Amsterdam has a unique and laid-back culture and is visited by tourists from across the globe. The city is known for being liberal and is alive with an eclectic mix of people. This small capital city boasts more canals than Venice. It is also impossibly quaint, and without the usual bumper to bumper traffic of other European cities. It is always top of the list for visitors to Europe. But just what makes this city so amazing? Read on to find out exactly what Amsterdam is famous for.
Arts and Culture
Amsterdam is known for its culture and arty vibe. There are museums at every corner. For those who enjoy history or the arts, Amsterdam is the place to be. Art lovers will have endless opportunities to enjoy this city. The city is famous for for the world class Rijksmuseum – Home to some of the most famous classical artworks. For those who enjoy a more modern display, Stedelijk Modern Art museum is just minutes away. It houses pieces by such famous artists as Henri Matisse , Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol. Famous painter Van Gogh has an entire museum dedicated to his work. You will find the largest collection of his work here in the world with over 200 of his paintings on display. As well as these three infamous galleries’, visitors will find many smaller niche art museums dotted around the city.
Amsterdam is famous for its concentric canal system and was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2021. It is impossible to travel around Amsterdam without at least crossing one of its canals. Many bridges are dotted with people taking infamous photos of the city landscape from them. The best way to truly enjoy the stunning canals is to hop in a boat! The are dozens of boats near the main train station ready to take tourists on a circuit of the city. Most companies that operate these boat trips are very similar. Expect to get a commentary as you sail on the most famous sights in the area. Most trips last around an hour. You can also hire a full boat for yourself if you are a big party. Another way to see the canals is to just hire a small self drive boat for yourselves.
Another wonderfully unique thing about Amsterdam in the cycling culture. You may be surprised when you first arrive to see that it is cyclists who seem to have right of way, not cars! There are famously more bicycles on the road here than cars. Bicycles are everywhere, chained up on bridges and propped up against shops. Bikes are a lot less likely to get stolen than other major European cities. When visiting, renting a bike is a great way to join the locals and explore the city. However, I would say if you never usually ride a bike, this may not be the place to start. If you are a competent rider, then explore the endless cycle paths. For the nervous, a guided city tour by bike might be the way to go!
Perhaps one of the most well-known places in Amsterdam is Anne Frank’s house. Anne Frank and her family head inside this house for more than two years during World War Two. It has become so well-known thanks to her meticulous diary keeping during the war. And the house itself now acts as a museum and is full of informative exhibitions. Visiting the rooms in the house can give an eerie feeling of claustrophobia. Images and original objects that belonged to the family are on display. And Franks original diary and other notebooks can also be found in the museum. This is an important historical place, and an absolute must visit whilst in Amsterdam.
Tulips are synonymous with the Netherlands. Amsterdam is known for the beautiful bright flowers. The burst of colours that flowering tulips bring signifies the start of spring. The markets in the city come alive, with bunches for sale. Tulip Festival takes place in during April. The goal is to have one tulip for every Amsterdam local – that is nearly a million tulips! Parks, museums and fields around the city all participate in the festival. For those who have time to venture out of the city, the Garden of Europe in nearby Lisse is a must visit!
Red Light District
No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without taking a stroll through the famous Red Light District. In the Netherlands, sex work is legal, and in Amsterdam it is a big business. Most of the sex work in Amsterdam is centred around the one area known as the Red Light District. Here you will find women of all shapes and sizes posing in the windows to attract custom. There are also casinos, sex shows and strip clubs. It is an extremely popular area for stag parties and groups of friends. Even if you are not there to experience anything on offer, it is still a fascinating place to walk around. Don’t feel awkward – every tourist takes a walk around the Red Light District whilst in Amsterdam! It is really important to remember however that you should not take photos of the workers in the Red Light District.
Amsterdam is known for are some interesting local foods! Whilst in Amsterdam, make it your mission to seek out a “Stroopwafel”. These delicious sugary treats are sold all around the city! It is made of 2 thin circular waffles, which sandwich a filling of sweet caramel. They are particularly good dipped in coffee! Another delicacy you must try are “Poffertjes” – tiny pancakes. Thy are soft and sweet, served usually covered in sweet syrup and a dusting of icing sugar! You will also see lots of street food stalls and kiosks selling Herring. The fish is served cured and raw with onions. This is an intense flavour, but one that is undeniably Dutch! You will also find lots of shops around the city selling Dutch cheese – a great souvenir! And if you are unsure about the taste, they often have samples in the shop to help you decide which cheese you prefer!
Not only is sex work legal in Amsterdam, so is marijuana! This is a really unique thing, with very few other cities in the world being so open about smoking. Wandering the streets of Amsterdam, you may smell the familiar scent wafting from nearby coffee shops. Here, you can enter and order from a menu offering both coffee and weed! This is actually a huge attraction in Amsterdam, with many people travelling just to experience the coffee shops. There has been some talk for the past few years about not allowing tourists into the shops anymore. For now though, this has yet to be implemented, so enjoy it while you can!
Picture perfect scenes
Instagram worthy sights are on every corner in Amsterdam. If you love photography, Amsterdam is perfect for you. The bridges over the canals are often littered with people doing impromptu photo shoots. And at nights, the ambient lighting makes the canals and bridges look like they are straight from a fairy tale. Down at the waterfront where the boats launch is another picturesque scene. Colourful narrow houses line the waters edge. Elsewhere in Amsterdam, these narrow house form rows of aesthetic streets with cobbled lanes. Houses in Amsterdam all seem to be slightly wonky, with no 2 looking the same! Also make sure you keep your eyes peeled at the top of the buildings. Most have a pulley system and are slanted slightly forward. This is so people could pull furniture up to the top floors using a rope winch system!
There you have it – 9 of the best things to do in Amsterdam. Now, what are you waiting for! Please let me know in the comments if you have been, what you loved, and if you think I should be adding anything else to the list!