Amsterdam might be most famed for its former industrial buildings along canals, Red Light District, and relaxed laws on marijuana consumption, but that doesn’t mean its list of attractions and activities doesn’t stop there. There are hundreds of things to do in Amsterdam, from visiting the Anne Frank Museum to taking day trips to see tulip fields and windmills.
Amsterdam isn’t just another party city, which you’ll soon discover with walking tours of this picturesque city and attractions like the Vincent Van Gogh Museum. In fact, there are so many things to do in Amsterdam that we struggled to narrow it down to just these top 34. Before you even think about where to stay in Amsterdam or book flights, it’s good to look at which things in Amsterdam you’d like to do. Your interests will dictate which neighborhood it’s best to stay in.
In this guide, we’ll give you all the inspiration and logistics you need to enjoy visiting ‘Dam’. Whether you like history, partying, or artwork, Amsterdam has at least 20 attractions to squeeze into your itinerary. It’s safe to say that this famous canal city has many tricks up its sleeve.
If you still wonder why Amsterdam is such a cultural hotspot, visit the Rijksmuseum. This 19th-century museum houses some of the most valuable Dutch Golden Age paintings, including Rembrandt’s Night Watch. It is an art lover’s paradise and is equally alluring for those with an appreciation for history and culture.
You can easily spend a few hours wandering the exhibition halls of the Rijksmuseum. And if you want an indoor activity in Amsterdam, this is one of the best things to do on a rainy day.
2. Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum has the world’s most extensive collection of Van Gogh’s works, and if that’s not a sign of Amsterdam being a cultural hub, who knows what is? Van Gogh is a globally recognized artist; whether you are an art lover or not, this is a bucket list experience. You can buy tickets online or on arrival and quickly spend an entire afternoon walking between famed painting after painting.
It isn’t just artwork; there are letters and exhibits on Van Gogh’s personal life. The museum is a really intimate insight into the artist and his creations. Grab your tickets now..
Looking for sunny day activities in Amsterdam? Vondelpark is one of the city’s leading options and the best free things to do. The park dates back to the 19th century and boasts a vast open-air theater. It is a low-maintenance activity, too, with a children’s park ideal for traveling families to visit early in the morning to let children run off steam. There are also scenic ponds and picnic areas to sit with a takeout coffee and lunch.
Vondelpark is a beautiful place to visit in Amsterdam and a real opportunity to unwind and relax.
4. Our Lord in the Attic Museum
Our Lord in the Attic Museum is known as Ons Lieve Heer Op in Dutch. This 17th-century canal house has a slightly unusual name, but you should be able to guess what the museum is about. It offers audio tours of a secret – and mysteriously ornate – Catholic church hidden at the top of a canal house. Our Lord in the Attic Museum was a personal place for secret worship during a period of history where there was no freedom of religion. And the previous owners used their hidden church to continue their religious duties.
An unusual but heartwarming ode to faith, this unique historical attraction is a must when visiting Amsterdam.
5. Eye Film Museum
The Eye Film Museum is basically cinematic heaven. It has everything from foreign to Dutch museums and documents the evolution of film and fictional worlds. Set alongside the waterside across on the northern side of the city, you’ll have to catch a ferry to reach this museum from behind Central Station. Even this adds to the dramatic appeal, and the Eye Film Museum feels suitably tucked away in its own little world across the water.
The colorful and engaging exhibits showcase posters, movie clips, and more. They are like a little time capsule dedicated explicitly to the movie world.
6. Bike Tour
You can’t visit Amsterdam and not take a bike tour. Amsterdam might be the city of canals, but it’s also the city of bikes. If you’ve tried to walk down the street or cross the road, you’ll understand that the eco-friendly stance actually borders on hazardous pedestrians. And it isn’t an Amsterdam experience until you’ve been yelled at by at least one cyclist for accidentally cutting them off. So, if you can’t beat them, join them. Experiencing Amsterdam from two wheels is one of the most classic and traditional ways to sightsee the city.
You can book plenty of different cycling tours of Amsterdam online, and as Amsterdam is a remarkably flat city, you’ll have no issues keeping up.
