For a lot of people, traveling to Amsterdam is the stuff of dreams. It’s foreign enough to be exciting and familiar enough to feel safe and comforting. It conjures up images of tulips and cafés with wafting smoke and artistic buildings from the ancient past. Whether you enjoy architecture, history or the nightlife, there’s definitely always something to do in Amsterdam.
Unfortunately, this city has developed a reputation as a bit of a problem area lately. News programs seem to enjoy highlighting just how dangerous some parts of Amsterdam can be, especially at night. This might make you reluctant to travel to this amazing city, but it shouldn’t. As long as you’re careful and aware, your trip to Amsterdam should be safe and absolutely amazing. To help you create the trip of your dreams, we’ve created this guide to the best places to visit in this amazing city.
The Best Places to Stay in Amsterdam
Base yourself in one of these amazing neighborhoods in Amsterdam so you can have the best possible time while visiting.
Best Hostel in Amsterdam: Meininger Amsterdam City West
Staying in a quirky hostel while you’re in Amsterdam is almost as important as seeing the city itself. And the Meininger Amsterdam City West absolutely fulfils that requirement. With a lobby filled with replicas of paintings by the old masters such as Van Gogh, this hostel manages to be both beautiful and incredibly convenient. It’s 2 minutes from public transport and has a popular bar that’s a great place to start your exploration of the city’s nightlife!
For more hostels options, check out our Best Hostels in Amsterdam guide!
Best Airbnb in Amsterdam: Best Amstel view
For a novel stay in Amsterdam, what could be better than renting your very own private houseboat? This cool Airbnb can sleep up to seven people in three bedrooms (plus a sofa bed in the living room). The comfy living room provides incredible views over the water, and you can sit and chill on the outside deck too.
There’s a long dining table and a well-equipped kitchen. The boat has an additional separate toilet as well as the main bathroom.
Best Budget Hotel in Amsterdam: Motel One Amsterdam
Traveling in Europe can be prohibitively expensive, which is why a lot of people choose to stay in a budget hotel so they can save money for activities. If this is you, then the Motel One Amsterdam is a great choice. It’s centrally located and within walking distance of some popular attractions as well as public transport. The rooms are comfortable, and the hotel has a bar, room service and free Wi-Fi.
Best Luxury Hotel in Amsterdam: D L’Europe Amsterdam
Going luxurious in Amsterdam often means that you’ll get to stay in an artistic, architecturally stunning building. And the D L’Europe Amsterdam definitely fits that bill. Set on the Amstel River, the hotel has a fitness center, spa, and a waterfront terrace so you can enjoy a drink and watch the sun go down. It’s also within walking distance from several popular shopping areas and includes 2 popular restaurants and a bar.
Need a place quick? Here’s the best neighbourhood in Amsterdam:
It’s our pick for the best neighbourhood for a first-time trip to Amsterdam because it is conveniently located for hitting the sightseeing hotspots, you’re close enough to the nightlife without being put off by the red light district, and there’s a good choice of accommodations, shops, restaurants, and attractions right at your fingertips.
- Admire the artistic works at Museum Het Schip.
- Go window shopping along some of the best shopping streets in the country: the Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk.
- Relax at Het Stenen Hoofd, an urban beach that’s popular with locals.
These are the BEST Places to Visit in Amsterdam!
#1 – The Rijksmuseum
- Make sure you check out the Night Watch by Rembrandt.
- Great for art lovers and people who enjoy looking at notable Dutch painters.
- A must-see while you’re in Amsterdam!
Why it’s awesome: If you’re an art lover, or just want to see some of the most amazing pieces of artwork in the world, then you need to spend some time in this museum. Not only will you be astounded at how different the art looks in real life versus in the pages of a book, but you might just discover a new interest in Dutch painters!
What to do there: The Rijksmuseum is contained inside of an awesome, artistic building and the works of art within are a match for it. You can literally spend hours here wandering between the displays and discover artists you’ve never heard of as well as old favorites. Just make sure you take a long look at Rembrandt’s Night Watch, it’s truly one of the most incredible paintings in the world. Some people visit Amsterdam just for the art museums (others, just for the drugs and hookers).
#2 – The Van Gogh Museum
One of the most amazing places in Amsterdam!
- Great for art lovers.
- A place where you can take some amazing photographs!
- An absolutely vital part of Dutch history.
