Top 10 things to do in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Updated: May 30, 2019
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and it is known for its beautiful canals! It is a biker city as cycling paths abound throughout Amsterdam. At night, go for a stroll at the red light district and gaze at the vibrant night life! You can't say you have been to Amsterdam without visiting the Red Light District!
How to get to Amsterdam?
Amsterdam is indeed a beautiful city and we got to Amsterdam via Stenaline from Cambridge. Do consider taking the sea route to Amsterdam if you're visiting from the United Kingdom!
Otherwise, the nearest airport's the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Easyjet flies here so you could get a cheap ticket to and from Amsterdam.
From the airport, take a train to Amsterdam Central Station. Depending on where your accommodation is, you can either walk, or take a tram!
Another popular way to visit Amsterdam is the train route. Amsterdam is only a couple of hours by train from London and Paris.
Where to stay in Amsterdam?
If you are on a budget, we definitely recommend the EasyHotel. It is a fuss-free hotel that provides a good sleep and shower. It is tiny and does not have any amenities but if you are one that will always bring your own, this is a great choice! It is also located walking distance to the Albert Cuyp Market. We stayed at here during our trip and we had a good 3 nights!
This hotel is great for a luxurious stay in the city centre of Amsterdam. The rooms are beautiful and nicely decorated. Breakfast is also included in the night's stay!
Yotel Amsterdam Airport Hotel
Should you be in Amsterdam for just a short layover, staying in the airport may be a good option. Read This Big Wild World's review of Yotel!
How to get around Amsterdam?
In Amsterdam, the best way to get around is to take the trams. The tram covers many locations in the city and only costs 2.70 euro. What is great about the tram ticket is that you'll get unlimited travel for the entire hour.
Tourists can also consider purchasing the I amsterdam City Card that gives you free travel for 24, 48, 72, or 92 hours. It grants you entry to over 60 museums and attractions and also include a free 1-hour canal cruise. With the card, you'll enjoy discounts and special offers in various restaurants and stores throughout Amsterdam and the surrounding areas.
Otherwise, cycling is the other cost-effective and great way to see Amsterdam! You can find many bike rental companies all around Amsterdam!
Now that we've got the basics out of the way, let's check out the 10 best things to do in Amsterdam
1. Visit the Heineken Beer Museum
If you are a beer lover, you definitely can't miss heading to the Heineken Beer Museum. The Heineken Experience is one of the best beer museum visit that we have had so far! For just 21 euros (or 18 euros if you purchase online), you get to tour the interactive museum, try your hand at being a beer sommelier, get 2 chilled beers and get a free amsterdam map! When we visited, they even provided a free canal cruise and a free heineken glass! But it seems like it isn't the case now... Oh, and should you want to skip the queue, purchase your Heineken Experience fast-track tickets here!
Stadhouderskade 78, 1072 AE in Amsterdam
2. Go on a Canal Cruise
Definitely go for the Canal Cruise! Amsterdam's Canal Ring was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010. A cheaper option is to get the one along with the Heineken Experience also known as the Rock the City tickets! Otherwise, the Canal Cruise Tickets cost 10 euros online. In winter, there is also the Amsterdam Light Festival running from late November to early January and you can go on an evening cruise to admire the light-up!
3. Shop at the Albert Cuyp Market
The Albert Cuyp Market is a street market that sells everything from clothes, groceries, and food. It is interesting to just walk down and watch the local shop. There are several stores in the market that sells freshly-made Stroopwafels that you should try! Check out also some of this list of typical dutch foods that you should try!
These Stroopwafels are warm and is a great snack to eat during the cold winter months! Try the original ones that has warm gooey honey in-between the waffle.
4. Have Pommes Frites
A popular snack in Amsterdam is the Pommes Frites (or what we know as fries). In Amsterdam, fries are double fried and are serve in a cone-like holder with tomato, mayo, and onions! You can find them at the Albert Cuyp Market, or go hunting for the best!
Manneken Pis is voted as one of the best place for Pommes Frites in Amsterdam! You'll often see a long queue where hungry locals and tourists line up for the best fries!
Damrak 41, Amsterdam
5. Cycle in Amsterdam (or not...)
There are many bike paths throughout Amsterdam and that is the preferred way to commute for locals. An interesting sight that we witnessed during our trip was how bicycles often end up in the canals and they would have to use this contraption to pick up all the bikes that were disposed of in the canals.
6. Visit the Von Gogh Museum
Even if you're not a Van Gogh fan, you should still visit this museum that houses the biggest collection of Van Gogh pieces!
Van Gogh Museum
Museumplein 6, 1071 DJ Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Rijksmuseum is the Dutch national museum and is located close to the Van Gogh museum. At the back of the museum, you'll find the famous Iamsterdam letters!
It is often packed with tourists that want to take home a part of amsterdam as a picture! Look at the great view of the Rijksmuseum too!
Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam, Netherlands
8. Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House is the original house where Anne Frank and her family hid during the Nazi Period. You get to actually walk through the house and see the condition in which they lived. It is an extremely great historical place and museum.
Should you wish to learn more about Anne Frank, join the Anne Frank Story and Neighbourhood tour as you embark on a small group tour that brings you through her childhood.
Anne Frank House
Prinsengracht 263-267, 1016 GV Amsterdam, Netherlands
9. Red Light District
No photos for the red light district because you are not allowed to do so! Please keep your cameras away as if anyone sees you taking photos of the girls, they will readily whisk you away to demand that you delete all photos, or even take away your camera! It is also better to go as a group for safety purposes.
This area has brothels, sex shops, and museums. Here, you get the prostitutes dress up sexily behind a glass window and they will stand or sit the entire night attracting customers. A small room sits behind the glass window where the deed is done. When they get a customer, they will draw the curtains and serve their clients in the small room. It is quite an interesting scene and one should visit the red light district if not you've not exactly been to Amsterdam!
Be wary of people who would try to sell you drugs and steer far away from them. For those who are still worried about wandering around the Red Light District, perhaps you may wish to join a Guided Walking Tour that brings you to the secret spots and provides you with a commentary and history of the red light district!
10. Go on Day Trips
Even with the many things to do in Amsterdam, sometimes you may just want to get out of the city to catch a breath of fresh air and perhaps away from the hustle and bustle. Here are two day trips that we recommend!
Efteling Theme Park
Just a short ride out of Amsterdam, you'll find the Efteling Theme Park. It is definitely worth visiting as it is not your typical theme park where you'll see a colourful set or characters. Instead, the park is situated within the woodlands and characters are based on stories and fairytales by Hans Christian Andersen and Brothers Grimm.
Read also our Efteling Theme Park guide here!
This was a day trip that we didn't manage to go to when we were in Amsterdam. In Spring, you must take a day trip to Keukenhof, especially if you love tulips and flowers.
Bonus! - A'DAM lookout
There's a new kid on the block in Amsterdam - the A'DAM lookout is a 360degree panoramic observation deck where you'll get an amazing view of the whole of Amsterdam. For those dare devils, you may wish to challenge yourselves with the "Over the Edge" Swing ride - Europe's highest swing!
So here's our guide to touring Amsterdam and we hope that you'll have an amazing visit! Check out these instagrammable Amsterdam spots while you are there, or these day trips from Amsterdam and share with us what other activities you've tried in Amsterdam!
This post was initially written on 29 January 2018 and has been updated on 15 March 2019 for recency.