If you’re visiting the Dutch capital for the first time, you might be feeling overwhelmed. With so many exciting places to visit and things to see, planning just a few days in the city can be tricky. Whether you’re looking for world-class museums, historical landmarks, swishy shopping, or just a bit of fun, you’ll never be short on things to do in Amsterdam.
From museums and shopping to plenty of excellent restaurants, bars, and nightlife, there’s something for everyone here. To help you plan a perfect visit, we’ve pulled together some of the best things to do in Amsterdam. So, you can spend less time researching and more getting excited about your trip! Let’s get started.
Making the Most of Your Trip to Amsterdam
There are so many ways to spend your time in Amsterdam. Whether you’re planning a trip with kids, friends, or a romantic break with your partner, make the most of your days when you visit some of the city’s best-loved spots.
These are just a few of the most exciting things to do in Amsterdam, so you can start planning your time with confidence.
- Amsterdam Square
- Van Gogh Museum
- Rembrandt House
- Amsterdam Dungeon
- Royal Palace Amsterdam
- Anne Frank House
- Madame Tussauds
Amsterdam Square, or Dam Square, is an ever-bustling spot in the centre of the Dutch capital. There’s always something going on here, from street performers and music to lots of lively restaurants, bars, and attractions. Amsterdam Square is just five minutes’ walk away from Centraal train station, which means it’s a great first place to visit if you’re arriving in the city by rail.
Amsterdam Square has its roots in the 13th century when a dam was built at this part of the River Amstel to stop the sea from flooding the city. It was once the central marketplace for Amsterdam, where locals went to buy produce, clothes, homeware, and everything else under the sun.
The beautiful Koninklijk Palace was added in the 17th century and remains an impressive gem of the square today. You can visit the palace while you’re there. There are lots of exquisite paintings and sculptures to see inside, but we’ll get to that a little later. Dam Square is also home to Nieuwe Kirk and a monument to Dutch soldiers who died in World War II.
Vondelpark is the best-known and most famous urban park in all of the Netherlands, and it’s easy to see why! You’ll find it in the centre-ish of Amsterdam, making it a perfect place to swing through for a break from the city or a great destination for an afternoon out.
The park is home to a variety of excellent cafés and restaurants, as well as lots of indoor and outdoor activities that make it a winner for guests of all ages. Not to mention lots of beautiful trails and seating areas to enjoy a little fresh air and scenery.
Visit EYE cinema to catch a film on a rainy day. Or if you’re feeling energetic, rent rollerskates and zoom around the park! History buffs might like to take a look around Orgelpark too, which is a classical and jazz music venue inside a former church in Vondelpark.
If the sun is shining, why not pick up a sandwich and a drink and head out into the park? There are plenty of places to sit and relax, so you can take in some of that laid-back Amsterdam atmosphere and enjoy an hour’s rest.
Van Gogh Museum
Explore the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh when you visit this fantastic museum in Amsterdam. The Van Gogh Museum is home to many of his greatest masterpieces, making it unmissable for fans and art enthusiasts.
You can explore tens of Van Gogh’s famous self-portraits, which are instantly recognisable thanks to the artist’s unique style and stand-out red hair! There are also lots of famous floral and landscape pieces to discover at the Van Gogh Museum. If you find a favourite, why not see if you can buy a print in the museum gift shop?
As well as a unique portfolio of work, Van Gogh has a fascinating and tragic story, which you can learn more about during your visit. Afterwards, take a stroll in the beautiful gardens and reflect on some of the things you’ve seen. This is one of the best museums in Amsterdam, and a must if you’re looking for culture in the Dutch capital.
Another of the most exciting museums in Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum is home to a collection of Dutch art and sculpture spanning more than 800 years.
Visit to see iconic pieces from the likes of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Vermeer. The collections are housed in beautiful spacious galleries, which have been designed to show off the works with perfect lighting. There’s an entire gallery dedicated to Rembrandt’s The Night’s Watch, which is one of the most famous Dutch paintings in history. Spend a little time here, enjoy the masterpiece in all its atmospheric glory, and learn about Rembrandt’s inspiration.
The Dutch Golden Age aside, there’s lots more to discover at the Rijksmuseum. Collections include sculptures, archaeological artefacts, clothing, prints, and even some coins and medals! Set aside a few hours for your visit so you can explore the museum at leisure.
If you haven’t heard of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, you will have by the time you leave Amsterdam. The painter and printmaker is the most significant Dutch artist in history and is often considered one of the greatest visual artists of all time.
Rembrandt House is a beautiful townhouse where the artist lived and worked in the 1600s. Today, it serves as a historical museum and monument, a must-visit if you’re a fan of his work or interested in art history. You can enjoy lots of Rembrandt masterpieces as you wander around the house, as well as some unusual archaeological items discovered on the grounds.
