Amsterdam is a blast! It is by far one of best cities in the world for unpredictable fun and adventures. It’s not just the fact that ‘coffee’ shops and bars are commonplace, but also because the Dutch mentality is that everyone should be who they are meant to be. The characters and diverse personalities who call Amsterdam home are some of most real you’ll ever experience.
You’re guaranteed a fantastic trip to Amsterdam whether you’re most interested in the nightlife, history, art, museums, bike excursions, or cheese!
Looking for fun ideas and places to go in this city? Then you’ve come to the right place. I spent five full days in Amsterdam and spent a great deal of time finding some of the best places to explore and activities to partake in. Due to flight changes, I ended up adding an additional two days to my trip, so I was definitely on the search for fun things to do during my extra time. In this post I’m going to share my top ten favorite places and activities that you should consider doing during your trip to Amsterdam.
Free-Dam Walking Tour
I’m listing this first because I highly recommend this being the first thing you do in Amsterdam if you haven’t been before. It’s the perfect way to orient yourself in the city. I was just walking along the street one day and noticed a group meeting up for a walking tour. I spontaneously asked to join and they were totally enthused to have me come last minute. Most people make a free reservation online to guarantee a spot before the tour. You can make a reservation here.
This tour did an amazing job at connecting the many historical points of Amsterdam’s past and gave a great explanation about the modern day lifestyle in the city. The tours are run by locals you know of all the secret and amazing spots in Amsterdam. This experience ultimately leads the way by introducing so many fun activities and places to check out in the city. There are several different tours join in on, some longer and or more historical than others. I went on the standard city walk tour which was a very informative three hour walking tour. It started next to the Old Church of Amsterdam which is centrally located in the old town area. It is totally free but a small tip for the guide at the end of the tour is expected.
Canal Boat Tour
It’s probably no surprise that I’m suggesting you go on a canal boat tour in Amsterdam. As generic as it might sound it’s totally worth it. Such a cool perspective of the city and relaxing way to sightsee without all the walking. Most of the boats have full-service bars to compliment the ride. If you haven’t been to Amsterdam before, you might be curious which boat tour company to book with. The truth of the matter is that there are so many boat tours in the city you don’t need to plan ahead at all. Along nearly all the main canals in the city (which is an endless labyrinth of waterways) there are tours departing. Most of the them last an hour and boat through the main canal areas. Simply walk around and ask ‘when does the next tour leave?’ And you’ll be on a boat before you know it. Hundreds of boats are parading through every hour and it’s super easy to find tours spur of the moment.
Mike’s Bikes Excursions
This was a definitely the highlight of our Amsterdam trip! Such a great experience and I 10/10 recommend going on a Mike’s Bike Tour. This biking company has a few locations in the city, the primary one being located in a very accessible area near the old told center. There are both city and countryside tours to choose from. We went with the countryside tour to escape the city for a bit and absolutely loved it. The tour started in the city, took us through gorgeous parks, and eventually lead to a stunning Netherlands countryside. The Netherlands is notoriously flat, so you don’t half to worry about being an avid biker to handle this tour. People of all ages were on this tour and not necessarily in athletic attire for the journey. The bikes are super comfortable and easy to ride as well. If you’re worried about biking in a busy city, don’t worry at all. I was at first nervous but it’s surprisingly effortless to navigate through Amsterdam via bike. If you do the countryside tour you hardly have to worry about biking in the city traffic for very long.
The countryside tour rides along-side amazing rivers, farms, millionaire neighborhoods, windmills, and eventually a cheese farm. The tour stops here for a break and pays a visit inside an authentic farmer’s barn and clog-making workshop. The man is eccentric but nonetheless entertaining as he showed us how to make cheese and carve clogs. There are tons of great taste testing opportunities for incredibly flavorful cheese and of course a gift shop where you can take home as much as you want to buy.
The tour lasted about three-four hours but wasn’t constant biking. The guide makes several stops to explain different places. All of the guides are so amazing and personable which makes the tour even better. We ran into our guide later that day and had a beer with her at a bar she had recommended to us. If you’re interested to book a bike tour then click here.
