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Things To Do On A Quick Weekend In Amsterdam


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Ronda Housley


Exploring Amsterdam’s Historic Sites

Amsterdam is a city steeped in rich history, and exploring its historic sites is a must for any visitor. From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, there is something to captivate every history enthusiast. Here are a few historic sites you should not miss during your visit to Amsterdam:

  1. The Anne Frank House: Gain insight into the life of Anne Frank and her family during World War II. Step into the secret annex where they hid, and learn about their experiences through their diary entries.
  2. The Royal Palace: Discover the opulence and grandeur of the Royal Palace, located in Dam Square. This former city hall is now used for royal receptions and functions, but visitors can still explore its lavishly decorated rooms.
  3. The Rijksmuseum: Immerse yourself in Dutch art and history at the Rijksmuseum. Admire famous works by Rembrandt and Vermeer, and learn about the country’s rich cultural heritage through a vast collection of artifacts.
  4. The Van Gogh Museum: Delve into the life and art of the legendary painter, Vincent van Gogh. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of his works, providing a fascinating journey through his artistic career.
  5. The Old Church: Visit the oldest building in Amsterdam, the Oude Kerk. Marvel at its Gothic architecture and explore its ancient interior. Climb to the top of the tower for panoramic views of the city.
  6. The Rembrandt House Museum: Step into the former home of the renowned painter, Rembrandt van Rijn. Wander through the reconstructed rooms and admire his artwork, gaining insight into his life and artistic process.

These are just a few examples of the historic sites Amsterdam has to offer. Each location provides a unique glimpse into the city’s past, allowing visitors to appreciate its cultural significance.


Delving into Dutch Art and Culture

When it comes to art and culture, Amsterdam is a city that knows how to impress. From world-class museums to vibrant galleries, there are endless opportunities to immerse yourself in Dutch art and culture. Here are some must-visit destinations for art enthusiasts:

  1. The Rijksmuseum: As mentioned earlier, the Rijksmuseum is a treasure trove of Dutch art and history. Prepare to be awe-struck by masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age, including Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” and Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid”.
  2. The Van Gogh Museum: No visit to Amsterdam is complete without a visit to the Van Gogh Museum. Explore the extensive collection of the tormented artist’s works, from his early sketches to his iconic paintings like “Sunflowers” and “Starry Night”.
  3. The Stedelijk Museum: Modern art enthusiasts will be delighted by the Stedelijk Museum. From abstract expressionism to contemporary installations, this museum showcases a wide range of artistic movements.
  4. The Jordaan District: Take a stroll through the picturesque Jordaan district and discover its charming art galleries. From local talent to international exhibitions, there is always something exciting to see in this artistic neighborhood.
  5. The NDSM Wharf: For a taste of Amsterdam’s vibrant street art scene, head to the NDSM Wharf. This former shipyard is now a creative hub, featuring colorful murals and urban art that leave a lasting impression.
  6. The Dutch Resistance Museum: Gain a deeper understanding of Dutch history and the resistance during World War II at this thought-provoking museum. Through interactive exhibits and personal stories, you’ll learn about the bravery and resilience of the Dutch people.

These are just a few examples of the art and cultural experiences that await you in Amsterdam. Whether you’re an art aficionado or simply have an appreciation for creativity, this city has something to inspire and captivate every visitor.


Cruising the Canals of Amsterdam

A visit to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the enchanting canals that wind their way through the city. Known as the “Venice of the North,” Amsterdam’s canals offer a unique and picturesque way to explore the city. Here’s why a canal cruise should be on your Amsterdam itinerary:

  • Unforgettable Views: A canal cruise provides unparalleled views of Amsterdam’s stunning architecture and charming waterfront. Admire the historic merchant houses, picturesque bridges, and colorful houseboats as you glide through the serene waters.
  • Historical Insights: As you cruise along the canals, you’ll pass by significant landmarks and historic sites. Many canal tours provide informative commentary, sharing fascinating stories about the city’s history, cultural heritage, and iconic buildings.
  • Romantic Ambiance: Amsterdam’s canals exude a romantic ambiance, making a canal cruise a popular choice for couples. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or simply want to enjoy a magical moment with your loved one, a leisurely boat ride along the canals sets the perfect romantic atmosphere.
  • Different Perspectives: Viewing Amsterdam from the canals offers a different perspective than exploring on foot. You’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the city’s layout and architecture, as well as its intimate connection to the waterways that have shaped its identity.
  • Convenient and Relaxing: Canal cruises provide a convenient and relaxed way to explore Amsterdam. Sit back, relax, and let the boat take you on a guided tour of the city’s highlights. It’s a great opportunity to rest your feet, recharge, and soak in the beauty of your surroundings.

