I’ve just returned from my third trip to Amsterdam and it’s safe to say this Dutch Capital is one of my favourite cities to visit. With a very short flight from the UK, it’s never been easier to explore the beautiful canals, take in Amsterdam’s famous sights and enjoy all the pretty damn good food! Amsterdam is one of the hottest city break destinations in Europe right with tourism figures booming. It’s not all about the city centre though, there are so many different neighbourhoods worth exploring – which I did on my latest trip.
Although I’m no means an expert on Amsterdam, I thought I’d put together a pretty large guide to the city with everything I know. To make things easier, I’ve split everything into categories which you can easily navigate below.
- Getting There (From The UK)
- Where to Stay
- When to Visit
- My Top 7 Must Do’s
- Free Things To Do In Amsterdam
- The I Amsterdam City Card
- Where To Eat & Drink
- Exploring Different Neighbourhoods
- Museums & Tours
- Day Trips from Amsterdam
Amsterdam is one of the easiest European cities to visit from the UK with a flight time of less than an hour and prices starting at £30 each way. This last time, We drove to Manchester Airport and left the car in their Meet and Greet Car Park right at the terminal door. It was the easiest parking situation I’ve ever had at an airport and I’ve also got a code – “RNPark10” to get 10% off for Manchester Airport Parking if you are flying from there soon! We flew from Manchester on an easyJet flight but previously I’ve flown with Jet2 from Leeds Bradford for as little as £25!
I prefer flying as within a couple of hours you can get from the UK and into central Amsterdam. Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is only a 20-minute train journey into the city centre.
Amsterdam is also reachable by sea! A couple of years ago, I sailed from Hull to Rotterdam on a P&O Mini Cruise. They currently have some amazing deals where you can spend two evenings at sea and the day in Amsterdam for as little as £40pp. You can stay a night in the city at an extra charge. I’ve written about my P&O Mini Cruise Experience here.
Alternatively, DFDS do a similar mini cruise from Newcastle with also some great wintertime deals. Although the trip across the North Sea takes quite some time, there’s plenty of entertainment such as bingo, live music and lot’s of food on board! Stena Line is another ferry company which offer crossings from Harwich and they provide rail and sail packages from Central London.
In the last couple of months, Eurostar has launched a London to Amsterdam route which will be running twice daily. The journey takes just under four hours and takes you straight into the Amsterdam Centraal Station. The return journey involves a quick change in Brussels and at the moment there are seats starting at £35 each way.
There really are some incredible hotels in Amsterdam with some seriously stylish new openings. Areas around Dam Square, Centraal Station and within the Canal Ring are an ideal location for sightseeing but they do tend to be on the pricier side.
The W Amsterdam
If you are looking for a slice of luxury, then The W Amsterdam is the one for you. Boasting an incredible rooftop pool which overlooks the famous Dam Square and incredible Spa facilities, the W Amsterdam is the perfect residence to inject some relaxation into your city break. As you can imagine the rooms at the W are pretty special showcasing innovative and modern designs.
Radisson Blu, Amsterdam
No matter what city you are in, you can’t go wrong with a Radisson Blu. The Amsterdam’s Radisson Blu is located centrally on the canals in what was once an 18th-century merchant’s home. The Radisson Blu Amsterdam now has 252 beautifully designed rooms minutes away from some of the cities top sights. The hotel is also home to The Pastorie Bar and Restaurant De Palmboom.
The Eden Hotel, Amsterdam
The Eden Hotel is located on the Amstel and only a short walk from the central Flower Market. I’ve previously stayed here and would really recommend. It’s an affordable mid-range hotel with a great location. I believe the hotel has been rebranded and revamped since I last stayed here and judging by their website, the rooms are looking great!
The Student Hotel West, Amsterdam
We stayed at The Student Hotel West on our last trip to the city. Although the hotel was located around 30 minutes from the city centre via tram, there were direct links to Dam Square and the Anne Frank House. The hotel was located right by a Metro Station and from there you could reach Schipol Airport in just under 20 minutes.
