There are many fantastic places to visit in Amsterdam. I recently visited this incredible city with a friend – though this is also one of the best places to travel alone in Europe – and instantly fell in love with its friendly and easygoing vibe, and with the beautiful sights all around.
Known as the “Venice of the North” for its many canals, there are many things to do in in Amsterdam. Plan to stay there a minimum of 3 days to take in the many interesting museums, the lovely canals, and the quirky, unique attractions.
Whether you are traveling to Amsterdam with your family and children, your friends, your partner or alone, you are bound to enjoy the city.
Curious to find out more? Continue reading this post as I select the best places to visit in Amsterdam.
To better prepare for your trip, you should also read my post What You Need To Know Before Visiting Amsterdam.
27 Wonderful Places To Visit In Amsterdam
Van Gogh Museum
Get up close and personal with the famous artist’s work at his namesake museum. This is a must-visit for anybody even the slightest bit interested in Van Gogh’s work and fascinating life.
The permanent exhibition puts Vincent’s masterpieces center stage and charts his development as an artist. You will be able to see his most famous pieces, but also read letters and other documents that testify of his life.
There’s also a handful of temporary exhibitions taking place which allows visitors to see a different side to the iconic artworks. Late opening hours in the summer and special winter events make it one of the best places to visit in Amsterdam at any time of year.
Make sure to get tickets to Van Gogh Museum in advance – it can get very busy, though I did not found it to be overwhelmingly crowded. You should factor in around 2 hours to explore the museum.
If you want, you can get a guided tour of the museum too – alternatively, opt to get an audioguide directly at the museum.
Charting 800 years of Dutch history, this landmark museum is the Netherlands’ national museum, and by all means one of the top places to visit in Amsterdam. It’s also the most visited museum in the city – and all for good reasons!
A visit here means learning all about Dutch history, with exhibits charting events from 1,200 to the present day.
Taking up space inside an impressively sprawling building, the Rijksmuseum is up there as one of the best finest art museums in the world.
Approximately 8,000 artworks line the 1.5 km length of gallery space over four floors. Key pieces by the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh sit alongside masterpieces from overseas artist.
Make sure to allow plenty of time to explore this sizable spot – we spent more than two hours to check out the main exhibit and the special one dedicated to the works of Johannes Vermeer, and still felt we could have stayed longer.
If you are short on time, just focus on the Gallery of Honor where the most important pieces are found. You should also visit the Cuypers Library, which is the research library of the museum.
Don’t forget to get your timed tickets to Rijksmuseum well in advance, especially if there is a special exhibit you care to see.
Speaking of Rembrandt, those who wish to learn more about the famous Dutch artist will want to pay a visit to Rembrandt House. This is the place where the artist himself once lived on the busy Jodenbreestratt.
Rembrandt purchased the three-story canal house in 1639 and he lived here when he was at the peak of his creative endeavors, running the largest creative studio in the Netherlands at the time.
This was the place where the artists worked on his most famous pieces including The Night Watch. Today, the interiors of the property have been meticulously recreated to resemble what it looked like during Rembrandt’s time here – it’s a great place to visit not only to admire Rembrandt’s works but also to get to know more about his life.
Rembrandt’s House is one of the most popular places to visit in Amsterdam, so get your tickets to the museum well in advance. They include an audio-guide which will take you through the museum.
A short walk from Anne Frank House is one of the most unique places to visit in Amsterdam – the Jordaan Neighborhood. It’s the perfect place to go for local wandering and an atmospheric ambience.
Here, in this former working-class district that dates back to the 17th century, you can spend your time exploring the grid-pattern of streets lined with inviting bars, quirky galleries and intriguing shops.
There’s also lots of little markets (the best one is on Saturdays) and cultural spots to drop by. The best thing to do is to simply stroll without any aim and stumble across all the local hidden gems.
To make the most of the neighborhood, consider joining a guided tour. I recommend this guided bike tour of Jordaan – it lasts 4 hours and it is very thorough and goes to some of the most interesting places to visit in Amsterdam!
A visit to the Dutch capital is not complete without spending some time alongside its famous canals. It’s hard to miss these iconic waterways during your time in the city; they have helped to shape the city’s identity and fortunes.