There are various types of canal cruises available, ranging from hop-on-hop-off options to evening dinner cruises. Whether you choose a guided tour or opt for a self-guided trip on a rented boat, cruising the canals of Amsterdam promises a memorable experience that captures the city’s charm and beauty.


Discovering Amsterdam’s Eclectic Neighborhoods

Amsterdam is a city of diverse neighborhoods, each with its own unique character and atmosphere. Exploring these eclectic neighborhoods is a fantastic way to discover the city’s vibrant local culture. Here are a few neighborhoods you shouldn’t miss during your visit:

  • Jordaan: Known for its picturesque canals, quaint streets, and charming cafés, Jordaan is a neighborhood that offers a delightful mix of art, food, and culture. Stroll along the famous “nine streets” (De Negen Straatjes) and browse the boutique shops and galleries.
  • De Pijp: Located south of the city center, De Pijp is a trendy and diverse neighborhood that attracts artists, creatives, and young professionals. Explore the lively Albert Cuyp Market, enjoy a leisurely walk in Sarphatipark, and sample diverse cuisine from around the world at the neighborhood’s many restaurants.
  • Oud-West: Oud-West is a vibrant neighborhood filled with parks, trendy boutiques, and popular local cafes. Visit the Ten Katemarkt, a local market offering fresh produce and unique products, and enjoy a picnic in the scenic Vondelpark.
  • Plantage: Known for its green spaces, cultural institutions, and historical landmarks, Plantage is a serene and charming neighborhood. Explore the vast Artis Royal Zoo, visit the renowned Portuguese Synagogue, and take a peaceful stroll through the Hortus Botanicus.
  • Amsterdam Noord: Located across the IJ River, Amsterdam Noord is a rapidly developing neighborhood that offers a mix of industrial heritage and modern creativity. Visit the Eye Filmmuseum for its stunning architecture and cinematic exhibitions, and explore the unique cultural hub at the NDSM Wharf.

These are just a few examples of the many neighborhoods waiting to be discovered in Amsterdam. Each neighborhood has its own distinctive character and hidden gems, providing ample opportunities to immerse yourself in the local culture and explore the city beyond its main attractions.


Visiting World-Class Museums

Amsterdam boasts a plethora of world-class museums that attract art enthusiasts, history buffs, and curious visitors from around the globe. These museums not only showcase remarkable collections but also offer immersive experiences and insights into various aspects of human history and creativity. Here are a few must-visit museums in Amsterdam:

  • The Rijksmuseum: As mentioned earlier, the Rijksmuseum is a treasure trove of Dutch art and history. Admire masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age, including Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” and Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid.” The museum’s impressive collection spans over 800 years of Dutch art and history.
  • The Van Gogh Museum: Dedicated to the life and work of the iconic painter, Vincent van Gogh, this museum showcases the largest collection of his artworks in the world. Explore his famous self-portraits, vibrant landscapes, and poignant still lifes, and gain insights into his tumultuous life and artistic evolution.
  • The Anne Frank House: Step into the secret annex where Anne Frank and her family hid during World War II. The museum provides a moving experience, with exhibits that tell the story of Anne’s life, her diary, and the harrowing experiences of those living in hiding during the Holocaust.
  • The Stedelijk Museum: This modern and contemporary art museum houses a diverse collection of avant-garde artworks, including paintings, sculptures, design objects, and multimedia installations. It offers a compelling journey through various artistic movements and is a must-visit for modern art enthusiasts.
  • The Hermitage Amsterdam: The Dutch branch of the famed Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Hermitage Amsterdam presents rotating exhibitions highlighting the cultural and artistic heritage of Russia and other civilizations. From ancient artifacts to Impressionist paintings, the museum offers a fascinating exploration of world history and art.

