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If you’ve never been to Amsterdam, you should add it to your travel bucket list ASAP. While famously known for its Red Light District and more promiscuous side, there is so much more to Amsterdam — which explains why culture vultures, food lovers, and students from all over the world love to visit. There’s a magical energy in the Dutch capital that keeps people returning again and again. This calm city has a rich culture, and some of the best museums in the world — not to mention the beautiful stretching canals, narrow colored houses, and amazing architecture that forms picture-perfect backdrops everywhere you go. Amsterdam is the ideal place for a budget city break. This is our ultimate guide so you know what to do in Amsterdam and can navigate the chilled out capital like a boss.

 

Amsterdam Canal
Amsterdam Canal © Courtesy of Shutterstock

 

The Different Amsterdam Districts

Rent a bike in Amsterdam and explore the city’s neighborhoods faster on two wheels. This is how the locals prefer to get around. There are several different neighborhoods in Amsterdam and each has something different to offer. Each district boasts its own character and charm. Jordaan is perhaps the most famous of the districts that lies within the city center — here, you may stumble upon the 9 Streets where different shopping lanes link the canals.

Jordaan, Amsterdam
Jordaan neighborhood in Amsterdam © Courtesy of Shutterstock

De Pijp is another neighbourhood not to miss. This is the city’s lively Latin Quarter, buzzing with restaurants, quaint cafes and bars. De Pijp has a bit of of a bohemian vibe.
Amsterdam Noord is located across the water and well worth taking a ferry across from Central Station to spend a day. A hub of culture, incredible architecture, and cool coffee shops, Noord is more like a village within the city. You have to check out the A’dam Tower, home to Europe’s highest swing where you can get panoramic views of the city.

Other Places to Visit in Amsterdam:

  • Ood West
  • NDSM
  • Westerpark

 

Amsterdam Noord
Amsterdam Noord © Courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Things to do in Amsterdam: Favorite Culture and History Spots

Amsterdam’s party scene is one of the best in Europe, but culture vultures can easily get their fix too, as the city boasts some of the most famous and incredible cultural spots that the continent has to offer.

iamsterdam
Museumplein (Museum Square) and Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam © Courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam. If you love museums, this is our top recommendation while in the city to learn more about Dutch culture, art and history.

Van Gogh Museum

Vincent van Gogh was a 19th century Dutch Post-Impressionist painter whose work played an enormous role in the development of art in the 20th century. In the Museum District, the Van Gogh Museum holds the largest collection of Van Gogh artwork than any other gallery in the world. Over 200 paintings, 500 drawings and 700 letters written and created by Van Gogh can be seen here in Amsterdam’s most renowned art gallery.

Anne Frank House

Anne Frank House is right in Amsterdam’s city centre and is one of the most famous attractions in the city. This all-too-real experience tour shows what it was like for Anne Frank and her family to live a hidden life for two years in the Secret Annex, hiding from the Nazis during World War II. See how tight the corners are, how easy it is to make noise on the creaky wooden floorboards, and just how small the room is in which they all slept. This is one museum that once you’ve been, you will never forget.

Anne Frank House
What to do in Amsterdam: Anne Frank House © Courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Molen van Sloten

The Netherlands is famous for its windmills so you have to see one while in Amsterdam. Molen van Sloten is the only windmill left functioning in Amsterdam from 1847, and has now been turned into a tourist hotspot attracting people from all over to see it at work. Take one of the daily guided tours given by volunteers who give you the lowdown on how it all works with a few demonstrations. It’s a little out of the main city center, but definitely worth it.

Amsterdam Food: Street Food, Markets & Cafes

There are so many delicious eats and unique places to dine in this colorful city. Discover the best local spots, markets, and more!

Must-try Dutch Food

Eat like the locals and indulge in Dutch street food. Obviously, you have to try some Dutch waffles when in Amsterdam, but for the authentic local food, experience try some of these specialties:

Dutch Waffles
Dutch Waffles © Courtesy of Shutterstock

Bitterballen is a favorite when it comes to Dutch snacks. Head to De Ballen Bar for the best Dutch bitterballen, a tasty hot street food in the shape of meatballs. These deep-fried balls contain a mixture of beef, veal and sometimes even chicken.

Bitterballen in Amsterdam
What to do in Amsterdam: Try Bitterballen © Courtesy of Shutterstock

Haring (aka herring) is raw fish eaten in Amsterdam. Served on either paper plates with onions and pickles or served on bread, it’s one of the signature foods of the Netherlands. Stubbe’s Haring fish stall sells haring, as well as other stalls that will be hard to miss.
Now for something sweet: Appeltaart is a local favourite. This dessert cake is sold in every bakery and featured on every cafe menu because it’s so delicious!

Foodhallen Food Market

What once was one of Amsterdam’s tram depots is now a foodie’s heaven. Discover the very best of culinary Amsterdam at the city’s enormous indoor food market: Foodhallen. Everything from street food to Michelin-star dishes are served up from around 20 delicious stalls to tickle the taste buds of the hundreds of visitors it welcomes each day. Bitterballen, dim sum, burgers, noodles, pizzas, mezze… the list goes on!

Albert Cuypmarkt

Albert Cuypmarkt is a market of all sorts, offering clothes, flowers, accessories, electronics, fabrics, but most importantly, food. Find delicious sweet Dutch classics like stroopwafels and poffertjes as well as raw herring sandwiches and toasties. This is Amsterdam’s biggest and busiest market and a definite must-visit when you’re in the city.