The hotel is a really unique concept as there are actual Student’s living here. It’s got a really cool vibe though with pool tables, ping pong and lots of working spaces in the lobby. We didn’t actually go to their restaurant and bar but I’ve read some great things about it. The rooms were styled really nicely but the bathrooms were quite basic. We did actually get this hotel as part of a Flight & Hotel Package on Expedia but for four nights, it was a really affordable option. There is also a Student City Hotel which is located near Oosterpark.
I personally think Amsterdam is a city you can visit anytime, all year round. There’s always amazing events taking place and I’ve been lucky to visit at very different times of the year to get the full seasonal experience.
It can get very chilly during winter with quite a lot of rain but seeing Amsterdam in the snow is one on my bucket list. When the canals ice over, you can actually go ice skating! I’m not too sure it would be an activity for me but I’d love to see the sight of people skating across the famous canals which in some areas has a sailing ban so the public can take to the ice.
Throughout the months of November and December, there are many different festive events and the Christmas Markets come to town. Another huge event for Amsterdam is The Light Festival which is taking place between the 29 November 2018 until 20 January 2019 and sees lighting and installations across Amsterdam. There’s a lot more of information about The upcoming Light Festival here including information on the best cruises to view the lights from the canals.
The biggest event in the Dutch Calendar is Kings Day which takes place April 27th every year. Kings Day celebrates the King and is a public holiday and huge carnival throughout the country with open-air parties, music and festivities.
Spring is also a great time to visit Amsterdam as this is when you will be able to visit the bloomin’ tulip fields. I’m yet to visit the Tulips but it’s something my Mum and I both would really love to see. Tulip season tends to be towards the end of March to mid-May and Keukenhof which also known as the Garden of Europe in the South of Holland sees nearly 7 million flowers and over 800 varieties bloom.
Summer in Amsterdam is just lovely with great temperatures perfect for walks along the canals and visiting the near by beaches. August is also when Gay Pride takes place with a Canal Boat parade.
My last visit to Amsterdam was in Autumn, at the end of October. I was so excited to see the canals aligned with golden leaves and it really was very pretty. The temperatures weren’t too cold with it being around 15 degrees and the sun shining most days! We had just missed the big Museum Night where the big museums are open late into the night hosting their own parties to the public. It actually sounded pretty fun – It’s a real-life Night in a Museum!
- Anne Frank House
One of my must do’s for Amsterdam is visiting the Anne Frank House. I’ve only been once but I think it’s an extremely important place to visit to see where Anne Frank lived and hid in her secret annex with her family during World War 2. This is the house where she wrote her famous diary and it’s just an incredible experience to learn so much about such an important part of history. It can be pretty hard to get tickets to visit and you must pre-book online as there are no tickets available on the door. The tickets are sold online two months in advance but they do release a number of tickets each morning.
2. Canal Boat Tour
The best way to see Amsterdam is from the Canals and every time I’ve visited Amsterdam I’ve done this. You can see so much of the city in just an hour or so and you can sit back and relax whilst sailing through the maze of canals. I’d actually also recommend taking a canal boat if it’s raining as most of them are covered and you can be sheltered whilst still seeing the sights.
There are so many different companies that you can sail with. Each time, I’ve actually gone with a different company and I’d say the best one I went on was the Blue Boat Amsterdam Cruises which departs from outside of The Hard Rock Café. If you are around the Centraal Station area, the Lovers Boat Cruise is also a really good tour. We went on a night cruise on my last visit and it was lovely. I’ll be talking about the I Amsterdam Card in further detail below but a Canal Cruise is included with the card which is a really great perk.
The biggest museum in The Netherlands is the Rijksmuseum, it’s basically The Louvre of Amsterdam with incredible artwork, sculptures and history. The museum is home to many famous paintings by artists such as Van Gough (who has his own museum across the park), Rembrandt and Vermeer. The must-see piece in the museum is The Night Watch by Rembrandt, this really draws in the crowds.
