The national capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is widely regarded as one of the most vibrant cities in Europe. No matter whether you’re planning on visiting it for the scenic canals, bustling neighborhoods, legendary nightlife, historic buildings, or world-class museums—or it’s your intent to enjoy all of the above during your trip—Amsterdam is home to more than enough fabulous attractions to keep even the most discerning traveler’s itinerary full for days.
Amsterdam is famous for its fantastic assortment of museums, many of which are consistently rated among the finest in the world. An essential destination for any Amsterdam visitor is the Rijksmuseum, the national museum of the Netherlands renowned for its collection of masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and other acclaimed painters of the Dutch Golden Age. For those who want to see where Rembrandt lived and worked for nearly 30 years, you can’t afford to miss The Rembrandt House Museum. Visitors in the mood for an unforgettable day of art will need to head straight to Amsterdam’s iconic Museum Square, where in addition to the Rijksmuseum they’ll encounter the Stedelijk Museum and Moco Museum. Museum Square is a big cultural hub, and is also near several parks, cute shopping districts, the country’s best open-air market, and some of the city’s top restaurants. Contemporary art museums and galleries can be found all across the city, too.
For such an urban, cosmopolitan place, Amsterdam’s connections to the natural world are strong and ever-present throughout the city. In addition to historic attractions like the National Maritime Museum, a trip to this city offers visitors the opportunity to tour a popular zoo, a handful of inspiring botanical gardens, several major urban parks, and more. And, of course, the waterways of Amsterdam themselves are major attractions, and many visitors enjoy strolling alongside the city’s famous canals on foot or embarking on a river cruise or boat tour. Consider renting a bike to explore the city at a leisurely pace.
Visitors with flexibility and a willingness to explore will also want to venture outside city limits to enjoy the countryside and all its offerings. From the inimitable Keukenhof (the world’s largest tulip garden) to dozens of picturesque windmills, heritage homes, and historic towns, there are many different day trips or afternoon excursions just waiting to be enjoyed. To name only one, Zaanse Schans is a historic village just 15 miles north of Amsterdam which provides tremendous insights into eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Dutch life.
In addition to celebrating its heritage, Amsterdam also embraces the future. Enjoy exploring this modern European city by visiting a football stadium or taking in a match, dining in one of the city’s fine restaurants, snapping the perfect aerial photo from the A’DAM LOOKOUT observation deck, or partaking in an informative tour of one of the city’s premier breweries (and savoring a pint afterwards, perhaps). And don’t forget the shopping! Whether you’re looking for souvenirs like traditional Delftware pottery, antique books and prints, flea market finds, or high-end fashion, Amsterdam has you covered.
Read on for additional details about some of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attractions, including several other compelling museums, historic sites, and more.
NEMO Science Museum contains five floors of interactive galleries and immersive experiences. Highlights here include fun, educational exhibits that explore natural phenomena, contemporary technology, atoms, and renewable energy sources. NEMO’s rooftop restaurant was designed by Renzo Piano and features scenic views of Amsterdam.
The National Maritime Museum is dedicated to exploring the connections between human society, Amsterdam, and the ocean. The museum’s impressive collection of maritime artifacts includes naval paintings, navigational instruments, maps, and model yachts, as well as three actual historic ships anchored in a jetty alongside the attraction.
Dating all the way back to 1306, Oude Kerk is the oldest surviving building in Amsterdam. Visitors to Oude Kerk today can admire the church’s historic architecture, peruse its many graves, memorials, and monuments, and enjoy a variety of contemporary art installations.
One of the oldest botanic gardens in the world, Hortus Botanicus is a can’t-miss destination for nature lovers visiting Amsterdam. Hortus Botanicus is home to thousands of plant species spread out across the attraction’s several greenhouses and multiple gardens. It’s also home to a charming café and garden shop.
This centrally located museum specializes in temporary exhibitions that showcase a diverse selection of artworks ranging from classic seventeenth-century Dutch paintings to sculptures by contemporary outsider artists. The museum’s Courtyard Garden is a gorgeous spot for lunch, coffee, or a glass of wine.
