Amsterdam – it’s a city that needs no introduction. While for some it’s a place steeped in hedonistic mysticism amongst its fairytale streets and tranquil canals, for others it’s the crucible of creativity and a model of what society could be. It’s a city of tolerance, creativity and love for all. Most importantly of all, the city is anything you want it to be.
Whether you are looking to lose the constraints of normal life or find peace amongst the capital’s many eye-catching museums and traditional architecture, it’s a city for one and all.
So in that case, let me show you the best highlights to see during your time in Amsterdam!
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Table of Contents
Anne Frank Museum
Sadly, this peaceful city once had its accepting nature challenged in a horrific manner. During the Nazi Occupation, Jewish individuals went to great lengths to hide from their would-be executors. Living proof of that horrific period is on full display in the infamous house of Anne Frank.
This 17th-century canal house is where the 13-year-old Jewish girl, her family and four others hid from the Nazis for two years after fleeing their German homeland. Inside, visitors have the opportunity to explore the hidden annexe behind the bookcase and relive the cramped conditions that these individuals endured.
The front of the house has also become a thought-provoking museum that exhibits photographs of the family and real-life samples from the original diary.
Negen Straatjes (The Nine Streets)
Not many cities can claim to be instantly recognisable by the mere sight of their streets. The tall, skinny houses and spider webs of canals culminate in not only creating an iconic image of Amsterdam but of this fascinating city’s fairytale aura. And of all the spots in the city, Negen Straatjes does it the best!
Placed right in the heart of the quaint Jordaan canal system, the area translated as nine streets is a quaint slice of Dutch quirkiness and undeniable personality.
Streets lined with cafés, independent boutiques, vintage stores and mouth-watering snacks make it a tourist’s dream.
Visit a Coffeeshop
If there’s one thing that the iconic streets of Amsterdam are known for (particularly amongst the 420 sub-culture), it’s the sweet sweet smell of marijuana! For many, it’s the sole reason for coming to this city in the first place, but don’t get it twisted, the city is not a Last Days of Rome free for all.
Amsterdam and its inhabitants have a mutual respect and understanding of cannabis and its use. The use and sale of cannabis is legal within the city’s notorious coffeeshops. Though many would like to see it as a seedy, gritty part of tourism culture that should be discarded, for others it’s a beautiful representation of how cannabis use can be respectfully consumed, regulated and enjoyed by all who choose to.
You can’t cross a single street without getting a good whiff, and there are plenty of spots for you to choose from. From chilled-out cafés, to low-lit sofa-lined joints (pun very much intended), there’s something to fit everyone’s personal taste.
Van Gogh Museum
A name known throughout the world for his stunning post-impressionist creations, Vincent van Gogh is one of the country’s most iconic artisans. His iconic paintings and expressive designs have inspired creators across the world to this very day.
Housed inside the museum is the largest collection of Van Gogh’s work anywhere in the world. There are also a collection of works from the artists who originally inspired Van Gogh, including pieces from Monet and Gauguin.
Red Light District
In an eclectic culture of acceptance and understanding, Amsterdam’s Red Light District has brought the once seedy underworld of sex work into the accepted mainstream.
Bathed in the glow of enticing red lights and provocatively dressed women displayed before pane-glass windows, it’s no secret that these streets are some of the world’s most iconic displays of kinkiness.
As worrying and hedonistic as some may see the practice to be, Amsterdam has a much more liberal attitude when it comes to sex. More so, the highly regulated and legitement operation of the district brings the industry into a whole new light.
Not recommended for children!
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Amsterdam is defined by its heavenly canals that divide the city into bite-sized chunks. Created in the 17th century to keep the sea at bay, Amsterdam’s UNESCO-protected network provides a visual delight and a setting fit for a fairytale.
Though travelling across its edges is certainly a must-do, its almost become a rite of passage to cruise along its waters. As such, there is a myriad of options available to traverse the city’s waterways.
From booze-filled tours to hop-on-hip-off varieties and even candlelit cruises, there are plenty of ways to explore the traditional canal houses and pass beneath its stunning bridges.
Rent a Bicycle
While travelling via the canals is certainly a must, so too is exploring the city on the back of a bike! In a city of over 800,000 bicycles, this is the main method of transportation around these parts.
Amsterdam has an immense network of cycling routes and topped with a completely flat landscape, it makes for some easy riding. It’s easy to come across places that rent them for the day, and some hotels might offer the same service too!
Standing a stone’s throw away from the Van Gogh museum stands the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam’s biggest and best collection of Dutch relics and treasured artefacts.
