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Blue skies above Amsterdam's canals
Blue skies above Amsterdam's canals | © Anestiev / Pixabay
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The Top 10 Things To Do and See in Amsterdam

Picture of Tom Coggins
Updated: 8 April 2018
Amsterdam easily ranks among the most popular travel destinations in the world and its impressive range of attractions, landmarks and cultural sites draw in visitors all year round. To help travellers find their way in the city, here is our list of top things to see and do on offer in Amsterdam.

Head out on a bike

Cycling has been the main mode of transportation in Amsterdam for generations and every neighbourhood in the city features well-kept bike paths. Although there are plenty of awesome routes in the inner city, including a path that runs through the Rijksmuseum, it is always worth venturing further afield to districts such as Noord and Oost by bike, as these areas feature many less well-known cultural highlights, hangouts and wide, scenic cycle paths. Just remember to watch out during morning and afternoon rush hours, as the cycle paths can get quite hectic!

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There are a lot of bikes in Amsterdam! | © francescoronge / Pixabay

Hop on a canal cruise

Amsterdam’s iconic, 17th century canal belt forms a multi-tiered crescent around the city’s historic centre. These stunning waterways have played an important role within Amsterdam’s daily life for centuries and are surrounded by over 1,000 other national monuments such as Anne Frank’s House, Westerkerk and The Hermitage Museum. It is possible to join many different types of boat tours on the canals, including guided cruises that delve into Amsterdam’s past, candlelight excursions with drinks and dinner, or even an eco-conscious voyage where passengers are encouraged to fish for discarded plastic.

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There are many different types of boat tours on offer in Amsterdam | © djedj / Pixabay

Chill out in Vondelpark

Amsterdam’s most popular urban park, Vondelpark, lies just outside Amsterdam’s inner canal belt and trails south-westward away from Leidseplein. Aside from grassy meadows, lakes and small woodlands, the park contains an open-air theatre that hosts performances throughout the warmer months of the year and several charming bars with large terraces. There are plenty of spots around the park for summertime activities such as frisbee, picnics or al fresco drinks with friends.

Vondelpark, Amsterdam, Netherlands

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The entrance to Vondelpark | © kirkandmimi / Pixabay

Stop and smell the tulips at the Bloemenmarkt

Amsterdam boasts the only floating flower market in the world, which has taken place on barges moored to the southern side of Singel canal since 1862. This charming, waterborne market was built on the canals in order to facilitate trade flowing through the city’s waterways and make it easier to transport flowers in and out of Amsterdam. Today, around 15 florists have stalls at the market, and sell many items related to floriculture, ranging from freshly cut bouquets to vacuum-packed tulip bulbs.

Bloemenmarket, Singel, Amsterdam, Netherlands

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A stall at Bloemenmarkt | © dilpe / Pixabay

Marvel at the Rijksmuseum’s amazing collection

The Rijksmuseum houses an enormous collection of artworks and historical objects, created between the 13th century and the present day. Its esteemed collection includes some of the most famous paintings in the world, such as Johannes Vermeer’s the Milkmaid and Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Night Watch, which hangs in a custom-built gallery. The museum welcomes visitors every day of the week and organises guided tours throughout the day that revolve around specific parts of its collection. It also hosts numerous temporary exhibitions every year that delve into the world’s cultural history.

The Rijksmuseum, Museumstraat 1, Amsterdam, Netherlands, +31 20 674 7000

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Johannes Vermeer’s ‘The Milkmaid’ (1657-1658) | © emoro / Pixabay

Catch a movie at one of the city’s stunning independent cinemas

Almost every independent cinema in Amsterdam has an extra spark that sets its apart from regular multiplexes. For instance, Filmtheater Kriterion has screened movies since the 1940s and was established by former members of the Dutch Resistance after World War II, whereas EYE Film Institute is housed inside an incredible post-modern structure that seems to mirror the River IJ’s waves. Aside from showing the latest movies, cinemas in the Netherlands also often double up as bars and let patrons take alcoholic (or soft drinks) into their screening rooms.

Eye Film museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands | © ItzaVU/Shutterstock
Eye Film Museum, Amsterdam | © ItzaVU / Shutterstock

Get to know Van Gogh at the Van Gogh Museum

The Van Gogh Museum has the largest collection of original Van Gogh paintings in the world and regularly updates its catalogue with new objects related to the artist or his contemporaries. There are paintings from every period of Van Gogh’s career on display inside the museum, ranging from his early, sombre work in the Netherlands and Belgium to the vibrant, still-lifes and portraits that defined his years in France. The museum regularly organises temporary exhibitions that delve into Van Gogh’s influences, life and legacy and hosts a Friday night party complete with drinks and DJs once a month.

Van Gogh Museum, Museumplein 6, Amsterdam, Netherlands, +31 20 570 5200

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Vincent van Gogh ‘The Potato Eaters’ (1885) | © Public domain / WikiCommons

Learn about Anne Frank and her family

Anne Frank House centres around the hidden apartment on Prinsengracht canal where Anne Frank, her family and several others lived in secret during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. This narrow, multi-levelled apartment was hidden inside an office building owned by Anne Frank’s father and was accessible via a secret door, concealed behind a moveable bookcase. The museum also features other permanent and temporary exhibitions dedicated to Anne Frank’s writings, family life and struggles during the 1940s.

Anne Frank House, Prinsengracht 263-267, Amsterdam, Netherlands, +31 20 556 7105

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A plaque marking the entrance to Anne Frank House | © albertstraub / Flickr

Discover the city’s daily markets

Several open-air street markets take place in neighbourhoods around Amsterdam throughout the week, such as Albert Cuyp Markt in Pijp and Dappermarkt in Amsterdam-Oost. There are always dozens of individual stalls at these markets, including stands that sell traditional Dutch delicacies such as freshly baked, caramel-filled stroopwafels or soused herring served with pickles and raw onion. Many of these markets have existed for generations and still serve as important commercial hubs and meeting places within their respective neighbourhoods.

Fresh fish at Dappermarkt
Fresh fish at Dappermarkt | © Kevin Gessner / Flickr

Meet animals from all over the world at ARTIS

Amsterdam’s only zoo is located in a peaceful, green neighbourhood just outside of central Amsterdam, called Plantage. The zoo was founded over two centuries ago and ranks among the oldest institutes of its kind in the world. An enormous menagerie of colourful, endangered and exotic creatures live in the zoo including giraffes, elephants and gorillas. Aside from looking after over 900 species of animal, Artis is also an important scientific research centre and has several attractions related to the natural world, including a fascinating museum dedicated to micro-biological life called Micropia and a stunning planetarium.

ARTIS, Plantage Kerklaan 38-40, Amsterdam, Netherlands, +31 900 2784796

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A lion in ARTIS | © Fabienkhan / WikiCommons