7. Moco Museum
The Moco Museum is where to head in Amsterdam for modern artwork. Its abbreviation stands for the Modern Contemporary Museum Amsterdam, and it showcases a vast range of pieces, spanning from Dali and Banksy works to local artists. Art enthusiasts will love this attraction, but equally, the sheer range of what Moco Museum covers renders it entertaining for art newbies and more general tourists. The fact you can see Banksy’s artwork is a draw for most people. And everything from street art to contemporary pieces will leave you scratching your head.
While only small, the Moco Museum can easily entertain you for an hour or two. It is a massively underrated attraction, and we recommend it when visiting Amsterdam.
8. Windmill Day Trip
Another hugely popular thing in Amsterdam is a day trip to the windmills. Windmills were historically used for water management in Amsterdam and its surrounding regions. However, nowadays, they are also a profound source of green energy, using wind turbine structures to help with electricity. There are over 10,000 operational windmills in the Netherlands, a vast proportion of which are around Amsterdam. These are famed for their traditional design – chunky wooden structures.
Molen Van Sloten is a popular day trip from the city center, and it’s a working windmill and barrel-making museum. Zaanse Schans is another common choice. It is reachable independently by bus in under 40 minutes – a huge bonus.
9. Food Tour
Taking a food tour is a must when visiting Amsterdam. Indulgence is a vital characteristic of the city, and the culture encourages not only art and liberal attitudes to cannabis but also excellent cuisine. The city center has food halls, where you can try everything from stroopwafels to Indonesian cuisine. The options are seriously generous, and the most organized and time-efficient way to experience them is on a guided food tour.
You can easily book a food tour online, which will take you around designated tasting hotspots.
10. Visit the Flower Markets
The flower markets are a massive highlight of visiting Amsterdam. Flower trading has been a vital part of Amsterdam’s economy for centuries – wait until you hear about tulips in our next section. Flower markets are the modern-day hive of this traditional trading, and you can buy dozens of different plants. Bloemenmarkt (a floating flower market established in 1862) and Stins Flowermarket are the best markets.
If you drive to Amsterdam or travel via public transport, you can bring some home. If you are flying, you’ll likely find this too tricky, but you can still visit for the aesthetic and experience.
11. Day Trip to the Tulip Fields
The tulip fields around Amsterdam are really famous. You’ve likely seen pictures of the Dutch tulips on Instagram or in travel magazines. The peak tulip season is from April to May, after which you’ll see many tulips in flower shops and markets from December until May. Amsterdam is known for its tulips due to deep cultural and historical ties to the flower, which rose so high in the 17th century that bulbs were traded akin to stock on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. They were worth more than gold and sold at a ridiculously high price that only the most elite and wealthy could afford.
It is easy to see the tulips if you visit at the right time of year. You can take a day trip to Bollenstreek or book an organized tour.
12. Oude Kerk Amsterdam
Oude Kerk is a big deal. Amsterdam’s first church and oldest building, Oude Kerk, dates back to the Middle Ages. The 14th-century church is now a functioning Calvinist place of worship that regularly hosts religious and cultural events. However, it’s also a sought-after tourist attraction. In 2016, Oude Kerk was partially converted into a museum. Since then, it has hosted a collection of art exhibits. Visitors can admire the art in its unique, historic setting.
Oude Kerk is one of the most budget-friendly yet historical things to do in Amsterdam. And if you want an inspiring activity in Amsterdam, we recommend visiting.
13. Rent a SUP
If you don’t fancy the canal tour or free ferry, why not rent a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and go alone? This is a more unorthodox thing to do in Amsterdam, but who cares? Life is about adventure, right? You can rent an SUP from all over the city in different stores and water sports centers, especially around Amsteldijk. Rent a stand-up paddleboard for a few hours and take it to the water. You have 165 canals at your disposal, best experienced from the water.
Get ready. It is about to get active and exciting. If you haven’t gone paddle boarding before, know that there’s a high likelihood you are coming off at some point. So you’ll need to be wearing suitable clothes for a quick swim. A waterproof camera is also a great shout.
14. Design Your Own Chocolate Bar
Have you ever wondered about the process of designing chocolate bars? This bizarre niche experience is a must for anyone with a sweet tooth. You can create your own chocolate bar at many of Amsterdam’s chocolate stores and attractions – yes, there are multiple. Tony’s Chocolonely Superstore and the Chocolate Company are two main options. Amsterdam is famed for Milka and Droste chocolate, and chocolate is specifically made around the western harbor area of the city.
