Things To Do In Amsterdam – 7 Tips To Discover Beautiful Amsterdam

Things To Do In Amsterdam – 7 Tips To Discover Beautiful Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of my favourite places in the world. I”ll show you some of the best things to do in Amsterdam and you’ll understand why it should be on your list of places to visit.

First of all it’s important to know how the get around the city.

Getting Around

I do not recommend hiring a car at all. I considered hiring a car once as I like to be independent in my travels, but thought better of it when I looked into where to park and how to get to places.

Amsterdam is just too busy with people riding their bicycles, walking around, the trams you need to look out for and on top of that there are cars everywhere as well. And apart from that, there is not much parking in the city.

Especially if you don’t know your way around this could end up being quite stressful.

If you don’t mind walking, walk. There are so many places you can easily get to by walking and you’ll see more this way too. And don’t worry, you’ll feel really quite safe as there are police patrolling the city everywhere it seems.

Hotel Luxer in Amsterdam
One of the hotels we stayed at. Affordable, clean, close to Amsterdam Centraal and everything else in walking distance too. 

We stayed in a hotel very close to the red-light district once (we didn’t realise it was that close when we booked it) and felt as safe as anywhere else, even when walking back to our hotel at nighttime.

Hiring a bicycle is also an option, but then you have to look out for the traffic again. And, bicycles get stolen quite a bit in Amsterdam or end up in the river Amstel. But, it is still one of the best ways to explore a lot of places in a short amount of time. Just keep an eye on your bicycle.

The hop on/ hop off bus is also a good option if you want to explore a greater area within a short amount of time. It will take you to some of the iconic places that no tourist should miss.

How to get around in AmsterdamIt is easy to get around in Amsterdam, either walk, cycle or catch a tram.

Public transport isn’t too bad at all either. Use metros, buses, trams, trains or ferries to get to where you want. You can get a public transport card which can be used for any public transport for up to 72 hours. There are also apps to plan your visit and itinerary.

An easy way to travel to Amsterdam is by flying into Schiphol, the big airport in Amsterdam. From there you can easily catch a train to Amsterdam Centraal, the central station of Amsterdam.

When you first emerge from Amsterdam Centraal, you might feel a bit overwhelmed, as there are people, bicycles, cars, trams and more people everywhere. This might especially be the case if you’re a bit jet lagged.

And you have to lookout constantly so you won’t get run over by either a car, a tram or a bicycle. But don’t worry, you’ll get used to the hustle and bustle very quickly and even start to enjoy the craziness of it all.


Free Walking Tour Of Amsterdam

I love walking to places as I mentioned above, as you get the best impression of a new place that way and see more than when you’re on a bus or tram.

There are many free walking tours throughout Amsterdam and even free cycling tours. We stumbled upon the one leaving the Dam Square every day at 11am and 1pm. They are called 360Amsterdamtours. They also offer other tours at a cost.

Try some dutch cheese
Dutch cheese certainly is a sight to be seen and tasted!

They are basically free, but if you want to give a tip afterwards, you can do so. We did give a tip as the tour was really awesome and the tour guide very knowledgeable. The tour went for 2.5 hours and we got to see a little bit of everything.

We started at Dam Square in front of the Royal Palace and continued on to see the Old and New Church, Canals and Bridges, Amsterdam’s smallest house, we tried some cheese (also for free), walked through the Red Light District, and learned a lot about the history of Amsterdam. It was really worth walking for 2.5 hours!

The smallest house in Amsterdam
This is the smallest house in Amsterdam. Look closely, I’m talking about the red brick bit in the middle. Yes, that’s a separate house. This is just one of the sights when taking a free walking tour through Amsterdam.

We had to rug up as it was in December and the wind was icy. But Amsterdam during Christmas time is absolutely beautiful with all the lights and decorations everywhere!

Afterwards we were rewarded with a free Stroopwafel (light and crispy waffle layers filled with syrup). This is just one of the many dutch foods you should try.

