How about spending a weekend in Amsterdam? There is plenty to do in the Dutch capital. Here are 30 fun things to do in Amsterdam, recommended by a local.
“Give me Amsterdam, it’s prettier than Paris” sang Johnny Jordaan, a famous Dutch folk singer, in 1955. And yes, Amsterdam is truly a beautiful city! I myself lived in the Dutch capital for twelve years and in this article, you can read about all the beautiful places and the best things to do during a weekend in Amsterdam.
What to do in Amsterdam?
What are the most beautiful Amsterdam sights and what are the best things to do? Here we go!
The best place to learn all about the history of Amsterdam is the Amsterdam Museum. And no, this is definitely not stuffy and boring, you are really taken through history in a fun way.
You’ll see the city change in the time of the Dutch East India Company, including paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn, look inside a real Amsterdam café and see footage of the world’s very first same-sex wedding, which took place in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam Museum is fun for all ages!
Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House is one of the most important and most visited museums in Amsterdam. Almost everyone knows the story of the secret room and the diary she wrote there. At the Anne Frank House, you can visit this famous room behind the bookcase and learn more about her life and how her diary became so world famous.
Tip: Learn more about Anne Frank and Amsterdam during World War II on this guided walking tour.
Royal Palace of Amsterdam
The Dam is one of the most famous squares in Amsterdam. In addition to the National Monument and the Bijenkorf (the most famous department store), there is another famous landmark on the square: The Royal Palace of Amsterdam (or “Paleis op de Dam” as the Dutch say).
It was built in the second half of the seventeenth century as a town hall, and it is still one of the largest surviving structures from the golden age. Since 1808 it has been a palace and it is still used today by the Dutch royal family, mainly for ceremonial matters.
The Royal Palace of Amsterdam is occasionally open to the public. Order your tickets to the Royal Palace of Amsterdam here.
Canals of Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s canals (“grachten” in Dutch) date back to the seventeenth century and are world famous. They have been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 2010. Along the canals, you can take endless walks to see the beautiful canal houses.
The best view of the canals, however, is from a canal boat. While you’re cruising along the canals, the skipper will tell you all about Amsterdam and you’ll hear the funniest facts about canals.
Tip! Would you like to have a fun and active weekend in Amsterdam? You can also do a two-hour stand-up paddleboard tour and explore the canals in a unique way.
Visit the canal houses
Would you like to take a look inside one of those monumental canal houses? That is possible! During Open Monument Day in September, you can visit several of them for free. In addition, a number of canal houses are also open to the public (almost) every day of the year. These include:
- The Canal House (Het Grachtenhuis) – Cool interactive museum where you learn more about the history of the canals, also it has a number of beautifully decorated period rooms.
- Museum Willet-Holthuysen – Double canal house that is beautifully decorated. At this place, you’ll learn how the rich people of Amsterdam lived in the nineteenth century.
The Old Church
The oldest surviving building in Amsterdam is the Old Church (“Oude Kerk” in Dutch), which has existed since the thirteenth century. The interior of the church is quite interesting to see, including large wooden cross-rib vaults. In addition, numerous well-known Amsterdammers from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are buried here, including composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck and Saskia van Uylenburgh, the wife of Rembrandt van Rijn.
Although the Old Church still has a church function, it is now primarily a museum of modern art with changing exhibitions. You can visit it for a fee.
NEMO Science Museum is one of the museums in Amsterdam that is incredibly fun to visit with children. It is a science and technology museum in a very interesting building, it looks like a green ship coming out of the water.
The museum wants to show young people how fun and interesting science is, which is why you can do your own fun experiments and other activities at NEMO. And this is not only great fun for kids, but also for adults.
The Maritime Museum
Next to NEMO is another cool museum: the Maritime Museum (“Scheepvaartmuseum” in Dutch). This museum is housed in‘s Lands Zeemagazijn, a beautiful building from the seventeenth century and the museum is home to the second largest maritime collection in the world. You’ll learn all about the Dutch maritime history here.
At the museum, you can see, among other things, detailed ship models, old world maps, and paintings of famous sailors and naval battles. You can also hop on a replica of the large VOC ship Amsterdam.
On the east side of the city center, you can find Artis which is the oldest zoo in the Netherlands. The zoo has been around since 1838 and you can still see much of this, as there are 27 monumental buildings in the park.
