Amsterdam is a vibrant and diverse city with an array of exciting activities and attractions for travelers to enjoy. By the way, Amsterdam is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, attracting millions of visitors from all over the world every year.
Located in the Netherlands (Holland), a short plane ride from Porto or Lisbon airports and with low-cost flights from Porto and Lisbon, it is easy to understand why so many Portuguese choose this city to spend a few days.
From exploring the canals and cultural landmarks, to sampling the local cuisine and nightlife, there is so much to see and do in Amsterdam.
In addition, around Amsterdam, there are some of the most beautiful Dutch villages, which are very worth considering to be included in your itinerary.
In this article, I highlight the best things to do in Amsterdam, what to visit, suggestions for accommodation and the best time to visit Amsterdam.
I’ve included the best travel tips and up-to-date information with a comprehensive list of the must-see sights and activities in Amsterdam, so I hope you find this post useful.
So, will you join us on this journey through the land of tulips?
What to visit in Amsterdam (What are the main attractions in Amsterdam?)
Albert Cuyp Market
The Albert Cuyp Market is one of the most vibrant and lively places in Amsterdam, located in the De Pijp district. This open-air market is a true paradise for lovers of food, vintage fashion, art and culture.
With around 260 stalls, the Albert Cuyp market is one of the largest markets in the Netherlands, and attracts visitors from all over the world. Vendors offer a wide range of goods, from exotic flowers and fruits to vintage clothing and handcrafted jewelry.
The market’s atmosphere is lively and relaxed, with live music, street performers and a wide range of restaurants and bars serving delicious food at affordable prices. The market is also a great place to try some of the typical Dutch dishes, such as stroopwafel (waffle with caramel filling).
An important tip for those who want to visit the Albert Cuyp Market is to arrive early, especially on Saturdays, when the market is usually more crowded. Another option is to visit later in the day, when prices tend to be lower and sellers are more willing to negotiate.
The Vondelpark, the park in the center of Amsterdam
Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s most famous park, and one of the most popular with locals and tourists alike. Located in the heart of the city, next to the Museumplein cultural district, this park is a real green haven in the middle of the urban hustle and bustle.
With more than 47 hectares of green space, the Vondelpark offers a wide variety of activities for its visitors. It is possible to walk along the tree-lined trails, ride a bike, have a picnic or simply relax in one of the many green areas. The park also has play areas for children, sports areas and an open-air theater with free shows during the summer.
In addition to outdoor activities, the Vondelpark is also a very popular venue for cultural and artistic events, such as music concerts, theater shows and art exhibitions. Throughout the year, the park welcomes visitors of all ages, and is a meeting point for locals and tourists who want to relax and enjoy nature.
The canals in Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s canals are one of the city’s most iconic attractions, with their maze of water crisscrossing the city center and providing some of the most beautiful cityscapes in Europe. But the history and importance of these channels go far beyond this beauty.
The construction of Amsterdam’s canals began in the 17th century, when the city was experiencing a period of great economic prosperity.
Incidentally, the canals were originally built to create an efficient transportation system to help trade, improve residents’ quality of life, and prevent flooding. Many of the historic mansions and commercial buildings were built on the banks of these canals during the 17th and 18th century, and some of them are still standing today.
Nowadays, the canals are a vital part of Amsterdam’s cityscape and are a popular tourist destination in their own right. Visitors can explore the canals in a variety of ways, including boating, cycling or walking. Some of the most famous canals include the Prinsengracht, Herengracht and Keizersgracht, which are collectively known as the Canal Ring.
By exploring the canals, tourists can discover many of Amsterdam’s historical and cultural landmarks such as the Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank House, the Westerkerk Clock Tower and many other attractions. It’s a unique and enjoyable way to discover the city of Amsterdam, and many visitors consider a canal boat trip to be one of the most memorable activities of their visit to the city.
De Gooyer, the last windmill in Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s last windmill, located near the city’s central station, is a hidden gem worth visiting. This historic windmill is a testament to the city’s history and its importance in the windmill industry.
The De Gooyer windmill, built in 1725, is the last existing windmill of a cluster of 26 windmills that once stood around Amsterdam, all used for grinding grain and seeds. Although the other windmills have disappeared over the years, De Gooyer stands as a symbol of the importance of windmill technology in the city’s history.
Today, De Gooyer is a museum open to the public, where visitors can explore the interior of the mill and learn about the history of the windmill industry in Amsterdam. There is also a small souvenir shop on site where visitors can purchase mill-related souvenirs.
Whilst visiting the windmill is a peaceful and relaxing activity, the surrounding area is lively and vibrant with many bars, restaurants and cafes. It’s the perfect place to stop and enjoy a snack or drink after exploring the mill.
Also, visitors can walk to the Brouwerij ‘t IJ brewery, located in an old building next to the windmill. The brewery brews its own craft beers and offers tastings and behind-the-scenes tours of the brewery.
Travel tip: to see several windmills around Amsterdam, go to Zaanse Schans.
The Red Light District (Amsterdam’s controversial area)
Amsterdam’s Red Light District is one of the city’s most famous and controversial areas, with red light displays and lively nightlife that attract visitors from all over the world to Amsterdam’s most bohemian and liberal district.
