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Ultimate Amsterdam Bucket List: Top Things to do in the Dutch Capital

Last Updated on 3rd January 2023 by Sophie Nadeau

A city steeped in history, architectural feats and rich in culture, there are few places that appeal to such a large audience as Amsterdam. Here is everything YOU should do: The Ultimate Amsterdam bucket list; where to eat, drink and shop and EVERYTHING you should see in the Venice of the North.

ultimate amsterdam bucketlist

Amsterdam card

If you’re thinking about seeing a lot of attractions and monuments while in Amsterdam, Consider purchasing the I Amsterdam City Card, which includes free access  free admission to 70 museums and attractions in Amsterdam and region and access to public transportation.

To work out whether or not the pass is worth it for you or not, add up the cost of the individual attractions you wish to visit and see if you’ll save money. Find more details here.

amsterdam illustration
Graphic; canal house and 17th-century garden with text overlay

But first, here are some fast and must-know facts about Amsterdam, Capital of the Netherlands:

Amsterdam is the capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

It is around 166 square miles.

The name ‘Amsterdam’ derives from ‘Amstelredamme’, meaning ‘dam over the river Amstel’.

During the 17th century, the city was the leading trader in diamonds and finance.

The Stock exchange located in the city centre is the oldest in the World.

Amsterdam is home to more nationalities than any other city in the World!

Amsterdam inhabitants are the second biggest consumers of coffee in the World. An average person consumes 3.2 cups a day; woah.

Amsterdam Tulp Festival (tulip festival)

#1 Visit the Rijksmuseum

Even if you’re not a huge fan of museums, the Rijksmuseum is not to be missed. Where better to see old master paintings than in the Netherlands itself?! The Rijksmuseum is home to world-famous pieces such as the Night Watch by Rembrandt and the Milkmaid by Vermeer. Purchase your Rijksmuseum ticket here in advance.

Of particular note is that if you want to see Girl with a Pearl Earring then this Vermeer painting can’t actually be found in the Rijksmuseum. Instead, you’ll have to journey half an hour South of Amsterdam and to the beautiful city of The Hague. Home to all kinds of museums, bike trails, and its own history, it’s well worth a visit as a day trip from Amsterdam!


#2 Eat a waffle

Paris may be known for its pastries, but Amsterdam is known for its waffles. Around every corner, there is a new opportunity to sample these delicious sweets. Dipped in chocolate, filled with fruit, there is a mass of varieties to choose from.

FREE BRUSSELS: Looking for budget things to do in Brussels? here's your ultimate guide to the best and top free attractions and free things to do in Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, Europe

#3 Visit the flower market

Amsterdam is world renowned for flowers. Tulips in particular. This stems from the Dutch Golden Age (a period spanning the 16th to 18th century where Dutch art, science, military and trade all increased. The Dutch Golden Age is a bit of a misnomer because not every aspect of this era was golden. Indeed, the Dutch legacy of slavery and colonialism is a shameful part of Dutch history which the nation is only now coming to terms with). 

A particular period during this era was ‘Tulip Mania’; the demand for tulips became so high that a single bulb could sell for as much as 10 years worth of the salary of a skilled craftsman. For more information surrounding this, be sure to check out our tulips in Amsterdam guide.

With more tulips than you can touch and a bouquet for every occasion imaginable, the flower market is really something that you have to witness first hand. Everyone knows that the Netherlands are famed for the tulip trade in the 16th Century.

At the height of the trade, a single bulb could trade for more than the price of a house! One of the most important facts about Amsterdam is that the flower market largely consists of bulbs for sale, and so visitors should not go expecting to see lots of beautiful blooms!

tulips from amsterdam

#4 Visit the Amsterdam library

Free to visit, the feat of architecture that is the library is open from 10 am to 10 pm daily and welcomes over 2.5 million visitors every year! Once there, you’ll find speedy WiFi, shelves upon shelves of books, and all of the quiet space you could ever wish for from a busy city.

#5 Visit our Lord in the Attic

One of the most unusual churches I’ve ever visited, Our Lord in the Attic is one of the only survivors from a generation of house churches that sprung up in the 1660s. When Amsterdam became a Protestant city, Catholic churches were forced to go underground and so the easiest solution was to build churches in the top level of townhouses.

This was one of my favourite museums as you really get a feel for the history; you even have to wear shoe protection because the floorboards are so old! There are also plenty of other quirky museums in the city; here’s a quick guide to the best of small museums in Amsterdam!