The museum itself is an incredible building and many visitors come to the area to get a snap in front of the I Amsterdam sign which is in front of the Rijksmuseum. Museumplein is a lovely area and a central hub for many museums such as the Van Gogh Museum and Museum of Modern Art (MOCO Museum).
4. A’Dam Lookout
Discover 360 panoramic views over the city from the A’Dam Lookout in Amsterdam NOORD which is accessible from Centraal Station via a free ferry. The A’Dam Lookout is home to Europe’s highest swing which I conquered my fears and got up there! The tower costs €12.50 but I’d say a premium ticket is worth it for €18.50 as this includes two drinks (which can be alcoholic) in the skyline bar. The swing is an additional €5 when you get there and you can book a time slot. I’ve got to admit the swing is quite scary as it does take you over the edge but it’s still an unmissable experience.
5. Eating all the FOOD!
One of my favourite things about Amsterdam is the food. There seems to be so many amazing restaurants in the city and also who doesn’t love Dutch Pancakes?! I’m going to go into further detail about some of my favourite places to eat down below but I’d recommend trying the local dishes such as Bitterballen, Stroopwaffles, their famous frites, Appletaart and of course, Pancakes!
6. Dam Square
You can’t visit Amsterdam without walking through Dam Square. This area is in the central old town district and is the main tourist hub of Amsterdam. You’ll find all the souvenir shops here, Madame Tussaud’s, the main department stores and it’s a stone’s throw from the famous Red Light District. Dam Square is home to the Royal Palace and although, it’s no longer a royal residence it’s a pretty spectacular building!
7. Heineken Experience
I never thought I’d be putting the Heineken Experience on my Must See list as I don’t even drink beer BUT I was impressed. I was kindly given complimentary tickets to Experience all things Heineken last month and learn about the former brewery site which sits on the canals. The museum goes into the history of how the brand was created, the beer is made, there are even on-site stables and a 4D ride! We spent three hours at the Heineken Experience and ended up loving it. There were so many interactive parts of the experience which made it really fun and at the end, you have two complimentary beers in their own bar whilst live bands take to the stage. Even though I have no interest in drinking beer or even Heineken, I really enjoyed the whole experience and I’d even visit again.
Travel Bloggers: Must Do’s of Amsterdam
I’ve asked a few other Travel Bloggers what their Must Do’s are in Amsterdam and this is what they had to say:
“For a first time trip to Amsterdam, I’d definitely recommend going on a canal cruise – it’s a great way to see a lot of the city in one go and learn more about the culture and the history. I did a canal cruise which was included in the iAmsterdam card and it was a great way to spend an hour seeing the city.” – Lizi from Glasses Girl
“If you don’t have much time and want to get a feel for the city or just want to get an overview before exsploring Amsterdam further join one of the NewEurope free Amsterdam tours. The three hour tour shows you all the highlights of the city as well as the history and culture of the area. You just need to tip your guide at the end!” – Kariss from Shy Strange Manic
“My Favourite spot to eat in Amsterdam is the FoodHallen. Foodhallen in De Hallen is a large indoor food hall with various stalls, varying from Michelin star concepts to international street foods. Due to the stall aspect, you can purchase food and drinks in different places, then sit at the tables in the middle, this is a particularly good option if you are visiting as part of a group. There is also various wine bars making it a great place to spend a Friday or Saturday evening in Amsterdam.” – Sam from Yoko Meshi
“Once you’re done with central Amsterdam, hop on a free ferry over to Noord and explore NDSM. There’s plenty of street art to see including the famous multicoloured Anne Frank, a Barbie Peepshow and many works in progress. If you’re feeling hungry then pop to Pllek, an awesome restaurant, beach and cocktail bar made from shipping containers or head to Cafe De Ceuvel that’s in a converted shipyard. There’s plenty to do in NDSM so make sure you give yourself enough time to explore!” – Haydy from Squibb Vicious
