A to Z European Cities | A is for… Amsterdam, Holland!


Capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is a cobbled city linked by canals, bridges, and cute cafes. Find out our favourite things to do in Amsterdam…

Amsterdam’s Museums.

  • The Rijksmuseum: Home to an extraordinary 40 Rembrandts, the Rijksmuseum holds the country’s largest collection of art and artefacts. Expect pottery, antique dolls houses, jewellery and more…
  • The Van Gogh Museum: Here you’ll find over 700 examples of the Van Gogh’s finest work. Best visited during late night opening on a Friday, when there’s live music and a cocktail bar!
  • Foam: If photography is your thing, then head to the lesser-known Foam for modern exhibitions, talks and events.
  •  EYE Film Institute (formerly Filmmuseum): Worth a visit just for the building alone! Reached via a free ferry service, the Film Institute’s exhibits are always changing, from historic footage to retrospectives and animated films.
  • Jewish Historical Museum (Joods Historisch Museum): Set in four incredible old synagogues, the Jewish Historical Museum charts the religions journey in the Netherlands through the centuries.
  • Stedelijk Museum: Modern art fans will head straight to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam’s Museum Quarter. With it’s shiny white, overhanging facade, it’s hard to miss! Expect a whole range of art, from modern to contemporary and everything in between.

EYE Film Museum

The Tulips!

You can barely move for tulips in Amsterdam. In all colours and all forms – from bulbs to fresh flowers, to everlasting wooden versions in every colour of the rainbow! It’s no surprise, as over 7 million tulip bulbs are planted in Amsterdam every single year.


Anne Frank House

Found on one of Amsterdam’s pixturesque canals is the Anne Frank House. Identified first by the huge queues, and second by its distinct facade, the house that hid Anne Frank from 1942-1944 and where she wrote her infamous diary. Get here early to be first in the queue, doors open at 9am but you’ll need to buy a ticket online in advance.

Anne Frank

Picnics at Vondelpark.

The Vondelpark’s reputation precedes it… as Amsterdam’s largest city park, it plays host to almost 10 million visitors every single year. But there is plenty of space for you to spread out a picnic blanket, unpack your basket and enjoy lunch al fresco. Look out for the free concerts often held in the bandstand over the summer months.

Amsterdam Vondel Park

Raw Herring

As the saying goes, when in Amsterdam… eat raw herring! You won’t have to walk far to stumble across a stand or shop selling this local delicacy. The herrings are cured with salt, then served up with gherkins or finely chopped onion, and eaten with your fingers. Yes, you’ll finally find a use for that hand sanitiser lurking at the bottom of your backpack once you’ve tucked into a place of these!

Hering in Amsterdam

Canal boats!

The best way to view Amsterdam is from the water. Did you know that Amsterdam’s Canal Ring is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site? Canal trips are sold throughout the city, and it’s the best way to get to know the winding streets and cobbled canalside paths and bridges. From one hour trips, to candlelit dinner trips or even a private boat, there’s an option to suit every budget. You can even get a ‘hop-on hop-off’ pass from Canal Bus to allow you to explore Amsterdam at your leisure. 

Amsterdam Canal Boat Tour

Amsterdam is a city that can be explored just by foot and eye – no cash involved!

FREE Things to do in Amsterdam

1. Follow the Canal Rings around the city

The canals in Amsterdam are hard not to miss as they flow throughout the city. Decorative flowers line the bridges which tie into the cities beauty. At night the bars and restaurants parade the edges of the canal. The glistening lights beam upon the water as the boats go up and down the canals. It’s easy to lose an hour or two enjoying a bite to eat and a cold beer, watching the river in motion…


2. All Aboard! Free ferry rides around Amsterdam

If you feel like exploring beyond the Amsterdam city walls, you can by simply hopping on a ferry and sailing to another part of the city… Could it get any easier? All day and night there are free ferry rides that operate across the River IJ. The ferries are free for pedestrians, mopeds and bikes, you can even take your car on for a small fee. There are no tickets so you simply turn up, wait for the ferry, hop on and enjoy the ride. These ferries are located behind the Amsterdam Centraal station. They go between the station, Ijplien, Buiksloterweg and Westerdoksdijk, smaller towns that are crammed full of culture, great restaurants and fascinating events. The ferry rides are quick and frequent so you don’t need to wait long for your trip across the river – get out and explore!

