13 things you have to see in Amsterdam

What to see & do in Amsterdam

Pretty neighbourhoods, impeccable museums and unique experiences, Amsterdam is home to a wealth of appeal.  

Impressive art? Yes. Incredible architecture? Sure. An exciting food scene? Of course. Amsterdam is always a firm favourite for travellers. And it’s easy to see why.

Amsterdam is one of the world’s most visited cities and there is a reason. Even for the locals, this eclectic, ever-changing city has loads to see and do, and our Amsterdam neighbourhood guide will help you see all of them: From canals to shops, there’s plenty of things to do in Amsterdam.

1. The 9 Streets

Fear not, there are more than nine streets worth seeing in Amsterdam, but these specific streets should be high on your list, especially if you want to discover some local charm and perhaps do a bit of shopping. Crossing three of Amsterdam's iconic canals, ‘De 9 Straatjes’ is an area brimming with cool and quirky shops as well as head-turning restaurants. A visit to this picturesque area is also essential if you’re planning on taking in one of Amsterdam’s most famous, and most poignant, museums – you’ll find the Anne Frank House on Princengracht. 

Address: Wolvenstraat 9, 1016 EM Amsterdam.
Must-see in The 9 Streets: Anne Frank House.

2. De Pijp

Want the same kind of trendy, chic vibe exuded by The 9 Streets but want to move away from the crowds of tourists? Head to De Pijp. This previously working-class neighbourhood has “done a Shoreditch” and gone all hipster on us. You won’t find any canals here, but De Pijp is the place to go if you really want to get to the heart of Amsterdam and find out what makes the city tick. 

It’s also the place to go for brunch. The area is blessed with tons of great bars and restaurants, with the likes of Little Collins and Scandinavian Embassy serving up some of the best brunches going. Albert Cuyp Market is also a must-visit if you want a true taste of Amsterdam. Why? Because it’s one of the best places in the city to go for stroopwafels. Oh, and if you love beer, then this is where you’ll find the Heineken Experience.

Address: De Pijp, Amsterdam.
Must-see in De Pijp: Albert Cuyp Market.

3. Foodhallen and more under one roof

If shopping and eating are an essential part of your holiday experience, then there’s more of both over at De Hallen. With food, fashion and film (in the form of indie cinema De Filmhallen) all converging at a converted tram depot, De Hallen might just be the coolest spot in the whole city. One could even make a strong case for it being Amsterdam’s true cultural hub. So, in a nutshell, you simply have to go here. It also makes for perfect Instagram fodder. And hunting for instagrammable hotspots is, if we’re being honest with ourselves, another essential holiday pastime. 

Address:  Hannie Dankbaarpassage 47, 1053 RT Amsterdam.
Must-see in De Hallen: The Maker Store, where you can design your own souvenirs.

4. Peruse the Botanical Garden

Contrary to what you might have heard, you won’t find the best grass in Amsterdam at a coffeeshop. Found in the appropriately named Plantage district of Amsterdam, Hortus Botanicus is the only botanical garden in Amsterdam, and one of the oldest in the world. The Botanical Garden began as a small medicinal garden in 1682, but soon became the depository for many of the new plant species brought from Dutch colonies in the Golden Age. The sparkling glasshouses were added in 1912. The gardens are now home to one of the largest collections in the world. It’s utterly zen. But it's not just the buildings that are old – many of the plants here are really, really old. A 150-year-old water lily? Check. 2,000-year-old cactus? You bet.

Address:  Plantage Middenlaan 2a, 1018 DD Amsterdam.
Must-see in Hortus Botanicus: 2,000-year old agave cactus.

5. Visit Amsterdam’s unmissable museum

For an insight into life in Amsterdam during the Occupation, visit the Anne Frank House. From 1942 to 1944, the Frank family hid in a secret annexe here and were sustained by helpers who provided them with food bought on the black market. In 1944, German police raided the house and discovered their hideout. They deported the entire Frank family, first to the transit camp at Westerbork, and then to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Anne had been writing her famous diary and documented what life was like. Anne’s father, the only family member to survive, published it after the war. This is by far one of the most moving museums to visit.  

Best for: The most important museum to visit in Amsterdam.
While you’re there: The Anne Frank Huis is an education centre and resource for political groups. It helps them to fight oppression today.

