Top 15 attractions and things to do in Amsterdam
A radiant girdle of canals, cobbled streets lined with bicycles and flower-boxes, cosy coffee shops...Amsterdam's charms are many and varied. Start planning your next city break with our tips on what to see and do in Amsterdam.
1. Anne Frank House
The most unmissable of all Amsterdam attractions, Anne Frank's Secret Annexe, behind a warehouse on Prinsengracht canal tells a heart-breaking, and at times, uplifting story of a Jewish teenage girl and her family forced to hide from the Nazis during World War II. You might know about Anne from her famous diary, but here, where it all happened, the most affecting exhibits are the small human details: you'll still find posters on the walls of Anne's bedroom, and see the pencil marks on the wall where Anne and her sister Margot were measured to see how much they'd grown. Film footage and modern responses to the Franks' story also bring the story up to date.
Opening times: (Nov - Mar) Daily 9am - 7pm (until 9pm on Saturdays). (Apr - Oct) Daily 9am - 10pm. Between 9am and 3.30pm admission is for those with a pre-booked time slot only.
Location: Prinsengracht 263-267.
Price: Adults €9, age 10-17 €4.50, under 9s free.
2. Van Gogh Museum
The biggest collection of Van Gogh's work also offers a very personal insight into the artist himself, through letters and drawings displayed as well as famous paintings like The Potato Eaters and Sunflowers. It's not all about the Dutch artist either: temporary exhibitions place his Expressionist works in social and cultural context, and alongside other artists like Maurice de Vlaminck who followed, and were inspired by him. Discover more fascinating Amsterdam museums and galleries in our guide.
Opening times: Daily 9am to 5pm, Fridays until 10pm.
Location: Museumplein 6.
Price: Adults €17, under 18s free.
3. Raise a mug of Heineken
Visit the first Heineken brewery to see where the magic began back in 1864. You can look around anytime during opening hours and ask staff questions along the way, but to really bring the experience to life, go VIP with a guided tasting tour. This includes 5 different beers, with complimentary cheeses and bitterballen (Dutch tapas). Proost!
Opening times: Mon to Thurs, 10.30am - 7.30pm. Fri to Sun, 10.30am - 9pm. (July and August, every day 10.30am - 9pm).
Location: Stadhouderskade 78.
Price: Adults €16, Children 12-17yrs €12.50, 0-11yrs free.
4. Admire the Oude Kerk
Tucked in the midst of the Red Light district is this 700-year-old church, Amsterdam's oldest building. Today this Dutch Gothic masterpiece has been turned into an unsual and atmospheric art space, with exhibitions from leading contemporary artists like Marinus Boezem. Check the website for current shows.
Opening times: Mon to Sat 10am - 6pm; Sun 1pm – 5pm.
Location: Oudekerksplein 23.
Price: Adults €10, Conessions €7.50, under 13s free.
5. Peek inside the Royal Palace of Amsterdam
Sitting commandingly on Dam Square is this magnificent palace; once a town hall and now belonging to the state, it's still used for official functions by the Dutch Royal family. 2013 saw the investiture of the new King Willem-Alexander after his mother Queen Beatrix abdicated. The palace opens to visitors for much of the year, and it's worth it to see the echoing Citizen's Hall with its mythical marble sculptures and the richly furnished state rooms.
Opening times: 10am - 5pm (see the online calendar of public open days).
Location: Oudekerksplein 23.
Price: Adults €10, Concessions €9, under 18s free.
6. Pedal the canals of Jordaan
Amsterdam's web of canals radiates out from the centre of the city, promising hours of pleasant wandering past elegant townhouses, street markets festooned with flowers - especially in tulip season - and backstreets peppered with 'brown cafes' (Amsterdam's answer to the British pub) and coffee houses. Once a working class industrial area and now something of a hipster hangout, the Jordaan district is ripe for such exploration. If you want to see it all from a different perspective, rent a 'canal-bike' (pedal boat) and pedal along the narrow waterways. It's a tranquil world away from the raucous hen and stag parties of De Wallen.
7. Step into history at Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis
Feel what it was like to be a wealthy Amsterdammer in the elegant age of the pre-industrial eighteenth and nineteenth centuries at the Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis. This private city palace dates from 1687 and is renowned for its collection of historic pianoforte instruments. Hear their beautiful music for yourself by visiting on a Sunday for the weekly concert, which starts at 5.45pm. The concert lasts for an hour and afterwards you can even enjoy a glass of wine with the musicians. Book in advance by emailing email@example.com.
