When you haven’t all the time in the world – which it can seem you will need to see the huge range of museums, galleries, canals, historic and contemporary architecture and many other attractions Amsterdam has to offer – it’s handy to have a guide detailing the city’s must-see choices.
The four 17th-century canals that weave around the city centre are a joy to wander around,tour by boat, and embody the spirit of Amsterdam. Recognised as anUNESCO Heritage Site, the area retains many photogenicfine buildings from Amsterdam’s Golden Age. You can watch the world go by at a choice of many canalside bars and cafes.
See stunning art examples from 1870 to the present atThe Stedelijk. Everything from Picasso to Warhol, Monet to Matisse, and Rothko to De Kooning are likely to be on display. Temporary contemporary exhibitions run alongside the examples from the 90,000-strong permanent collection, and there are hands-on installations and activities in the Family Lab. At busy times it’s worth obtaining aSkip-the-Queue ticket.
No doubt Amsterdam’s favourite green space, Vondelpark, spread over an expanse separating the city’s Oud-West and Oud-Zuid neighbourhoods, is ideal for a stroll, bike ride or picnic. As well as its restful lawns, ponds and winding paths, there are cafes, playgrounds and an open-air theatre. It’s also an open-air art gallery, with 69 sculptures, including one designed by Picasso, in its grounds.
You could spend many days visiting the 1.5km of rooms atThe Rijksmuseum, undoubtedlythe most popular and prominent museum in the Netherlands. The huge collection contains many masterpieces including works by Dutch mastersRembrandt,Vermeer andVan Gogh, but also everything from ship models to swords, Delftware to dollhouses. There’s also a free sculpture garden and Michelin-starred restaurant.
TheOld Church is Amsterdam’s oldest building, originating from 1306. Boasting the city’s oldest bell (1450), some cheeky carvings in the church stalls and not one but four organs, it’s a feast for the eyes. There’s magnificent features at every turn, including glorious stained-glass windows, brocaded pillars and gilded ceiling. There are regular art exhibitions, talks, concerts and services.
Located opposite Centraal Station over the IJ river, just a short free ferry ride away, this striking modernist architectural gem is awash with all things filmic: cinemas, vintage posters, exhibitions and artefacts, and a great bar-restaurant with a big sunny terrace. A great starting point for discovering Amsterdam Noord.
Known locally as Natura Artis Magistra, this is mainland Europe’s oldest zoo and contains more than 900 animal species. There’s a microbe ‘museum’, Micropia, as well as a children’s petting zoo, aquarium, geology museum, planetarium and more. The attractive lanscaped grounds, formally The Plantage gardens, are a pleasure to stroll through.
TheVan Gogh Museum has more than 200 paintings and 500 drawings, the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world, spanning early gloomier works from the Netherlands to the latter, brighter French ones. In 2015 a new extension has enlarged the exhibition space, which is on four levels. There are also works by friends and contemporaries including Gauguin, Monet and Toulouse-Lautrec. The museum gets particularly busy in the middle of the day, and it’s a good idea tobook tickets in advance.
Visiting the placeAnne and her family hid from the Nazis before being sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, in a secret apartment in de Jordaan, is a powerful experience. At this poignantmuseum you see her bedroom, with photos of Hollywood stars and her diary, and documents and other possessions, as well as newsreels and interactive exhibits.Tickets are always very much in demand.
Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn moved into this three-storey townhouse near the Zuiderkerk in 1639 and stayed for 19 years. He created some of his most famous works here, and the interiors of the building have been reconstructed faithfully. Locally known as the Museum Het Rembrandthuis, there’s his studio, living room and bedroom, a collection of his curiosities and some of his works.
When you walk into this beautiful,quiet courtyard with its two churches and pretty little houses, leaving the bustle of Spui Square, it is hard to believe there’s such a tranquil space in central Amsterdam. The14th-century Begijnhof was a kind of convent for Beguines, an order of Catholic unmarried or widowed women. As well as the Begijnhof chapel, there’s an English church, and a wooden house dating from around 1465, and the oldest preserved wooden house in the country.
The House of Bols, a jenever (or Dutch gin) museum, allows you to feel, taste, smell and discover the secrets hiding behind these Dutch cocktails. The one-hour interactive tour explains how the jenever conquered the world during the Golden Age, the distillery process, and the different scents and flavours that make up these drinks. The tour ends with trying out a cocktail in the Mirror bar.
In 1919, influential Dutch architect Michel de Klerk designeda new, low-income residential complex in the west of Amsterdam. Known as The Ship because of the finished look of the expressionist building, it is now an icon of theAmsterdamse School Architecture movement. Part of the complex is nowthe Amsterdamse School Museum, and there are daily guided tours of the building.
Opening in 1638,De Hortus Botanicus is one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens. The structures containing the 4000-plus species, greenhouses, conservatories, glass-domed palm house and colonial-era seed house, are an attraction themselves, and children will particularly like the butterfly house. There are plant-themed art shows here also.
Installed in 1987 and the world’s first memorial dedicated toLGBTQI victims of oppression, TheHomomonument consists of three 10m pink granite triangles, recalling Nazi persecution, when gay men were required to wear a pink triangle patch. Commemorative and celebratory events are held here throughout the year.
When completed in 1675 thisclassically-styled building was Europe’s largestsynagogue, its need created when thousands of Jewish people arrived to escape the religious conflicts on the Iberian peninsular at the time. Within the attractiveJewish Quarter and inspired by the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, to this day it has no electric light and its wooden barrel-vaulted ceilings and beautiful interior are instead illuminated by more than 1000 candles and the light from 72 windows.
Within theRed Light District nestles this splendid restored 17th century canal house. You can explore living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens preserved from the Dutch Golden Age before climbing the stairs to reveal a marvel,a whole church in the attic, known asOns’ Heer Lieve op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic). After the Reformation, Catholicism was banned by the Dutch government and so many Catholics had to practise their faith secretly, such as at this hidden church.
The ex-Royal Dutch Shell oil company offices in Amsterdam’s up-and-coming Noord district were in 2016 transformed into thisimpressive tower with a multiple of attractions, including a nightclub in the basement (Shelter, open 24-hours) and another high up in the tower.A revolving restaurant can be found on the 19th floor, and there’s an interactive exhibition about Amsterdam’s history, and Europe’s highest suspended swing.
Heineken’s historic brewery (which closed in 1988) now houses an interactive museum that takes visitors from the history of the Heineken family through to the brewing and bottling processes, visiting the horse stables, the copper beer tanks and a view of Heineken commercials from around the world.