Choose from 125 Fun Things to Do in Netherlands
Today the river runs through the center of the city, lined with landmark buildings, stately mansions and colorful houseboats. A walk along the riverside pathway takes in a number of key sights: the regal Carré theatre, still a popular performance house; the post-modernist Stopera city hall and opera house, with its contemporary glass facade; and the neo-baroque domes of the St Nicolas church, all face the river front. A number of landmark bridges also cross the river, the most famous of which is the Magere Brug, or the ‘Skinny Bridge’, a white painted bascule bridge, rebuilt in the early 1900s. Don’t miss out on renowned tourist attractions like the Hermitage Museum, the Amsterdam Museum and Waterlooplein, either – all lie along the shores of the Amstel.
Throughout the year a number of festivities center around the Amstel River – the Bevrijdingsdag (liberation day) celebrations are televised from here; the Gay Pride Canal Parade brings a dash of color to the waters and the annual New Year light-show dazzles crowds along the riverbanks.
- A number of cruise departure points are set along the famous canals, and tours are available in several languages.
- The Canal Ring circles some of Amsterdam’s most important sites, including the Red Light District, the Museumplein, the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum, Rembrandt Square, the Jewish Quarter, and the Museum Quarter.
- Barges, powerboats, Frisian skutsjes (sailboats), and rowboats ply the canals at all times of day and night.
- Although the area's once-dangerous streets are now much more welcoming, be aware of your surroundings as pickpockets are still common.
- Taking photographs of sex workers in the windows is strictly forbidden. If you do, you may find yourself fishing your camera out of a canal.
- Nearby, the commercial thoroughfares of Warmoesstraat and Zeedijk are filled with shops and restaurants.
Designed by architect Adolf Leonard van Gendt, the 19th-century building, located right in front of the Rijksmuseum, was inspired by the famous 18th-century Gewandhaus concert hall in Leipzig. Fashioned mostly in a Dutch Neo-Renaissance style, the impressive building includes a classic monumental facade and a gilded lyre atop its roof. Today, the concert hall is the home of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and is renowned for both its outstanding acoustics and propensity for diversity – Led Zeppelin, The Who and Pink Floyd all performed there in the ‘60s, and Jazz and World musicians continue to take the stage, as well as Classical orchestras.
To fully experience the Concertgebouw’s spectacular interiors and acoustic prowess, attend one of the 445 annual concerts held in the main hall, or better still, couple your evening entertainment with a Theatre Tour where you can learn more about the intricate architecture before soaking up the atmosphere of a live performance. Those on a budget can get a taster of events to come by attending the free 30-minute rehearsal slots held at midday, each Wednesday between September and June.
The bestselling book “Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl” brought to life one of the greatest horrors of the 20th century in a compelling, personal way. In the true story, a young Jewish girl, her family, and some friends are forced into hiding in Amsterdam to escape the Nazis during World War II. The house that served as the Frank family’s hiding place for two years survived the war and is now a moving museum, with the primary site being the achterhuis (rear house), also known as the secret annex. Here the Franks sat in silence during the day and ate food that was secretly brought to them before being mysteriously betrayed and sent to Nazi concentration camps. Otto Frank, the only Frank who survived the war, published Anne’s now-famous diary in 1947.
The museum is one of Amsterdam’s top attractions and tickets often sell out—it is strongly recommended that travelers pre-purchase a ticket for a particular time slot. In fact, from 9am to 3:30pm, the museum is open only to visitors with a timed ticket purchased online.
Things to Know Before You Go
- A visit to the Anne Frank House is an emotional experience, and appropriate solemnity should be observed.
- You won’t need much time inside—30 minutes should be enough for you to see the interior and pause for a moment of reflection.
- If you have time, stop in next door, at Prinsengracht 265-267, to see temporary exhibits.
How to Get There
The Anne Frank House is located in the center of Amsterdam, at Prinsengracht 263-267. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from Centraal station to the museum. Trams 13, 14, and 17, and buses 170, 172 and 174, stop nearby, at the Westermarkt stop.