However, to ensure everyone can enjoy the area safely and respectfully, there are some important rules to follow.
So, before visiting the Red Light District, it is important to keep in mind that this is the workplace of people working in the sex industry, as such, it is not allowed to take pictures or film in these areas.
Also, here are other important rules to follow when visiting the Red Light District:
- Stay within designated areas
Amsterdam’s Red Light District is a specific area of the city, and red light shop windows and other work areas are clearly marked. It is important to stay within these designated areas and not try to venture into other areas where sex work may not be permitted.
- Do not buy drugs or illicit substances
Drugs are illegal in the Netherlands, meaning visitors must not attempt to purchase or use drugs or other illegal substances in the Red Light District or any other area of the city.
- Respect local laws and culture
Amsterdam is known for being a liberal and tolerant city, but there are still laws and regulations that must be followed, including those related to drug use, public behavior and traffic.
- Do not touch anyone without consent
As in any other area of the city, it is important not to touch or harass anyone without their consent. This includes Red Light District sex workers and anyone else you may encounter in the area.
The Rijksmuseum, located in Amsterdam, is one of the most important museums in the world, with a wide collection of works of art and historical objects from the Netherlands.
Known for its vast collection of paintings by 17th-century Dutch masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Frans Hals, the Rijksmuseum is a must-see for anyone visiting Amsterdam.
In summary, the Rijksmuseum has a collection of Dutch art and history with over a million objects in its collection, from paintings, sculptures and photographs to historical artefacts such as china, clothing and furniture. Some of the most famous works of Dutch art are “The Night Watch” by Rembrandt, “The Milkmaid” by Vermeer and “The Banquet of the Civil Officers of Saint George” by Frans Hals.
In addition, the museum has an extensive collection of Asian art, including porcelain and silk objects, dating back to the 17th century.
On the other hand, the architecture of the museum is an attraction in itself, that is, the Rijksmuseum building was designed by the Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers in 1885 and is one of the most important examples of neo-Gothic architecture in the Netherlands.
Opening hours: every day from 9:00 to 17:00.
Location: Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam.
How to get there: by tram: 2.5 and 12; by bus: line 288.
Tickets: tickets can be purchased directly at the museum’s box office or online in advance. If you prefer, you can opt for a guided tour.
Best things to Do in Amsterdam
Now that you know which are the main tourist attractions to visit in Amsterdam, here are some suggestions of what to do in Amsterdam.
This information serves to complement the list of what to visit in Amsterdam that I mentioned earlier, that is, I will not repeat activities.
Ride a Historic Tram
Did you know that you can explore the city aboard a historic tram? This tram is around 100 years old and is a unique experience as it travels through the oldest part of Amsterdam.
The leather seats and wooden interior make this tour full of charm. The complete journey takes 30 minutes and the driver speaks English and Dutch.
Buy the ticket for the Historic Tram in Amesterdam in advance, as if you decide not to take the tour you can cancel 24 hours in advance and the money will be refunded.
If you are a fan of this beer, you probably know that in Amsterdam there is a Heineken beer factory that has been operating since 1867 and that you can visit it.
What you might not know is that there are different ways to experience Heineken!
In other words, the base ticket for the Heineken Brewery only includes entrance, the self-guided tour and two drinks. In this case, expect to pay around €21, but if you’re really into beer, I recommend the Heineken VIP experience!
So, the Heineken Exclusive VIP Tour includes a visit with an expert Heineken guide, access to one of the hidden bars, a tasting of 5 Heineken Premium beers accompanied by snacks and even a personalized gift.
Accomodation in Amesterdão
Amsterdam’s main districts are: Wallen (the medieval center with art on the Oude Kerk), Jordaan (Noordermarkt restaurants and shops), Pijp (Albert Cuyp Markt and Heineken Experience), Leidseplein (bars and concert venues), Amsterdam-Centrum (bars, shops and Dam Square) and Westerpark (green spaces and nightclubs).
Accommodation prices in Amsterdam have increased a lot in recent years, so more and more visitors are thinking twice before booking a hotel in the center.
Even so, it is still possible to find central accommodation at affordable prices, as long as you book well in advance. In fact, my recommendation is to book as early as possible to ensure you have affordable accommodation in the city.
In terms of hotel suggestions close to the Central Station (train), and where the buses from the Airport stop, I suggest you check out the ibis Styles Amsterdam Central Station (3 stars), which tends to have reasonable prices, or the Hotel van Gelder ( 2 stars).
However, if you want to have a different experience and sleep on a boat, Anna Maria II is an option to consider! The boat is moored about a 15-minute walk from Central Station and the stay includes breakfast.
In any case, if the price of accommodation is not an issue for you, the Hotel Estheréa (4 stars) is a charming hotel with views of the canal and excellent reviews.
If none of these recommendations appealed to you, do not despair as there are many hotels in Amsterdam (check below!).
How many days do I need to visit Amsterdam?
To visit the city of Amsterdam two full days are enough, considering the visit to one or two museums, but ideally you have at least one more day to visit the surroundings on a day-trip.
