Amsterdam. The city of decadence, red lights and over-indulgence, is often undersold. Because beneath its brash surface, this favourite location for stag and hen-dos is crammed with historical and cultural gems. It is barely possible to walk anywhere in Amsterdam without bumping into a masterpiece. In fact, cramming everything in can be a challenge. There can be a temptation to sit in a coffee shop, whiling away the hours nibbling on special brownies, but plan your trip so that you make sure that catch some of our Amsterdam sightseeing must-dos. Here are just a few of our favourite sights and activities.
Hire a Bike
One of the best ways to get around Amsterdam is by bike It’s also a great way to acclimatise yourself to the city and get your bearings. The roads are flat and the city caters wonderfully for cyclists, making it safe and easy to get around. You can hire a cycle tour guide, or go it alone – just make sure you stay safe and don’t ride under the influence.
Anne Frank House
If the Anne Frank House isn’t at the top of your Amsterdam sightseeing list, it should be. Before you go, read the book, watch the film, or look it up online. There is plenty of information at the house itself, but if you have a good idea of the history, you will be able to absorb the place more easily, without vying for reading space with other tourists. Within the house, you will find a reconstruction of Anne’s bedroom, complete with the famous diary. The whole experience is humbling and emotional, but none more than the achterhuis, the secret annexe that the Frank and other families lived in complete secret before being betrayed. More than a million people visit the house every year; pre-book to skip some (not all) of the queues.
Regardless of whether or not you are a culture buff, the Rijksmuseum is a must. Go for a day or pop in for an hour, but you should go, just so you can say you did. With nearly a mile of galleries, Amsterdam’s premiere gallery exhibits more than 7,500 masterpieces celebrating Netherlands Arts from the Middle Ages to the present day. Book ahead online to fast-track through the queues. There are guided tours each day, check online for times and availability. If you haven’t bought tickets and are dissuaded by queues, explore the outside: entry to the museum’s grounds and exterior are free, so wander outside and take in the pristine landscaping and fantastic sculptures.
Van Gogh Museum
He may be best known for his vivid paintings, but Van Gogh’s soul was a tortured one. At The van Gogh Museum, you can see his development, from his earliest, more tentative pieces, to some of his renowned masterpieces. Being in the presence of such artwork is simply awe-inspiring, but tracing Van Gogh’s life through art is a poignant experience. As may be expected, queues can be huge, so book online to avoid the worst of them.
All that Amsterdam Sightseeing and culture can be thirsty work, so head to the Heineken experience to quench your thirst. Situated on the site of the former brewery, you can learn about the brewing of Amsterdam’s famous beer; you can even become a beer yourself, and go through the brewing process (complete with a good shake, a splash of water and heating up). And, of course, there’s the beer tasting. Guess what? If you book online, you can avoid ticket queues and save a couple of euros, too.
Amsterdam’s unique, laid-back nature means that, despite the chaos, it rarely feels claustrophobic. However, if you want to escape from the melee, head to Vondelpark, a lush, magical area where tourists and locals flock to relax and enjoy. The park is evocative of British Victoriana, with its perfect landscaping, laws, bridges, ponds and undulating footpaths. Despite its 10 million annual visitors, the park never seems crowded, and is an ideal place to sit and reflect on the sights and resulting emotions of your trip.
It is virtually impossible to visit Amsterdam without seeing canals and crossing a few canals. In fact, Amsterdam’s canals are central to their identity and were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. The 165 canals were created centuries ago, to promote trade and to ease transport into the city. One of the best ways to see the canals is via a boat tour, which will take you down the canal ring as you take in the stunning architecture on either side. There are a broad range of tours, from romantic dining boats, to kids’ adventuress – so shop around for the best option (and price) for you.
Amsterdam Tulip Museum
Think of The Netherlands and you think of tulips, and the Amsterdam Tulip Museum is an explosion of colour and history, paying homage to the gaily bobbing flower that is synonymous with the country. Although small, the museum is a great place to while away an hour: discover the flower’s history before taking a trip to the Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer flower auction or the Bloemenmarkt on the Southern Canal Ring, where you can see the blooms in all their vibrant glory.
It is easy to pack your trip to this wonderful city with trips and tours, and there are plenty of Amsterdam Sightseeing tour operators to make your visit seamless. However, do take time to wander the streets, to sit and drink coffee while watching the world go by, and to absorb the relaxed vibe of this city of culture, flora and decadence.
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