Things to do in Amsterdam

Get Your Bearings in Amsterdam

By Jessica Lipowski
Amsterdam Expert

See & Do

Things to See

Between the city's rich history and fascinating culture, Amsterdam offers something for every interest. Explore the scenic maze of canals by water, foot or bike and discover the city's best attractions. Admire world-renowned art or take a step back into time at one of the museums. Visit a few of Amsterdam’s historic sites. Relax in one of the green parks or wander through the Red Light District. The city definitely provides plenty of things to do, rain or shine.


Museums such as The Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House often have long lines. Go early to avoid the queue.

Take It or Leave It:

Check the weather before you visit. It rains quite a bit in the Netherlands, so you may want to have an umbrella handy.

Where to Stay

The city center is a great home base for sightseeing. Walk, bike, tram or bus  you’ll discover you have easy access to the city’s best attractions. Want to stay near a lively nightlife scene? Book a hotel close to Leidseplein or Rembrandtplein. If you’re searching for R&R, Museum Quarter and De Pijp neighborhoods provide accommodation in a more residential area. Amsterdam offers an extensive range of hotels with charm and character to meet any preference or budget. From hostels and boutique hotels to five-star properties and environmentally-conscious lodging, Amsterdam has the “home away from home” for everyone.

Take It or Leave It:

Outline your budget and preferences first, then search for hotels based on location. You'll want to make sure you're within walking distance of the main attractions or at least near a tram stop.

What to Eat

The city is home to approximately 180 nationalities, and the restaurant selection undoubtedly echoes this diversity. Dutch, Turkish, Japanese, Spanish, French, Italian or something else – you’ll find it in Amsterdam. De Pijp’s restaurants offer a wide range of cuisine from every corner of the world, while De Jordaan has cozy, comfortable establishments. If you want a more upscale experience, numerous neighborhoods provide plenty of options for a special occasion, including Michelin star restaurants. No matter where you end up, you can’t go wrong. Amsterdam is truly a foodie’s paradise.

Take It or Leave It:

Friday and Saturday evenings often fill up fast. Make a reservation, if you can.

Be Sure to Sample:

Kroketten (croquettes) and pannenkoeken (pancakes), two Dutch favorites. Indonesian is a popular cuisine you also won't want to miss.

Places to Party

When you’re in Amsterdam, get ready for a fun night out. Whether you want to dance the night away, share a drink with friends, listen to music or enjoy a warm, summer evening, Amsterdam's nightlife has something for everyone. If you’re looking for live music, DJs and dance clubs, Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein are the places to be. Searching for something low-key? De Pijp and De Jordaan have numerous cozy cafes and pubs, a perfect atmosphere for catching up with friends. When weather permits, relax on a terrace or catch an outdoor performance at the Vondelpark Open-Air Theatre.


The trams stop around 12:30 am, but there are always night buses going every half hour to various parts of the city.

Where to Shop

Whether you’re searching for something special or just love to shop, Amsterdam is definitely a great city for shopping. Browse boutique stores in the Negenstraatjes area and sip on a cup of coffee at one of the charming cafes. Stroll down the most expensive shopping street in the Netherlands, the PC Hooftstraat. You’ll find top brands such as Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein and Chanel. Don’t forget to visit an open-air market. The Albert Cuypmarkt, for instance, is a great place to find bargains and taste international treats. Other shopping locations include the Kalverstraat, De Bijenkorf, Magna Plaza and Kalvertoren.

Best Local Souvenir:

Bring home one of the delicious Dutch cheeses, such as Gouda or Edam, and a package of stroopwafels.



Things to do in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is known for...

Five of Amsterdam's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Bikes:

For every citizen within Amsterdam, there exists a bike and a half. That amounts to about one million bikes, more than four times the amount of cars in the city center. Amsterdam is the world’s leading city concerning urban biking. Around 400 kilometers of integrated biking paths exist, making the bike the best method of transportation in Amsterdam. The biking culture is wonderfully casual as well. No lycra-laden, hurried commuters, rather a lot of well-dressed biking aficionados that are fully committed to self-propulsion-even in the most extreme of weather.

2. Canals:

Affectionately known as “the Venice of the North,” Amsterdam’s arteries consist of 165 canals. The main canals-Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht-form the iconic horseshoe infrastructure of the city. The canals were constructed during the 17th century when the Dutch were the global leaders in trade, art, science and military. These canals create a subculture of sorts, welcoming a cast of boats, bridges, canal houses and wildlife amidst their reflective surface-particularly when the weather is gorgeous. A view from a boat on a sunny day is truly the most elegant way to see Amsterdam.

3. Coffeeshops:

Amsterdam is infamous for its liberal attitudes regarding what the Dutch consider to be “soft drugs.” The sale and consumption of small amounts of marijuana are tolerated within any of Amsterdam’s ubiquitous coffeeshops. The marijuana trade exists in a grey area of legality. The logic behind it being that by tolerating the sale of marijuana, law enforcement are able to concentrate their efforts on containing the spread of harder drugs. It is worth witnessing the Dutch’s alternate solution to dealing with marijuana in society.

4. Flowers:

Holland has had a long love affair with flowers. Since importing them centuries ago from Turkey and Iran, they have become the world’s main exporter of flowers and plant life. During the spring in Amsterdam, flowers sprout on a whim throughout the city’s many green spaces. Alongside the Singel canal is the Bloemenmarkt where plants, flowers and bulbs are for sale in great selection and abundance. An hour’s journey from Amsterdam is the Keukenhof park in Lisse, one of the world’s most gorgeous gardens.

5. Art:

The Dutch have graced the world with some of the most accomplished artists of all time. Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Escher-to name but a few. Amsterdam is not only a city, it is also a muse that inspires creativity. With over 50 museums and 140 galleries, Amsterdam is an art lover’s paradise. Best of all, for tourists and denizens alike, the purchase of an I Amsterdam card or a Museumkaart will allow free entrance into the vast majority of the city’s diverse museums-ranging from the Anne Frank House to FOAM, the photography museum.