Let me explain: the city itself is visited quickly, as the main tourist attractions are located relatively close to each other.
However, you will need time to visit Amsterdam’s museums, which are really worth it. So, allow two or three hours for each museum you visit.
When to visit Amsterdam?
Want to know the best time to visit Amsterdam? The good news is that there is always something interesting happening in the capital of the Netherlands.
I visited Amsterdam in March because I wanted to see the tulip gardens at Keukenhof (in 2023 the tulip fields are open between March 23rd and March 14th) and I thought it was a good time.
The weather was uncertain, that is, I caught a day of cold and rain and the rest with sun, which despite being weak, helped when it came to exploring the city on foot.
So, I think visiting Amsterdam in Spring is a safe bet!
In any case, in mid-December the Christmas markets in Amsterdam begin and last until the end of the year.
In summer, the hot weather is conducive to days on the city’s beaches and pools… it’s no mistake, the locals cool off in the pools of Amsterdamse Bos, Sloterplas, and Het Twiske and sunbathe in the green areas next to the canals!
And if you like music, don’t miss the Grachtenfestival, which is the Canal Festival! There are 10 days with a musical program that has the Amsterdam Canal as its main stage.
As you can imagine, accommodation is more expensive at busy times, so if your intention is to save money and escape the crowds, then autumn and winter (except Christmas) is the right time for you.
Where is the city of Amsterdam?
Where exactly is Amsterdam located and what other cities and countries can be easily reached from the Dutch capital?
Amsterdam is located in the western part of the Netherlands (Holland) and on the banks of the river Amstel.
Despite being the capital of the Netherlands (The Hague is the seat of government), Amsterdam is a relatively small city, with a population of just over 800,000. However, it is one of the most culturally rich and diverse cities in Europe.
Thus, Amsterdam is located within easy reach of several other popular European destinations. Some of the closest cities to Amsterdam include:
- Rotterdam: Just 45 minutes by train from Amsterdam, Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands and a center of contemporary architecture and design.
- Hague: Seat of the Dutch government and home to the International Court of Justice, The Hague is a must-see city just an hour by train from Amsterdam.
- Brussels: The capital of Belgium, Brussels is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city just over two hours away by train, making it very easy to combine the two cities on the same trip.
- Paris: Known as the “City of Love”, Paris is just three and a half hours by train from Amsterdam, so consider extending your trip into French territory.
In addition to these cities, Amsterdam is well connected to other European destinations such as Berlin, Copenhagen and Barcelona, with frequent flights and train and bus connections.
So, if you prefer to travel by bus, Flixbus has daily transport to the destinations I mentioned (and a few more) at very affordable prices, if purchased in advance.
Therefore, I suggest that you take a look at the bus connections between Amsterdam and other European cities using the button below.
How to get from Schiphol Airport to the center of Amsterdam?
There are several ways to get from Schiphol Airport to the center of Amsterdam, such as train, bus, taxi and Uber.
Thus, the train is the fastest and most convenient way to get to the center of Amsterdam.
Trains run every 10 minutes to the central station and the journey takes around 15-20 minutes. Tickets can be purchased from vending machines or from ticket counters at the airport. The ticket price is around €5.80.
Another alternative is to go to the center of Amsterdam by bus, in which case you should look for GVB buses. Line 397 connects the airport to the center of Amsterdam in about 35-45 minutes and the ticket price is €6.50. You can buy tickets directly from the bus driver or at the airport information desks.
On the other hand, if you are traveling with several bags, think about the possibility of going to your hotel by taxi or Uber.
Taxis are available 24 hours a day at Schiphol Airport, and the journey to the center of Amsterdam takes around 20-30 minutes. However, taxis are quite expensive in Amsterdam, and the price can reach around 40-50 euros.
Uber, on the other hand, has a variable price because it depends on the availability of drivers and demand. In any case, you can expect to pay more or less €25-35, i.e. Uber is cheaper than a taxi at Schiphol airport.
How to get to Amsterdam
There are many airlines that fly to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) from European countries. Some of the main airlines include:
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
- Air France
- British Airways
- Turkish Airlines
- SAS Scandinavian Airlines
- Swiss International Air Lines
- Aer Lingus
Transavia has direct flights from Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport to Amsterdam Airport, but if you don’t mind paying a little more, KLM also flies directly from Porto to Amsterdam.
On the other hand, from Lisbon, there are direct flights with TAP Air Portugal, Transavia, Vueling, Easyjet, Iberia and KLM.
We chose a low-cost Ryanair flight from Porto to Eindhoven and made the journey to Amsterdam by bus.
You May Also Like:
- 5 must-see museums in Amsterdam to include in your itinerary
- A Day-trip to Marken Netherlands: the village and clog factory
- The Dutch Windmills: A Look at their History and Function em Zaanse Schans
- Discover the charms of Volendam: culture, history and cheese
- Amsterdam on a budget: The best free things to see and do
- Discovering the Dutch Countryside: best day-trips from Amsterdam
- Keukenhof: A Day in the Dutch Tulip Fields
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