Travel Tips

The 68 Best Things to Do in Amsterdam: Anne Frank, Van Gogh, and the Red Light District

Amsterdam is one of the most popular cities to visit in Europe, packed full of museums, cool attractions, and fun things to do. If you’re planning a trip and don’t know where to start then don’t worry! We’ve gathered together everything we can think of that you can do on a vacation in Amsterdam and have come up with a 68 item-long bucket list.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

1. Get Your Art on in the Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is the largest art history museum in the Netherlands, featuring 8,000 pieces and objects by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and other Dutch masters. Check out thee gem in the crown of the Museumplein, an absolute must-see site for art-lovers. 

Canal Boat Tour Amsterdam

2. Relax on a Canal Boat Trip

Amsterdam is one of several cities referred to as ‘the Venice of the North’ due to its elaborate system of canals, which give the impression that some neighborhoods are floating on the water. There’s no better way to see the city than by sitting back on a boat tour and letting a guide point out the important things you can see from the water.

Red Light District Amsterdam
Flickr: Not4rthur CC BY 2.0

3. Explore the Red Light District 

Amsterdam is a famously permissive city, and there’s no better place to discover what that means than the Red Light District. Explore the streets of De Wallen to see sex workers in their windows, or to see the cafés which can legally sell marijuana. The area has a different vibe after dark, so decide whether to do during the day or at night – either way, a guided tour will make sure that you see everything while staying safe.

4. Chill out in the Vondelpark

The Vondelpark is a great place to rest your tired feet after a day of sightseeing. In summer, the city also puts on free concerts and plays in the open-air theater, so if you’re around between June and the end of August, make sure to see if there’s anything interesting on!

5. Hit the Town and Find the Nightlife after Dark

Amsterdam is well-known as a party town, and visitors can find plenty of opportunities to stay out all night! You can join some organized nightlife tours, pub crawls, or make your own way out into the streets to dance the night away.

Van Gogh Self Portrait

6. Discover the Master in the Van Gogh Museum

Even people who don’t know anything about art know about Vincent van Gogh. The Van Gogh Museum in the Museumplein is home to paintings by the artist from several different periods in addition to some works by his contemporaries – and you’ll even get to see the famous Sunflowers.

Tulip Fields Keukenhof
Flickr: Joost Pals – CC BY 2.0

7. Escape to Keukenhof and the Tulip Fields

Think of the Netherlands and what image do you see? Windmills and huge fields full of tulips? You’re probably picturing Keukenhof, which has 7 million tulips blooming between March and June every year. If you’re visiting during spring then it’s a great spot for a day trip, with dozens of cool photo opportunities with the beautiful scenery.

Windmills at Zaanse Schans
Flickr: Michela Simoncini CC BY 2.0

8. Watch the Windmills at Zaanse Schans

Zaanse Schans is about 15 minutes away from Amsterdam by train, and it’s one of the most popular day-trip destinations from the city. Visitors can get a taste of traditional arts and crafts, plus you can take tours of working windmills and take part in chocolate and clog making workshops.

9. Watch AFC Ajax at the Johan Cruyff Arena

If you’re a sports fan then you’ll know that Ajax, Amsterdam’s biggest football team, is one of the most successful clubs in Europe. You can watch a match at the Johan Cruyff Arena, or take a guided tour of the stadium to get behind the scenes!

10. Meet the Animals at Artis Zoo

Artis Royal Zoo is the oldest zoo in the Netherlands and is home to all kinds of animals, plus an aquarium and a planetarium. A visit can take up to a day and will be especially fun for kids.

Anne Frank Huis
Flickr: Elena Giglia CC BY-SA 2.0

11. Visit the Anne Frank House

Anne Frank was a German-born Dutch girl whose Jewish family hid in an annex during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. They were eventually discovered and transported to concentration camps, where Anne died at the age of 15. After her death, her father Otto published her diaries, which became a bestselling book worldwide. The Anne Frank House is the site of the annex where she and her family lived for over 2 years and contains an exhibition dedicated to her life, writing, and the impact of the Holocaust. It’s a somber place to visit, but an important one for those who want to understand the story and its place in the city’s history.

