Must-see Amsterdam sights

With more canals than Venice and more bridges than Paris, Amsterdam is endlessly pretty. But its scenic backdrops are only part of the city’s excitement. Its contemporary culture is vibrant. Its people are open-minded, easy-going and strong minded, but also down to earth and welcoming to visitors. 

  1. Visit Amsterdam’s most moving sight
  2. Marvel at Van Gogh’s stunning artwork
  3. Visit Amsterdam’s prettiest flower market
  4. Look at glorious architecture
  5. Try Indonesian cuisine
  6. Do as the Dutch do and cycle!
  7. Wander around Vondelpark
  8. Get lost in the Jordaan district

Amsterdam is always a good idea. With over 50 museums, vibrant markets and a diverse cuisine, the city has huge appeal. A major part of its attraction is wandering around never-ending pretty streets and trinkling canals. 

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1. Visit Amsterdam’s most moving sight

One of the most moving things to do in Amsterdam is to visit the Anne Frank House. The building looks like an ordinary canal house-cum-office but it was made famous worldwide by events here in World War II. During the Nazi occupation Anne Frank, her family and a small group of others hid for two years here in an attempt to avoid deportation. Anne wrote a diary that paints a clear and terrifying picture of the life the family lived. It comes to an eerie stop only a few days before the family was betrayed and sent to concentration camps. Of the eight people in hiding, only Anne’s father survived. After the war, in 1947, he published the diary. It became a symbol for the oppression of humankind. The museum itself has undergone recent renovations, including a new visitor’s route. There is even the Anne Frank House VR option now, a virtual reality tour. It can be downloaded in several languages, so everyone has access to it.  

Best for: An important museum to see in Amsterdam.

While you’re there: Look out for the height recordings of the Frank children marked on the walls.

2. Marvel at Van Gogh’s incredible artwork

Amsterdam is home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of Van Gogh’s artwork. Visiting the Van Gogh Museum is simply one of the best things to do in Amsterdam. The museum’s gallery walls painted in stormy greys, blues and yellows, reflect the canvasses they display. There are over 200 paintings and 500 drawings by the painter, covering all periods of his troubled career. As expected there can be long queues for this popular sight. You can book your tickets online in advance to save time.  

Best for: Van Gogh fans.

While you’re there: It’s not just Van Gogh pieces here. Enjoy the fantastic artwork by Monet, too.

3. Visit Amsterdam’s prettiest flower market

It feels like flowers bloom around Amsterdam all year round. Enjoy perusing over the city’s famous Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market). The daily market has been held for centuries, when the flower sellers would arrive by canal with boats laden with blooms. Today the stalls (selling clogs and delftware as well as flowers) still float on barges permanently attached to the canal wall. The blooms they sell bring a splash of colour to even the rainiest Amsterdam day. 

Best for: Green-fingered travellers and for souvenir shopping.

While you’re there: If you’re in Amsterdam during the festive period, come here to find yourself an intricate Christmas bauble - the perfect souvenir!

4. Look at glorious architecture

What to do in Amsterdam if you like decadent architecture? Visit the Royal Palace Amsterdam, of course. It’s an impressive building on the western side of Dam Square. The ornate building was completed in 1655 and was originally built as the Town Hall. The classical design by Jacob van Campen gives some indication of the confidence of the city in the Golden Age. The building fell to the Dutch Royal family who now use it for ceremonies. The public can still take a tour inside though. Inside expect to find huge marble carvings and intricate reliefs. The rear of the building is home to a statue of Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders.  

Best for: Beautiful architecture.

While you’re there: Interested in Amsterdam holidays? Look no further. The XO Hotels City Centre Hotel is a fantastic place to stay while you’re there. Located near the Royal Palace and other tourist attractions, you’ll have a comfortable stay here for sure. 

5. Try Indonesian cuisine

Hungry? One of the most exciting things to do in Amsterdam is to try its diverse cuisine. And the city does Indonesian cuisine exceptionally well. The expansion of Dutch interests in the Golden Age brought a wealth of new ingredients and flavourings from the Far East. This added interest to native dishes - the Dutch made a habit of sprinkling nutmeg on cooked vegetables. These close ties with what is now Indonesia created a second Dutch national dish – rijsttafel (literally translated as ‘rice table’). There are numerous Indonesian restaurants throughout the city offering rijsttafel with 10, 15 or 20 dishes. It’s a definite feast! If you don’t want a full rijsttafel, order nasi rames, a smaller selection of dishes served with rice. Enjoy trying new flavours with a kick such as sambal sauce. Alternatively opt for tastes you may already know such as nutty saté.

Best for: Foodies.

While you’re there: The area north of the De Pijp area is home to some fantastic Indonesian food. 

6. Do as the Dutch do and cycle!

Fifty-eight percent of Amsterdammers cycle daily. Interestingly, there are more bikes in Amsterdam than permanent residents! Cycling for fun, as well as for commuting, is a major activity. Cycle routes run parallel to most roadways, making longer journeys relatively easy. Sporting groups or families head out to villages such as Monnickendam or Marken. When in Amsterdam, do as the Dutch do! 

Best for: Cylists.

While you’re there: Note that Amsterdammers don’t wear crash helmets and bike-hire companies don’t normally have them.

7. Wander around Vondelpark

Amsterdam does parks exceptionally well. One of the most rewarding things to do is walk around the leafy Vondelpark. With its ponds, footpaths and groups of parakeets, this particular park is one of the most attractive spots in the city. Take a breath of fresh air in the park called ‘the lungs of Amsterdam’. 

Best for: A gentle stroll.

While you’re there: This is the perfect place to hire a bike.

8. Get lost in the Jordaan district

This area has constant appeal. Many of the streets were named after fragrant flowers but this was not the prettiest or sweetest smelling area of Amsterdam in its heyday. Overcrowding was rife and with industries such as fabric-dyeing carried out on the ground floors, it was an unsanitary place to live. Flash forward to today and its popular area. It’s easily explored with its slender canals and narrow streets. There’s a collection of quality art galleries, restaurants and cafés. Enjoy bopping along to the plethora of street musicians, too. 

Best for: Pretty streets

While you’re there: Pop into the trendy boutiques and vintage stores which dot the area. 

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