17 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Amsterdam
Everything about Amsterdam feels—and is—right. The city was designed for exploring on foot and for getting lost in its secrets. Like any European city, it's built around a central, small-canal district, but this was the 17th century. The canals date to the 1630s, when the Dutch were reclaiming their rivers to create trade routes to move goods across the country. Soon, the canals were being lined with houses, and Amsterdam was born.
Over time, Amsterdam has retained its charming layout, based on concentric canals. In each direction, two graceful, flowing "arms" of the canal form a small bay, dotted with little cafes and with beautiful buildings lining both sides. If you take just a few minutes to walk down the small canals, you'll soon discover the atmosphere of old Amsterdam.
As a tourist, you can get to Amsterdam by plane, boat or train, and most major tourist destinations are easily reached from the center of the city. Public transportation is the easiest way to get around, and there are many organized tours and activities available.
Traveling in Europe without visiting Amsterdam is like traveling in New York without going to a baseball game!
Van Gogh Museum
The world's biggest Van Gogh Museum is located in Amsterdam's Museum District in the building designed by the artist and features a permanent collection of more than 300 pieces that includes a number of paintings by Vincent himself, including The Yellow House. Of particular note is his The Last Orange, which is regarded as a masterpiece of the artist's life-time. Other works include Blossoming of the Almond Trees, Christ in the Window, Self-portrait with a Cigar, Sunflowers and View of the Sea at Scheveningen, among others. The museum also houses special rooms that include the Artist's Workshop and his living quarters. One room is devoted to Vincent's wife, Johanna, who was murdered on the day after he was declared to be insane. One of the most famous displays at the museum is the Memling room, named after Antwerp artist Pieter Breugel the Elder, and is home to a huge collection of his works, including a stunning Apocalypse. In the next room is the European paintings room, where there are works by artists such as Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Alfred Sisley and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as those by the Impressionists.
The Rijksmuseum is the Netherlands' largest national museum. Dedicated to the country's art, artifacts, and history, this vast building includes more than 500,000 objects. Its claim to fame lies in its "Gallery of European Paintings," a fine collection that spans from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Highlights include the Rembrandt Room, with paintings by the famous Dutch painter, including the famous "Night Watch." Other sections include European Works of Art from the Middle Ages to modern day, including the "Reis museum," the "Bronze of War," and "Asian Art." For a more in-depth look at the Rijksmuseum, you can visit the National Gallery, which holds many more paintings and sculpture. Amsterdam is located 32 km southwest of the museum.
Amsterdam's most famous park is named after the playwright Joost van den Vondel. It's a wonderfully relaxing park, with scattered trees and tranquil ponds. With plenty of green space, Vondelpark is a great place to relax in between all the sights in the Dutch capital. When the weather's fine, use the grassy areas for running, jogging, and volleyball. Other leisure activities in the park include boating and cycling, both of which are ideal for families. The main events in the park include children's workshops and themed days. The main attractions are the annual Vondelpark Circus, which takes place in July and the vintage car rally, which takes place in October. Amsterdam's vast River Amstel runs right through the park and the headwaters of the river have been revitalized into the Canal Wharf restaurant, which is particularly popular with locals.
Anne Frank House
The world's most famous "hidden" Jewish house is located in the quaint Nieuwe Kerk neighborhood in Amsterdam. On the day of Anne Frank's funeral, her father decided to leave her diary to be discovered in September 1944. Having been sent to an Amsterdam hiding place with her sister, Margot, and two other young people, Anne wrote about their daily lives during the war, and later finished her diary before she died from typhus at the age of 15 on the day after Christmas, in 1945. A special exhibit in the house tells the story of her life in three parts: "Childhood", "Young Girl", and "Young Woman". It was not until 1961 that the diary was published. The first edition was reproduced and later the story was adapted into a novel. The diary and the novel, with the assistance of the family, were subsequently translated into many languages. While there are over 1,000 Dutch Anne Frank houses, the museum in Amsterdam has the best location and entry fee of the three Anne Frank houses.
Built in the 1600s, the Palace of the Archdukes is the last remaining part of the Dutch State's original quarters and serves as the official residence of the King and Queen. Royal Dutch state business takes place at the present-day palace. The palace is a monumental example of classical architecture, with several interiors that reflect the work of renowned 17th-century painters, including Rembrandt. Part of the building is open to the public and has a few interesting displays, as well as the chance to see some of the Crown Jewels which are on display in the treasury, and can be viewed by arrangement. A visit to Amsterdam also means seeing the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum.
Originally constructed in the 17th century, the Hermitage is a UNESCO world heritage site that tells the story of the Dutch Golden Age. Inside, visitors can see paintings from all stages of the artist's career, such as the stunning "Marine and Lute Players" and the "Portrait of Tsar Peter of Russia" by Rembrandt, as well as numerous other masterpieces by Hals, Vermeer, Van Dyck, Rubens, as well as paintings from the "Night Watch," depicting members of the Dutch defense force and Guard Against Fire watch in the 1620s. The garden, which has not changed in almost 500 years, is filled with a variety of different statuary and fountains. The "View of the Red House" by Pieter de Hooch features a house with verdant treetop-fringed garden. Be sure to take the guided tour to view more of the city's treasures and highlights.
Located in the historic center of the city, Central Station is Amsterdam's largest building, with two ornate glass rotundas towering over a long, wide passageway, and is the largest transportation hub in Europe. Floor 1, for example, is the departure hall, where travelers awaiting a train are lined up to use luggage trolleys, while inside, floor 3 has a large information center for train and bus passengers. In between are shops and services, the Holland Line, with information about railway travel, and an area where couriers and messengers can pick up letters and packages. Other facilities include a large, open-air atrium, a 'coffee of the moment' coffee bar, and many restaurants, cafés, shops, and hotels.