6. Visit the oldest building in Amsterdam

Oude Kerk (Old Church) stands proudly as Amsterdam’s oldest building. It’s the original church of the Amestelledamme fishing community. Despite a number of fires, the church’s 13th-century tower remains, along with a chapel added in the 15th century. It’s one of Amsterdam’s most majestic buildings. A firm favourite for Amsterdam sightseeing.

Best for: A must-see Amsterdam tourist attraction.
While you’re there: The space is also home to concerts and exhibitions. 

7. Explore the world of cinema

Film buff? Yes? Well you’re in luck! A visit to the Eye Filmmuseum is one of the most unique Amsterdam attractions. A futuristic film institute, cross the IJ to get to this well-loved spot. The space hosts temporary exhibitions and screenings in its four state-of-the-art cinemas. There are even specially designed pods in the basement to watch films in. 

Best for: Film fanatics.
While you’re there: Head to the bar-restaurant with stunning views over the harbour. 

8. Make the most of the Jordaan district

This pretty neighbourhood is one of the best Amsterdam tourist attractions. It’s a place to simply wander and take your time over. Jordaan North is a maze of small alleys, quiet restaurants and thriving workshops. The North has many ‘true’ Jordaaners, independent-minded students, artisans and tradespeople born and bred in the quarter. Jordaan South is home to individualistic shops on delightful side streets adjacent to the larger canals. The whole area is picture-perfect. 

Best for: A relaxing stroll.
While you’re there: Nip into one of the traditional brown cafés here that Amsterdam is so famous for.

9. Enjoy Amsterdam’s pretty outdoors

One of the top Amsterdam tourist attractions is the popular Vondelpark (public urban park). It’s a year-round haven for joggers, cyclists, dog walkers and skaters. Lively concerts and dance events are held in summer. It’s a great place to do some Amsterdam people-watching!

Best for: An afternoon outdoors
While you’re there: Rent a bicycle here, and do as the Amsterdammers do - cycle! 

10. Look at Van Gogh’s finest pieces

The Van Gogh Museum next door to the Stedelijk, is an essential stop. The main building, designed by the Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld, remains devoted to the world’s largest collection of works by Van Gogh.  

Best for: The biggest collection of Van Gogh art.
While you’re there: The museum also houses paintings by his contemporaries, including Gauguin. 

11. Explore the city’s famous art and history museum, Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum (Museum of the Netherlands) just to the north is a vast, unwieldy collection that draws much of its inspiration from the city itself. This national, cultural treasure house reopened after undergoing 10 years of renovation - it now has a sparkling new look! This was followed by the new Phillips Wing, which includes temporary exhibition space, a photography gallery and a restaurant. In all, 8,000 objects in 80 galleries tell the story of 800 years of Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages to Mondrian. 

Best for: 

An interesting mix of art and history.

While you’re there: In the garden is the Asian Pavilion, surrounded by water, to house the collection of Asian art.  

12. Learn about beer

Like beer? Yes? This is the Amsterdam tourist attraction for you. A short stroll east of the Rijksmuseum along Singelgracht is the Heineken Experience. The world-famous lager was brewed in this building until 1988. Now visitors can enjoy a 1.5-hour self-guided tour before sampling some of the liquid gold. 

Best for: Beer drinkers.
While you’re there: Sarphatipark is not too far from the Heineken Experience. It’s a peaceful place for an afternoon pitstop.

13. Indulge in world-wide cuisine

Hungry? We are! When dining out in the Netherlands these days, there is plenty of variety. In Amsterdam and a few of the larger cities, it is possible to dine in almost any language thanks to the proliferation of international restaurants, from Vietnamese to Ethiopian. You'll also find innovative chefs combining East with West to create unique and delicious ‘fusion’ dishes. If you fancy a quick snack, there are a number of options, from the simple shop selling broodje (filled bread rolls), or the Vietnamese loempia (spring roll) vendor, to the Middle Eastern takeaway stand that sells shoarma (roast lamb) or falafel in a pitta. Take your pick, it’s all there! 

Best for: An interesting fusion of cuisines.
While you’re there: Enjoy the most popular Dutch snack - Belgian-style patat chips (or frites). 

All these are just a few of the hottest spots in one of Europe’s hottest cities. While the likes of the Vondelpark, Dam Square, the Rijksmuseum and the Heineken Experience are always going to top any ‘Best things to do in Amsterdam’ list, make sure you leave room in your plans for all this on your next – or even first – visit to this vibrant, endlessly rewarding city. 

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