The 20 best things to do in Amsterdam
Go beyond the red lights, the weed and the Dutch masters – and discover the real Amsterdam…
The best places to eat in town
Amsterdam’s Michelin-starred restaurants meet cosy cafés in a city of culinary surprises…
Amsterdam’s best clubs, cabaret and music venues
Find out how Europe’s legendary hedonistic capital likes to party…
The top 30 bars and pubs in Amsterdam
From grand cafés to hole-in-the-wall proeverijen, discover the best places to drink in town
A guide to Amsterdam’s Red Light District
Explore and be safe, with our guide to Europe’s favourite vice playground
The best places to eat in Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s best bars and pubs
Queer or not - Prik is hot. Indeed, true to the bar's slogan this venue attracts a diverse crowd who enjoy its delicious snacks, groovy sounds and special events such as the After Shopping Cocktail Sale and Speeddate evenings.
Must-see sights and attractions in Amsterdam
Joods Historisch Museum (Jewish Historical Museum)
Housed since 1987 in four former synagogues in the old Jewish quarter, the Jewish Historical Museum is full of religious items, photographs and paintings detailing the rich history of Jews and Judaism in the Netherlands throughout the centuries. A recent revamping has created more warmth and a sense of the personal in its permanent displays, which concentrate on religious practice and Dutch Jewish culture; among the exhibits is the painted autobiography of artist Charlotte Salomon, killed at Auschwitz at the age of 26. An excellent children's wing crams interactive exhibits on aspects of Jewish culture (including a nice one on music) into its space. The temporary shows explore various aspects of Jewish culture, while the Jonas Daniël Meijerplein site, with its Dock Worker statue commemorating the February Strike of 1941 in protest against Jewish deportations, is right across the street, beside the Portuguese Synagogue.
Find out where to see art and culture in Amsterdam
This excellent photography museum, located in a renovated canal house, holds regular exhibitions of works by shutter-button maestros like August Sander as well as advertising from local agency KesselsKramer, and shows covering local themes such as Amsterdam crime scene photos (plus universal themes like Kate Moss). They also organise talks and events for the photographically obsessed.
Rembrandt bought this house in 1639 for ƒ13,000 (around €6,000), a massive sum at the time. Indeed, the pressure of the mortgage payments eventually got to the free-spending artist, who went bankrupt in 1656 and was forced to move to a smaller house (Rozengracht 184). When he was declared bankrupt, clerks inventoried the house room by room; it's these records that provided the renovators with clues as to what the house looked like in Rembrandt's time. You can't help but admire the skill and effort with which craftsmen have tried to re-create the house, along with the antiquities, objets d'art (Rembrandt was a compulsive collector) and 17th-century furniture. However, the presentation is, on the whole, dry and unengaging. Nagging at you all the time is the knowledge that this isn't really Rembrandt's house, but rather a mock-up of it - which lends an unreal air that is only relieved when guest artists are allowed to use the studio. There's also a remarkable collection of Rembrandt's etchings, which show him at his most experimental, but if it's his paintings you're after, make for the Rijksmuseum.
An outpost of St Petersburg’s Hermitage museum opened in Amsterdam in 2009 with a star-studded, 30-hour ceremony. Set in a former 19th-century hospital complete with 17th-century courtyard, the building has two vast exhibition spaces, a concert hall and a restaurant. The museum mounts two exhibitions a year, borrowing items from the three-million-strong collection of its prestigious Russian parent. The Hermitage’s riches owe much to the collecting obsession of Peter the Great (1672-1725), who came to Amsterdam to learn shipbuilding and the art of building on waterlogged ground – the latter knowledge he applied to his pet project, St Petersburg. Peter befriended local doctor Frederik Ruysch, perhaps the greatest ever anatomist and preserver of body parts and mutants in jars. Ruysch enjoyed constructing ghoulish collages with gall and kidney stones piled up into landscapes; dried veins woven into lush shrubberies and testicles crafted into pottery. The scenes were animated with dancing foetus skeletons. After kissing the head of a preserved baby, Peter paid Ruysch 30,000 florins for the lot (much of it is still on display in St Petersburg’s Kunstkammer collection). Some of Peter’s prized souvenirs – including Rembrandts – came for a visit in 2013 during an exhibition dedicated to the great man. Other exhibitions included ‘Gauguin, Bonnard, Denis’, ‘Greek Gold’ and ‘Nicolas and Alexandra’.
