Very few cities in the world can mix old world charms with a modern day atmosphere and present it with the panache that Amsterdam does on a day-to-day basis. Most tourists fall in love with those early morning Prinsengracht walks, but the city has so much going on for it. Whether it’s a drink in its countless bars and nightclubs or a meal in restaurants that still use candles for lighting, whether it’s riding a bike, checking out the artistic masterpieces or exploring historic 17th century architecture, Amsterdam is always more than you can possibly imagine. And irrespective of what you like to see or do, you’re always bound to end up by one of the main canals that run through the city. Here are some of the top things to do in Amsterdam.
Artis Royal Zoo
Artis Royal Zoo, the oldest zoo in Europe, is home to a vast variety of wildlife and is still known to be as enchanting as it was centuries ago. Its layout is particularly beautiful and is full of winding pathways, enchanting ponds, leafy lanes and statues. The zoo has been divided into several themed habitats such as the tropical rainforest and the African savannah, and each habitat is famous for being very convincing. Most visitors to the zoo fall in love with its aquarium complex, the perfect place to explore Amsterdam from a fish’s point of view. There’s a petting zoo and a planetarium as well.
Insider Tip – The zoo offers a complimentary guided tour on Saturdays and Sundays at 11.00 AM. This tour starts at Monkey Rock.
Van Gogh Museum
Each year, more than 1.6 million visitors get attracted to the Van Gogh Museum, making it one of the most popular museums in the world. The museum is home to the largest collection of Van Gogh masterpieces in the world. It has more than 200 paintings and 500 drawings created by the master, but it also has works from other artists, impressionists and post-impressionists. The museum offers an unparalleled view into the master’s work and traces his life all the way back to his tentative start. Other popular artists featured in the museum include Bernard, Gauguin and Monet. It’s definitely among the top things to do in Amsterdam.
Insider Tip – The museum stays open till 10 PM on Friday evenings during peak season. Several attractions such as DJ concerts and cocktail bars also kick-start at 8 PM, so make sure that you check out the website before visiting.
Heineken, a beer brand popular among beer drinkers all over the world, is famous for something entirely else in Amsterdam. No, the beer still sells like hotcakes, but tourists rank a self-guided tour of the company’s old brewery above all else. Considered to be a must-do for beer worshipers, the Heineken Experience takes you back in time and portrays the history of the Heineken family, lets you watch Heineken commercials from all over the world and also helps you in making your very own music video. The defining experience at the brewery – an exhibit which actually stirs and shakes you, sprays you with water and subjects you to heat – to let you experience everything that your favorite beer goes through before being packaged into a bottle.
Insider Tip – Make sure that you reserve at least 75 minutes for the tour and try to arrive before noon, when the crowd is considerably lesser.
Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House attracts close to 1 million visitors each year and takes them back in history to the beautifully reconstructed world of Anne Frank. The house showcases her bedroom and her actual diary sitting in its glass case depressed by all the despair mentioned within. A trip to the Anne Frank House is always known to be a powerful and moving experience. Most tourists prefer to focus on the rear house, or Secret Annexe, the very spot where the Franks lived in complete silence during the day time. The Anne Frank House is a template for the tragic history of the Jewish community.
Insider Tip – To save yourself from long queues, make sure that you arrive as early as you possibly can or after 7 PM.
1.5 Hour Canal Cruise
With about 165 circles encircling the city of Amsterdam, there is no shortage of canal experiences here. In fact, some of the best experiences can be found by the canals which makes these exotic waterways always rank high on an Amsterdam tourist’s agenda. A 1.5 hour cruise of the Amsterdam canals lets you explore them for their true beauty and enjoy fantastic views of the city. The Prinsengracht, full of funky looking houseboats and is lined by shady trees, is the most picturesque canal in Amsterdam. Another canal area worth visiting is the Brouwersgracht, one of the top residential areas in the city.
