16 Best Things to Do in Amsterdam

If there’s one city that outdoes Barcelona at night, it’s probably Amsterdam. Party animals visiting Europe for the first time should put the Dutch capital at the top of their list for one reason: nowhere in Europe has such a relaxed attitude towards substances and sex. This is the most accepting of cities, no matter what your personal tastes might be.

But to simply label Amsterdam as a party town is to do it a disservice – this city has a deep and fascinating culture, and is actually really family friendly. Go to Amsterdam if you want to let your hair down, you enjoy a good bike ride, you appreciate the art of the Dutch masters. The bike-friendly capital of the Netherlands is also one of the best-preferred destinations with families.

Amsterdam is one of the sin cities and most visited destinations when visiting European capitals. This mythical city receives millions of tourists a year who want to explore its picturesque streets and beautiful canals. Amsterdam does not appear in the list of the 10 most expensive cities in Europe, but we cannot say that it is precisely one of the cheapest.

Second of all, what’s up with the schizophrenic weather? Snow in April. 30 degrees Celsius in October. Scorching sun at 11:45 followed by a cold rain at 12:00. No wonder everyone talks about the weather all the damn time. Amsterdam is one of the most interesting, liveliest cities.

Amsterdam bears testimony to the beautiful epic Dutch homes by the gliding canals, the buzz of this city with over million bicycles and lowest crime rate where they have had to shut down prisons. And it has too many things to see, visit, explore and discover and can be done at a low cost. Yes! Keep reading and discover our tips to enjoy a trip to the city of canals and tulips on a budget.

best things to do in Amsterdam

Here are top things to do in Amsterdam.

1. Go on a free walking tour from Dam Square


Go to Dam Square and find people with red umbrellas. They are SANDEMANs NEW Europe volunteers who can organize a free tour for you (you can tip them if you like the tour). They can also get you decent discounts on other regular tours. Among things to do in Amsterdam, do not miss the flower market.

Another neighborhood that must be seen is De Wallen, the red light district, full of bars, coffee shops and of course, the famous red windows. The De Wallen (red light) district is one of the most touristy places there. This place has a lot of offer - walk through the din of voices and find the place flooded with light - a scene difficult to express.

What a fabulous nightlife, lots of idling around noisy street side cafes, bars and of course legalised shops for almost anything naughty. Interestingly the term red light district locally called De Wallen orginates here. A tour or walk down this area is a must do.

Let yourself be surprised by the striking and promiscuous Red Light District. This area is the medieval city center of Amsterdam with beautiful canals and old bars. It has narrow alleys with women from around the world behind the glass windows, lit up by red neon lights.

I was hesitant to take this tour, but one of my co-travelers, whom I met that morning during the walking tour, insisted that I not miss this while in Amsterdam.

It’s a different experience, especially for travelers from countries like India, where we shy away from speaking about prostitution or anything related to it as it is legalized in the Netherlands. It is legal in Amsterdam and is a respected job. It is a tricky subject but, regardless of your opinion, respect the decisions of others.

Please note that you are not supposed to take any pictures in the red light district. And of course, do not even think about taking pictures of the girls. Do not treat them as a tourist attraction (it's also forbidden).

If you are in Amsterdam on April 27, you are in for a treat. It's KoningsDag. Everyone is outside on the streets wearing something orange. Many bands set up in the corner of the street singing lovely Dutch and English songs, lots of cheap beer and street food, crowds dancing everywhere, a fair with giant wheel set up in Dam Square, parties on boats in canals, small tin bottles of laughing gas. It's a different experience.

2. Buying a used bike in Waterlooplein Market


As soon as you get to the city you will see that there are many bicycle rental establishments. They say that there are more bikes than people in the Netherlands.

Prices vary depending on the company you choose, but they are usually around € 10-15 per bike per day (maybe lesser). If you need it for a week or so, you are better off buying a used bike in waterlooplein market - you get a cheap one for about 50 euros, and you can sell it back to them.

3. Rent a bike to Zaan


Reserve a day of your time to take a trip to Volendam, Marken, Edam and Zaanse Schans and get lost in the more rural Holland, among windmills, tulip fields and cheese markets. This might seem like a cliched advice, but you will understand only when you actually pick up a bike and ride it along the streets of Amsterdam. One of the most authentic ways to get to see Amsterdam is on a bicycle and there are more than 600,000 bikes in the city!

