Amsterdam is such an understated beauty. The more time you spend, the more it grows on you. I chose this destination somewhat on a whim, but it left me with many great memories. Let’s discuss some of the major sites, so you can have a jumping point to create your own memorable visit. To start, Amsterdam is a very walkable city. We had little difficulty getting to all of the sights below via foot. Or, if you prefer something else, there is always the option for bicycle. There are bicycles absolutely everywhere in Amsterdam. Be careful, there were multiple occasions where I looked up and a bicycle was coming straight for me. You can think you are looking in all logical directions, but I swear it will happen to you too! The sights below represent a number of the famous and most popular things to do and try in Amsterdam.
If you are going to be visiting a number of these sights, I recommend buying some type of a universal pass that covers the admission to a number of these places. This is definitely a way to save money. We decided to go with the I amsterdam card. You can purchase the card for any length between 1-5 days. It allows access to over 70 museums, public transportation, and one of the canal cruises. Given the number of sights we planned on visiting, this was well worth it in my opinion. We actually picked our cards up from the airport. The pick up area is pretty easily visualized before leaving the airport. When you arrive to the site, they will scan your card and you are free to enjoy.
When planning trips, I make a list of all the sights that I would like to visit. Typically, I group them by location once I map all of them and see what is closest to each other. This is how I plan out our days to maximize time and efficiency.
Jordan and Western Canal Region
1. Anne Frankhuis. I put this first mainly because it is something you really need to research ahead of time. After planning for purchasing timed entry tickets, I checked the website around six weeks in advance of our trip. To my shock, I found that all of the tickets were sold out. There was no availability for any of the days we were in Amsterdam. While initially extremely disappointed, I was hopeful we would still be able to get tickets. Nothing opened up prior to our trip, but we did walk by the house on sightseeing our first day. Outside, they informed us that they sometimes release last minute tickets in the mornings. Fortunately, we were able to secure two of these tickets and tour inside. You have to be diligent about checking their website in the morning. In the end, this really amounted to luck on our part. However, if you plan in advance, make this one of the first things you book. Photos are prohibited inside. This was an unforgettable experience, and I think having my phone in my pocket really allowed me to read and take in the gravity of what this experience truly meant.
2. Houseboat Museum. One of the iconic aspects of Amsterdam is all of the beautiful canals. There are houseboats lining many of the canals. This museum is a chance to go inside and capture the feel of living on a houseboat. This was included as part of the I Amsterdam card. It is a quick, fun walk through.
3. Cheese Tasting. If you don’t like cheese, Amsterdam might not be the best place for a visit. Just kidding, kind of. There are cheese stores throughout Amsterdam with some of the most common being Henry Willig, Amsterdam Cheese Company, and De Kaaskamer. If you go inside, there are countless samples at your disposal to try. There are flavorings to the cheese I would have never dreamed of like coconut. And, as crazy as it sounds, it was fantastic and one of my top choices. In addition to that there is asparagus, honey and thyme, truffle, and the list goes on. I still order from the Amsterdam Cheese Company and my absolute favorite is the Maxima. In my opinion, this is some of the best cheese around. Don’t resist the urge to walk in every cheese store and try as much as you’d like!
Centrum, Red Light District, and Nieuwmarkt
4. Begijnhof. This courtyard is a quiet, tranquil area in the middle of Amterdam. It was designated for the Catholic sisterhood living a chaste life. You will see a traditional row of houses all arranged around the green inner yard. Single women still live in this area and you are asked to be quiet to respect their privacy while visiting.
5. De Nieuwe Kerk. Although this translates to the “New Church”, it is actually now over 600 years old. Go inside for a tour and pay for admission or use your I Amsterdam card. Inside you have the option of an audio guide to help you tour around.
6. Red Light District. This is certainly a part of Amsterdam that many have heard about. It is quite entertaining to walk around during the day to see the small doorways where you will find females waiting. Keep in mind an afternoon stroll to check out the scene, but it is not family friendly entertainment.
7. Our Lord in the Attic Museum. The real name for this is Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder. It is a Catholic church literally tucked away in the attic. Catholic masses were forbidden at one time in Amsterdam, but the Protestants didn’t protest if the outside was not visualized as a church. Thus, this church looks just as the buildings adjacent to it.
8. Royal Palace. Located in the main square, the Royal Palace is quite grand. Use your card or buy tickets for a tour inside. You can utilize a headset for the full history as you guide yourself around the palace. Its grandeur is really something special. The side rooms that showcase bedrooms and other art are everything that you would expect with beautiful colors and over the top traditional design.
9. Oude Kerk. Now that we have discussed the “new church”, it would be appropriate to mention there is also the “old church.” The inside of this building is quite impressive, and although it dates back to the 1300s, it has been used to showcase modern art exhibits in the past. While we were visiting, the lighting inside was entirely red. I can’t say whether this was normal or just fleeting. Regardless, it did make for some fantastic photographs of the structure inside.
10. Museum Het Rembrandthuis. Visit the home that Rembrandt lived and worked from 1639 until 1656. This is really a fascinating stop. On the lower floors, you can see where Rembrandt lived. His studio where he taught young artists was one of my favorite areas to explore. I felt visiting his home first gave me a better appreciation of seeing his famous paintings in the Rijksmuseum.
11. Dam Square. This is the main square in Amsterdam directly adjacent to both the Royal Palace and De Nieuwe Kerk. It was always bustling with people with the exception of very early the morning we were heading to Brussels. So, if you want photos showcasing the square empty plan to rise early in the morning.
12. Rijksmuseum. This massive museum could keep you busy for hours upon hours if you are an art enthusiast. It is filled with Dutch masterpieces. Some of the most famous works on display include Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and Vermeer’s The Milkmaid. Vermeer is also known for Girl with a Pearl Earring. Rijksmuseum allows you a full day of exploring as it is within the museum district with Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk. In between these locations, you will find beautiful landscapes and lush greenery to enjoy.
13. Van Gogh Museum. I would recommend booking timed entry tickets for this museum as well. These tickets I checked weeks out, but they were much easier to obtain as compared to Anne Frank House. It is nice to have them in advance and leaves behind the hassle of a line. For me, this is another must do in Amsterdam.
14. Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art. Honestly, I almost skipped a visit to this museum. I didn’t read about it much prior to the visit. While we were walking around, we decided to go inside because our I amsterdam card allowed access and we figured “why not.” I am so happy that we did because this was one of my favorite museums. You certainly have to like modern art though. It was a welcome change from the Van Gogh museum and Rijksmuseum in that it was more playful and fun. The exhibits I found quite entertaining and many of the things inside were surprisingly quite pretty. I would definitely visit again on a future trip.
15. Nine Streets. One word, shopping. If you hear these words, this is the place to shop. Stroll these streets that run parallel to each other looking for clothes, jewelry, and shoes. I found a few trendy items in the clothing boutiques in this area. Although not in the area of the nine streets, one store I definitely recommend is United Nude. They have very modern and extremely unique shoes. I found a great pair of heels here that are actually surprisingly comfortable.
I took this photo at 11pm!! I was amazed at how late the sky stayed lit in the summer.