Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, full of historic buildings, narrow cobbled streets and picturesque canals. The Dutch capital, easily accessible from the U.S. via direct flights from most major cities, boasts dozens of museums and an impressive culinary scene. While the destination is often known for its party atmosphere and legal pot smoking, it’s best not to get *too* caught up in the raucous aspects of Amsterdam and just enjoy its culture and history. Here are 50 of the best things to do when visiting Amsterdam.
The 50 Best Things to Do in Amsterdam
1. For Those On A Luxury Budget, Book A Room At The Pulitzer Amsterdam
Treat yourself to a stay at the Pulitzer Amsterdam, a chic hotel located in the heart of the canals. There are even split-level family rooms for those traveling with kids.
2. For Budget-savvy Travelers, Reserve A Tiny Room At Soho House
A more intimate stay can be found at Soho House Amsterdam, a members-only club that allows non-members to book rooms (and access all its amenities during a stay). Booking a “Tiny” room is a great way to save money in a very expensive city.
3. Bike Around The City On Your Own
Once you’re settled in, rent a bicycle from one of the many bike rental shops and explore the city.
4. Opt For The Guided Bike Tour
Or opt for a guided bike tour with Yellow Bike, which has several options, including a tour that heads into the countryside.
5. Explore By Boat
Another great way to see Amsterdam is by boat, and there are several tour companies that operate canal tours, including Lovers Canal Cruises.
6. Boat And Booze
You can even drink while cruising through the canals with Those Dam Boat Guys, a tour that encourages passengers to bring along food, drinks and, uh, 4/20-friendly items.
7. Visit A 'coffee Shop'
Speaking of 4/20, Amsterdam is well known for its “coffee shops,” which don’t usually serve up much coffee. One of the most famous is Original Dampkring.
8. Now Visit A Less-touristy Coffee Shop
For a quieter smoke, try Tweede Kamer Coffeeshop, a surprisingly classy little spot that attracts a lot of locals.
9. Indulge In The Cheese Munchies
Around the corner from Tweede you’ll find Dutch Delicacy, a cheese shop with endless samples of various types of Gouda (we’re not saying to visit Tweede before you check out the free samples, but we’re also not saying don’t).
10. Go To The Cheese Museum|
If cheese is your thing, you can also visit the Amsterdam Cheese Museum, a literal museum about cheese.
11. Visit The Rijksmuseum Of Dutch Art And History
There is no lack of museums in Amsterdam and the best one is the Rijksmuseum, a massive complex that focuses on Dutch art and history. Think: Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Johannes Vermeer.
12. Visit The Stedelijk Museum For Modern Art
The Stedelijk Museum showcases over 90,000 pieces of modern art, as well as contemporary art and design. The extensive collection includes works from the likes of Kandinsky, Chagall, Matisse, Pollack, Warhol and more.
13. Spend Half A Day At The Van Gogh Museum
A mecca for Postimpressionist lovers, the Van Gogh Museum, as you probably already guessed, is dedicated to the Dutch painter’s life and work. Travel tip: Book timed tickets online in advance and select the earliest possible arrival to avoid the crowds.
14. Remember Recent History At The Anne Frank House
The brilliantly restored Anne Frank House is another must-visit (that also is best experienced with advance tickets). You can literally walk through the secret annex where the Frank family hid from Nazi control and Anne wrote her in her diary that would become The Diary of a Young Girl.
15. See How A Heineken Gets Made
The Heineken Experience is a slightly different type of museum, showcasing the history of the Dutch brew in its former brewery. There’s also a tasting at the end.
16. Take In Holland’s Famous Tulips
Head out of the city to see the Keukenhof Gardens, a vast array of tulips open between March and May.
17. Celebrate National Tulip Day
If you visit in January, National Tulip Day is a sight to behold, with thousands of tulips on display in Amsterdam’s Dam Square (in 2020, it takes place January 18).
18. Visit A Purse Museum Because Why Not?
There are several really unusual museums in Amsterdam, but the best one is the Museum of Bags and Purses, which has items that date back to the Middle Ages (as well as one from Madonna).
19. Peruse The Outdoor Windmill Museum
Windmills are another classic Dutch sight and Zaanse Schans, an open-air museum, is the best spot to learn about historical windmills.
20. Sip And See The De Gooyer Windmill
Or skip the museum and head to Brouwerij 't IJ, a brewery adjacent to Netherlands’ tallest windmill, the De Gooyer, which dates back to the 16th century.
21. Eat A Multi-course Meal At Breda
For lunch, book a table at Breda, a cool spot that offers a surprise tasting menu daily. Opt for four or five courses, as well as the additional cheese plate, for one of the best meals you’ll have in Amsterdam.
22. Lunch Seasonally At Choux
Another great lunch pick is Choux, which serves dishes based on seasonal ingredients, as well as natural wines. Book ahead (and the restaurant is closed Sunday and Monday).
23. Book A Table At Restaurant De Kas Long In Advance
The food game in Amsterdam is strong and one of the more innovative experiences can be found at Restaurant de Kas, a greenhouse-set eatery that requires some serious advance booking.
24. Dine Well And Spot Celebs At Jansz
For a special occasion—or just a nice evening out—Jansz offers a great selection of dishes in an upscale but casual atmosphere. It’s also a good spot to see celebrities (we sat next to Michael Keaton).