Take a map or have the Google offline map downloaded and go around on a bike. Many local operators organize biking tours and if you are looking to meet some cool people around the globe, go for this option (check SANDEMANs Amsterdam website to register for a bike tour).

Pick up a bike at the the Centraal, go to Prinsengracht, Kaisergracht (these two streets/canals are the most beautiful parts of the city), maybe drive up to Flevopark, then take the NescioBrug (suspension bridge with only cycle-track), go to the beach at Ijburg (yeah, there is a beach, there are parties going on during weekends). Visit the Abert Cyup market in dePijp, worth it. For shopping-like antique stuff, go to the Waterlooplein market.

Surely you have been told how wonderful the mills of a small town on the outskirts of Amsterdam are. Do you know what town it is? Have you ever seen it in photos? In this post we will explain how to get to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam.

Zaanse Schans is located in the Zaandam neighborhood, in the northern province of the Netherlands. It is surrounded by typical houses of the time, mills with more than 200 years, wooden clogs (they show the tourist its elaboration), a dairy farm, a distillery and a cheese factory with handmade products. It is an authentic museum of Holland's pre-industrial history in the 17th and 18th centuries in the open air, it is like returning to the past.

Zaanse Schans is full of activities and of course it guarantees you a great day. The most characteristic is undoubtedly its mills. Although in the past it had about 600 mills, nowadays you can enjoy 6. Each one of them still works. Due to the high amount of visitors, being a very tourist site, you will find many typical Dutch souvenirs.

Of all the buildings found in Zaanse Schans, the oldest is The Hunter's House, Zeilenmakerspad. It is a family residential dating from 1623 and is currently an antique house. The merchant's house, Kalverringdijk, was about not to be part of Zaanse Schans. The owner wanted to get rid of it, to expand his factory in Oostzijde, so he decided to donate it to Zaanse Schans.

Although it did not pass a first vote, not having so much quality or being a monument, the truth is that its inner beauty was the decisive element for its acquisition. Another of the most curious sites is the De Vrede store, where you can discover how the best known clogs in the Netherlands are made.

Although formerly they were made manually, nowadays they are made machines to cover the great demand. This store has a small museum where you will see a wonderful exhibition with the most curious clogs you have ever imagined, even one made of diamonds.

4. Re-trace the World War II in Van Gogh Museum


Amsterdam as a city took a lot of time and interest in documenting World War II. Learn some amazing stories, came to know about some forgotten heroes and discover the most important liberation routes. Be it Anne Frank House or the Dutch theatre, Amsterdam has the best places to re-trace the world war II.

Amsterdam has the highest density of museums in the world. So if you plan to visit all or a large part of them, decide to buy the I Amsterdam City Card. It allows unlimited use of public transport and includes entry to 38 museums, as well as a cruise through the canals. Keep in mind that the average cost of a ticket to a museum is € 15.

Among the main museums are great exponents such as the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House. Some of the most popular places in Amsterdam are the Het Scheepvaart Museum (National Maritime Museum), the Rijksmuseum, the largest museum in the Netherlands and where you can see the painting, Watch The Night by Rembrandt, the Van Gogh Museum, which has the largest Van Gogh collection in the world or the Anne Frank House (the "refuge" where Anne Frank wrote her diary during World War II).

See the mesmerizing artwork in the Van Gogh Museum. The Van Gogh Museum is remarkable both in terms of the art on display and its presentation of Van Gogh’s life and inspiration. It’s an art gallery as a biography.

5. Eat a raw herring in Singel


The soused raw herring is a delicacy that is a tradition six centuries old. Go give it a try; heard it works best for a hangover.

6. Free Cheese tasting in Amsterdam Cheese Museum


Dutch cheese is said to be the world’s best cheese and I must say I agree. Treat your taste buds to the world’s best cheese. Dutch meatballs pistolet (If you did not have this, go back to Amsterdam), croquet, kapsalon, old Amsterdam cheese, Space cake.

7. Get the Heineken Experience


See how the beer is brewed and taste a variety of beer at different stages. It’s a fun tour. Check online sites like Viator or SANDEMANs to get great deals.

8. See a different perspective from Strand Blijburg


The beauty and precision of Madurodam depicting miniature Dutch monuments and life and the countryside with Cheese farms, wooden clog shoes workshops et all. What does this city not have. This view of this beautiful canal city gets even better from the waters. Have a blissful time on the canal cruise.

Certainly, the city which lives along the canals offers a unique and charming experience for the kids to cherish for a lifetime.

Families can enjoy the canal tours. Indeed, it is one of the best places to dine with families along with the waterfront restaurants.

