The best local guides will take you to all the must-see places to see and visit on your trip to Amsterdam so you don’t miss any of those amazing landmarks in the city commonly referred to as the “Venice of the North.” Get the most out of your weekend stay in Amsterdam by prioritizing what you really want to see on your weekend stay in Amsterdam.
The best way to visit and see Amsterdam: do a free walking tour
Discover this city by doing one of the free tours in Amsterdam that you’ll find on GuruWalk. A local guide will help you to get to know the culture and history of the local monuments and landmarks on your tour of the Netherland‘s capital.
If you haven’t had the chance to do one of these pay-what-you-please walking tours, you can read up on what it is here so you’ll know what to expect on this type of guided tour.
How can I visit Amsterdam in 1 or 3 days?
If you are planning on visiting the Venice of the North soon, here you have our list of must-see places and stops for your trip. When you are planning what to do and see in Amsterdam it’s important to take into consideration what are the most iconic or popular places in the city.
If you want to visit the city at a more relaxed pace but still see all those things that interest you, you can always reserve a guruwalk and not miss a thing.
1. Take a trip back in time to the Rijksmuseum
The National Museum of the Netherlands is an essential stop on your trip to get a general idea of the country’s history. Here you can do a quick rundown of the Netherlands’ history from the year 1100 up to today by way of the 8000 objects on display in its 80 exhibit halls. Among such a vast collection, we’d have to say that the Doll Houses and the Delft collection of fine porcelain stand out for their exceptional beauty.
The paintings by the master artists from the Golden Age of Dutch Painting, like Vermeer, Jan Steen and Frans Hals, are the most popular in the museum, especially the museum’s collection of masterpieces by Rembrandt, including The Night Watch.
The top must-see places to visit in Amsterdam
It not just what’s on exhibit at the museum that will attract you, the building itself which has recently been restored is a true architectural masterpiece on its own.
Since it is such a popular and transited museum, we recommend that you go first thing in the morning to avoid the rush and see all the amazing art at your own pace. It is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day and it has a cool audio-guide available in different languages that can you download on the museum’s application. The entrance fee costs €20 per person and people under 18 get in for free. Buying your ticket in advance can also help get you in faster and skip the line.
2. Take a boat ride or just walk along Amsterdam’s canals
How can you go to Amsterdam and not take the chance to visit its canals? Impossible! These wonders declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO can be visited by just walking on land and water.
A walk along the canals will allow you to discover the city and its most beautiful buildings on the Gouden Bocht, the stretch of the Herengracht canal between Leidsestraat and Vijzelstraat streets. At the corner of Reguliersgrach and Herengracht streets is the Bridge of the 15 bridges. From there, on the side of the street with the odd-numbered houses, you can enjoy one of the most romantic views of the city at dusk. If you don’t arrive then, you can entertain yourself by counting the fourteen bridges seen from there. The Magere Brug is one of the most picturesque drawbridges and is also a mandatory stop.
Without a doubt, the best way to get to know the channels is to take a boat ride in them. There are companies that rent water bikes or offer short cruises which are always an unforgettable experience!
The water bicycles have three stops on Stadhouderskade streets, 42; Stadhouderskade, 11 and Prinsengracht, 280. They cost around €15.50 per person and can be rented in summer from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and in winter from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The Amsterdam boat cruises, which leave from in front of the Central station, cost €18 for adults and €10 for children 4 to 12 years old. Children under 4 travel free. Departure times are every 20 minutes between 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM, and every 30 minutes between 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM.
If being near the water is not your thing or you want to expand on the information you got about the canals, you can visit the Grachtenhuis. This museum informs you about their history with an interactive multimedia exhibition and numerous models. The building where it is located is also worth mentioning since bankers and merchants lived there since 1663, including Jan Willink, the famous supporter of the Americans in the Revolutionary War.
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., while Mondays it is closed. General admission costs €15, children between 4 and 13 years pay €7.50, and retirees and students have a reduced admission of €12.50. For children under 3 years, access is free. There are also special discounts for families. You can buy your tickets in advance and avoid unnecessary lines.
3. Let yourself be dazzled by the Van Gogh Museum
This museum houses the largest collection of artwork by the Dutch Post-Impressionist master of the 19th century. It is curious how even though, in his life, Vincent van Gogh did not sell more than a painting, he had such a great influence on the art of the future, as he is considered today to be one of the great masters of the history of universal art. Proof of the importance of this artist is the high number of annual visitors to the museum itself, with about two million a year. The most outstanding masterpieces that are on exhibit there are the paintings: Sunflowers, The Potato Eaters, and his various self-portraits. The visit will shed some light on the life and times of the famous painter.
