Don’t spend your precious time standing in ques or paying over the odds. Get the low down on the top attractions in Amsterdam
Amsterdam doesn’t lack for grand, classical museums and galleries, but Rijksmuseum is the daddy of them all where a collection containing more than 2,000 paintings from the Dutch Golden Age is on show. These include works by Rembrandt (The Night Watch, 1642), Jacob van Ruisdael (Landscape with Waterfall, 1600s), Johannes Vermeer (The Milkmaid, 1658) and Frans Hals (Portrait of a young couple, 1622) plus many more.
The guided tours – accessed through the museum’s app – are second to none, and there’s also a library and Michelin-starred restaurant and café on site. For a few hours of culture, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Anne Frank House
One of the most popular attractions in Amsterdam is the 17th-Century canal house former home of Anne Frank on Prinsengracht. It is a biographical museum dedicated to the wartime diarist Anne Frank who hid from Nazi persecution for 2 years before her capture with her family in hidden rooms.
You can follow in her footsteps, see her bedroom, and the annex which was concealed by a moveable bookcase. The family was betrayed and on the 4th August 1944, they were captured and were deported to various concentration camps throughout Europe. Only her father Otto Frank survived.
It is one of the best-known and most important historical sites in the world, and a chilling and sombre reminder of the horrors of the Second World War, but also a moving testament to humankind’s indefatigable optimism.
If you are planning a trip to Amsterdam and have never read her diary The Diary of a Young Girl then we recommend it before your visit.
Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum is not only one of the most popular museums in Amsterdam but is also one of the most famous throughout the world. It houses the largest collection of works by Vincent Van Gogh including more than 200 paintings including the series “Sunflowers (1888), 500 drawings, and 700 of his personal letters.
For both locals and far-travelling visitors, the Van Gogh Museum is a unique and inspirational experience. Alongside the legacy of Vincent van Gogh’s instantly recognisable impressionist works, such as his landscapes, self-portraits and still life’s, the museum provides opportunities to track the artist’s development and compare his paintings to works by other artists from the 19th century – those who inspired him and those who drew inspiration from him.
Love museums? Check out our TotalGuide to museums in Amsterdam
Often cited as Amsterdam’s most charming neighbourhood, wandering into the Jordaan feels like stepping back in time. Originally a working-class area, the Jordaan’s narrow streets and quaint buildings now make up one of Amsterdam’s most desirable quarters, dotted with independent art galleries, antique shops, courtyard gardens and atmospheric bars and restaurants.
Ditch the map and lose yourself in the labyrinth of narrow lanes that sprawl eastwards from Prinsengracht canal known as the 9 Streets, one of Amsterdam’s most rewarding shopping experiences.
Recently refurbished as part of a drive to regenerate Noord, this 22-storey tower looms over the waterfront across the River IJ from Centraal. Formerly the HQ of Shell, it’s now home to an array of young music, advertising and events companies, plus a handful of bars and restaurants (and even a hotel).
Sip a signature cocktail in the Skybar, eat in one of the two gourmet restaurants on the top floors (one of which revolves), and if you’re really brave, head to the observation deck to Over The Edge, Europe’s highest swing, and enjoy the views as you rock back and forth, 100 metres up.
BODY WORLDS Amsterdam will take you on a fascinating journey through the human body. The exhibition displays real plastinated bodies, giving you a unique peek into our anatomy and how our bodies work.
The BODY WORLDS Amsterdam exhibitions have undergone significant changes and taken on different incarnations throughout the years. From the effects of health, sports and diet to the anatomy of animals, BODY WORLDS Amsterdam has been reinventing itself over and over again and educating people in novel ways since its conception.
The exhibitions are the creation of Dr. Gunther von Hagens, who invented the process of plastination in the University of Heidelberg in 1977. The original exhibitions have been the subject of imitation by countless copycats, but they remain unmatched in terms of quality and innovation.
The lungs of the city, Vondelpark was until recently the only public park in the world where one could legally barbecue, smoke joints and have sex. The latter has since been outlawed (again), but there’s still a relaxed vibe to this green giant’s vast open spaces and wooded trails.