Why it’s awesome: It’s Vincent Van Gogh. The man hated and reviled in his own time and yet now almost universally loved. The pictures he painted showed life at its most beautiful and vibrant, full of light and color in a way that ordinary people can’t see. Through this exhibit, you’ll be able to glimpse a work you will rarely get to see, and that’s definitely worth savoring. A visit to Van Gogh’s legacy is an essential thing to do in Amsterdam.
What to do there: Try to see through this artist’s eyes while you’re in the Van Gogh museum. He had a rare way of seeing the world, a way that was full of life and color, and yet his own life was filled with so much darkness and confusion. That’s why the beauty of his artwork deserves to be honored. So make sure you take your time when you visit the largest collection of his work in the world.
#3 – The Westertoren
One of Amsterdam’s coolest historical sites!
- Great for photographers.
- The stairs will give you a nice little bit of exercise to work off all the rich food.
- Only open in the summer.
Why it’s awesome: There’s nothing like seeing a new city from high up and in Amsterdam, this is the best place to do that. You’ll be able to see the city in a whole new way and in a small group as well, so there won’t be any pushing or jostling for the best photograph spots. It’s also one of the best historical spots in Amsterdam, which is really saying something in this city!
What to do there: This is the tallest and the prettiest tower in Amsterdam, so the views are amazing from the top. You’ll need to book a guided tour to the top, and they only take a few tourists at a time, so make sure you get there early to reserve your place. Once you’re up there, take plenty of photos of Amsterdam from this amazing bird’s eye view, so make sure that you bring you camera with you.
#4 – The Bloemenmarkt
One of the most incredible free places to go to in Amsterdam
- A free and colorful display.
- Great for photographs.
- A chance to sit back and observe real life in Amsterdam.
Why it’s awesome: Two words: floating flowers. This is a floating flower market set along the southern bank of the Singel. It actually a very practical market, which supplies fresh flowers to Amsterdam. But its popularity with tourists and locals alike have caused it to expand so there are now stalls selling other souvenirs unique to this part of the world.
What to do there: Where else can you see beautiful blooms of almost every color you can imagine set against the river? This is a sight to savor and you can people watch at the same time. You can also do some shopping while in the area and you’ll find clogs as well as other uniquely Dutch souvenirs. But if you don’t want to spend any money, you can just wander around the area and enjoy the sights.
Wonder what to do in Amsterdam for 3 days? Head over to our insider’s Weekend in Amsterdam guide!
#5 – Artis Zoo
Awesome place to visit in Amsterdam with kids!
- One of the oldest zoos in Europe.
- Includes some very unique displays as well as old favorites.
- A great place to take the kids!
Why it’s so awesome: This is a smaller zoo than some you might have seen but it’s also one that makes the most of its position and the land it occupies. You can see all of your favorite animals such as lions, giraffes, and elephants, but it also contains some more unique displays such as the planetarium and Micropia, a museum dedicated to microbes!
What to do there: While you’re at the zoo, make sure you take in all the different displays, especially some of the more unusual ones. And if you’re looking for a fun night out on a Saturday night in summer, the zoo opens late with music and special performances. You can even rent a barbeque and make a night of it.
#6 – Vondelpark
A beautiful outdoor place to visit in Amsterdam
- A chance to get out in nature.
- A relaxed vibe where you can barbeque and explore wooded trails.
- Has an amazing open theater where you can catch a show.
Why it’s so awesome: Amsterdam’s permissive nature also extends to their wooded areas. This is one of the few parks in the world where you can indulge in behavior not usually allowed in public, with a few exceptions. This park is also popular with the locals as a place to exercise or just hang out in nature. And there are trails all over the park as well as a rose garden and an outdoor theater if you want to get even more from the experience!
What to do there: Run, cycle, explore the trails or just take some friends along and have your lunch in the park. Find out what shows are playing at the theater if you’re interested in catching one or just soak up the beauty of nature in the middle of the city!
#7 – Albert Cuyp Markt
A nice non-touristy place to visit in Amsterdam
- A chance to mingle with the locals.
- Buy some fresh food or just wander the stalls.
- You can also find clothes and souvenirs here, just remember to bargain!
Why it’s so awesome: Sometimes when you travel, you just want to get away from the tourist traps and experience real life. And this market is a chance to do just that. Here you’ll see the locals bargaining for their groceries and generally going about their lives. And it’s a great way to get to see another side of this famous city.