Artis Amsterdam Zoo
One day I found myself in Amsterdam all alone with no plan whatsoever. What did I decide to do? Go to the Artis Amsterdam Zoo is what! I was so exhausted from the night prior (my hostel was extraordinarily loud and hot) that I ended up sleeping for three hours on a lawn inside the zoo. Yes, it is true. I passed out on the grass and took a fat nap. When I finally got myself up I had made a very obvious sprawling print in the grass from where I was lying. When I awoke, I was certain that I was the last person in the zoo because it was beyond closing hours. However, on Saturday nights in the summer, there are night-at-the-zoo events. Live concerts and bars are set up throughout the park! I was pleasantly surprised and had a blast meeting locals who were enjoying the evening summertime music and drinks. Oh, and the zoo itself is awesome. There’s places where you have giraffes and elephants on one side of the path and Amsterdam canals and boaters on the other.
The Netherlands is internationally famous for tulips. If you find yourself strolling the streets aimlessly you should definitely stop at the Amsterdam Tulip Market that floats along a main canal. The inside is decadent with the nation’s flowers.
Amsterdam has countless museums that come in many shapes and sizes. Some small canal homes have museums in their attics (not just Anne Frank’s House). There are several museums to explore if you’re fascinated by wartime history, the Dutch golden age, Dutch art, or Vincent Van Gogh. Because of our budget restraints, we had to choose one major museum to visit. The largest and most popular museum is definitely the Rijksmuseum. This museum is famous for its Vermeer collection and overall master collection of Dutch artifacts. The iconic ‘I am Amsterdam’ lettering sits just in front of the main entrance.
In the end, we chose to visit the Vincent Van Gogh Museum because of my sister’s fond love for his art. We were not disappointed and thoroughly enjoyed learning about this art master’s story and witnessing his original art pieces.
People Watching at Red Light District
You haven’t truly seen Amsterdam until you’ve seen the Red Light District. The culture in this area is unlike that of any other city you’ll experience. I kid you not, one of the most memorable memories from our trip was people-watching past midnight in the Red Light District. Thousands of drunk bachelor parties and groups of people fumbling around the city streets while engaging with the ladies in the red light windows. Get a giant basket of Dutch fries and watch the most entertaining free live show of your life. I can’t even begin to explain how hilarious, unpredictable, and wild the show was.
Bakers and Roaster
This was my most favorite place to eat in Amsterdam! I spent a great deal of time looking for and trying several places throughout my trip and found that this place definitely tops the list. It’s a New Zealand style brunch place that has incredible brunch dishes, drinks, and protein shakes. Absolutely flavorful and delicious food, fresh berry bowls, and colorful parfaits. It’s located on the same block as the Mikes Bike Tour shop so I definitely recommend eating here before or after the the bike tour I mentioned in this post.
Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank house is perhaps one of the most visited museums in the world yet it is one of the smallest! I regret not booking an entrance ticket months in advance to see this iconic place. This gives me a reason to return! If you’re hoping to see his museum, make sure to book well in advance, especially if you plan to visit in the summer. I looked at the availability just out of curiosity and found that the tours were booked already through June and July when I visited early June. Something to defnitely plan ahead for. The Free-dam Walking Tour I mentioned earlier in this post definitely touches on this historical topic and did a great job at telling the story of Anne Frank.
Like I said before, Amsterdam has so many museums. Aside from the art, history, and cultural places Amsterdam has some of the quirkiest museums I’ve ever seen or heard of. A prime example is the Sex Museum which some friends and I checked out for fun (it’s only 5 euros so why not). I wouldn’t say the museum has much explanation for the displays but it definitely provides a lot of visuals. It only took us an hour to explore the entire museum and check that off our Amsterdam list. Some others that I was curious about were the Torture Museum and the Museum of Prositution. They’re all very small and inexpensive if you’re looking for random once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Start exploring the streets and you’ll discover tons of other quirky museums like those three. Until I return to this beautiful will I see them all.
I hope this post has provided you some ideas for your Amsterdam trip. The main thing about this city is that you have no idea what will happen as far as adventure and fun activities will go. There are hundreds of fun-filled events that take place in the old town area annually. Go in open-minded and be ready for an awesome time in the Netherlands.
Here is a short video edit I put together with my shots from Amsterdam:
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Written by Jeff Hyer