With this Amsterdam guide I am going to solve all your doubts about what you can see and do in the capital of Holland. You also have a lot of practical information to make organising your trip a lot easier.
One of my favourite European cities is the capital of Holland. It’s a city I’ve been to twice and I’d love to repeat it without hesitation. It has a sparkle and walking the canals has a special charm. Its streets are always full of tourists and many of them speak Spanish like you and me. That’s why I have prepared this guide telling you what to see in Amsterdam.
The two times I’ve been was in summer, August and September respectively. Although it’s high season and there are tourists, it’s very good. It’s not as crowded as other destinations like Paris or Rome. Another good option is to make a trip from March to May when the tulips bloom. That’s why I’ve included it as one of my favorite European Easter destinations.
What to see and do in Amsterdam?
One of the questions you ask me the most when I tell you about my trip to Amsterdam is to find out what is typical of the city. I’m sure you’ve heard about the canals, the Red Light District and the coffee shops. This is one of the best known outside its borders. But there’s more and that’s why I’ve prepared a list of the essentials in Amsterdam.
I’m also going to tell you about my best alternative plans for those of you who want to see the B side of Amsterdam. Because it’s not all going to be seeing mills and eating cheese.
The essential 10 in Amsterdam
1. Dam Square
Dam Square is the centre of Amsterdam’s historic centre. This city is articulated in circles around the canals. The first dam on the river Amstel was built on this square. Precisely that is the meaning of its name. Here is the Royal Palace, the New Church, the Madame Tussauds wax museum, the old Stock Exchange building or the Memorial to the fallen during the Second World War. In the surroundings there are many restaurants and cafes to have a drink and there are always many tourists here.
2. Flowers and tulips market in Amsterdam
Another must-see in Amsterdam is the flower market. This was a floating market, but for a few years now the stalls have been fixed in the canal. It is the typical place to buy souvenirs. Many tourists come here looking for the typical souvenir tulips.
Another thing people like the most is going to see the Keukenhof tulip fields. Between March and May is the time when you can see the tulips in bloom. But there is an excursion to Keukenhof that can be done at any time of the year to see the covered pavilions where you always see flowers. If you buy bulbs you can carry them in your hand luggage.
3. Floating houses and canal cruises
Amsterdam wouldn’t be what it is if it weren’t for the canals. Part of its charm is that the city centre is furrowed by water. There are other cities in northern Europe that are also closely linked to water such as Oslo, Stockholm or Copenhagen. However, there is no other city as popular as Amsterdam. You also have to bear in mind that the typical 17th century houses give it a special character so it’s no wonder that one of the things we all want to do when we go to Amsterdam is to cruise the canals. I really liked seeing the city from the water.
4. Vondel Park
In addition to canals in Amsterdam there are a few cool parks for a picnic. On my first trip I was in Vondel Park and I really liked this green lung of the city. I always try to get an afternoon to disconnect when I travel, and Volden Park is a great place to go for a walk. It’s the biggest park in Amsterdam and a few minutes from the museum square.
5. Red Light District and the sexshop
In Amsterdam there are not one but three red light districts. But the most popular one is the one in the historic centre of the city. It is the oldest and its location is linked to the proximity of the city’s port. It was the site visited by sailors arriving in the city. Nowadays it is one of the most touristic places in Amsterdam and if you want to learn a lot of things about the place I recommend you to do the guided tour of the Red Light District that I did.
6. See windmills near Amsterdam
Another thing I didn’t want to miss was seeing windmills in Holland. It is one of the most typical excursions and you should put it on your indispensable list. I had a great time in Zaanse Schans, the museum town just a few steps from Amsterdam. It’s a blast. The mills in the middle of the field separated by the water canals make you go back in time.
7. Central Station
If there is one typical thing to see in Amsterdam in addition to its canals is the neo-gothic architecture with Renaissance elements. Cuypers is the architect who gave shape to this style so characteristic of all Holland. He was in charge of projects such as the Central Station, the Rijksmuseum and more than 100 churches throughout the country. The train station is one of the most emblematic places in the city, so remember to include it in your route.
8. Jewish Quarter
During my tour of the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam I learned a lot about the period of Nazi occupation in this country. The reason this district of the Dutch capital has a totally different architecture is that it was dismantled by the inhabitants of the city during the winter of famine in 1944-1945. Another interesting thing in this neighborhood is the Rembrandt museum house, the Waterlooplein flea market or visit a church that served as a morgue during World War II.
