Whether you’re visiting Amsterdam for the world-class art, the rich history and architecture, or the infamous party scene, there’s no shortage of fascinating things to do, see, and visit in the Dutch capital. This picturesque city is lovely any time of year, whether you see it in full bloom in the spring or as a frozen wonderland in the winter.
Of course, there are also lots of delicious things to eat and drink while you’re visiting, too. We’ve included a bit of everything on our list of the ten very best things to do in Amsterdam.
Some fun things to do in Amsterdam
Start at Dam Square
Dam Square is one of the most important locations in the entire country for historical reasons. It’s also home to the stunning Royal Palace and the New Church, and right in the middle of the city’s old center. It’s not only charming to look at, but it’s also a good place to get your bearings in the city while you set out and explore.
It gets its name because it really was a dam, and connected villages on each side of the river!
Take your pick of the museums
Did you know that Amsterdam is said to have the most museums per square meter in the world? On top of that, many of their museums are world-class, such as the the Van Gogh museum, the Rijksmuseum, and the Stedelijk Museum. You can see any type of art, from exquisite paintings by the Old Masters to thought-provoking contemporary pieces by up-and-coming artists.
There are also museums dedicated to the city’s history, the maritime history, film collections, railways, and unusual collections of items throughout the city. The list goes on and on!
Get an insider’s view of Amsterdam’s art scene with dinner at Petra’s home and art studio!
Stop by the Red Light District
Amsterdam’s Red Light District is certainly controversial. It’s impossible to walk through without seeing the brothel windows filled with scantily-clad sex workers and smoky coffeeshops where customers can partake in substances that might be frowned upon elsewhere.
Still, it’s a fascinating look into the progressive attitudes that Amsterdam is proud of, as well as home to plenty of beautiful medieval architecture. There are also new movements that are pushing the neighborhood away from its seedy reputation, instead focusing on its artistic side, such as the Red Light Art and Red Light Fashion projects.
Sample ‘broodje haring’
A true Dutch specialty, this dish might pleasantly surprise you. It’s a small sandwich with raw herring, pickles, and onions. The flavors are intense, but it’s a real local favorite. The best place to sample it is from one of the herring carts (“haringhandels” in Dutch) that are all over the streets of Amsterdam.
If this is too much for you, other popular street foods include fried kibbeling, which is made from mild white fish, and croquettes.
Taste authentic Amsterdam food with a Dutch food tour that takes you round all the best local food shops and markets with Fusina.
See the Anne Frank House
A visit to the Anne Frank House is a somber experience, to be sure. But it’s also a moving one that puts things in perspective and reminds us to never forget. The house is kept in the same conditions as it was when the Franks hid there for years, including lots of original items the family and the other members of the Secret Annex used. One addition is the space that discusses discrimination and persecution in a thought-provoking exhibition.
Rent a bike
If you really want to explore Amsterdam like a local, then you’ve got to do it by bike! Nearly 60% of the city’s population bikes at least once a day. It’s quite impressive to see streams of commuters pedal on by. With plenty of charming things to look at and a superb bike path system, Amsterdam is a great place to bike.
You can either rent one or take a bike tour. Stop midway for a picnic at the lush green Vondelpark, another local favorite, to recharge so you can cycle all day long.
Take a canal boat
There are 165 canals in Amsterdam, and 1,281 bridges. If you’re counting, that’s three times as many bridges as Venice, by the way! The canals are such an iconic part of the city, and they’re equally pleasant to explore either by foot, by bike, or by a boat tour that takes you through them right on the water. Some of the boats are even available to rent for a memorable place to sleep.
Have dinner in an authentic Amsterdam canal house with a view of the Skinny Bridge – and eat typical Dutch cuisine, too!
Drink like the locals
Amsterdam is home to a thriving bar scene, and the city actually also has a great history of drinking culture. It’s the biggest exporter of beer in the world, for one. For another, gin (“jenever” in the Netherlands) was invented here in the 16th century. Let’s have a hearty “proost” to that.
You can drink at plenty of fascinating establishments here, from tasting beer at the IJ Brewery next to an authentic Dutch windmill to exploring the city’s urban beaches, where locals enjoy drinks in the warmer months of the year.
Enjoy a meal like locals, too, with a 3-course dinner with the lovely Anne Maike in the heart of the city center.
Stop and smell the tulips
The Netherlands is famous for its colorful fields of tulips that bloom in the spring. Plenty of those tulips make their way to Amsterdam, particularly to the Flower Market, which is the world’s only floating flower market. It’s been around since 1862 and sells bulbs, flowers, bouquets, and more. There are also lots of souvenir stalls, so you can pick up a pair of clogs or a wheel of smoky Gouda cheese.
Indulge in a waffle (or two)
As you walk through the scenic streets of the city, you may notice the enticing scent of waffles wafting your way every now and then. Many of them fortunately taste just as good as they smell. Treat yourself to a sweet something after a long day of walking.
You might also like the Dutch stroopwaffel, a cookie created out of two thin waffles sandwiched together with syrup. Warm them up over a cup of coffee for a few seconds to enjoy a truly indulgent snack.
Our host Petra offers a tasty Dutch menu that ends with waffles for dessert.
Just as waffles are the perfect ending to a meal in Amsterdam, this brings us to the end of our list. There are plenty of things to do in Amsterdam and to enjoy the city. You may be surprised at just how much the Dutch capital has to enjoy. Like we said, there truly is a little bit of everything here.