Top Ten Things To Do In Amsterdam: Bucketlist Highlights
Our Amsterdam "Must Do" list includes some of the top highlights that just cannot be missed. In our top ten things to do in Amsterdam, we include some of the must eat places along with some of the absolute must see in this incredible European city. Amsterdam certainly has more than just ten things to do, but we wanted to share with you some of our favorites in this article. In our roundup of the top ten, we tell you all you need to know to make your Amsterdam visit spectacular and fun! You'll want to make sure you don't miss the Heineken Brewery Tour, cheese tasting, the top museums, what to eat, and going bike riding in Amsterdam like a local.
What a blast we had in Amsterdam! Spending one week in Amsterdam in the summer was one of our favorite travel moments of all time. Honestly, Amsterdam was the highlight of our first European trip together. Anytime we get asked what our favorite place to visit has been, Amsterdam seems to be our immediate answer. Not only are there lots of fun things to do in Amsterdam, but the city offers some of the best scenery with its canals and parks that are perfect for a bike ride or casual stroll.
1. Must See Amsterdam Places – Get Introduced With A Free Walking Tour
One of the first things we tend to do when we arrive at a new destination in our travels is taking a walking tour. While we don’t always enjoy being part of a group tour, for obvious reasons, a walking tour tends to help us be more productive and efficient with our visiting time.
Walking tours tend to give a marvelous introduction to the highlights of a location with a little bit of insight into the history and background. With that initial peek into a city, we can decide what we want to delve further into or know more about on our own during the rest of our visit.
We always look for Sandemans Free Walking Tours (they offer them in 18 cities !) because of the great experience we had sightseeing with them in the Old City Jerusalem. Naturally, we sought out Sandemans New Europe as soon as we got to Amsterdam. The tour guide was fantastic and went into a lot of great detail about the places on our route. Some of the tour highlights included the Red Light District, Anne Frank House Museum, The Dutch East India Company, the 700 Year Old Church, Tower Bridge (the widest bridge in Amsterdam), and the narrowest house amongst many more interesting places around town.
It was a perfect way to, not only get our bearings straight but to see things which we may have missed on our own.
2. Ride The Canals
Once you’ve seen some of the major attractions in Amsterdam on foot, it’s only natural to check out the city from the perspective of the canals on a boat. Taking a Lovers Canal Cruise is in our top three suggestions because we believe it’s a unique way to see the city even for those visiting on a two or three day holiday. One of the main reasons we recommend going on a Lovers Cruise when visiting Amsterdam is how relaxing and stress-free it is. If your travel style is anything like ours, you probably pack a lot of things to do in one day. We also like to do everything on our own (as opposed to joining a group tour) so we do a lot of research and planning on activities when we travel. It’s just nice to do a sightseeing activity that doesn’t require much other than just showing up to enjoy it!
3. Heineken Brewery Tour Amsterdam
This was our first experience learning how beer is made. Having tasted the Heineken in the US, we weren’t huge fans of the brand, per se. We just wanted to see what the history and beer making process was all about with this company. It certainly didn’t disappoint. The audio tour of the facilities was informative and fascinating. We were impressed by the way they set up this tour from the beginning to end. There was never a moment of boredom as we made our way through the tour.
Once the tour ended, we were given samples of the famous beer in a large room which made it feel as though we were celebrating the success of the company with a small party! Another sample was offered on the top level, where we were able to enjoy some fantastic views of the city. We loved the vibe of this place. As I already mentioned, it wasn’t the typical “museum feel, ” and the fun energy makes it a place we would definitely go back to.
4. Reypenaer Cheese Tasting
I must say, perhaps we enjoyed doing an Amsterdam cheese tour more than the average Westerner would. Having spent about nine months in Asia, we were a bit cheese-deprived. Don’t get me wrong, living in Thailand allowed us to enjoy very healthy dishes on a daily basis. Most meals in Thailand consist of veggies, meats, and rice. We even tried a lot of vegan and veggie eateries during our time there.