25. Bring On The Meat At Cannibale Royale
If you want something a bit more indulgent, Cannibale Royale serves up delicious steaks and ribs. Be warned, though, it is literally cannibal-themed.
26. Taste The Famous Dutch Fries-and-mayo Combo
Fries covered in mayonnaise is a classic Dutch dish, and you can get them from vendors all over the city. Vleminckx de Sausmeester is one of the most famous, with dozens of dipping sauces to pick from.
27. Grab A Stroopwafel To Eat As You Walk
Stroopwafels are also a classic treat in Amsterdam. The best ones come fresh from van Wonderen Stroopwafels, which will cover your sugary snack in candy and melted caramel.
28. Brunch At Little Collins
There are two branches of the Australian-inspired brunch spot Little Collins, both of which will cure any hangover ills.
29. Wake Up With A Coffee At Back To Black
If you want a coffee (an actual coffee), head to Back to Black, a roastery and coffee shop with a few locations around town.
30. Sample Everything At Foodhallen
Amsterdam’s chic food market, Foodhallen, is perfect for travelers who want more choices. There are 21 eateries and bars in the indoor market, serving up dishes from around the world.
31. Indulge In Some Interesting Ice Cream Flavors
What’s a vacation without some ice cream? Ijscuypje is all about fresh scoops of specialty flavors, which include Dutch-specific ones like elderberry and rhubarb sorbet and apple pie.
32. Sip Award-winning Cocktails At Tales & Spirits
Tales & Spirits is a fabulous cocktail bar that also serves up food. It’s great for couples and small groups, but you’ll need to check with the hostess when arriving with six or more.
33. Find Your Way To Door 74 Speakeasy
Door 74 can be slightly challenging to trace, but if you look hard enough, we have faith you will wind up with a cold old-fashioned in hand for the beginning of a great night. (Psst: The best way to get in is to call the same day using the dedicated reservations line.)
34. Drink In A 17th-century Dutch House
Super Lyan, a London import, recently opened its doors in Amsterdam inside the Kimpton de Witt hotel. The cocktails are fun and creative, but you can also sip on wine or beer.
35. Glam It Up For A Cocktail At Pulitzer’s Bar
As you can probably tell, the Amsterdam cocktail scene is blowing up, and some of the best can be found in Pulitzer’s Bar, a moody spot with comfortable seating and an innovative menu of drinks.
36. Take Your Pick Of Natural Wines
If wine is more your speed, pull up a stool at Glou Glou, a bar and wine shop dedicated to natural wines.
37. Taste The History Of Dutch Gin
To learn more about local spirits, visit House of Bols Cocktail and Genever Experience, a distillery dedicated to genever (a Dutch version of gin that is often an acquired taste).
38. Stroll The Red Light District
While it is truly a destination for tourists, it’s worth seeing the Red Light District at least once during your stay in Amsterdam. There are sex shops, sex shows and coffee shops everywhere, but curious travelers can simply stroll through, which is best done at night when the area really comes to life.
39. Watch A Show At Casa Rosso
If you’re more than just curious, snag a ticket to a show at Casa Rosso, a theater that specializes in “erotic entertainment.”
40. Take A Ferry To Ndsm Wharf
Amsterdam central is relatively small, so it’s important to explore the surrounding areas. Start with NDSM Wharf, a cultural hub just across the water by ferry.
41. Stop Over In Rotterdam
Venture even farther to Rotterdam, an insanely cool city accessible from Amsterdam by train. It’s worth a night’s stay, but you can also head in for an afternoon.
42. Eat At Jaffa
In Rotterdam, go to Jaffa, home of the best kapsalon in town. The city’s infamous dish is essentially French fries covered in shawarma and cheese, and it is beyond delicious.
43. Stay At A Cube House
Also in Rotterdam are the Cube Houses, a bizarre collection of buildings you can visit (or even stay in).
44. Train To Giethoorn
The scenic town of Giethoorn, which has canals instead of roads, is also worth an excursion. You can get there by car, bus or train from central Amsterdam.
45. Have A Beach Day
It’s also possible to access several beaches from Amsterdam, with Bloemendaal and Zandvoort being two of the most popular when the summer heat rises.
46. Shop Vintage
Those who want to shop will find loads of options throughout the city, especially if you’re in search of vintage finds. The Nine Streets is the best place to start, but P.C. Hooftstraat is a good mall of designer stores.
47. Scope The Design Discounts
Discount hunters should venture out of town to Batavia Stad Amsterdam, an outlet mall in nearby Lelystad.
48. Chill In Vondelpark
There’s a lot to do in Amsterdam, but it’s also OK to do nothing. That’s best done in Vondelpark, a public green space with gardens and an open-air theater.
49. Take In The View From A’dam Tower
Before you go, take in the views the A'DAM Tower, which has a viewing deck 22 floors up. It also features a revolving restaurant called Moon (perfect for those who don’t get motion sick while eating) and a terrifying ride known as “Europe’s highest swing.”
50. Buy More Cheese
Finally, pack up a bunch of cheese to take home at Old Amsterdam. It’s fine to bring home as long as it’s not unpasteurized and stays vacuum sealed (or just eat it on the plane ride).