12 top things to see in Amsterdam: a must visit guid

12 top things to see in Amsterdam: a must visit guid

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Is Amsterdam the coolest city in Europe? We think it just might be. It has everything you could ask for, including beautiful scenery, an electric nightlife scene, heartbreaking museums, amazing artwork and fun events all year round. It’s the perfect place to slip away to for a weekend break, but if you can stay longer in Amsterdam, do. This is the kind of place where you’ll never get bored. To start with, take a look at our list of what to see in Amsterdam. You’ll soon be itching to get away on a trip to the Dutch capital.

The Anne Frank House

This is one of the most sobering, heart-wrenching museums in the world, but you’ll be glad you visited it. The Anne Frank House is one of those places that we think absolutely everyone should see, as there’s no better way of understanding the horrors of the Holocaust. During World War II, Amsterdam was occupied by the Nazis, and Jewish people had no choice but to hide or face death.

In this ordinary-looking house, you can visit the tiny attic in which Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl, and her family hid from the Nazis for two years. Sadly, Anne’s story had a tragic ending, as her family were discovered before the liberation of Amsterdam, and she was sent to her death in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Her diaries offer a glimpse into the terrible conditions in which she lived during World War II.

Each year, thousands of visitors come to the Anne Frank House to pay their respects. It’s best to book in advance, particularly if you’re travelling during the peak season. If you don’t, you might find yourself waiting in the queue for quite a long time.

The entrance door to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam with a commemorative sign

The Van Gogh Museum

This has to be one of the best things to see in Amsterdam for art lovers. Vincent van Gogh may just be the most famous Dutch painter of all time, and this museum houses some of his finest works. Yes, you’ll be able to see his iconic Sunflowers, as well as works like Almond Eaters, The Bedroom and many of his brilliant self-portraits.

The museum isn’t all about van Gogh, though. There are also works by other great European artists, including Monet, Gauguin, Manet and more. It’ll take you a few hours to see everything, and it’s a great way for art fans to spend half a day.

Exterior of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum

We’re sticking in the world of art for this one, which is another one of our favourite Amsterdam top attractions. This is the Museum of the Netherlands, set in an enormous, sprawling building. Inside, you’ll find an outrageously good collection of artworks by the country’s most famous painters. You’ll soon see why they’re known as the Dutch Masters!

Highlights here include The Night Watch by Rembrandt, Vermeer’s The Milkmaid and The Threatened Swan by Jan Asselijn, which has become a proud symbol of the Dutch resistance. You’ll also find more than just artwork inside this enormous museum. There’s also a massive library, three antique dolls’ houses and some lavishly manicured gardens to walk through. Oh, and because this is the Netherlands, there’s even a passage for cyclists in the museum. What else can you expect from this bike-mad nation?

The imposing facade of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

The red light district

This may be a controversial choice, but let’s be honest: for many visitors, this is really one of the top things to see in Amsterdam. Exactly what you choose to do in the red light district is up to you. Many travellers just want to take a walk through the streets, looking at the women in the famous window displays. Others prefer to get more hands-on. Whatever you do, keep your wits about you, as this area can be dangerous, particularly after dark.

The Museum of Prostitution is a surprisingly touching place to visit within the red-light district. Here, you can learn all about the world’s oldest profession and how it came to be so prominent in the city. There are also a number of walking tours to explore the area, led by a local expert.

One word of advice: many Amsterdam natives get irked by tourists coming and making a beeline straight for the red light district. If you’re chatting with the locals, it’s best not to focus on the city’s reputation for sleaze.

The lively nightlife scene in Amsterdam's red light district with neon signs

The Heineken Experience

Do you like beer? Then add this to your list of things to do in Amsterdam! The Dutch capital is home to one of the world’s most famous brands of beer, and at the Heineken Experience, you can go behind the scenes to learn about how exactly it’s brewed.

This huge building is actually the former Heineken brewery. Nowadays, production has moved elsewhere, and the old building has been transformed into a museum. Take a guided tour around the museum, and you’ll discover all the secrets of the beer-making process, from harvesting hops to bottling. Of course, the museum also has its own bar where you can sample the local speciality. It’s actually one of our favourite parts of the building, as it’s a cool rooftop bar with great views overlooking the city. Grab a glass of Heineken and relax — after all, it would be rude not to!

Exterior of the Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam with the iconic Heineken sign

The Botanical Garden

No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a bit of grass — no, not like that! We’re talking about the Botanical Garden, which is definitely one of the best things to see in Amsterdam. In fact, it’s one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, dating all the way back to 1682, when it was first used to grow medicinal plants — and no, once again, we’re not talking about that kind of medicinal plant.

Today, the Botanical Garden is the perfect place to chill out in Amsterdam. We love its awesome old plants, including an example of a 150-year-old water lily and a 2,000-year-old cactus. There are plants here from all around the world, organised into several fascinating collections. Take the time to visit it, and we promise it’ll be worth your while.