“Without any hesitation, I would choose Zaanse Schans as a ‘must do’ when visiting Amsterdam. It isn’t something you can just pop in to, as you need to travel 60 minutes to North Holland, but I promise it is so worth it. It’s a traditional Dutch town, which will take you back a good couple hundred years when life was slower and simpler. Little green houses line the bridged streets, costumed characters roam the town and windmills perch beside the shimmering river. We made our own hot chocolate, watched a clog making demonstration and went for a lovely stroll. Bliss!” – Gina from Culture Bean
“If you are a cat lover, then I highly recommend you pay a visit to De Poezenboot. De Poezenboot is a cat sanctuary with a difference – it’s on a boat! It is free to visit, however they greatly appreciate donations. All of the cats are up for adoption and you can go onto the boat and meet them all. They’re a non-profit organisation working to save the homeless cats of Amsterdam and it’s well worth a visit.” – Hayley from Strangeness & Charm
“The one thing that I strongly recommend doing is seeing the hofjes in the Jordaan neighborhood of Amsterdam. The Jordaan is a neighborhood just outside of the ring of Amsterdam full of gorgeous canal houses and picturesque streets that you can stroll down. On Saturdays, you’ll find a lovely street market on Lindengracht as well as a farmer’s market at Noordermarkt. Behind some of these beautiful doorways, you’ll find historic courtyards, which are a great place to experience the quiet and history of Amsterdam as many of these courtyards date back to the Golden Age of the Netherlands!” – Karen from WanderlustingK
Whether you are travelling on a budget or not, it’s always good to hunt out the best free things to do in a city like Amsterdam. To tell you the truth, I don’t think they are many places in Amsterdam with free entry. However, the best thing you can do in Amsterdam is wander the beautiful canals and old medieval streets. Exploring the canals is obviously free and you can easily spend the whole day exploring the canal ring and neighbourhoods like the Jordaan and Vondelpark. There are also free walking tours which you can join and this one has hourly tours departing Dam Square.
I’d also recommend visiting the Bloemenmarkt which is the world’s only floating market. This is a place I always visit when I’m in Amsterdam as there are some really pretty stalls with beautiful fresh flowers. There is also a fair few photo opportunities here perfect for the gram!
I originally was going to include taking a photo with the I Amsterdam Sign but in the last couple of weeks, the famous sign which was located in Museumplein outside of the Rijksmuseum has now been removed. Many tourists gather here to get a selfie, I do believe there are several other signs across the city in different neighbourhoods and at Schiphol Airport, so go hunt them down!
I mentioned the I Amsterdam City Card* earlier in the post and I was kindly given these by the I Amsterdam Tourism Board before my trip. I personally think that if you really want to explore a city, cards like these can really save you pennies and also open doors to explore attractions you potentially wouldn’t visit without the card.
The I Amsterdam Card includes free entry to over 60 museums and attractions, a free canal cruise, discounts off many more experiences and restaurants and tours and also unlimited use of public transport. You can purchase the card for four different time ranges 24hrs, 48hrs, 72hrs or 96hrs with prices starting at €58 and going up to €98.
The 72hr pass we had cost €85 each and I’m going to go through what we used it for and if it was really worth it.
- Three Day Tram Pass – €17.50
- The Amsterdam Museum – €13.50
- Artis Royal Zoo – €21.00
- Johan Cruff Arena Tour – €16.50
- 20% Discount on The A’Dam Lookout – Saving of €2.50
- The Eye Film Museum – €10.50
- The Nemo Science Museum – €16.50
- Canal Boat Cruise – €16.00
- Rijksmuseum – €17
TOTAL: €131.00 (Saving €46!)
*There was also a 20% discount available for the Heineken Experience but I received complimentary tickets.
I’ve also previously visited The Handbag and Purse Museum and The Van Gough Museum (which requires pre-booking using your City Card) which are both well worth visiting using the I Amsterdam City Card.