What animals can you see at Artis? Lions, penguins, giraffes, sloths, and chimpanzees to name a few. There are also many unusual tree species, some even older than Artis itself.
Something very different, but also very fun is the Heineken Experience. Go on a tour of Heineken’s first brewery and learn all about one of the world’s most famous beer brands. After the tour, of course, you get to taste a glass.
The NDSM wharf is one of the trendiest places in Amsterdam. It is located in Amsterdam North and to get there you take the free ferry from Amsterdam Central. What is there to do and see at NDSM Wharf? A few recommendations:
- Everywhere you look you see cool street art like colorful murals. Go to the Straat Museum to see the very best.
- Every weekend there is a large flea market in the IJ-Hallen, this is the largest flea market in Europe.
- There are lots of great places to eat or go for drinks. My personal favorite is Pllek. This is a lovely place on the water and even has a beach where you can relax in beanbags.
Also in Amsterdam North, but right across from Central Station, you’ll find the A’DAM Lookout. You can go to the top of the A’DAM tower. From here you have a great view of the city.
And there’s a thrill ride! At the top of the A’DAM Tower stands ‘Over The Edge’, this is the highest swing in Europe. So if you dare, you can swing (over the edge) at a height of 100 meters. Yikes! You are, of course, firmly in place.
Albert Cuyp market
Would you like to go shopping? You can do that at the Albert Cuyp market! Six days a week, Monday through Saturday, you can find food, clothing, and all kinds of gadgets here. This is also a good place to buy real Dutch cheese and delicious stroopwafels.
Located in the upscale district of Amsterdam South, Museum Square is a large lawn with a pond. It is home to some of the most important cultural institutions in Amsterdam. What are the best places to visit in Museum Square?
- The Rijksmuseum, the most visited museum in the Netherlands. Featuring world-famous works by Rembrandt(Night Watch) and Johannes Vermeer(The Milkmaid), among others.
- Van Gogh Museum, with many works by the world-famous painter Vincent van Gogh such as the Sunflowers.
- Stedelijk Museum, museum of modern and contemporary art. With cool artworks by Andy Warhol, Piet Mondriaan, and Pablo Picasso, among others.
- The Concertgebouw, one of the world’s best concert halls and home to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, one of the best orchestras in the world. Therefore, it is highly recommended to go here on an evening and listen to a beautiful symphony.
- Moco Museum, the newest museum at Museum Square. It is a private museum in a historic villa with changing modern exhibitions. Right now there is a Bansky exhibition.
Until 2018, the IAmsterdam letters also stood here, but they have since been removed due to crowding.
During the winter months, Museumplein is transformed into a winter wonderland, with a skating rink and stalls where you can drink mulled wine, among other things.
Not far from Museumplein is the most famous park in Amsterdam: the Vondelpark. Although the place is always busy, there is always a quiet spot to lay down a rug and have a nice picnic.
In the middle is the Vondelpark Open Air Theater, which always hosts fun performances on weekends during the summer. You can visit them for free, but a donation is certainly appreciated.
You can also go to one of the cozy terraces for a drink. Make sure to check out Proeflokaal ‘t Blauwe Theehuis and Vondelpark3.
Read more: The most beautiful parks in Amsterdam.
The Skinny Bridge
The Skinny Bridge (“Magere Brug” in Dutch) over the Amstel River is truly an icon in Amsterdam. There has been a bridge on this spot since the seventeenth century and the current white one dates from 1934. The white bridge is absolutely gorgeous and only pedestrians or cyclists are allowed to cross it.
Tip! Go and see the Skinny Bridge at night, when it is beautifully lit.
Johan Cruijff ArenA
In the southeast of the city, you will find the Johan Cruijff Arena (until 2018 this was named the Amsterdam ArenA) which is the largest soccer stadium in the Netherlands. It is the home of the Amsterdam soccer club AJAX and is also used as a concert venue.
The Upside Down
There are more and more interactive museums in Amsterdam and The Upside Down is one of them. This is the place to take awesome photos for Instagram. For example, you can play in a pool full of balls and some rooms are upside down.
There are no less than 25 rooms where you can take cool pictures, so put on your cutest outfit and bring a fully charged phone or camera.
There is also a café where they serve very colorful food.