These are just a selection of the world-class museums that Amsterdam has to offer. Whether you’re interested in classic Dutch art, modern masterpieces, or poignant historical exhibits, these museums provide enriching experiences that will leave a lasting impression on visitors of all ages and interests.


Indulging in Dutch Cuisine and Drinks

When it comes to culinary delights, Dutch cuisine offers a variety of tasty dishes and unique flavors to savor during your visit to Amsterdam. From traditional favorites to contemporary twists, here are some culinary experiences you won’t want to miss:

  • Herring (Haring): A quintessential Dutch street food, herring is a must-try for seafood lovers. Served raw with onions and pickles, it’s a traditional delicacy that locals enjoy from herring stands throughout the city.
  • Stroopwafels: These sweet, caramel-filled waffle cookies are a beloved Dutch treat. Enjoy them freshly made at local street markets or indulge in a warm stroopwafel paired with a cup of coffee.
  • Bitterballen: These delicious deep-fried meatballs filled with a creamy beef ragout are perfect for snacking. Often enjoyed with a cold beer in cozy Dutch pubs known as “brown cafes,” they are a popular local favorite.
  • Cheeses: The Netherlands is famous for its cheeses, and Amsterdam is an excellent place to sample a variety of them. Visit a cheese shop or market and discover flavors such as gouda, edam, and maasdam, accompanied by a slice of delicious Dutch bread.
  • Poffertjes: These tiny Dutch pancakes are fluffy and delightfully sweet. Served with a generous dusting of powdered sugar and a pat of butter, Poffertjes are a true delight and often enjoyed as a snack or dessert.
  • Jenever: As the precursor to gin, jenever is a traditional Dutch spirit made from juniper berries. Visit a local distillery or a traditional “proeflokaal” (tasting room) to sample different varieties of this unique alcoholic beverage.
  • Dutch Beer: Amsterdam is home to a thriving craft beer scene, with many local breweries producing flavorful brews. Visit a brewery, beer garden, or a specialty beer bar to sample a wide range of Dutch beers, from classic lagers to innovative craft creations.
  • Dutch Pancakes (Pannenkoeken): Indulge in a savory or sweet Dutch pancake, known as pannenkoeken, which are larger and thinner than American-style pancakes. They can be enjoyed with a variety of toppings, such as cheese, bacon, apple, or syrup.

These culinary experiences offer a taste of Dutch culture and are sure to satisfy your appetite during your time in Amsterdam. Whether you’re a foodie looking to explore local flavors or simply eager to try something new, Dutch cuisine and drinks are not to be missed.


Shopping in Amsterdam’s Unique Boutiques

Amsterdam is a shopper’s paradise, offering a diverse range of boutiques and specialty stores catering to every taste and style. From designer fashion to quirky souvenirs, here are some unique shopping experiences you can enjoy in the city:

  • Nine Streets (De Negen Straatjes): Nestled between the canals in the city center, the Nine Streets neighborhood is a haven for boutique shopping. Explore a mix of independent boutiques, vintage stores, concept stores, and designer flagship stores offering a range of fashion, accessories, home decor, and more.
  • Jordaan neighborhood: The charming Jordaan neighborhood is known for its eclectic mix of shops, from stylish fashion boutiques to trendy streetwear stores. Stroll along the narrow streets and discover unique finds, such as handmade jewelry, organic skincare products, and quirky home accessories.
  • Albert Cuyp Market: Located in the vibrant De Pijp neighborhood, the Albert Cuyp Market is one of the largest and oldest outdoor markets in Europe. Browse through a wide variety of stalls selling everything from fresh produce, flowers, and cheese to clothing, accessories, and household goods.
  • Waterlooplein Flea Market: For vintage lovers and bargain hunters, the Waterlooplein Flea Market is a must-visit. Explore a vast array of stalls selling second-hand clothing, antiques, books, records, and unique trinkets. You never know what hidden gems you might stumble upon.
  • Local Designers: Amsterdam is home to a thriving community of talented local designers. Discover their creations in boutique shops and concept stores throughout the city, where you’ll find unique clothing, accessories, and homeware that reflect Amsterdam’s creative spirit.
  • Specialty Stores: Amsterdam is known for its specialty stores that cater to specific interests. From art supplies to gourmet chocolate, from Dutch ceramics to artisanal spices, these niche stores offer a unique shopping experience for enthusiasts and collectors.
  • Food Markets: Immerse yourself in Amsterdam’s culinary scene by visiting its food markets. The Foodhallen, located in a converted tram depot, is home to a variety of food stalls offering international cuisine. The Noordermarkt, held on Saturdays, is a great place to find organic produce, local delicacies, and handmade products.