9. Coffe shops
One of the things everyone talks about when they go to Amsterdam is coffee shops. One of the most famous is the Bulldog in the Red Light District. Holland is one of the European countries with the most “freedoms”. Here the consumption of marijuana is legal, but with nuances. The maximum allowed for personal consumption is 5 grams per person. If you get caught with more: you’re going to have a problem.
Another thing you have to keep in mind is that you can only smoke in coffee shops because in the street is forbidden. So many of these places are full of tourists. The income from soft drugs represents 1% of the country’s total GDP. The law that only allowed Dutch people to consume was repealed because they were running out of an important source of income.
10. Lutheran churches in Amsterdam
One of the things that surprised me the most on my last trip to Amsterdam was discovering that churches have a totally different use than religious. Yes, as you can hear. Religion is no longer as important as it was centuries ago and churches had fallen into disuse. So to give them a usefulness they are used to make exhibitions, concerts of all kinds or any kind of cultural activity that you can think of. The most representative are Nieuwe Kerk, Oude Kerk and Westerkerk. From the tower of the latter you have a beautiful view of the city.
Amsterdam’s best off-road
I know what it’s like to think of Holland and we all see bicycles, canals and tulips. I was expecting to meet in Amsterdam and I assure you that the city is full of all three things. I’m not going to fool you, I also wanted to visit mills, but on the other hand I wanted to see that part of the city that doesn’t appear in the guides.
So if it happens to you like it happens to me this post of plans in Amsterdam off-road comes to you in pearls. I’ll tell you where the coolest shopping area in the city is or where you can see the smaller houses in Amsterdam. You’ll also be able to have a coffee in the same place where the famous Rembrandt painting Anatomy Lesson was painted.
5 must-see Amsterdam Museums
1. Anne Frank House Museum
One of the things I most wanted to do in Amsterdam was to go to the house where Anne hid with her family during the Nazi occupation. If you also have it listed, have a look at the post I wrote telling you about my experience when I visited Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam.
Adults € 10* / 10-17 years old € 5* / 0-9 years old free*
management fee € 0,5
From 1 November to 1 April: every day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
22 November: closed
Between 1 April and 1 November: every day from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
2. Science Museum NEMO
The Science Museum in Amsterdam has the name NEMO, so suggestive for children. Inside you will see the scientific discoveries in chronological order. On the outside, the design of the architect Renzo Pian is spectacular. There is an excursion that combines a walk along the canals where you can see the building from the water and the entrance without queues to the museum.
Children under 4 years old: free admission.
Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 to 17:30.
3. House of Rembrandt
This is the artist’s house. It is in the Jewish quarter. You can see the etchings and paintings as well as the way of working of the artist. The paintings are in the Rijkmusejm. This house was the painter’s residence for 20 years. Buy the ticket for the House of Rembrandt in advance here.
Children from 6 to 17 years old: 4€.
Children under 6 years old: free entrance.
Every day: from 10:00 to 18:00 hours.
4. Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum is dedicated to the famous international artist. It is in the Museums square and you can see some of the painter’s most famous works: The Sunflowers, The Bedroom in Arles, The Potato Dining Rooms, or Self-portrait in Front of the Frame. This museum houses the world’s largest collection of the artist’s works. You can buy a ticket to the Van Gogh Museum with a guided tour in Spanish here to learn many things about the life and work of this painting genius.
Children under 18: free admission.
Every day: from 9:00 to 17:00 (Friday until 22:00 and Saturday until 21:00).
The Rijksmuseum is the must-see museum for all fans of the artist Rembrandt. There are always temporary exhibitions about the artist. During 2109 the 350th anniversary of his death is celebrated and there is an exhibition of 22 paintings, 60 drawings and more than 300 best examples of Rembrandt’s impressions in his collection. But at any time of the year you can take a 90-minute tour of the 33 most important works by the Dutch artist. You can buy a ticket to the Rijkmuseum without queues here. A guided tour in Spanish to get to know a lot of things in the museum.
On sale at the box office: 20 €. In advance 19€ without queues. Children under 18: free of charge.
Every day: from 9:00 to 17:00.
How many days does it take to visit Amsterdam?
I think three days are enough to visit the Dutch capital. Although it’s not a city with many monuments, you’ll need at least one day to visit the centre. Another one to visit some of its museums, parks and do a canal cruise. Another thing you’ll want to do, just like I did, is to go on an excursion near Amsterdam to see windmills.