The Cat Cabinet
Are you a cat lover? Then you should definitely visit the Cat Cabinet. This museum contains only works of art related to cats. Among other things, you will see paintings with cats by Picasso, Rembrandt, and Corneille.
The museum is housed in a monumental canal house on the Herengracht. You can see how people used to live here through the five furnished period rooms.
The Jordaan neighbourhood
The Jordaan is one of the most famous neighborhoods in Amsterdam. This used to be a real working-class neighborhood, but now it is very trendy and romantic. There are many narrow streets full of colorful flowers, hidden courtyards, cafes, and cute boutique stores here.
The Jordaan is also known for its music and many folk singers such as Johnny Jordaan and Willy Alberti sang about life in this neighborhood.
Tip! Want to learn more about the history of the Jordaan and sample the delights of one of Amsterdam’s many cafes? Then book a culinary walking tour of the Jordaan.
The Mouse Mansion
In the Jordaan, there is a nice little hidden museum and shop called the Mouse Mansion. You may know the children’s books about the adventures of the two mice Sam & Julia. You can buy these books in the Mouse Mansion, but it is also a true mouse museum.
You can take a look (for free) into the wonderful world of mice and also see how they make mouse mansions. In the store, you can also buy products to build your own mouse mansion. It’s a great place to check out.
The Amsterdam Forest (“Amsterdamse Bos” in Dutch) is actually located more in Amstelveen than in Amsterdam, but it definitely belongs on this list of the most fun places to visit during a weekend in Amsterdam.
In fact, this city park is larger than Central Park in New York and a wonderful place to go for a walk, bike ride, swim, or canoe. In the summer, there are fun performances and concerts almost daily at the Forest Theatre.
Cycling in Amsterdam
Last but not least, Amsterdam is world famous for its many bicycles. Watch carefully as you cross the street! Dutch people cycle fast, and most cycling paths are like highways for cyclists.
It’s a lot of fun to discover Amsterdam by bike. You can rent bikes for a day (or longer), but you can also join a fun bike tour through the city. A guide will tell you all about the history of Amsterdam and show you the most beautiful places.
I Amsterdam City Card
Spending a weekend in Amsterdam and do you want to visit as many of these great places in Amsterdam as possible? Then it’s smart to purchase an I Amsterdam City Card. What do you get with this pass? It has a few nice benefits:
- Free admission to 70 museums and attractions in Amsterdam and the surrounding area (including the Zaanse Schans and the Zuiderzee Museum).
- Free use of public transport (GVB buses, trams, and metro in Amsterdam).
- Free canal cruise.
- Free bike rental.
- And so much more!
You can buy a pass for 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 days.
Unique places to stay in Amsterdam
Are you really looking forward to a weekend in Amsterdam? It’s even more fun when you also sleep in an awesome hotel. A few recommendations:
- CityHub Amsterdam – Are you traveling on a budget and do you want some privacy at night? I can highly recommend CityHub. You sleep in a pod and you can control everything with an app. Bathrooms are shared, but clean and they even have rain showers.
- Outside Inn – Looking for unique accommodation in Amsterdam? Outside Inn is a large hall containing some sort of campground. The rooms are in (vintage) caravans and beach houses, very cool!
- Boutique Hotel The Noblemen – Do you want something more upscale and a cool hotel on the canals of Amsterdam? Then this boutique hotel is probably for you! The rooms are beautifully decorated and each is unique.
- Hotel Estheréa – This 4* hotel on the canal is perfect for a romantic weekend in Amsterdam. The rooms are incredibly beautiful with soft colors, unusual patterns, and lots of flowers.
- Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam (5*) – If it fits your budget, a night at the most luxurious hotel in Amsterdam is a must. Located on the Herengracht in six monumental canal houses from the seventeenth century, you really sleep in a classy way. There is also a swimming pool, a sauna, and a fitness center. You can use free rental bikes during your stay.
Of course, there are many other options. For an overview, prices, and availability, visit Booking.com.
Read more about Amsterdam
These were all my tips for a weekend in Amsterdam! Want to read more about Amsterdam? There are even more tips in these travel guides:
Visit other cities in The Netherlands
There are a lot of great cities for a fun city break in the Netherlands. You might like to read these articles as well:
- 15 great things to do in Leeuwarden
- Fun things to do in Maastricht
- 10 fun things to do in The Hague.
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