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Things to Do in Amsterdam

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This post lists the top 10 things to do in Amsterdam, including free activities, family-friendly attractions, and things to do after dark. 


TOP 10 THINGS TO DO

This is our top 10 list of things to do in Amsterdam. It includes events, free activities, family-friendly attractions, the best food to eat, evening entertainment, and tours.

Check out our other popular Amsterdam posts here: 


1. Take a Boat Tour of the Canals

Amsterdam has 165 canals, which is 15 more canals than Venice, Italy. With all those waterways, there are almost endless opportunities for taking boat rides in the city.

Whether you're a fan of hop-on-hop-off tours or are looking for something a little different.

We have a post that compares the city's various canal cruises available to you.

Amsterdam Canal Boat Tour

We suggest taking a small, open-boat canal cruise for a more intimate experience. Of course, there are options for everyone:

If you're entertaining younger kids, the Blue Boat company as a pirate adventure-themed boat ride that is fun and interactive. 


2. Catch Some Live Music

It’s easy to find live music when you’re in Amsterdam, no matter what genre you’re looking for.

Jazz is a popular genre thanks to the influence of American soldiers during World War II, and you can find regular concerts at Bimhuis.

You can also find some high-quality classical music from the Royal Symphony at Concertgebouw.

There are multiple great venues that have a variety of modern artists and DJs performing throughout the year:

Click here to find all the concerts available in Amsterdam.

For more things to do at night, check out the section below.


3. See a Professional Sporting Match

The Netherlands is home to a few big football teams - and one of the most popular ones, Ajax, calls Amsterdam home.

You can find all the games happening here. 

Football (Soccer) Teams:

Don’t forget to look at all the sporting events in Amsterdam, since there are occasionally championship games and competitions for various professional sports. 


4. Go on a Sightseeing Tour

One of the best ways to learn more about any city is by taking a sightseeing tour. Amsterdam, luckily, has a variety of fun tours to take. 

There are free walking tours that cover a variety of neighborhoods and subjects. From food tours and alternative culture tours to classic city center tours. 

https://youtu.be/Ku7X5G9j50U

You can take advantage of the fact that there are more bicycles than people in Amsterdam by taking a bike tour!

Your guide will lead you through the city’s many bicycle lanes as you see the sights.  

Take a hop-on hop-off bus tour through the city, or a boat tour through the canals.

These tours include audio narration of the sights and might also come with combo tickets for other experiences. 

Of course, the Red Light District tours are popular, since the neighborhood is the subject of much fascination.

You’ll learn about the history of the lit windows and today’s current culture and prostitution laws.


5. Explore the Red Light District

The Red Light District in Amsterdam is famous for its red-lit windows where the legal prostitutes wait for customers.

Since it has been legal since 1811, visitors have been fascinated by the openness of the practice. 

Red Light District

Of course, there are a few rules of conduct that tourists should be aware of, and there are more things to see than just the workers in their windows.

See our full post on the Red Light District to find out what else there is to do in the district. 


6. Save Money with a Tourist Attraction Discount Pass

Amsterdam is not a cheap city, but you don’t have to break the bank to see popular attractions.

Tourist discount passes work by allowing you to bundle admission tickets for heavy discounts.

You could get up to 50% off retail prices on several passes - or get in for free with an all-inclusive pass. 

Attractions Included on Some Passes Include: 

See which pass can save you the most of your trip with our in-depth comparison post


7. Rent a Bike or Bakfiets

Did you know there are more bicycles than people in Amsterdam? Amsterdam and the surrounding towns are full of bike lanes and bikes.

Whether you just want the experience or are looking for a convenient form of transportation, we suggest renting a bike for at least a day. 

If you have small children, get a bakfiets so they can also come along for the ride. Find out more about renting a bike in Amsterdam.

TIP: If you're exploring and need a place to store your luggage, check out this post with details on convenient and safe bag storage locations.


8. Visit the Anne Frank House

The story of Anne Frank is quite sad, but it's also one of the most important tales from throughout the history of Amsterdam and WWII.

If you've ever wanted to see the place where this young girl was once hidden, the Anne Frank House Museum is open to public tours all year long, and there are a lot of things to see here.

