Amsterdam really is the city that has it all and is often discussed as one of those once in a lifetime holiday bucketlist locations. Narrow cobbled streets, winding stretches of canals dotted with bobbing houseboats, iconic architecture and unique houses known for their wonky features – there really is so much to explore when visiting this impressive capital.
A resident of Amsterdam Lesia, blogger at Dutch Wannabe, told us why she loves living in the city: “I fell in love with the way the city is flooded with flowers during the spring season and the cobblestone streets of the canal ring filled with surprising little shops. It is a great city for shopping antiquities, art and vintage clothing as long as you are prepared to splurge a little. But the culture and the museums are undoubtedly the best part.”
What to see in Amsterdam
The history, architecture and fascinating things to see in Amsterdam make it the perfect place for a day of wandering and exploring. There is so much to see around every corner that you’ll never be short of something to keep you occupied.
Jessica, who blogs at A Wanderlust for Life, reckons the charm of the city is what draws people back again and again: “In Amsterdam, the simple charm of the traditional Dutch architecture alongside the canals and bridge is pretty much like dreaming while awake. It also has a vibe that is unlike any other European city. It's vibrant and laid-back at the same time.”
“No matter if you visit Amsterdam for sightseeing or just wandering around the city, you will not be disappointed. Me and my hubby did not focus on any indoor sight or museums, but just enjoyed walking along the canals, sitting in cafes and tasting some local cuisine.” Says Nina from Nina Travels.
The main train station in Amsterdam is also one of the prettiest buildings in the city. With over 160,000 eager explorers passing through its doors every day, this imposing structure makes a real impression. When walking around the main hub of the city, you’ll catch a glimpse of the red brick building in the far distance, sitting pretty on the edge of the river Amstel.
Museum Het Rembrandthuis
The house that belonged to the world-renowned artist Rembrandt between 1639 and 1656 sits on the edge of the city centre now posting as a museum to his triumphant works. For fans of history and those looking to delve into the past of Amsterdam, head to the museum and pay your respects to a legend of the Netherlands.
Whether you’re planning to enter the Rijksmuseum or not, the building that plays host to some of the country’s oldest artwork is well worth a visit. The architecturally brilliant masterpiece is surrounded by green parks, cute cafes and canals to its left, the perfect location for a days exploration.
Also known as ‘pigeon square’, the cobbled attraction that sits just off the main high-street is always a popular meeting point for locals and tourists alike. Perch under the arms of the national monument whilst enjoying some frites or watch as the local street entertainers please the crowds.
“You won't find a destination so eclectic anywhere else in the world - Amsterdam is a city that changes from day to night, each as encapsulating as the other," says blogger xameliax.
What to do in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is built for tourists and there is an abundance of attractions that can keep you occupied when your legs need a rest. Whether you’re looking for an adrenalin filled experience or want to head beneath the streets for a glimpse into the dark history of ‘Dams gruesome past, it’s all just around the corner.
Anne Frank Huis
“The Anne Frank museum is a must for your journey to Amsterdam, but make sure you book in advance!” says Amelia.
The home of Anne Frank sits in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam and is a location everyone visiting the city should visit. Read Anne’s stories, explore the hidden annexe where she hid for almost two years and find out what happened after the war in this immersive and spellbinding museum experience.
Head over the edge at the top of the A’DAM Lookout where the highest swing in Europe takes you on an adrenalin filled ride over the Amstel River. Enjoy views across the expanse of Amsterdam as you swing over the edge of the sky deck on the duo of hydraulic swings. The perfect experience for those looking to fill their visit with adrenalin and excitement. Accessible on a free ferry over the river Amstel, the whole experience is an exciting one.
Much like its London and Edinburgh counterparts, Amsterdam Dungeons take you on a trip down memory lane into the hidden and dark past of the city. Head through the maze of rooms and uncover the mystical past that took place right under the feet of passers-by. A real family attraction that will send you right back to life in the 1500’s – although it is not recommended for those under 10 years old.
Lovers Canal Cruise
“If you only had time to do one thing, take a boat tour through the Amsterdam canals on an open-air boat. It will be the highlight of your visit, not to mention a great respite from exploring the city on foot. If you have some time to spare, explore the Rijksmuseum and my personal favourite, The National Maritime Museum which offers a chance to explore the 18th-century ship and has a fantastic collection of art and artefacts.” Says Lesia.
The meandering canals are one of the most popular attractions and a hot spot for those looking to see the city in all its glory. The Lovers Canal Cruises offer you a guided tour through the water streets whilst you discover the history of the waterways and the houses that surround.
“My number one tip for anyone visiting Amsterdam is to take a canal cruise (the smaller, the better!), then find a terrace and have a drink and eat some bitterballen while people-watching. What most visitors don't realize is that Amsterdam is much more than the centre canal belt. So, check out the other neighbourhoods! Find a market on the weekend to discover where all the locals go.” Says Jessica.
Wander through the diversity of plants, animals, heritage and experiences at Artis Zoo, Amsterdam’s central zoo. Get up close and personal with some of our worlds most impressive animals, head to Micropia to understand the lives of millions of microbes or just enjoy a leisurely stroll under the shady trees that line the streets.
Where to eat in Amsterdam
If there is one thing that Amsterdam is well known for, it’s food! From Stroopwafels to frites and all kinds of cheese, there is no shortage of delicious nibbles for you to tuck into.
“Maybe take a canal boat ride at lunchtime or go cheese tasting in the local shops.” Says Amelia.
Vegan Junk Food Bar
“VJFB is the new vegan hotspot in Amsterdam and there’s no doubt about it... there’s no vegan place like this!” is how Vegan Junk Food Bar describe themselves.
A customisable vegan food bar on the outskirts of the canal ring, the Vegan Junk Food Bar is a real meal for the senses. Edgy designs, mouth-watering food options and an awesome vibe make it a real winner with locals and tourists alike.
Named the best fries in the Netherlands, Manneken Pis is the perfect spot to pick up an in-between snack. Served in a traditional chip cone and served with a range of Dutch sauces, there is a reason they are named the best!
Serving traditional Dutch cuisine, that as the name may suggest, your mother might serve for dinner, Moeders offers a genuine insight into the Dutch way of life. The interior is covered with pictures of Dutch women who inspire the dishes that are served to passers-by every day. If a taste of the real Amsterdam life is what you’re after, Moeders is the best option.
Serving you fresh pancakes, perfectly cooked eggs and refreshing homemade smoothies, Pluk is an Instagram lovers heaven. With aesthetically pleasing interiors, the menu serves an array of organic sandwiches, smoothie bowls and salads in the heart of the Jordaan district.
Home to the famous Dutch treat Stroopwafels, Confectionary Lanksroom serves up all sorts of sweet treats from waffles to ice cream and pastries. Stop off for a coffee and the chance to try the traditional sweet delicacy.
“If I were to suggest one place to go to get a real feel of what it’s like to live in Amsterdam, go to Westerpark. Easily accessible by bus or tram, you have a lively park, old buildings with fresh new restaurants and shops, and a maze of paths to walk and discover hidden spots.” Jessica mentioned.
When planning your next cruise holidays, make sure Amsterdam is on your list of locations to visit. Tulips, Stroopwafels, canals and historical treasures await you in the city that has it all.