The food in Amsterdam is pretty special and that is coming from a fussy eater (me). I have previously put together a food diary of one of my trips to the city but here’s a list of some unmissable places to Eat and Drink in Amsterdam:
Brunch in Amsterdam is really a big thing. The Brunch game is strong here with so many hip and cool café’s serving up healthy dishes and pancakes. There are literally is too many too choose from. I can’t recommend Bakers and Roasters enough though, I’ve visited a few times now and I really love this little cafe. I actually believe there are two locations but I’ve only been to the De Pijp location. Bakers and Roasters is a New Zealand style place open between 8.30am-4pm daily serving some incredible dishes. On my last visit, I got the Blueberry Pancakes served with Bacon and Stefan got the B&R Breakfast Special. One day, I’ll visit and get cake because they always look unbelievable.
Pluk is another little café we visited for brunch. I’m not going to lie, I’d seen this place on Instagram and that influenced my decision to visit. Located in the famous 9 streets of Amsterdam, a very trendy part of town, the cafe is actually a shop selling the cutest homeware bits. The whole place is quite small and cramped, we were unsure if it was table service or not and there just wasn’t a lot of communication. The food, on the other hand, was pretty impressive, once we worked out to grab our own seats upstairs before ordering downstairs, I got the Plug Babe Bowl. This place was famous for their Unicorn Bowls but they seem to have been taken off the menu, although there were Unicorn cupcakes. Stefan went for a Grilled Chicken and Avocado Sandwich which also looked delicious.
Other notable mentions for brunch that have been highly recommended to me is Ree7 which is actually two doors down from Pluk and has a similar vibe. They do sell insanely delicious looking freak-shakes here and next time I’m in Amsterdam I will be visiting. There’s also a café called The Avocado Show in De Pijp which specialise in… you guessed it… Avocados! Similar to Coconuts and Coffee which is another themed brunch spot with dishes such as full breakfasts to cheeseburgers and tacos.
There are so many delicious snacks to try whilst in Amsterdam from the traditional Pancakes to Dutch Bitterballen snacks. You can quite literally spend all of your time in Amsterdam just eating! My absolute must-have is Pancakes whilst in The Netherlands. Dutch Pancakes are everywhere in the city. The Pancake Bakery and Pancakes Amsterdam are both great places to get your fix and are also 25% with the I Amsterdam Cards. Alternatively, you can try Poffertjes which are Mini Dutch Pancakes; delicious and rather cute!
On my last visit, I finally headed over to Winkle 43 to try their famous Appeltaart otherwise known as Apple Pie. A short walk from the Anne Frank House, it’s well worth heading there for a slice of pie which has been branded the best in Amsterdam. I’ve been meaning to visit Winkle 43 every time I’ve visited Amsterdam so it was nice to finally try it out for myself. It certainly lived up to all the hype.
There are many little stores across the city claiming they have the best Fries but where actually is best? I came across Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx which is down a small side street from the main shopping area. No matter when I’ve visited, there has always been a queue. The Belgium style frites are very much well in demand. Not too far away you’ll also find Van Wonderen Stroopwaffles which have a variety of different tasty treats topped with all sorts of sweeties, chocolate and even cheese. You need to try these if you are in Amsterdam, it’s a must!
No matter where I am, I will always hunt out the best places to eat Pizza. I’ve found two places in Amsterdam which have been pretty damn incredible. Sotto Pizza which is located on Kadijksplein (not too far from Centraal Station) is one of the best pizzas I’ve had. ever. I’ve been to this place twice now and both times, I’ve been so impressed. I’d highly recommend Sotto if you are a big fan of the Neapolitan style like myself.
The second pizza place I tried is called La Perla in the trendy Jordaan district. I really loved wandering around this area on an evening, there are so many lovely little restaurants and bars. La Perla stood out as it was just so busy and in-demand. There was going to be an hour’s wait for a table but over the road, there’s another restaurant which is supposed to mainly be a takeaway but they do have seats so we opted for going over there. There was still quite a long wait on pizzas but it was understandable as there were just so many people placing orders. Our pizzas were delicious and well worth the wait. I personally preferred Sotto but both Pizza joints are worth visiting.
