Somehow Amsterdam is my most visited city. This wonderful town with its canals and bikers, its many museums and art galleries attracts tourists from all over the world on a daily basis. There is always so much to see and do! Here is my list of the top places to check out on your first visit.
The Anne Frank House
For many of us, The Diary of Anne Frank was compulsory reading in high school, and for many of us, it is a book we’ll always remember. Her words put you right into that claustrophobic annex her family and four other people hid in for two restless years – but nothing will allow you to experience the direness of the situation quite like the real place. The house is now a museum dedicated to the story of Anne Frank and her family, and the reconstructed bookcase will lead you up into the Secret Annex in which she noted down her most private thoughts. Tickets are €9 for adults, €4.50 for students aged 10 to 17; admission is free for children aged nine and under. The Anne Frank House counts as one of the top things to do in Amsterdam, so you can expect long lines; be sure to order your tickets online ahead of time to avoid wasting precious ‘Dam time.
Van Gogh Museum
Vincent Van Gogh was one of the most important artists from Holland, if not the world. Born in the province of North Brabant, many of his earlier works mirror the day to day life and impressions of the countryside. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is home to the world’s largest van Gogh collection, with more than 200 paintings and around 500 drawings. It takes around max. 3 hours to cover the entire museum, but you might find yourself wanting to squeeze in a few extra laps – your eyes surely won’t tire from taking in his magnificent work. Tickets are €17 and free for anyone under 18.
The Rijksmuseum is the most important museum in the country and is one of the top things to do in Amsterdam – it attracted more than 2.47 million visitors in 2014. Its striking, familiarly Dutch architecture beckons you to uncover years worth of Holland’s art and history. With around 8000 objects in 80 different rooms you will be embarking on a journey through various eras and styles until finally landing on the museum’s most prized possessions: Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. Admission is €17.50, free for people under 18.
The Vondelpark spreads out over 120 acres and is a popular place for events, as well as days spent relaxing in the sun, a chilled bottle of Heineken in hand. Originally built for the elite in 1865, it has now established itself for a meeting place for old and young, locals and tourists. This is the perfect place to soak up the Dutch flair by watching people bike by, digging into some mayonnaise-soaked fries from the nearest snackbar and kicking back in the grass. During the summer months the Vondelpark is home to many concerts, festivals and activities.
Think of the Dam Square as Holland’s Piccadilly Circus: full of colourful people, awesome shops and museums! For shopping purposes you’ll definitely want to hit the Bijenkorf, a shopping center with top department stores where you’ll find that little something different. If you want to meet the “waxing” image of your favourite celebrities and icons, a stop at the Madame Tussaud museum always guarantees a laugh. Once your tired feet beg you for a rest, grab a coffee and breathe in the the buzzing city that is Amsterdam.
What’s Amsterdam without the Heineken experience? If you’re going to be sipping on these charming green bottles all weekend, you might as well learn a little something about their history. The Heineken experience will take you on a tour through what was once the brand’s biggest brewery and teaches you everything there is to know about its OB – Original Brewer – Gerard Adriaan Heineken. You’ll learn how the beer is made, and see a collection of old bottles, labels and posters. What makes it one of the best things to do in Amsterdam, you ask? Why, you get 3 beers at the end of the tour, meneer/mevrouw. Tickets are at €16 for adults, €12.50 for kids aged 12- 17, and free for children 11 and under.
If you’ve been to Amsterdam without checking out the Jordaan neighbourhood, you haven’t done Amsterdam properly. This is a old working class neighbourhood with a genuine feeling of community. It is full of lovely little eateries and hidden courtyard cafés and has established itself as a real go-to for all things arty. The many canals give it a very particular, bohemian feel that has attracted a whole wave of hipsters, art galleries and pop-up shops.. No matter what time of the day, you’ll always find a place with good music in Jordaan.
Red Light District
De Wallen, Amsterdam’s Red Light District, is the oldest neighbourhood in the city. If you’re a bit shy and squeamish, the sex shows and open prostitution may be a bit much for you to handle; if you’re open-minded, the Red Light District will turn into a place you’ll never forget – one live show and you’ll come out of Amsterdam having seen things you never dreamed possible! You might have to hit one of the coffee shops before you work up the guts to do so though, but luckily you won’t have to search too far to find one.