In fact, the canals are so important to Amsterdam that the Canal Ring is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
You can take in the waterways on foot by taking strolls alongside them, stopping off at bars and cafes along the way to sip coffee overlooking the water. At night the canals become even more enigmatic, the city lights reflected on the surface and friends and couples enjoy walking alongside them.
However, for a proper local experience you need to see the canals in all their glory while on a boat. Locals love spending time boating around during the weekend, especially if it’s a sunny day!
A long list of Amsterdam canal tours will take you along the most famous sections – they generally last about 1.5 hours. There’s also the option to navigate them yourself by renting your own boat for a few hours.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure to book your canal cruise well in advance as this is one of the most popular things to do in Amsterdam and tours get sold out!
We took this open boat Amsterdam Canal Cruise that departs right outside Anne Frank’s House – you can schedule your cruise to start right after your visit of the museum. It also has other departure points so I am sure you can find a way to fit it in your itinerary. Drinks are served on the boat for a small extra. As it is an open boat, you may want to take an extra layer as it may get cold!
You also have the option of an evening canal cruise such as this one, in case you want to experience the canals when everything is beautifully illuminated.
Amsterdam 9 Streets
De Negen Straatjes or The Nine Streets is compact shopping area made of 9 narrow, cobbled alleys between Leidsegracth and Raadhuisstraat, slotted between the Singel, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Prinsengracht canals.
Here, a warren of pretty streets – all named after animals and whose names are impossible to remember – connected by the famous canals, are lined with cute boutique shops.
Spending some time here means hopping in and out of locally owned art galleries, enjoying a cup of coffee and shopping for interesting souvenirs to take home with you.
I recommend this guided bike tour of Jordaan that also goes to the lovely Nine Streets.
Anne Frank House
Visiting Anne Frank’s house is a captivating journey which transports you into a time when Amsterdam, and the whole of Europe, was a very different place.
The tale of Anne Frank may be one that ultimately ended in tragedy, but learning about her life, her daily routine and her writing during a visit to her hiding place is a touching and profound experience.
You can enter Anne’s secret annex where she lived as a teenager with her and another family as they hid from the Nazis until 1944, when they were finally discovered and sent to the concentration camps.
Standing in the same rooms where Anne wrote her famous diary is a personal and touching experience – of all the places to visit in Amsterdam, this was by far my favorite.
Anne Frank’s House was actually very small, so you can surely imagine the number of visitors allowed is limited and the museum works on time slot system. This means you need to book your visit well in advance (allow around 30 to 35 days before your intended visit) on the official website here. Tickets include an audio-guide that will walk you through the exhibit.
Another thing you may want to consider is that since this is a very old building, there are steep steps to the various floors and to reach the Secret Annex, which means it may not be suitable to people with limited mobility. For more information, head over to my post A Complete Guide To Visiting Anne Frank’s House.
Jewish Historical Museum and Portuguese Synagogue
This fascinating museum complex is one of the best places to visit in Amsterdam to learn about the life of the Jewish community in the Netherlands.
Made up of four carefully restored synagogues that date back to the 17th century, the museum takes visitors on a journey through a variety of different aspects of Jewish life and history, from modern art to ceremonial objects and a deep dive into Jewish culture and religion in the country today.
Exhibits including paintings and interactive displays are perfectly complemented by the audio guide which helps to immerse you into the displays. There’s also plenty of interesting exhibits to keep younger children entertained too.
Not far from the museum you will find the Portuguese Synagogue – since you will be getting a combined ticket, you may as well visit it too!
This architectural gem was, at one time, the largest synagogue in the whole of Europe. Dating back to 1675, the building was the work of architect Elias Bouman who took inspiration from the Temple of Solomon.
Classic Dutch design details were also incorporated with the vaulted ceiling crafted out of wooden barrels. The synagogue is still in use to this day, and without the use of electric lighting, services are conducted under the illumination of candlelight from the enormous chandeliers that hang from the rafters.
The Jewish Historical Museum and the Portuguese Synagogue are never really crowded, but if you want you can get combined tickets in advance. They include an audioguide.
Albert Cuyp Market
Open Monday to Saturday, this bustling marketplace is the spot to go shopping in Amsterdam if you want to pick up local produce. It’s one of the most famous places to visit in Amsterdam, but regarless it’s still very much a local market.
Made up of more than 250 stalls, vendors at the Albert Cuyp Market sell an array of fresh fruit, flowers and vegetables. In fact, let me say it is much better than the more famous floating flower market.