Potentially the most Instagrammable restaurant in The Netherlands. Sadly, I’ve not actually been. We did intend to visit Mama Kelly which is located out at the Olympic Stadium but sadly it wasn’t meant to be. I wanted to mention Mama Kelly anyway as their decor alone is pretty incredible with all pink and gold interiors. The high-end restaurant specialises in Chicken and Lobster although alternatives are available and are open for Lunch and Dinner. I even just love that their tagline is “Pink isn’t just a colour, it’s an attitude”. Next time, I’m determined to visit!
Previously mentioned in my Must See section by Sam, Foodhallen is definitely worth a visit to check out all the vendors. There is something for everyone making it an excellent spot for a group of you. There are over 25 stalls and bars with some pretty great offerings from Bitterballen, Dim Sun, Hot Dogs and Frozen Yogurt. This is actually the location that I discovered The Butcher who have a stand here as well as many locations across the city. I had been recommended The Butcher many times for their incredible gourmet burgers and delicious sweet potato fries – They are ones not to be missed!
Finally, I don’t think I’ve personally cracked where the best place to go for drinks are in Amsterdam but I do have a few recommendations. First up, is the Ma’dam Skybar up the A’Dam Lookout which has beautiful panoramic views across the city. If you purchase a premium ticket up to the A’Dam Lookout, it will include two free drinks. To be honest, I could spend a few hours up there just enjoying a few drinks and watching the world go by. Sunset would be incredible up there. Alternatively, there is a SkyLounge on the Hilton Rooftop but drinks are at a premium price there!
My other recommendation is one of my favourite places we’ve come across. The Ton Ton Club has three bars in Amsterdam and is home to alcohol and arcade games. I do love playing Arcade Games and their club; Puck was right by our Hotel on the west side of the city with a whole hall of Air Hockey machines. It was a really fun night out. The Ton Ton Club in Centrum is actually right in the middle of the Red Light District and there’s also loads games to be played here too!
Another bar which was a lot of fun was Noah’s Arq which is just around the corner from Sotto Pizza. This bar is home to GlowGolf Amsterdam. I love a bit of Mini Golf and this was super fun and a really unique concept. If you’re in the area, I’d definitely recommend paying this place a visit. A little warning that the drinks were a bit pricey though!
Central areas of Amsterdam can be very touristy and pricey for drinking and I would probably try and stay away unless you are into all of that. The Jordaan District is a lovely area to explore in an evening with plenty of smaller independent bars. If you don’t mind being in a touristy area, My friend introduced me to Leidseplein Square, it’s slightly quieter than Centrum and has plenty of bars.
One thing I would really recommend doing on your trip to Amsterdam is getting out there and exploring different areas of the city. There are so many different neighbourhoods worth exploring and discovering hidden treasures off the beaten track.
Centrum and Dam Square
As mentioned before, the Centrum District (Old Centre) and Dam Square is the central hub of Amsterdam. It’s the oldest part of the city and where you will find the main shopping area with department stores, many different restaurants and bars and also the Red Light District. Dam Square is the main square in Amsterdam and this is where the Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis) is. The Palace is actually still used by the royal family and you can visit for a tour.
The Canal Belt (Grachtengordel)
The Canal Belt in Amsterdam is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s no surprise. The Canals of Amsterdam are pretty spectacular. Wandering around the four parallel Canals is one of my favourite things to do in Amsterdam – It’s so beautiful and peaceful. If you don’t fancy exploring The Canal Ring by foot, all of the Canal Cruises will explore the area with headsets providing interesting facts and knowledge.
Jordaan is kind of the cool district of Amsterdam and one of my favourite areas to explore. The little back streets full of little bars, café’s and restaurants are just so pretty. The district is home to the famous nine streets (De Negen Straatjes) which is full of boutique stores. There’s a lot going on in Jordaan with up and coming artists and designers showcasing their pieces. You’ll also find one of the most important pieces of history in the Jordaan which is the Anne Frank House. On Prinsengracht is where Anne Frank hid during World War II. A must visit in Amsterdam.