Overlooking the northern bank of the River IJ, Eye Film Museum is an Amsterdam film institution. Eye Film Museum hosts special film screenings, festivals, and exhibits, and its permanent collection contains historic film equipment, artifacts, memorabilia, and tens of thousands of films, photographs, and promotional materials.
One of the oldest zoos in the world, ARTIS Royal Zoo is home to hundreds of unique animal species, old-growth trees, and some two-dozen historic buildings, as well as a planetarium, aquarium, and museum devoted to microorganisms. Among the zoo’s many highlights are elephants, giraffes, penguins, lions, and gorillas.
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam is another major attraction located along the city’s legendary Museum Square. The Stedelijk is famous for its impressive collection of modern art, with highlights including works by Chagall, Matisse, Kandinsky, Sherman, Dumas, and Syms. The Stedelijk regularly stages rotating temporary exhibits, too.
This small museum near the Anne Frank House features exhibits that tell the history of the tulip through a series of photographs, videos, and artworks. The Amsterdam Tulip Museum shares its space with a flower shop, where you can buy tulip bulbs, gardening supplies, and other tulip-themed gifts.
Centerpiece of the Jewish Cultural Quarter, the Jewish Historical Museum occupies four historic synagogues in Amsterdam’s attraction-rich Waterlooplein area. The museum’s permanent exhibits document Jewish history, culture, and religion across four centuries of life in Amsterdam through an assortment of objects and artifacts.
The Portuguese Synagogue is a historic synagogue located within the Jewish Cultural Quarter famous for its candlelit interior. This remarkable synagogue occupies an entire city block, is home to the oldest active Jewish library in the world, and at any given time displays some 800 religious ceremonial objects to the public.
Dating to the late thirteenth century, Castle Muiderslot is an architectural treasure that for nearly 150 years now has served as a national museum. Visitors today can tour the castle’s iconic Knights’ Hall, its expansive gardens, and unique Water Shield Pavilion, while also admiring the attraction’s impressive art collection.
This historic village sits some 15 miles north of Amsterdam and provides visitors the opportunity to experience what life might have been like in the Dutch countryside of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Highlights of Zaanse Schans include its iconic windmills, multiple museums, and numerous artisan shops.
This seventeenth-century house is where Rembrandt van Rijn lived and worked between the years 1639 and 1658. During the early twentieth century, the site was transformed into a museum, and today visitors can tour the great artist’s studio and living quarters. The museum also has a tremendous collection of paintings, drawings, and etchings by Rembrandt.
Royal Coster Diamonds is the oldest diamond polishing factory in the world. Since 1840, various members of royal families from all over the world have acquired and polished diamonds here, and the Royal Experience at Royal Coster Diamonds provides visitors with a guided tour of this acclaimed facility.
A’DAM LOOKOUT is an observation deck located at the top of the 22-story A’DAM Tower, some 350 feet above the ground. A’DAM LOOKOUT is famous for its 360º Sky Deck, Over The Edge swing, and rooftop bar that provides visitors tremendous views of Amsterdam and its scenic surroundings.
The Modern Contemporary (Moco) Museum is one of the newer art institutions found on Amsterdam’s Museumplein, but what it lacks in history it makes up for in style and panache. Temporary exhibits rotate through the trendy space on a regular basis, while Moco’s permanent collection features Basquiat, Banksy, Warhol, and more.
Rijksmuseum is the national museum of the Netherlands and one of Amsterdam’s quintessential destinations. This fabled institution is home to over 2,000 paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, including masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and more. It routinely hosts spectacular special exhibits that are the talk of the art world, too.
The Heineken Experience is located within a historic structure that once served as the popular beer brand’s main brewing facility. Today visitors may tour the site to learn about Heineken’s history, brewing techniques, and more. Each guest who goes on the Heineken Tour receives two free beers at the conclusion of the experience.