Whether you’re looking for one-of-a-kind fashion pieces, unique souvenirs, or local delicacies, Amsterdam’s boutiques and specialty stores offer a delightful shopping experience that is sure to satisfy every shopper’s desires.


Enjoying Amsterdam’s Vibrant Nightlife

Amsterdam comes alive after dark, offering a vibrant and diverse nightlife scene that caters to all tastes. From cozy brown cafes to trendy nightclubs, here are some ways to enjoy Amsterdam’s lively nightlife:

  • Brown Cafes: Start your evening at a local “brown cafe,” traditional Dutch pubs known for their cozy and welcoming atmosphere. Sip on a local beer or try some Dutch gin, known as jenever, and mingle with friendly locals while enjoying the laid-back ambiance.
  • Leidseplein Square: This bustling square is a popular nightlife hub, with numerous restaurants, bars, and clubs lining its streets. Enjoy live music performances at one of the music venues, or dance the night away at trendy clubs and cocktail bars in the area.
  • Rembrandtplein Square: Another hot spot for nightlife, Rembrandtplein offers a range of bars and clubs catering to different musical tastes. Enjoy a drink on a terrace overlooking the square before hitting the dance floor or catching a live DJ set.
  • Jazz Cafes: Amsterdam has a vibrant jazz scene, with various jazz clubs and cafes around the city. Enjoy live performances by talented musicians, ranging from traditional jazz to experimental improvisation, in intimate and atmospheric settings.
  • Street Performers and Entertainers: As you wander through the city’s streets at night, you may encounter talented street performers and entertainers adding a festive touch to the atmosphere. Watch fire breathers, musicians, and other artists showcase their skills and create memorable experiences.
  • Clubbing and Electronic Music: Amsterdam is renowned for its electronic music scene, with clubs that attract top DJs from around the world. Explore venues like De School, Shelter, and Marktkantine to experience the pulsating energy of the city’s vibrant club culture.
  • Red Light District: Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District is not only known for its controversial attractions, but also for its lively nightlife. Explore the area’s bars, clubs, and adult entertainment venues, or simply take a stroll through the illuminated streets to witness the unique atmosphere.
  • Canal Cruises at Night: Experience Amsterdam’s canals in a different light by taking a nighttime canal cruise. Enjoy the enchanting views of illuminated bridges and buildings, while sipping on a drink and listening to the gentle lapping of the water.

Amsterdam’s nightlife is diverse and offers something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a relaxing evening at a cozy bar or an energetic night of dancing. Remember to pace yourself, respect the local culture, and have a memorable time exploring Amsterdam’s electric nighttime scene.


Relaxing in Amsterdam’s Green Spaces

While Amsterdam is known for its bustling city life, it also offers numerous green spaces where locals and visitors can retreat from the hustle and bustle. These tranquil parks and gardens provide the perfect opportunity to relax and recharge amidst nature. Here are some of Amsterdam’s notable green spaces:

