The best things to see and do in Amsterdam

The Netherland’s charming capital, characterised by countless canals and even more bicycles.


Very few cities have such a strong, individual and identifiable character as Amsterdam. Regarded around the world for its tolerance, safety and friendliness; Amsterdam continues to attract visitors in their droves from every corner of the planet to the city’s cobbled streets.
Amsterdam: famous for its quiet canals, neat gabled buildings and dreamy bridges. As the capital city of the Netherlands, Amsterdam has been one of Europe’s most significant metropolises for half a millennium; despite the fact that it’s compact enough to walk or, of course, cycle around. What it lacks in size, however, it makes up for in dramatic architectural beauty, and is regularly shortlisted among the most stunning cities on the continent.

With few of the drawbacks of a big city, Amsterdam is a dream for the discerning globetrotter. In the space of a day it’s possible to traverse the length and breadth of this canal-strewn city; its village-like charm lending itself perfectly to those looking to stroll its narrow streets or while away an hour or so in a waterside bistro.

That’s not to say the city is lacking in fascinating visitor attractions, however. From Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum, to Hermitage Amsterdam and the Portuguese Synagogue, this culturally rich city has no shortage of things to keep the mind occupied — however long you plan to stay in town.

Must See Sights

Hermitage Amsterdam

Amsterdam Hermitage
Located not ten yards from the banks of the Amstel, Hermitage Amsterdam is a significant branch of the Hermitage Museum, whose headquarters lie in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The centre contains a fine collection of artistic works, and regularly hosts celebrated exhibitions, including Spanish Masters from the Hermitage and the Portrait of the Golden Age. The Hermitage also features an exquisite restaurant and dining area, where it’s possible to enjoy an excellent meal amid some of the finest works to grace the gallery’s walls.

Portuguese Synagogue

Hermitage Amsterdam
While the majority of tourists flock to Anne Frank House to uncover Amsterdam’s rich Jewish heritage, the city’s Portuguese Synagogue is arguably the more informative attraction of the two — albeit, not the most moving. And yet, within the synagogue itself, visitors will find one of the most sumptuous interiors of any historic landmark in the city — a cavernous, candlelit space whose construction was completed in the 17th century. For those interested in unearthing the history of Jewish culture in the Netherlands, this relic of the Dutch Golden Age is the perfect place to visit.

Dam Square

Van Gogh Museum

Amsterdam’s esteemed Van Gogh Museum houses the world’s largest collection of works by the heralded Dutch Master, as well as drawings and letters which go some way towards revealing the intimate details of the artist’s personal and private life. Over 200 hundred Van Gogh paintings are currently on display in the museum, including famous works like Self-portrait and The Yellow House, alongside unsold pieces never before seen. Complementing the Van Gogh showcase is a carefully curated collection of works by many of his contemporaries, including Auguste Rodin, John Russell and Jules Dalou.

Dam Square

Dam Square
Flanked by the Royal Palace, Amsterdam’s Dam Square lies at the very heart of the city. Central to local life in Amsterdam since the 17th century, Dam Square has been a gathering place and meeting spot for centuries, and has seen its share of tumultuous history. On 7 May 1945, the square was the scene for one of the last great atrocities of WWII, when a group of Nazi officers opened fire on a group of innocent civilians, fatally wounding over 120 people. Today, Dam Square serves as the main square of the city, and boasts several attractions including the National Monument, Madame Tussauds and the Koninklijk.

Fast Facts

Unsurprisingly for such a unique city, Amsterdam is the proud owner of many titles and accomplishments.

  • The population of Amsterdam is 779,808 people (2011 Census)
  • Whilst there are 881,000 bicycles in the city – more than one per person
  • The city is home to 165 canals
  • There are over 1,500 bars and cafes in Amsterdam
  • And 1,281 bridges in the city
  • Many Amsterdam locals live aboard the 2,500 houseboats on the city’s canals
  • Amsterdam buildings have to be built on long poles, to stop them sinking into the city’s waters
  • And the majority of the city’s land area is below sea level
  • Amsterdam is the world’s most diverse city, with more nationalities calling Amsterdam home than any other city
  • Thanks to a tax which charged homeowners by the width of their property, most houses in Amsterdam are incredibly narrow, and tall
  • Image credits: Flickr