What to do in Amsterdam for the best vacation in 2023

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What to do in Amsterdam for the best vacation in 2023

Amsterdam is the vibrant capital of the Netherlands. The country’s biggest city, it’s a hub for culture, the arts, and heritage. Speaking about the ultimate destination!

When it comes to leisure and fun, Amsterdam boasts a diverse culinary scene and a dynamic nightlife, along with excellent shopping and kid-friendly attractions. With tons of diverse things to do in Amsterdam, Netherlands, it is a city with something for everyone. 

Divided into several distinct districts, there are places of interest all around the city. However, most major attractions in Amsterdam are within a relatively small and easy-to-reach area. Many places are within a short walking distance or you can do as the locals do and hop in the saddle to explore by bicycle. 

If you're just here looking for inspiration whilst trip planning, we've got you covered. Check out the things to do in Madrid or fun activities in Warsaw!

But for now, keep on reading to uncover some top tips for exploring the Dutch capital and the ultimate best things to do in Amsterdam. 

Waterside view of the vibrant Amsterdam
Photo by Massimo Virgilio on Unsplash

What is Amsterdam Best Known For? 

Amsterdam is famous for its beautiful UNESCO-listed canal network, with scenic waterways crisscrossing the city. Indeed, some 160 canals are stretching for more than 100 kilometres in total! There are also hundreds of kilometres of cycle paths, so it’ll be no surprise to know that Amsterdam is one of the top cycling cities in all of Europe. 

You may already have heard of Amsterdam’s wild nightlife … the combination of the legendary Red Light District and the many laid-back coffeeshops have led to Amsterdam being known for having a rather liberal and tolerant outlook.     

Canals of Amsterdam Netherlands
Photo by Jace & Afsoon on Unsplash

Dos and Don’ts in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is a hugely popular tourist destination. It’s also home to 820,000-plus people. Show respect to locals, keep on the right side of the law, and don’t be “that” tourist who makes others cringe … keep in mind these handy dos and don’ts in Amsterdam.

Always carry a copy of your ID: It’s the law! Although Amsterdam has an easy-going vibe, do keep in mind that, while typically tolerated, marijuana is still technically illegal. Don’t go overboard in the coffee shops, don’t smoke weed on the streets, and definitely don’t be tempted to dabble in anything stronger; The Netherlands has harsh penalties for hard-drug use. It’s also against the law to drink alcohol along the streets.

Be alert for pickpockets around typical tourist areas. Know your place: Don’t walk in bike lanes or cycle along footpaths. Be cautious too when crossing tram lines.  

Respect the rules and don’t take pictures of the women working in the Red Light District. If you do and you’re caught, you can expect trouble. In general, don’t go too overboard at nighttime. Although Amsterdam is certainly lots of fun, the time for loud revelry isn’t along residential streets when locals are trying to sleep.  

Overall, a little bit of common sense goes a long way towards helping you have the best time in Amsterdam!

Trams in amsterdam
Photo by redcharlie on Unsplash

What Can You Do in Amsterdam in 3 days?

Amsterdam is jam-packed with awesome things to do and see. Although you could spend weeks exploring the Dutch capital and still have more to discover, three days is perfect for an exciting overview of the city. Rent a bicycle to cover more ground, hit up some cool museums, take a boat trip along the canals, chill in a leafy park, throw yourself into the nightlife, admire art, and discover some of Amsterdam’s quirkier attractions. Don’t forget to recharge and sink your teeth into a hearty meal of Stamppot, the nation’s national dish. Pick up an I Amsterdam City Pass for free admission to many attractions and free use of public transport to help stretch your funds further and maximize your time in Amsterdam; Netherlands’ cool capital.    

A view of the busy and vibrant canal of amsterdam
Photo by Colton Jones on Unsplash

These are some of the best things to include on any Amsterdam bucket list:

1. Soak Up the Views from A’DAM Toren

Standing 100-metres tall, A’DAM Toren is a top place for a brilliant bird’s eye view of the city. See the patchwork of canals and streets beneath you, with views that stretch across the surrounding landscapes. Get high—literally—and have a go on “Over the Edge”, the highest swing in Europe!  

A’DAM Toren Building Amsterdam
Photo by Mari Ganesh Kumar on Unsplash

2. Take Kids to Artis Zoo

One of the best things to do in Amsterdam with children, Artis Zoo is home to a huge array of creatures from across the globe. Come face to face with favourites like elephants, lions, wolves, snakes, and monkeys. There are many interesting plants and trees too. The oldest zoo in the Netherlands, a number of historic buildings add to the zoo’s charm.

3. Relax in the Verdant Vondelpark

The stretching Vondelpark is the most popular park in Amsterdam. Boasting grassy expanses, shimmering ponds, and lovely landscaped areas, it’s a great place to kick back in the sunshine and chill with friends or family. It’s especially lively in the summer as well, with free concerts and events to enjoy too.

Bird houses in Amsterdam
Photo by Mattia Panz on Unsplash

4. Step Back in Time at Anne Frank House

Often considered an Amsterdam must-visit, Anne Frank House is an iconic Amsterdam attraction. See the small secret rooms where Anne Frank and her family (along with four other hideaways) spent two years hiding from Nazi forces, and the place where the then-young girl penned her famous memoirs. Moving and emotive, you can get a glimpse into life hiding from persecution.

