Amsterdam is one of the most popular destinations in the Netherlands and even in Europe. In addition to its world famous sights, there are a lot of unique activities in Amsterdam.
Looking for things to do in Amsterdam beyond the museums? We’ve created this article for everyone who is looking for (mostly outdoor) activities in Amsterdam. Are you looking for Amsterdam’s most popular sights and museums instead? Check out our recommendations for sightseeing in Amsterdam.
#1 Explore the Canals
The canals are one of Amsterdam’s icons and the cityscape would be unimaginable without them. Created in the 17th century, the canals were originally built in a circle around the entire city.
A canal cruise offers you a unique opportunity to get to know Amsterdam from a different perspective. Either rent a boat yourself or explore Amsterdam on board a canal cruise. The most impressive view on your cruise awaits you at the crossing of Reguliersgracht and Herengracht. There you have a view of over 15 bridges! The most beautiful canal houses can be seen at the Gouden Bocht (Golden Curve).
Not in the mood for a canal cruise? The canals are also easy to explore on foot or by bicycle. Stroll through the canals during the day or enjoy the famous houseboats in the evening.
#2 Shopping and Markets
Shopping in Amsterdam is one of the main attractions for countless visitors to the city every year. In addition to the renowned designer brands and large department stores, you will find many small shops and boutiques in Amsterdam. Whether you’re looking for designer clothes, second hand or vintage – you’ll surely find your treasure in Amsterdam’s shops!
Besides the stores, Amsterdam’s markets are also worth a visit. Markets in Amsterdam have a long tradition and are worthwhile for both locals and visitors. The largest and most versatile market in Amsterdam is the Albert Cuyp Market. It takes place Monday through Saturday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the district of Oud-Zuid and offers fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers, souvenirs, cheese, sweets, clothes, Dutch fabrics and much more.
Also worth seeing are the world’s only floating flower market (at Singel) and Amsterdam’s numerous flea and vintage markets.
#3 Explore Amsterdam by Bike
It’s not the individual sights on their own that make Amsterdam so special, it’s the city’s overall vibe! If you would like to get to know Amsterdam authentically, rent a bicycle instead of taking the tourist bus. Amsterdam’s drivers are used to bicycle paths and cyclists like no other city. The traffic in the city is designed accordingly, almost everywhere there are cycle paths, so that you can bike through the entire city safely.
Along the canals, through small alleys or through the Vondelpark – a bicycle tour through Amsterdam is worth it to see a large portion of the city in just a single day. There are many places throughout the city where you can rent bicycles by the hour or by the day. It’s worth going early, as bicycles rent out quickly, especially during school vacations and on weekends. Alternatively, you can book your bike online.
#4 Amsterdam from Above
From the water you can experience Amsterdam’s canals and canal houses up close – but what does the city actually look like from above?
In a city that captivates the eye with circular canals, canal houses and monuments, the view from above is also worthwhile. Besides the picturesque, historic city center, Amsterdam is one of the country’s most economically significant cities. Numerous banks and large international corporations are headquartered here. As such, modern commercial buildings are also part of the larger cityscape, which you can best see from above.
One possibility for a panoramic view over Amsterdam is the 360-degree viewing platform A’DAM Lookout, located directly behind the Amsterdam Central Station. Whether you visit during summer from the terrace or in cooler weather on the glazed viewing platform, the 20-story rooftop building of A’DAM Lookout offers a great view over the city.
For those looking for the ultimate experience: don’t miss out the over-the-edge swing at A’DAM Lookout!
Alternatively, you can experience a view of a different kind at This Is Holland. Here you can enjoy a virtual flight experience (now also in 5D), where you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of Amsterdam and other sights in the Netherlands. We’ve traveled the Netherlands intensively and know many places, but This Is Holland has truly fascinated us! The bird’s eye view flight over the country was really unique, as we’ve never seen Holland like this before!
Our tip: with the I amsterdam City Card (€65.00) you get free access to the A’DAM Lookout and the This is Holland 5D flight experience, as well as over 20 more attractions in and around Amsterdam. Use of the GVB public transport (buses, trams and metro in Amsterdam) is also included.
#5 Relax in Amsterdam’s Parks
Amsterdam is home to canals and monuments, as well as beautiful parks. The most famous park is the Vondelpark, located between the Leidseplein and the Museumplein (where you will find the Rijksmuseum, among other things). Equipped with numerous walking paths, bridges, lakes and well-kept gardens, the Vondelpark is appreciated by Amsterdamers and visitors alike. During the summer months, there are open air theaters (free of charge) at weekends.
For those who prefer a quieter environment, the Amsterdamse Bos (on the southern outskirts of the city) offers the opportunity to walk, cycle and relax in the green nature.
#6 Visit Heineken Brewery
The national beer of the Netherlands par excellence is Heineken, which is also well-known and appreciated in other countries across the globe. The traditional beer has its origin in Amsterdam. From 1867 until the late 20th century Heineken beer was brewed not far from the city center and exported around the world.
After the brewery moved to a larger building, the historic brewery was converted into a museum in 2008, the Heineken Experience. Here, visitors can learn about the history of the company and the brewing process, as well as enjoy two tastings of the popular beer. A very special activity – especially for beer lovers.
If you don’t want to visit the brewery, Heineken beer can of course be found in almost every bar and restaurant in Amsterdam. Especially when the sun is out, Amsterdam’s terraces are jam-packed.
The Heineken Experience online ticket is €18.00 (not included in the I amsterdam City Card).
#7 Amsterdam’s Red Light District
Frowned upon by some, loved by others; coffee shops and the red light district are two of the most contemptuous aspects of life in Amsterdam. No matter one’s opinion about drugs and prostitution, the fact is that they have become an integral part of Amsterdam and are considered symbols of freedom and tolerance in the city.
Amsterdam would not be the same without its numerous coffee shops. The first coffee shop chain Bulldog has its origin here and even sells souvenirs, similar to the international chain, Hard Rock Cafés. Statistics from the city of Amsterdam show that almost a quarter of all visitors to Amsterdam visit a coffee shop.
Also a colorful part of the city is the red light district, located in the district De Wallen. In the evening hours, the small alleys turn into a real tourist magnet: Visitors of all genders and ages wander along the red-lit shop windows, where half-naked women offer their services, and sex shows and strip clubs abound. A stroll through Amsterdam’s red light district in the evening hours is definitely one of the activities that should be on your must-do list.
Would you like to visit Amsterdam’s most famous sights such as the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Museum? Check out our recommendations for the best places for sightseeing in Amsterdam.