12. Get up High at the A’dam Lookout

The A’dam Lookout is a fun attraction that lets you get a great view of the city! Enjoy the Sky Deck platform or enjoy a cocktail and a meal at the restaurant on the roof. Real daredevils will also have a chance to try Europe’s highest swing, Over the Edge, 328 feet (100 meters) above the ground!

Bike Tour Amsterdam
Flickr: schermpeter42 CC BY-ND 2.0

13. Take a Bike Tour to Get Around Like the Locals

You’ll notice that Amsterdammers like to travel by bike around their city, so why not join them? When you rent a bike or go along on a cycling tour of the city, you’ll see the city as the locals do while learning all about the history and culture.

Moco Museum
Flickr: bertknot CC BY-SA 2.0

14. Admire Modern Art at the Moco Museum

Get edgy when you visit the Moco Museum, which is dedicated to modern and contemporary art. With past exhibits featuring Banksy and Roy Lichtenstein, you know you’ll be seeing works from the coolest characters of the art world.

Heineken Experience
Flickr: Will White CC BY 2.0

15. Drink Up at the Heineken Experience

Did you know that Heineken beer comes from Amsterdam? Take a tour at the Heineken Experience to learn all about how they brew the good stuff, the history of the brand, and (of course) to get a taste of the delicious pilsner.

Concertgebouw

16. Catch a Performance at the Concertgebouw

Lovers of classical music should definitely not miss out on a trip to the Royal Concertgebouw, renowned for having some of the best acoustics of any concert hall in the world. Watch a concert to experience it for yourself!

Coffee Shop Amsterdam
Flickr: Ricardo Liberato CC BY-SA 2.0

17. Take a Tour of Amsterdam’s Coffee Shops

Amsterdam’s coffee shops (note: not a Koffiehuis or café) are allowed to dispense cannabis and visitors are allowed to smoke or consume it on the premises. The atmosphere is extremely chilled, but if it’s your first time then it might be a good idea to take a tour with a guide who can explain the do’s and don’ts of weed consumption in the city.

Hermitage Amsterdam
Flickr: Guilhem Vellut CC BY 2.0

18. Hurry to the Hermitage Amsterdam

The Hermitage Amsterdam is an off-shoot of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and one of the permanent exhibitions is dedicated to the relationship between Russian and Dutch artists and patrons. The other exhibitions feature a range of artists from around the world, and there’s always something new and interesting to see!

Madame Tussaud Amsterdam
Flickr: Michael Coghlan CC BY-SA 2.0

19. Meet the Stars at Madame Tussauds Amsterdam

Wherever you are in the world, Madame Tussauds is an institution you won’t want to miss. In addition to your favorite global stars, the Amsterdam attraction has a room which lets visitors take part in iconic artworks, from Dalí’s surreal landscapes to Rembrandt’s Night Watch.

20. Get Your Cocktail on at the House of Bols

The Bols family began distilling liqueurs in the 17th century, and today they sell both their traditional Dutch genever and their own brand of vodka, plus they train bartenders and mixologists in cocktail-making! On a trip to the House of Bols you’ll get a tour through the history, science, and manufacturing of spirits, plus you’ll get a cocktail made to your taste.

21. Dive Deep into the Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum

If you’re interested in number 17 on this list, you’re probably going to find the Hash Museum in Amsterdam fascinating too! The museum in De Wallen aims to educate visitors about the historical and contemporary uses of marijuana, for medicinal, recreational, agricultural, and industrial purposes. You’ll come for the weed, but stay for the facts!

Kaashuis Amsterdam
Flickr: Claudia Schillinger CC BY-ND 2.0

22. Go Cheese Tasting at Henri Willig

Henri Willig makes traditional Dutch cheeses – you might recognize the bright colors from stores back home since they export to more than 30 countries worldwide. Head to the Amsterdams Kaashuis for a demonstration of how to make cheese and to get a taste of several different flavors!

