Amsterdam is one of Europe's best cities to visit. With over 12.2 million
tourists visiting every year, Amsterdam ranks in the top 10 cities in Europe for
tourists. Visitors come for both business and personal travel, with its many
cultural sights drawing in 66 percent of visitors. Although art and museums are
not always the top tourist destinations thought of when you hear Amsterdam,
there has been continuous rise in cultural tourism in Amsterdam. In 2011, there
was an increase of tourists who visited a museum during a visit, from 73 percent
in 2007 to 85 percent.
With its airport a central hub for many flights entering
Europe, you can easily take a few days during a layover to visit the city or
make it your destination. With its historic canals, museums, history, infamous
red light district and coffee houses, there is something for everyone to enjoy
in Amsterdam. It is also very easy to get around in Amsterdam. It is notorious for its bikes, and you can easily rent one yourself.
Public transportation is ready available, and there is even the canal system to
help you get around. If you do visit Amsterdam, be sure to include these 15
interesting places to visit on your travel
15) Red Light District
Amsterdam is famous for its Red Light District. Many people may not be
inspired to visit this area, known for its infamous debauchery and sex shows,
prostitution, and more. However, it provides an interesting experience for those
brave enough to walk its streets. Although some parts may be shadier than
others, walking through the district, known as De Wallen, is typically safe,
especially during the day.
As long as you stick to the more touristy areas, you
do not have to worry about your safety; you just might see some shocking things.
Although it is not a family friendly destination, there are plenty of
interesting sights to see for the curious tourist. Of course, there are the
infamous red lighted windows of the city's prostitutes, along with many stores
selling all kinds of sex toys.
Coffee Shop in Amsterdam's Red Light District
One of the most interesting parts of walking through De Wallen is it its
depravity, providing an interesting juxtaposition to the historic townhouses and
other historical and monumental architecture in the district. You can enjoy part
of Amsterdam's beauty and just close your eyes for the rest, if you feel too
uncomfortable. If you are looking to actually check out a live sex show, Casa
Rosso and Bananenbar are popular shows. If you want to learn the history and
behind-the-scenes information about Dutch prostitution, you can take a walking
tour with a former sex worker. There is plenty to see and learn about in this
section of town, even if you are not looking to partake in its main attractions.
Sometimes, you just want a place to relax and enjoy nature in between more
active things to do in a city. Walking around a city can become exhausting no
matter how beautiful it is. Sometimes, you just want to see some green and sit
in a park, especially if you are not used to living in a city. London has Hyde
Park, New York has Central Park. In Amsterdam, Vondelpark is the perfect option
for taking it easy, especially on a sunny, warm day.
Many locals agree and make
their way to Vondelpark to sit, read, eat, drink, and have fun. Although there
are many park options in Amsterdam, Vondelpark is the largest green space in the
entire city. There are many beautiful sculptures to enjoy as you walk along the
park, including one by Picasso. It can be just like walking through an open air
While relaxing in Vondelpark, you can picnic, drink, and enjoy the day. In
the summer, there is live music and kids' activities at the Openluchttheater for
outdoor entertainment. Every year there is different entertainment, but you can
find the schedule online or at the tourist office.
A Sunday Afternoon in Vondelpark
If you find there are too
many people at Vondelpark and you want a quiet, serene place to relax, try the
hidden Begijnhof, which began life as a 14th century convent. It is a little
nook of serenity where you cannot even hear the city and its sounds.
13) Stedelijk Museum
If you are a lover of modern and contemporary art, then the Stedelijk Museum,
which rivals MoMa and the Tate Modern for featuring contemporary art, must be on
your list of places to visit. It is located in the Museum Quarter on the
Museumplein. With famous pieces representing all the influential modern art
movements, like impressionism, cubism, and pop art, those who appreciate modern
and contemporary art can spend hours looking at important and influential
With pieces from Matisse and Cezanne, to Rodin and Andy Warhol, you will get
to see great works from the modern masters as well as other important and talented
artists. You might even find a brand new favorite amongst the many beautiful
pieces. Additionally, you can see pieces from the Dutch Art Nouveau movement.
