Our guide to the top 10 must-sees on your Amsterdam city break gives you the ultimate low-down on the highlights of this exciting city. Perfect for a weekend away or a short break, Amsterdam has everything from gorgeous architecture to canals, parks, markets and lots of fabulous shops, bars and restaurants.
1. Cruise along the canals
Yes, it’s a touristy thing to do, but there’s no better way to see this beautiful city than from the water. Amsterdam’s golden age was the 17th century, and the historic canal belt, flanked by beautiful gabled mansions, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Floating through the historic heart of the city, it’s easy to imagine the Amsterdam of 400 years ago.
2. Art, art and more art
Amsterdam is home to several outstanding museums, including the stellar trio that overlook Museumsplein. The biggest is the Rijksmuseum, the Dutch national museum, which contains innumerable treasures, notably works by Rembrandt and Vermeer. Also here is the Van Gogh Museum, where you can admire world-famous paintings such as Sunflowers. If contemporary art is more your speed, then head to the Stedelijk, which is home to paintings by Mondrian and Andy Warhol, among countless others.
3. Visit the Anne Frank House
The home of Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl whose diary is famous throughout the world, has become one of the most visited sites in Amsterdam. Anne Frank hid in this house with her family for more than two years, before they were betrayed and deported to the concentration camps. Her diary was later published by her father, Otto Frank, the only member of the family to have survived.
4. Pick up some flowers at the Bloemenmarkt (Floating market)
Amsterdam’s heavenly floating flower market is the only one in the world, and a must-see on any trip to the Dutch capital. The stalls are set up on houseboats, and are a colourful riot of different blooms and scents. If you’re visiting Amsterdam in spring, you might want to take a day trip out of the city to see the stunning tulip fields which stretch between Harleem and Leiden.
5. Rummage through markets
Amsterdam’s markets are a treasure trove for bargain-hunters. The most famous is the Albert Cuypsmarkt in the vibrant De Pijp neighbourhood. More than a century old, it has almost 300 stalls selling everything from clogs to stroopwafels – the delicious, caramel-filled wafers.
6. Check out the Heineken Experience
Heineken beer has been brewed in Amsterdam since 1864, and you can tour the original factory to find out all about its history, then hang out in the bar and try your hand at pouring a glass or two of the famous brew. There are lots of fun, interactive exhibits, and you get a couple of free beers at the end of the tour.
7. Linger in the Begijnhof, Amsterdam’s secret courtyard
Escape the crowds in the oldest courtyard in Amsterdam. This enchanting square is surrounded by beautiful historic houses, and was originally home to a religious community, the Beguines. There are almost 50 tall, gabled houses arranged around the courtyard, including the oldest surviving wooden house in the city, which dates back to 1528.
8. Cycle through the Vondelpark
Amsterdam has dozens of wonderful parks, but the Vondelpark is its biggest and best-loved. As well as gorgeous, green expanses of lawn where you can relax and picnic, it has a theatre, lots of delightful little cafés for a break, and biking and jogging paths. After your bike ride, you can settle down with a picnic next to one of the pools or fountains.
9. Admire Amsterdam’s contemporary architecture
Amsterdam may be most famous for its canals and historic gabled mansions, but it’s also got a slew of bold, contemporary buildings. You can’t miss the EYE, a striking, white sculptural building that sits just across the Ij from the Central Station and is home to the Dutch Film Museum. You could also check out the NEMO Science Center, set in a stunning, curved building designed by Renzo Piano, which has amazing views from the top-floor café. There are more fantastic views from the A’Dam Tower, which has a 360-degree observation deck, and Europe’s highest swing!
10. Visit Amsterdam’s unique neighbourhoods
Amsterdam has lots of distinct neighbourhoods, each with their own special character, that are a delight to stroll around. Jordaan, once a warehouse district, has been transformed into one of the city’s artiest and most inviting neighbourhoods. Its historic warehouses and gabled mansions are now home to art galleries, bistros and boutiques. The bohemian De Pijp district, a 19th-century working class area, is now one of the city’s most vibrant and multicultural, full of fantastic restaurants and bars.