10 things to do in Amsterdam! Amsterdam is considered the “Venice of the North.” With all of the canals, Amsterdam is truly a stunning city. Here are some recommended activities to add to your itinerary of the beautiful city.
Take a walking tour!
First, take a free walking tour to orient yourself to the city. There is a lot to see in Amsterdam and a lot of history. I always like seeing the highlights of a city with the history of what I am seeing. Amsterdam was no different. Wake up and start your first day with a walking tour; get an idea of what you would like to go back to see and get a little more appreciation for the city.
1. Rent a bike to tour the city
Like I mentioned in the travel guide to Amsterdam, the best way to see the city is by bike! Every blog and person who has been to Amsterdam will probably agree with this one. There are bike lanes EVERYWHERE and cyclist have the right away at all times. Someone told me there are more bikes in Amsterdam than residents. I can’t confirm or deny, but there are a LOT of bikes in Amsterdam.
Seeing the city by bike is practical, but it is also a great time! It makes me wish every city was as accessible by bicycle! However, while you are biking, be sure to be careful. Don’t be involved in an accident because you aren’t paying attention 🙂
2. Walk along Damrak and the Amstel River
If you have seen a picture of Amsterdam, you have seen the waterfront houses on Damrak. They are the iconic architectural buildings along the river and they truly make for a beautiful backdrop. So head over and get “the shot” on this street! Also, fun fact, Amsterdam’s name was derived from the dam found along the Amstel River.
3. Visit Dam square
Dam square is the town square of Amsterdam only a 5 minute walk down Damrak from the Central Station. The square is full of shopping and food with the Royal Palace being the main attraction of the square.
4. Walk or Bike through Vondelpark
Vondelpark is a 120 acre (47 hectares) park just southwest of the city center. The park is the largest park in Amsterdam. Full of joggers, dog-walkers, locals and tourists it is also the most trafficked park in Amsterdam.
5. Visit a Museum
If you are a museum person, you are in luck. Amsterdam has several. The most popular include:
- Van Gogh Museum
- Body Works
- Moco Museum
- NEMO Science Museum
- Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum
- Madame Tussauds Museum
- Sex museums and more!
The most popular of the museums is the Rijksmuseum, often referred as the Louvre of the Netherlands. The most popular piece is Rembrandt’s Night Watch. The museum also used to be the home of the “IAmsterdam” sign.
6. Find an "IAmsterdam" Sign
In the last couple of years, the city has voted to remove the “Iamsterdam” sign from its home at Museumplein just south of the Rijksmuseum due to being “too individualistic” and probably due to the enormous crowds that gathered in the small area. There are, however, two other sets of letters that are found at the Schiphol airport and Sloterplas Lake. The original letters now tour the country, so keep an eye out.
7. Shop around the Albert Cuyp market
This large market is home to around 260 stands filled with art, shoes, luggage, food and more. Grab some delicious, homemade food or desserts while you shop around!
- Open Monday-Saturday
- 9:00 am- 5 pm
8. Admire Papiermolensluis and the surrounding Bridges
Amsterdam is home to about 165 canals and 1281 bridges! Needless to say, there is no shortage of cute and picturesque streets with beautiful bridges and canals. Of these bridges, Papiermolensluis Bridge is one of the most pictured due to its rock walls and beautiful architecture.
9. Walk through the Red Light District
Ya gotta do it. Maybe not if you are traveling with the kids. But, otherwise, the Red Light District will give you an experience you won’t likely get anywhere else. Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam, although not on the streets. Therefore, the Red Light District is full of windows of ladies offering services in a legal fashion. It is FORBIDDEN to take pictures; don’t even attempt it. Be respectful. Aside from the prostitution, there are also several bars and fun general atmosphere. So, don’t leave Amsterdam without at least giving it a walk-through.
10. Tour the Anne Frank House
One of the things we looked forward to the most in Amsterdam was visiting the Anne Frank house. I’m a big reader and love historical fiction, especially in the World War II era. So, naturally, it was disappointing to find out that there were no tickets available while we were there 🙁 This is NOT uncommon.
- BOOK your tickets in advance here if you want to take the tour!
Things to do in Amsterdam: summary
There are lots of things to do in Amsterdam. We spent about 2 days there, but we loved the city and I would be willing to go back for another visit. To note, we also visited Amsterdam on a 3.5 week backpacking trip, so we were visiting on a smaller budget. If we would have had a larger budget and more time in Amsterdam, we would have also loved to do a float down a canal. Is there anything else you would add to the to-do list?!