Essential Things to do in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a fun city, the place has so much more to offer!

I share all the points of interest with you in this quick guide.

shopping lane

📍 Where is Amsterdam located?

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, a country located in North-West Europe.

The region is also called Holland, which by the way is sometimes confused with the country name.

The city is known for its canals, historical thought leaders importance, and it’s also known for tending to its human pleasures.

Amsterdam canal
Amsterdam canal

🏙 Things to do

The focus of our visit was to discover the new Amsterdam, as it is today, and to dig into the history of this city.

We mainly visited places to learn from the culture.

🏛️ Museums

In Amsterdam, you can visit some of the most important museums in the world.

The city was known for its famous Renaissance artists.

The three most significant museums are located at the Museumplein (Museums Square).

This includes the Rijksmuseum, the  Van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum. All three are dedicated to art.

The Rijksmuseum has everything about Dutch art and should be your first destination if you are planning to visit some museum.

model ship from the rijksmuseum
Model ship from the Rijksmuseum

Some other notable museums include:

  • Anne Frank Museum—the house where the Jewish girl was hiding while she was writing her diary
  • Rembrandt’s House—the house of the renowned artist
  • Nemo Science Museum—Interactive science exhibits
  • Amsterdam Museum—about the history of the city
  • The National Maritime Museum—because the Dutch were big seafarers
  • Joods Historisch Museum—Jewish historical museum
  • Heineken Experience—The Heineken beer museum

🏰 Royal Palace Amsterdam

The Netherlands has a royal family, and they are part of the acting government.

The royal palace is the property of the royal family, and it has been used as an event venue most of the time.

The good part is that it can be visited, and it’s located right in the city center, so you don’t have to go looking for it.

art in the rijksmuseum
Art in the Rijksmuseum

🔴 De Wallen

De Wallen is also known as the red-light district, and it’s the historical medieval city center.

Water canals cross De Wallen as well. You can just walk through the area.

You will find sex workers standing in red or blue-lit windows, peep show theaters, sex shops, Coffeeshop, and bars there.

Besides that, you can also visit the Oude Church, which has been around since the 13th century.

🚲 Walking or cycling around

We enjoyed just walking around and if we were not walking, we took a tram to get to a farther away destination.

That way, you get to see some really hidden and beautiful corners of the city.

The tram network, by the way, is really good. You get different tram and train combined day tickets.

Another great tip is to hire cycle. Dutch people are well known to love their cycles, and that too for a good reason.

Their cycles are differently built, they look more sturdy, and they have a solid cycle path network.

In fact, locals move around in high speed on those lanes, so you better not walk in between.

cycle parking in amsterdam
Cycle parking in Amsterdam

🛥️ Take a Boat Ride

You can also join in a boat ride to explore the canals.

It gives you a different view of the city, and it’s super relaxing.

Elderly people and families with kids most commonly plan a boat ride when in Amsterdam.

⚙️ Workshops and Guides

Amsterdam is a very open, fun place to learn new things in life.

The city offers some cool workshops and paid lessons, which you can join.

The most interesting ones are on Airbnb experience. I believe the stroopwafel workshop is a must-try. You learn to make the local waffles in this workshop.

Guided tours can also be easily booked through Airbnb experience. Locals knowledgeable about an area or about a particular topic take you around the city.

boat police amsterdam
Getting around by boat

🛍️ Shopping

Amsterdam has a rich history to tell about its tulip and flower culture. Royals from Europe paid a lot of money to get the most beautiful tulips from Amsterdam back in the day.

The prime location to trade and get tulips was at the Bloemenmarkt, the famous floating flower market. Today, you can still visit this small flower market in the city center to shop for tulip bulbs.

You will also find a flea market between the Rembrandt house and the opera building. Here you might come across high quality vintage items.

The main shopping lane is situated near the main train station (Centraal).

Just walk from the train station down to the Dam square.

You will find many of the common shops seen all over Europe there, such as Zara and Mango, as well as gift stores, cheese stores, and candy stores.

🥳 Nightlife

Amsterdam is known for its vibrant, colorful nightlife.

The city also hosts, during normal times, some of the largest electronic music festivals in the world, such as the Awakening festival.

