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Things to do in Amsterdam


Small it may be, but you’ll never run out of things to do in Amsterdam – this charming, compact city punches well above its weight

A bridge over a canal in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is famous for many things: beer, tulips, great art galleries and museums, a relaxed café scene (some of them more relaxed than others) and, of course, its Red Light District, which is actually in one of the oldest and most beautiful parts of the city. So whether it’s exploring the well-preserved old centre (Centrum), or branching out into trendy districts such as Jordaan or the transformed Eastern Docks (KNSM Island), let us help you decide what to do in Amsterdam.


Find your feet

Start with a meander about the cobbled streets, making sure to dodge the bicycles (there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam), but also remembering to look up. Many of the traditional houses have a plaque with a picture halfway up their gables dating back to medieval times, when most people couldn’t read, so the picture identified the name or profession of the owner. Key central sites include the Oude Kerk on Dam Square, Amsterdam’s oldest church, and the Royal Palace, plus the distinctive 15th-century Schreierstoren or ‘Weeper’s Tower’.


Another surprising stat for you: Amsterdam has more canals and bridges than Venice. So take to the waterways and glide past narrow, gabled 17th-century houses and pretty painted houseboats, soaking up the laid-back atmosphere.

Keukenhof flower garden in Amsterdam

Keukenhof flower garden

Holland in bloom

If your cruise visits Amsterdam in the spring, a trip to the world’s largest flower garden, Keukenhof, is highly recommended. It’s a riot of colour and scent, with more than seven million varieties of flower on display – including those famous tulips. At any time of the year, flower lovers can experience the city’s daily Bloemenmarkt, the world’s only floating flower market, while early birds can catch the Aalsmeer Flower Auction. It’s an awe-inspiring sight to watch business unfold here from your gallery vantage point, as this vast auction house sees two million plants and 19 million flowers bought and sold every day through 13 time zones.


Look and learn

If you’ve read the Diary of Anne Frank, you’ll want to see the house – now a museum – where this remarkable, spirited Jewish teenager and her family hid for two years in the ‘Secret Annexe’, trying to evade the Nazis.


Art buffs, meanwhile, will love Amsterdam’s impressive Rijksmuseum, built in 1800 and revamped for the 21st century, and boasting 80 galleries that house famous works including those of Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Johannes Vermeer. You can view more masterpieces up close at the Van Gogh museum, including some of the artist’s best-known works, such as Sunflowers and The Bedroom. And if all that culture has made you thirsty, there’s always the Heineken Experience, a tour of the premium brewery’s old factory, with the chance to sample a beer or two.


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