You’ve heard of global icons and Amsterdam brings home the bacon. No trip around Europe is complete without paying your respects to this megastar capital.
Some people come for quaint canals, tulip season, and the laidback lifestyle. Others come for legal weed, hardcore drugs, and sex tourism. And that big ol’ spectrum means that you’re SURELY going to fit in here too.
But with such a vast array of unique things to do in Amsterdam for kids and adults alike, knowing where to start is key. It’s not cheap – and you definitely don’t want to get wrapped up in naughtiness if you’re here for niceness.
There is a whole host of cool places to check out in Dam. We’re going by foot, bike, and waterways, but there are a few tricks to know to make your trip stand out from the rest.
From Van Gogh and the Anne Frank House to the notorious Red Light District, I’ll give you the full scoop. What’s worth it, and what’s worth skipping…
Here’s your guide to the weird and wonderful: 10 amazing things to do in Amsterdam today!
- 10 Top Things to Do in Amsterdam
- 1. Get on your bike
- 2. Take a cruise on the canals
- 3. Learn about Anne Frank’s story
- 4. Stroll around in the Canal Rings
- 5. Trip out at the Van Gogh Museum
- 6. Museums, Museums, Museums…
- 7. Take a day trip to Keukenhof Gardens
- 8. Get lost in the Red Light District
- 9. People-watch in Vondelpark
- 10. Experiment…
- Things to Do in Amsterdam: City Map
- How To Get Around Amsterdam
- FAQs on Things to Do in Amsterdam
10 Top Things to Do in Amsterdam
Whether you’re visiting Amsterdam solo, as a couple, with friends, family, or even people you just met, you’ve made a good choice. Unlike most places in the world, you’ll never run out of things to do in Amsterdam. So recommending the BEST is a task and a half…
But for you? Of course, for you, anything! Let me tell you about the top things to do in Amsterdam, no matter who you are.
1. Get on your bike
The most unique thing about Amsterdam is the bike culture. Travelling The Netherlands by bike is insanely easy and the capital city abides by the exact same rules. Everything (and I do mean everything) is super accessible by bike.
Pedal around beautiful Jordaan, park up at Nine Streets, or head up to one of my favourite hangouts in Amsterdam Noord. Search out secret spots and enjoy corners of the city you’d never find without a bike.
Pro Tip: You should definitely cycle through the Rijksmuseum tunnel at Museum Square. The tunnel is beautiful and there’s always people busking classical music in there. Honestly, you need to hear it – the acoustics are mad.
As well as being the cheapest way to get around, it’s also the fastest. With a bike, it doesn’t then matter so much where abouts you stay in Amsterdam. So while being one of the most quintessentially Dutch things to do in Dam, it also GETS you to fun things faster…
You know what they say: when in Rome, do as the Romans do!
2. Take a cruise on the canals
If you’re looking to fall in love – oh my days, do a canal cruise in Dam. Get that tenderness flowing and enjoy the hive of Amsterdam passing by from the slow-paced stillness of the waters.
Nosey inside old merchants’s houses and duck your head under iconic bridges (all lit up elegantly at night time for extra romance). A canal cruise is a magical way to see the city and one of the best things to do in Amsterdam for couples. 😉
Pro Tip: There are maaaaaany cruise companies in Amsterdam, and funnily enough, I don’t recommend the commercial ones. Book yourself an experience to enjoy Amsterdam’s picturesque waterways with someone who really knows and loves the city. There’s so many kinds of cruises and tour operators to choose from, so find one that suits you…
3. Learn about Anne Frank’s story
The history of Anne Frank’s diary had a profound effect on the world. They learnt the story of an ordinary yet remarkable little girl – concealed with her family and other Jewish people – in a hidden annexe in a house in Amsterdam during Nazi occupation of The Netherlands in World War II. Being able to visit the Anne Frank House – where she hid for several years gives visitors a unique perspective of her irregular life as a young girl.
It’s not a big place for obvious reasons, so you’ll only need an hour or so to go around the whole thing. But you can see a tastefully done exhibition and even see the bookcase that the family lived behind. It’s worth reading Anne Frank’s Diary – published by Otto Frank, her dad, after the war.
