Today we’re taking you on a rollercoaster ride through the best 21 attractions that Amsterdam has to offer. Through our four days in Amsterdam, we experienced a lot, but there’s so much more to see that we’re already making another must-see attraction list for our next trip. Come along as we explain the best attractions, when you should book your tickets, and how to avoid making some of the mistakes that we made.
In case you missed it, this post is a continuation of our one-year anniversary road trip through Europe. We already wrote about the charming town of Volendam here, the best places to see tulips in the Netherlands here, and the best food in Amsterdam here.
Due to Covid-19, access to Amsterdam is currently limited. All public venues and non-essential shops are closed until March 2, 2021. Some of the attractions listed below may continue closure and open later this spring with a reduced capacity. If you’re interested in a particular attraction, then I highly advise you to visit their website and reserve tickets. We visited pre-Covid-19 and had a difficult time acquiring tickets to some attractions. My best advice for this exciting tourist destination is to plan your trip as early as possible and purchase all of your attraction tickets in advance too. We didn’t do that, and some attractions were totally sold out when we arrived in the country. I can only imagine how much more difficult it will be when attractions open with less tickets available than before.
We had a lovely time visiting the A’DAM Lookout. This observation deck towering high over the city landscape provides a panoramic view of Amsterdam. We spent a lot more time at this attraction that I thought we would. The rooftop offered multiple photo opportunities and a bar with large beanbag chairs where you could lounge with the best view in the city overlooking Amsterdam Centraal. I could have probably stayed up here all day if we didn’t also have tickets for the This is Holland attraction next door. This is definitely not an attraction to miss.
Anne Frank House
I am most saddened that I did not get to experience the Anne Frank House on our trip. This was the number-one attraction I was interested in seeing. Months before our trip, I began looking into tickets, and they were already sold out. Though we booked our flights a couple months before I started looking up attraction tickets, it hadn’t occurred to me that they would sell out. It makes sense though. This attraction is the actual house where Anne Frank went into hiding in 1942. It’s a regular house, so the flow of people moving through a home-turned-museum can’t be that much. Book this the second you book your Amsterdam trip. It is one of the most desirable and coveted attraction tickets.
Artis: Amsterdam Royal Zoo
ARTIS is the oldest zoo in the Netherlands and sits in the heart of Amsterdam. ARTIS isn’t just a zoo though; the ticket also includes access to an aquarium, planetarium, arboretum, and a large collection of art and sculptures that also reside on the ARTIS campus. I wish we’d have had one more day in Amsterdam, because I’d have loved to have seen it. Adding this to my next Amsterdam must-see list!
Amsterdam is a very bikeable city. InfactBicycling is one of the ways locals commute and travel around most. You’ll see in front of transportation hubs such as Amsterdam Centraal that there are what seems like thousands of bikes chained up on bicycle racks. In fact, there are bike rentals on many streets. So, this isn’t necessarily a recommendation on any particular company to book as much as a suggestion that a bike ride would allow you to explore like a local, take in the sights, and enjoy the waterfront canals.
Just outside of Amsterdam Centraal, you can find many boat companies that offer guided tours of the canals. Since we didn’t select a hotel along the canal, we knew that we wanted to experience the water via a boat tour. We booked our day tour with Stromma Canal Cruises and had a great time. The tour included headphones that you plug right into your seat and then select your language to learn as you ride through the waterways. Don’t miss the photo of the Seven Bridges. It’s quite impressive, and you only have the vantage point to capture it from inside a boat in the river.
Dam Square & National Monument
The National Monument and Dam Square are two sights you could easily see for free as you are walking from one attraction to the next. They sit conveniently in front of the Royal Palace of Amsterdam and only an 11 minute walk from Amsterdam Centraal Station. The National Monument is in remembrance of the casualties of World War II, and there is a ceremony every year on May 4th.
The Diamond Museum Amsterdam is an attraction that we just stumbled upon. We were in the area after having just been to Moco Museum, then we grabbed lunch at The Burger Room (highly recommend), and then we walked past the entrance of the Diamond Museum, and it piqued our interest, so we stopped in. The museum is self-guided and explains the history of Amsterdam as the City of Diamonds. They also have many gorgeous crowns and gemstones on display. It was a small museum but fairly inexpensive and a nice bonus attraction in this area of town.
De Wallen, or the Amsterdam Red Light District as some call it, is a lively canal-lined neighborhood in Amsterdam most known for its bars and sex shop scene. Thought I knew I wanted to include it in this post, the neighborhood has so much more to offer, so if you’re interested in learning more, check out my full post which you can find here.
The Heineken Experience Amsterdam
If you like beer, or Heineken beer in particular, then the Heineken Experience is for you. This one-and-a-half-hour tour takes you on a journey from the creation of Heineken, through the process of how beer is made, the iconic Dutch Gelder horses, interactive experiences and games, and finally taste-testing.
Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam
If you are visiting the Netherlands during tulip season in the spring, then I highly recommend that you take a day trip (or a few days) to explore more rural areas where farmers grow fields of tulips. I wrote a whole post on where to see the best flowers in the Netherlands here. However, if you only have a few days in Amsterdam, or are not visiting during spring, then vising the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam is a great way to get your flower fix.
I Amsterdam Sign
There are actually two I Amsterdam signs. One permanently lives at the Schipol Airport, and the other sits within the city center but moves around every few months. Due to the large size of two meters high by 23.5 meters wide, the sign draws quite the crowd and over the years has been moved around the city to several locations to help alleviate excess continued congestion in neighborhoods. In 2018 when we visited, the sign was in front of the A’DAM Lookout across the river from Amsterdam Centraal. We were already across the river experiencing a few attractions, so it worked out nicely to squeeze it in. Though there wasn’t a formal line to wait in to take pictures, there were mobs of people hanging on the letters, so it’s unlikely that you can capture a photo of just yourself with the sign. If visiting, this is a fun free photo op. Just click this link to read where the sign is positioned before your trip.
Moco Museum is a boutique museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art that sits in close proximity to Rijksmuseum. During our visit, many pieces on display were from Banksy. We loved the interactive augmented reality art experience where you hold up your smartphone and the static piece of art comes to life with movement on your screen. This is the future!
National Maritime Museum
The Hubbs and I love to visit maritime museums when traveling. There’s just something extremely fascinating in learning about how a port town used to operate, and then comparing it to modern day. Though nowadays there are significantly less ships coming in with goods, the Amsterdam National Maritime Museum gives you a glimpse into the 500-year-old history of Dutch Maritime.
Nemo Science Museum
The Nemo Science Museum is a boat-shaped building with hands-on immersive science and technology activities indoors, as well as a rooftop observation deck on top of the museum outdoors. The building sits right on the waterways, and you can recognize its distinct shape from boat tours and the A’DAM Lookout.
Rembrandt House Museum
Though there are Rembrandt pieces in the Rijksmuseum, the Rembrandt House is the home where Rembrandt lived and features an almost complete collection of Rembrandt’s etchings on display. There are also temporary exhibitions where modern artists that were inspired by Rembrant are featured.
The Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum dedicated to art and history of Amsterdam and arguably the most famous and popular museum in Amsterdam. This museum houses The Night Watch by Rembrandt, The Threatened Swan by Asselijn, Self-Portrait with a Felt Hat by van Gogh, and The Battle of Waterloo by Pieneman, among so many other treasures. On our final day in Amsterdam, we arrived right when they opened, with tickets in hand that we had purchased the day before, and we spent the morning at the museum until we had to depart for the airport.