The museum is always quite busy, which is why we suggest you visit it first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds. Tickets can only be purchased online and it is better to do it well in advance to make sure you get the chance to visit at the time or date you want. It is open every day, except January 1. The 2019 schedules are from September 2 to October 27 from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., from October 28 to December 22 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and from December 23 to December 31 from 9:00 a.m. to 19:00 p.m. Fridays it is open from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Tickets cost €19 and visitors under 18 are free.
4. Check out the surprising Houseboats
Nothing is more logical in a city full of canals, than having a lot of houseboats. They are authentic homes that are moored on urban waters. In the beginning, they were used as a method to reduce the housing problem after World War II and as a way to reuse cargo ships from the Dutch fleet.
If you prefer accommodation on land but you are still feeling curious, you can always visit one of these houses that has been converted into a ship-museum. The Houseboat Museum, located on a former cargo ship from 1914, offers you the chance to check one out that is full of traditional details.
This museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It costs €4.50, for children under 15 years, it’s €3.50 and it is free for children under 5 years. Tickets can only be purchased on the ship itself.
5. Feel like you’re in a Fairy Tale in Volendam
One of the most recommended excursions from Amsterdam is the fishing village of Volendam. Its isolated location has contributed to preserving its peculiar traditional character which can be seen in their homes, traditional costumes, their dialect and even in their own musical style.
It is best to discover this village walking through its streets, its squares, its port and visit the eel smokehouse. Here is the perfect place to do your souvenir shopping, as you will find numerous handicraft and gastronomy products: from typical Dutch wooden clogs to delicious cheeses. This day trip is really worth it and one you should include in your trip!
6. Be moved by visiting the Anne Frank House
Anne Frank was a Jewish girl who lived hidden in this house with her family and two others during the Nazi occupation from June 1942 to August 1944. But by this time, they were discovered and deported to different concentration camps. No family member survived except the father, Otto Frank. Anne was 15 years old at the time. The teenager’s experiences during that period were described by herself in a journal, or the famous Diary of Anne Frank. This moving personal account of the Holocaust was subsequently published and turned into a unique testimony of the Jewish persecution by the Germans.
In the house-museum, you can visit the apartment where the three families were hidden during those years. The furniture was confiscated when they were arrested, but fragments of the diary’s manuscript, photographs, documents, and personal belongings have been left on exhibit to give you a living idea of what happened in those rooms.
If you want to have the opportunity to visit the house, you have to buy tickets online well in advance because it is a very popular museum. Schedules are from April 1st to November 1st every day from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., from November 1st to April 1st every day from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. at 10:00 p.m. It is closed on October 9th by Yom Kippur. The ticket price is €10.50 for adults, €5.50 for children between 10 and 17 years old, and €0.50 for children under 10 years old.
7. Check out the Coffeeshops
The famous coffeeshops are coffee shops where you can buy and consume soft drugs. You can find them spread out across the whole city. In the Netherlands, these types of drugs were legalized in the 1970s to prevent and reduce the use of harder drugs. Although it seems like a very permissive country, in reality, the regulations are very strict, and you can only purchase and consume in these licensed coffee shops legally.
The entry of minors is not allowed and identification is required before entering. In most of the coffeeshops, they also serve non-alcoholic drinks and “normal” food, but they have a second menu in which they offer products derived from marijuana and cannabis. Even if you do not consume these substances you can always go in for a while just to check it out.
8. Breathe in the peace of Begijnhof
Begijnhof is a courtyard surrounded by modest homes where the Blessed Sisters, a community of women, lived under a vow of chastity without being nuns. After the prohibition of the Catholic religion in the sixteenth century, the Begijnhof continued to exist, since the houses were and still are privately owned, but the chapel was closed. Later, a clandestine church was built that still exists and can be visited today.
Legend has it that a devotee, Cornelia Arens wanted to be buried in the patio’s sewer. Despite her last wish, when she died she was buried in the church. The next day and then on, the coffin is reported to have mysteriously appeared in the sewer until the sisterhood gave up and left her buried there.
Nowadays, although the last devotee has died, the houses are still inhabited and the rest and privacy of the neighbors must be respected, so it is not allowed to take photos, leave the walking trails for visitors or make any unnecessary noise.
One of these houses stands out because it is the only wooden dwelling left in the city: the Houten Huys, built in 1528.
The patio can be visited daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
9. Get to know what’s up with the Red Light District
The history of the Red Light District, famous for having prostitution in showcases or window fronts, is very old. The neighborhood owes its name to the red lights that were formerly used as an attraction for customers between the curtains of the windows.
