest city of the Netherlands is eager to please you with so many attractions and a ton of activities to enjoy.
People come here for several reasons – holiday, business, backpacking, nature trip, family, and so on.
Regardless of the reason, you won’t run out of exciting things to do in Amsterdam.
To help you get organised, here are just some of the things you will definitely enjoy when here.
Three of the most apparent reasons for coming to Amsterdam are the canals, windmills, and tulips. Let’s begin by focusing on them.
Cruise through the canals of Amsterdam
- Cruise through the canals of Amsterdam
- Get blown away by the windmills
- Smell the tulips and blooms
- Immerse Yourself in Amsterdam’s rich history, arts, and culture
- Dine, wine, and munch
The city’s UNESCO-protected canals are postcard-perfect, an outstanding representation of Amsterdam and the Netherlands as a whole. Quite simply, seeing the waterways and the city’s canal system is itself an amazing experience.
Amsterdam’s man-made grachten (in-city canals) is over 100 kilometres long, passing under 1,500 Instagrammable bridges and along 1,550 monuments. Each canal offers an interesting site that could easily leave you breathless.
Nothing beats a lovely slow-paced boat ride, especially after sundown when fairy lights light up the bridges, and the whole area becomes magical.
It is recommended that you go on a guided boat tour to learn fascinating facts about the city.
The boatman will take you to important landmarks – along the Gouden Bocht (Golden Curve), the well-known The Magere Brug or “skinny bridge,” the bridge on the corner of Reguliersgracht and Herengracht, and the section of Herengracht between Leidsestraat and Vijzelstraat.
Another way to experience Amsterdam’s canals is on foot or on a bicycle. There are so many surprises at every turn and through narrow lanes.
Walk around to discover gardens, restaurants, art galleries, breweries, flower stalls, old monasteries, and historical homes, as well as the hottest European clubs.
Clearly, a romantic ride or stroll along Amsterdam’s canal highway is a must when visiting the city.
According to UNESCO, the pride of the Netherlands is that the canals are a cultural heritage of “outstanding universal value”.
Get blown away by the windmills
Sadly, you can’t find Holland’s windmills in the capital city, but the good news is they are not hard to reach.
Travel just 20 minutes from the capital by train to get to the picturesque city of Haarlem to see the ultra-popular De Adriaan windmill on the banks of the river Spaarne.
This is a quintessential Dutch landmark, so you should take time to visit it when in Holland.
What now stands in Haarlem is a replica of the original windmill built-in 1778 on top of an ancient defensive tower constructed by Adriaan de Boois.
Climb on top to get a fantastic view of the historic city centre.
There are also windmills in Zaanse Schans, along with lovely rolling grasslands, traditional houses that are distinctively green, and an entire town that was built specifically to resemble the Netherlands’ industrial past. It’s just 15 minutes away by train from Amsterdam.
There should be a good reason why Zaanse Schans is visited by nearly a million visitors each year.
Then there are the 19 gigantic windmills of Kinderdijk. Although it is a bit way off from the capital (about an hour and 10 minutes), the most magnificent and well-preserved functioning windmills are in Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The windmills were built between 1722 and 1761.
Smell the tulips and blooms
Tulips are a definitive symbol of Dutch culture. In other words, your visit to the Netherlands wouldn’t be complete without checking out these beautiful blooms and basking in their beauty.
When here in spring, go to the world-famous Flower Strip or Tulip Fields between Haarlem and Leiden.
You can’t miss the rows and rows of colourful stripes stretched across miles of lowland fields. You’d be surprised to see just how beautiful it is.
If you don’t wish to go far, pick some bulbs spilling out of bouquets at the Bloemenmarkt or pay a visit at the Tulip Museum.
The ultimate place to see a spectacular show of colours is Keukenhof Garden. Come to the Netherlands in spring to see 7 million flowers in what is known as the “Garden of Europe”. Keukenhof is the largest and most famous flower park in the world, spanning 70 acres of land.
Located in Lisse, not far from Amsterdam, Keukenhof is composed of four pavilions with a majestic collection of tulips, roses, daffodils, hyacinths, orchids, carnations, irises, lilies, and many others.
This massive garden only opens from mid-March to mid-May when the tulips are in bloom.
Immerse Yourself in Amsterdam’s rich history, arts, and culture
After the canals, windmills, and tulips, it’s time to dive into the history, arts and culture of Amsterdam.
While the entire capital is rife with medieval monuments, buildings, and landmarks, Anne Frank’s House is one of the most interesting historical destinations.
