Amsterdam Bucket List
There are so many things to do in Amsterdam that it can sometimes be hard to choose where to start. Whether this is your first time in Amsterdam or you’ve visited before, this bucket list tells you exactly what the best things to do in Amsterdam are.
Amsterdam has enough to offer to keep you entertained for weeks without doing the same thing twice, but we understand that most people that visit Amsterdam only have a limited amount of time. This is why we’ll start off with the absolute top 10 of things you ought to do and see, even if you’re only visiting for a weekend.
These are the top things to do in Amsterdam that deserve a spot in your Amsterdam bucket list:
Top 10 things to do in Amsterdam
Before you start running around to tick off all the items on your bucket list, we highly recommend getting the I Amsterdam City Card. This card gives you unlimited free access to public transport, free access to almost every museum, a free canal cruise, discounts on many more activities and on food and drinks in lots of restaurants and bars. You’ve got the cost of the card back in no-time, especially considering that loads of the activities you get free access or discounts for are high up on this bucket list!
1. Explore the canals
The Amsterdam canals are one of the city’s best-known features and a trip to Amsterdam isn’t complete without exploring them. Going by foot gives you the freedom to go at your own pace and to explore all nooks and crannies, but with over 100 kilometers of canals to explore there are quicker options.
One of them is by stepping aboard one of the many canal cruises. These tours typically take 1,5 hours and even though you still don’t get to see anywhere near the full 100 kilometers of canals, it is the fastest way to see the most interesting parts of the city from the water and learn about them in the process. (booking options for tours?)
Alternatively, there is the option of renting your own boat for a few hours, to both see the city from the water and go about at your own pace. Plus you can enjoy food and drinks while you’re casually cruising along. (options of place to rent?)
2. Meander the Red Light District
When you think about the Red Light District, its reputation as Amsterdam’s prostitution neighbourhood probably jumps to mind. While at night that’s indeed what this neighbourhood is, during the day it is a lively area full of beautiful old and charming buildings housing pubs and boutique shops along the canals.
3. Rent a bike
There are about 1,5 times more bicycles than residents in Amsterdam which should tell you that the preferred method of transport among locals is the bicycle. Not only is it the most efficient way to get around in the city considering its size, it is also a fun way to go sightseeing. So when you’re not cruising on the canals in a boat, hop on a bicycle to get from A to B. You can get a rental bike for 5-7 euro per day and there are bicycle rental places all throughout the city, the biggest of which is conveniently located at Amsterdam Central Station.
4. Visit Museum Square
The list of museums in Amsterdam is very long so we recommend that you start at Museum Square where the most famous museums are located. Here you can visit the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Moco Museum and the Amsterdam City Museum.
5. Visit the Anne Frank House
Though not located on Museum Square, the Anne Frank House is a museum that definitely deserves a visit. The powerful story of Anne Frank and the impact this story had on Amsterdam is truly touching.
6. Visit a houseboat
When Amsterdam became fuller and fuller in the middle of the 20th century and a lack of housing space arose, aside from expanding the suburbs, people turned to the water and started living on boats. Today about 2500 of these houseboats still line the canals and they’ve become highly coveted places to live in. While most of them are privately owned and occupied by Amsterdam residents, there are some that you can visit, like the Houseboat Museum on the Prinsengracht, or you can rent one for a few nights! Have a look at the awesome houseboats that you can stay in below.
7. Try a Stroopwafel
This treat should be at the top of your Amsterdam foodie bucket list. A stroopwafel consists of two wafers with a layer of liquid caramel in the middle, and they are to die for!
8. Get lost in the streets of Jordaan
After the Red Light District, the Jordaan is the best known Amsterdam neighbourhood. This charming neighbourhood with its many canals and narrow little streets used to be a typical working-class neighbourhood. Nowadays it is full of art galleries, picturesque boutique stores, cosy pubs and cool places to eat.
9. Experience the Heineken Experience
Heineken is the most famous beer brand in the world, and it all started here in this brewery, prominently located on the Stadhouderskade. The Heineken Experience takes you through the history of the beer brand to where it stands today in a funny and interactive way and ends with a beer tasting, of course. Buy your tickets here to get a discount combo to the Heineken Experience and a canal cruise.
10. Take a photo of the gingerbread houses
If you haven’t seen a picture of the iconic Amsterdam gingerbread houses we’re almost forced to ask if you’ve been living under a rock. Although they’re commonly known as the Amsterdam gingerbread houses, these gingerbread houses are not of the edible kind. Instead, they’re actual houses on the other side of the water on Damrak, and taking a picture of them is absolutely an Amsterdam bucket-list kinda thing!
Of course, the list of awesome things that you can do in Amsterdam isn’t limited to just ten things, that’s why we’ve split up the rest of the items for your Amsterdam bucket list into three categories; fun things to do in the center of Amsterdam, more cool things to do in Amsterdam (that are not necessarily in the center), and best things to do in Amsterdam at night.
Fun things to do in the center of Amsterdam
1. Visit the Floating Flower Market
This colourful flower market is located on a barge floating on the Singel canal. Here you can buy all sorts of typical Dutch flower bulbs, like tulips; the Dutch national flower.
2. Go hunting for Invader
Invader is a famous European street artist and he’s made his mark on Amsterdam, hidden throughout the city are a total of 26 Space Invader style tiles. Can you find them all?
3. Shop on the 9 Streets
The 9 streets are a grid of well, 9 streets, just east of the Jordaan neighbourhood. They are known for its many vintage shops, designer clothing shops and hip cafés.
