Looking for some tips for how to spend your days in Amsterdam? This is the right place then!
After doing the obvious things people do when they get to Amsterdam the first time, I do hope you have the time and energy to visit some of the city’s great museums and attractions, as Amsterdam is so much more than coffeeshops and Red Light District.
Located at the beautiful Museumplein, you have maybe Amsterdam’s biggest museum, the Rijksmuseum. With it’s vast collections of Dutch art and historic objects, it is one of the most comprehensive museums in the city. Plan to spend some hours here, and try to avoid peak hours in the middle of the day, as it gets crowded quickly, with both tourists, locals and school classes.
A must see is of course the grand “Night Watch” by Rembrandt, and be sure not to miss the two amazing dollhouses, that did once belong to a very lucky (and VERY spoiled) little girl. There’s a very nice cafe at the museum as well if you need a rest, and also several places around the Museum Square.
Although there are some years since we visited the wax museum, I remember it as great fun. We went here with another couple, which might have made it more fun than if it only were us two.
You get a short and quite cool introduction to Amsterdam’s historical past before getting to the actual wax gallery, and I remember to have gotten a trip through a kind of horror gallery as well, although others who have visited lately tell me that this isn’t there now. We might have been a bit high though, but we both remember this quite vividly, as it scared the shit out of us.
There is a lot of tourists and kids here, so it’s not the most romantic museum to visit, although it’s a fun attraction, located right on the Dam Square.
Maybe one of the coolest, quirkiest and cattiest museums in Amsterdam, the Cat Cabinet is a must for cat lovers.
This is a unique opportunity to see the inside of a canal house on the Herengracht, as well as satisfying your needs for petting a cat or two. The owner of the house has made the house open to the public, as well as a vast collection of cat-related art and curiosities. Don’t be alarmed if you encounter a cat or two hanging around, watching the Aristocats movies or just enjoying life in this beautiful house, as they do live here.
Quoting from the museum’s website, “The Cat Cabinet was founded in commemoration of the ginger cat John Pierpont Morgan (1966-1983).” If you’re a cat person, you will appreciate and understand this declaration of love for one’s deceased feline friend. If you’re not that into cats, then you should probably stay away from this awesome museum, as it probably isn’t that into you either.
Het Grachtenhuis / The Canal House Museum
If you’re a history nerd like us, and want to learn a bit about Amsterdam as a city and its architecture, this is the museum for you. It is a tour through different interactive rooms where you get to know about Amsterdam’s development from a small settlement to the great city it is today. You also get a unique peek into some of the grand houses along the fanciest canals, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht. We were lucky enough to have the tour to ourselves, as you get grouped up in smaller groups in every tour, so this made the visit quite intimate and romantic.
Although the exhibited artists may vary, a visit to the Modern Contemporary Museum is a must just because of the beautiful house. Built in 1904, it’s one of the closest neighbours to Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum, and it used to be a private residence until 1939. Luckily, it is now being used to house the Moco Museum, where we were lucky enough to see the Banksy Laugh Now exhibition, as well as the Dali exhibit.
As it is located in this quirky old house, it does tend to get crammed at peak hours, so visit early or late for a more private experience.
There’s no cafe here, but there are several places around Museumplein to grab a bite or have a glass, and don’t forget to exit through the gift-shop 😉
If you want the full Red Light District experience without hiring a lady of the night, there are other options, like one of the many sex shows. Maybe the most famous (or infamous) one is Casa Rosso, where you get to see everything from live sex, strip tease and other performances. What kind of performances you say? Well, let’s just say that there are several ways you can eat a banana, or smoke a cigar.
The Casa Rosso has a quite decent bar, and it is fun for singles, couples and everyone who wants a night out in the Red Light District with a little extra. It’s maybe not the most romantic option for a night out, but come on! Live a little!
Canal Cruises / The Light Festival
Amsterdam is famous for many things, and one of them are the beautiful canals, which spans over 50km (31 miles) and has given Amsterdam the nickname “The Venice of the North”.
The beautiful canals are perfect for romantic strolls, and even more romantic is perhaps a canal cruise.
Being offered all year round, I still recommend the Light Festival Canal Cruises, if you are so lucky as to visit Amsterdam in late November to January. It is really a special experience, to sit huddled together with something good and warm to drink, and watch the canals illuminated by the beautiful light art-works glide by. Sure, it’s maybe a bit touristy, but still a nice way to see Amsterdam from the water.
Speaking of the Light Festival, be sure to visit the Botanical Garden by night during the festival, it is really beautiful, and although I hate the over-usage of the word magical, it really is fitting to describe the atmosphere at the Botanical Gardens during this event.
Whether you’re looking for something delicious to eat, old books, vintage clothes or flowers, you can find all those things and more at one of the many outdoor markets in Amsterdam. Some of them are only open on specific days, and some are open more often.
The flower market (bloemenmarkt) is located in it’s own street, you’ll find it between Singel 600 to 630, and it is open pretty much every day.
For a great variety in merchandise, head to Waterlooplein Markt, which is open Monday to Saturday. Here you’ll find anything old, and also fresh produce and yummy food.
One of my favorites is the book market at the Spui, which is open Saturdays. Here you can find a lot of old books, mostly in Dutch or English, and also really cool prints and artworks.
At Nieuwmarkt you’ll find a great farmers market on Saturdays, and an antiques market on Sundays. During the warmer months you can usually find flea markets here on the weekdays aswell.
If you’re in Amsterdam in December, make sure to visit one of the Christmas markets around the city. If it is only to buy some Christmas ornaments, to have some yummy food or just drink some glüwein or beer, it is a really romantic thing that gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside. You can find these spread all over town, but some to mention are the great Christmas tree at Dam square, the Ice Village at Museumplein, and the markets at Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein, to get your Christmas-juices flowing.
If you’re not in Amsterdam during Christmas time, but still want a seasonal treat, head on over to the Christmas Palace by the Bloemenmarkt (the Flower Market), which is offering Christmas all year around.
All the tips we have included in this post are places we’ve been to and things we’ve done, but there are always things to do in Amsterdam, that we haven’t been to yet. We always love to leave some places for our next visits, so even though we haven’t been to all of the “big ones” yet, we will.
Some of the museums and attractions we have been recommended to visit, but haven’t yet are:
The Anne Frank House
Van Gogh Museum
Old and New Church
The Stedelijk Museum
FOAM Photography museum
Museum of Prostitution – Red Lights Secrets
Museum van Loom
Hope some of our tips might inspire you to visit Amsterdam, and stay in touch for more updates!