Efteling
Flickr: Jeroen Kransen CC BY-SA 2.0

23. Take a Family Day Trip to Efteling

Efteling is one of the oldest theme parks in Europe and was even one of the inspirations for the original Disneyland. With whimsical fairytales as the theme, there’s lots to interest young children as well as kids who want to go on rides.

Portuguese Synagogue
Flickr: Richard Mortel CC BY 2.0

24. Explore the Jewish Historical Museum

The Jewish Cultural Quarter is made up of several different museums and sites including the Portuguese Synagogue, the Jewish Historical Museum, the JHM Children’s Museum, and the National Holocaust Memorial and Museum. One ticket will get you entry to all of the fascinating sites over a month, so take your time exploring!

25. Step Back in Time at the Rembrandt House Museum

Come and see where one of Amsterdam’s most iconic painters, Rembrandt van Rijn lived and worked for over 15 years, with the interior reconstructed so that you’ll get a sense of what his life was like. There’s also a modern exhibition space next doors where you can see art by and inspired by Rembrandt.

26. Hunt for antiques in Nieuwe Spiegelstraat

If you want a souvenir that’s a little different (no keychains or snowglobes for you!) then you should head to Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. It’s a street full of antique dealers, and you might feel like you’ve fallen back in time when you peer through the elaborately decorated windows.

Royal Palace of Amsterdam
Flickr: Paul Sullivan CC BY-ND

27. Feel like a Prince or Princess at the Royal Palace of Amsterdam

The Royal Palace of Amsterdam is still in use as King Willen-Alexanders’s official reception palace, so you’ll need to double-check before visiting in case there are any important state occasions. On other days, you’ll be able to explore the extravagant interiors at your leisure, pretending you’re a member of the Dutch royal family.

Nemo Science Museum
Flickr: Michael Coghlan CC BY-SA 2.0

28. Get Experimental at the NEMO Science Museum

Science museums are great fun for kids and adults alike! The Nemo Science Museum has 5 floors of interactive exhibits on different topics from biology, chemistry, and physics, and you can easily take a whole day to explore!

Amsterdam Dungeon
Flickr: Steve Terrell CC BY 2.0

29. Shiver with Fear in the Amsterdam Dungeon

The Amsterdam Dungeon takes you on a tour through the city’s darker history, myths, and legends, with actors putting on a creepy show for your delight and disgust. From the Spanish Inquisition to witch trials and public executions, you’ll learn a lot, if you dare to enter…

traditional Staphorst paint stamping skills
Flickr: Sebastiaan ter Burg CC BY 2.0

30. Learn Traditional Paint Stamping Techniques

Who doesn’t love coming home from a vacation with a new skill? The Dutch Costume Museum organizes a workshop once a month that teaches traditional Staphorst paint stamping skills. Learn how to do it and then decorate a bag to take home with you!

31. Enjoy a Candlelit Concert at the Portuguese Synagogue

If you’d like to experience classical music in a unique venue, then look out for concerts at the Portuguese Synagogue. You can visit during the daytime with a ticket to the Jewish Cultural Quarter, but it’s something else entirely when lit by candles after dark!

32. Learn about World War II at the Dutch Resistance Museum

The Verzetsmuseum doesn’t talk about warfare. It focuses on the many ways the Dutch people resisted during the occupation by the Nazis during World War II. You’ll hear about the stories of exceptional heroes, as well as ordinary people doing their bit each day.

Ape at Diamant Museum

33. Discover your Inner Material Girl at the Diamant Museum

The Diamant Museum Amsterdam is found in the heart of the city and a guided tour will teach you about the city’s role at the heart of the diamond trade. Later in the tour, a diamond expert will show you how to tell a fake stone from a real one, or you can book a workshop to learn how to polish diamonds yourself.

Tassenmuseum
Flickr: bertknot CC BY-SA 2.0

34. Get a Fashion Fix at the Museum of Bags & Purses

The Tassenmuseum grew out of Hendrikje and Heinz Ivo’s collection of beautiful and unusual bags, and today visitors can see over 5,000 different styles of bags dating back to the 16th century, as well as a couple of bags that belonged to famous women such as Margaret Thatcher and Hilary Clinton.