Best small museums in Amsterdam You'll Love: House museums, quirky sites and little museums to visit in Amsterdam, the Netherlands: our lord in the attic

#6 Visit Begijnhof

Legend has it that the structure of Begijnhof this is the oldest house in the city; a pretty remarkable feat for a city founded in the 13th century! Built in the 15th century by sisters of a Catholic sisterhood, the site is now home to old houses, a chapel and a ‘hidden’ catholic church.

Begijnhof Amsterdam: A Secret 14th-Century Hofje in the Dutch Capital, Amsterdam, Netherlands

#7  Visit the Giant I Amsterdam sign

The world and their Grandma seem to have taken a picture in front of the I am Amsterdam sign! However, it seems to be a requirement for visiting the city and no trip to the Dutch capital would now be complete without a quick snap or two!

As of December 2018, the I Amsterdam sign can no longer be found on Museumplein. Instead, as a result of over tourism crowding the area, the sign is on tour and can be found at various pop-up points all over the city. While you can still snap photos with the giant letters at Schipol Airport and Sloterplas lake in West, the set of letters that were previously outside the Rijksmuseum can be found touring the city.


#8 Go Clubbing

In a city famed for its wild nightlife, there are bars and clubs aplenty to choose from. Watch out though as although the legal drinking age is a lot lower, most clubs refuse entry to under 21s.

#9 Visit the Van Gogh Museum

Home to Van Gogh’s self-portrait and that famous ‘Sunflowers’ painting, nothing quite compares with seeing a painting in real life.

#10 Visit the Anne Frank House

A must for everyone on a trip to Amsterdam and a much-needed reminder that we must learn from history.

#11 Visit the Fault in Our Stars bench

The Fault in Our Stars book The Fault in Our Stars book was written by John Green and features scenes in Amsterdam, including several parks, trams, and museums. The film on the same name was also shot here. Even better than a simple visit to the Fault in Our Stars Bench, make sure to see ALL of the sites that feature in the film using the Fault in Our Stars guide to Amsterdam!


#12 Play giant chess

I love chess. You know what I love more than playing chess? Playing chess in giant format… There are a number of giant boards around the city with giant pieces to match! Of all the things to do on this ultimate Amsterdam bucketlist, this may well be one of the most quirky activities… but it’s also one of the most fun!

#13 Wander around Jordaan District

Easily my favourite district in the city, the historic houses that line the canals of Jordaan are prettier than a postcard! And so, if you’re looking to get a little more off-the-beaten-path and escape the crowds of the rest of the city, then I recommend heading to this ever so picturesque neighbourhood.

Some of the best locations to enjoy in Jordaan include the Instagrammable café of Polaberry and many of the hidden Amsterdam hofjes to be explored in the neighbourhood.

#14 Rent a bike

First things first, there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam; over 800,000! Even more shockingly, between 12,000 and 15,000 bikes are fished out of the canals annually! Incidentally, the word for a bike in Dutch is ‘fiets’; you know, for when you want to rent a bike in the Netherlands.

One of my top Amsterdam travel tips would be to explore some of the capital by bike! It’s easy to rent a bike and even easier to spend a day riding along the hundreds of designated cycle paths the city has to offer.

bicycle in Amsterdam

#15 Wander through Dam Square

There is always something going on in the main square in the city (and it is the best starting point for a walking tour as well!!)

#16 Discover the smallest house front in the city

Houses in Amsterdam are long and narrow because in the 16th-century people were taxed on the frontage (width) of their houses. The wealthier you were, the wider you could afford your house to be. Although there is a lot of debate as to which house is truly narrowest, the smallest houses in the city are barely a metre wide.

#17 See a windmill!! 

I think a lot of us are guilty of imagining the stereotypical tulip fields filled with thatched windmills when we imagine the Netherlands. Well, not to worry because there are genuinely many windmills to see (and photograph, of course)!

windmill in amsterdam
A Windmill in the heart of Amsterdam

#18 Have a picnic in a Vondelpark

Take advantage of one of the many green spaces the city has to offer and enjoy a lunch ‘al fresco‘. Some of the other best parks to visit in Amsterdam include Westerpark (on land once owned by a coal-fired power plant, you can now find one of the city’s newest parks) and Amstelpark (here you’ll find all kinds of horticultural specimens).

#19 See the Red Light District

If only to just pass through…

#20 Visit a cheese shop

From pesto to paprika to goats cheese, there are more flavours than you could have ever imagined in your wildest dreams. The best part? You can sample as many as you like, ensuring that you can pick the best flavours to bring home with you! For more foodie inspiration, check our guide to the best food tours in Amsterdam.

Henri Willig cheese shop interior

#21 See Rembrandt’s House

With paint mixing and printing demonstrations, the house that the artist Rembrandt lived in for a large portion of his life is unlike any other museum that I’ve ever been to. It is a hands-on experience equipped with a guided audio tour. Purchase your Rembrandhuis ticket here in advance.

