top things to do in Amsterdam, Netherlands

This summer I had the pleasure of traveling through Europe for 2 weeks. Since there were 3 other cities on the itinerary we only got to spend a few days (3 days in total) visiting Amsterdam. This post is about the top things to do in Amsterdam and can serve as the ultimate weekend guide to Amsterdam.

I am sure that everyone has heard about the infamous Amsterdam. Drugs aren’t legal, but they’re not illegal either (if that makes any sense). If you are looking for the details on where to get all of the good stuff, I apologize. I was more focused on the city and what it had to offer besides drugs. Needless to say, I had a good ‘ole “Amsterdam time”.

top things to do in Amsterdam, Netherlands

1. Tour Amsterdam by Bike

Fun fact: There are more bikes in Amsterdam than there are people. The city is populated with over a million bikes and about 900,000 people. It will not be an ultimate weekend in Amsterdam unless you take a bike tour. If you’re brave enough, you can even get a bike rental and ride downtown without a guide but I wouldn’t suggest it. I can’t explain how many people are on bikes here and how aggressive they are.

We took a bike tour off from Airbnb and we LOVED IT! The guide showed us windmills, architecture, art, the Anne Frank house, and hidden gems. I could write a very lengthy post about the bike tour alone. I definitely felt like a local while riding through the city. We even took the ferry from one side of Amsterdam to the other. We visited a flower market where we could purchase souvenirs to take back home and got to visit Dam square.

At the end of the tour, the guide even took us out for drinks. He knew we were tourists so after the tour he sent us a list of things to do if we had free time. He was great. I love Airbnb experiences because they are hosted by locals who have authentic experiences in the area. Our guide was so hospitable that he even took us to have drinks at a local hotspot.

2. Tour the Canals

Amsterdam is famous for its canals. The canals form a canal ring around the city and are a popular tourist attraction. You get to view many historical venues and even canal houses when you take one of these cruises. Apparently, they drain the canal once a year and they find multiple bikes and even a few people! The locals say that drugs are to blame for people being found in the canals (another reason why I avoid those things). BUT a nice sunny day in Amsterdam deserves a canal cruise, with some complimentary booze, of course.

Our tour was from airbnb and I am so glad that we picked the tour we did. There are a lot of canal tour vendors that you can sign up for outside of Centraal Station. DON’T DO IT! They throw you on a boat give you headphones and you listen to a pre-recorded script and you have no interpersonal interaction and of course, there is no free booze.

3. Explore the Red Light District

Everyone knows that Amsterdam has the popular red light district. One would be selling themselves short if they did not visit (if they are of age). It was a very weird experience. There is literally nothing like it in the other countries I have visited.

The Red Light District is like Bourbon Street nightlife (if you’ve been to New Orleans) on crack. It is a big party. People are walking around trying to sell you drugs and the women working (some would call them prostitutes) are openly advertising themselves. They stand in windows illuminated by red lights to try to acquire potential customers.

There are people that walk around and sell drugs. There were a few people that walked up to me and tried to sell me laughing gas. Yes, you read that correctly, laughing gas. Of course, you can buy all of the harder drugs but no one approached me for that. I guess I look too much like a goody too shoes (cause I am).

Although the area is a great time, you should be vigilant because drugs, alcohol, and sex museums attract criminals and there are many victims who get pickpocketed and worse.

4. Rijksmuseum

Another thing you can do is visit Rijksmuseum. It is a museum dedicated to arts and history. There were exhibits from all over the world and as far back to when Jesus walked the Earth. I am not a history person but if you are, I strongly suggest it. I wish I could give you an in-depth description but I’m not a big history person and I just sped through the rooms.

5. Visit Icebar Amsterdam

I am sure everyone is familiar with Icebar. It is a bar that is so cold that the glasses that they serve with are made of pure ice. When I saw that they had one in Amsterdam, I had to go visit.

The bar has a Pirates of the Caribbean theme so if you like those movies you will definitely enjoy the experience. I personally was just there for the booze and to say that I had done it.

When you pay for admission, you get 3 tokens. One is for a drink in the warm bar and the other two are for drinks in the cold bar. I got a mojito in the warm bar. It was pretty good.

Ice Bar in Amsterdam Netherlands

They take you in the cold bar in groups and they provide coats and gloves for you. The “cold bar” was literally a deep freezer big enough to fit people in it. Once you are in the cold bar, you can redeem your two remaining tokens for shots. They don’t have mixed drinks in the cold bar because there are limited bartenders, and you need all of the help you can get to stay warm in there.

The workers were very friendly. I was clumsy after I had gotten my first shot and dropped it and the glass shot glass shattered and my shot went everywhere. The bartender was nice enough to give me a replacement and it didn’t cost me my last token. One of the best things about the place is the friendliness of the people.

All in all, I really enjoyed the experience at Icebar Amsterdam and if I had the chance, I would do it again.

6. Blue Amsterdam

We visited a cafe that promised panoramic city views. Needless to say, Blue Amsterdam did not disappoint. It is a glass-fronted cafe so your selfies will be flawless. They have coffee, breakfast, and lunch so everyone will find what they want. The most impressive part of this cafe is the views.

7. Anne Frank House/Museum

One of the most popular museums in Amsterdam is the Anne Frank Museum. It is one of the top things to do in Amsterdam because it is a historical site and is where Anne Frank went into hiding from the Nazis in 1942 during World War II. It is very interesting because she documented it all in a diary. This museum is the perfect place for history buffs, but it is also very interesting to learn more about the story of Anne Frank. Since the Anne Frank Museum is one of the top things to do in Amsterdam, it is a jam-packed museum and tickets commonly sell out. I would suggest that you buy your tickets online before you get to Amsterdam. When I was visiting, we could not attend the museum because the tickets were sold out. Book an interactive walking tour which is a great way to learn the entire Anne Frank story by clicking the option below.

Book online below:

8. Do some exploring

One thing that we did that was surprisingly fun was to just explore on our own. We had finished our planned activities for the day and were waiting for it to get dark for us to visit the Red Light District. Instead of going to our hotel to waste time, we took the time to just walk around and look for hidden gems. All in all, it was a fun day and the pictures below showcase the greatness we found.

9. Van Gogh Museum

One of the best things in Amsterdam is the Van Gogh Museum. It showcases the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh. It is a great place and a great way to learn about art and how it impacted the Netherlands. If you visit Amsterdam, this museum should be at the top of your list. Fortunately, if you need tickets, you can book online by clicking the options below.

10. Heineken Experience

The Heineken experience is a tour of Heineken’s oldest brewery. The Heineken brewery was established in 1864 and now serves as a museum for visitors to explore the history of Heineken. During the experience, you learn all about the history of the famous beer brand, how they brew the famous beer, and even get to watch old beer commercials. In the end, you get to undergo an exclusive beer tasting with their tasting room experience.

Conclusion

I hope my recommendations help you plan your trip to Amsterdam. There are many things that you can scratch off of your bucket list of things to do in the Netherlands. If you have been and think I missed something, let me know in the comments below. Let’s chat!

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