More Free Things To Do

If you want to find out what else there is to do in Amsterdam for free, check out all the different free activities and sights. There is something for everyone. If you have time, stay for a few days at least to get a good look around the city and some of its suburbs and surroundings.


Dam Square

Dam Square, or just Dam, is called so because it is the location of the original dam of the river Amstel, the river that flows through Amsterdam, and you might guess it, has given Amsterdam its name. Dam Square is right in the historical center of the city and usually quite busy.

Madame Tussaud's Amsterdam
Madame Tussaud’s in Amsterdam on busy Dam Square

It is just a short stroll from the central train station and lots of trams stop there too. It’s hard to miss.

At Dam Square there’s lots to see and do. As mentioned above, some guided tours leave from the dam, as well as horse carriage rides. There’s the National Monument, the Royal Palace, the New Church (nowadays not a church anymore but featuring many different art exhibitions) and Bijkenkorf and Magna Plaza shopping centers to name a few of the sights to see.

Magna Plaza Amsterdam
Impressive looking Magna Plaza in Amsterdam, not far from Dam Square.

There’s also a Madame Tussaud’s (a wax museum showing famous and infamous people and even movies, such as George Clooney and Shrek or you can ride on E.T.’s bicycle) if you’re interested.

And if you’re into some creepy education, go and visit Bodyworlds. It might not be for the faint of heart though. There are bodies which are basically flayed, i.e. the skin has been taken off or peeled away to show what’s underneath. If you’re not bothered by that, go and see it. It’s really an eye-opener (literally too).

We did the guided tour of Amsterdam and found out about the history of many places mentioned before. We also did a tour of the Royal Palace, which is really quite impressive. (More about it further down.)

Have a live look at Dam Square and around Amsterdam right now:


Canal Cruise

Amsterdam is built on water and has 165 canals that wind their way through the city and beyond. It is another great way to get to know the city and learn about its history and see its diversity and beauty.

There are guided tours, hop-on and hop-off tours and also romantic dinner cruises on offer.

Amsterdam Cruise

And then there’s also the option to hire a pedal boat. That way you can explore the city canals on your own terms. That’s a perfect option for families, as they can carry up to 4 people. (And it gives the kids something to do while you admire the sights.)


Castles And Gardens And Museums

Now this is probably one of my favourite thing to do no matter where I go. I really like castles and palaces and beautiful gardens and also museums and art exhibitions. (I’m quite easy to entertain really.)

If you’re already in the city, go and visit the Royal Palace. You can get headphones in many different languages which will guide you through the many different rooms of the palace. If you don’t take anything else away from it, it’s really pretty.

Royal Palace Amsterdam
View of the Royal Palace at Dam Square. 

If you’re a fan of castles and gardens, have a look at iAmsterdam’s website. They will show you how to get to see the very best of everything and they have even a castles and gardens itinerary put together. It’s perfect. Do it.

Now onto museums. There are sooo many to choose from that it will be hard for you to choose from. The most important ones (in my opinion):

Van Gogh museum (obviously), Rembrandt House museum (also obviously), Anne Frank House museum (of course), and the Rijksmuseum. And all the others too if you’re a museum lover and can’t get enough. But please do not miss out on the cat museum (The Kattenkabinet).

To paraphrase from the website: even if you’re not a crazy cat lady, do yourself a favour and visit this beautiful 17-th century canal house with its impressive rooms, which by the way was also used in Ocean’s Twelve (you know the one with George Clooney). It will be an unexpected treat.


Coffeeshops

This is going to be an interesting one for the people who have not heard of Amsterdam coffeeshops before. Coffeeshops are not exactly what you would expect when wanting to go for a coffee. Nope. Coffeeshops in Amsterdam are shops where you can legally buy and consume products with cannabis. Yes, you heard right.

Coffeeshop Amsterdam
One of the many coffeeshops in Amsterdam. 

When I say legal, it’s not 100% so. Rather, it is tolerated, but basically it means the same thing for you. You are able to purchase and smoke marijuana in one of the many coffeeshops without having to worry about anything. There is a limit of buying up to 5g so don’t go over that.