Anne Frank House Museum

In addition to seeing the room where she was kept, they also have some interesting exhibits including some of the other things she wrote.

This attraction is included at no extra cost with some Amsterdam tourist passes. To learn more, please read our post covering the Anne Frank House.


9. Enjoy the Food Scene

Amsterdam has a diverse range of cuisines to enjoy, as well as some famous spots you shouldn’t miss. 

Number one is Foodhallen. It’s best to arrive on an empty stomach and with a friend or two, so you can sample as many dishes as possible.

You’ll find a wide variety of food vendors selling dishes like dim sum, tacos, French pastries and desserts, and seafood, among others. 

Free Food Tours in Amsterdam

When it comes to traditionally-Amsterdam eating establishments, try a brown cafe, which is a traditional Dutch pub. 

We have a list of coffee shops, brown cafes, and sit-down restaurants in our evening activities post here

The city also has popular food tours and pub crawls. If you like to hear about the traditions behind popular local foods and restaurants, don't miss the food tours!


10. Go to the Van Gogh Museum

Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most beloved artists of all time, and Amsterdam is home to a museum full of his work.

There are over 1400 paintings and drawings on display at this location, including several popular examples such as his Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, The Bedroom, The Potato Eaters, and Irises.

In addition to those exhibits, there is also a collection of artwork crafted by some of Van Gogh's most notable friends and artists who were inspired by him.

Admission to this attraction is provided by multiple Amsterdam tourist passes. If you want to learn more, check out our post about visiting the Van Gogh Museum.


Honorable Mention: Self-Guided Exploration Games

If you're looking for an interesting way to discover Amsterdam, there are a few different mystery games you may want to consider.

These games will give you clues to help solve a puzzle, and each clue will take you to another notable location in the city.


FREE THINGS TO DO

This section will cover some of the best free activities in Amsterdam that won’t cost you anything to enjoy.

If you’re trying to save money while visiting, don’t forget that there are multiple tourist passes you can use to get a discount on popular activities and attractions.

 


11. Visit the Floating Flower Market

As the name implies, this flower market is actually located on one of the many canals in Amsterdam, and it’s actually the only such market in the entire world.

Floating Flower Market

Needless to say, it’s entirely free to stop and smell the flowers, but you might also want to pick a few things up while you’re here, because there are 15 souvenir and gift shops in the market!


12. Enjoy a Live Music Performance

Throughout the summer, Amsterdam hosts a lot of free festivals covering a range of different subjects, and most of them include live music.

One of the most popular examples is the Vondelpark Festival, which takes place every weekend in August.

The Amsterdam Gay Pride Festival is another popular option to consider.


13. Take a Ride on a Ferry

All ferries across the IJ are entirely free, so if you’re interested in visiting North Amsterdam, this is an excellent and affordable way to get around the city with ease.

This is also a nice way to enjoy views of the city skyline from the water without having to pay for a cruise service.


14. Visit the Begijnhof Courtyard

This little courtyard is located right in the heart of the city, and most people don’t even know about it!

Begijnhof Courtyard

What was once the site of a women’s religious community in the 1400s still exists today, and it’s relatively close to the Amsterdam Museum.

If you’re looking for a place to escape the crowds and enjoy a nice relaxing walk, this is an excellent location to visit and it’s entirely free.


15. See the Civic Guards Gallery

Also located in the heart of Amsterdam just off Kalverstraat, this small art gallery is officially owned by the Amsterdam Museum, but it is free to visit.

This gallery houses portraits of wealthy Amsterdam citizens from centuries past.

In addition to these paintings, you’ll also find a large wooden figure of Goliath from the 17th century.


16. Visit the Rijksmuseum Gardens

Although the Rijksmuseum itself requires a ticket to enter, their beautiful gardens are free to enjoy. During the summer, there are sculptures on display in the gardens.

Rijksmuseum Gardens

If you’re also interested in visiting the main museum, admission is included at no extra cost with multiple Amsterdam tourist passes.


17. Go to a Street Market

In addition to the floating flower market, there are other notable markets in Amsterdam that you may want to visit.

Albert Cuyp Market

One of the most popular options is Albert Cuyp Market, which is home to over 260 different shops, making it the biggest street market in Europe.

