- Amsterdam has a rich cultural heritage and has preserved much of this in its many museums.
- Many of the attractions in Amsterdam are steeped in history and have intriguing stories behind them.
- People of all ages enjoy the city for its diversity, beautiful architecture and stunning network of canals.
The Netherlands is a fascinating country with centuries of cultural heritage, and Amsterdam is its capital city and a hub of commerce and culture. If you’re from North America, there’s even a chance you might have some Dutch heritage. The first immigrants in the 1600s were mainly Europeans, including British people in New England, Swedes in Delaware, Spanish people in Florida and the Dutch in New York.
This eclectic city has so much potential for fun and exploration, it’s difficult to narrow down to 12 recommendations. Continue reading to discover the most exciting places to see and visit on a trip to Amsterdam, including museums, parks and venues.
1. Anne Frank House
One of the most iconic emblems of Amsterdam is the Anne Frank museum, as this is the city where the young World War II heroine found refuge. This house was the location her father, Otto Frank, ran his company from, with a 500-square-foot annex where the family hid from the Nazis. Anne was confined in this small space for more than two years and wrote what has arguably become the most famous diary in history.
Children and adults alike are moved by her story of adaptation, resilience and courage. You can see her actual diary here and learn about the stories of the people who risked their lives to help the Franks.
Attracting more than 10 million visitors every year, Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s largest city park and the Netherland’s most abundant manmade green space. It’s not just tourists who adore the park; locals enjoy jogging, dog-walking, roller-skating, lounging around and watching free concerts that regularly take place under the bandstand.
There’s also a statue of the legendary poet Vondel, a music dome fashioned from cast iron, a pavilion and a playground for children. The idea for the park was conceived by wealthy Amsterdam citizens in 1864 and opened in 1865 as a walking and horseback riding park.
There are a number of impressive museums in Amsterdam, and Rijksmuseum is the largest and arguably most famous. It houses works from the Golden Age Dutch masters and displays an array of timeless artifacts. You can marvel at Rembrandt’s magnificent Night’s Watch painting, Johannes Vermeer’s Milkmaid and three exquisitely decorated dollhouses. These works of art are a far cry from children’s toys, instead being crafted as emblems of 17th century Dutch housewives’ wealth.
Another reason this museum is special is its commitment to accessibility. It has elevators to every floor, plenty of inclined ramps and no bars dividing areas, as well as a floor plan depicting accessible routes that’s available at the entrance.
One of the must-see spots in central Amsterdam is the Foodhallen, where you can sample local delicacies and treats from around the world. If you’re tired and hungry after visiting the wonders dotted around Holland’s capital, this is the perfect area to stop and refuel.
Alternatively, you could pull up a bar stool at the end of a long day exploring and party the night away with a local beer or tasty cocktail.
5. Artis Zoo
This zoo is more than 100 years old, so the trees and beautiful foliage are stunning. Right in the center of the city, you can escape the hustle and bustle to this paradise of squawking birds and roaring lions. There are birds roaming free around the zoo and plenty of chances to get up close and personal with the lemurs, butterflies and herons.
In fact, there are more than 500 different animal species and 700 samples of plant and tree life. Encounter jaguars, wild dogs, vultures and lions, and stop in at the planetarium, zoo museum and microscopic life exhibit, if you’re a nature enthusiast.
6. Royal Palace of Amsterdam
Once known as the Town Hall, this majestic building with its immaculate, tulip-studded gardens is home to the king when he visits the city. Constructed in 1648 and modeled after the architecture made famous by Ancient Romans, its interior is just as opulent as the exterior.
The breath-taking ceiling paintings were painstakingly daubed by Govert Flinck and Ferdinand Bol, who were both students of Rembrandt himself. You’ll also discover one of the most impressive furniture collections in the world, an astounding marble fireplace and even more ceiling paintings by Cornelis Holsteyn. For a full breakdown on the history and heritage of this great building, you can catch a guided tour.
7. Blijburg aan Zee
You don’t have to go to the coast to get a beachfront experience in Holland. The Blijburg aan Zee is located at the manmade island of IJburg and lets you sunbathe and swim to your heart’s content. There aren’t many open pools in Amsterdam, so this beach serves as the perfect antidote to a hot day.
The water is lovely and clean, and there are plenty of cafes on site for refreshments. You can come here to escape city life and relax during the day or head down at night for a beach party like no other.
8. Van Gogh Museum
Vincent Van Gogh might be Holland’s most famous artist, and there’s an entire museum dedicated to him in the capital city. Opened in 1972 and designed by Gerrit Rietveld, it features the most extensive collection of Van Gogh artwork in the world. With more than 500 drawings, 200 paintings and 700 handwritten letters, any art lover will be in their element here.
There’s even a Meet Vincent Van Gogh Experience installation, where you can learn about the famously troubled artist through a digital presentation of his life. You can also find works by his famous contemporaries, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Paul Gauguin.
9. De Ton Ton Club
Gaming is the most popular form of multimedia in the world, and it’s not just for kids anymore. De Ton Ton Club is the place to go in Amsterdam to revel in nostalgia and unleash your inner child with friends. The club is a Dutch homage to American meets Japanese culture, with ramen burgers, alcohol-spiked American milkshakes, craft beer and refined Japanese whiskeys.
In addition to playing games such as Mortal Kombat and Super Mario Kart, you can frolic around in the ball pit or play a game of pool. There’s even an entire room dedicated to Dance Dance Revolution.
10. Dam Square
Visit the 17th Century Koninklijk Palace, Nieuwe Kerk and the iconic National Memorial Statue at Dam Square, one of Amsterdam’s most famous landmarks. In addition to admiring the history of the location, you can visit Madame Tussauds or sample local food at one of the street food stalls, restaurants or cafes.
The jam-packed square is just a five-minute walk down the Damrak from Centraal Station and always has something going on no matter the weather.
If you love city life, Leidseplein is the place to be. It has everything you could want from an awesome shopping strip to incredible restaurants, bars and attractions. During the day, there are street performers, and in the summer, the area is filled with terraces as people enjoy food and drinks while watching the world go by.
In winter, the terraces are replaced by an outdoor ice skating rink, with beautiful lights and seasonal food stalls.
12. Electric Ladyland
Fans of modern art or anything a little bit kooky shouldn’t miss out on the final recommendation on this list: Electric Ladyland. It’s a tiny little building that boasts being the first and only gallery dedicated entirely to fluorescent art.
It’s a shrine to any stone, mineral and artwork that glows when lit up by ultraviolet rays. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience you’ll never forget, and even gives you the chance to become part of an art piece.