Dutch chocolate is famously smooth tasting thanks to the alkaline treatment that it uses in the chocolate-making process. So head down to one of the stores and check it out.
15. The National Maritime Museum
Next up is the National Maritime Museum. This interactive museum is scenically set along the waterfront in a former storehouse. It introduces you to Amsterdam’s naval and ocean history. As a canal city, it won’t surprise you that Amsterdam has much maritime history to tell. You can also get up close to a replica of an 18th-century merchant ship, which helps to bring the stories to life.
The National Maritime Museum is massively interactive and great fun to visit. There are even virtual voyages that you can take. Its entrance fee is modest, too, making it one of the cheaper things to do in Amsterdam.
16. Smoke Some Weed
Depending on your beliefs and values, you may want to smoke some weed or try a space cake – aka desserts filled with marijuana – when visiting Amsterdam. The city is famous for its liberal take on this natural drug, and it is a massive reason for the floods of tourists that visit each year. If you do decide to dabble, keep in mind that Amsterdam’s weed is notoriously strong. It is best to stay safe with a group of trusted friends. Specific accommodations might also have strict rules against marijuana consumption, so check that ahead of time.
If you want to take a sober approach to learning more about Amsterdam’s marijuana, you can visit the Hash Marijuana & Hemp Museum. Self-designated as the world’s first museum dedicated to the cannabis plant, it takes you through the history and stories around weed, even showcasing a live garden.
17. Visit Chinatown
Every good city has an even better Chinatown – we don’t make the rules; this is just a fact of life. Amsterdam is no different, and its Chinatown is an absolute hub of Asian cuisine. If you love Asian cuisine, then you have to stop by. While it is called Chinatown, it includes Malaysian, Thai, and Indonesian restaurants and cafes, as well as Chinese. This means you have thousands of delicious dishes and specialties at your fingertips. And that’s before you even think about the eclectic shops and aesthetic decorations strung along these narrow canal streets.
If you are looking for a cheap meal or something to do in Amsterdam, visiting Chinatown should be on your list. Whether you pick pad Thai or Indonesian food, you’ll have a tasty time.
18. Have a Beach Day
A beach day? From Amsterdam? Yes, you can absolutely enjoy a beach day when visiting Amsterdam. And this is precisely why you should take at least a few days to see the city– Amsterdam has fantastic day trips. Zandvoort aan Zee is the closest beach to the city and is easily accessible via Central Station. Zandvoort Beach is beautiful, with long golden sands and laidback bars and restaurants lining its promenade. Fun and light-hearted, it is where to head on a sunny day in Amsterdam.
It takes less than an hour to reach via sprinter train. You can be sunbathing at Zandvoort in no time.
19. NEMO Science Museum
This is one of the coolest science museums you’ll ever see. The building is shaped like an actual boat, designed so it juts out over the waterfront – looking like a real boat taking to the water. The edgy characteristics continue indoors, too, with interactive exhibits and a baptism-of-fire-style immersion into everything science-related. The museum spans dramatic five-floor exhibits, with color and wow-factor exhibits at every turn.
If you want an indoor activity in Amsterdam, definitely visit the NEMO Science Museum. Similarly, you should note this if you see the city with kids.
20. Europe’s Highest Swing
How does Europe’s highest swing sound to you? A’DAM Lookout is arguably the best place to enjoy overlooking Amsterdam. The observation deck has a panoramic viewpoint, and you can admire the UNESCO-listed canals from a vantage point you could never achieve at ground level. As such a flat city, A’DAM Lookout ticks a massively needed box. And on that observation deck, you can take things one step further with the highest swing in Europe – which hangs 100 meters above the ground and swings you over Amsterdam.
Is it brave or stupid? We’ll let you decide. But whether you watch other people undertake the swing or have a go yourself, A’DAM Lookout is a must when you visit Amsterdam.
21. Dam Square
Dam Square is stunning, especially on a sunny day. The square has a central location and a rich history. Even if you just go to feed the pigeons, it is a must-add to your Amsterdam itinerary. The atmosphere is unparalleled, and you can enjoy views of some of the most notable buildings in the city. It is a cultural hub and hosts regular events. At Christmas especially, visiting this Square is a must.
Add this square to the list if you want free activities in Amsterdam. It takes just minutes to appreciate, making it a good itinerary filler amongst more time-demanding attractions.