Coffee in Amsterdam: Where to Get Your Fix

The coffee scene in Amsterdam is well above average with hipster roasteries popping up all over the city. During a day of sightseeing, there’s nothing better than a quick stop at a local coffee shop to put your feet up, sip on something warm and tuck into a slice of Dutch cake. Stop for a caffeine fix at one of our favorite coffee bars in the city. A few of our picks are Screaming Beans, Sweet Cup and White Label. Find out more of Amsterdam’s best coffee spots.

Coffee and Pie in Amsterdam
Coffee and Pie in Amsterdam © Courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Where to Smoke in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is also famous for the other kind of coffee shops. Amsterdam is known for its relaxed laws on smoking marijuana, and coffee shops are a legal, safe place to enjoy some puff. You’ve not done Dam until you’ve had a smoke in a coffee shop — and they are everywhere. Remember to bring your ID as the legal age to smoke weed is 18.
Our favourite coffee shops: The Rookies, Coffee Shop Ibiza, and Smokey (Smokey is great for the less keen smoker, this menu offers plenty of alternatives. Why not try a Smokey home baked muffin?) If you’re a first timer, read this beginner’s guide to Amsterdam’s coffee shops.

Smokey Cafe in Amsterdam
What to do in Amsterdam: Go to Smokey Cafe © Courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Free Things to do in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is not just weed and bikes. One thing that makes Amsterdam so backpacker-friendly is that the city can be enjoyed on a budget. There are so many free things to do in Amsterdam, which means you can save your euros for food and drinks later. Here are just a few of the free things you can do in Amsterdam:

Red Light District Amsterdam
Amsterdam Red Light District © Courtesy of Shutterstock

 

  • Take a Sandemans Free Walking Tour of the city
  • Check out the street art on Spuistraat
  • See the narrowest house in the world at Singel 7
  • Explore the Red Light District
  • Visit the Condomerie
  • Enjoy the city’s parks and green spaces (Oosterpark allows BBQs)
  • i Amsterdam sign – one of the most photographed places in Amsterdam
  • Free boat ride: the ferry departs every few minutes behind Centraal station.

 

Vondelpark in Amsterdam
What to do in Amsterdam: Go to Vondelpark © Courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Amsterdam Attractions & Top Instagrammable Spots

Amsterdam is one of the most Instagrammable places in the world, so make sure you have enough charge on your phone or camera to take plenty of photos. Check out some of the best spots that won’t let you down for a 10/10 Instagram post:

Damrak Canal
The narrow houses along Damrak Canal © Courtesy of Shuttersock

 

  • Keukenhof Gardens
  • The Prince’s Canal (Prinsengracht)
  • Narrow houses of Damrak
  • Zevenlandenhuizen
  • The A’Dam Lookout

 

Keukenhof Gardens
What to do in Amsterdam: Visit Keukenhof Gardens © Courtesy of Shutterstock

Check out more instagrammable places in Amsterdam here.

Amsterdam Nightlife

Many travelers come to Amsterdam to party, and for good reason. This vibrant city is sure to show you a fantastic night out that you may or may not remember.

Amsterdam nightlife
What to do in Amsterdam: Check out the nightlife © Courtesy of Shutterstock

Belushi’s is the perfect place to party and meet other backpackers. Located in the bustling Red Light District, it’s one of a few clubs on the stretch that stays open late (3 a.m. on weekdays, 4 a.m. on weekends)! Hosting crazy parties, DJs, and live music of different genres, it’s a popular spot in town for locals and tourists. Belushi’s offers daily drink deals every single day, which makes it an affordable night out and twice the fun. For more, check out the 9 Best Clubs in Amsterdam.

Day trips from Amsterdam

Amsterdam is surrounded by some of the Netherland’s coolest underrated cities that are well worth checking out. You can take a day trip from Amsterdam by train, which is comfortable and convenient. With the city’s fantastic transport connections, you can get to Rotterdam, Leiden, Noordwijk (for the beach) and Haarlem, all in under an hour.

Rotterdam
What to do in Amsterdam: Take a day trip to Rotterdam © Courtesy of Shutterstock

Amsterdam is loved for good reason, but why not check out these amazing trips you can make from the city in just a day.

Where to Stay in Amsterdam

You won’t find a more central location to base yourself than the Flying Pig Uptown, a budget backpacker hostel overlooking the pretty Vondelpark. Find the hostel right in the heart of Amsterdam, close to the Van Gogh museum and just 5 minutes from the Leidseplein Square, a buzzing area famous for the many clubs, coffee shops, restaurants and bars in Amsterdam. The hostel is located in a typical old-Amsterdam mansion with its own smoking area.
Location: Vossiusstraat 46/47, 1071 AJ Amsterdam, Netherlands — VIEW MAP
Contact: +31 20 400 4187 | Website

More Information About What to do in Amsterdam:

Did you love this article about what to do in Amsterdam? Trying to find even more information about the top things to see and do here? Then check out these articles we have rounded up to help you make the most out of your trip to Amsterdam!

 

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What to do in Amsterdam

About the Author

Mad Monkey is Southeast Asia’s leading hostel operator — born in Cambodia with more properties in Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Laos, and the Philippines. We pride ourselves in creating meaningful and sustainable travel experiences for our guests, whilst promoting socially responsible tourism.