Amsterdam has a fascinating history and is part of the reason this city is on so many travelers’ bucket lists. It’s truly one-of-a-kind, and offers so many different kinds of experiences. Here are some things you should know before traveling to Amsterdam:
Anne Frank House
Visiting the Ann Frank House was an experience I will not soon forget. As we passed the bookcase and entered the secret annex, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Despite the crowds, everyone was somber in this special place.
July 1942, the Frank family went into hiding. The Van Pels family followed a week later. The two families already knew each other: Hermann van Pels worked for Otto’s company. Four months later, they were joined by an eighth person: Fritz Pfeffer, an acquaintance of the Frank family.
If you come to Amsterdam, put the Anne Frank Huis on your list. Tickets are only available online direct from Anne Frank House and they go on sale exactly two months before you want to visit and they sell out very, very quickly especially at busy times of the year. If the tickets are sold out, there is no other way to visit as you cannot buy them anywhere else. All you need to know is do not wait to buy your tickets. I booked our tickets exactly two months before our visit and times were selling out quickly. Tickets are 9 Euros each and you can either print the e-ticket to bring with you or just show the barcode on the email on your phone when you arrive.
Get a feel for the history and layout of Amsterdam’s canals by boat. Take a tour of the canals, and travel through the canals of the city.
Amsterdam’s Canal Ring (Grachtengordel)—a charming 17th-century UNESCO World Heritage Site – is probably best known for its picturesque canals. Comprised of three rings of semicircular waterways that are bisected by smaller canals radiating from the middle, like the spokes on a very Dutch bicycle wheel, the Canal Ring is crisscrossed by hundreds of bridges which connect these Dutch Golden Age islands.
Amsterdam is a town of art. There are many famous artists that have come out of Amsterdam including Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gough. You can see their pieces in some of the museums, such as the Rijksmuseum, Van Gough Museum, or Hermitage Museum.
The Rijksmuseum is the largest and most visited art museum in the Netherlands. Its collection, which ranks among the world’s finest, includes nearly 8,000 pieces spread over 80 galleries. Some of the Rijksmuseum’s most revered works are 15th- to 19th-century paintings by Flemish and Dutch masters, including Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals. In addition to the astounding eight centuries of Dutch art and history, the museum has extensive outdoor gardens and a Michelin-starred restaurant.
The Van Gogh Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of works by the legendary Dutch artist, is a must-see for art and art history lovers. The museum boasts a collection of Vincent van Gogh’s personal effects, plus 200 paintings and 500 drawings by the master and his contemporaries—including Gauguin, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Bernard—plus Van Gogh’s famous works The Potato Eaters and Wheatfield with Crows.
Museum Van Loon was once home to one of Rembrandt’s most successful students, Ferdinand Bol, this house and its twin (No. 674, next door) were built in 1672 by Adriaen Dortsman and extensively remodeled in the 18th century by Abraham van Hagan and his wife, Catherina Tripp, whose names are entwined in the ornate brass balustrade on the staircase. No. 672 was occupied by the powerful Van Loon family from 1886 to 1960. After extensive restoration to return it to its glory of the 18th century, the house was opened as a museum in the 1970s. The elegant salons include many Van Loon portraits and possessions, including paintings known as witjes, or grisailles—illusionistic depictions of landscapes and other scenes. The symmetrical garden is a gem. Facing the rear of the house, the restored Grecian-style coach house holds the coach collection and serves tea.
Rent a bike and take the free ferry across to Amsterdam-Noord to spend the day cycling. Follow Route 9 by the marked pathways and explore the dike villages, grassland landscape and the island of Marken. (47 km/4-5 hours) You could also opt for a guided bike tour through the Amsterdam Countryside if you’d prefer!
Amsterdam Red Light District (De Wallen)
Most famous for its street-side brothels, Amsterdam’s Red Light District (De Wallen) also houses scenic canals, bustling restaurants, bars, and plenty of shopping opportunities. While this controversial neighborhood may not be for everyone, its winding cobblestone streets and narrow alleys evoke Amsterdam’s rich history and laid-back culture.
A visit to the old brewery at the Heineken Experience is a must-see for beer lovers in Amsterdam. During the 90-minute self-guided tour, you’ll learn the history of the Heineken beer family, find out how the brand’s logo has evolved over time, learn about the complete brewing process from beginnings to bottles—and, of course, taste the goods for yourself.
With 7 million flower bulbs planted every year across 79 acres (32 hectares), Keukenhof Gardens is a colorful sea of 800 varieties of tulips and other spring flowers, attracting visitors from around the globe who want to see the Netherlands’ iconic tulip fields. More than 9 miles (15 kilometers) of footpaths provide space to stroll around the park, take photos of flowers in bloom, and enjoy this Holland tradition.