Top 5 Things to do in Amsterdam

Top 5 Things to do in Amsterdam

Top 5 things to do in Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum
Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

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Pack your bags for Amsterdam!

Amsterdam is a beautiful and unforgettable city to visit in Europe. The only problem with traveling to Amsterdam is narrowing down the list of all of the exciting things to do during your trip! Read on for a list of the top five things that you don’t want to miss while in Amsterdam.

Brief history lesson

Amsterdam is located in the Netherlands and has been inhabited since the 12th century. It borders Belgium and Germany and the northern border is the North Sea. The name, the Netherlands, refers to the entire country, and Holland refers to a section of the country. They are often used by foreigners, interchangeably.

Top 5 things to do in Amsterdam

Photo by Ian on Unsplash

The top 5 things not to miss

Let’s get right to the good stuff. Before I start listing all of the wonderful things to do, here are a few basics.

These may be obvious, but in your excitement, you may lose all cognitive abilities. Here are a few things to know before you go.

Top 5 things to do in Amsterdam:

Photo by Alice Achterhof on Unsplash

A few things about the Dutch

Just about everyone in Holland that I have met or spoken to, speaks English. Some of those amazing Dutchies even speak French and German as well. A few more add Flemish to their list of spoken languages. It’s very comforting for someone to speak your native language when you are in a new place. The Dutch are more than happy to oblige.

Going through Passport Control at Schiphol Airport is something everyone has to do if you are flying. Passport checks are performed by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, an arm of the Dutch Armed Forces.

These people are a dream to deal with at Schiphol Airport. They are likely the most friendly airport security personnel I’ve ever met in any country. Get used to it, this is how the Dutch operate.

Top 5 things to do in Amsterdam

Let’s get to the list and get you going on your next wonderful adventure in a place you will likely not want to leave.

Top 5 things to do in Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum

Photo by Anastasia Dulgier on Unsplash

1. Museumplein

Museumplein translates to Museum Square. It is a public park area that is surrounded by many amazing opportunities for culture. The three major museums here are the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, and Concertgebouw, a concert hall. 

There is a beautiful gift shop detached from the museum for Van Gogh gifts and another amazing gift shop inside the Rijksmuseum if you need presents to take home, this is your spot.

My favorite museum there is the Rijksmuseum and I am not alone. There is usually a wait to get in, but not long enough to bother me the times I have visited. Construction began on the Rijksmuseum in 1885 and it is quite something to behold. Nevermind the priceless treasures inside.

The Rijksmuseum is a history of Holland from the Middle Ages to today, 80 rooms full of more than 8000 objects of art. Be sure to check out the Rembrandt and Vermeer paintings. Milkmaid is my favorite Vermeer, be sure to find this one.

Top 5 things to do in Amsterdam
The Milkmaid by Vermeer

I have spent many hours on different trips wandering through the Rijksmuseum. I have yet to come close to seeing it all. Every time I am there, I want to pay a visit. The Rijksmuseum will draw you in and never leave you.

Museumplein has other attractions as well such as the Diamond Museum, the Consulate General of the United States, and the House of Bols. Take a blanket, grab a stroopwafel, and lie down in the soft grass of the park after you’ve enjoyed the museums.

Top 5 things to do in Amsterdam:
Van Gogh {pronounced Fan Hoh in Dutch}

2. Anne Frank House

Another must-see in Amsterdam is the Anne Frank House. This is the famous Dutch house that hid Anne Frank and her family during the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Anne kept a diary that is now known worldwide about her family and their struggles while living in hiding.

This can be a very moving experience to walk where the Frank family hid away for years. This is a highly sought after attraction in Holland. You can buy tickets outside or reserve a time slot in advance.

I have never reserved a time slot, I’ve always tried to “wing it”. That has resulted in my turning around when the line was wrapped around the block. I highly recommend booking in advance. You can do that here.

3. Dam Square

Top 5 things to do in Amsterdam: Dam Square
Dam Square

This is at the heart of it all. It was the original site of the dam built on the Amstel River in 1270. It has a colorful history of being the original central market and also the site of violent protests in the country’s past.

Today, it is a bustling mecca full of street performers, shopping, and pigeons. You can also see the National Monument, New Church, and the Royal Palace.

You should grab some amazing french fries with mayonnaise and curry ketchup, then find a bench to watch the world go by.

4. Red Light District

Top 5 things to do in Amsterdam:

Photo by Terry Vlisidis on Unsplash

The Red Light District is iconic and known the world over for it’s taboo offerings. I’ve walked through during the day with four children before I realized I was right in the middle of it.

The daytime is discreet, no one in my tribe even noticed the women “advertising” in the windows. The red lights are lit and the curtains on the windows are open.

Top 5 things to do in Amsterdam:

The Red Light District in Amsterdam

Leave your camera in your bag, as tempting as it might be to document your trip there. It is highly frowned upon and there are signs to tell you so. Just don’t do it. Trust me on this one.

There are brothels and an abundance of novelty shops to peak your fancy. This is also where most of the coffee shops are located. I highly recommend a cappuccino from the “coffee shops”, they are the best in town despite that not being what they specialize in.

Top 5 things to do in Amsterdam: Coffee Shops
Best cappuccino in the world

5. Bloemenmarkt or The Flower Market

Top 5 things to do in Amsterdam:

The Flower Market in Amsterdam is something straight from the past. It was founded in 1862 by the flower growers. The floated their barges up the Singel Canal to sell their items in the City Centre. Today’s Flower Market is still comprised of floating barges with glass tops.

Browse through the beautiful blooms and bulbs, smell every thing. There are plenty of souvenir shops nearby if your partner isn’t into flowers. There are even shops that ship your items home for you. Be sure to select the varieties that are cleared by customs.

A few more tips

I would recommend that you try out a few Dutch words on your long flight to Amsterdam, learn a few pleasantries such as “thank you” and “please”. If you can order your coffee in Dutch and they respond in Dutch, you have arrived!

Be aware of bicyclists, they know the rules of the road and they drive fast. Keep your eyes on the bike paths and don’t walk into them. If you plan on renting a bike, familiarize yourself with the rules first.

Top 5 things to do in Amsterdam:
Bike Rental in Amsterdam

If you love discounts, look into the iamsterdam card. In addition to providing you with free access to museums and attractions, you get access to public transportation! This is key for when your feet wear out.

Take a canal tour to enjoy the scenery and architecture. I highly recommend that you try as many different gouda cheeses as you can find. Enjoy your meals outside, as most restaurants have outdoor seating all year round. Breathe in Amsterdam and take a little home with you.

I hope you have enjoyed a look into Amsterdam. Check out my other travel posts here and get your bucket list ready!

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9 Replies to “Top 5 Things to do in Amsterdam”

  1. I went to Amsterdam back in July and Dam Square was great (although super busy!) Unfortunately we missed out on the Anne Frank House due to a availablity so I need to return!

    1. Hi Millie,
      The line was too long for us as well. Next time I will make a reservation! I am excited about seeing the house. Hope you get back to Amsterdam soon. Safe travels.

  2. I love this so much! Amsterdam is my favourite place that I’ve visited. We were there for four days but there’s just so much to do that we couldn’t fit it all in! We also walked through the Red Light District in the daytime and didn’t realise right away, it was very different than I expected. I think the next time we’ll go we’ll book the Anne Frank House in advance because we tried to wing it too and didn’t have any luck.

    Can’t wait to read some more posts!

    Steph ||

    1. I know what you mean. My first trip there, we walked through the Red Light District in the day as well. I had four kids in tow and we didn’t notice until we were almost through! LOL It’s a lot tamer than people might think. Thanks for stopping by.

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