Amongst the 8,000 relics and 1 million total items, there’s plenty to observe across all aspects of Dutch history and culture. You can even see pieces from an iconic Amsterdam resident, Rembrandt.
Explore Windmills and the Surrounding Country
Though you could spend weeks exploring each nook and cranny of this quirky city, there are equally fascinating sites to see further outside of Amsterdam.
It’s worth taking a day to explore the surrounding countryside and the rich landscapes that it hides. Those include the old historic towns of Haarlem that are criminally underestimated compared to its capital. Yet for a real postcard image, travel further into the countryside to snapshot the iconic windmills that are synonymous with this nation.
After an intensive day of dancing with Mary Jane, chances are you’ll be pretty hungry sooner or later. Luckily, Amsterdam has the perfect spot for you. De Hallen is a refurbished industrial building which has been transformed into a creative hub for all things art and fashion. More importantly, it’s got plenty of food!
The Foodhallen is a large congregation of street food and various vendors that serve up trendy gastro bites from all culinary backgrounds. With a central bar to top it all off, it’s a great little respite from the rest of the city.
Explore the Rest of Jordaan
As we’ve already seen with Negen Straatjes, the neighbourhood of Jordaan is by far one of Amsterdam’s most beloved. Once the working class district, it has since become the area’s most characterful and most beautifully preserved.
Amongst its streets are an immense amount of independent art galleries, antique stores, chilled-out bars and, you guessed it, plenty of top-notch coffeeshops.
Ons’ Lieve Heer Op Solder
Following the Reformation in 1578 that banned Catholicism from being practised openly, any religious practices from then forward had to be hidden behind closed doors. The result was the creation of secretive little altars in some very unique spots.
The ‘Museum of Our Lord in the Attic’ was one of these creations and among one of the best. Spread across the top three floors of a 17th-century house, this Catholic church was a well-kept secret for 200 years.
It’s a fascinating look at the religious persecution that the city once endured, and to this day you might catch the occasional service taking place.
Yet another pop culture item synonymous with this wonderful nation, Heineken is amongst the most famous beer brands in the world, and one of the most delicious! So in that case, why not find out how it’s made?
The museum was once the birthplace of the iconic beverage and was regularly produced here up until 1988. Since then, it has been turned into an interactive museum to give beer lovers an in-depth look at its history, and the brewing process and naturally, have yourself a little taste at the end.
Albert Cuyp Markt
In a city that has a true passion for its independent businesses, the Albert Cuyp Markt is a beautiful extension of that mindset. In a nation with a rich (and sometimes violent) history of trading, these markets are a hub for frantic bargaining and haggling.
Selling everything from unique clothing to knick-knacks and souvenirs, it’s a great place to see the spirit of Amsterdam in action.
As peaceful as the city is, nothing beats a bit of open greenery. Flevopark provides the peace that you need with its huge grassy areas and peaceful tranquillity.
On the outskirts of the park are plenty of spots to keep you engaged, including the city’s only outdoor swimming pool. Yet, that might not even be necessary, as wild swimming in the Nieuwe Diep is also a favoured pastime! If you’re hoping for something a little more laid-back, you could also grab a beer or a grab to eat in the nearby breweries and markets.
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Once you’re in the heat of the devil’s lettuce, it’s best to find some entertainment to suit your current mindset. Luckily for you, Electric Ladyland is the perfect spot to enjoy your trip!
This is the first (and only) museum solely dedicated to fluorescent art. It also has eye-catching scientific displays of gems and minerals that glow beneath ultraviolet lights. Trippy dude!
The little-visited northern half of Amsterdam is the real hidden gem of the city. The city’s ferries drop visitors to various points across the coasts, including the NDSM, the new hotspot for vibrant food, drink and cultural scene.
What was once part of the shipping industry has since turned into a popular hangout amongst the rusting trams, greenhouse cafes, and the world’s largest street art museum. You’ll even find an abandoned submarine!!
Though it may just seem like any other park, this was once a hedonistic paradise! It was once the only public park in the world where you could legally barbecue, smoke joints and have sex in the open. Oh, those were the days.
Nowadays, it has become your run-of-the-mill family-friendly park with plenty of activities for those looking to make a day of it. Make sure you check out the rose garden and the famous open-air theatre which regularly puts on shows.
Blijburg aan Zee
One of the last things anyone would expect to see in Amsterdam is a stunning beach. But by god, they have one!
Located on the artificial island of IJburg, Blijburg ann Zee is just a short tram ride away from the centre of the city. It’s the perfect escape and opportunity to experience something completely different to the rest of the Amsterdam experience.
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