Museumplein is a fine expanse of grassy fields and trees near the heart of Amsterdam. Although first laid out as a park in 1898, the area is more closely associated with the flowering of modern art in the Netherlands in the early 1900s, in the form of the studios of artists such as Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh. A number of well-known museums now occupy buildings dating from the early 20th century, including the Stedelijk Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, while the traditional Van Gogh galleries have also been renovated in recent years.
Red Light District
Amsterdam has some outstanding museums and the main draw to the area is the Red Light District. Located in the vicinity of Dam Square and next to the Museum of Temporary Art, the neighborhood is notorious for its brothels, whose ornate buildings were restored to their original 19th century glory. There are free guided tours that lead you into the oldest quarters and its restaurants where you can try world-class Dutch food. Other attractions include the Netherlands's oldest windmill, the Waterlooplein, where about one thousand Dutch artists of the 20th century are displayed and the world's oldest opera house, the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ.
Huis ten Bosch
The world-famous Huis ten Bosch is one of the Netherlands' most unique attractions. Constructed by painter Pieter Christiaan van Huysum in 1669 as a Dutch Renaissance-style country residence, the current incarnation of the once-sprawling manor dates to 1912. Many rooms in the house have richly decorated ceilings and spacious walls, along with leaded-glass windows. The gaudy rooms are all encased in Dutch-tiled walls, while magnificent staircases have intricately carved walls and pillars. Travelers staying at the castle have access to one of Europe's most luxurious spas. Guests enjoy access to the Huis ten Bosch spa as well as a swimming pool, gym, sauna, Turkish bath, Jacuzzi, and relaxation area.
A new multimedia experience, the Heineken Experience at the famous brewery is a unique, one-of-a-kind (think: adults-only) beer-making extravaganza where you'll find the ultimate beer-making factory with plenty of room to play. Learn the art and science of brewing and try to create your own customized brew. See all the equipment, including temperature-controlled fermentation chambers and a microscope, and experience a demonstration by experienced brewers. And with over 2,000 different types of beer, you'll find your favorite beer in a variety of brews at the tasting bar. The Heineken Experience opens twice a day (11 am and 1 pm). There's also an evening show that runs six days a week and includes live music and food.
NEMO Science Center
NEMO Science Center is situated inside the shopping mall De Pijp in Amsterdam. Formerly the home of Amsterdam Electricity Museum (now at the Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder), the center now focuses on science education, with permanent exhibitions on electricity, light, biology, physics, chemistry, technology, and health. The center hosts temporary exhibitions, and has its own bookstore and museum shop. It also serves as a conference venue, with various special activities for school groups. The center has around 40,000 visitors a year, including parents and school groups. Most are during school vacations and there is often long waiting times at weekends. Check the center's website for what is on when you want to visit.
Nieuwmarkt is a small square in the city center of Amsterdam. Its name means "new market," and in 1630, a large and elaborate ice-plant called "the ice-plant of Amsterdam" was brought to the square. The plant's exotic appearance made it a popular attraction, and when it died out after a few years, a new ice-plant arrived, giving the square the name of "Ice plant square" which is how it is still called today. Not only is Nieuwmarkt an interesting museum piece, but it is also the starting point of one of the world's best all-weather bike paths. Lined with around 50 blue and white-painted bike lanes, it stretches some 8 miles north and south and leads along the Westergasfabriek industrial area.
This small museum inside an Amsterdam townhouse contains more than 30 paintings and drawings of Dutch Renaissance painter Rembrandt (1606-1669) as well as original portraits by the artist himself. The well-curated collection traces the Rembrandt career, from his early Amsterdam studio and studies in art, through his work for wealthy patrons such as the Amsterdam Mayor's wife and her son, up until his move to the affluent coastal town of Leiden in 1640. Here, Rembrandt continued to produce paintings, which included self-portraits and also his most famous work, the Night Watch.
Canal Belt (Kanalbuurt) was designed as the main model for Holland's network of canals and built to create Amsterdam's canal system. It includes walking and cycling paths running along and along the canals and connects to the center of Amsterdam by bus, train and bike. In 2005, more than $500 million was spent on renovating the area with the aim of creating a park. It also includes 18 hectares of parks, green spaces, a lake and walkways. Among the attractions are the Amstelstation, which serves as the terminus for many public transportation routes; the NDSM-Shorenbos shipyard, which is the city's largest employer and the first steelworks in the country; and the Rietkerk, which is a Gothic church from 1640.
With more than 200,000 artifacts from the 16th to 19th centuries, this impressive museum is housed in the former Dominican monastery building in the UNESCO-recognized Van Gogh Museum. First-time visitors will not know what to expect, but this is a must-visit museum and makes for a truly interesting stroll through the history of Amsterdam. The museum is split into three parts: the Vrouwen Huis (House of Women) deals with the lives of women in the 17th to 19th centuries, the Huis Marseille covers the turbulent history of Amsterdam, and the Museumpark (Museum Park) contains the museum's sculpture collection and various rotating exhibitions, among them a massive exhibit about the Pompidou Centre.
Housed in the De Meyer building in the heart of the city, the Stedelijk Museum was established in 1983 to develop and present the work of artists living and working in the Netherlands. Today the museum is home to a variety of exhibitions, which take place at different locations throughout the year. The permanent exhibition concentrates on the works of world-renowned artists from the 20th century including Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, and Richard Prince. Highlights include early works by Egon Schiele, Andy Warhol, and Jackson Pollock, as well as Basquiat's paintings and videos. Other temporary exhibitions focus on cultural issues including social change and international relationships.