The lush greenery inside the Botanical Garden in Amsterdam.


The Dutch are a very outdoorsy nation, so it’s no surprise that Vondelpark is one of the most popular places in the city. This is Amsterdam’s Green Lung, the perfect place to go for a jog or a stroll. You can rent rollerblades at the rink in the southern part of the park or watch dressage training at a comfortable café in the riding centre.

While Vondelpark is popular all year round, in the summer, it really transforms into a must-do in Amsterdam. That’s when you’ll find a free open-air theatre to watch. Don’t like the show? No problem! There’s a fresh, new performance every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in summer, so you can always come back another day.

Pathway in Vondelpark shaded by trees, with people walking and cycling


We’ve already talked about some of the museums, but Museumplein itself is also worthy of a spot on our list of the best things to see in Amsterdam. This is the city’s museum square. It’s where you’ll find the van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum and the Royal Concert Hall, all set in stunning, old buildings that will delight any fans of architecture.

You may also want to spend some time in the square itself. There are street markets, open-air exhibitions and, in the summer months, a fun open-air paddling pool for anyone who wants to escape from the heat. You’ll also find some of the city’s best cafés and restaurants dotted around the square, making it a great place to stop for a bite to eat after a busy morning of museums.

The 9 Streets

In Dutch, this area is called De 9 Straatjes, but don’t worry about nailing the pronunciation — just about everyone in Amsterdam speaks English better than most natives. This neighbourhood is one of the most iconic parts of the city, packed with fun shops, quirky boutiques, funky restaurants and more. It’s located right next to Dam Square, where you’ll probably want to go for some photos just after you arrive in the city.

There are, in fact, more than nine streets in the neighbourhood. In reality, it’s a maze of narrow, winding lanes in which it’s very easy to get lost. Don’t worry if you do — with so many interesting, unique shops around, you’ll always find something that catches your eye. This is our favourite part of Amsterdam for a bit of retail therapy, and you’ll often come away with something that will turn heads wherever you go. Even if you don’t want to shop till you drop, this neighbourhood is one of the top things to see in Amsterdam because of its charming storefronts and traditional buildings.

The Flower Market

Yes, this is one of those classic tourist things to do in Amsterdam, but before you roll your eyes, at least give it a go. After all, it’s the only floating flower market in the world, with vendors still selling their plants and blossoms from their boats, just as they did in centuries gone by.

If you’re looking for world-famous tulips, then you’ll need to plan your trip to the Flower Market carefully. Tulip season only lasts for a couple of months, from March until May. Don’t worry if you’re visiting at another time of year, though. The Flower Market always stocks seasonal blooms, which means glorious sunflowers in summer and, in the run-up to the festive season, Christmas trees and wreaths.

Flower Market in Amsterdam with vibrant flower bulbs and seeds on display

The Singel Canal

In a city full of canals, what makes this one so special? Well, it’s one of the oldest and most important waterways in Amsterdam — and it’s also one of the most beautiful. We love taking a boat trip down the Singel Canal, admiring the buildings that line either side of it. Don’t blink, or you might just miss the world’s narrowest house at No 7 Singel.

Other highlights of the canal include mediaeval towers and beautiful old churches. There are also several iconic bridges that cross over the canal, providing you with great opportunities to get those holiday pics. To be honest, if you’re spending time here, you’ll undoubtedly pass along the Singel Canal a few times, as it’s one of the busiest waterways and top Amsterdam what to see places. It’s definitely worth slowing down and checking it out.

Oude Kerk

For the last item on our list of the top things to see in Amsterdam, we’re going for something rather more sedate. Oude Kerk literally means Old Church, which is delightfully literal. In fact, this isn’t just the oldest church in Amsterdam — it’s the oldest building in the city. Even if churches aren’t really your thing, it’s still worth paying a visit to this iconic spot.

Oude Kerk was built around 1213 and can be found within the red light district in the heart of the city. You might want to go there to confess your sins after a night out on the town — or, if you prefer, you can just check out this remarkably interesting building. Over the years, it’s been the site of some pretty heated battles, and at one point, a mob attempted to burn it down. Luckily, it survived, and it’s still going strong well into the 21st century.

Today, it’s still a house of worship, but it also doubles up as a contemporary art gallery, showcasing works by some of the country’s hottest up-and-coming young artists. That kind of mish-mash of the old and the new, the sacred and the profane — well, you’ll only find that in Amsterdam. And that’s another reason why we love this city so much.

Exterior view of the Oude Kerk

Trip to Amsterdam?

Are you ready for a trip to Amsterdam? Well, in fact, we’ve got a triple whammy for you. Our express tour of the Netherlands takes you beyond the capital, paying a visit to the sleek, modern city of Rotterdam and the old windmill village of Zaanse Schans. You’ll be able to see the Netherlands at its most modern and its most traditional — and all this in just five days! It’s a tour that we absolutely love, and we’re sure you will, too. Come along for the ride!

WeRoad Team
Written by WeRoad Team