You can also pick up a choice of gadgets, clothes and homeware too. Make sure to arrive hungry as there’s a whole lot of vendors who sell enticing, low-cost bites to eat.
This is a good place to try poffertjes – the Dutch mini pancakes that are served with dusting sugar; or stroopwafels (thin waffles made to ordered and traditionally served with apple sauce).
This street food market tour also goes to the Albert Cuyp Market.
Amsterdam’s most famous park, Vondelpark is everyone’s favorite place to hang out in the city. It’s actually very central – close to Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum – so a good place to relax and sit down for a bite in-between museum visits.
Over 12 million people a year spend time kicking back in this public green space and there is enough room for everyone to spread out across the 116 acres (47 hectares) of green grass.
The landscaped lawns are dotted with peaceful ponds, cute cafes, inviting pathways and carefully planted flowerbeds. When the sun shines in Amsterdam, Vondelpark comes alive with a frenzied mix of locals and visitors enjoying a whole spectrum of off-duty activities, from skating to picnics, and yoga to cycling.
This bike tour of Amsterdam also goes to Vondelpark. It’s the tour we did and highly recommend.
Red Light District
Amsterdam’s Red Light District has a notorious reputation which brings in hordes of tourist every night to see what goes on in the warren of streets. This is the corner of the city that is dedicated to all manner of vices.
A multitude brothel front windows, sex shops, seedy bars and cannabis selling coffee shops illuminate the night. Many find themselves in this part of the city wandering aimlessly, peering into the various shopfronts and experiencing this infamous part of town for themselves.
But there’s more to it than meets the eye, and after learning so much about it during a tour, it became one of our favorite places to visit in Amsterdam.
The Red Light District is actually steeped in its own unique history, linked to the city’s trading past. As far back as 1300, sex workers would make themselves look attractive by carrying red lanterns to greet sailors that had recently arrived at the city port.
Over the centuries venues for all manner of late-night antics became a staple of the city’s streets, but legalization of sex work didn’t take place until 1810.
The district has gone through some changes in more recent years with the city attempting to clear up the area and create a safer environment for the people who work there. When you explore this part of town, make sure not to snap any photographs of the brothel windows.
If you want to get a better insight into the area there are tours that will take you around the highlights of the district, telling tales of the area’s history along the way.
We took this excellent guided tour of the Red Light District of Amsterdam and felt like we learned a lot!
This green space dates all the way back to 1638 when it was founded as a spot to place the various seeds and saplings collected by the Dutch trading shops during their voyages.
The garden played a very important role in global trade and has probably even had an effect on what you stock in your kitchen cupboards to this day. It was from here that a long list of now staple ingredients, including coffee, palm-oil and cinnamon, were spread out across Europe and the rest of the world.
A visit allows you to take in the dizzying array of over 4,000 species of plants that are housed inside a collection of colonial-era houses – the seed house and glasshouse are of particular note.
Those traveling with small children may want to spend some time in the butterfly house; there’s even a free hour-long guided tour for those who really want to learn more about the garden.
This central square has played a pivotal role in the history of this city. It was here all the way back in 1270 that Amsterdam was founded. Throughout the years the square has undergone a long list of changes and uses.
Previously the square was split in to two portions. One part was a fish market called Vissersdam, and the other Vijgendam, which is believed to be named for the various exotic food items such as figs that were brought in from the ships.
Several different markets have been hosted in the square over the years along with being the location of historical events – it was here that public executions used to take place in front of the Royal Palace.
Today, the square is a busy public space that is the mainstay of tourists, touts and buskers but it’s also a place of public gathering and demonstrations, hence one of the unmissable places to visit in Amsterdam.
This guided tour of Amsterdam goes to the Red Light District but it also visits Dam Square.
Royal Palace of Amsterdam
The decadent building first started life as a town hall when it was opened in 1655, only transitioning to a palace in the 19th century. The work of architect Jacob van Campen, the grand public building was intended to put Amsterdam’s great wealth at center stage.
The interiors drip with over-the-top details, which include stunning marble inlaid floors, 51 chandeliers, gilded clocks, and fine artworks. The highlight of it all is the great burgerzaal (citizen’s hall) with a marble floor inlaid with world maps.