The interiors have been lovingly restored to their 17th-century beauty, which means a visit here is like stepping back in time.
If you feel like doing something spooky, head to the Amsterdam Dungeon. This memorable theatre show invites guests to walk around in almost complete darkness, with short performances accompanied by sound, light, and even smell effects!
Discover the darker side of Amsterdam as you learn about the plague and other historical happenings. The Amsterdam Dungeon occupies an old Gothic church, which adds to the atmosphere around every turn.
Royal Palace Amsterdam
The jewel of Dam Square, Amsterdam Royal Palace is an impressive building used for royal events throughout the year. The palace is open to visitors most days. It’s well worth a look if you’re interested in history, architecture, or politics.
An expert art historian will lead you around during your visit, explaining where you are and what you’re seeing as you walk around. There are lots of paintings and sculptures to enjoy, and plenty of interesting local facts to discover along the way.
Anne Frank House
Anne Frank House is another must-visit while you’re in Amsterdam. In one of the most beautiful parts of the city, this canal-side townhouse is home to a singular past. Most of the house is a museum dedicated to the Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank. Wander through rooms and learn a little about World War II and what it meant for the Jewish communities living in Amsterdam.
Towards the end of the tour, you’ll visit the secret attic where Anne and her family hid for two years during the Nazi occupation of Holland. The annexe has been well preserved to serve as a reminder of Jewish suffering throughout the war.
Visiting Anne Frank House is a unique and moving experience, which means the museum is top-rated among tourists. It’s best to reserve your ticket online to beat the queue, but still, be prepared to wait for a little outside.
Madame Tussauds is an exciting attraction that’s suitable for all ages. Located right in the centre of the city on bustling Dam Square, this museum is home to lifelike wax sculptures of all your favourite celebrities.
Meet pop sensations like Dua Lipa or visit legendary sports starts and have your picture taken at their side. If you’re exploring Madame Tussauds with kids, be sure to introduce them to the Avengers and other Marvel favourites.
This is much more than a stuffy old wax museum, with multimedia effects like lighting and sounds making every display a work of wonder. It’s a memorable way to spend a couple of hours in Amsterdam, and thanks to its city centre location, you won’t need to travel far to get there.
As well as plenty of attractions to keep everyone happy, Amsterdam boasts an excellent selection of places to eat and drink. Whether you grab a quick bite while you’re out and about, sit down for a leisurely lunch, or indulge in a memorable evening meal, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.
Try some traditional Dutch food, like stroopwafel, bitterballen, or oliebollen. There are plenty of international spots to visit too, which means something to suit every taste. Amsterdam is home to lots of unique restaurants in unusual locations and converted buildings. Visit parks, towers, and beautiful canal-side houses throughout the city in search of a perfect meal.
Head out and explore! You might just discover your new favourite dish.
Our favourite restaurants in Amsterdam include:
- De Kas
- Café Restaurant Amsterdam
- Hotel De Goudfazant
- BAK Restaurant
- De Plantage
- Meatless District
- Alex + Pinard
You can read more about all of these spots in our guide to the best restaurants in Amsterdam.
Shopping in Amsterdam
If you’re in the mood for a little retail therapy, you’ve come to the right place. Amsterdam is bursting with fantastic shopping districts, with lots of chain and independent spots to suit everyone.
Whether you’re looking for antiques and vintage wares, contemporary bits for your home, or fun souvenirs for somebody special, you need never leave without a new purchase in hand.
While there are lots of famous streets and neighbourhoods for shopping in Amsterdam, some of the best include:
- De NegenStraatjes (The Nine Streets)
- The Museum District
- Dam Square
- KNSM Island
- Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk
- Batavia Stad Amsterdam
You can read more about these parts of the city in our guide to shopping in Amsterdam.
Famous Amsterdam Museums
Amsterdam is famous for lots of things, and the city’s selection of world-class museums is up there at the top of the list.
The Dutch capital is home to tens of excellent museums and galleries, covering everything from historical and modern art to war, innovation, and architecture. That mean’s there’s a collection for everyone in the beautiful city.
If you’re visiting Amsterdam for the first time, you might feel spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting which museums to visit. We’re here to help! Our top ten museums in Amsterdam include:
- Anne Frank House
- Rembrandt House
- Street Art Museum
- Museum Van Loon
- Museum Ons'LieveHeer op Solder
- Stedelijk Museum
- EYE Filmmuseum
- Hermitage Amsterdam
Want to know more? You can find out all about these spots in our guide to the best museums in Amsterdam.
Now you’re armed with some of the most exciting and unmissable things to do in Amsterdam, it’s time to plan out your perfect trip. All our favourite attractions, museums, and restaurants are well worth a visit. We’re sure you won’t be disappointed when you build your itinerary starting right here.