Despite how much we love Thai food, we certainly missed our sandwiches and Mexican food oozing with melted cheeses. Walking by a cheese shop on every block in Amsterdam certainly added to the cravings.
Needless to say, we just had to pop into one of the cheese stores and get our cheese fix. Rather than just grabbing whatever looked good on display, we thought it would be fun to get to actually learn a bit about how cheese is made and the different types of cheeses available.
After a quick internet search, we realized that Reypenaer was the place to get some good cheese tasting done according to great reviews. Due to their popularity, we were unable to do a tasting on the same day and had to make reservations. Oh, how the wait was agonizing!
We arrived at the Reypenaer cheese store and were escorted to their cheese tasting room downstairs. The room was set up in a “classroom style” with all of the attendants facing the front. Each table had a “Le Guillotin” on it for the designated “cheese cutter” and a few varieties of cheese.
Using the “Guillotin” to cut each cheese was fun and made it super easy. We also had a lot of fun thanks to a very witty and charming instructor who made sure to show us a good time with her jokes and bubbly personality.
Each tasting was paired with a type of wine or Port to give us the full experience. I have to admit that all the participants were quite jolly after the first couple of tastings! It could also be the excuse for us not remembering all the information we were taught about the cheeses. Let’s just say it was a good thing they had us write things down and take some notes!
All the cheeses were fantastic. How could they not be? They are all made in Holland and the dairy there is just beyond delicious! Ultimately, we were stuffed and full of fun memories from the whole experience.
Did we buy any cheese? Well, yes, indeed! We had to make sure we could have a taste of the Netherlands when we got back home. We bought cheese as souvenirs for our family and friends and a good supply for ourselves, too!
Cheese tasting has to be on everyone’s Amsterdam top ten bucket list, unless they are vegan, of course!
5. Museums Of Amsterdam – The Ones Worth Going To
We don’t consider ourselves “museum people, ” but when there is a unique opportunity to see something or learn some history, we’re all over it. For instance, how often is it you get a chance to see where Anne Frank lived while in hiding? This is the very place that she wrote her very telling and touching diary that is now World-famous. Additionally, seeing some World-famous art and learning about the artists is something that shouldn’t be missed while in Amsterdam. Here are our top museums to go to in Amsterdam:
- Rijksmuseum: See some fantastic Dutch artwork, including Rembrandt’s paintings up close. This is a great experience for art and history lovers.
- Ann Frank House Museum: Take a peek into history through a very touching story written by a little girl with high aspirations and dreams.
- Van Gough Museum: Learn the process of how this artist became who he was and the journey of the progression of his art. Truly a fascinating person who’s art is as moving at it is visually beautiful.
6. Go Bike Riding In Amsterdam
I’m not going to sugar coat it: riding a bike in Amsterdam was a terrifying experience. So, you might think we’re crazy to list it as one of the top things to do in Amsterdam. Don’t worry; we wouldn’t suggest something if we didn’t feel that it was totally worth experiencing. I just have to be honest and say that this may not be for everyone.
If you’re an average bike rider or occasionally enjoy a bike ride around town or a nature trail, don’t assume this is the same kind of bike riding experience. Our bike riding in Amsterdam taught us two things: 1. We’re not as good at riding bikes as we thought we were, and 2. Riding a bicycle in the streets of Amsterdam is not for leisure, but mainly for commuting purposes.
The locals are professionals and ride bikes to get from point A to point B. They tend to ride fast and know where they are going. As a tourist in a new town, on the other hand, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by all the bikers zooming past. It’s also worth noting that motorbikes use the bike lanes, too. We didn’t know this, and it was a bit shocking the first time a motorbike honked for us to get out of its way.