One of the most interesting things to do here is a visit to the Prostitution Museum, where you will learn a lot about this activity and you can even put yourself in these workers’ place- in one of the shop windows. The museum is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. and is only accessible to those over 18. The half-day ticket (until 1:00 p.m.) costs €10 and the whole day ticket €12,50.
What to see and do in Amsterdam’s Red Light District?
It is important to know that in 2018 tourist visits began to be regulated with very strict rules to protect the privacy and safety of women workers. It is completely forbidden to take photos, stand in front of doors or windows, look between the curtains, display any aggressive behavior, go there drunk or knock on the glass of the windows. This regulation is part of a more extensive and thorough plan to regulate legal prostitution in the city.
10. Learn all about beer with the Heineken Experience
In the old Heineken brewery, closed since 1988, there is an exhibition where you can learn about the beer manufacturing process, the history of the brand and try some of its varieties.
This destination is open every day of the year, from Monday to Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and from Friday to Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The price depends on the type of visit you want to do. The most basic visit is 90 minutes with an audio guide and two beers, which costs €18 if you buy the ticket online. Minors must be accompanied by an adult and will receive, instead of the gift beer, a soda.
11. Stop and smell the roses at the Flower Market
This curious floating market originated in 1862, when growers went with their boats downtown to sell their flowers. Over time, these vessels became fixed in the Singel canal and even began to build small greenhouses on top.
It is local’s favorite place to buy fresh flowers at any time of the year. Currently, there are more and more souvenir shops, but there is no souvenir from the Netherlands more typical than a few bulbs of your favorite tulip.
It is open from Monday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
12. Admire the monuments in Dam Square
This square is the most famous in the city and is where the Royal Palace and the National Monument are located.
The Royal Palace of the Netherlands was the old city hall. The imposing building that was built during the Dutch Golden Age was inaugurated in 1655 and it was not until two centuries later that it was converted into a palace. Currently, receptions and other events are held there, but you can also visit and learn about the life of ancient royalty among the marble galleries, numerous sculptures, and period paintings.
Visits can be made daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but it is better to check the calendar on the website to see the days on which it is closed. The price is €10 for adults and free for children under 18. Free audio guides are also available in many languages.
When you cross the square you find the National Monument, a memorial monument to the victims of World War II on which every May 4th, the Nationale Dodenherdenking, the royal family, present a floral offering in memory of the victims of war violence around the world and observe two minutes of silence.
13.Go treasure hunting in Spui Square
The attraction of this central square is its art and literature markets. Every Sunday from March to December the art market opens and, every Friday, the book market. It is a phenomenal opportunity to acquire works of art directly from the creators, as well as to find that special book in the piles of literature on offer.
The art market works with a rotation system, this way there is almost never the same artist each week. An authentic work of art purchased from a local artist is the best souvenir you can imagine. It is open every Sunday from March to December from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
The book market is a meeting point for writers, readers, and collectors. The other days of the week there is also intellectual activity in the square as it houses three popular bookstores, an editorial house and a space for literary events. The cafes around are frequented by authors and other characters from the cultural landscape.
14. Discover the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest church
This church located in the Red Light District is the oldest in Amsterdam. Its origin can be traced back to 1213 when in the place where it is today there was a small wooden chapel used by sailors and fishermen in the area. Later, in 1306, he was officially consecrated to St. Nicholas, their patron. With the passage of time, the building has been changing and expanding to become the beautiful church that we can admire today. He considers that it was a Catholic and later Calvinist temple, so he has suffered all kinds of looting and destruction, but is part of the life and soul of the city.
The beauty of its stained-glass windows, the curious collection of miniature ships reminiscent of its sailor origins, the beautiful medieval paintings in the wooden vault and the decorative organs make this a very special church and worthy of a detailed visit.
In 2016, the Oude Kerk took a turn towards modernity and has become an exhibition hall where both local and foreign artists are invited to exhibit and create their works of art in this unique frame full of history.
Visiting hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The ticket costs €10 and has audio guides.
15. Live like a painter from the 17th Century in the Rembrandt House Museum
If you want to know how the genius of painting lived, this place is for you. Thanks to the fact that he was evicted in 1658 and an inventory was made of all the objects that were in the house, it has been possible to make a recreation quite faithful to reality. Entering there is like taking a little trip in time. In addition, you can see paintings by various contemporaries of Rembrandt, his master Pieter Lastman and his students, engravings of the artist himself and other temporary exhibitions.
It is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. General admission costs €14, for children 6 to 17 years it costs €5 and for children under 6 years is free.
Map with the essential places to see in Amsterdam
We hope you enjoyed this list of the essential places to visit in Amsterdam and remember that our gurus will help you to get the most out of your time in this amazing city. Enjoy it!
A very complete travel guide. Amsterdam is a big city and this help is good not to miss the most important places.
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