What to do there: You’ll find a vast array of foods, clothes, and souvenirs here if you’re interested in shopping. Make sure you watch the locals beforehand, so you know how much to pay for what you want and a bargain! Bargaining is considered an integral part of the experience, so don’t be embarrassed and just enjoy the process.
Quick Note – Staying Safe in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has become known as Europe’s party town and for good reason. Unfortunately, this also means that stories abound about how dangerous the city can be. However, many of these stories paint an incomplete picture. Amsterdam has been in the top ten of the Safe Cities Index for years, whereas London barely scrapes it into the top 20. As long as you apply common sense in Amsterdam, you’ll be safe.
Amsterdam is known for its ‘life and let live’ attitude, and this laidback attitude is probably part of the reason why violent crime isn’t very common there. Walking around Amsterdam during the day, whether you’re alone or in a group, is usually perfectly safe if you keep your belongings secured against pickpockets. And to stay safe at night, just avoid the Red Light District, where there can be problems with drugs and thieves.
Read our safety guide for Amsterdam and make sure that you know all of the hazards of traveling beforehand.
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.
#8 – De Negen Straatjes (The Nine Streets)
- An amazing historical spot.
- Perfect for photographers and people who want that iconic Amsterdam shot.
- An area that’s full of personality and quirky charm.
Why it’s so awesome: The Nine Streets is a historical area that has a lot of quirky charm packed into a relatively small area. The shops here are all unique, unusual, and have a flair that isn’t often seen in these days of department stores, which makes them a joy to explore and experience. This is the kind of area which gave Amsterdam its reputation as one of the most laidback cities in the world, so it’s an absolute pleasure to spend some time exploring it in detail.
What to do there: Make sure you put aside an entire afternoon, or a day, to wander the Nine Streets. This area is filled with historical detail, quirky cafes, and boutiques with some of the most unique and interesting goods you’ll ever see. So do some shopping or just set up shop in a café and watch the world go by. After all, this relaxed and laidback vibe is what Amsterdam is really about.
#9 – The Concertgebouw
- A chance to listen to some free music!
- A beautiful building that’s been recently refurbished and looks great in photos.
- Great for culture lovers.
Why it’s so awesome: This is an incredible arts venue that’s the home of the famous and much lauded Koninklijk Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. The acoustics here are amazing, which turns an already impressive musical performance into something that has to be heard to be believed.
What to do there: If you visit this venue at lunchtime you may be able to catch a free concert and enjoy the music without breaking the bank. Otherwise, it’s also worth going at night when you can get the full experience of listening to the remarkable orchestra the way it was meant to be heard.
#10 – NSDM Wharf
Cool place to see in Amsterdam with friends!
- A great place to go bar hopping.
- The whole area is beach front so you can eat and look out over the water.
- There is always something going on here, from festivals to exhibitions and other events.
Why it’s so awesome: The NDSM Wharf is a former shipyard that’s been turned into one of Amsterdam’s cultural hot spots. It’s come a long way from its slightly grimy roots and now is the place to see and be seen, with some amazing restaurants, bars and shops around the area. There’s an artistic vibe to this area that elevates it above the usual tourist spots and makes it well worth checking out.
What to do there: There’s always something going on in this area from the weekend flea market to festivals and exhibitions. So while you’re in Amsterdam, make sure you find a schedule of what’s on and pick out what you want to see. And even if there isn’t anything in particular happening, it’s still a great spot to eat a meal in a beachfront restaurant or to check out some bars.
#11 – Flevopark
- A giant natural area.
- There are lots of amenities here, including an outdoor pool.
- If you get tired of all the nature, head over to the brewery for a snack and a drink!
Why it’s so awesome: Flevopark is an enormous open area in the middle of Oost and it’s the perfect place to get some exercise or just lounge about in the fresh air. There’s something for everyone in this park, from running trails to a tennis club and even a brewery where you can undo all the good work you’ve just done.
What to do there: This is the type of park that has something for everyone so you can literally do whatever you want to do here. If you’re feeling energetic, go for a swim in the outdoor pool, wander the trails or play a game of tennis. And if you’re feeling lazy, just lounge about on the grass or grab a drink and some snacks at the Distillery ‘t Nieuwe Diep microbrewery.
#12 – Brouwerij ‘t IJ
A must visit place to visit in Amsterdam on the weekend!
- An iconic brewery.
- One of the first breweries in Amsterdam and still very popular.