  • Vondelpark: The city’s most famous park, Vondelpark, is a sprawling oasis of green in the heart of Amsterdam. Spanning 120 acres, it offers picturesque walking paths, lush lawns, ponds, playgrounds, and even open-air theaters. With plenty of spots to picnic or enjoy a leisurely bike ride, Vondelpark is the perfect place to unwind.
  • Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest): This expansive forested area on the outskirts of the city offers a myriad of recreational activities. Take a leisurely bike ride, go for a jog, or enjoy a picnic amidst the serene surroundings. Amsterdamse Bos is also home to several charming cafes and a lake where you can rent a boat.
  • Westergasfabriek: Once an industrial site, the Westergasfabriek has been transformed into a cultural and recreational park. With sprawling lawns, beautiful gardens, and innovative architecture, it’s a favorite spot for picnics, outdoor yoga classes, and cultural events, including concerts and art exhibitions.
  • Sarphatipark: Located in the trendy De Pijp neighborhood, Sarphatipark offers a peaceful escape from the busy streets. Stroll around the park’s paths, admire the beautiful flowers and statues, or find a bench to sit back and take in the serene atmosphere.
  • Oosterpark: Oosterpark is a historic park with lush greenery, a large pond, and beautiful monuments. It’s a popular spot for locals to relax, jog, or have a picnic. The park also hosts various events and festivals throughout the year.
  • Beatrixpark: Located in the Amsterdam Zuid neighborhood, Beatrixpark offers a peaceful and well-maintained environment. With winding paths, manicured lawns, and vibrant flower beds, it’s an ideal place to unwind, read a book, or have a leisurely picnic.
  • Botanical Gardens (Hortus Botanicus): Founded in 1638, the Hortus Botanicus is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. It features a wide variety of plant species, including some rare and exotic specimens. Take a calming walk through the meticulously curated gardens and explore the beautiful greenhouses.

These green spaces provide a refreshing change of scenery, allowing visitors to relax and take a break from the urban environment. Whether you’re looking for a serene retreat or a place to enjoy outdoor activities, Amsterdam’s green spaces offer a perfect balance between nature and city life.


Experiencing a Taste of Amsterdam’s Coffee Culture

Amsterdam is renowned for its vibrant coffee culture, with a plethora of cozy cafés and specialty coffee shops scattered throughout the city. For coffee enthusiasts, exploring Amsterdam’s coffee scene offers the opportunity to sip on exceptional brews and immerse oneself in the city’s unique coffee culture. Here’s how to experience a taste of Amsterdam’s coffee scene:

  • Historic Cafés: Start your coffee journey by visiting some of Amsterdam’s historic cafés. These iconic establishments have been serving coffee for decades and offer an authentic glimpse into the city’s coffee culture. Café Hoppe and Café de Jaren are popular choices with a charming ambiance.
  • Specialty Coffee Shops: Amsterdam boasts a thriving specialty coffee scene, with shops dedicated to sourcing and brewing high-quality, ethically-sourced beans. Explore spots like Screaming Beans, Bocca Coffee, or Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters for an exceptional coffee experience.
  • Dutch Coffee Traditions: Embrace the Dutch coffee traditions by trying a koffie verkeerd (a large cup of coffee with warm milk), a bakkie troost (small strong cup of coffee), or a Dutch coffee liqueur. Engage with locals to learn more about their coffee customs and preferences.
  • Coffee Workshops and Tastings: Take part in a coffee workshop or tasting session to deepen your knowledge and appreciation for coffee. Learn about different brewing methods and techniques, sample a range of coffees, and discover the art of the perfect cup.
  • Roastery Tours: Experience the behind-the-scenes action by joining a roastery tour. Witness the coffee roasting process, learn about the selection of beans, and get insights into the craftsmanship of creating delicious coffee blends. Some roasteries, like Bocca Coffee and Stooker Roasting Company, offer guided tours.
  • Coffee and Food Pairings: Pair your coffee with delectable treats for a complete tasting experience. Try a traditional Dutch stroopwafel, a freshly baked pastry, or delve into Amsterdam’s diverse food scene by pairing your coffee with local specialties like cheese, chocolate, or artisanal bread.
  • Outdoor Seating and People-Watching: Amsterdam’s cafés are not only about the coffee but also about the ambiance. Opt for a café with outdoor seating and enjoy your coffee while soaking up the atmosphere, watching passersby, and immersing yourself in the charming surroundings of the city.

Amsterdam’s coffee culture is a delightful combination of historic traditions and modern innovation. By exploring the city’s cafés and specialty coffee shops, engaging with locals, and indulging in the flavors and rituals of coffee, you’ll truly experience the vibrant coffee culture that Amsterdam has to offer.