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10 things to do in Amsterdam: the top things that you can’t absolutely miss during your first travel to Amsterdam.
I lived in this city for almost a year and if I start thinking of 10 things to do in Amsterdam I would come up with 100 things to do.
But if you are staying in this amazing city just for a few days and you are wondering what are the things that you can’t absolutely miss, here comes my post “10 things to do in Amsterdam”.
1. RIDING A BIKE AND WANDERING AROUND THE CANALS.
There’s no doubt. The first thing that you have to do as soon as you land in Amsterdam is renting a bike. It’s very easy to get around the city by tram but I think that biking around the canals in Amsterdam is definitely a unique experience that cannot be missed.
Wand around the canals and get lost. The area of the 17° century canal ring inside the Singelgracht is listed as UNESCO World Heritage. Look at the beautiful and colorful houses that overlook the Amstel river. Cross the bridges over the canals and look for the cutest boathouses around the city.
2. WALK AROUND DAM SQUARE.
Dam Square is one of the symbols of Amsterdam. The big square hosts the Royal Palace, the National Monument, a pillar that was erected to commemorate the victims of the Second World War, the New Church and Madame Tussauds, the waxworks museum.
Dam square, also known as just Dam, is one of the busiest squares in the city.
From Dam Square you can walk towards:
- Kalverstraat: the main shopping street in Amsterdam. While walking on this street you’ll pass by Spui, a gorgeous little square with bars and little shops. In Spui look for the Begijnhof: the secret garden of the hofjes.
- Damrak: the street that goes from the Central Station to Dam Square.
- Rokin: the street that goes from Dam Square to Muntplein, where you find De Munt (or Munttorren).
3. HAVE A PICNIC IN VONDELPARK.
In Amsterdam there are lots of parks.
Vondelpark is the largest one and it’s right in the city center. It’s located just a few meters away from Museumplein, a huge square that hosts the main museums of the city and the sign I AMSTERDAM, which is photographed every year by millions of tourists.
[UPDATE DECEMBER 2018: The sign has been removed! Why? Because of congestion caused by flocks of tourists (including me oops!) who used to crowd together to take pictures. Let’s wait for upcoming news on if, when and where we will see I AMSTERDAM again!]
Vondelpark extends over 45 hectares. All around there are statues, little lakes and many paths where you can run or walk. Grab a sandwich in one of the fast-food restaurants near the park and have a picnic in this gorgeous green space.
4. VISIT THE ANNE FRANK HOUSE.
Visiting the Anne Frank House will give you goosebumps.
Anne Frank and her family lived in this house for 2 years before they were captured by the nazis. Their hiding place had a secret entrance just behind a movable bookcase.
Anne Frank story moved the entire world. Reading her diary was heartbreaking to me.
But the emotions you feel are even deeper when you are actualy there, inside Anne Frank house. When you go through the secret entrance and find yourself in the exact place where she used to write her diary, trying to imagine how terrible it could be to feel the fear of being discovered.
From the outside Anne Frank House looks just like any regular house. But when you are inside you’ll be able to understand, at least partially, what it feels like to live in fear. Fear of being discovered and taken away, to those places that blackened forever our humanity.
Location: Prinsengracht 263-267
Anne Frank House Opening Hours:
- November 1 – April 1 2018: Monday – Friday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm; Saturday 9:00 am – 10:00 pm; Sunday 9:00 – 7:00 pm.
- April 1 – November 1: Every Day 9:00 am – 10:00 pm
2018 Special Openings Anne Frank House:
- January 1: 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
- February 18 – March 4: 9:00 am – 10:00 pm
- March 5 – 9, March 12 – 16, March 19 – 23, March 26 – 29: 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
- March 30 – 31: 9:00 am – 10:00 pm
- May 4: 9:00 am – 7:00 pm
- September 18: 9:00 am – 7:00 pm
- September 19: closed
- November 3: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
- December 25: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
- December 31: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Please note: Until the 1st of May 2018 the entrance is permitted only to visitors who purchased the ticket online on the following website (tickets available 2 months before your visit):
Anne Frank House Tickets Fare:
- Full Price: €9
- Reduced Price (visitors 10 – 17 years old): €4,50
- Free Entrance: Visitors under the age of 10; owners of the Amsterdam Card or the Student Card
- Ticket online: extra €0,50
5. VISIT THE VAN GOGH MUSEUM.
Another person that would definitely come to your mind when you think of Amsterdam is Vincent van Gogh.
The Van Gogh Museum is extraordinary and it’s absolutely worth a visit. In the museum you find masterpieces like the Sunflowers, the Potato Eaters and some self-portraits of the painter.
Van Gogh Museum Opening Hours 2018 (last entrance 30 minutes before closing time):
- January 8 – March 22: Every Day 9:00 am – 5:00 pm; Friday 9:00 am – 7:00 pm.
- March 23 – June 24: Every Day 9:00 am – 7:00 pm; Friday 9:00 am – 7:00 pm.
- June 25 – September 2: Every Day 9:00 am – 7:00 pm; Friday and Saturday 9:00 am – 9:00 pm.
- September 3 – November 4: Every Day 9:00 am – 6:00 pm; Friday 9:00 am – 9:00 pm.
- November 5 – December 23: Every Day 9:00 am – 5:00 pm; Friday 9:00 am – 9:00 pm.