There are various traveling exhibitions, but the permanent collection will
please any contemporary art aficionado.
If you really love contemporary art,
Amsterdam still has a strong artistic culture, and you can visit many galleries
featuring new artists. You can even bring some of the art home with you.
Furthermore, there is fun street art you can see as you walk through the
streets of Amsterdam.
12) Amsterdam Tulip Museum
In the 1600s, tulips were more valuable than gold. Although their value eventually decreased,
they are still a major attraction to the Netherlands. Lucky travelers who visit
between March and May can see these beautiful flowers in full bloom. However, if you
miss out, you can still enjoy some tulips at the Amsterdam Tulip Museum.
Dutch Tulips and Windmills
follow the history of the tulip and its importance to the Netherlands economic
history, especially during the 17th century. There are pictorial narratives of
the tulip's history in the Netherlands, including how tulip blubs are cultivated
and the different types of tulips out there. There are also interesting multimedia exhibitions.
Storefront Entrance to Amsterdam Tulip Museum
By Geneticcuckoo (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
For anyone who loves flowers or gardening, you will really enjoy a trip to
the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. You will be amazed that a simple flower has such a
deep history and importance both to a culture and to all of European history.
Even today, the tulip remains a viable part of Amsterdam's and the Netherlands'
Westerkerk is the biggest church in the city. Built between 1619 and 1631, it
was the first purposely built Protestant church in Amsterdam, and remains an
important part of the city. Its bell tower, known as the Westerkerk Tower or
Westertoren, is one of the city's most important symbols. As you walk through
the Old City center, you will see the looming Westerkerk Tower, which reaches
275 feet high. You can walk up the tower and see a beautiful view of Amsterdam
from the sky. You will be amazed at the difference looking at the city from
above makes, and you can have fun pointing out the different sights you have
seen while at the same time getting familiar with the canal system.
The church itself features beautiful paneling and painting. You should walk
through the church and enjoy a beautiful protestant church from the 17th
century. Westerkerk also was mentioned several times in Anne Frank's diary,
making it one of several places to visit in relation to that book.
As you walk around this historic neighborhood, you can enjoy many of the
beautiful historical buildings such as the church and feel the historical
importance of the area.
10) Reypenaer Cheese Tasting Room
If you like cheese, then you must visit the Reypenaer tasting room. Reypenaer
cheese is unique to the Netherlands and is matured naturally by following the same
historic ripening process used for many, many years. This process provides a
distinctive and complex tasting cheese that has a very strong and lovely aroma.
By making a reservation and visiting the tasting rooms, you get to experience
all the various flavors and aromas of the cheeses, led by an expert cheese
There are only 20 people allowed per tasting, and each one lasts for
about an hour. Wine is provided as part of the experience. Wine and cheese are
often paired together, and the experts at the tasting room know exactly the
right wine to bring out the flavoring of the cheese to enhance the experience
even more. You will learn so much about cheese and how much it can differ
depending on how it is created.
Even if you are not a cheese connoisseur, anyone who enjoys artisanal foods
or tasting events will enjoy time at the Reypenaer Cheese Tasting Room. You will
have a hard time finding good cheese at home once you have indulged in the
beautiful, naturally handcrafted Reypenaer cheese.
9) Zaanse Schans
A short hop outside of the city, and you can see all the stereotypes of the
Netherlands in one little village. This little village is still functioning, but
seems more like a museum than a town. There are six windmills, a cheese farm,
and a wooden shoe workshop. You can learn about the history and symbolism of the
clog by visiting the wooden shoe workshop, and perhaps bring yourself home a
Much of the town's beautiful, historic architecture and traditions are still
intact, making you feel like you have transported through time when you visit
this idyllic village. You can actually take a tour into one of the functional
windmills. If you are looking for traditional artisanal Dutch products, then
Zaanse Schans is the perfect stop for you to find just what you are looking for.
There is a chocolate and biscuit company to visit and enjoy their goods.
will feel transported into a time lost to history once you enter Zaanse Schans.
When you leave, you will feel like you just walked through the version of
Holland found in Epcot Center or It's a Small World.
8) Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder
When you brave a venture into the Red Light District, be sure to check out
the hidden church in Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder, or Our Lord in the Attic.
On the outside, this museum looks just like a typical 17th century mansion on
the canal. However, there is a hidden Catholic church that dates back to when
Catholicism was banned in the Netherlands.
Although it is called "Our Lord in
the Attic," the church actually is comprises the top three floors of the house.
The church was theoretically hidden; but authorities were well aware of it and
allowed it to operate, demonstrating the history of Amsterdam's tolerance. The
house remained a church for two centuries, until the first Catholic Church in
centuries was built in the late 1800s, and then it became a museum.
seeing the church and how it worked, you will get to see how an affluent
merchant lived in the 17th century by touring the bottom floors. There is period
furniture and other accessories, making it look just like it did back in the
1600s. You will get a wonderful history lesson of both daily life and religion
by walking through this beautiful museum.
Another of the great places to visit and see beautiful tulips and other flora
is the Bloemenmarkt, which offers tourists a chance to purchase flowers and
bulbs. It is actually a floating flower market on the Singel; the only one in
the world. There are 15 shops selling flowers and garden supplies, although some
also sell souvenirs.
Bloemenmarkt Flower Shops
By VirtualSteve (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
These shops are permanently ensconced on barges. As you walk along the
stalls, you can find a great deal on some beautiful flowers to bring home with
you, although you should check the import and export laws before purchasing any
tulip bulbs or other floral souvenirs. However, most of the wares are sold in
order for international tourists to be able to safely take them back home.
you plant the bulbs in your garden, you will remember your trip to Amsterdam as
they bloom in all their glorious colors.
The Rijksmuseum, or national museum, is one of the many important art museums
that you should visit in Amsterdam. At the Rijksmuseum, you can see thousands of
the great Dutch masterpieces, including Rembrandt's De Nachwacht. This museum
holds some of the top collections in Europe, along with the world's largest
assortment of Dutch master paintings.
Dutch painters have featured in many of
the important European art movements throughout history. By taking a stroll
around the Rijksmuseum, you will get to see beautiful Dutch artists, along with
many other important pieces of both Dutch cultural history and that of the rest
of Europe. If you love art, or just want to see how the Dutch impacted the art
world, you should make the Rijksmuseum a priority on your visit to Amsterdam.
Rembrandt's The Night Watch On Display in the
you are not the biggest fan of art and can only choose one art museum to visit,
the Rijksmuseum offers the best overview of all the art movements and masters
important to Dutch history and culture.
5) Vincent Van Gogh Museum
Vincent van Gogh is one of the most famous Dutch painters. His
post-impressionist paintings were worthless during his own life, leaving him to
die penniless. He suffered mental problems, and is well known for having cut off
his own ear as a present for his girlfriend. However, he created masterpieces during his 10 years as an artist
that are beloved throughout the world today.
Vincent Van Gogh Museum Exterior
In the Van Gogh Museum, you can learn more about Van Gogh's history as an
artist. It has the world's largest collection of his work, along with many of
his contemporaries including the impressionists, realists, and
post-impressionists. In the permanent collection, you can enjoy the famous
Sunflowers and many of his other masterpieces. They are displayed
chronologically, so you can see the development of Van Gogh as an artist.
see his contemporaries nearby, you can see how he was influenced by some of
their artwork and what he did that was intrinsically his own style. There is
also a rotating exhibit featuring many of the famous 19th century artists. You
never know what other beautiful artwork you may fall in love with while at the
museum. If you enjoy Van Gogh's work at all, you should definitely check out
4) Historic Canals
Venice may be the most famous of the canal cities, but Amsterdam could fight
for that title. The canals were built as an important part of 17th century
Amsterdam's defense and transport. Citizens would use the hundreds of canals to
travel from place to place. Although hundreds of these old canals were filled in
to become roads once the automobile became the more fashionable way to travel,
there are still 165 historic canals.
The Canals of Amsterdam became a UNESCO monument in 2010. The canals are
beautiful, and the architecture surrounding the canals is uniquely Dutch. You
can walk along the canals and take a canal tour to better get a sense of the
beauty of Amsterdam. Many companies offer tours that will also give you a
history of the city. Taking a canal tour will also provide you with an idea of
the way the city is structured, making it an ideal way to start your trip and
get acquainted with Amsterdam.
