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Everyone should visit Amsterdam at least once, and while you’re there, be sure to put at least some of these top things to do in the Dutch capital on your must-experience list.
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One of the best ways to begin a visit of Amsterdam is to take a tour that will allow you to experience many of its highlights while getting a good perspective of the layout of the city. The Hop On – Hop Off Canal tour is a fabulous option for seeing the city’s major sights, like the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gough Museum, Rembrandt House and the Anne Frank House. As bikes are readily available for rent, by the day or the hour, you may want to tour the city on two wheels, a fun and affordable way to see the classics, like the canals, the Red Light District and even the tulip fields.
Cruising the canals that were created in the 17th-century to help keep the sea at bay, Amsterdam’s UNESCO protected canal belt is the quintessential way to experience this city, providing extraordinary sights by day or by night, when the bridges are brilliant lit with fairy lights giving it an especially magical feel. You can float along the canals by boat tour, taking in the sights while learning interesting facts along the way, like why those tilting homes along the banks are called “dancing houses.” You’ll find all sorts of cruise options to choose from, including a free canal cruise that’s included with a hop-on-hop-off sightseeing tour and candlelit cruises after dark that come complete with food and wine.
The Anne Frank House offers a rather sobering by fascinating look at the atrocities committed against the Jewish during the Second World War, right at the Prinsengracht house where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis for two years after they fled persecution in Germany. The front of the home now serves as a museum, while the back annex was preserved so that visitors can get a glimpse of what life was like for Anne and the families she hid. While waiting times can be lengthy, it’s worth the effort – visit early in the morning or book online in advance to beat the longest lines.
You can’t visit Amsterdam without exploring the Van Gogh Museum. This modern building on the Museumplein pays homage to Dutch impressionist Vincent Van Gogh, showcasing over 1000 of the artist’s paintings, drawings and letters. Here, visitors can get up close and personal with some of the world’s most instantly recognizable works in addition to learning about the artists he was inspired by, and those who were inspired by him. In fact, this art museum holds the largest collection of Van Gogh’s works that you’ll find anywhere, with some 200 paintings, 400 drawings, and 700 letters by Vincent van Gogh and a main exhibition that chronicles the various phases of his artistic life.
The Westergasfabriek is a former gasworks factory that’s used as a popular cultural venue today. The sprawling complex of former industrial buildings used to be the city’s municipal gasworks was transformed into a colorful cultural hub, housing a variety of lively bars and eateries , coffee roasters, a microbrewery, an arthouse cinema that features mainly Dutch and kids’ films, and a variety of unique, creative businesses. It also hosts regular mini-festivals and food markets, like the Sunday market held on the first Sunday of every month.
While tulips and The Netherlands may be a cliché, the colorful flowers are a definitive symbol of Dutch culture, and a trip to Amsterdam just wouldn’t be the same without viewing the spectacular blooms. The most famous place to buy tulips and/or bulbs in the city is Bloemenmarkt, the only floating flower market which lines the Singel with its vibrant flower stalls in the city center. While you might think it would exist simply for the tourists, it’s actually the place to buy fresh flowers at reasonable prices. If you visit in the spring, be sure to make the short, 20-minute jaunt to one of the world’s most famous tulip fields, which stretch for miles across the fields between Harleem and Leiden
The Amsterdam zoo serves as an oasis in the heart of the city. It was the very first zoo to open in The Netherlands and is located in the chic Plantagebuurt neighborhood easily accessible by public transport. It houses more than 900 animal species, including everything from wildebeests, monkeys and penguins to giraffes, big cats and gorillas, as well as a planetarium, insectarium, butterfly garden and an aquarium. During the spring its especially picturesque with the flowers blooming in the gardens – and, all year-round, you’ll have the chance to peer under the water of an Amsterdam canal.
Often rated as the most charming neighborhoods in Amsterdam, walking in Jordaan feels like taking a step back in time. It has a rich history and was once home to the working class and immigrants, known for poor living conditions and political tension Today, it’s one of the city’s most posh areas, with the narrow streets and quaint buildings making up some of the most desirable quarters with antique shops, independent galleries, atmospheric restaurants and bars. The best way to explore it is to forget about a following a map and getting lost in the labyrinth of alluring lanes. You might just find the little gardens known as “hofjes,” which are frequently hidden and waiting to be discovered
Few visitors to Amsterdam manage to venture north of the Amsterdam Central Station, but plenty awaits in this area that sits just across the water along the banks of the IJ. Look forward to experiencing a rich food, drink and cultural scene, frequent events and festivals, and a wide range of fun waterside hangouts. It’s easy to get there and to get around, with the free ferry dropping passengers to a number of points throughout the area.