Locals come here to run, cycle, play sports or just chill, and there are plenty of activities for those looking to make a day of it. Don’t miss the beautiful rose garden or the famous open-air theatre where, if you’re lucky, you might catch an impromptu show.
House of Bols
The House of Bols is a unique museum in Amsterdam that not only educates you on the history of liqueur and spirits but also lets you experience it for yourself. This award-winning cocktail & genever experience is the perfect combination of heritage and history in a modern and beautifully designed environment.
House of Bols is located conveniently in the Museum square, which features the famous Van Gogh museum, Stedelijk museum, and the Rijksmuseum. If paintings, photography, and art is not your cup of tea, or if your eyes have feasted upon enough art, take a break to heighten your other senses, such as smell and taste at this museum.
The Moco Museum was founded by Lionel and Kim Logchies who have a permanent modern art gallery in Amsterdam’s Spiegelkwartier. Having worked with some of modern art’s greatest creatives over the years (think Koons, Hirst and Haring) it is due to the couple’s personal network that the museum has inside access to its exhibition pieces. Now, they are able to place exclusive pieces that have been previously concealed in personal collections or private galleries on temporary exhibition for the enjoyment of the greater public.
In the gift shop you will find several items pertaining to Banksy and Warhol.
The Moco Museum is located on Museumplein and is sandwiched by the renowned Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum.
The Rembrandt House (Museum Het Rembrandthuis) is the Amsterdam house where famous Dutch painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) lived.
It contains a permanent collection of Rembrandt etchings and holds regular exhibitions of other noted Dutch artists from the same ‘Golden Age’ period.
The large house dates back to 1607. Rembrandt himself moved in during 1639 after purchasing the building for 13,000 guilders which at the time was considerable sum of money. Rembrandt stayed in the house for 19 years producing some of his most famous works including the NightWatch which can be seen at the Rijksmuseum.
In 1658 after persistent problems paying off his debts Rembrandt was declared bankrupt – a detailed inventory of his possessions was made on behalf of his creditors – and Rembrandt moved to a smaller house on Rozengracht (Amsterdam) where he remained until his death.
Looking for ideas to keep the kids happy? Look no further than the TotalGuide to Amsterdam for kids
ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo was the first zoo to be established in the Netherlands, and it’s located right in the centre of Amsterdam. It’s a place where nature and cultural heritage come together; a place where history has been created since 1838 and where new stories are created daily. Come experience them for yourself.
Be amazed by the many species living side by side in the Forest House and Bird House. Discover the tiniest organisms at ARTIS-Micropia, the world’s only microbe museum. Take a trip through space inside the ARTIS-Planetarium. Watch the giraffes, zebras, ostriches and springboks intermingling on the Savannah.
Feel the fluttering of countless wings in the Butterfly Pavilion. Admire the tropical fish swimming in the vast Aquarium. Stroll through the historical city park with its centuries-old trees and wealth of plants. Delight your taste buds at café-restaurant de Plantage. Or relax in a chair near the fountain on Artisplein.
Royal Palace Amsterdam
The Royal Palace served as Amsterdam’s city hall for its first 150 years of existence. It was then used for 5 short years as an imperial palace. In 1808, French conqueror Napoleon appointed his brother Louis as King of the Netherlands and Louis took up residence here. As the empire started to crumble, Louis made a hasty retreat, leaving many of his opulent furnishings behind. Following the departure of the French, the building was used for ceremonies and receptions by the Dutch royal family.
The palace became state property in 1936, and King Willem-Alexander and his family continue to receive important (international) guests here. The palace is open to visitors and regularly host exhibitions, including the Royal Award for Painting each autumn.
Madame Tussauds’ collection of wax figures has recently been transformed into the place to be for both young and old. Be as beautiful as Doutzen Kroes on the catwalk, sing on stage with the outrageous Lady Gaga or test your IQ with Einstein.