Segway Amsterdam
Flickr: FaceMePLS CC BY 2.0

35. See the Sights on a Segway

If cycling around the place is just a little bit too 20th Century for you, then why not try a Segway tour? You’ll get to zoom past all the other tourists while an expert guide tells you all you need to know about the history and culture of Amsterdam.

36. Sip Ice Cold Cocktails at Icebar Amsterdam

If you’re visiting in summer then you’ll probably need some refreshments and a place to get out of the heat. There’s no better place to fill both of those needs than at the Xtracold Icebar Amsterdam, where everything is made out of ice and the temperature is kept at a chilly -10 degrees Celsius – and the drinks are pretty great too.

37. Learn about Maritime History at the Amsterdam Scheepvaartmuseum

The National Maritime Museum of the Netherlands is a gem of a museum, with plenty of interactive activities to keep a range of ages engaged and informed. There’s plenty to learn about the long maritime history of the Netherlands, plus you can explore a replica Golden Age ship and take a virtual reality tour!

Canoe through Wetlands Amsterdam

38. Paddle a Canoe through the City’s Wetlands

Leave the busy canals behind when you escape to the wetlands that surround Amsterdam, and do it all under your own steam! Take a canoe trip with a guide to see a different side of the Netherlands from the water.

Stedelijk Museum
Flickr: Michael Edson CC BY 2.0

39. Explore the Stedelijk Museum

The Stedelijk Museum houses an interesting collection of modern and contemporary art and design, with important collections of Bauhaus, Pop Art, De Stijl, and art from other contemporary movements. Discover over 90,000 pieces when you visit!

Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Amsterdam
Flickr: Can Pac Swire CC BY-NC 2.0

40. Take a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus around the City

If you want to see the city from the top deck of a comfortable bus, or if you’d rather not deal with public transport, then a Hop-On Hop-Off bus ticket might be exactly what you need! You’ll zip around the highlights with the chance to jump off at anything you want to get a closer look at. Plus, you can combine your ticket with a boat cruise or entry to one of Amsterdam’s top attractions.

41. Catch some English-language comedy at Boom Chicago

The local language might be Dutch, but you’ll see the best of the international comedy community at English-language comedy nights at Boom Chicago. Founded in 1993, there’s a serious buzz about the place and it’s hosted several major names of comedy in its 25-year history.

42. Discover World Cultures at the Tropenmuseum

The Museum of the Tropics, or Tropenmuseum, might have been founded in 1864 as a colonial enterprise, but it’s moved on a lot since then! It lets visitors discover objects from different cultures, and tells stories that explore the differences and similarities between people from around the world.

Ice Skating in Amsterdam
Flickr: Jannes Glas. CC BY 2.0

43. Skate on the Keizersgracht or Prinsengracht

If you’re visiting in winter then you might just be lucky enough to see the canals freeze over! You’ll see the locals get their skates out, and if you’re intrepid enough to venture out onto the Keizersgracht or Prinsengracht then you’ll have a very ‘ice time!

Willet-Holthuysen Museum
Flickr: Kotomi_ CC BY-NC 2.0

44. Get a Little Fancy in the Willet-Holthuysen Museum

The Willet-Holthuysen Museum lets visitors peek into the lives of upper class Amsterdammers in the 18th and 19th centuries, and their servants and employees. You can explore the ballroom and dining rooms as well as the kitchen and scullery in the basement, to learn about what it would have been like to live in the Herengracht.

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder
Flickr: bertknot CC BY-SA 2.0

45. Get into the Attic at Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder

During the peak of the Dutch Reformation, it was illegal for Catholics to openly worship and hold services. These laws led to the building of churches like Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, which literally means ‘Our Lord in the Attic’ – a 17th century church hidden on the top floor of a canal house. It’s also one of the oldest museums in Amsterdam, since it was opened to the public in 1888.

