Best Things to Do in Amsterdam

10 Best Attractions to Discover the Essence of Amsterdam

Amsterdam will sweep you off your feet. Whether you are a history buff, nature lover or just looking for a fun weekend away, Amsterdam will continually surprise you. Every nook and cranny of the city has so much to offer.

The city is bursting with history. The Anne Frank House, for instance, is one of the most popular attractions, sharing the story of Anne Frank and her family while in hiding during World War II. Other museums, such as the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum, are home to famous Dutch masterpieces. Tourists and locals alike can also explore other museums, such as the Dutch Resistance Museum, illustrating the timeline of Dutch opposition against the Nazis, and the Amsterdam Historisch Museum, highlighting Amsterdam’s history in an interactive manner.

One of the best parts of Amsterdam is its charm, picturesque with its peaceful canals. Tour the city by water or wind your way on land and explore by foot or bike. Escape from busy city life and stop at one of the many green parks, such as Vondelpark. Plus, Amsterdam is a central location for you to sneak away to the beach or Dutch countryside.

Wander through the Red Light District, visit a coffeeshop, buy tulip bulbs and climb a Dutch windmill. But also go beyond the stereotypes: explore the history and fall in love with Amsterdam’s charm. With the green space, little boutique shops, winding waterways and more, you’ll never want to leave.


Amsterdam Museum
Photo courtesy of Amsterdam Museum

The Amsterdam Museum is a fun and interactive way to learn about Amsterdam. From ancient times to modern day, the museum aims to help people of all ages explore the city and its story. The museum caters to all learning abilities, featuring artwork, historical artifacts, clothing, videos, graphics and more. As the exhibitions are continually changing, it's one museum that never gets old. If you need a break, stop by the Mokum Museum Cafe and relax in the courtyard. The museum is open daily from 10:00 to 17:00. Allow at least two hours. Be aware that the museum has two entrances and exits.

Jessica's expert tip: Allow at least two hours

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As you travel through the city, you'll probably notice there are many open-air markets. Take the time to visit at least one of them. No matter what part of the city you are in, you'll find something that sparks your interest. Locals and tourists alike frequent these markets. For instance, the Spui is home to a book and art market, while the Noordermarkt and Boerenmarkt offer many delicious, organic products. Albert Cupymarkt is one of the largest in Europe with over 250 stalls; you can find practically everything. Waterloopleinmarkt is one of the best places to find a good deal. Other notable markets include Westermarkt and Dappermarkt. You may want to bring an extra suitcase when you come to Amsterdam.

Jessica's expert tip: Even when it rains, the markets are still open. Don't worry; you will find most of the stalls are covered.

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Old Center / Red Light District
Dam Square

Make your way to Dam Square and enjoy the constant hustle and bustle. The square is home to many attractions, including the Royal Palace, National Monument, Madame Tussauds and others. Take a tour of the Royal Palace; admire the beautiful architecture and elegance. In addition, the Royal Palace is still being used by the monarchy for state functions, ceremonies and other receptions, so you can experience not only history but also the here and now, modern day affairs. Make sure to check opening hours. The National Monument, situated at the other side of the square, is a memorial to the victims of World War II, as well as a symbol of liberation and peace. The Dam is also home to many events, such as celebrations, fairs and memorials. As it's less than a kilometer from Centraal Station, you cannot miss it.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Dam Square, home to the Royal Palace, Nieuwe Kerk and National Monument, always has something going on.

Jessica's expert tip: As the Dam is always busy, watch out for bikes, trams and cars.

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Brouwerij 't IJ

The Brouwerij t'IJ allows you to combine great beer and a bit of Dutch scenery. Europeans, especially the Dutch, Germans and Belgians, are known for great tasting beer. Explore an Amsterdam local favorite, the Brouwerij t'IJ. This place is especially significant in that it situated at the base of De Gooyer windmill, one of the few windmills left in the city. So if you can't get out of the city long enough to see the Dutch countryside, make your way to the east side of Amsterdam to visit the Brouwerij t'IJ. The tasting room is open from 14:00 to 20:00, and tours are available weekend days at 15:30 and 16:00.

Jessica's expert tip: If you can't get out of the city long enough to see the Dutch countryside, make your way to the Brouwerij t'IJ to see the windmill and enjoy great beer.

