Oh, Amsterdam. This city is definitely a special place. Step off the train, and inhale the sweet smell of…weed? Yes, this smell seems to be literally everywhere in the city. But no fear, even if you don’t partake, Amsterdam has plenty of awesome things to offer. Check out my guide for top things to do in Amsterdam (that don’t involve drugs!)
(1/10) Cruise Down the Canals
Make sure to take a canal tour while you’re in Amsterdam. You’ll cruise through the city on a boat, while learning about the history. Fun fact: taxes were based on the width of the house, which is why you see so many skinny houses with extensions added on the back. The issue with this is that the staircases were built so narrowly, that you couldn’t move large furniture in. If you look at the top of the houses, you can see furniture hooks that allow you to move furniture in through the windows. I definitely support this kind of tax loophole!
If you’re interested, you can also combine your canal cruise with the Heineken Experience and sip on some beers after!
(2/10) Visit the I Amsterdam Sign at the Rijksmuseum
If you’ve spent any time on social media (or basically not lived under a rock), you know that you have to visit the I Amsterdam sign at the Rijksmuseum. Be warned: it will feel like you and literally every other tourist in Amsterdam will be trying to climb the sign at the same time. It’s ok to give up and not climb it.
While you’re over there, take a look at the Rijksmuseum –you can even get priority entrance in advance to make your life easier. Also, make sure to check out the pedestrian walkway on your way to the sign. I rushed through the first time, but it’s actually really cool architecturally.
(3/10) Eat Dutch Pancakes
Do yourself a favor and order some Dutch pancakes…you can find them sweet or savory throughout the city. I personally opted for sweet ones with apples and cinnamon and felt like I had died and gone to heaven. This is definitely one of the top things to do in Amsterdam.
(4/10) Take a Day Trip to the Countryside
If you have a few days in Amsterdam, take one of the days to visit Volendam, Marken, and the Zaans Schans windmills. Volendam and Marken are little coastal towns that are definitely worth a visit. You can either check them out through the tour above, or via public busses (like I did!)
(5/10) Snack your Way through the Henry Willig Shops
Ok, I’m going to let you in on a secret of top things to do in Amsterdam. There are these little cheese shops called Henry Willig and they all have samples of cheese. You can go in and sample them all (pesto cheese, aged goat cheese, even the occasional stroopwaffel!)…this may or may not have been my afternoon snack for several days. I did end up buying some to take home though!
(6/10) Be Awkward at the Sex Museum
When in Amsterdam, you might as well check out the Sex Museum. Looking at pornography and reading about strange fetishes at 3:00 in the afternoon surrounded by strangers sounds like it might be awkward, and it is (kind of). Go anyway, there’s some cool history about sex in ancient times and around the world. Plus, you get some more background on Amsterdam’s Red Light district!
(7/10) Visit the Red Light District
Speaking of the Red Light District, you have to visit here at night. In case you’re wondering, yes, the windows are actually lit up red at night. (I appreciated that, considering the name.) You can either meander around on your own, or if you’re interested in learning more about it, take a Red Light District walking tour. Another option is drinking your way through the area on a Red Light District bar crawl.
(8/10) Laugh your face off at a Quartier Putain Comedy Show
I may have just lucked into this one, but there was a hilarious stand-up comedy show at Quartier Putain in the Red Light District. Even if you can’t catch a show there, it’s a pretty chill bar to check out anyway.
(9/10) Stare at the Ceiling of the Magna Plaza
So full disclosure, the Magna Plaza is a mall. I typically avoid malls like the plague, especially when I’m traveling. But my map kept trying to direct me to walk through this building, so I went in, and the ceiling is absolutely gorgeous. I definitely went full tourist status snapping pictures of the roof, but it’s fine.
(10/10) Wander the Canals
Amsterdam has more than 1000 bridges and 100 canals, but my favorite area was the “De 9 Straatjes” (The 9 Streets). Not only were the bridges filled with flowers, but the houses were some of the most gorgeous in the city. This is definitely one of the top things to do in Amsterdam. For a unique way to see the city, try an Amsterdam bike tour.
Cheap flights: I’d recommend checking out Momondo. They scan tons of different travel discount sites and let you filter by cheapest, best, and shortest. Another good one to check out is eDreams.net —they often feature special flight deals.
Hotel Deals: My top choice is probably Priceline.com —I’ve found some insanely cheap (beautiful) hotels. Other sites I check are Expedia.com and the Hilton (for points). If you’re looking to avoid hotels and go the hostel route, I recommend checking out Hostelworld – there are plenty of options in Amsterdam! My personal hostel recommendation is Flying Pig Downtown. It’s an awesome location; you’re minutes from the train station, as well as the Red Light District and bars. You also have a sweet hostel bar downstairs with breakfast every morning! If you’re traveling with friends, another good option here is to do an Airbnb. (Use my link for savings on your first stay!)
My Amsterdam Essentials
So, I hope you found this guide on unique things to do in Amsterdam helpful. If you haven’t been, it should definitely be on your bucket list! Tell me—have you visited Amsterdam and loved it as much as me? Let me know some of your favorite things to do in the comments!
P.S. This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I might make a little extra spending money, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own and these products/services have been found useful during our travels and come highly recommended to you from yours truly!