- A must visit for beer lovers and anyone who enjoys trying a variety of brews.
Why it’s so awesome: Everyone should drink beer in a windmill at some stage in their lives and this is the perfect place to do it. This microbrewery is the original in Amsterdam and is located in a working windmill. It has a wide variety of brews as well as some traditional Dutch snacks such as boiled eggs.
What to do there: Try to visit the brewery on a sunny day so you can sit out on the terrace and enjoy the sunshine while you snack and drink. Just make sure you’re aware of how much you’re drinking, the brews tend to be higher in alcohol content than you would think!
Short on time and want to see as much as possible? Check out our sample itinerary for Amsterdam before visiting!
#13 – The Anne Frank Museum
Possibly one of the most important places to visit in Amsterdam
- Home to one of the most famous stories from the Second World War.
- An important historical monument.
- A sad and touching place to visit.
Why it’s so awesome: This site isn’t awesome in the sense that it’s fun. Instead, it’s a sad reminder of a dark time in the world’s history. It’s also a site that’s familiar to a lot of people. In most schools, the Diary of Anne Frank is required reading, so a lot of people know at least the basics about this girl’s story. But it’s another thing to see the house in real life, to imagine her everyday life, her fear and even her tragic ending. And it’s something that everyone should see at least once in their lives.
What to do there: Anne Frank’s house is now a museum and educational center. It’s not a fun place to go. It’s actually quite chilling to wander the halls of the house and to visit the secret annex where she lived for such a short time. But it’s almost an incredibly important place to visit if only to honor the memory of that brave girl and her family.
#14 – Blijberg aan Zee
- A chance to soak up the beach vibe.
- Perfect if you want a relaxing day.
- Clean water and a relaxing atmosphere.
- Great for sunbathing and swimming.
Why it’s so awesome: Amsterdam itself doesn’t have many places to swim, which is why this location is the perfect addition to any trip. The beach is located off a man-made island called IJburg and it’s just a short tram ride from the center of the city. The water is clean and calm and basically, it’s the perfect place to have a lazy day sunbathing and enjoying the water.
What to do there: This is a family-friendly location with clean water, bright sun, and lots of restaurants and cafes in the area that sell great food. When you visit this beach, make sure you spend your time relaxing. The beach’s laidback atmosphere encourages sunbathing, swimming, and spending time with friends, so give in to it and just have a wonderful break from the busy heart of the city.
#15 – EYE Film Institute
Cool place to see in Amsterdam with friends!
- See a movie in style.
- An amazing, architectural building.
- The shop has a lot of quirky, cinematic memorabilia and souvenirs.
Why it’s so awesome: Unlike many of the other great sites in Amsterdam, this building is a modern marvel. Quirky and eye-catching on its own, it houses a cinema, film museum, shop, restaurant and café, all of them well worth spending some time in. There are also some fun and educational displays and experiences targeted at kids, so it’s a great place to take the family.
What to do there: This is no ordinary cinema. If you love quirky, independent films, cult classics and documentaries, then this is the place for you. The cinema is open 7 days a week and specializes in these genres. And if you really enjoy these kinds of movies, then the shop is a great place to pick up some unusual memorabilia of your visit.
#16 – Foodhallen
A must-see for foodies!
- One of the best places to enjoy Amsterdam’s food scene!
- A great place to go in a group or on your own.
- A super trendy area with a quirky vibe.
Why it’s so awesome: If you love food, and who doesn’t, then this is the best place in Amsterdam. In this neighborhood, you’ll find everything you’ve ever wanted to eat from dim sum to pizza and doughnuts. This area was once an old tram depot, so it has plenty of history behind it. But it’s now filled with food stores that offer some of the best snacks in the city.
What to do there: Take your appetite and go from stall to stall in this area. Try everything that peaks your fancy and take your food to one of the outside benches and watch the crowds while you eat. When you’re full, there are several shops and boutiques selling clothes, ornaments and other goods that you can browse in. And as is the norm with Amsterdam, the shops are all quirky and unique, so make sure you enjoy the atmosphere while you’re there.
#17 – Begijnhof
One of the most religious places to see in Amsterdam
- Get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
- Explore Amsterdam’s religious past.
- Take in the tranquility and contemplate your life, the world and everything.