Museumplein is basically the Museum Quarter of the city with a fair few museums all in the space of one area. I’ll go in to further detail on my thoughts on the museums in the area below but in Museumplein, you’ll find the Rijksmuseum, MOCO Museum, The Van Gough Museum and a few more. Not too far away is also Vondelpark which I’ve STILL not visited. I know I can’t write the Ultimate Guide to Amsterdam when I’ve never been to Vondelpark. This park has been branded the Central Park of Amsterdam and perfect for a wander or even a bike ride. Next time, I’ll be there.
De Pijp is another district with lot’s of cute little houses and café’s and also home to one of my favourite café’s; Bakers and Roasters. I’d love to explore this lively district more and discover more foodie places. I’d also love to visit the Albert Cuyp Market which is the largest outdoor market in The Netherlands. I’m sure there’s plenty of tasty treats to be discovered in the market. This is also where you will find the Heineken Experience which is a huge tourist attraction that we loved visiting.
Noord & NDSM
Amsterdam Noord is the North side of the city behind Centraal Station. You can get there via a free ferry and it’s home to one of my favourite attractions the A’Dam Lookout where you can see views over the whole city. Nearby is the NDSM Wharf which is an up and coming creative area with street art and plenty of bars and restaurants. I really need to explore this area more and it would be the perfect place to hang out in Summer as there’s even a beach!
I finally want to mention Amsterdam Oost which is the East side of the city. I had the pleasure of staying in this area last year and exploring some of the local sights such as Oosterpark, Tropenmuseum and visiting the Dappermarkt. There are also some great restaurants in the area, we ate at the Badhuis Javaplein which did amazing steaks.
I’ve previously mentioned the Rijksmuseum but it’s one of the most famous buildings in Amsterdam and definitely top of the must-see museums in Amsterdam. If you’re looking for classic pieces of art from the likes of Rembrandt and Van Gough – This is the place to be. It’s now included with an I Amsterdam Card for free entry and it’s worth a visit just to see the exterior of such an iconic building.
Van Gough Museum
Nearby to Rijksmuseum in Museumplein is the Van Gough Museum. A whole museum dedicated to the artistic genius. On my first visit to Amsterdam we had a look around this museum and found it so interesting; It’s the world’s largest collection of Van Gough Artwork. This museum is also included with the I Amsterdam Card but you need to pre-book in advance.
Also in Museumplein is the MOCO Museum which is a Modern Art Museum which has a huge collection of Banksy artwork. I’m not sure what’s still there as they are swapping a lot out in January 2019 but when I visited in May 2018 there was a Roy Lichtenstein exhibition too. If you are interested in Banksy’s artwork like me, it’s certainly worth visiting as it’s a very large collection from a private collector. Admission to the museum was around €13 but I think there was a considerable discount if you go before 11 am.
Museumplein is also home to the Diamond Museum which I was really keen to visit but we did run out of time. I could imagine that it would be a really interesting museum to visit to learn all about Diamonds. After all, Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. There’s also The Stedelijk Museum which is dedicated to Modern and Contemporary art. I’ve not actually visited this one either as I didn’t know it existed until we passed it to get the tram back to our hotel on our final day. It sounds like they’ve got a huge collection and it would be an interesting visit.
We came across the Amsterdam Museum by chance as we were mooching around the nearby shopping area. The museum was one of those we wouldn’t have bothered visiting if it wasn’t included in the I Amsterdam Card but I’m really glad we did. The museum went through the history of the city with lots of interactive activities. On arrival, we got given headsets which talked us through the exhibitions so we could go around at our own pace.
NEMO Science Museum
The first thing to say about the NEMO Science Museum is that it’s actually closed on a Monday and not to bother showing up as we did. Rookie error. We ended up coming back the next day as I’ve always been intrigued by the very unique building which sits on the waterside by Centraal Station. This museum is very hands-on and perfect for children or big kids like us. There are five floors of fun including a roof terrace which you can visit for free even if you are not visiting the museum.