3) Tulip Farm Keukenhof
Just a small drive outside of Amsterdam, Keukenhof Tulip Farm is a must see
for any tourist who is there between March and May. In fact, there are tours
from the Amsterdam airport that run daily for anyone with a long enough layover.
The Keukenhof is a planned garden that has seven million blooming bulbs, along
with other floral displays. It is less than an hour on a bus from the airport
and very easy to get to.
The March through May tulip growing season is the only time the garden is
open. You can walk around rows and rows of brilliantly colored tulips. If you
love flowers, you can easily spend all day walking amongst the gorgeous fields
of tulips in every color imaginable. You can also buy some as a souvenir when
you walk out. Even if you are not a flower lover, you will enjoy the brilliant
colors of Keukenhof.
In the surrounding area, there are many of the commercial
tulip and bulb forming areas, so you can see some of the behind-the-scenes of
the industry, even in the off season.
2) Rembrandt House Museum
Another important Dutch master is Rembrandt, and you can visit a museum
dedicated to him at the Rembrandt House Museum. Although many of his famous
works are in museums around the world, including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam,
you can see many rare etchings in this museum. During his own lifetime,
Rembrandt was best known for his nearly three hundred etchings. Almost the
entire collection of Rembrandt's etchings is at the museum.
In the museum, there are also various paintings by his forerunners,
contemporaries, and disciples to provide a full look into the importance of
Rembrandt. The museum is held in Rembrandt's old home, restored to how it looked
during the time he lived there. Not only will you see how the artist lived
during his lifetime, you will also get a strong idea of how someone lived in
Amsterdam in the 17th century. Much of Rembrandt's old furniture survived and is
featured in the house, providing the feel of transporting back through time. You
can enjoy art and history in this museum.
1) Anne Frank's House
World War II was a dark time throughout Europe, especially for the Jews.
Amsterdam was not saved from this dark history, and one of its most famous
citizens was an unlucky Jewish girl who chose to chronicle her life through her
diary: Anne Frank. Anne, her family, and three others hid in the attic of a
house along the canal of Amsterdam, thanks to some brave people. This house is
now a museum dedicated to Anne Frank and the plight of the Jews during the
Holocaust. By visiting the house, you can see exactly how small an area the
Franks and others lived in for years. They successfully hid through most of the
war, but they were found and sent off the camps where most of the family,
including Anne, ultimately perished.
Tourists Lining Up Outside of Anne Frank's House and Museum
It is a somber experience, but it is truly a must see on any list for
Amsterdam. You can also leave notes of your experience, and read those of others
and see exactly how much of an impact Anne has had throughout the world with her
small diary. The small attic where they lived was such a cramped space; you will
be amazed at how they survived as long as they did. Anne and her family may have
died, but her spirit lives on through her diary and this simple but touching
museum dedicated to her. For further information on the plight of the Jews in
Amsterdam, you can visit the Verzetsmueum, which details the resistance movement
in the Netherlands, and the Jewish Historical Museum.
When you visit Amsterdam, there are so many vastly different experiences to
be enjoyed. You can see beautiful gardens and flowers, enjoying a connection
with nature. Then you can enjoy art and cultural impact of the Dutch in the
numerous museums. You can explore the beauty of the canals and the historical
architecture of the city. There are numerous restaurants, clubs, bars, and
shopping opportunities to keep you entertained in addition to the other
important places to visit. If you are really adventurous, you can visit the red
light district or a coffee house. Whether you are a family, a young group of
friends, or a solo traveler, there is so much to enjoy in Amsterdam. However, if
you only have a little bit of time in the city, be sure to visit as many of
these 15 places as you can. You will come away with a great overview of
Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and the history and impact of the city on Europe and
Amsterdam Tourist and Convention Board - (With over 12.2 million
tourists visiting every year, Amsterdam ranks in the top 10 cities in
Europe for tourists)
"Tulipmania" on the University of Chicago website - (In the 1600s,
tulips were more valuable than gold)