Your guide to visiting Amsterdams' best attractions.
Preparing to head to Amsterdam, the Netherlands’ culturally-dense capital of Europe, brimming with an endless array of world-class attractions? This Dutch city boasts a labyrinth of enchanting canals, historic architecture, and unparalleled museum scenes, creating a tapestry that entices travelers worldwide. In fact, the city welcomed over 23 million tourists in 2022, roughly equivalent to 12 tourists for every Dutch resident
To minimize time standing in line (when you could be feasting your eyes on world-class art!), we’ve crafted this guide to help you seamlessly navigate Amsterdam’s esteemed attractions. So pack your bags, bid farewell to your worries, and prepare to lose yourself in a kaleidoscope of culture, art, and untamed beauty. Because in Amsterdam, getting lost is not just fun; it’s a requirement.
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How to Get to Amsterdam’s Top Attractions
We can thank Amsterdam’s efficient and accessible transportation system and copious bike lanes for efficient travel planning. Such a system includes an extensive (and reliable!) network of trams, which cover the town comprehensively for exploration. Tram tickets can be purchased from vending machines at tram stops or use a contactless payment card to tap in and out. Another fantastic option for getting to the top attractions and avoiding car traffic is on two wheels–Amsterdam’s extensive network of bike paths makes cycling a popular and convenient mode of transportation. Procuring a bike is simple as there are multiple vendors citywide.
Once you’ve made your way to Amsterdam’s Museum Square (Museumplein in Dutch), you’re nearby the city’s top attractions, including the Van Gogh Museum, where visitors can absorb the artist’s metamorphosis and witness his life’s journey. Also, the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum are all within walking distance of one another, making this culturally-saturated area the prime spot to begin Amsterdam explorations. Other can’t-misses, such as the Anne Frank House and Dam Square, are just 20 minutes on foot from the Museumplein or–since you’re in Amsterdam–approximately 4.2 minutes on a bike.
When to Visit to Avoid Massive Crowds
To escape Amsterdam’s peak tourist season and its accompanying crowds, consider planning your visit during the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn, as these months not only offer milder weather and fewer tourists than summer, but you’ll also be able to enjoy tulip blossoms or autumn foliage.
If you prefer a quieter atmosphere, venture to Amsterdam during winter, from November to February. While the temperatures may be colder, you’ll find fewer tourists and an enchanting ambiance as the city embraces its festive spirit. Picture-perfect scenes of snow-dusted canals, cozy cafés, illuminated holiday decorations, and–most importantly–fewer tourists.
The Secret to Amsterdam: The Museumkaart
The Museumkaart, a pass that grants access to over 450 cultural wonders throughout the Netherlands, from renowned institutions to hidden gems, is one of the most efficient ways to visit Amsterdam’s top attractions. This pass allows you to see Amsterdam’s cultural landscape effortlessly while bypassing long ticket lines. Amsterdam’s top museums are included with this card, including the Anne Frank House, the Rembrandt House, and the Jewish Museum.
The Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House, nestled gracefully along the bucolic Prinsengracht canal, is an immutable testament to the enduring spirit of one of history’s most extraordinary young voices. A visit to Amsterdam would be incomplete without seeing this revered museum, offering a profound glimpse into Anne Frank’s life during the harrowing days of World War II, when she and her family sought refuge from the Nazis in a concealed annex. The meticulously preserved living spaces make history come alive, as does seeing Anne’s original diary and her indomitable spirit.
It is no wonder that with its global reputation, securing tickets in advance for the Anne Frank House is essential.
How to Get Tickets to the Anne Frank House
Here’s the scoop: set a reminder every Tuesday at 10 a.m. CEST when tickets for a visit six weeks later become available. Here’s the ticket website. Remember, an online reservation for a specific time slot is mandatory, so plan your Amsterdam itinerary accordingly. Choose between a museum visit or opt for the immersive experience of a museum visit with an introductory program. If no more tickets are available on selected dates, you’re sadly excluded this time, as there is no waiting list.
The Van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam’s world-renowned Van Gogh Museum, located on Museumplein, is a haven for art enthusiasts, with the most extensive collection of works by the esteemed Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. Immerse yourself in his artistic and personal journey absorbing the details of over 200 paintings and 500 drawings, including timeless masterpieces like “Sunflowers,” arguably the most representative of the museum. Gain intimate insights into Van Gogh’s tumultuous life as you delve into his letters.
We recommend purchasing tickets online to bypass long queues. Plan your holiday on a weekday to avoid weekend congestion. If you’re a night owl, plan to visit during extended hours on a “Vincent on Friday” evening, a more intimate after-hours event with music, workshops, and exhibits. And if you are keen on an informative guided tour, you can bypass general admission lines with dedicated group tour entries.
The world-renowned Rijksmuseum melds Dutch art and history and is another must-visit in Amsterdam’s Museumplein. Prepare for a captivating voyage through time as you encounter the extensive collection of this magnificent institution, featuring iconic works by legendary masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer, spanning centuries of Dutch heritage. Marvel at Rembrandt’s breathtaking painting, “The Night Watch,” and explore the museum’s expansive exhibits that span centuries of Dutch origin. Enhance your journey by opting for a guided tour or renting an audio guide, allowing you to delve deeper into the art and narratives.
For a less crowded experience, we recommend arriving early or visiting on a weekday to avoid bustling crowds. The Rijksmuseum houses an extensive collection and many fascinating artworks beyond the most famous pieces. Take advantage of the opportunity to explore the museum’s captivating outdoor sculpture garden, a serene oasis that invites you to wander amidst artistic splendor and fewer people.
Find solace amongst vibrant city life within the serene embrace of Vondelpark. As Amsterdam’s largest park, it beckons you with its verdant expanses, tranquil ponds, and meandering pathways, creating an oasis of tranquility amidst the urban hustle and bustle. Here, you can escape the noise and be momentarily cuddled by nature’s embrace. Whether you prefer indulging in a picturesque picnic, taking strolls along the winding paths, or embarking on a delightful bike ride through the park’s hidden corners, Vondelpark offers a sanctuary for relaxation and rejuvenation.
During the warmer months, the park comes alive with open-air concerts, adding a touch of enchantment to your experience. If you’re an early bird, consider picnicking in the garden in the early morning pre-crowds for some powerful metropolitan meditation.
The Dam Square
The vibrant Dam Square is at the heart of Amsterdam, surrounded by iconic landmarks. Here, you can marvel at the grandeur of the Royal Palace, a masterpiece of Dutch architecture open to the public. Nearby, the Nieuwe Kerk hosts exhibitions and cultural events. Don’t miss the National Monument, a tribute to the victims of World War II.
While the Dam Square’s chaotic and bustling energy may be part of the appeal (and crowds somewhat inevitable), if you visit to avoid peak hours and seasons–aiming for early-mid morning in a shoulder season, you will less likely be swept up by the tourist tsunami. And while Dam Square should be included in any Amsterdam itinerary, the adjacent cozy canals and streets may provide a quieter atmosphere.
Amsterdam: The Venice of the North
Amsterdam’s beloved nickname, Venice of the North, is on target. This moniker compares Amsterdam to its Italian counterpart, which has refined beauty, experiences, and world-class attractions. Being strategic allows you to make the most of your time in Amsterdam and create unforgettable memories of visiting the top attractions. So get those clogs fitted; adventure awaits in this vibrant European capital.