8. View the Rijksmuseum collections
Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum was recently revamped, in a 10-year refurbishment that saw the nineteenth century Gothic and Renaissance building, designed by Pierre Cuypers, undergo a complete modernisation. The new Atrium is a spectacular entrance-way that sets the tone for the extensive collection, featuring works from the fifteenth century to the twentieth and encompassing everything from photography to painting. The museum’s star turn is Rembrandt’s Night Watch, a whopping 11 by 14 foot canvas that is the only artwork to remain in its pre-renovation position, hung where Cuypers planned it to be – in fact, he designed the entire original building around it.
Opening times: Daily from 9am to 5pm.
Location: Museumstraat 1.
Price: Adults €17.50; under 18s get in free.
9. Rent a bicycle
With its flat landscape and extensive network of bike paths, Amsterdam is the world’s most bicycle-friendly capital city and there’s nothing quite like seeing it from the saddle. Hire a bike from Bike City in the Jordaan district, which rents out bikes that will help you blend in with the locals for just €16 a day, or take a tour with Yellow Bike, which takes in the city’s main sights on a three-hour loop (with 20 minutes rest!).
Opening times: Yellow Bike Tours run daily at 1.30pm (you can also rent bikes here).
Location: Nieuwezijds Kolk 29.
Finding the city a little too devoid of greenery? Take a stroll out to the Vondelpark, just beyond Museumplein and pick any one of the network of pathways through the trees, passing ponds and waterways, the bandstand and rose garden. Look out for waterfowl as well as squirrels, parakeets and plenty of sheep. Kids will love the children’s play areas, while adults will be keen to settle in for drinks at De Vondeltuin.
11. Get cheesy
Love cheese? Amsterdam is certainly a city that knows its edam from its gouda and the Old Amsterdam Cheese Store is an unbeatable place to get to grips with Dutch cheese. Here you’ll find shelf upon shelf of their own Old Amsterdam cheese and can even book a tasting, which lasts for one hour and promises to turn you into a cheese-tasting master (€15pp). A wheel of their matured gouda is the perfect souvenir of your time in the city.
12. Catch the EYE-film museum
This spaceship-esque building on Amsterdam’s waterfront is the city’s new home for its extensive archive of Dutch films. Both Dutch and international films are screened at the EYE-film museum regularly (check the online calendar for what’s on) and the exhibition space displays temporary exhibitions on filmmakers.
Opening times: Daily 10am - 7pm.
Location: IJpromenade 1.
Price: Adults €10, Concessions €8.50, 12-18yrs €5, under 11s €7.50.
13. Shop on Kalverstraat
Nieuwedijk and Kalverstraat have always been where Amsterdam’s fashionable came to shop, and today these two streets, which join at central Dam Square, form the busiest shopping district in the city. This is the place to come for high street names and bargain buys, especially clothing and shoes. Want something more designer? Head to PC Hoofstraat instead.
14. Time for tea at De Bakkerswinkel
De Bakkerswinkel is the perfect place to settle in and warm up over tea and cake. Visit the central bakery on Warmoesstraat, one of the city’s oldest streets and you’ll find homemade cakes, vast salads and the best quiche in town, served at chunky wooden tables beneath some very funky ex-industrial light fittings. Try the quiche of the day for lunch (€8.25) or indulge in the Dutch bread and butter pudding of brioche with caramel (€7.50). There’s a great breakfast menu too (from €8.75) and cakes including warm apple pie, carrot cake and cheesecake (from €3.75). Prefer coffee? We've got the low-down on Amsterdam's best cafes and coffee shops (plus the crucial differences!).
15. Have a real laugh at the Rozentheater
The best night out in Amsterdam has to be at Boom Chicago at the Rozentheater, where an ever-changing cast writes and performs both sketch and improvisational comedy. It’s a fast-paced show (and yes, you might just get called up out of the audience) but you’ll be settled in at your own table and there is plenty of Heineken to get you warmed up. Their programme also features a brilliant stream of satirical contemporary shows responding to the news of the day, including a 2017 play based on the US election of Donald Trump (tickets from €20.50).
How to get to Amsterdam
Amsterdam's a popular city break destination from the UK, so there are many airports where you'll find direct flights, largely with budget airlines like easyJet and Flybe. Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast all operate flights to Amsterdam, as do London airports Heathrow, Gatwick, London City and Luton.
The main airport for the city, and one of the busiest in Europe, is Amsterdam Schipol, 21km south-west of Amsterdam Centrum.
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Where to stay in Amsterdam
London’s uber-hip Hoxton Hotel recently opened its first non-London outpost, on Amsterdam’s Herengracht. Made up of five canal houses, the Hoxton Amsterdam has 111 artsy rooms spread over five floors, from £111 a night. 3-star option Westcord Art Hotel is no less characterful, with huge bright murals above the headboards and a waterfront location facing Amsterdam Noord (doubles from £65).
Cheaper digs can be found at the Flying Pig Uptown, an colourful and unapologetic 'party hostel' with a friendly Dammer vibe (from £17 a night).