Amsterdam: the Netherlands’ Capital – the Top 10 Places of Interest
What do you think of when you hear the name Amsterdam? Long rows of bicycles? Cannabis and tulip markets? Or maybe even deep-fried food? Of course, you can find all of this in the Dutch capital, but the city has so much more to offer than just its stereotypes.
Above all, Amsterdam is an incredibly charming and beautiful place, thanks to its many picturesque canals. We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about the Dutch capital and which sights you definitely shouldn’t miss out on!
Amsterdam in a Nutshell
Have you ever heard someone say Holland when they were in fact referring to the Netherlands? This is a common mistake, but the two places actually aren’t the same thing at all. The Netherlands is the name of the country, and Holland is only a small region in it.
The Netherlands border Germany and Belgium and are otherwise surrounded by the North Sea. Because of its long coastline, the country’s climate is moderate maritime. The summers are warm, while the winters are rather mild. We recommend visiting Amsterdam during the spring and summer months, as they allow you to explore the city in the sunshine.
The only disadvantage is that many other people will likely have had the same idea. Every year, millions of tourists visit the Dutch capital. In 2019, the city welcomed 22 million people! This figure is even more impressive when you consider that the capital only has around 840,000 inhabitants. The whole metropolitan area, however, is home to 1.4 million people.
By the way, the Netherlands’ location on the North Sea coast not only affects the country’s climate but also its food. One typically Dutch dish, for example, is kibbeling, which consists of battered and deep-fried fish. The best place to buy this snack is at a Dutch fish market, where it will be particularly fresh. Fried food is very popular in the Netherlands in general, mostly in combination with meat. But for those of us with a sweet tooth there is, of course, also a wide range of sugary and syrupy snacks available. Maybe you’ve heard of the stroopwafel before, which is made from two thin, soft wafers that are held together by caramel. We recommend always buying several of them because once you’ve had one, you just don’t want to stop!
Amsterdam is also home to the biggest cultural event in the Netherlands, the Uitmarkt. It’s takes place every year on the last weekend in August and includes concerts, exhibitions, and theater performances. More than 2,000 artists participate in the celebration every year. Another fantastic event in August is Pride Amsterdam, where members and allies of the LGBTQIA+ community celebrate their love throughout the city. Don’t miss out on the Canal Parade, which takes the march on to the water. It’s always an unforgettable experience!
Finally, Amsterdam is of course also famous for its thousands of bicycles, and the cityscape just wouldn’t be the same without them. Can you guess how many of them there are in total? The answer is approximately 880,000 – meaning that, yes, there are more bikes than people in this city. Luckily, Amsterdam’s road network is designed to accommodate this many cyclists, and the capital is the most bike-friendly city in Europe. We highly recommend following the locals’ example and exploring the city by bicycle. It’s also the most environmentally friendly way of getting around, and you have the choice between dozens of businesses renting out bikes. Cycling really is the most authentic way to experience Amsterdam!
The Top 10 Places of Interest in Amsterdam
The different neighborhoods of Amsterdam and their unique charm will win you over in a heartbeat. The city is amazing, and you should use every minute you have to explore all of it. To help you plan your trip, here are our 10 favorite sights in Amsterdam.
The Royal Palace of Amsterdam
The Royal Palace of Amsterdam – or Paleis op de Dam, as the locals call it – was the most important building during the Golden Age of the Netherlands. It was built in the middle of the 17th century and is named after the Dam Square on which it is located. The royal family doesn’t live in the palace, though, and only uses it for official business, such as state receptions. It also often serves as accommodation for state guests.
Unless it’s hosting an event, the Royal Palace is open to the public. We highly recommend taking a guided tour here, because the palace’s interior is just as impressive as its façade. The building is full of magnificently painted stucco, sparkling chandeliers, and precious antiques. The Paleis op de Dam is more or less the epitome of Dutch wealth.
Anne Frank House
You’ve probably heard of the Diary of Anne Frank, and maybe you’ve even read some of it. If not, you should definitely catch up!
In any case, you shouldn’t miss your chance to visit the house where Anne Frank and her family spent more than two years hiding from the Nazis. After someone betrayed them to the Gestapo, Anne and her family were deported on August 4, 1944. Anne Frank died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the age of 15, shortly before the end of World War II. Her diary remains one of the most famous accounts of life under the Nazi regime.