4. Join a walking tour of the city
A walking tour is a great way to meet other people and see the city at the same time. With durations ranging from 1,5 hours to a whole afternoon, most walking tours take you to some of Amsterdam’s cultural and historical highlights and come with a tour guide that can tell you everything about them.
5. Visit the Nemo Science Museum
Shaped like Captain Nemo’s ship, this museum by the water close to Amsterdam Central Station is al about interactivity. They show all sorts of cool science experiments that are guaranteed to entertain you for hours. Get your tickets here.
5. Try the best apple pie in the Netherlands at Winkel 43
Every country claims that they have the best apple pie in the world. While we don’t know which country actually has the best apple pie, the best apple pie in The Netherlands is in Amsterdam, served by Café Winkel 43. This small corner café doesn’t look like anything special and you’d probably walk right past it if you didn’t know about it, but if you like apple pie then theirs is a must-have!
6. Hard Rock Café
Hard Rock Cafés can be found all over the world, but the very first one was founded here in Amsterdam. Visit it to see where it all started, and have one of their delicious milkshakes while you’re at it
7. Visit the Old Amsterdam cheese store
There is nothing more Dutch than cheese and that’s why the Dutch are called ‘kaaskoppen’ or ‘cheeseheads’. Amsterdam has its own cheese called Old Amsterdam, and it is delicious. There are three Old Amsterdam cheese stores in the center of Amsterdam, and we highly recommend checking one out to sample some of their cheese.
More cool things to do in Amsterdam
1. Experience King’s Day in Amsterdam
Every year, on the 27th of April The Netherlands celebrates King’s Day. As you can probably guess by the name, this day is the birthday of the Dutch king, and it is the country’s most exuberant holiday. On this day everyone dresses up in orange; the national colour and the whole country is one big party scene.
While you’re guaranteed a good time on this holiday anywhere in the country, Amsterdam steps it up a notch because in Amsterdam most of the partying happens on the water. That’s right, on King’s Day the canals are completely packed with boats full of party people, and you can join them! Rent a boat with your friends, or simply join an already ongoing party. You’ll find that lots of ‘captains’ are more than happy to share the fun. This is a party like you’ve never seen before.
2. Have a picknick in Vondelpark
On a nice summer day, the Vondelpark is arguably the nicest spot in the city. Located just outside of the inner city canal belts, this large city park provides a serene escape from the hustle and bustle. Grab yourself some food and drinks to go and find a nice spot in the shade under a tree on the fields or next to the water.
3. Swing over the city
At a height of a 100 meters, on the roof of the A’DAM LOOKOUT stands ‘Over the Edge; Europe’s highest swing. This huge swing lets you rock over the edge of the tower with Amsterdam spread out underneath you. It is the best view of the city you can get! (link to booking page -check affiliate)
4. Go vintage shopping
Amsterdam has the reputation of being a designer fashion city, but there’s actually a big vintage shopping scene. Cue Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop and pop some tags! Some of the best ones in the city are ‘Time Machine Vintage’, ‘Episode’, ‘Mood Indigo’ and ‘Mooi’.
5. Check out a Concept Store
Concept stores are lifestyle stores that sell a carefully curated selection of items that connect to the same theme, and they are an experience in themselves. Apart from offering stylish collections, the stores are often combined with a café, art gallery or event space. Concept stores are a big trend in Amsterdam and you’ll find them everywhere throughout the city, but some of the coolest ones are ‘Wildernis’, ‘Hutspot’, ‘Droog’, ‘Sukha’ and ‘Cottoncake’
6. Munch on Poffertjes
Poffertjes are a real Dutch treat! They’re basically small, fluffy pancakes and are traditionally served with powdered sugar and maple syrup. Find yourself a “poffertjeskraam” which is a poffertjes food truck and watch how they’re prepared fresh for you in just a couple of minutes.
7. Have a beer and some bitterballen
Bitterballen are a typical Dutch bar snack. Bitterballen are small deep-fried ragout balls are best enjoyed with an ice-cold beer at the end of the afternoon, especially when you’re spent the whole day exploring Amsterdam. The name translates into “bitter balls”, but confusingly enough they are not bitter at all. This refers to the tradition of bitterballen being served with a drink of bitters, like jenever. People have since discovered that they are even better enjoyed with beer.
Best things to do in Amsterdam at night
1. Pop into a coffee shop
You’re most likely aware of the fact that in The Netherlands a coffee shop isn’t a place where you go to drink coffee. Even though you can certainly get a coffee here, a coffee shop is where you go to buy and smoke marihuana, which is decriminalized in The Netherlands. While we’re not promoting the use of drugs (not condemning it either), coffee shops are a big part of Amsterdam culture, so even if you’re not planning to get stoned at all, you should definitely pop into one to see what all the fuss is about.
2. Watch the sunset at the SkyLounge.
SkyLounge Amsterdam is an award-winning rooftop bar smack in the middle of the city. It is located on the roof of the Hilton DoubleTree Hotel next to Amsterdam Central Station, and in the evening it is turned into a fancy lounge club. What better way to watch the sunset over Amsterdam than with a cocktail in hand?!
3. Go partying!
Amsterdam is famous for having some of the best nightlife in the world, and no matter what kind of party scene you’re in to, you can find plenty of it in here. The city boasts multiple big concert venues hosting world-class artists on an almost daily basis, countless clubs with top DJs playing all-nighters and more music festivals than you could possibly go to. The most iconic of which is Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE); a 5-day music festival held every year in the middle of October, featuring over 1000 music events spread over more than 200 venues in the city.