The Netherlands’ capital Amsterdam is one of the world’s most dynamic towns, with a stunning network of canals, a rich history, and a pulsating cultural scene. In any weather, there are countless things to do in Amsterdam, and many of the most worthwhile activities are found outside of the well-traveled tourist routes of the city center. We’ve narrowed down the options to this indispensable guide to help you navigate the abundance of wonders.
The Amsterdam City Card is a convenient tourist card that grants free admission to many of the museums and sites listed as well as free use of the city’s public transportation for the length of your visit.
Get lost in the arty Jordaan Amsterdam
Wandering into the Jordaan, often referred to as Amsterdam’s most picturesque area feels like going back in time. Once a working-class neighborhood, the Jordaan’s small alleys and charming houses have transformed it into one of Amsterdam’s most popular neighborhoods, with its independent art galleries, antique stores, courtyard gardens, atmospheric pubs, and restaurants. Drop the map and get immersed in the 9 Streets, a maze of tiny streets stretching east from the Prinsengracht canal and offering one of Amsterdam’s most gratifying shopping experiences.
Cycle to hidden gems Amsterdam
In Amsterdam, there are about 800,000 bicycles. There are more bikes than humans! Cycling is a part of life in Amsterdam, made simpler by the city’s unrivaled cycling paths and flat terrain network. Amsterdam consistently ranks first on lists of the world’s most cycle-friendly cities, and there’s no better way to discover the region’s attractions than on two wheels. Ride your bike to Sloterplas for a swim in the expansive lake, or pedal to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, a 12th-century village idyll crammed with historic sites. From the comfort of your saddle, you can explore many of Amsterdam’s best-kept secrets.
Try herring from a herring cart in Amsterdam
Unsuspecting people might find raw fish a little terrifying, but everyone visiting Amsterdam should try it. Ask for a broodje haring to receive the fish served in a tiny sandwich with pickles and onions, a Dutch delicacy supplied by haringhandels (herring carts) all throughout the city. Between May and July, when the herring is supposedly at its finest, is the ideal time to sample it raw. Still, famished? During your vacation, see if you can test all of these classic Dutch delicacies.
See windmills, countryside, and beaches in Amsterdam
If you want to stay in town for more than a few days, make plans for a day excursion to the region’s many attractions. A beautiful panorama of beaches, windmills, picturesque countryside and ancient cities are all within easy driving distance of Amsterdam. In addition to offering a large selection of shops, cafés, and restaurants, the picturesque city of Haarlem is only 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam Central.
And if relaxing on the beach is more your style, Bloemendaal aan Zee and Zandvoort aan Zee’s lovely golden lengths will be delighted to oblige with their golden sands, dunes, and a wide variety of activities. In search of picturesque views of windmills, grassy fields, and meandering canals? Pay attention to the Zaanse Schans, a pastoral sanctuary so lovely that it was essentially the inspiration behind the creation of Instagram.
Immerse yourself in the culture at Westergas Amsterdam
This enormous collection of disused industrial structures, which is located in Westerpark, formerly housed the city’s municipal gasworks. Westergas has undergone a transformation to become a vibrant cultural center and is now home to a wide range of attractive pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, a microbrewery, an art-house movie theatre, and a number of innovative companies. Watch out for the frequent food markets, mini-festivals, and events that are hosted here, such as the thriving Sunday market that is held on the first Sunday of every month.
See the museums and imposing structures at Museumplein Amsterdam
Museumplein, the location of the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, and Royal Concertgebouw, is Amsterdam’s cultural center. A paradise for art lovers, Oud-Zuid is a green and aesthetically stunning 19th-century neighborhood that has just undergone world-class renovations. All day long, open-air exhibitions, fairs, and a sizable paddling pool where you may dip your toes on warm days fill the space between the buildings. The area is transformed into a huge outdoor ice rink throughout the winter. Get the Amsterdam City Card to gain free admission to more than 70 institutions.