The Narrowest House in Amsterdam
You may have already noticed Amsterdam’s peculiar architecture. Many of the houses are rather narrow and quite crooked – but that makes them, of course, also very charming! The reason for the narrow façades is very practical. In the past, people had to pay taxes according to the amount of space their building took up along the canal. It therefore made sense to have a house that was as narrow as possible and to opt for a large number of floors instead.
The narrowest house of the city is located at number 7 Singel. The building is made even more special by being narrower at the back than at the front. It’s an extraordinary sight from any angle!
While we’re on the subject of size – the Trompettersteeg is the narrowest street in Amsterdam! Measuring only one meter in width, it’s quite easy to miss. Keep a lookout for it when you’re near the red-light district’s Oude Kerk. Don’t miss out on this strange piece of city architecture!
Oude Kerk translates to “Old Church” – and it’s a very accurate name! The church is, after all, the oldest building in the city. Its location is also quite unusual, as it’s right in the middle of Amsterdam’s red-light district. You will see many brothels and sex workers behind windows here.
Sex stores, brothels, and shop windows with women behind them – welcome to De Wallen, Amsterdam’s red-light district. Admittedly, a walk through these streets is definitely not suitable for a family outing. It does, however, grant travelers the opportunity to immerse themselves in a completely different world. Many people also have their bachelor or bachelorette party here. As intriguing as this area may be, you should always remember to be respectful. While you’re generally allowed to take pictures, don’t take any of the sex workers in the windows. It’s forbidden and also just very disrespectful.
With so many great museums on offer, it’s really hard to choose which ones to visit. In our opinion, the Rijksmuseum, the national museum of the Netherlands, is the one you definitely shouldn’t miss out on!
The Rijksmuseum primarily contains paintings from the Golden Age of the Netherlands. The most famous artists featured here are Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, and Frans Hals the Elder. This is your opportunity to admire The Night Watch, which Rembrandt completed in 1642! There’s a unique atmosphere surrounding this painting, which will captivate you instantly. Even if art isn’t usually your thing, the wonderful paintings held in the Rijksmuseum will surely fascinate you.
Are you in the mood for even more art and culture? The Van Gogh Museum is just around the corner and also well worth a visit!
Do you need a break from all the sightseeing? In that case, we recommend spending some time in one of Amsterdam’s most popular green spaces, the Vondelpark. You’ll have plenty of choice for a picnic spot here, because the park covers more than 47 hectares (or around 116 acres)!
Are you visiting Amsterdam between June and August? Then you’re in luck! There are a lot of open air theater performances in the park during this time.
Did you know that Amsterdam has even more canals than Venice? They are, in fact, the main feature of the cityscape. Walking along the canals is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon, and the hundreds of bridges look great in any photo.
The only way to top this experience is a canal cruise. It’s the best way to soak up the wonderful atmosphere and makes exploring all the different areas of Amsterdam even more exciting. We especially recommend visiting the Jordaan district.
Originally, the canals were of course not intended for sightseeing but used to transport goods around the city. Construction of the canal system began as early as 1612. Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Amsterdam’s many coffee shops are famous for selling both coffee and soft drugs. Of course, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend taking drugs, but these stores are worth a visit nonetheless. They are, after all, an important part of Dutch culture.
Johan Cruyff Arena
You might know this soccer stadium by its former name, Amsterdam Arena. This is where the city’s most famous soccer team, Ajax, has been holding its matches since 1996. The stadium can accommodate more than 54,000 fans, making it the largest one in the whole country!
In 2018, the arena was renamed in honor of the Dutch soccer player Johan Cruyff. The easiest way to explore it is by taking a guided tour. By the way, the stadium isn’t only used for sports events. It’s also a popular concert venue, and stars like Michael Jackson and Madonna have performed here in the past. So even if you’re not that into soccer, you’ll still enjoy a visit to the Johan Cruyff Arena!
We can’t help but love Amsterdam. It’s a great place for travelers of all ages, and the city’s charming architecture alone makes any trip here worth it. Especially the canals are a sight you’ll never grow tired of.
Amsterdam is also a city full of culture. Don’t forge to visit its many museum and art galleries – starting with the Rijksmuseum, which holds many magnificent paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. The Paleis op de Dam is also a wonderful remnant of that period and an impressive sight inside and out.
The Netherlands’ capital is famous for its narrow yet charming houses, which create a special and rather intimate atmosphere that is often hard to find in other cities. It’s no surprise that millions of travelers choose to visit Amsterdam every year. Will you be one of them?