Why it’s so awesome: Amsterdam is incredibly laidback but it’s still a city and that means that it’s busy and crowded. If you need a little break, then this garden is the perfect place to take it. The garden and courtyard are in the middle of houses that once belonged to the Beguines, a religious group that admitted only unmarried women under a vow of chastity. This has given the area a quiet, contemplative vibe.
What to do there: This is a quint, medieval corner of Amsterdam that feels worlds away from the crowded city. There’s just something about it that encourages contemplation and thought and it’s a wonderful introduction to Amsterdam’s religious past. While you’re there, make sure you take a look at the city’s oldest wooden house, which was added to the area in 1425.
#18 – Cuypers Library
A nice quiet place to see in Amsterdam
- For book lovers and art lovers.
- An incredibly gorgeous place to sit and enjoy a book.
- Almost magical surroundings.
Why it’s so awesome: If you’re a reader then you’ll love this place. The building is stunning and brings to mind books of magic where the main character is thrust into an incredible adventure after opening an unusual book. The library is attached to a museum, but few tourists venture beyond the museum into this part of the building. And that’s a shame because this is one of the largest art history libraries in the country and it’s a lovely place to sit and read for a while.
What to do there: If you love books then you’ll love this place. It will give you a chance to sit and read about all the amazing works of art you’ve experienced since landing in Amsterdam. It’s also a quiet and beautiful haven away from the busy streets and tourists. The only people you’ll see here are scholars quietly toiling away at their chosen disciplines. So if you need a quiet afternoon in a beautiful place, this is where to go.
#19 – Theater Tuschinski
- Interesting art deco decorations.
- Includes a cinema as well as a stage for live productions.
- The building has a tragic history because the architect was Polish, and his entire family was killed at a German concentration camp.
Why it’s so awesome: This theater is a confusing mix of styles that’s oddly beautiful and well worth seeing on their own. The imposing exterior hides bright, colorful walls and rooms on the inside, and the building has been recently refurbished so it’s looking its best. This might seem like a strange place to catch a movie, but it’s well worth going out of your way just to see and take pictures of the building’s unusual features.
What to do there: This is a functioning movie theater so if you’re in Amsterdam for a while it’s worth seeing what movies they’re showing. And if you’re not a movie buff, you should still visit and take in the architecture. The architect combined lots of different styles when he made this building, and it’s truly an amazing mix to see and take pictures in front of.
#20 – OT301
- For anyone who’s interested in alternative cultural events.
- A truly unique venue.
- A chance to see some alternative bands and listen to some weird and wonderful music.
Why it’s so awesome: Chances are that you’ve never seen anything like the alternative music scene in Amsterdam. This is a city that prides itself on being different from everyone else, and that’s definitely reflected in the music at this venue. Run by volunteers, this is the best place to hear some of Amsterdam’s up and coming musical talent. And the location is actually a legal squat, which makes it al the more interesting and unusual.
What to do there: If you visit the OT301 at night then you will experience new bands, music, and up and coming talent. But even if you go during the day then there’s plenty to do. During the day, the venue is host to artistic workshops and classes and the whole place is built on the ideas of diversity and inclusion. This combination makes the OT301 one of the friendliest and coolest places to spend time and soak up the atmosphere in. And if you’re really lucky, you might discover a new talent of your own too!
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#21 – Electric Ladyland
Quite the quirky place in Amsterdam!
- A quirky educational experience.
- Literally one of a kind.
- A fascinating and interactive glimpse of another world.
Why it’s so awesome: In a city full of quirky places, this is probably one of the strangest. It’s a tiny museum in Jordaan and is dedicated to fluorescent art. Well, it’s actually dedicated to a mix of art, science, and geology. This might sound a little strange, but the displays explore minerals, art and stones that glow under ultraviolet light in a way that’s both beautiful and fascinating. It’s so fascinating that you won’t even notice that you’re learning at the same time!
What to do there: You need to book ahead to get into this museum but it’s worth taking the time. Not only are the displays beautiful, but they’re also interactive. So while you’re there, make sure you take in all the lights and colors and also go the extra step and become a part of the artwork!
#22 – The Royal Palace
- Stunning architecture.
- Great for taking pictures.
- An interesting historical site.
Why it’s awesome: Everyone loves hearing about royalty and now you can see where they lived and died and everything in between! The Royal Palace in Amsterdam is the official residence of the King of Holland and was built in 1648. The rulers at the time had an unusual taste, so the architecture is modeled after the buildings in ancient Rome, which makes a fascinating statement in the modern city.