A note to all those historical museums around the world that struggle to present their exhibits in an engaging fashion: head here to see how it's done. Amsterdam's Historical Museum is a gem: illuminating, interesting and entertaining. It starts with the very buildings in which it's housed: a lovely, labyrinthine collection of 17th-century constructions built on the site of a 1414 convent. You can enter it down Sint Luciensteeg, just off Kalverstraat, or off Spui, walking past the Begijnhof and then through the grand Civic Guard Gallery, a small covered street hung with huge 16th- and 17th-century group portraits of wealthy burghers. And it continues with the museum's first exhibit, a computer-generated map of the area showing how Amsterdam has grown (and shrunk) throughout the last 800 years or so. It then takes a chronological trip through Amsterdam's past, using archaeological finds (love those 700-year-old shoes), works of art and some far quirkier displays: tone-deaf masochists may care to play the carillon in the galleried room 10A, while lesbian barflies will want to pay homage to Bet van Beeren, late owner of celebrated Het Mandje. Amsterdam has a rich history, and this wonderful museum does it justice.
Amsterdam’s best markets
Dappermarkt is a locals' market: prices don't rise to match the number of visitors. It sells all the usual market fodder, and plenty of cheap clothes.
Amsterdam's largest general market sells everything from pillows to prawns at great prices. The clothes on sale tend to be run-of-the-mill cheapies.
North of Westermarkt, Noordermarkt is frequented by the serious shopper. The huge stacks of (mainly second-hand) clothes, shoes, jewellery and hats need to be sorted with a grim determination, but there are real bargains to be had. Arrive early or the best stuff will probably have been nabbed. They also have an organic farmers' market on Saturdays.
The best clubs in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has never seen anything quite so luxuriously cosmopolitan as Jimmy Woo's. You, too, can marvel at the lounge area filled with a mixture of modern and antique furniture and then confirm for yourself the merits of its bootylicious light design and sound system. At times, the place looks just like a music video - and that includes musicians and actors. If you have problems getting in, cool off across the street at sister cocktail bar, Suzy Wong (Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 45, 626 6769).
The more extrovert end of the gay spectrum is well represented by cruising club Church. It has it all plus more: a bar with Greek-style columns, a stage perfect for drag-queen acts, a great sound and light system and various dark, dark chambers... Cheeky theme nights abound.
Nachttheater Sugar Factory
This 'night theatre' has found its niche as a place where performance meets clubbing. Every night brings a show of some kind, be it photos, classical dancers, MCs in various shapes and sizes, or actors mixing with the crowds. Monthly Vreemd ('Weird') nights see surprise acts, DJs stepping beyond the usual genre boundaries and classy decorations. WickedJazzSounds hosts a Sunday evening, and the cutting-edge Electronation brings top acts from the worlds of '80s synthesizer electro to current day minimal techno. Sweet it most certainly is.
A steady force in Amsterdam nightlife, former power station turned restaurant/theatre/nightclub Panama overlooks the IJ in one of the city's most booming areas. A deserted strip back in 2000 when it opened, the neighbourhood has now been transformed with high-rise offices, steep rents and a shiny Muziekgebouw. Regular club nights bring the best in national DJs to Panama, while huge international artists such as Tiësto and Armand Van Helden also find their way here.
This three-storey, 1662-built venue comes complete with restaurant, cocktail bar, café (with great canal-side terrace), disco and cultural activities. It's hot with the students on Thursdays, and weekends see various local electro DJs. Don't be intimidated by the lush interior, and find a chair with a view during Friday's fabulous cocktail hour.