Known for its tolerance and diversity, Amsterdam, capital city of The Netherlands, is a city to visit for a truly unique experience.
It’s a museum lover’s dream for its highest density of museums in the world, and romantic due to its many canals and bridges.
You’ll find it a pedestrian and cyclist friendly city, with little road traffic. Don’t be intimidated by its relaxed laws, there is so much to love about this city. Here are some recommended things to do while in Amsterdam.
1. Canal Ring
Known as Venice of the North for its lovely canals and more than 1,500 bridges that criss-cross the city and 90 islands. This historical canal district was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2011. Explore the area by walking, cycling or even better rent or take a boat for a different perspective of the city. In the evening, the canals are beautifully lit making a very romantic setting.
This 200 year old world famous museum is one of the gems of Amsterdam’s culture and history. Its collection includes a vast amount of Dutch masterpieces including Rembrant, Vermeer, van Dyck and Jan Steen as well as 8,000 objects of art and history. Rembrant’s “The Night’s Watch” and Vermeer’s “The Milk Maid” are highlights. Most recently, the museum is showing its more than 200,000 never-before-seen photos in an exhibit called “Modern Times,” opening this November 1st.
Located near the Rijksmuseum museum, its the largest park in Amsterdam. It’s a popular spot for locals and tourist for dog-walking, sun basking, jogging and for open-air concerts and theatre. Several statues are found in the park, including The Fish (1965) by Pablo Picasso and Mama Baranka (1985) by Nelson Carrilho. Great spot to lay down a blanket and people watch.
4. Van Gogh Museum
Hopefully you came to Amsterdam with this one on your list. Van Gogh, perhaps the most famous Dutch artist ever, is eternalized here with his largest collection in the world. It includes 200 paintings, 400 drawings, and 700 letters. Key works include The Potato Eaters (1885), Sunflowers (1889),, Self-portrait (1888) and Almond Blossoms (1890). Even if you aren’t interested in the art, the museum’s modern architecture is a beautiful space.
5. Anne Frank House
Now a museum, this was the house that Anne Frank and her Jewish family hid from Nazi persecution during World War 2 during which she kept her now famous diary. The inspiring story sets the tone for the museum and it’s truly an unforgettable experience. Tip: Purchase your tickets online to avoid the long line ups.
6. Heineken Experience
One of the largest pilsner beer producers in the world, Heineken’s original brewery was transformed into a museum and most recently into a tourist attraction or “experience”. Its 4 levels of multimedia and interactive experiences, including become a beer yourself, are entertaining and fun to say the least. Oh, and at the end you’re rewarded with free beer! Not too bad.
7. Royal Palace
Situated in Dam Square at the very centre of the city, the Royal Palace was built as the city hall for Amsterdam and then turned into a palace in 1808 King Louis Napoleon Bonaparte.
8. Stedelijk Museum
Dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design, this is one of the busiest museums in Amsterdam, after the Reiksmuseum. It was reopened in 2012 with new futuristic architecture. Its collection is comparable to MOMA in New York or The Chicago’s Art Institute featuring works by artists like Willem de Kooning and Andy Warhol.
For those interested or simply curious you can find over 200 coffee shops in Amsterdam that are allowed to sell cannabis and hash for personal use (not more than 5 grams). They are not allowed to advertise but you can identify them by the green and white sticker in the window. You must be 18 or older to enter and show ID. See a list of some popular coffee shops here.
10. Red Light District
As much as this isn’t necessarily an attraction on everyone’s list, it is still very much a part of the city, and honestly, hard to avoid running into when walking around the core. You’ll know you’ve entered when you see the infamous red lit windows and numerous sex shops and theatres. Don’t go alone, there are seedy characters walking around trying to sell you illegal drugs or ready to take your wallet, but generally this is a bustling tourist destination with lots of curious tourists. Oh, and don’t think about taking any pictures of the women, the area is heavily surveilled and rules are strictly enforced.