What to do there: The Palace is incredibly beautiful and richly appointed, which is why it makes the perfect location for photographs. You can also tour the inside, as long as it isn’t occupied, so make sure you spend some time in the opulent state rooms. You’ll get a much better idea of just how wealthy royalty can be!
#23 – Westergasfabriek
- One of Amsterdam’s cultural centers.
- A great place to eat, watch a movie or shop!
- There’s something for everyone here.
Why it’s so awesome: This was once a slightly grimy industrial hub, but it’s been turned into the cultural center of the city. It has quirky stores and businesses, comfortable cafes and there are always events and festivals going on. So if you’re ever looking for something to do while you’re in Amsterdam, this is the place to come. Because there’s always something going on here.
What to do there: This area is so crowded with things to do that it’s easier to say what you can’t do. There are great restaurants and bars, cafes, an arthouse cinema, a microbrewery and coffee roasters. And as if that wasn’t enough, the area also plays host to events, markets and festivals on a regular basis. So, whatever you want to do, you can probably find a way to do it here.
#24 – De Pijp Neighborhood
- A window into everyday life in Amsterdam.
- A great place to shop, eat, or just relax.
- The interesting mix of cultures in the area makes for some great food.
Why it’s so awesome: This neighborhood is a melting pot of different cultures and foods and is one of the most vibrant areas in the city. It’s also known as the Latin Quarter of Amsterdam and there are lots of pubs, cafes and restaurants in the area for you to try. It’s a great way to get a better idea of the different cultures that live in Amsterdam and how they seem to coexist in relative harmony.
What to do there: While you’re in the area, visit the shops and look for souvenirs or gifts for people back home. Make sure you visit one of the very traditional pubs in the area or have a meal in one of the many, very good restaurants. There is also a park nearby where you can have a break from the busyness and enjoy some nature before you go back to your explorations.
#25 – The Resistance Museum
A fascinating educational place to visit in Amsterdam
- Learn more about the Dutch Resistance in World War II.
- An often-forgotten part of world history.
- Educational and interesting at the same time.
- Has special displays for younger visitors, so bring the kids along too!
Why it’s awesome: Most people outside of Holland don’t know about the role of the Dutch Resistance in the Second World War and this is a shame. The heroic men and women who fought against the Nazi’s regime deserve to be remembered and recognized, and this museum records their efforts with sensitivity and honesty. In 1945, there were more than 300,000 people hiding in the Netherlands, most of them Jews and anti-Nazi Dutch people. In this museum, you’ll see how they were hidden, how the Resistance protected them, and examine photographs, movie clips and documents from the time.
What to do there: There’s always something eerie about learning about the atrocities committed during the Second World War, but it’s life-affirming to learn about the people who fought against the horrors. If you want to feel sad but hopeful for humanity all at once, spend some time looking at the photos, documents and movie clips in this museum. It’s a good way to add to what you learn and feel at the House of Anne Frank.
#26 – Leidseplein
A great place to visit in Amsterdam at night
- Amsterdam’s nightlife center.
- The most popular square in the city.
- There are lots of great cafes and restaurants in the area.
Why it’s so awesome: This square is the center of everything and a trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t be the same if you don’t explore this area. It’s great during the day or at night and is the perfect starting point for your adventures in the city. There are also a lot of great bars, restaurants and cafes in the area, so you’ll find somewhere to go that suits every taste.
What to do there: This square is a great place to start out a fun night with some friends. The most popular bars and restaurants in the city area are close by, and you can fan out from the center until you find out what you’re looking for. It’s also a great place to visit during the day if you enjoy cozy cafes and delicious food.
#27 – The Red Light District
- The most famous or infamous part of the city.
- A whole new world, and an important part of the culture.
- Can be a little dangerous at night, so limit the amount you drink, stay with friends, and watch your belongings.
Why it’s so awesome: Well, you know why. This is the area that makes Amsterdam famous and it’s also the area that causes the most controversy. If you have any type of objections to some of the more permissive sides of the culture in Amsterdam, then it’s best that you avoid this area. This is also definitely not an area where you would bring children. But, if you’re curious and careful, you’ll see a whole other side of the city when you spend time in this district.
What to do there: This area is bright, colorful, and there’s always something going on. That makes it an interesting place to visit and people watch, whether you agree with Amsterdam’s pragmatic approach to the sex trade or not. Just be careful about taking photos, as you could get yourself into trouble, and use your common sense to avoid any serious issues while in the area.
