What To Do In Amsterdam

Above: This Dutch city is filled with tons of things to do. Read on for more…
Above: This Dutch city is filled with tons of things to do. Read on for more…

Beyond Amsterdam’s infamous red light district and mood-altering “coffee shops,” the capital of the Netherlands is a sophisticated, cosmopolitan port, luring history buffs, art aficionados, foodies, beer drinkers and fashionistas.

Whether you’re visiting for a romantic weekend, stopping in on a quick business trip or down for a little fun with some friends, you’ll be spoilt with things to do in the beautiful Dutch capital.

See the city

To say Amsterdam’s history is intimately connected with water would be an understatement. Its 165 canals were created over the centuries to expand the city, improve transportation and ultimately stimulate trade. They have always defined the city’s landscape and character, and in 2010 the relationship became official when the canals were finally recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site. That recognition is probably why everything in Amsterdam seems a bit more magical when viewed from a boat. Thankfully there is no shortage of canal cruises for you to experience them. Intimate, child-friendly or rowdy party group options are readily available when you feel like getting your boat on. Rederij ’t Smidtje offers a variety of carefree and comfortable cruises, or simply purchase a pass for the Canal Bus, which lets you hop on and off its boats at 20 popular stops around the city.

In addition to Amsterdam’s Waterworld-like network of canals, the city is renowned for the number of insouciant cyclists freewheeling through the streets. An estimated 800,000 Amsterdammers use their bike on a daily basis…so why not join them and opt for a guided bike tour of the city? Mike’s Bike Tours offers a variety of personalized tours for groups of any size.

What To Do In Amsterdam - Hit a gallery
Above (clockwise): The Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House and the Stedelijk Museum

Hit a gallery

Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh, oh my! Amsterdam is known for its collection of art-world heavy hitters. Spend the day tripping between the Rijksmuseum (which features 40 Rembrandts and four Vermeers), the Van Gogh Museum (with its permanent exhibition that includes 200 paintings and 500 drawings), and the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam’s go-to institution for modern and contemporary art).

Looking for something a little racier? Head over to the red light district and stop by the Museum of Prostitution, the Erotic Museum or the world’s first sex museum, appropriately named Amsterdam’s Sex Museum.

Of course, if you have time to see only one museum during your stay, make it The Anne Frank House. The museum’s self-guided tour takes visitors through Otto Frank’s Amsterdam business and up the steep, narrow stairs to where a young teen Anne Frank penned her diary while the Frank family and four of their friends were kept hidden between 1942 and 1944 during World War Two.

What To Do In Amsterdam - The Heineken Experience
Above: Outside and inside of the popular Heineken Experience in the city centre

The Heineken Experience

Fact: You can’t go to Amsterdam and not have a Heineken. You also shouldn’t go to Amsterdam and not stop by The Heineken Experience. Housed in the city centre in the very first Heineken brewery, the historic space began welcoming visitors on tours back in 2001. Today it’s one of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attractions, welcoming more than one million visitors a year.

The self-guided interactive journey takes about 1.5 hours and is filled with endless tidbits from the brand’s fascinating history. But…what about the beer! Well, let’s just say that during the tour, the brewing process is explained and experienced (just you wait). Of course, at the end of your experience, you can enjoy a perfectly poured Heineken. (Editor’s note: Visitors under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.)

Where to shop

Have some money to spend? Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat is Amsterdam’s most chic shopping street, lined with brands like Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and Louis Vuitton. But for funky one-of-a-kind finds, you’ll want to head over to De 9 Straatjes. This grid of nine streets (hence the name) is home to Laura Dols (hawking cool vintage clothes for guys and, er, dolls), Mendo (purveyors of art and fashion books) and Terra (packed with handmade leather shoes and ceramics).

Monday to Saturday, you can also bag a bargain on everything from furry handcuffs to second-hand clothing at the Waterlooplein Flea Market.

What To Do In Amsterdam - Hotel de LEurope
Above: Grab a drink on the terrace of the five-star Hotel de L’Europe

Where to eat and drink

The atmospheric Restaurant-Café In de Waag, occupying a medieval gatehouse, offers hearty, reasonably priced fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If the sky is clear, stock up on picnic provisions before you head over to Vondel Park. De Kaaskammer sells more than 300 different picnic-worthy cheeses. (If you can milk it—cow, goat, sheep or buffalo—they sell the cheese.)

When it’s time for dinner, make sure you loosen your belt. Bar Moustache is a hip, rustic-style spot with plenty of exposed brick and wood serving decadent Italian-influenced dishes. Volt serves up an incredible Black Angus Beef burger and fries, but if you’re in the mood for Indonesian—the adopted cuisine of erstwhile Dutch colonizers—try dinner at Blue Pepper.

For a late-night drink, stop by the five-star Hotel de L’Europe and grab a pint at Freddy’s Bar, the hotel’s bar that’s named after, you guess it, billionaire brewery owner Freddy Heineken. Need an alternative to beer? Cap your evening with a smooth cocktail at Vesper, sipping one of the bar’s eponymous martinis amid James Bond memorabilia.

What To Do In Amsterdam - W Hotel
Above: The five-star W Amsterdam, located right off Dam Square, near the iconic canal district

Where to stay

If you’re craving a little luxury, the five-star W Amsterdam offers some seriously edgy design and snap-to-it service in the centre of the city. The rooftop lounge bar is a fab option for those stylish nights when you don’t want to go too far from home.

For an intimate experience, check into the Canal House, a 23-bedroom boutique hotel housed in three 17th-century merchants’ homes in the Jordaan neighbourhood. Celebrity spotters, meanwhile, may go starry-eyed at the Hotel Pulitzer Amsterdam. Guest rooms and Pulitzer’s restaurant Jansz were featured in the 2004 blockbuster Ocean’s Twelve, starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.

Christopher Turner

Christopher Turner

AmongMen’s Editor-in-Chief is a well-respected fashion and style writer whose works have appeared in Fashionism, Fashion Television, MSN, DesignLines, the Kaboose Network, the Disney Family Network and Sun Media. He also has a collection of designer kicks that would make Imelda Marcos blush and lives in Toronto’s trendy east end. Follow him at: @Turnstylin.

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