When to Get There
The Anne Frank House is open every day of the year except for Yom Kippur, with extended evening hours during summer. Lines can be long at peak times, especially in the early afternoon, when you may have to wait an hour or more to get in. To avoid the crowds, arrive at the museum entrance either early or late in the day. Keep in mind that last entry is 30 minutes before closing time and the line closes earlier—depending on how busy it is, this can be as early as two hours before closing time.
To get a clearer picture of Anne Frank’s life, both before World War II and during the Netherlands’ occupation by Nazi Germany, consider exploring some of Amsterdam’s other important sites in the Jewish Quarter (Jodenbuurt). A guided walking tour focused on Anne Frank’s life visits her family home and school, while an Amsterdam canal cruise along the Canal Ring (Grachtengordel) gives you a unique perspective from the water and a self-guided audio tour lets you learn about the sights at your own pace.
Located on Albert Cuypstraat in the city’s characterful De Pijp district, the market is open every day except Monday and is an easy tram ride from the city center. Here, about 260 market stalls offer just about everything imaginable. Share some jovial banter with the notoriously chatty stallholders as you bargain over books, clothing and electronics, then fill your shopping basket with fresh fruit, vegetables and fish, all at very reasonable prices. The melting pot of local residents brings an ethnic flavor to proceedings; Turkish, Moroccan and Surinamese foods and furnishings add a flash of color to the market but, of course, there’s plenty of traditional Dutch fare on sale too.
If all that shopping leaves you feeling peckish, the area surrounding the market is crammed with international restaurants with curry houses, Asian noodle bars and street food providing a myriad of choices. Just don’t forget to sample local specialty – freshly baked Stroopwafels, dripping with syrup.
Not finished shopping, yet? Check out Amsterdam’s Waterlooplein flea market, the famous floating flower market on the Singel canal or the Black Market Bazaar, Europe’s largest indoor market
- Facilities at Amsterdam Central Station include ATMs, restrooms, luggage storage, a tourist office, currency exchange, and a range of coffee shops, fast-food restaurants, and shops.
- Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the station.
- Amsterdam Central Station is fully wheelchair accessible.
How to get to Amsterdam
You’ll dock at the Eastern Docklands, about a 10- to 20-minute walk from Central Station (Centraal Station), where you can catch public transport or continue walking to the city center. Amsterdam is a very walkable city, and the public transport is also easy to use. Or, do as the Dutch do and travel around the city by bike! Rentals can be found around the city center.
One Day in Amsterdam
From Central Station, head along the Damrak toward the historical center of the city. Veer off to the left to pass by Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest building, founded in 1213, and then continue walking to Dam Square, where Amsterdam was founded in 1270.
From the Dam, head west along the Raadhuisstraat and cross three of the city’s canals, lingering to take photos and admire the canal houses. When you get to the fourth canal, turn right to walk to the Anne Frank House.
Then, make your way south along the canal toward Museum Square, where you’ll find the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. Check out one or both, and then end your day with a leisurely boat tour through the canals.
In the heart of town is the famous cheese market and cheese-weighing hall, an ancient tradition that was reopened in 1989 thanks to tourist demand. The market runs weekly through the summer months, with locals getting into the spirit with traditional costumes, live folk music and, of course, stalls stacked high with cheese. For the full experience, pay a visit to the region’s cheese and dairy farms where you can marvel at the cheese warehouses and enjoy cheese-making displays.
There are plenty of attractions in town aside from cheese, too – the Edam Museum, housed in an early 16th-century townhouse, offers historic snippets of the town’s whaling past and the teetering Carillon Tower (Speeltoren) with its picturesque gothic façade is worth a visit. Alternatively, take a stroll around Edam’s idyllic drawbridges, canal houses and pretty teahouses.
Several of the Binnenhof’s monumental buildings are open to the public as part of an official guided tour, including the Ridderzaal, where a permanent Parliament exhibit is housed, or else you can wander the stately grounds for free.