#22 Go to a Dutch Bar and drink Heineken

The Netherlands is home to Heineken and there are countless other speciality other beers on offer as well. While in the city, there’s also the opportunity to enjoy a visit to the Heineken Experience, an interactive tour of the world-famous brewery.

What you may not know, however, is that in a small Dutch city to the South of the Holland Province, that of Leiden, the Heineken Star sign actually originated. The story goes that the founders of Heineken loved the sign of the Café De Vergulde Kruik (The Gilded Jar Café) that they purchased the star for the princely sum of 35 guldens.

Cafe de Sluyswacht exterior in Amsterdam

#23 Buy a pair of clogs

Finally, as a souvenir for yourself or a loved one, make sure to pick up a pair of clogs! Alternatively you can just purchase a keyring or magnet in the shape of some clogs if you don’t have enough room in your suitcase! For those who are planning a trip to Amsterdam, here’s your complete style guide and outfit inspiration ideas for what to wear in Amsterdam!


#24 Spy beautiful architecture

Narrow Streets are filled with even narrower houses. Some of the smallest house fronts in the world can be seen in Amsterdam. Stemming from a 16th-century tax that saw people being taxed on their house frontages (widths), the houses along the canals were built narrower and narrower until only the wealthy could afford wide-fronted houses. The smallest house measures just 90cm across. At the height of the tulip trade, an entire house could be traded for a single flower.

#25 Stroll (or cycle) along canals

Of course, one of the best things about visiting Amsterdam is to explore the city and let your feet guide you where they wish to. Amsterdam is a city of canals. So much so that it is known as ‘The Venice of the North’.

With around 100km worth of canals and 90 islands, it’s not hard to see why! The 17th Century canal belt (the series of canals that give Amsterdam its semi-circular shape) was made a UNESCO world heritage site in 2011.

#25 Take a day trip from Amsterdam

While many people opt to visit the Netherlands (or more specifically, Holland, the province in which Amsterdam is based) in order to visit the Dutch capital, this would be your first mistake. After all, there’s a whole side to the Netherlands that many people miss out on.

While there’s a myriad of day trips from Amsterdam to suit every budget and itinerary, here are some of my favourites. Rotterdam is perfect for those who want to experience an architectural European city. Near flattened after the Blitzkrieg of WWII, the city has since been rebuilt in quirky and unique ways.

The cheese city of Gouda is so much more than the foodstuff that made it so famous! Once in this secret Dutch town, you’ll soon discover hidden house churches, endless canals, and even a windmill which still produces its own flour to be sold in the store next door!

Finally, should you visit Amsterdam during the Holland tulip season, you’ll soon discover that there are plenty of amazing florally themed day trips to be taken from the city. For example, Keukenhof is also commonly referred to as ‘the Garden of Europe‘ and is one of the largest flower gardens in the world. Buy your Keukenhof combi tickets here in advance. 

An Insider's Guide on How to Visit Keukenhof, the Garden of Europe in the Netherlands

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Best of Amsterdam the Netherlands/ Ultimate Amsterdam Bucketlist: Top Things to do in the Dutch Capital
Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands with a text overlay
amsterdam bucket list infographic
Collage; Rijksmuseum, canal house, canal in the autumn, girl on a bike, with a pink text overlay

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She currently splits her time between Paris and London. Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.

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Connie Ferris

Thursday 1st of August 2019

This is a brilliant bucket list. If someone only manages to even do half of these then they are in for an amazing trip!


Thursday 18th of April 2019

O, and please don’t rent a bycicle if you don’t know how to cycle, and especially not in a large group. Thanks! And the ugly stupid iamsterdam sign has been removed by the council and museum plein looks much better now.


Thursday 18th of April 2019

Waffles are not dutch and we hate all those trashy shops selling them. And the flower market has been destroyed by tourists. The last flower seller has recently closed his store because the tourists dont buy flowers

A sad dutch woman

Thursday 18th of April 2019

No dutch person eats those bloody waffles and we hate the city center being now full of shops that sell them (with nutella ffs), and those stupid hats wiith amsterdam on it and pig tails that no sane dutch person wears. The flower market is now destroyed by tourism. Only a few days ago i read the last flower seller who had been there for decades is closing his store. No dutch people go there anymore because of the tourists and the tourist dont buy fresh flowers, so the sellers who survive sell clogs and wooden tulips. Thanks, everybody, and goodluck with your amsterdam bucket list. A sad dutch woman.


Thursday 2nd of August 2018

Thanks for such a great list :) it is really useful

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