One of the highlights of our last trip was visiting the Heineken Experience. That’s saying a lot coming from someone who doesn’t even drink Heineken. The whole experience was just fun! Not only did you find out all about the history of the brand, how the beer is brewed but there were so many activities to take part in along the way. There’s even a 4D immersive experience where you become the Heineken Bottle getting distributed across the globe. They’ve really made the experience really fun for everyone. In the end, we found ourselves in a Heineken Bar with live music. We could’ve literally spent all afternoon here.
Ajax Arena Tour
Another highlight of my last trip was to the Johan Cruijff Ajax Arena Tour which was another attraction included in the I Amsterdam Card. The tours are really frequent, usually every half hour when there are no games or events going on. The Johan Cruijff Arena is home to the Ajax Football team and the tour takes you all around the stadium from the changing rooms to out on the pitch. I’m not the biggest football fan but I really enjoyed the tour. The Arena is located on the outskirts of Amsterdam but I’d highly recommend visiting, it’s €15 without an I Amsterdam Card which is pretty reasonable.
Handbag and Purse Museum
I’ve always got to include some fashion in my blogpost’s. On my first visit to Amsterdam, my Mum and I stopped by the Handbag and Purse Museum (Tassenmuseum) which is located on the Canal Belt. This museum has a huge collection of iconic handbags from a range of different designers from Chanel to Lulu Guinness. If you’re a big handbag lover like myself, I’d highly recommend visiting. I really loved seeing all the collections and the museum also has a lovely restaurant which does Afternoon Tea. Perfect for a chic afternoon in the city.
Travelling around The Netherlands is super easy. I’ve found that it’s all very well connected from Amsterdam via the trains and buses making it quite simple to visit other areas of the country on a day trip.
We had planned on visiting Zaandam on our last trip as it came highly recommended, especially to see the traditional windmills. Sadly, we ended up not having enough time to do the trip but visiting Zaandam is super easy and can be reached by bus or train. Zaandam is home to Zaanse Schans which in this region you’ll find all the traditional Dutch buildings, bakeries and windmills. If you’re looking to visit places that are quite quintessentially Dutch than you might want to check out Gouda and Edam – both famous for the cheese and both do-able day trips from Amsterdam.
Haarlem is another city not too far outside of Amsterdam which is also rich with culture and history. I’ve also been told that its a great place for shopping. Haarlem is very accessible from Amsterdam and is only 20 minutes from Centraal Station.
Holland is famous for the tulip fields. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that a great time to visit Amsterdam is in Spring when the Tulips are blooming. You’ll want to take a day trip to the Keukenhof Gardens for this bucket list experience of seeing them all in full bloom. There are 7 million bulbs planted every year and the largest flower garden in the world. It’s certainly a sight not to be missed!
Last year, I visited Rotterdam for the Traverse conference after spending the week in Amsterdam. Travelling throughout The Netherlands and Rotterdam was just 40 minutes away on the train making it also really simple to visit just for the day. Rotterdam really surprised me and I was captivated but its unique architecture and art which was dotted around the city. Rotterdam is a very underrated place which I’d highly recommend even if it’s on a day trip from Amsterdam. Utrecht and The Hague are both easy to access from Amsterdam for the day.
Efteling Theme Park
Finally, I’ve got to mention Efteling Theme Park. The largest Theme Park in The Netherlands and it looks like a pretty magical place. The Theme Park is located in Kaatsheuvel so it’s quite a trek from Amsterdam. However, you can get a direct bus from the city on Mondays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. More information on getting from Amsterdam can be found here. I’m still yet to visit Efteling but it’s high up on my list. It looks pretty incredible with so many different fairytale themed attractions. You can take a day trip or stay overnight in one of their on-site hotels.
If you’ve made it to the end, well done! I’ve tried to cover everything possible but this has certainly been my longest blog post ever. I hope you’ve found it helpful towards an upcoming trip to Amsterdam. If you have any questions, do leave a comment or get in touch via social media.
Have you been to Amsterdam before? Where’s your favourite place in the city? Are you visiting soon?
*A big thank you to I Amsterdam who provided me with an I Amsterdam Card and the Heineken Experience for complimentary tickets in exchange for a review. As always all opinions are my own.