10 Things to Do in Amsterdam

in City Guides, Sightseeing


One of the many beautiful canals in Amsterdam - Photo: Joep R.

A stunning canal in Amsterdam - Photo: Joep R.

For some people it is hard not to enjoy Amsterdam; they just head to one of the famous coffee shops in the centre and reappear an hour later in a state of heightened sensitivity. Others are shocked by quite how liberal Holland is. Police sit inert while prostitutes tout their wares in red windows, marijuana and magic mushrooms are sold openly to locals and tourists alike. But away from the seediness this is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Most of the buildings have been preserved from the 16th and 17th century and they look divine next to the cobbled streets, canals and bridges. Here’s a list of the best things to do and see in Amsterdam.

1. Get out of the centre. Most tourists stay in a small area of Amsterdam near to the central station and the red light district. Once the initial shock value of Holland’s persuasive culture has worn off you will realise this is an overcrowded and unappealing part of Amsterdam. Crime is relatively high and there is always a risk of muggings and pickpocketing.

If you avoid the criminals watch out for the stag parties. Amsterdam has become a number one spot for stag dos and there is nothing worse than having to deal with a big group of boozy Brits abroad if you are trying to have an enjoyable holiday. With rows upon windows of prostitutes the centre is certainly not the place to go if you have young children either

Window parlours in Amsterdam's Red Light District

Window parlours in Amsterdam's Red Light District - Photo: Stuck in Customs

2. Enjoy the architecture. Full of quaint canals surrounded by picturesque buildings, Amsterdam has some of the most unique architecture in the world. In the centre of town you can see the attractive Jewish quarter, take a stroll to the boutiques and restaurants of Jordaan or see the impressive houses in which celebrities live in on the Grachtengordel. From the Jewish quarter you can view the large Moses and Aaron church then walk towards the steep tower of the Munt which is in front of the Rembrandt Plein. Amsterdam has one of the largest historic city centres in the world.

3. Get out and about to see the amazing flowering tulip fields. Strips of red, yellow, white and orange tulips which go across flat land for as far as the eye can see are truly an amazing sight to behold. Rent a bicycle from central Amsterdam and take a tour of Holland’s colourful countryside.

Tulip fields

Tulip fields near Lisse, Amsterdam - Photo: Samuel Leo

4. Go in time for Koninginnedag, or Queen’s Day, which takes place on April 30. You will be confronted by a seething mass of fun-loving Netherlanders who are dressed in the country’s colour of orange. This national holiday is really celebrated hard in Holland with parties going on all day and all night right across the country. Another popular thing to do is to set up flea market as the Dutch government allows tax free sales on that day.

5. There are many fantastic flea markets in Amsterdam. Ten Kate market does everything from books to flowers while the Waterlooplein attracts people from all over the country from Monday through to Saturday. Albert Cuyp is the largest of the flea markets.

Amsterdam's Albert Cuyp Market

Amsterdam's Albert Cuyp Market

6. Enjoy the liberal attitudes of Amsterdam. Anyone can live in Amsterdam, no matter what colour, sexual orientation or creed there are. This is a huge international community of artists and free thinkers where anything is permissible. Almost everyone here speaks fluent English so you should be easily understood.

7. Go to the Anne Frank House and Museum. One of the most poignant symbols of the Holocaust, this is where the young Dutch girl wrote her diary while hiding from the German occupiers. The best time to go if you want to avoid the crowds is in the evening. Even if you get caught in a queue it should move through quickly. Entry is nine euros for adults and the address is 267 Prinsengracht.

Anne Frank House

Anne Frank's House

8. The Van Gogh Museum at Paulus Potterstraat 7 is one of many excellent museums in Amsterdam. See world famous works such as Starry Night by the post impressionist who cut his own ear off. There are also paintings by Monet on display. For only four euros the audio tour is a bargain.

9. For culinary delights in the city centre visit the stupendous Chinatown at Nieuwmarkt. The food here is truly stunning and great value to boot. Holland also does incredible Indonesian food which some people might say is better than that which you would actually get in Indonesia. The Surinamese cuisine is really tasty too.

Cantonese opera in Amsterdam's Chinatown

Cantonese opera in Amsterdam's Chinatown

10. Take a boat through the canals. There are tourist boats which stop at all the main attractions including the Rijksmuseum and special lover’s canal cruises where the one and a half hour journey does not allow you to disembark. Venetian gondolas have also been imported to Amsterdam for a romantic tour. If you prefer you can take a night cruise where dinner is served but these are not cheap.

What is your recommendation for things to do and see in Amsterdam? Make a comment and let us everybody else know.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Nikki

I must say that I had a great time visiting a coffeeshop before I went on a night canal cruise. Good times! ;)

Alison

I lived in Amsterdam briefly and it remains one of my favourite cities in the world. It always shocks me that so many people never move further into the city than the few streets around Centraal Station and the red-light district as there is so much more to see and do.

If you are interested in modern architecture head to Java Island, right behind Centraal Station for a beautiful stroll beside houseboats and stunning buildings.

Eat gorgeous Indonesian food, a holdover from the Dutch East Indies.

Take a stroll through Vondelpark or the Botanical Gardens and enjoy the plant life.

I could go on and on!

Jesse

I stayed in Amsterdam for four days about five years ago and absolutely hated it. The drugs, drug dealers, prostitutes, weirdos and undesirables made me very nervous. I felt so sorry for the poor working women in those horrible windows. If I ever go back it will never, ever be to the main part of Amsterdam.

Annalog

If you are a local, it is totally uncool to go to either red light district or to smoke pot in Amsterdam. What is cool are the Van Gogh museum, museumnight, the many festivals Amsterdam hosts (check out Westerpark), eat kroketten in a ‘snackbar’, visit the many second hand and vintage shops (the nine streets) and enjoy the multicultural atmosphere.

Eurotrip Tips

The booze is not actually sold on the streets (most of the time anyway): it’s pretty much sold within the four walls of the closest coffee shop. There aren’t dozens of dealers showcasing heavy bling waiting around every corner. Same goes for prostitutes. If you stick to the Red Light you might think of Amsterdam as a shallow, vicious city but really, if you step outside the shiny neons you might find something you like.

I truly enjoyed my short visit there and can’t wait to go back!

michael

Forget Amsterdam! try Den Bosch, Utrecht, Vlissingen (pardon the spelling)

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