You can also get a coffee there or other non-alcoholic beverages, as it is not legal for them to sell alcohol (it is either cannabis or alcohol, but not both). Tobacco is also not on offer as it is against the smoking ban. (You can still smoke tobacco outside, but not inside.)

So if you ever wanted to try something like this, here is your chance. You can choose from a menu and if you have no idea what to choose, you can ask for a recommendation from the barkeeper. This might be the best idea, since the cannabis might be stronger than what you’re used to.


Zandvoort Beach

If you have a bit more time on hand, do yourself a favour and visit Zandvoort. You can get there in 30 minutes by train.

De Haven Zandvoort
One of the beach restaurants at Zandvoort. 

It’s a sea resort that is also sometimes known as the “Pearl by the Sea”. It’s famous for its long beach and also for the Circuit Park Zandvoort which is a racing circuit. There’s also a nudist beach.

That was the official version and here’s what I think: I absolutely love the place. It is a nice beach town with a really long and wide beach with bars and cafes sprawled along just before the dunes.

There is even a swing set on the beach. There are nice cafes and restaurants in the town itself and a few attractions to visit as well.

You can go on guided tours to get a good impression for yourself or just enjoy the beach style holiday with lots of activities such as swimming or kite surfing.

Zandvoort Beach
Time to relax and enjoy at Zandvoort Beach.

There are also some more interesting events on such as the Dutch championship potato peeling, mackerel smoking championships and the Dutch championship shrimps peeling. Quite different, right?

Have a look for yourself (this is at one of the cafes on the beach, “De Haven”:

I hope you enjoyed this little insight into Amsterdam and Zandvoort. Make sure you visit if you haven’t already.

Happy and safe travels!

10 Replies to “Things To Do In Amsterdam – 7 Tips To Discover Beautiful Amsterdam”

  1. In all honesty, this city is actually one of the best cities in the world and I don’t expect anything less than the best.

    Thought I would be going for a vacation soon and i wish to explore my options for a perfect destination. From this post, I’m considering paying a visit to the great Amsterdam to explore it. 

    I love the feel of the castle like structures that dominate the city. I also like the various places that could be explored. Wow! Great city with great sites and events to get preoccupied and enjoy a fun stay

  2. Wow, I have read about Amsterdam in the past and honestly it’s a really good place to go to. I like that one can just walk around the street feeling secure and munching on all the beautiful sites the city has to behold. Honestly, if I didn’t already have plans for my summer, I would’ve definitely gone to Amsterdam. Great post.

  3. Amsterdam has always been one of those cities on my bucket list of places to visit. I love your post and so many things to read you made me even more eager to go. 

    My best friend has just been there and she loved it, took so many photos back.  

    One thing I had no idea about was the Zandvoort Beach, it looks so pretty and it must be lovely winter or summer. I love the beach and in winter I think it’s even better. When I will visit I must add this stop in the map. Thank you so much for all the tips

    1. Make sure you get to tick it off your list! And yes, Zandvoort is really nice to visit no matter the weather. You might just have to rug up in winter. 

  4. I visited Amsterdam in September 2016. Due to just having one day to visit, we restricted our tour just to Dam square only and markets around and Madam Tussaud’ss museum. I know I missed so much Amsterdam has to offer as I could see from your post. Next time, I will have to visit some of these.

    1. There’s always more to be seen in a city like Amsterdam. If you’ve seen the Dam and surroundings, you’ve got a good first impression of what it has to offer. So worth it going back!

  5. Thanks for sharing such information about Amsterdam. Its an eye-opener for someone like me who has never been to Amsterdam. Your article is able to give an insight into the city and what to expect and really makes me want to go right now.

    My favorite will be to travel around the city with the boat. I also found interesting about the coffeeshops that legalize marijuana and put a ban on tobacco smoking. For sure I need to visit Amsterdam one day

    1. Getting to know the city from a boat is a great idea. Especially if it’s your first time there. The coffeeshops don’t quite legalise it, but it’s tolerated by the powers that be. 

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