46. Go Hunting for a Bargain in Oudemanhuispoort

Oudemanhuispoort has had a long and complicated history – it’s been a hospital, a convent, an arts academy, and part of the University of Amsterdam’s law faculty. Since 1886, it’s also seen its walkway taken over by used book sellers, and their stalls have been favorites of famous city residents, including Vincent van Gogh. Explore by yourself and maybe you’ll find a great deal!

47. Get Inspired at the Bijbels Museum

The Bijbels Museum is home to a collection of bibles and religious artworks and objects, including the oldest printed Dutch book, the 1477 Delftse Bijbel. It’s also home to recreations of Solomon’s Temple and Herod’s Temple, plus a reconstruction of the Tabernacle.

Germs at Micropia

48. Learn about Germs at Micropia

Germaphobes beware! Micropia is a museum dedicated to microbes and microbiology, discovering the cool things that the tiniest life forms on the planet get up to, including how they can help or hurt us.

Houseboat Museum
Flickr: taver CC BY-SA 2.0

49. All Aboard the Houseboat Museum

The Houseboat Museum is on board the Hendrika Maria, a former cargo boat turned cosy home! The owner found himself constantly questioned by passers-by about what it was like to live onboard a boat, so he decided to design a museum that gave people a chance to experience houseboat living.

Human Body at Body Worlds
Flickr: Yann Caradec CC BY-SA 2.0

50. See Inside the Human Body at Body Worlds

Body Worlds exhibitions have been fascinating visitors since 1995, and there’s a permanent exhibit showing all year round in Amsterdam. Learn all about the human body by seeing plastinated bodies in various poses.

51. Visit the Oude Kerk and hunt for the statues dedicated to sex workers

The oldest building in Amsterdam is the church at the heart of the Red Light District, and has been a Catholic and Calvinist church in its time. It also served as the parish church for Rembrandt and many of the inhabitants of the district. In front of and around the Oude Kerk, you’ll find memorials and statues dedicated to sex workers – from Belle, to some more subtle tributes.

52. See what’s on at the Westergasfabriek

Originally a gasworks that supplied the city, today the Westergasfabriek is a Culture Park which hosts TV recordings, exhibitions, activities, shows, and festivals for everyone to enjoy! Check what’s on and head down for an interesting and unpredictable time.

Hortus Botanicus

53. Get Green-fingered at the Hortus Botanicus

The Hortus Botanicus is one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world, and it’s a great place to discover plants that you’ve never heard of before! It’s also home to an interactive children’s program and, over the summer months, the various greenhouses and palmhouses host live music concerts for guests to enjoy.

Herengracht
Flickr: Pietro & Silvia CC BY-SA 2.0

54. Take photos along the Herengracht

You’ll have noticed that lots of the museums and sites are located along the Herengracht, which was where many of the better off residents of Amsterdam lived – especially in the ‘Golden Bend’. If you want to take an iconic photo of the city’s canals, then you’ll want to wonder up and down the Herengracht for the ideal shot of canal houses, canal boats, and bicycles.

EYE Film Institute
Flickr: Kennisland CC BY-SA 2.0

55. Catch some indie films at EYE Film Institute

If you’re a movie buff (and especially if you’re into Dutch cinema) then you’ll need to visit the EYE Film Institute Netherlands, an archive and museum that covers both Dutch films and foreign films screened in the Netherlands. Visit their exhibitions or check the schedule and catch a movie screening.

56. Shop at the Albert Cuyp Market

The Albert Cuyp Market is the busiest market in Amsterdam, and is one of the largest street markets in Europe! You never know exactly what you’ll find on the stalls, but there’ll definitely be a range of food, antiques, and imported items from around the world. You’ll also be able to get your hands on the most Dutch of all snacks: a freshly-made Stroopwafel!

57. Get Your Fill of Kittys at the Kattenkabinet

If you’re the kind of person who tries to visit the weirdest museums wherever they go, then you’ll love the Cat Cabinet! The museum on the Herengracht is dedicated to collecting works of art that feature cats, and they aren’t all kitsch: you’ll see pieces by Picasso, Rembrandt, and other notable artists.

