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The 10 best attractions in Amsterdam

Are you ready to explore the best attractions in Amsterdam? Gear up for the Oude Kerk, the Anne Frank museum and more.
Amsterdam skyline
Photograph: Shutterstock
By Derek Robertson |
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Home to numerous parks and green spaces, world-class museums, bustling markets and the picture-postcard Canal Ring, you’ll never want for things to do in Instagram-friendly Amsterdam. With many of the best attractions located in and around the compact city centre, it’s easy to hop on a bike and see most of them in a few days—cycling is also the best way to soak up the city’s unique atmosphere.

Amsterdam’s big three museums—the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk and the Van Gogh—all border the wide, green space of Museumplein, making it easy to visit all three in a day, while Vondelpark, the city’s lungs, is just five minutes to the west. History is also well represented, from the grand splendor of Oude Kerk (which dates back to 1213) to the Anne Frank museum, one of the most important historical buildings anywhere in the world.

Opened just six years ago, the EYE Film institute is paradise for movie buffs while next door, at A’DAM Toren, you can enjoy the best views across the city while sipping on a cocktail or swinging over the edge, depending on how daring you wish to be. An ideal destination for a long weekend, the city also rewards those with more time for exploring: however long your holiday, the best attractions in Amsterdam are what make this such a special destination.

Best attractions in Amsterdam

1
Rijksmuseum, Museums, Galleries, Amsterdam
© Erik Smits Fotografie
Museums

Rijksmuseum

This stunning, neo-Gothic building—recently refurbished at a cost of €375 million—houses masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age: think Rembrandt, Vermeer and Frans Hals. There are a total of 8,000 objects on display and the curators have worked hard to present them in a clever, innovative way—do download the app, which serves as an interactive audiovisual guide. Food lovers should also check out the Michelin-starred restaurant and café on site, which serves classic dishes with a twist.

2
Anne Frank Museum
Photograph: Shutterstock
Museums, Historic home

Anne Frank Museum

A sombre reminder of the horrors of World War II, the house where Anne and her family hid for two years from Nazi invaders has been turned into a thoughtful educational exhibition not just about the Holocaust and life under German occupation, but all forms of persecution and discrimination. The cramped quarters that the Franks called home can be visited, and Anne’s original diary—alongside various other family artifacts—is also on display. Admission tickets must be booked in advance online.

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3
A'dam Toren
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jessica D.

A’DAM Toren

The newest addition to the city’s skyline is also one of the most innovative. Formerly the HQ of Shell, this tower across from Centraal station (a free ferry takes you across the River IJ) now boasts a hotel, a skybar, private members club and two restaurants—one of which slowly rotates 360°—on the top floors. While you’re up there, you can enjoy the stunning views from the roof and, if you dare, from Europe’s highest swing, legs dangling 100 metres up.

4
Vondelpark
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Eva T.
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Vondelpark

For a while, Vondelpark, the huge expanse of green that is Amsterdam’s lungs, was the only place in the world where it was legal to have a barbeque, smoke weed and have sex (they’ve now placed restrictions on grilling). But the locals use it for far more than that: think jogging, impromptu sports or just chilling out. There are several excellent cafés around here if you haven’t brought your own refreshments and there are also playgrounds and a paddling pool for kids. You might even catch a performance at the park’s famous open-air theater.

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5
Van Gogh Museum, Museums, Galleries, Amsterdam
Museums

Van Gogh Museum

Misunderstood and penniless for much of his life, Vincent van Gogh only achieved notoriety posthumously. This specially built museum houses the largest collection of the painter’s work in the world, including "The Yellow House" and "The Bedroom." It’s worth booking a guided tour and the museum also runs various workshops, activities and events exploring Van Gogh’s life, work and impact on the art world.

6
Oude Kerk
Photograph: Shutterstock
Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Oude Kerk

icon-location-pin Red Light District

The stone marvel that is Oude Kerk has been here since 1306, withstanding riots, wars and several reformations. Just the roof, the largest medieval wooden vault in Europe, dates back to 1390. The solemn, austere interior is a Calvinist hallmark and is renowned for its acoustics (check their website for upcoming concerts: the acoustics are spectacular). Don’t miss a trip up to the bell tower to see the 17th century, 47-bell carillion and gaze across the city for the chance to hear the magnificent pipe organs in action.

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7
Albert Cuyp Markt
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Ann G.

Albert Cuyp Markt

Their seafaring history has made the Dutch a nation of canny traders, and nowhere is this more evident than in their love of markets. Albert Cuyp, which occupies an entire street in grungy De Pijp, is the best in the city, offering meat, fish, vegetables, souvenirs, bric-a-brac and everything in-between, including herring, a forage fish that is the national obsession. Come to watch the locals do their shopping and to soak up the unique atmosphere at one of Amsterdam’s most loved institutions.

8
Eye Film Institute, Museums, Galleries, Amsterdam
Cinemas

EYE Film Institute

The EYE is not simply a stunning building worth exploring in its own right, it’s also a treasure trove for film lovers. Specially created exhibitions focus on the cinematic greats, their film archive is second to none and the quirky programming includes cult classics, themed seasons and films shot in 70mm. Looking for the perfect gift for the cinephile in your life? The excellent gift shop has you covered. And do make time for some refreshments in the riverside café bar—craft ales and local tipples are their specialty.

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9
Royal Palace
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Sohrab O.
Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Royal Palace

icon-location-pin New Side

It’s worth braving the hordes of tourists in Dam Square to set eyes on the Royal Palace, one of the finest examples of Classicism anywhere in Europe. Dating back to 1665, its opulence attracted Napoleon, who first turned it into his residence. Given the marble halls, chandeliers and countless priceless works of art, it’s easy to see why. It’s open to the public whenever not in official use, and tours take in the magnificent Central Hall and the famous balcony.

10
Foodhallen, Amsterdam
Photograph: Courtesy Typhoon Hospitality

Foodhallen

This old tram depot has been refashioned into one of Amsterdam’s hottest attractions for food lovers. Foodhallen, in the west, is home to over 25 stalls and bars, serving everything from Vietnamese street food to tacos, form barbecue to sushi. There’s ample seating inside but make sure to check out the terrace during warmer months (the food can be taken to go). Those with a sweet tooth are catered to by Petit Gateau and to quench your thirst look no further than the gin and tonic bar on premise.

Looking for quintessential Amsterdam?

Coffeeshops in Amsterdam
Photograph: Shutterstock
Restaurants, Coffeeshops

The 12 best coffeeshops in Amsterdam

Since the official local legalization of coffeeshops back in 1980, the European city has slowly grown into the capital of cannabis culture all around the world.

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