All of this over-the-top opulence was meant to rival even the most ostentatious of European buildings at the time.
You can get your tickets to the Royal Palace of Amsterdam in advance if you wish.
The Heineken Experience is the place to go to learn about all things beer. Located on the site of the former Heineken brewery, the experience is a semi-self-guided tour through the beer making process from start to finish.
Along the way you’ll be entertained by multimedia exhibits which make the whole visit a lot more fun than just reading about how beer is brewed. You can even transform yourself into a beer that is going through the bottling process by being shaken up and sprayed with water.
This is one of the most popular things to do in Amsterdam so make sure to book your tickets in advance, that way you also get to skip the line and save a few euros too.
If you want to delve even deeper into the world of Heineken, the VIP tours includes beer tasting and food pairings.
You can book your Heineken Experience in Amsterdam here. If you want to go to the terrace to enjoy the views at the end of the tour, make sure to get tickets as soon as you get there and before the tour starts, as they regularly get sold out.
The Nieuwe Kerk is situated on Dam Square. Despite its name, the church isn’t very new at all. The building dates back to the late 15th century but is new when compared to Amsterdam’s Old Church which was building all the way back in 1306.
The Gothic basilica is no longer often used as a place of worship and now usually plays host to an array of art exhibitions and musical performances. Visiting the building offers up glimpses of intricately carved oak panelling and impressive stained-glass windows.
Built in 1645, the church’s organ is the largest of its kind in the country and you can hear it in action at one of the regular musical recitals that take place here.
Running between Amsterdam Centraal (Amsterdam Central Train Station) and Dam Square, this central street is also a partially culverted canal. For those arriving at the city’s main train station, this is usually the first sight they will see. It may look crowded, and touristy. But at a closer look you will notice it is lined with gorgeous buildings.
The Damrak is actually the mouth of the city’s Amstel River in a time before land was reclaimed and the city was developed into its modern iteration. The waterway flowed from here into a lock in the Amstel.
This was a frenzied trading spot in the 19th century when the river was clogged with canal boats trading goods. Today, the charming gabled housed which edge the river make for a picturesque place to snap some photos and enjoy a waterside walk.
I could not not included this lovely museum in the list of top places to visit in Amsterdam! Curiously quirky, this museum takes its name from the founder’s cat. Yes, you read that correctly.
When prosperous financier Bob Meijer funded the restoration of the building, he decided to name it after his cat John Pierpont Morgan – the cat itself was named after the famous banker J. P. Morgan.
Dedicated to all things, cats, the KattenKabinet (or “Cat Cabinet” in English) displays an array of paintings, drawing and sculptures that all feature cats.
The museum collection includes works from well-known artists, everyone from Pablo Picasso and Rembrandt to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
The building itself is of some note also. Built in 1667 for the patrician brothers Willem and Adriaen van Loon, it has played host to a number of important figures during its history. It was even used as a filming location in the 2004 movie Oceans Twelve.
For those not particularity interested in cats, stopping by here is a good chance to peek inside one of only a few of the houses on the Grand Bend that are open to the public.
The KattenKabinet is never a crowded attraction, but if you want you can get tickets in advance at the official price here.
Another of the unmissable places to visit in Amsterdam for cat lovers, De Poezenboot is a fun tribute to our feline friends. Located in a boat on the Singel canal, it was founded in the 1960s by an Amsterdam local who wanted to do her best to look after the stray cats in the area.
Over the years the Pozenboot became a local landmark and more recently an animal welfare charity has taken over the running of the floating shelter. The Catboat, as it is called in English, takes in around 250 cats that need caring for per year (though there are no more than 20 that actually live on the boat at all times).
Once aboard the boat, the cats received veterinary care, are vaccinated, chipped and neutered. When they’re well enough, the cats are then put up for adoption and given a new home.
Visiting the boat is free but donations towards the running of the shelter are always welcome. You can also buy a souvenir – all profits go to the welfare of cats.
Floating Flower Market Bloemenmarkt
Going strong since 1862, this famous flower market is the place to go to pick up all sorts of flowers. You can also get bulbs to bring home – they are usually ready to be exported.
Flowers and Amsterdam go together hand-in-hand. The city has a history of trading flowers; in fact, the market is held in the same spot where workers from the flower nurseries would sail their flowers down the Amstel from their farms out in the countryside.
