Top 20 Things to Do in Amsterdam

Programs for this blog post

Social Sciences + Humanities

Authored By:

Erin Bankersen

Want to learn about the best things to do in Amsterdam? When you are a tourist, you hear one side of the story of Amsterdam but when you are living and studying in this beautiful city, you can discover a much wider world of things to experience and enjoy in Amsterdam.

Tourist Info

Here are some great tips about things to do in Amsterdam!

Cycling – Amsterdam is known for its bikes! Did you know there are more bikes than people? Almost 60% of Amsterdam residents cycle every day (that’s over 475,000 people)! You can’t go a day in Amsterdam without seeing mountains of bikes lining the streets. Amsterdammers (residents of Amsterdam) cycle a total of 1.25 million miles every day. 

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Museums – Amsterdam is full to the brim with museums of all types! For general history, check out the Amsterdam Museum. For art, the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh are hugely popular options. For WWII history, go to the Anne Frank House, Resistance Museum, or the Hollandsche Schouwburg. There’s something for everyone in Amsterdam!

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Visiting the Canal Ring – originally built in the 1600s for Amsterdam’s trading elite, the picturesque canal ring is where the gorgeous canal houses of old are found. Walking, cycling, or boating through this area is always a great way to spend a few hours. From the doorways to the gables, each house is different and lovely! 

Shopping on the Kalverstraat – Amsterdam’s busiest shopping street is the Kalverstraat. This car-less street runs perpendicular to Dam Square and is full of brand-name stores found all over the world. Looking for H&M, Zara, Primark, Bershka, Tommy Hilfiger, or Nike? This is the place to find them!

Listen to live music – In the massive 55,000 seat ArenA or in the 17,000 seat Ziggo Dome, or the 6,000 seat AFAS, big name artists like Beyoncé, P!nk, Bastille, Panic! At The Disco, Ariana Grande, and Mumford & Sons (to name a few) frequently give concerts.

Visit Vondelpark – built as Amsterdam’s “Central Park”, you should visit the Vondelpark on any sunny day. When it’s warm out, people will be out on every square inch of grass soaking up the sun. 

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Food tours in Amsterdam – you’ll find lots of different tours revolving around food offered online. The Dutch are serious about food, especially cheese, and you can find cheese tasting shops throughout the city center!

Vintage Clothing Stores – the city boasts tons of vintage clothing stores where you can find clothing staples from decades long gone. Hop from store to store and get a nice tour of the city center while you’re at it!

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Visit windmills – travel a bit outside Amsterdam to neighboring Koog aan de Zaan and visit the iconic Zaanse Schans. Here you can find a group of windmills with info on their history and use, a cheese shop, a clog-making workshop, and a lot more!

Canal cruise – spend a day in Amsterdam and you’ll see tons of canal cruise boats with their glass tops, showing people around the city. Hop on board one of these boats to learn more about the history and culture of Amsterdam from the water!

Living in Amsterdam

The things listed below allow you to go deeper into life in Amsterdam and discover a new world full of things that tourists just pass by!

Cycling – As said before, Amsterdam is known for its bikes. But if you study and live here, it’s expected by everyone you meet that you will bike as well! Distances between the different buildings where your classes are held are made easy with a bike. Going to the store for a week’s worth of groceries will strain your arms to carry but with a bike you have an easy means of carrying everything!

Museums – For museums a little more off-the-beaten-path, check out the Museum van Loon (Goldan Age artifacts), the Hollandsche Schouwburg (Holocaust memorial), the Electric Tram Museum (for info on the bane of all cyclists’ existence – the tram), or the Eye Film Museum (which also houses a theatre). 

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Visiting the Canal Ring – go to the popular Canal Ring and adjust your gaze from the tops of the houses down to the street level. You’ll find local treasures such as the Museum of Bags and Purses, art galleries galore, and the KattenKabinet (a museum dedicated to cats in art and culture).

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Shopping in the 9 Streets – Amsterdam is a shopper’s paradise and one of the best places to do this is the 9 Streets, a small district just to the west of the city center where boutiques and independent shops abound. Dodge the tourists in the center and journey through this quiet neighborhood to find some gems!

Listen to live music – there are tons of small event venues spread throughout Amsterdam. Artists like Rufus Wainwright, Rhys Lewis, and The Proclaimers have intimate concerts year-round throughout the city. If classical music is more your thing, check out the weekly free lunchtime concerts at the Concertgebouw at Museum Square. These are popular concerts so get there early to secure a ticket!

Visit Erasmuspark – another of Amsterdam’s parks, Erasmuspark is off the beaten track for tourists. It boasts an open field for pick-up sports games (Ultimate Frisbee anyone?) as well as a little café with a big terrace called Terrasmus. BBQ’s are welcome in this park and are common in the summer when the days are long.

Dining outside the center – as the locals know, the best food in Amsterdam is found outside the city center. Check out restaurants in Amsterdam West! You’ll find De Foodhallen, an indoor “food truck” hall that’s always busy! Or maybe you’ll stumble upon Lokaal Edel, a hidden little bistro popular with locals. You might even venture to MaMa Kelly, an all-pink restaurant serving classic dishes. The wonderful world of food awaits your exploration! 

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Ij-Hallen Market – once a month the hip NDSM Wharf plays host to one of the biggest flea markets in Europe. This is the best place to find inexpensive clothing and decorative items from around the city. This is a wonderful place for people watching and, once you are done with your own browsing, for sitting out on a terrace on the water to watch the fun unfold!

Visit the Van Sloten Windmill – take a tour around a still-functioning water mill in the southwestern side of Amsterdam. This windmill dates from 1847 and still works to keep Amsterdam above the water level!

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Private boat rental – Amsterdam has tons of options for a private boat rental with many being affordable on a student’s budget. Set sail with a few friends and enjoy the coziness of being together on Amsterdam’s many waterways.

As you can see, there are two Amsterdam's co-existing alongside each other. One that the tourists see and experience and another that residents know and love. Participating in the "tourist" activities is great but don't forget that when you are studying here, you have the opportunity to discover so much more availble to those in the know in Amsterdam.