22. Stedelijk Museum
Stedelijk Museum is an acquired taste, to say the least. The modern art museum is one of the most unusual and bizarrely collections of artwork, with pieces such as giant pigs and walls of Arabic typography describing the impact of abusive relationships. If you fancy an abstract look into the modern art world, the museum is perfect. Arrive ready to challenge everything you previously thought about art in Amsterdam.
Fun and whacky, this museum is one of the top museums in Amsterdam for anyone craving quirky attractions and creative inspiration.
23. Torture Museum
This museum is every bit as horrific as it sounds. If you want an insight into the historical methods of torture used in Amsterdam, this is the best place for you. Gory, gruesome, and painfully detailed, it is a definite kick for anyone who likes horror-related attractions. The museum showcases over 40 different torture devices and techniques that date back to the Middle Ages.
While the museum is definitely not for the faint of heart, it is an engaging and spine-shivering historical attraction in Amsterdam. If you are bored of the run-of-the-mill history museums in major European cities, this attraction will shake things up.
24. Heineken Experience
The Heineken Experience is a must when visiting Amsterdam. The attraction is a working brewery creating craft beer and offering tasting room experiences and tours that last about an hour. As one of the world’s most famous beers, it is a fascinating experience getting behind the scenes at the Heineken brewery. And this is a top leading activity when you visit the city, conveniently located just south of the city center.
25. Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam
Few museums cover the impact of World War II in such a raw way as the Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam. The Museum of WWII Resistance documents the city’s struggle against Nazi invasion and the timeline of the conflict. Precious exhibits and artifacts showcase the experience with photos, films, and personal items belonging to those impacted.
Many people know the history of the war. Still, this museum provides a much more intimate insight into the ordeal. You’ll learn all about what life was like under occupation and the real people behind the statistics. This museum is ideally combined with a visit to Anne Frank’s House.
26. Canal Cruise
A canal cruise is easily one of the leading things in Amsterdam – you are in the city of canals, after all. Amsterdam has 165 canals in total, all just ready and waiting to be explored from the water. You can drift serenely along with an audio or guided tour experience, admiring the historic buildings and Amsterdam’s unique scenery.
There are so many tour operators in Amsterdam offering canal cruises. We’d recommend just going to the section of the canal just before Amsterdam Central Station and asking rates where you see the boats moored.
If you want to be really sneaky, there’s also a free ferry service that you can catch. This is a great, budget-friendly option to see the canals in Amsterdam.
27. Sex Museum
A museum dedicated to sex is definitely on brand when it comes to visiting Amsterdam. The Sex Museum is the world’s first and oldest museum entirely dedicated to documenting the history and nature of sex. There are erotic sculptures and images, as well as the history of the sex industry in Amsterdam.
Set in a 17th-century building, the Sex Museum is hilariously out of place on its busy Amsterdam street. And if you fancy a giggle but also a serious look into the city’s attitude and culture behind sex, this museum is a top choice for your itinerary.
Damrak is a section of the canal where you’ll find rows of moored canal boats ready to embark on tours. However, it is also where you’ll find a social media-famous shot of a row of canal buildings. The row of canal house after canal house are all terraced and joined into a – seemingly – never-ending row. The color scheme is highly photogenic, with deep blues, reds, and yellows. And if you want a picture-perfect shot of Amsterdam’s buildings, Damrak is where to go.
This is a free activity in Amsterdam, combined with taking a canal boat tour or heading to the central train station.
29. Nine Streets
Nine Streets is the district recognized by UNESCO as Amsterdam’s canal district. ‘ This close-knit row of canal streets is the city’s most aesthetic and representative section. It is where most people go to snap iconic canal shots. This district is the postcard image of Amsterdam’s canal scene.
You can visit to snap your photos and enjoy walking the canal banks. There are over 250 shops in this district, so take your time, window shopping or shopping if you wish. And there are cafes and museums to dip in and out of. A self-guided tour of ‘De 9 Straatjes’ only takes 30 minutes to an hour but is an unmissable activity in Amsterdam.
30. Filmhallen Art House Cinema
Filmhallen Art House Cinema is uniquely located in an old tram depot. It is on the outskirts of the city center, in the Amsterdam Oud-West district, a short walk away from De 9 Straatjes. If you fancy a laidback activity in Amsterdam, visiting the cinema is the ideal rainy day or low-energy activity. And the tram depot setting makes it even more enticing. Filmhallen is where to head to the cinema in novelty style.
