Amsterdam is one of our favourite cities in Europe. It's a you-have-see-it-to-believe-it kind of place, with pretty bridges, brick buildings and quiet canals. Yet, its village-like charm contrasts with its metropolitan buzz, and the top-ranking museums with the rebellious contemporary edginess.
In Amsterdam it is really worth losing yourself on purpose. But if you have a very limited time, take into consideration creating an itinerary based on the following places to visit in Amsterdam. And enjoy!
Recently reopened, Rijksmuseum is, simply put, one of the best art and history museums in Europe. You will find anything from Rembrandt’s Night Watch to a 20th-century plane, and from extravagant costumes to a complete, original 18th-century period room. As it can be appreciated from the outside, the museum is quite a large one, but if you don't have a lot of time (or patience), you can take one of the guided tours that will quickly highlight some of the known and less known treasures for you.
Our Lord in the Attic
This is one of the most interesting museums one can visit in Amsterdam. The visit takes you on some narrow staircases, through the rooms of the bourgeois house and finally into the attic that conceals a secret Catholic church. It dates back to the 17th century when catholics were not allowed to worship in public. The house also featured two kitchens with beautiful Delft tiles and old Dutch furniture.
Van Gogh Museum
Located just on the other side of the pretty Museum Square from Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum houses the world’s largest Vincent van Gogh collection. Expect crowds and cues almost in front of every painting, but there's nowhere else in the world you can stand in front of the Almond Blossom and The Bedroom. The museum entry fee is entirely covered by the I Amsterdam city card, unlike Anne Frank's House or Rijksmuseum.
The Oude Kerk
It is called the Old Church for good reason. It dates back to the middle of the 13th century and it is actually not only the oldest church in Amsterdam, but the oldest building in the city as well. It has certain peculiarities, like a wooden roof, and incredibly large stained glass windows, but above all, it is located in the Red Light District. It even has a bronze statue in front of it, with the inscription "Respect sex workers all over the world"! It used to be the home of the registry of marriages, and the inscription above the bridal chamber says "Marry in haste, mourn at leisure". It's Amsterdam, all right!
Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis
This is one of Amsterdam's best small museums and a well guarded secret nevertheless. We entered thinking we'd be out right away, but loved it so much, that we ended up spending a couple of hours inside. Expect a zen atmosphere, overwhelming Rococo interiors and a secluded garden you would have never guest it was there. It used to be a luxurious private canal mansion and it actually comprises two buildings each facing a different canal, with a beautiful connecting garden. Apart from the former coach house, it only has four rooms, but the levels of detail are impressive and the staff is incredibly friendly and they are more than happy to tell you the story of the Geelvinck family.
The Flower Market
This is the only floating flower market in the world. It is a very colourful and fragrant place year round, and you can find all sorts of bulbs and fresh cut flowers here, and at very good prices too. The bulbs are ready for export, so if you ask the flower sellers to ship you some at home, they will gladly do so. But if you are passionate about flowers and you happen to visit in spring, don't miss the Keukenhof Gardens and the nearby bulb fields for the ultimate Netherlands experience. The gardens are located about 1 hour outside Amsterdam, but there are many buses that can take you there and back from Schiphol airport.
Rembrandt House Museum
This is another small museum, though a much more popular one with tourists. The famous Dutch painter Rembrandt used to live here back in the 17th century and you can visit his quarters and studio. You will find interesting pieces of furniture, but what we loved best were the many activities organised inside the museum throughout the day. Don't miss the etching demonstrations above all!
The Cat Boat
Cats and water might not mix well together, but in Amsterdam you will find about 50 kitty cats living happy and quiet lives on one of the boats on the canal. This cat sanctuary has been around for over 50 years and is one of Amsterdam's quirkiest and most beloved attractions. They have visit hours almost daily and most cats are happy to receive visitors and let you indulge on your petting urges need be. Oh, and if you happen to find one of them particularly adorable, you can adopt!
Jordaan used to be a working neighbourhood, but now it is one of the fanciest parts of the city. It is home to many art galleries, boutique shops, gourmet restaurants and traditional cafés, and overall, one of the cutest places to stroll or bike in Amsterdam. Many of the houses have peaceful inner courtyards, and a stone sign with the family's profession. The maze-like streets lead to flea and farmer's markets and the picturesque canals offer a mirror into the city's own soul.
The largest city park in Amsterdam, Vondelpark is located pretty close to Museum Square. It welcomes about 10 million visitors a year and honestly, on a sunny day, there's no better place to relax. You can enjoy a number of activities, from people-watching and dog-walking to free concerts and lazing in the grass. There are also a number of cafés and restaurants throughout the park, but if you stay really still, you might even end up with a curious feathery new friend.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has endless accommodation options.
For those who want to splurge, Sofitel Legend The Grand offers some of the most luxurious rooms in Netherlands.
However, if what you want is to blend in, live like a local and experience Amsterdam down to its core, websites like HouseTrip offer great apartments in Amsterdam. You can choose from thousands of great value holiday apartments, but, and this is our favourite part, you can also rent a boat. As someone who has slept on a boat in Stockholm a couple of years ago, we are really enthusiastic about it. Staying in a house boat on one of Amsterdam's canals can be not only romantic, but also a memorable experience you'll want to tell your grandkids about.