Amsterdam is another one of those incredible, unique cities, mostly thanks to the many canals the city is situated upon. I’ve been to Amsterdam three times now, twice for overnight visits and once for a day trip when I was visiting my brother in Antwerp. Let me start by saying a day is definitely not long enough to spend in this beautiful place – you’ll want 3 days, ideally 4-5 if you want to explore other towns in the area, such as Delft, or even cities like Antwerp or Brussels that are close enough to see in a day as well. This post will focus on Amsterdam itself, though, so read on for specific activity and hotel recommendations!
Here are some of the must-see places for your visit to Amsterdam. There’s a lot here, so you can see why I recommend at least 3 days. If your time is tight, be prepared to get up early and to sleep on the plane/train!
- Museums: there are three amazing art museums all situated along Museumplein within close proximity to one another. Depending on the amount of time you have, you can check out one, two, or all three of them! The Rijksmuseum is the famous art museum, the Van Gogh Museum is just that, home to many works of Vincent Van Gogh, and the Moco Museum is a modern and contemporary art museum that features the works of Banksy and Dalí. Lastly, if art isn’t your thing but you want to pass the time while your friends/family are inside one of these three museums, the nearby House of Bols offers a multi-sensory genever experience that is really fun (and you get a cocktail the end!). Here are the details on times and fees:
- Rijksmuseum: open 9am-5pm daily; entry is 17,50 euro for adults
- Van Gogh Museum: open 9am-7pm Sunday-Thursday and 9am-9pm Friday and Saturday; entry is 18 euro for adults
- Moco Museum: open 9am-7pm Sunday-Thursday and 9am-9pm Friday and Saturday; entry is 12,50 euro for adults
- House of Bols: open 1pm-6:30pm Sunday-Thursday and 1pm-9pm Friday and Saturday; entry is 16 euro for adults
- I AMsterdam Sign: this is situated in the middle of museumplein, so it’s very hard to miss. Though be prepared – there will be people climbing all over it, so if you’re looking for a tourist-free picture, you’ll need to go SUPER early. I’ve been twice, and I’m sure you can tell which was the early AM versus mid-day in the pics below
- Dam Square and the Royal Palace of Amsterdam: it’d be hard to visit Amsterdam and not at some point find your way in Dam Square as it is right in the center of the action. You dont have to spend a ton of time, and it’s pretty packed with tourists at all times, but the Palace is a must-see
- Oude Kerk: a beautiful 13th-century Church, interestingly enough located just off of the main part of the Red Light District. I’ve never actually gone inside the church, but it’s quite beautiful and worth checking out when you’re in Amsterdam
- Leidseplein: this is a really cute square with tons of bars and restaurants (there are 6 lined up in a row on one side). Grab a table outside in the square, order a pint and some fries with mayo (it sounds gross, but there is something in the mayo in Amsterdam that makes it SO good!); All of the restaurants/bars in the square would be fine to check out, but we really enjoyed Cafe de Waard if you’re looking for a specific recommendation
- Anne Frank House: I highly recommend buying tickets online beforehand so you can skip the massive lines; also be prepared for lots of stairs!
- Vondelpark: just off of Museumplein and the I AMsterdam sign, this is a beautiful park (think “Central Park” but in Amsterdam). Grab a picnic and hang for a couple hours if you have the time, otherwise it’s nice for a quick stroll as well
- Brouwerij’t IJ: this is a brewery under a windmill, and it’s amazing. It’s a little further away from most of the main sights, so grab some bikes and head over (or take public transit!). We grabbed a flight and sat outside under the windmill for the perfect afternoon break
- There’s also the Heineken Experience, but the lines get really long, so buy tickets online in advance if you’re planning on going!
- The Red Light District is also something most people want to see while in Amsterdam. It’s not really a defined district, per se, but there are several areas where you’ll start to notice lots of red lights once the sun sets. The majority of the places are around the Oude Kerk as I mentioned above, but they’re all over
- Last but FAR from least, the Canals: spend some time walking along the canals, especially the less trafficked ones. Some of my favorites are Brouwersgracht, Prinsengracht, Leidsegracht, Singel, Kaisersgracht, Lijnbaansgracht, Amstel, and Herengracht (specifically the parts that are off the beaten path and away from the main bridges)
I almost didn’t want to mention our accommodations because there are only two rooms available, and I want the canal view unit to be available any time I go to Amsterdam. But because it was so wonderful, I have to share. For specifics on why Apartment Brewery Inn is so amazing, including rates and the amazing canal views, check here.
Getting from Schipol Airport is super easy. Just take the train from the airport to Amsterdam Centraal Station, which drops you right into the heart of the city. Getting around Amsterdam is also very easy, and you really have four main options: cycling, walking, train, via the canals. You’ll see some cars, but really most people, especially locals, opt to bike around. We took the train a couple of times, but mostly we either walked, biked, or took a canal boat. It was a bit touristy, but on one trip, we bought tickets for the hop-on, hop-off canal cruise for 48 hours so we used that as our primary mode of transportation between places for two days (you can buy tickets here). It allowed us to get the canal cruise experience, see different sights from the water, and get places in a more scenic way.
What are your favorite things to do in Amsterdam? Any favorite day trips? Drop me a line – i’d love to hear!