This is the actual home where the young Anne Frank and her family hid from World War II atrocities.
Literary enthusiasts and history buffs know about Anne Frank. In hiding, she wrote her diary that became an international bestseller after the war, just a few years after she died at 15 years old.
Sadly, she died just two months before the war ended.
This is a tourism magnet. Waiting times are often lengthy, so come early in the morning or book online in advance.
Anne Frank House (Anne Frank Huis) on Prinsengracht is located in the arty neighbourhood of Jordaan, not far from West Church (Westerkerk), which is a Renaissance church completed in 1630.
Its 85-metre tower is the tallest in the city and plays a lovely carillon melody to proclaim the hours.
Drop by the artsy neighbourhood of Jordaan
Jordaan is the prettiest and most popular neighbourhood here. Art lovers spend most of their time in the narrow streets and quaint buildings with several art galleries, antique shops, courtyard gardens, and bars and restaurants.
Other places of interest in Jordaan are Woonbootmuseum, which is a floating museum dedicated to houseboats, the very interesting Amsterdam Cheese Museum, and the crowded open markets Lindengracht (selling local crafts, produce, flowers, and picnic goodies on Saturday mornings) and Westerstraat (a flea-market-style bazaar on Monday mornings).
Spare a little time for shopping
If you are all about shopping and flea markets, you should definitely swing by IJ-Hallen behind the Central Station, just a 5-minute walk from the ferry stop to the market.
Here you will shop ‘till you drop at so many stands that make up sprawling industrial warehouses. It is one of the best open markets in Europe.
Sift through a huge collection of records, vintage clothing, home furnishings, antiques, and many more.
Visit two master of arts museums: Van Gogh Museum
Where else can you best find history, art, and culture blended perfectly together than in museums? Amsterdam is known as the home of the most beautiful and important museums in Europe together with the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg Russia.
Two of the most popular art museums in the world are here – the Van Gogh Museum and Rembrandt House Museum.
To no one’s surprise, Van Gogh Museum is consistently one of the city’s top tourism draws since it opened in 1972. Here you can see the world’s biggest collection of Van Gogh paintings and artefacts, enticing millions of fans and art lovers to come here each year.
The displays are grouped according to the key periods of Van Gogh’s life: his realistic works (1880-1887), including the famous “The Potato Eaters”, and his Impressionist pieces from 1887-1890, which includes the ultra-popular “Vase with Sunflowers”.
In all, the museum is home to 200 paintings, 500 etchings and drawings, and 700 letters written to (and by) friends and family. Most of the things you will see on display were donated by the artist’s brother, Theo, and other family members.
Also, try the museum’s educational workshops in painting, photography, and other disciplines.
Rembrandt House Museum
Amsterdam is a big fan of its local art hero – Rembrandt. In the city, you will find three destinations that give props to this art master: the Rembrandt House Museum, Zuiderkerk (South Church), and Rembrandt Square.
It wouldn’t take much of your time to visit all three, plus they are all worth your time.
The house museum is the artist’s actual home in the Jewish Quarter, where he spent the happiest and most successful years of his life along with his wife, Saskia.
On display are his drawings and personal belongings. Zuiderkerk (South Church), on the other hand, is an important spot because three of Rembrandt’s children and one of his pupils are buried here.
Historically, Zuiderkerk was the first Protestant church to be built in Amsterdam after the Reformation.
Meanwhile, Rembrandt Square is an exciting spot in the city, where you can take part in several local cultural activities and events. This place is marked with a statue of the artist.
Dine, wine, and munch
Finally, any tour is not complete without trying local Amsterdam dishes.
If you go for the top fine-dining restaurants, try authentic Amsterdam cuisine at De Silveren Spiegel (The Silver Mirror), which is popular for its perfect wine pairing.
You could also visit Graham’s Kitchen, offering a fine dining tasting menu with 3-6 dishes to choose from.
When on a budget, sample local charcoal-grilled gourmet burgers at Thrill Grill on Gerard Doustraat and Chinese specialities at Oriental City on Oudezijds Voorburgwal.
There are also several food stalls serving local dishes in the hip De Hallen in the Oud-West neighbourhood. This place is loved for its arts, crafts, fashion and food.
There are endless things to do in this lovely, historic, and picturesque city. There is something for everyone – food, drinks, fun, shops, entertainment, Instagram-worthy spots, and so on.
Come any time or season of the year and discover what Amsterdam is truly about.
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