Where to go
Things to do in Amsterdam
There’s more to Amsterdam than just the storybook charm of its Golden Age architecture and quaint canals. This pocket-size city likes to think big. Its acclaimed museums hold the world’s largest collection of van Goghs, along with impressive Rembrandts, Vermeers and modern masters. Plus, its eco-friendly attitude and proud history of embracing diversity has long attracted international attention. With so much going for it, we’ve made it easier for you by sharing our top picks. From the Rijksmuseum’s homegrown collection to Anne Frank’s heart-rending house, discover the best the city has to offer. And don’t forget to soak up some gezellig – the Dutch concept of cosiness – at any number of bruin cafés. Top six things to do in Amsterdam 1. Admire masterpieces at the Rijksmuseum Brimming with Dutch masterpieces such as Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, this museum is a must for art lovers. With over 8,000 works on display, it’s impossible to see it all – head to the second-floor Gallery of Honour for Golden Age art if you’re short on time. The intricate Delft pottery is also worth a look. 2. Visit the Van Gogh Museum Boasting the world’s largest collection of van Goghs, there’s no better place to explore the life and works of this troubled genius. Housing a mix of lesser-known drawings and famed paintings, it shows the fascinating transition of Vincent van Gogh’s style, from sombre Dutch landscapes to bright, swirling sunflowers. 3. Uncover Anne Frank’s story For two terrifying years, Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis in the back of a canal house that dates back to 1635. Seeing the airless annex in real life is an unforgettable and emotionally charged experience. A tour can also show you other places she visited during her childhood and the shop where she bought her now-famous diary. 4. See the sights with a canal tour Floating down its many canals is one of the most atmospheric ways to see the city sights. Extending around 100 kilometres, these canals are an iconic symbol of Amsterdam, while the picturesque 17th-century ring area is also UNESCO World Heritage listed. Options range from general tickets to a luxury experience. 5. Enjoy a bike ride through the city In a country said to have more bikes than people, it’s only natural that the best way to explore the city is on two wheels. Not only do you get to experience Amsterdam like a local, with over 515 kilometres of dedicated lanes it’s also a convenient way to get around. Less confident riders can opt for an easy bike tour. 6. Discover the Dutch countrysideCrisscrossed by canals and dotted with windmills, the Dutch countryside is as picturesque as it gets. Take a day trip from Amsterdam and discover the attractions just outside it. Top places to visit include Marken island, with its wooden homes, the windmills of Zaanse Schans and the flower-filled fields of Keukenhof Gardens.Planning your Amsterdam visit When to go? June to August is the peak tourist season which means there will be greater crowds, but you may be willing to brave them for the warm weather (perfect for cycling) and long days. Those wishing to avoid said crowds should come before or after the tourist peak season, between April and May or September and November. Good weather can’t be guaranteed, but it’ll be mild and at least you can enjoy the city at its laid-back best. March to May is also the time to catch those famed tulips in bloom. For those who don’t mind the cold and the short days, winter is an ideal time to nab a deal. Flights and accommodation are likely to be at their lowest. Plus, if the weather ever gets too much for you, you can always warm up in a cosy bruin café. How many days should you spend? This varies a lot depending on your travelling style. If you’re someone who likes an action-packed itinerary, you can see the main sights in two days as it’s a pretty compact city. If, instead, you’re someone who likes to take it a bit slower and get into the rhythm of local life, you could take a week or even more. This will give you the time to explore the city by foot or with a bike tour, and let you include day trips to Zaanse Schans to see the windmills or Keukenhof to wander in the tulip fields. How to get there? Schiphol International Airport (also known as Amsterdam Airport) is the Netherland’s main airport and also one of Europe’s busiest. A convenient 9km from Amsterdam, it’s well-connected by trains that depart for Centraal Station around every 10 minutes from 6am to 1am; it runs hourly between 2am and 5am. The trip takes 15 minutes and tickets cost €5.50. Otherwise, the Connexxion Airport Express bus gets you to the centre in 30 minutes (€6.50 one way; €11.25 return). Taxis cost around €45. How to move around the city? Amsterdam is a compact city, which makes getting around relatively easy. If you’re only going to be exploring the city centre, you can get almost everywhere by foot. If you plan on using public transport, we recommend you get a 1- to 7-day GVB pass (available at GVB ticket offices). For most visitors, a combination of walking and taking trams will be all they need. Buses and trains are mainly used to connect to outer suburbs. Most locals get around by bike and if you feel like following their lead the city is well-equipped with bike lanes and rentals. Taxis are readily available, although they tend to be slower because of the maze-like streets. Where to shop? For shopping in the most photogenic of settings nothing quite beats Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets). These narrow streets connecting the 17th-century canals are filled with historic charm and a mix of quirky vintage stores, hip cafes, trendy boutiques and art galleries. Otherwise, if you’re looking for something a little bit more laid-back and local then De Pijp is the place for you. It has cool concept stores, local Dutch design and a fantastic open-air market. Luxury lovers instead will want to strut their stuff down PC Hooftstraat, home to haute-couture brands such as Louis Vuitton, Mulberry and DKNY. Finally, for antiques and art look no further than Spiegelkwartier, where you can splurge on everything from Delft pottery to 17th-century furniture.