The new IamArt exhibition at Madame Tussauds allows you to literally get inside the masterpieces of Dutch Masters like Piet Mondriaan, Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt van Rijn. Get lost in one of Escher’s paintings and produce your own work of art in Herman Brood’s studio. Come face to face with great artists like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, and accompany Mona Lisa in one of the best known portraits ever created
Take a look behind the scenes on a film set with some of the world’s best actors. Would you dare to interview Hannibal from Silence of the Lambs? How about dressing up like secret agent James Bond? And don’t forget to pose for a picture with Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and George Clooney.
Housed inside Heineken’s historic brewery in the centre of Amsterdam, this interactive museum will take you on an exciting, behind-the-scenes journey through the wild world of one of Europe’s most popular pilsners. It’s now among the city’s most visited attractions, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.
Amsterdam has always been a city of beer lovers. It is home to a variety of breweries and places for beer tasting, but Heineken is still the biggest name and one of the most traditional Amsterdam beers. After Heineken constructed a larger and more modern brewery on the outskirts of Amsterdam, they converted their former home into a museum that opened in 1991. Now dubbed the Heineken Experience, it offers four floors of multimedia exhibits, historical brewing artefacts and a tasting bar. There’s also ‘Brew Your Ride’, a 4D adventure that allows visitors to discover what it’s like to be a bottle of Heineken.
The Maritime Museum
Built in 1656, the former national naval warehouse was once used by the Dutch navy to store sails, ropes, weapons and ammunition. Since 1973 it has been home to the National Maritime Museum, known as the Scheepvaartmuseum in Dutch.
The National Maritime Museum invites visitors to discover how the sea has shaped Dutch culture. In this freshly modernised museum, stimulating, interactive exhibitions let visitors explore 500 years of maritime history. There are a variety of exhibitions, including many especially for children. Notably, the famous replica of the Dutch East India Company ship ‘Amsterdam’ is moored at the museum, so visitors can climb on board and explore it.
The National Maritime Museum offers a complete day out for families with children. There are various interactive and educational exhibitions for children of all ages such as The Tale of the Whale. In the meanwhile, parents and grandparents amuse themselves with the varying exhibitions and permanent collection.
NEMO Science Museum
In the centre of Amsterdam stands one of the most modern architectural highpoints of the capital city. In the green building of the Italian architect Renzo Piano you find NEMO, the largest science museum in the Netherlands. From its roof top square you can admire an amazing view over Amsterdam.
Using a variety of playful exhibitions, NEMO Science Museum introduces young and old to the world of science and technology. Its five floors are filled with continuously updated exhibitions, theatre performances, films, workshops and demonstrations, making it a favourite of kids in Amsterdam. Smell, hear, feel and see how the world works. Everything is interactive, so everyone can join in with the fun and learning, especially in NEMO’s Laboratory.
NEMO also has a great surprise on the outside. Its sloping roof with an outdoor café offers fantastic views of Amsterdam city centre. While up there, there’s plenty to learn about generating power from the elements via the permanent ‘Energetica’ exhibition.
Quick food, good food, or food with a view? Check out Amsterdam’s best eateries and book ahead in our TotalGuide to Restaurants in Amsterdam
Johan Cruyff Arena
Johan Cruijff ArenA (formerly Amsterdam ArenA) is the home of AFC Ajax football club and is the largest sporting stadium in the Netherlands. Located at the south-eastern part of the city the stadium is open to the public for various guided tours.
Tours are available to experience the excitement of the Johan Cruijff ArenA Stadium which can be conducted in either Dutch or English. During the tour, your enthusiastic guide will take you to see the dugout and also the holy pitch.
In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to go behind the scenes, with special access to areas that are normally reserved for only players and officials. Guide’s will also take you into the official dressing room of Ajax, when it is not in use on match days or during training sessions.
Don’t miss this chance to feel the thrill of the history of this iconic site.
Experience the most relaxing way to sightsee in Amsterdam, free of traffic noise and congestion, and providing unmissable photo opportunities.
Get incredible views of the city’s famous landmarks and take in breathtaking views of the 17th-century buildings lining the central canals, as well as views of more modern buildings showcasing the influential 21st-century city that Amsterdam has become.
Sail past the Golden Bend and over to Overhoeks, the city’s newest quarter. Continue onto the Museum Quarter and see the Skinny Bridge, which boasts a unique architectural style.
