Amsterdam has so much going on, from the red light district, quirky cafes, amazing shopping and booming art scene, it can be overwhelming deciding what to do. To make the most out of your visit I have complied a list of my top 10 recommendations that can all easily be done in the space of a long weekend. Keep in mind some museum you may have to purchase tickets in advance.
1) Visit The Anne Frank Museum
The diary of Ann Frank is one of the best selling books in the world and rightly so as it documents one of the darkest and most disturbing times in history through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl. The museum allows you to walk through history seeing the attic Ann and her family were forced to hide in. As the museum is very small (well a house) the queue normally takes over an hour so I really would recommend buying tickets in advance. It costs 9 and includes an audio tour, walking through the rooms, which are so much smaller than you would imagine, with the audio guide playing sections of the diary is deeply moving and such a personal insight into the atrocities that happened across Europe. If you only have time for one museum in Amsterdam make sure it’s this one.
2) Spend the Day at Artis Zoo
Artis zoo is a perfect day trip, it’s position in the centre of Amsterdam makes it extremely easy to get to either by tram or a bit of a walk. The zoo is one of the oldest in Europe, set in beautiful grounds and also has a huge aquarium and planetarium. Tickets are € 22.00 if buy them on the website but can change in busy periods. I would really recommend a visit to this amazing place it’s huge and takes almost a full day to walk around, the animals all seem genuinely happy in their habitats. My favourite part was the monkey and butterfly houses. In the monkey house, you can walk through while the monkeys swing freely around the room just make sure they don’t steal anything! I would really plan to spend an entire day there as there really is just so much to see and do we didn’t even make it the entire way around.
3) Explore the Red Light District
It’s difficult to think of Amsterdam without the iconic Red Light District. Whatever your views or opinions might be, walking through the red light district at night is something that you have to go and witness for yourself! It’s fascinating, uncomfortable and bizarre to see all these women out in lingerie in plain view. There are also many shows for varying prices, pubs, bars, cafes and shops. It will never be quite how you imagine it in your head.
The shops are also worth going into just to see all the crazy things they sell. Specifically, the famous condom shop Condomerie is worth a browse to see the large collection of decorative (apparently usable) condoms. Please be careful when taking pictures in the red light district as if you are seen to be taking photos with any of the women in them you can find yourself in trouble
4) Visit the Van Gough Museum
I think this is genuinely the best art museum I’ve ever visited. Vincent Van Goth is arguably the most famous artists in the world and yet it’s shocking how little most people actually know about his life other than the ear incident and suicide. The clever layout of this museum walks you chronologically through his fascinating life, the evolution of his style and his influences. The astounding fact that the bulk of his work was completed in just over a decade is a feat in itself. It costs 18 entry and I would recommend buying tickets in advance as it can get very busy, for me it is well worth the money. Even if you aren’t an art lover I would really recommend visiting this fascinating place, I really gained a lot from it.
5) Go Shopping
Amsterdam is a shoppers dream with everything you could possibly imagine. There is the main shopping street, just behind Dam square containing your usual high street brands, the ‘nine streets’ a place full of quirky boutiques, or if your feeling adventurous the above mentioned red light district shops. There more than enough options to keep you busy.
6) See the Floating Flower Market
Holland is famous for its tulips if your walking around Amsterdam make sure to visit the famous floating flower market. From the front, they look like normal market stalls filled with beautiful tulips in every colour. From the back, you realise they are actually floating suspended above the canal.
7) Take a Trip to the Sex Museum
The sex museum is easy to find located right next to the station. It’s 5 entry and while it’s not amazing and not as good as Prague’s sex museum. It’s certainly a bizarre amusing experience and is open much later than the other museum. If you are looking for something fairly cheap to pass the time on an evening I would recommend a trip to see some of the bizarre displays.
8) Try the local food
Amsterdam has some truly amazing food, while it might be a little expensive with the average lunch costing €14, it’s still worth exploring their local delicacies. My top three being their cheese which you can hardly miss with cheese shops on every corner offering free samples. Their fries with Vlaamse sauce, a mix between mayonnaise and salad dressing are worth trying at a number of the street stalls. Last but certainly not least the delicious fresh stroopwafels.
9) Get a free Ferry to an Art Island
Rather than spending lots of money on a canal cruise, why not try one of Amsterdam’s free ferries. The ferry port is located behind Amsterdam station and offers various routes from the quick 3-minute ferry to the other bank with the eye film museum. To the trip, I would recommend to NDSM island.
NDSM island is an old shipyard turned into somewhat of an artist paradise, full of bizarre sculptures, cafes and host to several festivals and events. The 903 ferry leaves fairly regularly taking about 15 minutes to get there. It’s a bizarre place but worth checking out if you have a spare couple of hours in Amsterdam. There is a giant warehouse full of shipping containers turned into artist studios, it’s interesting to walk around the two levels and see what they are working on. We ended up seeing a modern art piece that was alive barbie peep show. There is also a great cafe on the island that is worth the visit alone, made out of an old greenhouse and with plenty of outdoor space to sit and watch the waves on the ‘beach’. If you have a free afternoon in Amsterdam and are looking for something cheap and quirky then make the trip to NDSM island.
10) Cycle around Vondelpark
Right in the middle of Amsterdam is the beautiful Vondelpark, a large Greenland with multiple ponds, sculptures and even an open-air theatre. I was lucky that my hostel was right on the edge of this stunning place. On a sunny day, it would be perfect to take a picnic or stroll through. If your wanting to spend a little money there are plenty of bike rental places nearby to hire a bike and cycle around.