5. Enjoy Art and Culture at Museumplein

Visiting the Museumplein is one of the top things to do in Amsterdam. The large open space is surrounded by several impressive museums, including the famous trinity of the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Stedelijk Museum.   

Home to the biggest Van Gogh collection in the world, you’ll find paintings, drawings, and personal documents in the Van Gogh Museum. There are also exhibitions displaying works by artists from the same period as well as those who inspired Van Gogh’s creativeness. 

The spectacular Rijksmuseum takes you on a journey through eight centuries of Dutch art, all within a stunning neo-Gothic building. There are thousands of exhibits, including paintings by masters like Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer, textiles, glassware, sculptures, and more.  

If modern art is more your thing, check out the eye-catching collections of the Stedelijk Museum. Feast your eyes on diverse types of art by big names like Matisse, Cezanne, and Andy Warhol.   

Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam
Photo by Jean Carlo Emer on Unsplash

6.Cruise along Amsterdam’s Canals

The UNESCO-listed canals of Amsterdam date back to the 17th century. Designed to prevent flooding, a canal cruise lets you appreciate the magical city from a different perspective. Drift past waterside communities and glimpse stunning landmarks. Look out for the famous “dancing houses”, pass under many bridges, and relax as the city’s sights unfold before your eyes.

7. Admire the Architecture around Dam Square

Dam Square occupies a central place in Amsterdam’s history, with many major city events held here in times gone by. You can still hear whispers from the past as you gaze upon the handsome church from the 15th century, the elegant Royal Palace, and the soaring National Monument.

Originally constructed as the city hall in the mid-1600s, Louis Napoleon converted the huge building into the Royal Palace that stands proudly in Amsterdam today. Still used by present royalty, you can visit some sections of the grand palace to admire the stylish rooms filled with historic furnishings, antiques, and exquisite artworks.

Dam square Amsterdam
Photo by 3DVisu on Unsplash

8. Visit the Unique Venustempel

Also known as the Sex Museum, the Venustempel is one of Amsterdam’s quirkiest attractions. The unusual displays attract hoards of curious visitors each year. Learn about the history and progression of sex and sexuality throughout the ages, with a wide assortment of exhibits to ponder.

Among the top things to do in Amsterdam for couples, it also appeals to groups of mates and solo travelers.

9. Hunt for Bargains along Nieuwe Spiegelstraat

Step away from the typical tourist trail for a spot of nostalgia along Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. The street is lined with interesting antique shops, each brimming with fascinating items from yesteryear. From decorative objects, old globes, and olde-worlde homewares, to books, historic medical equipment, and mysterious curios, there’s certainly plenty to pique your interest.

Nieuwe Spiegelstraat Shops
Photo by Jelle van Leest on Unsplash

10. Learn about Jewish Heritage at Joods Historisch Museum

If you’re wondering what are some important things to do in Amsterdam, visiting the Joods Historisch Museum may be high on your list of local attractions. As the country’s only museum dedicated to Jewish history, it tells the important story of Dutch Jews through the ages. Spread across four historic synagogues, the museum’s collections include fascinating religious memorabilia, archeological finds, pictures, documents, and more.         

When you’ve finished, step across the street to look around the glorious Portuguese Synagogue, a striking testament to Amsterdam’s multi-ethnic past. 

11. Stroll through the Jordaan District

One of Amsterdam’s most-vibrant areas, Jordaan oozes charm. Initially a working-class neighbourhood, the narrow streets still evoke a sense of the Amsterdam of old. The area has seen much regeneration over the years, and today it’s a terrific area for retail and nightlife. Cute cafes, cozy galleries, chic bars, and one-off boutiques all add to the appeal.   

Jordaan District Churches Amsterdam
Photo by Angela Compagnone on Unsplash

12. Party at Leidseplein

Visiting the lively Leidseplein square is one of the best things to do in Amsterdam at night. Street performers wow the crowds in the summer months, while pavement eateries offer amazing views.  Savour a delicious meal in one of the restaurants before dancing the night away in one of the pulsating discos. Thinking about things to do in Amsterdam when stoned? Check out The Bulldog, one of the city’s oldest and most popular coffee shops.  

Even More Great Things to Do in Amsterdam   

Photo by Casper Aprikatis on Unsplash

Wander through the colorful Albert Cuyp Market, experience the Red Light District, marvel at the Westerkirk, and feel like you’ve stumbled upon a secret treasure at the Begijnhof. Beer fans are sure to love the Heineken Experience, while art aficionados can appreciate even more fine works at the Hermitage Amsterdam. Museum Tot Zover is among the unique things to do in Amsterdam, while watching a show at the elegant early 20th-century Theatre Tuchinski is one of the most relaxing things to do in Amsterdam when you are alone. A world of wonder awaits you in Amsterdam!  

Plan your trip to Amsterdam with Pilot!

Whatever your interests and no matter how long your trip to Amsterdam will last, make the most of your time when you, and your friends and family, to plan your city break with Pilot.

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