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Amsterdam provides many places to escape busy city life. Whether you need a quiet afternoon to yourself or want to play with your children, Amsterdam offers many green spaces to get away. Vondelpark is one of the city's many parks to help you do just that. It's perfect for a long walk or bike ride. Bring a blanket, pack a picnic, lie on the grass or read a book. Stop by the Blauwe Theehuis, tucked away in the center of the park, and have a drink on one of the largest outdoor terraces in Amsterdam. In the summer months, attend one of the open-air concerts. When you're about to leave the park, use a side exit and admire the gorgeous houses; it's one of the richest areas of Amsterdam. Take a break from all the sightseeing and busy street corners and enjoy a moment to yourself in the Vondelpark.

Jessica's expert tip: If you're entering the Vondelpark from the Leidseplein entrance, make sure to explore the entire park; do not stop at the first part.

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Old Center / Red Light District

The Red Light District, also known as De Wallen or Rosse Buurt, dates back to the fourteenth century. It was a place sailors would come if they required female companionship. Today, the Red Light District is home to coffeeshops that sell cannabis, prostitutes, sex shops, live sex shows, bars and various museums. You'll know when you enter the area; you'll see short pillars with red lights. If you miss these markings, you'll get the hint when you see scantily clad women standing in red neon-lit windows. You may be in for a bit of a culture shock. Make sure to visit the information center if you have any questions. The Red Light District is not recommended for children. Women, you could be mistaken for a prostitute if you walk unaccompanied. Instead, find a friend that's willing to explore with you or travel in a group.

Jessica's expert tip: Don't take pictures of women in the windows and be sure to watch out for pickpockets

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Central Canal Ring
Photo courtesy of Jessica Lipowski

The Bloemenmarkt is the world's only floating flower market. Located on the Singel canal, the market is situated on several houseboats. It's the perfect place to admire the flowers, smell all the scents and bring home a piece of the Netherlands in tulip form. Even in the winter, the Bloemenmarkt is still nice to visit, as the vendors often sell Christmas trees. If you love flowers, be sure to also step into the flower wonderland at the Keukenhof, open March through May. You can visit by car or bus. Flora Holland, the flower auction, is also an experience that will wow you.

Jessica's expert tip: Compare the size of your hand to some of the tulip bulbs; snap a photo for the folks back home.

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Central Canal Ring
Canal Boat Tours

Experience picturesque Amsterdam from the waterways. Especially when the sun is shining, there is no better way to see the sights than by boat. Wind your way through Amsterdam's canals and appreciate the attractions from the water. With a multitude of options, you can pick the one that suits you best. Purchase a hop-on, hop-off ticket, so you can visit some of the museums or attractions along the way. Combine the tour with food and drinks. Depending on your choice, prices vary. For instance, a day ticket costs 22 EUR with Canal Company. Also check into other operators, such as hotels and venues, as they offer tours, too.

Jessica's expert tip: Boat companies are not the only operators that provide canal tours; some hotels and venues offer tours, as well.

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Photo courtesy of Jessica Lipowski

Museumplein is packed with art, history and culture. As the name suggests, there are many museums situated around the square. For instance, the Van Gogh Museum houses the world's largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh's artwork. Experience the stages of his life through his art. The Rijksmuseum, featuring Dutch masterpieces, historical artifacts and more, is the oldest museum in Amsterdam. If contemporary art is more of interest to you, make sure to visit the Stedelijk Museum. Many of the museums also offer children activities. Want to do some shopping? Stroll down the PC Hooftstraat, the most expensive street in the Netherlands. End your day with a performance at the Concertgebouw; the building boasts one of the best acoustics in the world. You can easily spend a whole day in this area alone.

Jessica's expert tip: Museumplein is host to numerous events, so check the dates you are in town and see if any concerts or special exhibitions are going on. The iamsterdam sign often appears here, too.

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Anne Frankhuis

Anne Frank is an international symbol. She moved the world through her words, sharing her hopes, dreams and everyday thoughts. Walk through the house in which she went into hiding to escape the Nazis. Experience the day-to-day life for yourself. Reread her words. Feel the fear. Hear the hope. Learn about her life and the others around her. See how the Holocaust and World War II impacted millions through the eyes of one girl. It's more than a museum. It's more than a house. It's a story, an emotional experience at that, but worthwhile. The Anne Frank house is something you will never forget.

Jessica's expert tip: Go early in the morning or an hour before closing time. You can also reserve a time slot online. It will help you avoid the long queue.

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Meet Jessica Lipowski

Jessica has fallen in love with the Netherlands. She moved in 2011, seizing an opportunity to live abroad, a long-time dream.

In May 2016, she published a non-fiction book, "Flavors of...  More About Jessica