Don't be fooled by Amsterdam's reputation for being laid-back and casually minded - this is an energetic city with masses of things to see and do. See the city like a local and explore by bike, make your way around the headline attractions, or take things at a leisurely pace on the canals. If you're off to Amsterdam and are after the top things to do, here are some ideas to get you started.
Pedal Your Way into the Surrounding Countryside
Amsterdam's flat profile and spider's web of cycle lanes make it one of the world's most bicycle-friendly cities. Pedal along the streets, parks and canals in search of the main attractions, or strike out a little further afield into the countryside. Popular routes include the 14-mile (22km) Zuid & Amsterdamse Bos loop, which reaches out for the green-tinged Plan Zuid extension district, and the 17-mile (27km) round-trip along the Amstel River to pretty Ouderkerk. Keep an eye out for windmills along the way.
See the Work of the Old Masters in Rijksmuseum
Amsterdam's grandest museum is home to 80 galleries which showcase thousands of paintings, sculptures and historical artefacts from the extensive Rijksmuseum collection. You can see Rembrandt's masterpiece The Night Watch, along with other celebrated works including Vermeer's The Milkmaid and Asselijn's The Threatened Swan. Make sure you check out the attractive gardens, Cuypers Library and the three antique dollhouses. The nearby Van Gogh Museum and modern-focused Stedelijk Museum provide gallery alternatives, if you're more into impressionism and modern art.
Cruise Along Amsterdam's Canals on a Boat Tour
Developed over the centuries to support trade and reclaim land from the sea, Amsterdam's 165-channel canal ring is its signature attraction. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed network of waterways is best experienced out on deck, where you can enjoy grand views of Golden Age architecture, centuries-old canal houses, quirky bridges and cultural landmarks. Choose from a variety of cruise routes and timings, depending on how long you have and what you'd like to see.
Visit Anne Frank House to Learn About WWII in Amsterdam
Inside a concealed attic at Prinsengracht 263 in Jordaan, Anne Frank and her family spent two long years hiding from Nazi occupying forces during World War II. The famous diarist's former home has been converted into a museum, which tells the story of the Frank family, and more broadly, the persecution of the Jews across war-torn Europe. Anne Frank House is one of Amsterdam's most sobering cultural landmarks, but one of its most important to visit.
Learn About Historic Amsterdam on a Walking Tour
On a guided tour around the city centre, you can learn about Amsterdam's village origins, emergence as a key trading post and evolution into a liberal world city. Start in Dam Square, home of the Royal Palace and National Monument, and set off in search of attractions including Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum, Vondelpark and the historic streets of Jordaan. Plot your own route around the canals, squares and landmarks if you prefer; the city is compact enough to navigate on foot.
Go Shopping at Amsterdam's Famous Markets
The floating flower market, Bloemenmarkt, remains one of Amsterdam's most colourful attractions. Housed on Singel's floating barges in the southern canal belt, dozens of stalls sell tulips and other bulbs, along with fresh food, souvenirs and seasonal goods. Other markets worth visiting include atmospheric Albert Cuyp, the higher-end Noodermarkt-Boerenmarkt in Jordaan, and vintage-focused Waterlooplein.
Gain a Taste of Brewing History at the Heineken Experience
An interactive tour of the Heineken's historic brewery in the centre of Amsterdam - now converted into a museum - takes in four floors of multimedia exhibits and brewing artefacts. You can also enjoy 'Brew Your Ride', a 4D adventure that takes you 'inside' a bottle of beer before settling in at the tasting bar to renew hostilities with this famous Dutch pilsner.
Relax Among Nature in One of Amsterdam's Parks
With more than 30 parks dotted across the city, you're never far from green space in Amsterdam. At Vondelpark, Amsterdam's most popular park, you'll find a lake, open-air theatre, playground, while Amstelpark, in the south of the city, has flower gardens, a playground and petting zoo. The renovated Westerpark plays host to various cultural events staged across the year, and the vast Oosterpark houses attractive water features and the National Slavery Monument.
_Photo by Aquiles Carattino on Unsplash_Experience Amsterdam's Legendary Nightlife
The art of socialising is fundamental to local way of life in Amsterdam. For a relaxing evening, settle in at one of the thousand or more cafés - or pubs - dotted around Amsterdam, or go off in search of a coffeeshop. For a wilder night on the city's famous clubbing scene, discover the bar and club-heavy hotspots of Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein, or head to the hedonistic Red Light District.
Ride 'Over the Edge' on Europe's Highest Swing
Amsterdam isn't renowned for its observation points, but there's a cracking one on the top of the A'DAM Tower office building, just across from Central Station. A'DAM Lookout provides panoramic views of the historical centre and busy port from 135m in the sky - the highest deck in the city. This is where you'll find Europe's highest swing, Over the Edge, which isn't for the fainthearted.