58. Gaze in Awe at the Amsterdam Light Festival

From November until January, Amsterdam gets all dressed up for visitors! The Amsterdam Light Festival illuminates the facades of certain buildings and some bridges so that they look magical to both guests and long-time residents of the city. It’s especially recommended to take a canal boat tour after dark during the festival, as the lights are especially impressive from the water.

Foodhallen
Flickr: Kevin Oliver CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

59. Enjoy Hipster Dining at Foodhallen

Foodhallen opened in 2014 and can be found in an old tram shed. The main hall has 21 food stands and 4 bars, so you’ll definitely be able to find something new and exciting to try. Foodhallen also has event spaces and hosts live performances from musicians.

Animal Sanctuary on the Poezenboot
Flickr: Terretta CC BY-ND-NC 2.0

60. Visit a Floating Animal Sanctuary on the Poezenboot

The Catboat has been taking care of stray and abandoned cats onboard since 1968, and the staff welcome visitors who want to see how it all works! Entry is free, but a donation for upkeep is greatly appreciated by the furry residents and their caretakers.

61. Dive into some History at the Amsterdam Museum

Want an overview of Amsterdam’s history? Head to the Amsterdam Museum! You’ll learn all about the growth of Amsterdam and the Netherlands into a global power, including the influence of the Dutch East India Company, plus kids can get a taste of what it was like to live in a 17th century orphanage.

62. Pay your respects to Rembrandt at the Westerkerk

The Westerkerk was one of the first churches in Amsterdam built to be used by Protestant congregations – until this time (the 1620s) most churches were converted Catholic buildings. Many notable Amsterdammers have worshipped and been buried in the Westerkerk, including Rembrandt.

 Floating Flower Market
Bloemenmarkt (Floating Flower Market) Flickr: Rexness CC BY-NC 2.0

63. Find a Great Souvenir at the Floating Flower Market

The Bloemenmarkt is a great place to go if you want a special souvenir from Amsterdam. The floating stalls sell tulip bulbs so that you can bring the beauty of Keukenhof and the rest of the Netherlands home to your backyard!

Amsterdamse Bos
Flickr: jpmm CC BY-ND-NC

64. Get Back to Nature in the Amsterdamse Bos

If you’re looking for a green space outside the city then look no further than the Amsterdam Forest! It’s three times the size of Central Park and contains several spots for swimming, an open-air theater, and the ability to rent canoes, kayaks, and bicycles for exploring.

Haarlem

65. Take a Day Trip to Haarlem

Visit the capital of North Holland, just 15 minutes away from Amsterdam by train! It’s less busy than Amsterdam and extremely picturesque, with medieval streets and courtyards to explore. Plus there are fascinating museums like the Corrie ten Boom House, which was a vital hiding place for Jews and the Dutch Resistance during World War II.

66. Find the Narrowest House in Amsterdam

The title of ‘Narrowest House in Amsterdam’ is a controversial one – Singel Number 7 has the narrowest facade, while at Number 22 Oude Hoogstraat you’ll find the smallest house, which is 2.02 meters wide and 5 meters deep. 22 Oude Hoogstraat also contains a tearoom, but because it’s so tiny you’re advised to reserve your table in advance!

67. Dress up in Dutch National Dress for a Photo

Everyone needs a cheesy photo of their group when they go on a trip! Visit the Dutch Costume Museum and have a photo taken in Dutch national dress so that you’ll have a souvenir that you’ll always remember!

Negen Straatjes
Flickr: Ronel Reyes CC BY-NC-ND

68. Explore the Negen Straatjes

The Negen Straatjes, or ‘Nine Little Streets’, is a neighborhood full of boutique shops, ateliers, and little eateries. For anyone who is looking for a unique gift for someone back home, or to treat themselves, the Negen Straatjes are a great place to go looking for something special in gorgeous surroundings!

Have you added any of these ideas to your Amsterdam bucket list? Or did we miss anything important? Let us know and happy traveling!

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About author

Anneliese is a former Londoner, keen traveler, and total word nerd. As a Content Management Specialist she knows the TicketLens inventory inside out and curates, matches, and writes about the most interesting attractions worldwide.
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