Although it’s free to browse, we do recommend bringing at least a little money just in case you want to pick up a little something while you’re here.


18. Enjoy a Panoramic View of Amsterdam

There are two great places to enjoy a nice view of the city: Nemo Science Museum and the Public Library of Amsterdam.

The rooftop terrace of the Nemo Science Museum is free to visit, and there is a small restaurant called La Place on the 7th floor of the library where you can enjoy almost the same view on their balcony.


19. Walk Through the Canal Belt

As you walk through Amsterdam, you’ll undoubtedly cross over a lot of bridges and canals, and it can be fun to just experience the canal belt of the city.

Canal Belt

There are a lot of interesting things to see in the area such as the Skinny Bridge, the Flower Market, the Homomonument, and more.


20. Explore Vondelpark and Amstelpark

These are two of the best public parks in Amsterdam, and each location is a great place to take a break and enjoy a nice walk or even a picnic with the family.

As we mentioned previously, Vondelpark also hosts free festivals with live music during the summer!


21. Go on a Free Walking Tour

There are several companies offering free walking tours in Amsterdam, covering a range of different subjects and locations including the Red Light District, the City Centre, and other sites.

Most of these services are pay-what-you-wish, which means you are welcome to pay your guide whatever you feel the tour was worth once it is finished.

NIGHTTIME ACTIVITIES

This section provides multiple ideas for activities you can enjoy after dark in Amsterdam. There’s always something happening, even when the moon is out!

For more detail about this top 10 list of nighttime activities as well as even more ideas, check out our full things to do at night post.

22. Take an Evening Cruise

There are several companies offering evening cruises in Amsterdam, each one taking you through the historic canals of the city and providing excellent views.

In addition to the cruise, some outings also include dinner or a meal of some kind.

Blue Boat has a cruise which includes a complimentary drink, and they also have other snacks available for purchase.


23. See an Evening Concert or Hit the Clubs

As we mentioned in the top 10, there are often several concerts to see in Amsterdam each week, so you may want to consider looking for a venue playing live music while you’re in the city.

Another option is to get the Amsterdam Nightlife Ticket for access to more than 30 nightclubs, free shots, discounts on drinks, and more.


24. Go to a Museum With Late Hours

While most of the art museums in Amsterdam close their doors before the sun goes down, there are some interesting museums like Madame Tussauds and Ripley’s Believe it or Not that stay open late.

You may also want to consider one of the Red Light District museums, as these locations also tend to have later hours. Many of these locations are included at no extra cost with Amsterdam tourist passes.


25. Explore Amsterdam’s Coffee Shops

If you’re interested in the cannabis culture of Amsterdam, there’s no better time to discover how coffee shops work and what they sell.

One of the best ways to experience this side of the city is simply by taking an Amsterdam Coffee Shop tour, as a professional guide will tell you everything you need to know!


26. Enjoy the Heineken Experience

Unlike other breweries, the Heineken Experience offers a variety of fun activities to help you learn all about the history of their company and how they make their delicious brews.

There are two different types of tours available at Heineken, and at least one of them is frequently included in Amsterdam tourist passes.


27. Rent a Bicycle to See the City After Dark

Amsterdam is one of those cities that really changes after the sun goes down, and one of the easiest ways to get around during this time is just to ride a bike.

If this sounds fun, consider looking into bike rental services. Each one provides all the safety gear you’ll need to ride the bicycle.


28. Experience the Jazz Scene of Amsterdam

Over the years, Amsterdam has developed one of the best jazz scenes in all of Europe.

There are several great jazz clubs in Amsterdam, and they all frequently host incredible bands and musicians.


29. Explore the Red Light District

There are a lot of interesting things to see and do in the historic Red Light District.

Red Light District

One of the most interesting aspects of this area is the dichotomy between religious symbols and sex, which is just one of those strange eccentricities that makes Amsterdam so unique.


30. Enjoy Views of the City Lights

There is a free viewing deck on the 7th floor of the Amsterdam Public Library at the La Place Restaurant.

This is one of the best locations to enjoy excellent views of the city lights after dark, and it’s also a great place to grab a bite to eat!