Amsterdam Canal Ring
Known to the dutch as Grachtengordel, the Amsterdam canal ring is a vast, intersecting web of waterways that curves outwards from the city’s core. A prime example of innovative town planning, the canals are still in many ways the pulsing veins of the city, and a fascinating example of how geography, commerce and human invention can combine to shape a location.
There are 1,500 bridges connecting 62 miles of waterways on the 90 islands making up Amsterdam. So beautiful and brilliant is the design of Amsterdam’s canals it was recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2010.
Walk, bike or boat around these canals, the main three to look out for are Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht.
The 9 Streets
The area between the Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht contains an intimate shopping area known as ‘De Negen Straatjes’ (The Nine Streets). These picturesque streets connecting the canals are filled with one-of-a-kind boutiques, stylish cafés and galleries.
The New York Times describes Amsterdam’s Nine Streets as ‘a charming mixture of designer boutiques, art galleries, vintage clothing stores, gift shops and places to eat and drink’ and with good reason. This part of the city centre, tucked away behind the Royal Palace on Dam Square, is popular among shoppers hunting for specialty products and unique gifts.
The streets are a paradise for pedestrians, offering idyllic views of the city’s Golden Age architecture and Canal Belt, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Almost like a neighbourhood of its own, the actual street names (Reestraat, Hartenstraat, Gast-Huismolensteeg, Berenstraat, Wolvenstraat, Oude Spiegelstraat, Runstraat, Huidenstraat and Wijde Heisteeg) are less recognisable, as locals often speak of their favourite shops and bars tucked away ‘somewhere in the Nine Streets!’.
Bridge of 15 Bridges
There is one bridge which is known as “Brug van 15 bruggen” from which you can see a total of 15 bridges in different directions. This viewpoint is located where Reguliersgracht joins Herengracht. Stand on the odd-numbered side and you can see 6 arched bridges across the Reguliersgracht. Look down Herengracht to the left and you see another 6 bridges. Furthermore, two more bridges are visible to your right. Finally, the 15th bridge is the one you’re standing on.
If you are travelling with that special someone, this spot is a must-see on your itinerary as it is one of the most romantic places in Amsterdam.
Claiming the title of the world’s only floating flower market, Bloemenmarkt is a row of market stalls floating on barges on the Singel Canal.
Historically the flowers arrived here by boat from the countryside, but nowadays they are driven in to the much more stationary canal-side market. Bloemenmarkt sells everything from cut flowers of every kind, to seeds, plants and other gardening essentials. It’s not just a must-visit for those with green fingers however; it’s a slice of history just waiting to be explored.
Albert Cuyp Market
There’s no place like the Albert Cuyp street market to discover Amsterdam’s typical sense of humour and laid back atmosphere. The Albert Cuypmarkt is the largest and most popular outdoor market in the Netherlands, with 260 stands operating six days a week selling everything from Vietnamese spring rolls to freshly made stroopwafels.
Since 1905, the ‘Cuyp’ has fascinated Amsterdam’s residents, home cooks, tourists and anyone looking for a bargain. The market provides hours of entertaining shopping and browsing, with stands selling everything from shoes and luggage to fresh vegetables and fish. You’ll also find typical Dutch treats like raw herring or warm, freshly made stroopwafels.
The market is situated in the heart of the De Pijp district, one of Amsterdam’s liveliest areas, filled with shops, cafés, restaurants, and cosy bars.
Ripleys Believe it or not
Ready for something completely different? Blow your mind at Amsterdam’s weirdest museum experience. Ripley’s Amsterdam packs five floors with over 500 genuine bizarre artefacts and a stunning panoramic view over Amsterdam’s famous Dam Square.
Start with the real Bugatti made of wood and incredible Hulk made only of bolts. Learn about the curious Robert Ripley and his eye-popping collection, including deformed Amazonian skulls, and a real Fabergé egg. Meet a massive robot made from car parts, and a bonafide T-rex skull. Take a selfie with Robert Wadlow, the tallest man in history, or Bobby Blackburn, the man with crocodile teeth.