#28 – Nieuwe Spiegelstraat
One of the most underrated places to see in Amsterdam!
- A glimpse of Amsterdam’s past.
- Great for people who want unusual souvenirs.
- Antique shoppers will love this area!
Why it’s so awesome: Souvenir shopping is fun, but sometimes you want to bring home something a little different and this is the perfect place to find that. This street is lined with antique shops, each of them showcasing a different, obscure part of the city’s history. Be prepared for weirdness when you shop here, and to see things you’ve never even heard of!
What to do there: If you like quirky, unusual things, then this street is a treasure trove. The shop dedicated to past medical instruments and oddities is particularly interesting as is the one that sells scientific instruments from the past. While you’re in this street, the best thing to do is just wander. Explore the different shops and what they have to offer. And be prepared to go home with an amazing story and souvenir or two!
#29 – Museum Vrolik
- One of the most bizarre collections you’ll ever see.
- A truly unique museum of past oddities.
- Definitely not for the squeamish!
Why it’s so awesome: This museum is located at the University of Amsterdam and it’s dedicated to human and animal anatomical mutations. Once held in a private collection, there are now more than 150 examples of mutations ranging from dental mutations to bone pathologies in both animals and humans held here.
What to do there: This is definitely not a collection for the kids or for anyone with a weak stomach. And if you don’t enjoy seeing strange things floating in jars, then you might want to give this a miss. But if your interests sometimes run to the macabre, then exploring this museum is a great way to spend a couple of hours. You’ll definitely leave the museum feeling grateful for how well your own body is put together!
#30 – De Poezenboot (The Cat Boat)
- For cat lovers!
- A chance to contribute to a worthwhile charity and pat some kitties at the same time!
Why it’s so awesome: This floating cat home is probably the only one of its kind. The cats who live here seem perfectly happy surrounded by water, and your visit could make their lives a little easier too. This unusual boat was set up as an animal sanctuary in 1966 and is a charity run entirely on donations. There are up to 50 cats on the boat at any one time and human visitors are welcome.
What to do there: This is a chance to combine animal cuddles with doing some good. Visitors are welcome to come aboard the boat for some cuddle time and to adopt. If you’re traveling, adopting probably isn’t practical, but the shelter welcomes donations, which all go towards feeding and taking care of the boat’s residents and the rest of Amsterdam’s cat population.
#31 – A’Dam Lookout and Over the Edge Swing
- Panoramic views over Amsterdam.
- A great place to take photographs.
- Something for adrenalin junkies too!
Why it’s so awesome: This tower is a landmark in Amsterdam and boasts an observation deck where you can sit and look out across the city. The views are absolutely stunning, especially on clear days, but if this isn’t enough excitement for you then consider trying the Over the Edge Swing. This is the highest swing in Europe and there’s nothing like swinging back and forward nearly 100 meters above the ground!
What to do there: For most people, it’s enough to simply visit the observation deck and take in the views of the city. This is a great chance to take some photographs with the varied and atmospheric city below. But if you’re looking for something more exciting, then pay a little extra and take a turn on the swing. It’s definitely worth the small extra fee and will really get your blood pumping!
#32 – Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (the Ritman Library)
- If you enjoy Dan Brown, then make sure you visit one of the places that inspired him!
- For book lovers and especially rare book lovers.
- An interesting glimpse into different ways of thinking and living.
Why it’s so awesome: This library holds a large collection of rare books on ancient religions, mysticism and philosophy. You can find a lot of gems here from the first illustrated version of Dante’s The Divine Comedy to Cicero’s De Officiis. The collection is so varied and unusual that it inspired Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and overall is a fascinating window into ancient and more recent schools of thought.
What to do there: This is a display for book lovers and people who are interested in learning more about the past. If you’re a reader or a student of the past, you’ll probably find some old favorites here. And who knows, maybe you’ll get inspired just as Dan Brown was!
#33 – The Homomonument
- A sobering but important monument to diversity.
- A reminder of how far humanity has come and how far we have to go.
Why it’s so awesome: During the Second World War, gay men in Nazi concentration camps were forced to wear a pink triangle on their clothes. This type of marking meant only horrific things in the camps and this monument acknowledges that and remembers the men and women who lost their lives to bigotry throughout the ages. The monument was designed in 1980 after gay activists were arrested in 1970 for putting a lavender wreath on Amsterdam’s National War Memorial in Dam Square.