The traders would then moor their barges and sell their fresh blooms to passers-by.
Sadly, the market doesn’t float quite like it used to but it’s a really fun place to pick up some classic Dutch tulips and also shop for cute souvenirs to take home with you.
If you feel like you are in need for a little peaceful reflection during your trip to Amsterdam, then take some time out at Begijnhof. This former convent is one of the quietest places to visit in Amsterdam – if anything because, being private property, visitors are asked to keep quiet as they explore!
Dating back to the beginning of the 14th century, the complex of buildings hides a collection of courtyards, small houses and buildings.
The Catholic order which once called this place home was a group of unmarried women called The Beguines. The women lived here following a monastic way of life until the last of the order died in 1971.
Today visitors are free to explore the grounds. The medieval Begijnhof Kapel, and the Engelse Kerk inside the courtyard, are both of note along with the Houten Huis, the oldest wooden house in the country.
This small group tour of Amsterdam also visits the Begijnhof.
The work of notable Dutch architect Hendrick de Keyser, the West Church (or the Westerkerk in Dutch) was built between 1619 and 1631 as a place of worship for the city’s wealthy Protestants.
The church’s design is grand and boasts an enormous wood barrel vaulted ceiling and the country’s largest nave.
The enormous organ dates back to 1686 and is adorned with panels decorated with various scenes from the bible.
An interesting fact about this church that is connected with Anne Frank’s history is that in her diary she writes several times that she can hear the bell tower from the Secret Annex.
Visiting the church is free but, if you have time, you can climb the church’s bell tower (which was added in 1638) for a small fee but keep in mind that this is a rather steep climb, so definitely not suitable for people with limited mobility. At the time of writing, the tower is closed for renovations.
Starting life as a one of the Royal Dutch Shell Oil’s head offices, the A’DAM Tower is now one of the most popular places to visit in Amsterdam. Visitors are able to ride the elevator up to the 22 storey and be wowed by the amazing panoramic views out across the city.
Once up at the top there’s a selection of different fun activities to try out including a swing that sweeps you out over the edge of the tower (no, I have not tried it as I was too afraid). Elsewhere there’s a bar (which I have tried!), a revolving restaurant and even a nightclub.
You can get tickets to the A’DAM’s Lookout directly at the door. Otherwise, you can use the Amsterdam City Pass that you can get on the official website here.
Nemo Science Museum
If you are looking for things to do in Amsterdam with children, this is the place to go!
This fun and interactive science museum is on a mission to make science and technology more accessible for the general public. The enormous slanted green copper building that it’s housed inside is the perfect place to bring the world of science and learning to life.
Here, adults and children alike can spend hours enjoying the various multimedia exhibits that are spread across the four floors of the museum.
Don’t miss out on a trip up to the building’s rooftop for views across the water and surrounding area. You an actually access it even if you don’t visit the museum.
Eye Film Institute
Another of Amsterdam’s modern architectural landmarks, the Eye Film Institute is a celebration of Dutch film. Located on the edge of the IJ River, the organization boasts an incredible archive of films spanning various genres and generations.
Come here to learn more about the Dutch film industry, catch a screening in one of the four theaters and visit one of the regular exhibitions that take place on subjects such as costumes and set design.
If you’re feeling in the mood for a bite to eat or a refreshing drink, then the Institute’s onsite bar and restaurant is the place to go. Serving up an array of tasty snacks, the terrace with city views is the place to go when the sun is shining.
Elsewhere, the gift shop is stocked with a selection of movie-related items, from old fashion movie posters to film-focussed books.
National Maritime Museum
Dedicated to maritime history, this impressive museum is situated inside a 17th century waterfront building. There’s a whole wealth of artefacts and memorabilia on display which chart the history of Dutch voyages across the centuries.
From maps to old photographs, there’s something to keep everyone engaged including a life-sized replica of an old Dutch East India Company vessel which can be boarded.
You can get your tickets to the National Maritime Institute of Amsterdam here.
The Madame Tussauds in Amsterdam may not be the original (that’s in London), but since it opened its doors in Dam Square in 1970 it has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Amsterdam.
Book online in advance in order to secure lower-priced tickets and spend an hour or so in the company of notable Dutch figures and global celebrities, even if they are only in wax form.
You can get tickets to Madame Tussauds in Amsterdam here.