- December 24 – January 6, 2019: Every Day 9:00 am – 7:00 pm; Friday 9:00 – 9:00 pm; January 1, 2019 11:00 am – 7:00 pm.
Van Gogh Museum Tickets Fare:
- Full Price: €18
- Reduced price: Visitors under the age of 18
- Entry + Multimedia Guide: €25 (click here for info on the Multimedia Guide)
Click here to book the tickets online.
Click here for info on the guided tours.
6. GO TO A COFFEE SHOP IN AMSTERDAM.
Smoker or not, your travel to Amsterdam is not complete if you don’t go to a coffee shop.
Finding them is easy, just follow your nose!
But if you want to go to the best ones, or at least to the most famous ones, than go to:
- Green House. Haarlemmerstraat 64.
- Bulldog. Leidseplein 15 (the most famous one – a.k.a. very touristy).
- Barney’s. Haarlemmerstraat 102.
- Dampkring. Handboogstraat 29.
Some rules: they are not allowed to serve alcohol in a coffee shop and you have to be at least 18 to get in.
And watch out! Let’s stamp out the myth. Unlike most people think, cannabis in Amsterdam is not legal. Its consumption is just tolerated.
This means that you can’t smoke wherever you want. You can only do it inside a coffee shop.
Drinking alcohol on the street is also forbidden. The only day that makes an exception is the King’s Day, or Koningsdag (April 27: King Willem-Alexander’s birthday). On this day everybody takes to the streets dressed in orange and the city is an explosion of concerts and shows.
Just a quick note on the King’s Day: Dutch people used to celebrate the Queen’s Day on April 30, the day Queen Juliana was born. Her daughter, Queen Beatrix, kept the celebration on this date until she abdicated in 2013 and her son Willem-Alexander was crowned king. From 2014 onwards, Dutch people started celebrating the King’s Day.
7. HAVE A BEER IN LEIDSEPLEIN.
Leidseplein is my favorite place to go out at night to have a beer.
In this famous square there are many pubs where you can taste very good local beer for a cheap price.
My favorite pub in Leidseplein is the Waterhole. Live music, a big space where you can sing and dance, pool tables and great beer. Maybe lately it has become a little touristy, but it’s absolutely worth a go.
It’s located in a little street near Leidseplein: Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 49.
Another nice place where you can go to have something to drink is Rembrandtplein. There are many clubs, bars and coffee shops.
8. VISIT THE RIJKSMUSEUM.
And after coffee shops and beers, let’s go back to being serious tourists!
Visiting the Rijksmuseum is absolutely one of the 10 things to do in Amsterdam.
This museum is fantastic both outside and inside. It has the most complete exhibition of the Flemish art works, especially by artists like Rembrandt and Vermeer.
The most famous piece of art is probably the Milkmaid by Vermeer.
Another famous painting of the museum is The Night Watch by Rembrandt.
Rijksmuseum Opening Hours:
- Every Day: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Rijksmuseum Tickets Fare:
- Full Price: €17,50.
- Free Entrance: Visitors under the age of 18.
9. GO DANCING AT PARADISO.
Go dancing in Amsterdam is super fun. There’s no dress code, everybody wears what they want and you get to meet a lot of people!
If you love rock music in general, and indie rock in particular, just like I do, then Amsterdam is a Paradise to you!
And talking about Paradise… Paradiso is the most famous disco club in Amsterdam!
Its location is super cool… it’s inside an abandoned church. The music they play is basically that fun indie – pop rock that you dance and sing all night.
Keep an eye on the events at Paradiso. It hosts many concerts every year.
Paradiso Official Website: Paradiso.
There are also many other clubs that I would recommend:
- Melkweg. Two big dance floors: R&B in one and rock music in the other one. Basically the type of music they play depends on the event of the night. Melkweg also hosts many concerts.
- Club 8. Club 8 is definitely a smaller club compared to Paradiso and Melkweg but if you love indie rock then I totally recommend it.
- Hotel Arena. Big dance floor located in the hotel complex Hotel Arena. They play different kinds of music: house, rock, techno.
Finally I can’t fail to mention the Escape. It’s a huge and very crowded disco club. Personally I don’t love it, but it’s very popular and it has a central location (near Rembrandtplein). They play popular music and there’s a dress code to get in, which is quite rare in Amsterdam. I really think that Amsterdam has way better clubs but I will leave the choice to you!
10. WALK AROUND THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT.
And once in Amsterdam you obviously can’t miss a walk around the Red Light District.
The windows where the women are “exhibited” are all highlighted in red.
There are women for all tastes. There is also a street for women let’s say a little chubby.
I will let anyone of you make your own moral judgment about the Red Light District.
Honestly myself, I find it a little sleazy. And also quite gross. I’m pretty sure you’ll have to hold your nose many times: there are urinals all around to allow men to pee on the street. Well, we women really appreciate the thought!
As I also stated at the beginning of this post, Amsterdam is a city that offers way more than only “10 things”.
10 things to do in Amsterdam is simply a post I wrote to pique your curiousity to visit this extraordinary place. Take your time to explore this city that has so much to give you, absorbe the positive vibe of Amsterdam and let its magic sweep you away.
And if you have the great opportunity to spend more days to discover other amazing destinations in the Netherlands, read also my post about the day trips that you can do from Amsterdam.