De Wallen is a most centrally located place where you can hang out. They have some cool bars there. We had a great time at a Cuban bar.


🌡️ Weather and Seasons

I think the best time to visit Amsterdam is in the warmer months, spring and summer.

Springtime means tulip flower fields, so if you want to experience that, visit in April!

The median temperature is around 70 Fahrenheit or 22 Celsius in the summer, which is not too hot nor too cold. Just right!

We visited in autumn, which I also recommend because the summers can be crowded even with the latest restrictions in place.

Tree foliage in the city change colors and that turns the city into a new and beautiful place to be.

Besides, Amsterdam has a lovely vibe with the canals in Autumn, making it the place to be when the days are getting colder.

Winter can be a bit too cold, but if you don’t mind cold winds from the sea, then this is a good time to visit too.

cycles and flowers in Amstersam
Cycles and flowers in Amsterdam

🧳 Day Trips

Amsterdam is well-connected with local trains and the northern Netherlands isn’t that large, so getting one place to another will take you at most an hour or two.

You can visit other cities such as Utrecht, Haarlem, and Zaandam. They all are known for their ambiance and architecture.

I also recommend that you hire a cycle and cycle out to the windmills and flower fields in the north.

The windmill area is known as Zaanse Schans, and it’s located next to Zaandam. Some folks are offering cycling tours to the windmills on Airbnb experiences.

😷 Travel Health Restrictions

UPDATE: Currently as per Summer 2022, there are no COVID Travel Restrictions.

We visited in October 2020 before the 2nd wave hit Europe.

A lot has happened since then, but there is a plus point: the Tourism industry is a well-oiled machine, and they have adapted by now.

Expect that some places might be closed during the off-season. Furthermore, expect to follow the rules.

Mask rules may apply in public indoor settings.

Rules can change anytime, but if you come from mainland Europe and you have been vaccinated, things will be easier for you.

Just keep your vaccine certificate with QR code on your mobile and keep a hard copy version with you, just in case.

You get all the current info and restrictions on the government website.

Anne frank museum
Social distancing queue—Anne Frank museum

🧀 Food & Drink

Amsterdam has a long vivid history and the food culture reflects it very well!

People from all around the world call Amsterdam their home now, and they brought back their favorites.

We loved discovering cuisines we hadn’t tasted yet in Amsterdam, so I strongly recommend you try out new world foods. The food tastes just wonderful there!

The Netherlands is also known for cheese, such as Gouda and Edam. They even make spice-infused cheese, such as cumin or caraway cheese.

Stroopwafles are another must-try when in Amsterdam. Two thinly baked waffles are sandwiched with a caramel filling.

The Dutch were also big in snacks. They love their bitterballen krokets (meat croquettes) and potato fries, which they call patat. The fries are eaten with Dutch mayonnaise!

Licorice are also favored in this peculiar country. It’s called drop, so look up a candy shop and get a load of drops. Paul sure did that!

restaurants along the canalnal
restaurants along the canal

🛏️ Where to stay?

You can stay in Amsterdam city if you want to be close to everything. Especially if you would rather not travel too much if you intend to party at night.

There are plenty of hotels and hostels in the city. If you have the money, then pick a decent hotel from one of the well-known chains. I can recommend Hilton in Amsterdam South, DoubleTree by Hilton near the Centraal station and Radisson Blu in the city center.

If you intend to backpack or doing the party miles, then hostels are your choice.

We chose to stay in a rental outside the main city. In fact, we stayed in Zaandam.

Zaandam is more relaxed and hardly a 20-minute train ride to and from the Amsterdam Centraal station.

We decided to stay outside of Amsterdam because we traveled by car from Switzerland to Amsterdam, and it’s a canal city. So parking next to your hotel is just not an option in the main city.

The Amsterdam city center is also crowded at times and rather loud, and we wanted a quiet, beautiful corner. Zaandam is super colorful, and it’s near the windmills and fields!

If you come from the airport, you can decide to stay near the airport too. The hotels are good but more budget-friendly there, and you can hire a car at the airport. (This might be your choice if you want to drive around North-Holland.)


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