The Best Things to Do in Amsterdam: Museums, Canals, and More
Amsterdam is a city with a rich cultural heritage and a vibrant modern scene. Known for its canals, museums, and lively nightlife, Amsterdam is a popular tourist destination for travelers from around the world. In this guide, we’ll explore the best things to do in Amsterdam, from museums and canals to parks, nightlife, and more.
Top Museums in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is home to some of the world’s most famous and renowned museums, attracting millions of visitors each year. Here are some of the top museums in Amsterdam that are definitely worth a visit:
- Rijksmuseum: The Rijksmuseum is the Netherlands’ national museum, and it’s home to an extensive collection of Dutch art and history. The museum has over 8,000 objects on display, including works by famous Dutch painters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals. The most famous painting in the collection is undoubtedly Rembrandt’s Night Watch, a must-see for any visitor to the museum.
- Van Gogh Museum: The Van Gogh Museum is dedicated to the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh, one of the most famous artists of all time. The museum has the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings in the world, including iconic works like Sunflowers, The Potato Eaters, and Starry Night. The museum also has a collection of letters written by Van Gogh, providing insight into his personal life and artistic vision.
- Anne Frank House: The Anne Frank House is a museum dedicated to the life of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl who kept a diary during World War II. The museum is located in the house where Anne and her family hid from the Nazis for two years, and visitors can see the secret annex where they lived. The museum provides a moving and poignant insight into the Holocaust and the human cost of war.
- Stedelijk Museum: The Stedelijk Museum is Amsterdam’s museum of modern and contemporary art. The museum’s collection includes works by famous artists such as Piet Mondrian, Kazimir Malevich, and Andy Warhol, as well as contemporary artists like Jeff Koons and Marlene Dumas. The museum also has an impressive collection of design objects, including furniture, ceramics, and textiles.
- Hermitage Amsterdam: The Hermitage Amsterdam is a branch of the famous Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. The museum hosts temporary exhibitions of art and artifacts from the Hermitage collection, including works by artists like Rembrandt, Rubens, and Velázquez. The museum also has a collection of objects from the Russian Imperial Court, providing a fascinating glimpse into Russian history and culture.
Exploring Amsterdam's Canals
Amsterdam’s canals are world-famous and are a must-see for any visitor to the city. The canals were created in the 17th century to improve transportation and trade, and they have since become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here are some of the best ways to explore Amsterdam’s canals:
- Take a Canal Cruise: One of the best ways to see Amsterdam’s canals is to take a canal cruise. There are many companies that offer guided tours, ranging from basic sightseeing trips to dinner cruises and even cocktail tours. A canal cruise is a great way to see the city from a different perspective, and the guides will provide interesting insights into the history and architecture of the canal houses.
- Walk Along the Canals: Another great way to explore Amsterdam’s canals is to simply walk along them. The canal belt is home to many picturesque streets and bridges, and there are plenty of opportunities for taking photos. Walking is a great way to get a sense of the city’s layout and to discover hidden gems that you might not see from a boat.
- Rent a Boat: For those who want to explore the canals on their own, renting a boat is a great option. There are several companies that rent out small motorboats, electric boats, or even pedal boats, which allow visitors to explore the canals at their own pace. Just make sure to follow the rules and stay within the designated canal areas.
- Visit the Canal Museums: Amsterdam has several museums that are dedicated to the history and culture of the canals. The Canal House Museum provides insight into the lives of wealthy Amsterdam residents during the Golden Age, while the Amsterdam Pipe Museum explores the city’s tobacco trade. The Museum of the Canals offers interactive exhibits on the history and construction of the canals.
- Enjoy a Canal-Side Drink: Finally, one of the best ways to experience Amsterdam’s canals is to simply sit back and enjoy a drink at one of the many canal-side cafes and bars. Whether it’s a coffee, beer, or cocktail, there’s nothing quite like sipping a drink while watching the boats go by.
Exploring Amsterdam’s canals is a must-do activity for any visitor to the city. Whether you choose to take a guided tour, rent a boat, or simply stroll along the water, you’re sure to be captivated by the beauty and history of these iconic waterways.
Amsterdam's Famous Parks and Gardens
Amsterdam is a city that values green spaces, and there are many beautiful parks and gardens to explore. Vondelpark is the city’s most famous park, with lakes, gardens, and even an open-air theater. Amsterdamse Bos is a vast forested area that’s perfect for cycling or hiking, while Hortus Botanicus is a botanical garden that’s home to an impressive collection of exotic plants.
Experience Amsterdam’s Nightlife
Amsterdam’s nightlife scene is legendary, with something to suit every taste. From trendy cocktail bars to lively nightclubs and music venues, there’s always something going on in Amsterdam after dark. The city’s Red Light District is also a popular destination for those looking for a more risqué evening out.
Discover Amsterdam’s Best Shopping Areas
If shopping is your thing, Amsterdam won’t disappoint. The Nine Streets is a picturesque shopping district that’s home to a range of boutiques, vintage stores, and specialty shops. Kalverstraat is Amsterdam’s main shopping street, with a mix of high-end stores and affordable brands, while De Bijenkorf is a luxury department store that’s a must-visit for fashion lovers.
Visit Amsterdam's Off-the-Beaten-Path Attractions
While the most famous attractions in Amsterdam are definitely worth a visit, the city also has many unique and lesser-known attractions that are worth seeking out. The NDSM Wharf is a former shipyard that’s been transformed into a creative hub, with art installations, bars, and restaurants. Micropia is a museum dedicated to microbes and the role they play in our lives, while the Electric Ladyland Museum is a museum of fluorescent art that’s unlike anything else you’ll see in Amsterdam.
Taste Amsterdam's Culinary Delights
No visit to Amsterdam is complete without trying some of the city’s famous culinary delights. Traditional Dutch dishes like bitterballen (deep-fried meatballs) and stroopwafels (caramel-filled waffle cookies) are must-tries, while international cuisine is also well-represented in Amsterdam. Street food is a popular option for those on the go, with food trucks and stalls serving up everything from falafel to Vietnamese pho.