Pro Tip: I can’t recommend enough booking your tickets in advance for the Anne Frank House Museum. It’s also best to go as early as possible in the day too; this way you’ll avoid too much queuing. If you’re on a short itinerary, you’ll be out in no time and cram loads more into your day.
4. Stroll around in the Canal Rings
Do you like the walking route? Well, you’ll love Dam.
The main hub of things to do in Amsterdam happens within the canal ring. Here you’ll find all kinds of unique attractions, independent boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and coffee shops. You can follow your nose around and find all kinds of hidden gems in Amsterdam.
Dam Square is right in the city centre, with 15th century Nieuwe Kerk, the National Monument, the old Town Hall (now the Royal Palace), and upscale shopping opportunities.
Insider opinion: Needless to say, visiting the Royal Palace is touristy. Yet honestly, still a top thing to do in Amsterdam. It’s packed full of fascinating history and the city’s grandest architecture dating back to 1270!
5. Trip out at the Van Gogh Museum
One place that is so worth the hype in Amsterdam is the Van Gogh Museum. Situated in the heart of Museum Square, it’s smaller and therefore less exhausting than many other galleries, such as the neighbouring Rijksmuseum – which is still fabulous in a different way.
Being the world’s largest collection of this genius’s work, you’ll be able to see iconic paintings including the famous Sunflowers. There’s no wonder why it’s the number-one museum in The Netherlands!
I met some cool people at one of the best hostels in Amsterdam and I am told that tripping on truffles in here is mental. Hey, I’m not recommending shit… but if you do… do it with friends.
6. Museums, Museums, Museums…
I buzz off a good museum – and there is plenty in Amsterdam to visit. From the iconic Rijksmuseum displaying Dutch superstar, Rembrandt, to the Electric Ladyland Museum dedicated to fluorescent art, museums are always a great thing to do in Amsterdam when it’s raining.
Budget Tip: Many of the museums in Amsterdam are free with the IAmsterdam City Card. More than that, you also get FREE public transport too. They’re brilliant if you’re on a short itinerary in Amsterdam.
Museumplein (aptly named) is the central location for many iconic museums in Amsterdam. There’s a great lawn to hang out on here in the summer. There you’ll find the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and The Moco Museum displaying amazing art galleries from world-renowned modern artists like Banksy and Andy Warhol…
One of my favourite places to visit in Amsterdam is the Nemo Science Museum. What seems like a kid’s attraction (and in many ways, kinda is) is also a big playground for adults.
Basically, you’ll find any kind of museum to fit your personal Amsterdam Itinerary!
7. Take a day trip to Keukenhof Gardens
Easily, one of the best times to travel to Amsterdam is Spring. The flowers and, in particular, the symbolic Dutch tulips are all in spectacular bloom.
For only 2 months of the year, the Netherlands iconic Keukenhof Gardens opens its doors to the annual, colourful presentation. I’m not one for big, touristy attractions but this is one that I loved and always recommend for things to do in Amsterdam in April and May.
It’s worth planning a day trip out of Amsterdam to Lisse, where the gardens are, about an hour away from the city. There are plenty of buses to Keukenhof that run from Amsterdam or you can get a Combi Ticket where transport is included.
8. Get lost in the Red Light District
One unmissable thing to do in Amsterdam at night is go to the Red Light District. Not only is this an unbelievably unique thing to see in Europe, but distinctive the world over. Whether you’re in Amsterdam for a weekend or a week, you can’t miss it!
Let’s not beat around the bush (no innuendo intended!), sex tourism draws in a crowd to Amsterdam. As well as having a museum dedicated to prostitution, there’s even The Condomerie, a shop committed to novelty condoms. But along with legal prostitution held behind famous scarlet doors and the raunchy attractions, sex shops, and peep shows, it’s also just a lot of fun!
Bounce around coffeeshops, jazz bars, pubs, or simply a spot of people-watching… Whether you want to take part or not, there’s no harm in watching these sinful streets. Get to know De Wallen’s history, filled with stories dating back to the 13th Century, as it continues writing it’s unique narrative.