The Rijksmuseum is considered to be a treasure trove for art lovers. Spread over 1.5 kms, this world famous museum features close to 7500 masterpieces and hosts fascinating works by grandmasters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer. The museum has managed to amass one of the largest collection of artworks in Europe which span all the way back to the 15th century. One of the biggest highlights of the museum is the Golden Age exhibit. The pale yellow lighting also helps in bringing those stills to life and paintings such as Vermeer’s Kitchen Maid and Rembrandt’s The Night Watch simply take your art watching experience to the next level. Other popular things to see at the museum include the sculpture-studded garden, the doll house and the delftware.
Insider Tip – Visit the Rijksmuseum after 3 PM to avoid huge crowds.
While visiting Amsterdam, you simply cannot miss out on Vondelpark. Vondelpark is to Amsterdam what Central Park is to the city of New York. It is located right in the midst of the city and there’s no better place to spend a warm sunny afternoon. Vondelpark is famous for creating a carefree and party atmosphere where you can do whatever your heart desires. Read a book sitting under a tree, or share beer with friends at one of the many cafes, enjoy natural beauty in its beautiful gardens and lawns or explore its winding footpaths. Vondelpark is also synonymous to the culture of the city and you can always expect all sorts of music concerts and dance activities to take place between the months of June to September.
Interesting Fact – Vondelpark manages to attract almost 12 million visitors each year and offers all sorts of activities such as walking, cycling, eating, drinking, open air theaters and music performances.
24/48/72 Hour Amsterdam City Card
The Amsterdam City Card simply unlocks the entire city for exploration and offers you 24/48/72 of unfiltered access into some of the top attractions of the city. Make the most of the detailed city map and the unlimited use of public transport, enjoy free entry into some of the best attractions and museums and revel in the great offers and discounts that open up for you at various places in the city. Other highlights of this traveler-friendly card include a free canal cruise, surprise gifts, discounts on Rijksmuseum entry, free ferry from Volendam to Marken and free entry into the Zuiderzee Museum and the Zaanse Schans.
Ganja Walking Tour of Selected Coffee Shops
A ganja walking tour of selected coffee shops is something that you simply have to do while in Amsterdam. Don’t try to find excuses, just go for one. It’s an experience that you’re not likely to forget in a hurry. A ganja walking tour of Amsterdam acquaints you to the coffee shops that are famous for selling the highest quality of ganja at the cheapest prices. Most parts of the world see hippies and potheads as negative elements of the society, but Amsterdam doesn’t believe in holding reservations. The best way to understand this is by going for a 2 – 3 hour walking tour which covers highlights such as the Dam Palace, one of the oldest coffee shops in the city, and is also the perfect way to get introduced to the world of cannabis.
Insider Tip – Smoking tobacco in restaurants and cafes is banned. However, many coffee shops still allow you to smoke weed. Remember, smoking is only restricted to a joint. If you’re caught smoking tobacco, you could end up getting into trouble.
Red Light District
The Red Light District, the oldest part of the city, has gained a notorious reputation across the world. Despite this, people simply have to visit the area while in Amsterdam. Many come here simply to see what the hype is all about while others come here to indulge in activities, visit sex shops and check out outrageous sex toys. The Red Light District seems to be a cutesy version of Vegas and is one place where junkies, tourists, cops, clerics, businessmen and prostitutes freely intermingle with each other.
Interesting Fact – Most lights in the Red Light District are red in color. However, you can often see lamps that have a purple color. This usually (not always) indicates the presence of a transsexual prostitute.
Flower Markets of Amsterdam
Amsterdam flower markets have been capturing the world’s attention ever since the 17th century. The moment one thinks of Amsterdam, images of tulips, windmills and clogs spring to the mind. As clichéd as it might sound, visiting the flower markets of Amsterdam truly offers an unparalleled experience. If you’re a tulip lover, visit the Bloemenmarkt located along the Singel. All those looking for multi-flavored cheeses should visit the Raypenaer tasting room, the perfect destination for any cheese lover in the city. Finally, don’t forget to complete your experience by having a beer at the award-winning brewery Brouwerij ‘t IJ, located next to the most famous windmill in Amsterdam, De Gooyer.
Interesting Fact – The Bloemenmarkt is the only floating flower market in the world and is also known to be one of the most picturesque sights in the city.