31. Red Light District
When you talk to anyone who has visited Amsterdam, they will have a story or an opinion on Amsterdam’s Red Light District. Whatever your thoughts on legalized sex work, this district is an interesting cultural phenomenon. It is popular amongst all tourists, and the main draw is just walking down the two streets, which are split by a canal and illuminated in soft red lighting. It is said to date back to the 14th century. However, it established itself in the 17th century – so it is as much historical as anything seedy.
You can walk through the district or visit the Sex Museum in its southern corner. Many tours also run through the Red Light District, offering informative walking tours and insider details.
32. Royal Palace Amsterdam
The Royal Palace Amsterdam is one of the leading city attractions and has been a royal residence since 1808. When it isn’t in use, it is open to the public to enjoy with a guided tour or audio tour and has several exhibitions to enjoy. You’ll have to adhere to strict rules – this is the home of the Netherlands’ royal family – but you’ll get an insight into royal life in exchange for your abiding by the rules.
If you are interested in politics or the royal family, this is a beautiful place to visit. The grandeur of the architecture is also splendid, and history lovers can appreciate all the information you get on guided tours.
33. Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank Museum is one of the most popular things to do in the city center. This industrial building is where Anne and her family hid in the secret annex during the Nazi occupation in central Amsterdam. The family and their friends lasted 25 months in secrecy, only being discovered in 1944 when they were tragically transported to concentration camps – after which only Otto, Anne’s father, survived.
At the museum, you can walk through the annex where the group lived and view all their possessions as they would have been displayed. There are also extracts and short films taken from Anne’s Diary. The attraction is harrowing but absolutely essential when visiting Amsterdam.
34. Houseboat Museum
Ever wondered what life on a houseboat is like? Well, step aboard this 1914 freighter convert and check it out. This museum lets tourists experience being onboard one of the classic canal boats and learn more about this traditional lifestyle. Canal boats are central to Amsterdam’s history and culture. With 165 canals in the city, you’ll see many of them from an outsider’s perspective. This is a unique opportunity to see the lifestyle from an inside perspective.
Visiting Amsterdam: FAQs
So, you now know precisely what you should add to your Amsterdam itinerary. But how do you narrow things down? You’ll probably have to be cutthroat unless you have unlimited time in Amsterdam. These are the best FAQs to help you finalize your decisions and pick your dream itinerary.
Is it worth going to Amsterdam for 3 days?
With three days in Amsterdam, you can visit a handful of great attractions and taste the city well. You’ll likely be able to take a canal tour and visit the Anne Frank House, the Red Light District, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Royal Palace. If that floats your boat, you can also enjoy a night out and the city’s weed culture.
What should not be missed in Amsterdam?
You should not miss visiting the Anne Frank Museum or a canal tour in Amsterdam. These two activities are the top activities to do in Amsterdam and really pivotal parts of the city’s identity.
What is Amsterdam is famous for?
Amsterdam is famous for being a liberal city, sex-positive and marijuana positive, with lots of creatives and links to the world-renowned Vincent Van Gogh. It also has lots of World War II history, for instance, at the Anne Frank Museum.
Is 2 days enough to see Amsterdam?
You’ll be hard-pushed to see the best of Amsterdam in just two days. You can squeeze in 3-4 attractions, like the Anne Frank Museum, Royal Palace, and Red Light District. However, you will miss out on the ‘authentic’ Amsterdam and feel rushed. Remember that if you fly to Amsterdam, you’ll also lose a considerable chunk of this time just traveling between the airport and allowing extra time at security.
Amsterdam is stuffed with unique activities and things to do, whether you want to fill your history bucket or embrace your inner flower aesthetic with a visit to its floral markets. The city is a beautiful weekend getaway, and it’s easy to see why it’s considered one of the best European city getaways. You can admire Van Gogh’s artwork or cruise down a sedate canal. There’s just so much at your fingertips when visiting Amsterdam.
Now you’ve got your itinerary nailed, you can go shopping for your boutique hotel or fun-loving hostel stay – enjoy your trip. For more day trip ideas, you can check out our guide on the best trips you can take from Amsterdam, which is excellent if you stay in the city longer than a few days. And if you want further inspiration on visiting the Netherlands, check out our guide here.