3. Eat your way around Amsterdam’s Cheese Shops

If you are wandering the streets of Amsterdam and feeling a bit peckish, pop into a local cheese shop and indulge in a free sample or two. These samples are usually very generous in size and some even come with a slice of bread! After a few shops and a few more testers, you will not only have filled that empty stomach but also experienced one of Holland’s native foods. One of the best stores, Old Amsterdam Cheese, is based along the main commercialised street Damrak Road. Another cheese hotspot is Leidstraat towards the east of Amsterdam, where there are three or four cheese shops just doors along from one another… Yum!

Amsterdam Cheese

4. Take a picturesque daytrip to Vondelpark

Vondelpark is located just 2-3kms out of Amsterdam’s city centre. It is a giant 47 hectare park full of cafes, canals, statues as well as an outdoor theatre stage. There are two bicycle lanes that run through the park so you can hire a bike and cycle through or spend the day walking leisurely through the lush greenery. Pack a picnic, barbecue and a beer! In the summer months the park is packed full of like-minded people enjoying some food, drink and soaking up the sun. Throughout the summer months Vondelpark Outdoor Theatre put on free shows for the locals and tourists on Friday and Saturay nights, so check the calendar before you go!

5. Scale the iAmsterdam Sign

The famous iAmsterdam letters are located outside Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. Not only is it a popular tourist destination and a favourite photo backdrop amongst tourists, it has also become an iconic slogan for the people of Amsterdam. ‘iAmsterdam’ means inclusion for the residents and the city. There are two more sets of letters – one found at the Amsterdam airport and the other set of letters move around the city. A must see freebie for frugal backpackers visiting the city!

Amsterdam sign

6. Sit back and relax in The Dam Square

The Dam Square is located in the centre of Amsterdam city, just a couple of minutes walk from the central train station. The Royal Amsterdam palace sits behind the cobblestone square and lights up all throughout the night. In this square you will find cafes, restaurants kept alive by a constant stream of tourists and locals alike. The buildings that surround the square are picture perfect so make sure to get a couple snaps of the Dam Square in the day and also at night.


7. Join a free walking tour of Amsterdam

If you are new to the city and want to explore what Amsterdam has to offer, why not join the free walking tour that departs from the National Monument in Dam Square at 11.15am and 1.15pm each day. It’s a great way to get your head around the city and find out where the best parts of Amsterdam are located, as well as meeting a group of new friends to go out with that evening! Whether you’re travelling in a group or going solo, free walking tours are a great introduction to a new city, Amsterdam included.


8. Make the most of the peace and quiet at Begijnhorn Gardens

If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam’s city centre, step into the Begijnhof gardens. It is a square of old century style homes that line a secret courtyard garden. Unlike Vondelpark park, Begijnhorn is a more tranquil environment, lesser known by the tourists. It is an ideal place to read a book or just to sit and relax…

9. Explore Amsterdam’s Schuttersgalerij Museum

The Schuttersgalerij Museum is often known as tthe Civic Guards Gallery, and is found just behind the Begijnhof square. The gallery is free to the public and displays old portraits of wealthy Amsterdam citizens. These wealthy citizens all belonged to the city guard, a group of people would essentially guard the city, but also as a way to socialise and discuss other matters. If you are in the area of Begijnhof then it is an easy free activity to cross off your Amsterdam list!

10. Soak up the smells and sights at Amsterdam’s Bloemenmarkt

Feeling like stopping and smelling the roses with a totally unique experience? The Bloemenmarkt is a floating flower market in the Singel Canal. This luscious market not only sells flowers but they also sell bulbs and other gardening needs! Even if gardening isn’t your cup of tea, the Bloemenmarkt is worth a visit – after all, it’s the World’s only floating flower market.


Laura Bushby
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This article was written by Kiwi graduate Laura Bushby, who is currently running away from adulthood by backpacking her way around Europe! She writes honest and light hearted travel posts on her blog, Mingas on Tour.

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