What to do there: This is a place to reflect and remember. To remember all the people, men and women, who lost their lives because of their sexual orientation, and to remember to do better in the future. There are three triangles in the monument. One points to Dam Square, the other to the headquarters of the oldest gay rights organization in the world, the COC Nederland, and the third pointing to Anne Frank’s house. It’s a moving place, and people often bring flower wreaths to place on the triangle by the water in remembrance.
#34 – Dam Square
- The center of life in Amsterdam.
- Surrounded by amazing architecture, restaurants and cafés.
- A great place for photos and to start out when you arrive in the city.
Why it’s so awesome: Dam Square is the center of the city and one of the most important and well-known areas as well. It’s also the historical center and is surrounded by examples of incredible architecture as well as important monuments to Amsterdam’s history. You can get everywhere from this spot, and it’s a great place to start out from on your journey around the city.
What to do there: While you’re in Dam Square, you’re within walking distance of a lot of important buildings and monuments. At one end is the Royal Palace, and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. At the other is the National Monument, which memorializes the lives lost during the Second World War. This combination of monuments and attractions has made Dam Square the center of tourist activity in the city.
#35 – Madam Tussaud’s
- Where else can you take photos with Brad Pitt and Lady Gaga?
- A fun, slightly silly outing that will make you feel like a kid again.
- The wax dummies look so real that you might be able to convince people back home that you met the real thing!
Why it’s so awesome: Everyone loves taking photos with celebrities and if you can’t find the real thing, then why not take photos with wax lookalikes? Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum is iconic and everyone needs to see the madness at least once in their life!
What to do there: What else? Take lots of photos! Find your favorite celebrities and pose with them. Look for historical figures you admire or hate and do the same. Basically, this is a chance to be a little silly and indulge in some hero worship. So put aside your embarrassment, you’ll be surrounded by tourists doing the same thing, and get snap happy!
#36 – Science Center NEMO
Awesome place to visit in Amsterdam with kids!
- The fifth most popular museum in Amsterdam.
- Five floors of exhibits.
- Interactive, interesting displays.
- For the young and the young at heart!
Why it’s so awesome: There’s nothing like learning about science in an interactive and interesting way and this museum gives you the chance to do just that. It’s the perfect place to bring the kids if you want them to enjoy themselves and learn at the same time. And adults will enjoy it as well.
What to do there: There are five floors of exhibits in this museum so there’s no shortage of things to see and do. You can explore the universe, perform a chemistry experiment, or learn about mathematics in a way that will make you wonder why you ever hated it in school. Basically, no matter what you’re interested in, you’ll find something fun to do in Amsterdam’s science museum!
#37 – Our Lord in the Attic Museum
- Some awesome historical displays.
- An unusual, quirky and slightly creepy place to explore.
- Give this place a miss if you have trouble with stairs!
Why it’s so awesome: If you’re interested in the unusual, then this is the place for you. Located in the Red Light District, this four-hundred-year-old house near the canal holds a secret. The upper floors hide a richly appointed and decorated Catholic Church! The church was created in 1663, at a time when Catholics were persecuted in Holland. The then owner of the house built the church so he and his fellow Catholics could worship in peace and secrecy.
What to do there: The real draw of this tiny church is its mystery. You pass through a completely normal, albeit old house, up numerous stairs, and suddenly find yourself face to face with an altar. There is room enough for around 150 worshippers in this tiny church and the Dutch Classicist style decorations are incredibly beautiful. The tiny church is now a museum, but they still hold services there regularly. And why wouldn’t they when it’s such a beautiful place?
Don’t forget to pack a good book! Rick Steves Pocket Amsterdam is our top recommendation for an awesome and inspiring read on this magical city.
Get insured for your trip to Amsterdam!
Remember, when you are traveling you may need insurance! World Nomads are one of the best insurers on the market and we have used them ourselves for years now.
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Final Thoughts on the Coolest Places to Visit in Amsterdam
Don’t let stories and news reports scare you away from Amsterdam. This city is one of the safest and the most exciting in the world, and it definitely has to be seen to be believed. We’ve now gone through a list of some of the most interesting and historically important places in Amsterdam. By exploring this list, you’ll get a good understanding of the city’s culture, its history, and what makes it so special. And you’ll have a fantastic time as well!
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