Whether it’s historic world-class museums, cultural activities, strolls along picture perfect postcard canals or the experience of the city’s exciting nightlife, Amsterdam is a city that is jam packed with adventure around every corner. So how do you make the most of a short visit to the city when you only have a few days to explore? Start with our list of the top things to do and see when visiting Amsterdam.
The Top 15 Things You “Must See and Do” in Amsterdam:
- Take a stroll along the city’s picturesque canals
Explore the historic Amsterdam canals. Our favorites: The Jordaan area/Western Canal Ring and the Southern Canal Belt (where the golden-age mansions were built for the city’s wealthiest residents).
- Cruise the canals
There is no better way to take in the beauty of Amsterdam’s intricately laced canals then by water. It is the quintessential way to relax, see the sights and learn more about the history of this great city.
- Try the local delicacies
What’s a vacation without enjoying the local food? Must eat foods: Patatje Oorlog (thick cut fries or “frites” with mayo and onions); sample Dutch cheese (especially Gouda which traces its origins to the Netherlands); Stroopwafel (two thin waffles with a sweet syrupy center); Chocolate, Vanilla or Strawberry iced Belgium waffles; Appletaart (a traditional Dutch apple dessert); Herring from a street vendor; Croquettes from FEBO (Amsterdam’s vending machine cafe); and last but not least, Beer (after all this is the home of Heineken and Amstel beer).
- Rent a bike and head out to the country side
Tours are readily available through several tour companies, including: The Yellow Bike and Mike’s Bike Tours. If you’re on the adventurous side, pick up a map of the northern bike routes from the tourism office at Central Station, which is where you will take the free Buiksloterweg ferry to Amsterdam-Noord to explore the Dutch countryside on your own. Be sure to pack a picnic lunch.
- Visit Amsterdam’s Museum Quarter
This is where you will find three of the city’s most famous museums: the Van Gough Museum, The Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum. The iconic, and one of Amsterdam’s most photographed landmarks, the I-Amsterdam sign is located in front of the Rijksmuseum.
- Visit the Jewish Historical Quarter
This historic and quiet neighborhood is home to the Portuguese Synagogue, The Jewish History Museum and the Holocaust Memorial. Other nearby sights not to miss are the Rembrandt House, the Dutch Resistance Museum, Hortus Botanical Garden and the Artis Royal Zoo. Click here for more information.
- Visit the Anne Frank House
Tips: this is one of Amsterdam’s most popular museums and lines to enter can be extremely long (sometimes up to 3 hours during peak season). Do make sure to purchase your tickets on-line before your trip to avoid the crowds. Visit www.annefrank.org for more information.
- Explore Amsterdam’s City Centre
Although it is one of the city’s most touristy spots (due to its close proximity to Central Station and Cruise line docks) this is a must see area on your itinerary. Here you will find beautiful cobble stone side streets filled with shops and cafes, The Red Light District, The Royal Palace, Dam Square, Oude Kerk (Amsterdam’s oldest surviving building), the Amsterdam Museum and yes, even the Cannabis College.
- Discover Het Scheepvaartmuseum (Maritime Museum)
This fascinating museum traces the incredible history of Amsterdam’s rise to become one of the world’s most powerful trading cities. Here you will be able to step aboard a replica Dutch East India Company trading ship and view one of the world’s most extensive collections of maritime memorabilia.
- Ride the Tram
Not only is it convenient, but it is also an economical way to travel through the city. Visitors find this is one of the best ways to tour the city.
- Boutique Shopping
If you must shop, then be sure to visit Amsterdam’s: De Negen Straatjes (The Nine Little Streets) located along the western canals. This quaint area nestled along the banks of the canals offers shoppers a variety of specialty and designer boutiques; De Jordaan – Bohemian shopping at its finest. Gorgeous streets filled with galleries, vintage shops, unique specialty boutiques and numerous cafes; Magna Plaza – an indoor shopping center located in the City Centre.
- Visit the Tulip Market
Amsterdam’s largest collection of outdoor street vendors specializing in tulip bulbs and other Dutch souvenirs.
- Dine in the Leidersplein area
This hip area is known for its numerous restaurants, shops and neon-lit nightlife.
- Try your luck at the Amsterdam Casino
Many first time visitors are surprised to learn that Amsterdam has casinos. If you’re up for some late night fun, this is the place to go.
- Explore the Hedonistic side of the city
Yes, we are talking about the Red Light District and Amsterdam’s 200 coffee shops (it’s legal here, if that’s your thing). If you need more options, visit the Sex Museum (yes, there is such a place) or one of the city’s interesting sex shops.
Tip: If you will be planning to spend at least three days exploring Amsterdam and visiting the many museums, the I Amsterterdam City Card will be worth purchasing. This card offers free admission to over 30 museum and attractions, including a 1-hour canal tour and free public tram, bus and metro transportation. Purchase on-line or in person at the Amsterdam Tourism office in Central Station.
Further reading: Interesting and Unique Things you will find in Amsterdam.