Test your balance in the spinning tunnel, explore a replica Dutch windmill, and crawl into a piece of cheese. See how Amsterdam would look under water and learn about its music scene. Strap on your seatbelts in the moving 5D cinema for the ride of your life, and relax with a coffee in the lounge, enjoying an unforgettable view over Amsterdam’s famous Dam Square.
The beautiful Portuguese Synagogue, also called the Esnoga, is one of the most important legacies of the vibrant Jewish community in Amsterdam. Until the Holocaust, Jews made up more than 10% of the population of Amsterdam. During the 16th and 17th century, many Jews that faced persecution in Spain and Portugal fled to Amsterdam. The religious tolerance they enjoyed in the Dutch Republic was unheard of in the rest of Europe.
Below ground can be found the treasure chambers with its unique collection of manuscripts, textiles (silk and brocade), gold and silver ceremonial items and a film screening room.
A free audio tour is included in admission and explains points of interest. There is also a small shop on site offering a selection of books, music and gifts.
Note, gentlemen are requested to wear a provided yarmulke (cap) inside the Esnoga.
Need inspiration? Not sure how to fit it all in? Take a look at our Total Weekend in Amsterdam Itinerary
Food, film, fashion, crafts and architecture converge at this cultural centre in a converted industrial building in trendy Amsterdam Oud-West. Alongside its plentiful cultural and architectural attractions, De Hallen also boasts the magnificent Foodhallen; a classy indoor food market lined with stalls of top-notch street food from some of Amsterdam’s most respected kitchens, as well as plentiful bars and seating areas.
Film fans can experience the latest independent cinema releases whilst soaking up some of Amsterdam’s cinematic heritage at Filmhallen. This impressive cinema complex has nine screening rooms including the beautiful Parisien Room, adorned in an authentic art-deco interior which formerly belonging to one of the oldest film theatres in Amsterdam.
Ride a bike
Cycling is one of the best ways to get around Amsterdam, and no visitor should leave without experiencing the city’s world famous bike culture.
Even if you only pedal around for a few hours, riding a bike is an essential Amsterdam experience. Renting a bike or taking a guided cycle tour is a great way to discover the city and can be quite an adventure. Exploring the city on a bike lets you see more in a day, while blending in with the locals at the same time.
Set smack in the city centre, De Wallen is one of Amsterdam’s oldest neighbourhoods. In 1270 a bridge was built in Dam Square to connect the Rokin and Damrak roads and this new neighbourhood, due to its walled canals, was called De Wallen.
The area is also known as the red-light district because of the three hundred one-room cabins rented by prostitutes who advertise their wares in red-lit windows.
Along with that, the area is known for its many live sex shows, sex shops, brothels, and strip clubs. Although the area used to be quite a notorious and unsafe area, things have changed a lot over the past decades. Besides pickpockets, the area is fairly safe to visit especially during the daytime. The oldest erotic theatre in the area is Casa Rosso, which until today, can be visited for some 18+ action.
There’s no such thing as an age-restriction to walk through the area, however, the adult shops and adult entertainment do not allow minors.
Amsterdam Houses – Herengracht
The Herengracht is considered to be the most important canal in the city. In the 17th century, the richest merchants and the most influential regents and mayors of the city lived on this canal. Even today, an address on the Herengracht is seen as prestigious and chic, and you can see why.
Whether you’re on a boat, bike, or having a stroll, the Herengracht houses make for an excellent photo opportunity.
if you’re a cat lover visiting Amsterdam and you’re up for a relaxing moment away from the busy city, make sure to pay a visit to The Catboat.
The Catboat (De Poezenboot) is a unique houseboat that is turned into an animal shelter. Founded by Henriette van Weelde in 1966 as a home for stray, sick, and abandoned felines, and has since grown into an official charity.
The house boat accommodates up to 50 cats at once, 14 of which are permanent residents. Human visitors are welcome on the vessel as well. Many come to choose a cat for adoption, but tourists are also welcome to drop in and scratch a kitty behind the ears.
De Poezenboot is in central Amsterdam, around a 10 minute walk from the main station. It’s open daily from 1 until 3 PM but closed on Wednesdays and Sundays.