9. People-watch in Vondelpark
Vondelpark is the biggest urban park in the city. It’s one of the most popular places to visit, attracting a whole heap of people coming to hang out in Amsterdam city centre. You can catch a show at the open-air theatre, stop and smell the flowers at the Rose Garden, and even rent skates to rollerblade around the paths if you feel like it.
It’s a cool and free thing to do in Amsterdam. Even the shows at the open-air theatre are free, too.
The various restaurants and cafes located around Vondelpark, however, are not. But still, picking a spot on a terrace when the weather’s nice and chilling out with a coffee is a good way to spend your time.
Look, a lot of things that are not tolerated in many parts of the world are well embraced into society in The Netherlands. Amsterdam is a symbol of diversity to many. You can kinda be who you wanna be here, making it also one of the best places for LBGT travellers.
You can stay out a little later than usual, go window shopping, and drink a smooth craft beer by the canal. Try a space cake if you’re feeling it, a little cheeky puff of that joint, or even try legal psychedelics. Feel free to experiment if you’re having fun.
Of course, if we’re talking about things to do at night in Amsterdam, nightlife in Amsterdam blows the global scale with mental clubs and mind-blowing festivals.
Depending on what you’re into, you can go to the brutalist nightclub Shelter (hardcore only), the more fun, friendly Club X, or De School – inside an old school – to name just a few. The hedonist’s playground kicks off late about 11 pm.
Just remember: take it easy, look after your mates, and drink plenty of water.
Things to Do in Amsterdam: City Map
How To Get Around Amsterdam
Getting around Amsterdam is as easy as it goes. For starters, the city is extremely walkable (if it is not pissing it down with rain). Though you will be exhausted, walking around this remarkable city is highly recommended.
Your second option is public transport. Amsterdam is well-equipped with buses, trams, and even a metro. Although it’s far from the cheapest transport in the world, you do get what you pay for.
If you’re only staying in the city for a few days, your best bet is to buy a city card. As well as having a bunch of attractions included in the price, you get free public transport too. If that’s not for you, you can also get day passes that permit you on any transport in the city.
- 24 hours: €18
- 48 hours: €24
- 72 hours: €30
Although (I’m going to press this point again) no form of transport in Amsterdam trumps the bike. It’s the cheapest, fastest, AND most convenient way to get around. You can hire them all over the city and probably at your hotel or hostel in Amsterdam too.
Don’t Forget your Travel Insurance for Amsterdam
One thing’s for sure: Amsterdam ain’t cheap. So if something doesn’t go to plan, having the right travel insurance for The Netherlands can save you a small fortune.
ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.
They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.
SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!
Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.
FAQs on Things to Do in Amsterdam
A little more? Okay, then, why not?
Amsterdam is definitely not an off-the-beaten-track destination. In fact, Amsterdam doesn’t have much of a shoulder season at all: high time is most of the time. So getting to most attractions early in the day is the secret to enjoying them without huge crowds.
Just remember, although Amsterdam IS a safe place to travel to, European capital cities still have their issues. Rest well, look out for your mates, and follow basic safety.
There are famous Amsterdam museums, unique things to do, and plenty of debauchery to take part in. From tulip festivals to live sex shows, there aren’t many places in the world with this spectrum of unusual things to do.
Take your time to soak in the sights around the canals and waterways. Peep inside historic buildings and canal houses. Visit the tiny yet iconic Anne Frank House.
Remember, there is a holy shit ton of canal bridges to get that iconic snap: so you don’t need to stop with the 35 groups of tourists fighting to get a photo at the first one they see. Keep walking and you’ll find the perfect spot!
- Check out our ultimate guide to backpacking in Amsterdam.
- There are heaps of totally epic places to visit in Amsterdam.
- Get planning your Amsterdam itinerary to maximise your experience.
- Have a look at our guide to where to stay in Amsterdam to choose the perfect area!
- You’ll need a hostel in Amsterdam – it’s a great way to start your trip!
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