31. Have a Cocktail at the Vesper Bar

Fans of James Bond will want to consider stopping by the Vesper Bar, a 007 themed bar that serves a number of different drinks related to the character.

Even if you don’t feel like spending a lot of time here, they actually sell cocktails to go which you can purchase in small bottles.


FAMILY-FRIENDLY THINGS TO DO

Here is our list of the best things to do with kids in the city, from tours to events and interesting attractions.

Some of these activities may cost less if you use an Amsterdam tourist pass.

Make sure you check out our full post of family-friendly things to do in Amsterdam.

32. Take a Kid-Friendly Boat Tour

There are a lot of different cruise services in Amsterdam which will take you through the canals of the city to see some of the most notable sites.

While some of these boat tours are aimed at adults, most of them are good for kids, and some even include free food!

This Amsterdam City Canal Cruise is an excellent option that most kids will enjoy.


33. Check Out the Nemo Science Museum

This museum was practically made for children, as there are a lot of hands-on exhibits where kids can learn more about the scientific world around them.

Admission is included with some Amsterdam tourist passes and it’s actually free to visit the rooftop where you can take in one of the best views in the city!


34. Go to the Children’s Theatre

In addition to all of the other venues which host a variety of concerts and other shows, Amsterdam is also home to Theater de Krakeling, a venue that often has family-friendly productions.

They will usually provide a wide range of shows for children, some for older kids or teenagers and others for kids as young as 2.


35. Rent a Bakfiets to Make Travel Easier

Whether you want to go on a self-guided tour with the kids or just do some shopping, this special type of bicycle makes traveling with young children much easier.

Bakfiets

These bikes are designed with large baskets in the front that your kids can sit in as you pedal around the city, and you can rent them at most major bike rental services.


36. See a Football Game

As we mentioned in the top 10, Amsterdam is home to a few different football clubs.

If your kids are big sports fans, there will undoubtedly be several opportunities throughout the year to take them to a game.

AFC Ajax is undoubtedly the most popular team in this city, but you may also want to consider taking them to see either Amsterdamsche Football Club or the Dutch National Team.


37. Enjoy Delicious Food at Kid-Friendly Restaurants

There are a lot of great restaurants in Amsterdam that serve a variety of dishes that kids of all ages are sure to enjoy.

If your kids love pancakes, consider taking them to Pancakes Amsterdam for breakfast.

When the afternoon rolls around, you can take them to La Perla for an authentic Napoli pizza.

For even more great ideas, please read our post covering dining options and restaurants for kids in Amsterdam.


38. Spend Some Time in Vondelpark

If you’re looking for a great place where your kids can play and have some fun, there are six play areas in Vondelpark that they’ll definitely love.

Vondelpark

There is also a large playground near Groot Melkhuis, and there are often open-air theatre productions in the park hosting kid-friendly shows during the summer.


39. Take the Kids to Artis Zoo

Amsterdam has an excellent zoo which is home to many interesting animals that your kids will love to see, including African Penguins, Alpacas, Peacocks, Porcupines, Sea Lions, Flamingos, and many others.

If you’re interested, you can purchase tickets in advance to avoid missing out on this fun and family-friendly activity.


40. See the Windmills Outside of Amsterdam

The Netherlands are filled with windmills, but there aren’t many to see in Amsterdam.

However, if you decide to go on a day trip out of the city, chances are you’ll see a few as you travel around the country.

Windmills

There are actually tours you can take which specifically focus on the windmills of the Netherlands.

These day trips are planned out for you in advance, making it much easier to drop everything and leave the city.


41. Discover the Mouse Mansion

If your children are familiar with the Mouse Mansion books, then you simply have to take them to see the actual mansion where these mice live.

Yes, this structure actually exists, and you can take your kids to see the hundreds of tiny rooms up close at the Amsterdam Public Library.

You can see more at the Mouse Mansion Shop & Studio in Amsterdam.


THINGS TO DO BY MONTH AND SEASON

Below are annual events that occur during the 12 months of the year, and if you click on the link you will be taken to our detailed posts of these events and more.

We also included links to the typical weather for each month so you know what to expect and pack accordingly.


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RELATED POSTS:

About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo, Washington.org, and more.
Updated: October 13th, 2021

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