Amsterdam things to do

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Van Gogh Museum

Price guide: Expensive
#1/20
expert-rated things to do in Amsterdam
Best for Culture -
Expert overall rating:4.7 (out of 5)

One of the world's most digestible leading art galleries.

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Rijksmuseum

Price guide: Expensive
#4/20
expert-rated things to do in Amsterdam
Best for First-time visitors -
Expert overall rating:4.6 (out of 5)

A compact but spectacular selection of Golden Age masterpieces.

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Hermitage Amsterdam

Price guide: Expensive
#5/20
expert-rated things to do in Amsterdam
Expert overall rating:4.6 (out of 5)

The Dutch annexe of St Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum lays on blockbuster exhibitions.

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NEMO

Price guide: Expensive
#9/20
expert-rated things to do in Amsterdam
Best for Families -
Expert overall rating:4.3 (out of 5)

This hands-on science centre is the best indoor attraction in Amsterdam for families.

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Canal Cruises

Price guide: Expensive
#19/20
expert-rated things to do in Amsterdam
Expert overall rating:3.8 (out of 5)

A leisurely boat tour along the canals is a touristy but relaxing way to explore Amsterdam.

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My number one tip is perhaps surprising. Don't put any of my suggested attractions at the top of your list of things to do. For me - and I strongly suspect for most visitors to Amsterdam - the number one daytime pleasure is simply wandering, or cycling, along the canals.

But most visitors want to do more than just that. They want to see some of the city's top-notch fine art - second top tip: buy tickets in advance for the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum to avoid having to queue. They want to soak up the atmosphere of the city's most appealing park and gardens, and perhaps the magnet-like Red Light District.

All these and many other places are covered in my recommendations below, most of which have more tips to help you get the best out of them. 

There are two sightseeing cards that you may want to consider purchasing. 

The I amsterdam Card covers unlimited use of public transport, a boat tour, and free or reduced admission to most (but not all) of the city's best sights and attractions, over a set number of days. It's expensive - 48 euros for 48 hours, 58 euros for 72 hours - so only worth buying if you're intending to pack in a lot in a short time. Of the major museums, the card will get you in for free to the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, but the Anne Frank House is not covered by the scheme.The card is sold at tourist offices and some hotels. See www.iamsterdamcard.com for comprehensive info on what's included. 

The Museumkaart (Museum Card), which is pitched at Dutch visitors but available to foreigners too, is potentially a better deal. For 39.95 euros, or 19.95 euros for under 25s, plus a 4.95 euros admin fee, it provides free admission for a whole year to many of the city's museums, including the big, expensive ones such as the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum and the Amsterdam Hermitage, plus free or reduced admission to hundreds of other attractions across the Netherlands. You can buy the card at major, participating museums. See www.museumkaart.nl - though the website is in Dutch only.

How I’ve picked my things to do: 

My selection includes the must-do biggies for first-time visitors - which are, in my opinion, the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, a canal cruise and, if time permits, the Hermitage Amsterdam.

But I've also picked out some less obvious gems that might appeal more to those who've been to Amsterdam before, or who want to get off the beaten track. Examples include a step-back-in-time canal house, and a beautifully designed early 20th-century apartment block.

I've also done my best to come up with a range of suggestions that will suit all types of visitor to the city - whether they be art or history buffs, those who just like a wander, or families.

Set focus

My selection includes the must-do biggies for first-time visitors - which are, in my opinion, the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, a canal cruise and, if time permits, the Hermitage Amsterdam.

But I've also picked out some less obvious gems that might appeal more to those who've been to Amsterdam before, or who want to get off the beaten track. Examples include a step-back-in-time canal house, and a beautifully designed early 20th-century apartment block.

I've also done my best to come up with a range of suggestions that will suit all types of visitor to the city - whether they be art or history buffs, those who just like a wander, or families.