10 Things to Do in Amsterdam

With its Golden Age canals, world-class museums and 17th-century mansions, Amsterdam is a global city with rich culture, history and iconic sights. Here are 10 things to do in Amsterdam.

Spend a few extra days exploring The Netherland’s historic capital city before or after embarking on a European cruise. A pre- or post-cruise stay will give you just enough time to experience these 10 things to do in Amsterdam.

Westerpark

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1. Westerpark/Westergasfabriek

There’s always something going on at Westerpark, where Amsterdam’s former gasworks have been transformed into an eclectic complex of cafés, galleries, a cinema and an avant-garde club. Opened in 2003, Westergasfabriek hosts festivals, markets and major city events. In contrast to the atmospheric industrial monuments, nearby picturesque Westerpark provides a tranquil green space with trees, streams and children’s playgrounds.

2. Amsterdam-Noord

Once a working-class district, Amsterdam-Noord has evolved into a hip multicultural mecca where old shipping containers have been transformed into trendy restaurants and nightclubs. Accessible via a free ferry that chugs from Central Station to the north bank of the IJ waterway, the area features Pllek, a restaurant with its own urban beach, and Noorderlicht café. Both are great for a waterfront meal in an historic setting that harks back to the days when the area was a busy port and are a must on a list of things to do in Amsterdam.

3. Brouwerij’t IJ

On Amsterdam’s east side, a tall windmill marks a small brewery and pub with a large selection of unfiltered, unpasteurized beers and seasonal offerings, all certified organic and made on the premises. An outdoor terrace provides a spot to enjoy your brew with an order of ossenworst (Dutch sausage) or Dutch cheese. Guided tours are offered on weekends.

Alkmaar cheese market

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4. Alkmaar Cheese Market

Speaking of cheese, dedicated dairy connoisseurs will want to add a trip to this wholesale market to their list of things to do in Amsterdam as it’s well worth the time. Since 1622—and possibly as early as 1593—merchants have sold their cheese on Alkmaar’s Waagplein. Held Friday mornings early April through early September, the market is less than an hour from Amsterdam via train.

5. The Begijnhof

One of Amsterdam’s most beautiful and well-concealed attractions dates back to 1150, when a group of Catholic women banded together in a religious community. Without taking monastic vows, they lived like nuns, caring for the sick and educating the poor, using the Begijnhof as their sanctuary. Nine centuries later, their home retains its sanctified atmosphere and welcomes visitors in its inner courtyard. While it still houses single women, it’s also used for masses, weddings and baptisms.

Spring is one of the best times to visit The Netherlands. See how you can enjoy Holland’s springtime blossoms on a river cruise next year.

Bicycles along a canal

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6. A Quiet Canal Tour

Trade glass-domed tourist boats for an intimate experience winding through Amsterdam’s Grachtengordel neighborhood, a UNESCO World Heritage site, aboard a small boat or barge. Then hop off to enjoy the area’s rich shopping, dining and nightlife among other things to do in Amsterdam.

7. The Negen Straatejes

If commercial shopping is up your alley, head for Kalverstraat, Leidsestraat or chic P.C. Hoofstraat, where upscale chains and designer outlets vie for business. For more one-of-a-kind finds, explore the Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets), where unique boutiques, vintage shops and cozy cafés line the cobblestones of one of Amsterdam’s hippest neighborhoods.

8. The Jordaan Food and Canal Tour

Dutch cuisine is fascinating thanks to its diverse roots and flavors. Taste the full range on the Jordaan Food & Canal Tour, which showcases Dutch apple pie, Indonesian satay, raw herring, drop, bitterballen, poffertjes and other specialties. Visit family-run establishments, from the city’s oldest brown café to an old-fashioned candy store and Amsterdam’s best delis. Expect an ample lunch with a side of history on seven tasty food stops and an hour-long cruise on a salon boat that’s hosted the likes of Winston Churchill and Queen Wilhelmina.

9. Supperclub

With no entry sign or billboard, one of Amsterdam’s most innovative nightclubs is hidden to tourists not in the know—so be sure to add it to your list of things to do in Amsterdam. At this edgy venue in the heart of the city, savor a five-course meal on sultans’ cushions as belly dancers, aerial artists and drag queens vamp and twirl. Part culinary journey, burlesque club, cocktail bar and experimental free state, supperclub is the perfect place to spend an evening with friends or a significant other.

10. Literary and Cultural Walking Tours

Did you know the mosaic at Hazenstraat and Lauriergracht is one of 26 installed in 1999 by French urban artist Invader? Or that eccentric Harry Mulish, one of the “Great Three” Dutch postwar writers, penned novels at Leidseplein’s American Hotel when he wasn’t womanizing in the bar? Strolling through the Jordaan, you’ll also learn about the ‘60s squatting movement; the Felix Meritis building, an independent center for art, culture, science; and Multatuli, a civil servant who wrote the 1860 book Max Havelaar, which sent shock waves through Holland.

With AAA Member discounts and rewards, the sale is always on. Search for great hotel deals in Amsterdam!

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Janice Yip-Hudson, AAA Travel Counselor, Daly City, Calif.

Today, people's lives are so busy. We're thinking three days ahead just to get through our to-do lists. I love helping my clients plan vacations where they have nothing to do but relax; where time stands still, and you're just on vacation.

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