Cruise past canal houses and bridges in Amsterdam
The UNESCO-protected canal belt in Amsterdam was built in the 17th century to keep the sea at bay and is the epitome of a picture-perfect Dutch scene. It is a really lovely sight, especially at night when fairy lights are strung across the bridges and the entire region seems enchanted. You may discover a lot of interesting information while floating through the canals on a guided boat trip, like why the tilting buildings along the canals are known as “Dancing homes” and other details about how the city operates.
There are several various canal cruises available, ranging from the move, jump sightseeing trips to romantic, candlelight, food-and-wine-inclusive cruises at night. With the Amsterdam City Card or the Canal Cruise Ticket, you may reserve a canal trip online and receive one for free.
Try local beer at a historic brewery in Amsterdam
The most accessible of Amsterdam’s eight historic windmills, De Gooyer is in the Oostelijke Eilanden (Eastern Islands) neighborhood. Brouwerij ‘t IJ, an award-winning artisan microbrewery with a spacious outdoor drinking deck and 30-minute guided tasting tours, is located beneath the sails of this distinctive landmark. Nothing tastes nearly as delicious as beer made on the premises, but you can buy a variety of the brewery’s organic regular and seasonal ales at numerous Amsterdam bars. But remember to take it slow—there are plenty of craft beer bars and microbreweries in the city that will tempt you with one more frosty fluitje.
Take the free boat to the restored shipyard in Amsterdam Noord
It’s terrible that so many tourists to Amsterdam never make it north of Amsterdam Central Station, where there is a thriving food, drink, and cultural scene. A quick (and free) boat ride will get you to a number of drop-off locations, including the cultural hub NDSM, where you can take advantage of a variety of cool waterfront hangouts and often occurring festivals and events.
Attend a performance at a renowned site
Amsterdam has a variety of live music venues to choose from, including grand concert halls and little dive bars. Paradiso, which is housed in a former cathedral, has played host to legendary performers like The Rolling Stones and The Sex Pistols and continues to present an outstanding lineup of worldwide talent. An outstanding grand dame, Concertgebouw is recognized for her superb acoustics and lineup of top orchestras in addition to a wide range of popular performers. The cozy setting of the Roode Bioscoop, a former movie theatre that is 100 years old, enables the audience to develop strong bonds with the acoustic performers.
Take in the aerial perspective of Amsterdam from a rooftop bar
The ideal way to appreciate Amsterdam’s stunning skyline and amazing architecture is with a few cocktails. At Canvas, the terrace bar of the Volkshotel, which is renowned for its inexpensive beverages and a priceless view of Amsterdam, you can soak in the expansive view while taking a swim in one of the outdoor jacuzzis. Instead, go over to A’DAM Tower for Madam’s frosty sundowners. You’ll experience a sensation of world-class awe.
Live like Dutch royalty
The Amsterdam Region is home to several castles, palaces, and towers that will transport you to a magical setting and give you a glimpse into the region’s illustrious past. The Royal Palace Amsterdam is King Willem-official Alexander’s welcome palace, serving as a venue for hosting and entertaining heads of state from across the world for most of the year. With its five towers, moat, and drawbridge, Muiderslot, a 13th-century castle, appears like it might have been taken straight out of a Disney film. It is located only 15 kilometers southeast of the city. The famed Rijksmuseum architect Pierre Cuypers renovated the 14th-century De Haar Castle in Utrecht with spectacular turrets and towers in the 19th century.
In the largest flea market in Europe, look for unique discoveries
Make time to explore IJ-Hallen, one of the greatest markets on the continent, if you enjoy finding great deals, oddities, and enormous industrial warehouses. Ride the ferry to the NDSM yard from the port outside Central Station, and then walk the last 5 minutes to the market. Browse the numerous stands that flow out onto the dock or enter the vast area to rummage among a dizzying array of records, vintage apparel, home decor, and antiques. You aren’t searching closely enough if you can’t discover anything unique here.