Top 20 Things to See in Amsterdam

Top 20 Things to See in Amsterdam

Amsterdam combines historic charm with a modern, progressive atmosphere. The Dutch capital is full of culture, nightlife, architecture, and natural beauty just waiting to be explored. Here are the Top 20 Things to See in Amsterdam and sights you absolutely must see when visiting Amsterdam.

Top 20 Things to See in Amsterdam

Canals of Amsterdam

Cruising Amsterdam’s picturesque canals is one of the best introductions to the city. Hop on boats like Lovers or Stromma for tours floating by the city’s iconic canal homes, bridges, and houseboats. Or for a more active experience, rent a paddleboat or kayak to see the 17th century canals from water level. Don’t miss gliding through must-see waterways like the Prinsengracht, Herengracht and Bloemgracht.

Van Gogh Museum

Housing the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh’s masterpieces, the Van Gogh Museum should be top of any art lover’s list. Admire renowned paintings like The Potato Eaters, Sunflowers, and Almond Blossoms. Learn about the artist’s life through exhibits of his letters, sketches, and contemporary works. Time your visit to catch the mesmerizing light show projected onto the museum exterior on summer evenings.

Anne Frank House

Step back in time at the Anne Frank House, where Anne wrote her famous diary while hiding from the Nazis for over two years. Walk through the secret annex to see the preserved rooms and experience Anne’s story. The museum’s artifacts and exhibitions are hauntingly moving. To avoid long queues, pre-book tickets online as far in advance as possible for a timed entry slot.

Rijksmuseum

At the expansive Rijksmuseum, marvel at masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age. Iconic paintings like Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and Vermeer’s The Milkmaid hang alongside 8,000 other works. The museum also displays Delftware pottery, intricate dollhouses, and medieval sculpture. Stop for a drink at the Atrium Cafe under its gorgeous stained-glass ceiling.

Vondelpark

Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s most famous green space, covering 120 acres near the city’s center. Stroll through its lush gardens and lawns or bike past ponds and footbridges. Watch for squawking parakeets in the trees, remnants of an escaped flock from the zoo. Have a picnic on the grass or settle in at the park’s cafes. In summer, catch free concerts at the open-air theater.

The Jordaan

With its shaded canals, cozy cafes and artisan shops, the Jordaan is Amsterdam’s most charming neighborhood. Weave down its narrow streets and canals past colorful canal homes. Make sure to see the iconic “I amsterdam” sign at the start of Westerstraat. Stop for apple pie and waffles or browse the blooming flower stalls at Noordermarkt square.

Keukenhof Gardens

Escape to the Keukenhof gardens, located outside Amsterdam, for a spectacular display of millions of colorful tulips each spring. Stroll endlessly through flowerbeds, greenhouses, and ponds spanned by picturesque bridges. Over 7 million flower bulbs are planted annually across its 79 acres. Time your visit to coordinate with the mid-April peak blooms for the full sea of flowers.

Begijnhof

This quiet courtyard offers a glimpse into Amsterdam’s past. Enter this quaint 14th-century square surrounded by historic houses that once sheltered Beguine nuns. Make sure to see the charming secret Catholic church disguised as a home. Explore the gardens and picturesque homes before popping back into the bustling city.

Rembrandt House Museum

Gain insight into master painter Rembrandt at his former residence, now the Rembrandt House Museum. See the studio where he created many famous works and browse the displays of his etchings. Don’t miss the recreation of Rembrandt’s paint storage room stocked with pigments and tools. Time your visit to watch authentic demonstrations of etching techniques from that era.

Dam Square

The heart of Amsterdam centers around lively Dam Square in front of the Royal Palace. Watch street performers and marvel at the National Monument memorial. Join the constant activity or simply people-watch from one of the terrace cafes nearby. Be sure to snap some photos in front of the triangular Amsterdam sign installed in the square.

Red Light District

Amsterdam is most famous for its controversial Red Light District, where legal prostitution and adult entertainment thrive on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal and surrounding alleys. While not for everyone, the area provides an eye-opening look at this aspect of Amsterdam. You’ll glimpse sex workers beckoning from behind vividly lit windows and adults-only shows at theaters. Visit with an open mind and be respectful.

Albert Cuyp Market

At the lively Albert Cuyp Market, experience Amsterdam’s multicultural side while shopping for anything imaginable. The sprawling street market contains over 300 stalls selling flowers, produce, cheese, fish, spices, clothing, crafts and more. Taste global flavors from food vendors dishing out Dutch, Caribbean, African and other international specialties. Find wallet-friendly prices on items compared to regular shops.

Heineken Experience

Behind Heineken’s original brick brewery, the Heineken Experience chronicles 150 years of Dutch beer history. Learn the brewing process, view artifacts and vintage ads, and saddle up to the bar for two complimentary pints. Don’t miss their amusing 4D ride. Serious beer lovers should also visit the House of Bols for a Dutch gin workshop.

Museum of Bags and Purses

This quirky little museum houses a collection of over 5,000 handbags, trunks and purses through the centuries. Browse the rotating exhibits, which often highlight creations by big name designers. Temporary shows have covered topics like Dutch textile work, 1980s shoulder pad bags and miniature purses. Grab a bite at the on-site cafe after getting your bag history education.

NEMO Science Museum

With its distinctive ship-like shape, NEMO is hard to miss. The interactive science museum contains five floors of hands-on exhibits to ignite curiosity. Experiment with water, weather, microbes and more through games and displays. Little ones love the dedicated children’s section for learning through play. NEMO’s stepped roof also provides beautiful panoramic city views.

Magere Brug

You can’t miss this iconic “skinny bridge” spanning the river at Kerkstraat. The Magere Brug’s twin arches and steep arch make it one of Amsterdam’s most photographed landmarks. Watch boats pass under and enjoy idyllic views on either side of the river. After dark, the bridge magically lights up. Cross it on foot or pedal over by bike for full effect.

Royal Palace Amsterdam

This grand 17th century building facing Dam Square first housed the city hall before becoming the Royal Palace in 1808. Even if you don’t tour the lavishly decorated interior with its ceiling frescoes and chandeliers, the palace’s exterior warrants a visit. Make sure to see the bronze National Monument memorial just in front of the palace.

Amsterdam Tulip Museum

Though small, the Amsterdam Tulip Museum provides a wonderful overview of tulip history in the Netherlands. Learn how tulipmania overtook 17th century Amsterdam and see stunning examples of unique specimens. Vintage growers’ tools, folk costumes and artworks depicting tulips make this an ideal primer before visiting the Keukenhof gardens.

Nieuwe Spiegelstraat

Craving cool art and fashion? Nieuwe Spiegelstraat’s creative boutiques are a Top 20 Things to See in Amsterdam. Hip stores like Laura Dols and The Frozen Fountain sell locally designed clothes, gifts and accessories. Don’t miss the funky vintage wares at Episode, and Utile for chic housewares. Stop for coffee at cozy cafes between browsing.

Hermitage Amsterdam

Hosting rotating exhibits, the Hermitage Amsterdam brings a taste of Russia’s State Hermitage Museum to the Top 20 Things to See in Amsterdam. Thematic shows often spotlight pieces borrowed from the Saint Petersburg collection alongside complementary Dutch works. Exhibitions have covered eras and artists like Matisse and medieval icons. Combine admiring the artworks with canal views from the museum’s Amstel riverfront locale.

From world class museums to cozy cafés and vibrant markets, Amsterdam offers sightseeing opportunities around every canal bend. Use this list to experience the culture, history, and charm that make Amsterdam a perennial favorite destination. Discover your own favorites as you explore this beautiful, laid-back city.