Amsterdam has no sea, but it does have several urban beaches, where you can even bathe. The most popular is Blijburg aan Zee, to the southeast and is a must see on your first trip to Amsterdam.

9. Get lost in the free-spirited Jordaan


What’s better than getting lost in a free-spirited city full of positive vibes! While traveling in Amsterdam one of the most interesting neighborhoods in the city is Jordaan. It is best to walk through its streets at dusk and, why not, to improvise a relaxed weekend on the banks of a canal. You only need a small bottle of wine or some beers, some sandwiches!

The most touristic districts of Amsterdam are Central Amsterdam, Red Light District and Leidseplein. Amsterdam has a fabulous public transport system. You can book a hotel or a hostel outside the city center and then move by bicycle or public transport without problem. Walk through the Central Canal Ring of Amsterdam and visit these aquatic monuments with more than 400 years old.

10. Visit the Begijnhof


It is an interior garden surrounded by houses and buildings. Do not lose sight of the number 34, the oldest house in Amsterdam. Sit on one of the benches next to the Amstel River and watch the Magere Brug lift bridge in action. It opens every 20 minutes to let the boats pass. Enter Westerkerk, the huge Protestant church where Rembrandt's tomb is supposed to be (there are several theories on this subject).

Discover the art of the Dutch Golden Age at the Civic Guards Gallery (Schuttersgalerij). If the weather permits, take the opportunity to have a picnic in Vondelpark. Surely there will be some free concert. There are always people with a guitar in hand. You must bear in mind that for more than 30 years in the Netherlands the sale of marijuana is completely legal.

Even if you do not smoke, going to a coffee shop is quite an experience. And of course go to a cafĂ© to have a beer and try some bitterballen, and some meatballs. Do not leave the city without trying some Stroopwafel, super thin waffles, stuffed with caramel. They have a few calories but they are good. The pancakes are more like crepes but with slightly more eclectic fillings than you’d see in, say, Paris.

If you want to have your morning dose of caffeine, you don’t go to a coffeeshop in the Netherlands. Unless you want your coffee to go with a hash (again, not hash browns), you should know the difference. If you entered the wrong shop, people won’t judge you.

11. Nightlife in Nieuwmarkt


There a number of clubs here (Cotton club in Nieuwmarkt is one of the favorites of the locals). You can find clubs, bars with in-house music up to about 4 in the morning.

12. Pub crawl in Leidseplein


Leidseplein has the famous Bulldog coffeeshop (a bit pricey though), and club Paradiso is nearby. This square is filled with people at night - a faint smell of cannabis in the air, in the corner of your eye, you will find a weird dancing person whom you might join just for the fun of it. If you are traveling alone, join a group of people and do a pub-crawl.

If you have too much fun in Leidseplein at night, you might wake up in Utrecht, a city near A’dam - a little while later you realize, you biked all the way to Utrecht with people whose names you won’t remember. In that case, roam around Utrecht - climb up the DOM tower.

13. Visit the De Gooyer Windmill


Brouwerij 't IJ aka the windmill at Hoogte Kadijk is like a pride of Amsterdam. So, what's so special about an organic brewery next to a windmill that makes blond and dark beers which are ravishingly delicious? Get there fast, because normally, there's a huge crowd and it stops serving at 8 pm.

14. Enjoy horse riding in Amsterdamse Bos


Besides, Amsterdamse Bos park offers splendid options to indulge in water sports and enjoy horse riding.

15. Have great fun at NEMO Science Museum


Museums are one of the best parts of visiting any city - whether it's the national galleries of history, artists and paintings, or even obscure stories like perfumes and vehicles. Well, many are bringing themselves to you while you can't go to them. Children aged between 6 and 16 can have great fun at the water cycle and bar code circuits at the NEMO Science Museum.

16. Smell the spring blossom in Bloemenmarkt


Visit the Dam Square and enjoy some of the shows that are made in it. Enjoy the smells of Bloemenmarkt floating flower market. The Bloemenmarkt is well worth a visit; tulips in every color you can imagine, all around you. A tourist favorite is Keukenhof Gardens - You can find every colored Tulip (check before if the tulips have blossomed). Other places near Amsterdam include Utrecht, Zaandam, Alkmaar.

Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin. But in truth it is a city of freedom; and in freedom most people find sin. Whatever you feel about Amsterdam, when you’re there, there’s no denying that you’re in Amsterdam. It has a very distinct character.
Kalyan Panja