My recommendations for things to do in Amsterdam are really just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much to explore but here’s my list:
Anne Frank House
First and foremost, everyone HAS to go to Anne Frank House. It’s such a sobering experience where you get to walk through the Secret Annex where Anne and her family hid from the Nazis during WWII for fear of persecution for over two years! During those years, she documented their life in hiding in her diary, which her father—the only known surviving member of the Frank family—decided to publish after the war. I highly recommend that everyone read the book before visiting the museum if you haven’t already.
80% of the tickets to the museum are released exactly two months in advance online (at 9:00 a.m. Amsterdam time), so once you know the dates, you’ll be visiting Amsterdam, pick a day and set a reminder to go to the website to purchase your tickets. They do sell out, so be on top of it! The other 20% are released the day of online as well… so there is a chance you could still get some, but I wouldn’t risk it. Tickets range in price: €0.50 for children under the age of 9, €5.50 for ages 10-17, and €10.50 for adults (the additional €0.50 is an online booking fee).
Pro tip: Weekends are the most popular time to visit this museum, so book your tickets for a weekday to avoid the crowds!
Museumplein is a large square where the most famous museums are located, along with a large park and the iconic “I AMSTERDAM” sign. During the summer, it’s a popular place to hang out and enjoy the warm weather. During the winter, the park is converted into a Christmas market with an ice skating rink.
Pro tip: Get the I Amsterdam City Card. You’ll get free access to 44 different museums, including Van Gogh, Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt House, and more! Plus, you’ll also be able to ride any of the buses, trams, or subways for free! You can get a card valid for 1 to 4 days, starting at €60.
Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum that is dedicated to the arts and history of Amsterdam. Here, you’ll find amazing works of art such as Vincent Van Gogh’s Self Portrait, The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn, and The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer.
This museum is a top-rated destination, so I advise buying your tickets in advance online so you can skip the line. Tickets to Rijksmuseum start at €19.00 for adults and are free for people 18 and under. They go up in price if you want to add on any additional exhibits or if you’d like an audio guide.
Van Gogh Museum
It goes without saying why this museum is a must-see place. The Van Gogh Museum is dedicated to the works of Van Gogh, obviously, and it houses the largest collection in the world! Some of the most famous pieces you’ll see here are The Potato Eaters, Almond Blossom, Sunflowers, and his Self Portrait as a Painter.
Tickets for the museum are €19.00, and people under the age of 18 are free. Like Rijksmuseum, this is a pretty popular attraction, so be sure to buy tickets online in advance, so you don’t have to wait in line.
The Stedelijk Museum contains modern and contemporary art and design from the early 20th century up to the 21st century. It includes works from Vincent Van Gogh, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and many others.
Again, this is another popular destination for tourists, so buy your tickets online in advance. Tickets are €18.50 for adults, and €10.00 for students, with free entrance for anyone under 18.
Pro tip: If you’re visiting Amsterdam in November, be sure to check out Museumnacht (Museum Night)! It’s a great way to discover a ton of art, music, fashion, theatre, and more! 55 museums in Amsterdam will open their doors between 7:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. For 2019, it is being held on Saturday, November 2.
It’s no secret that The Netherlands is the best place to go to see gorgeous tulip fields—over 7 million bulbs will bloom this spring, with a total of 800 different varieties. You can also enjoy the spectacular flower shows, surprising inspirational gardens, unique art and other wonderful events.
Keukenhof is located at a short distance outside Amsterdam—a 45-minute drive or an hour-or-so train ride. I highly recommend booking a tour to visit the park. It is open seasonally, usually from March to May. For 2020, the dates are March 21 to May 10, 2020. So if you’re travelling to Europe in the spring, this is a must-see!
When you arrive in Amsterdam, you’ll most likely be taking the train from Schipol to Centraal Station—or you may be coming to Centraal Station by train from another city. Regardless of how you arrive, walk down the Damrak—a vast, busy street lined with a ton of shops and restaurants—and you’ll soon end up in Dam Square.
Dam Square is a must-see area, as it is the site of the National Monument, the Royal Palace, De Nieuwe Kerk (“New Church”), and De Bijenkorf shopping centre (which is fantastic, btw). Also, suppose you wander down some of the side streets. In that case, you’ll come across a ton of beautiful boutiques, delicious cafes/restaurants (one of my favourite restaurants, Café Schuim, is right around the corner), pubs, and more!
Thanks to Amsterdam’s super easy public transportation system and dedicated bike paths, it’s easy to cover much ground to see most of it. But, one of the best ways I recommend visiting the city is by taking a canal cruise.
You’ll get to go under many of the iconic bridges—Torensluis Brug, Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge), Blauwbrug, Lekkeresluis Brug, and more, for example. You’ll also be taken out to visit the NEMO Science Museum, you’ll venture around the “other side” of Centraal Station, and so much more.
Pro tip: Are you travelling to Amsterdam between November and January? Be sure to check out the Light Festival! It’s an incredible experience where you take a canal cruise through the city and can see about 25 different artistic light installations, some telling stories of the city. Definitely, do not miss it! Plus, the cruise I recommend taking comes with free drinks!
Vondelpark is the largest and most famous city park in Amsterdam. This 47-hectare park is located just south of Museumplein and is full of people on a nice, sunny day. There is an open-air theatre, playgrounds, and several food/drink options as well.
One of my favourite things to do was to take a leisurely bike ride through the park, enjoying the weather, people watching, and then stopping at De Vondeltuin for a drink!
Amsterdam is full of unique markets! There is plenty to explore, from the famous flower market to flea markets, to find unique souvenirs, gifts, food, and more! These are a few of my favourites:
Amsterdam is known for its tulips, and what better place to see all the different kinds of them at the famous Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market). The world’s only floating market, you can find not only a wide variety of tulips but also roses, orchids, seeds, and more!
This bustling market is popular among both tourists and locals. It’s really a one-stop-shop for fresh produce, fish, jewellery, candy, souvenirs… just about anything!
Through a door on Spuiplein, you can find a medieval inner-courtyard where women of the Catholic sisterhood lived. Here, you can see one of the oldest residences in Amsterdam and explore a hidden chapel behind the facades of residential buildings. The women who resided here lived like nuns but were more independent and had more freedoms. With Catholicism being banned in the 16th century, this was the only Catholic institution that existed because the houses were the women’s private property; they did, however, have to give up their chapel, but later came the “hidden chapel” that you can visit still today.
There are so many exciting things in this city, but I thought these were some of the best ones for a first-time trip.