We recommend renting a bike and riding in some of the more quieter streets before taking it into the main parts of town. We highly recommend riding the bike around the park a bit to get an idea of how the other bikers are on the road. Once you get the hang of riding a bike around other Amsterdamers, it’s fun to zip around town as they do. Just get some practice in before, so you don’t stick out as tourists as much as we did!
7. Picnic in Vondelpark
Speaking of practicing your bike riding in Amsterdam, the perfect place to do it is in Vondel Park. We went straight to Vondelpark after renting out our bikes, and it became one of the most memorable parts of our entire trip. This park provides some beautiful scenery to bike through. We rode around the entire park and came to the conclusion that it was worth coming back to in the following days. However, to fully take in the park’s beautiful atmosphere and positive vibe, we brought a mat to sit on and a picnic to enjoy for a few hours.
A quick stop at the market and we were fully equipped with some cold cuts, cheese, crackers, beer, and wine. Enjoying our little picnic by a small lake amongst the locals was a perfect way to spend the afternoon. Sometimes, the least touristy thing to do is the best way to get to know a place!
If you’re in Amsterdam, you’ve got to spend a bit of time at this park, especially if you are visiting in the summer time. While there isn’t anything in particular here that is a “must see,” spending even half an hour to an hour strolling through or sitting on a park bench will give you the authentic Amsterdam experience. The kind of experience, I imagine, that is felt by the locals in their hometown.
8. Feast On The Good Stuff – Must Eat In Amsterdam
Raw herring sandwiches, French fries (with curry ketchup, mayo, and onions is a must!), stroopwafels, Dutch ice cream, these are all the items that should be on your list of things to eat in Amsterdam. Even regular waffles had us hooked. We had to have this heavenly dessert three days in a row! Your taste buds will thank you for having some of the delectable foods and snacks available in this city.
Other enjoyable treats include pancakes, bitterballen, poffertjes, kibbeling, Dutch licorice, and have we mentioned cheese??!! OK, I think you get the idea!
9. See The IAmsterdam Sign
Right around the Rijksmuseum, you’ll find the iconic “I Amsterdam” letters that are the famous slogan in this city. Keep in mind that you won’t be the only one there trying to get a “selfie” with these huge letters. Part of the fun of going to this sign is watching people as they figure out unique ways to pose with, on, and inside these 2 meter high letters. The slogan provides a fun photo opportunity as well as an uplifting and positive atmosphere to hang out in. If you really prefer fewer people in your photo, them our suggestion is to make it there earlier in the morning. However, having all the tourists in the photo has it’s own charm, too!
10. Enjoy A Canal-Side Drink
As you may have noticed by now, we really enjoyed the canals in Amsterdam. It’s no wonder that most of our suggestions seam to feature these UNESCO World Heritage waterways that form concentric circles around the city. The charm and energetic atmosphere created by these canals make them a perfect backdrop for a chill night out with friends or your partner. Having a beer (or two) as you people watch is a relaxing way to end a day of sightseeing, biking, or walking around the city.
We can’t say enough about how great This city is! Our list of top ten things to do is great for either a short or longer stay. Some might argue that visiting the Coffee Shops should be included as one of the best things to do in Amsterdam, but that may not be everyone’s “cup of tea.” We wanted to include a nice mix that couples or families of all backgrounds can enjoy. However, the Coffee Shops and Red Light District are a big part of the city and why a lot of visitors love coming to this city.
Do you have any fun experiences to share? Let us know in the comments section below if there is an activity or a “must see” you would recommend for our other viewers who may be thinking of visiting this amazing place!
Disclosure: We were guests of Lovers Canal Cruises. All of the opinions stated above are our own. We only review activities and tours if we feel they will be good our viewers and only write about companies that meet our high expectations as visitors. Please note that this is not a sponsored post, but the links above may include affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of our links, we could get a small commission at no extra cost to you.
About the Author
Hi! I'm just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that "The world is but one country and mankind its citizen." I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them. My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind. My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can't wait to see where life takes us next!