There are many sides to Amsterdam’s unique charm, and the city is well-known for its diverse roster of attractions. Besides its photogenic canals, luscious parks and beautiful religious buildings, the city is also home to numerous, world-leading museums, several impressive examples of modern architecture and even a brewery that resides underneath a windmill.
The Canal Belt
Central Amsterdam is encircled by four 17th-century canals – a system now recognised as an UNESCO Heritage Site. These waterways were built by Amsterdam’s municipality in order to enhance the city’s water traffic and encourage commerce. Hundreds of typical Dutch townhouses line these canals, many of which date back to the Renaissance period.
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
The Stedelijk is among the most important modern and contemporary art museums in the world, and has been at the forefront of the international art scene for over 100 years. The museum constantly adds new or historically important work to its collection and currently owns over 90,000 pieces, including paintings by Van Gogh, Malevich and Mondriaan.
📍 Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Museumplein 10, Amsterdam, +31 20 573 2911
Vondelpark is undoubtedly the most famous park in Amsterdam, and is spread over a tract of land that divides the city’s Oud-West and Oud-Zuid neighbourhoods. Several cafés, playgrounds and an open-air theatre are dotted between the park’s large, green meadows, making it perfect for long weekend excursions.
The Portuguese Synagogue
During the 17th century, thousands of Jewish people immigrated to Amsterdam from Portugal in order to escape the ongoing religious conflicts plaguing the Iberian peninsula. In Amsterdam, they were allowed to practise their religion openly, and eventually built an enormous, architecturally impressive synagogue in the city’s Jewish district that is still standing today.
The foundations of Dam Square were originally built in the 13th century, when villagers living on the banks of the Amstel decided to dam the northern part of the river. Many important buildings were constructed on this platform over the years, and today Dam Square contains Amsterdam’s Royal Palace, the National Monument and de Nieuwe Kerk.
The Rijksmuseum, probably the most important museum in the Netherlands, houses over one million artworks. This vast collection contains many masterpieces created by pre-eminent historical figures and includes work by Dutch masters Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh.
📍 The Rijksmuseum, Museumstraat 1, Amsterdam, +31 900 0745
The Homomonument was unveiled in 1987 after years of development and campaigning. This monumental pink triangle was the first memorial in the world dedicated to the LGBTQI victims of oppression, and today hosts a number of commemorative and celebratory events throughout the year.
De Oude Kerk
As the oldest building in central Amsterdam, the Oude Kerk is brimming with history. The church was originally owned by Amsterdam’s Catholic authorities, but was confiscated by Calvinists during the Reformation and converted into a Protestant cathedral. Today it hosts numerous cultural activities and religious ceremonies.
📍 Oude Kerk, Oudekerksplein 23, Amsterdam, +31 20 625 8284
De Hortus Botanicus
De Hortus Botanicus is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, and contains over 6,000 tropical plants. During the 17th century, the garden was the main source of medicinal herbs in Amsterdam, and was used by the city’s doctors and chemists. Today, its numerous greenhouses and conservatories are open to the public, attracting thousands of visitors each year.
📍 De Hortus Botanicus, Plantage Middenlaan 2a, Amsterdam, +31 20 625 9021
Due to its glorious design, Pathé Tusckinski is regularly cited as the most beautiful cinema in the world. The entire theatre is infused with Art Deco and Art Nouveau visual motifs, and it successfully merges these two movements’ principal artistic gestures into an unrivalled architectural pastiche.
📍 Pathé Tuschinski, Reguliersbreestraat 26-34, Amsterdam, +31 900 1458
This colossal tower on Amsterdam’s northern shore contains several cultural enterprises, including a subterranean nightclub called Shelter, a revolving restaurant and the tallest suspended swing in Europe. While A’DAM Toren has only been open since 2016, it’s already an iconic part of Amsterdam’s cultural landscape.
📍 A’DAM Toren, Overhoeksplein 1, Amsterdam, +31 20 237 6310
Natura Artis Magistra
Commonly known as the Artis Zoo, Natura Artis Magistra has been caring for a large menagerie of animals for almost 200 years. Apart from its furry, scaly and feathered residents, Artis also looks after millions of microbes and contains the first zoo in the world that is dedicated to microbiological life, aptly titled Micropia.
📍 Natura Artis Magistra, Plantage Kerklaan 38-40, Amsterdam, +31 900 2784796
From a certain distance EYE Filmmuseum‘s sloping, multi-faceted form creates the illusion of movement and the building’s complex architecture represents the height of post-modern structural design. This impressive building houses several cultural projects associated with filmmaking, and also features several modern cinemas.
📍 EYE Filmmuseum, IJpromenade 1, Amsterdam, +31 20 589 1400
Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder
After the Reformation, Catholicism was officially banned by the Dutch government. Instead of converting to Calvinism or fleeing the Netherlands, many Catholics decided to practise their faith in secret, and built several hidden churches around Amsterdam. Ons’ Heer Lieve op Solder is one of these clandestine chapels, and is perfectly preserved inside the attic of a 17th-century townhouse in the centre of the Red Light District.
📍 Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 38, Amsterdam, +31 20 624 6604
Van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum has the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world, and regularly hosts exhibitions documenting certain aspects of the artist’s life. Besides its conservation and research projects, the museum also acts as a cultural centre and often organises nighttime events dedicated to its namesake.
📍 Van Gogh Museum, Museumplein 6, Amsterdam, +31 20 570 5200
Brouwerij ‘t IJ
Colloquially known as the ‘windmill brewery’, Brouwerij ‘t IJ is famously located underneath a mammoth, typically Dutch machine called the Gooier. While the brewery doesn’t actually own this towering structure, the stamps on the labels of its notoriously potent beers – which are all available from its onsite taproom – all feature the Gooier.
📍 Brouwerij ‘t IJ, Funenkade 7, Amsterdam, +31 20 528 6237
Anne Frank Huis
During the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam, Anne Frank and her family hid in a secret apartment in de Jordaan. In spite of their efforts, they were eventually captured and sent to concentration camps. After the war, these concealed chambers were converted into a museum that is dedicated to Anne Frank, her family and other victims of the Holocaust.
📍 Anne Frank House, Prinsengracht 263-267, Amsterdam, +31 20 556 7105
In 1919, influential Dutch architect Michel de Klerk designed a new, low-income residential complex in western Amsterdam. To honour the city’s working class, de Klerk devised an elaborate building employing motifs and gestures that are now commonly associated with the Amsterdamse School Architecture. This building’s central office was converted into the Amsterdamse School Museum in 2001.
📍 Het Schip, Oostzaanstraat 45, Amsterdam, +31 20 686 8595
Rembrandt House Museum
For 19 years of his adult life, Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn lived in a small townhouse near Amsterdam’s Zuiderkerk. He worked and taught at this location until unfortunately bankruptcy forced him to stop. During the early part of the 20th century, this house was converted into a museum, which now features several exhibitions dedicated to Rembrandt and his students.
📍 Rembrandt House Museum, Jodenbreestraat 4, Amsterdam, +31 20 520 0400
This picturesque courtyard and chapel is hidden behind Spui Square in central Amsterdam. Before the Reformation, this property was owned by a Catholic convent, but it eventually fell into the hands of Amsterdam’s municipality. In 1607, its chapel was ceded to an English-speaking Protestant congregation, and the church has remained active ever since.
📍 English Reformed Church, Begijnhof 48, Amsterdam, +31 20 624 9665