Amsterdam is the capital city and most populous municipality of the Netherlands. Its status as the capital is mandated by the Constitution of the Netherlands, although it is not the seat of the government, which is The Hague. Amsterdam has a population of 851,373 within the city proper, 1,351,587 in the urban area and 2,410,960 in the metropolitan area. The city is located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country but is not its capital, which is Haarlem. The metropolitan area comprises much of the northern part of the Randstad, one of the larger conurbations in Europe, with a population of approximately 8 million. Amsterdam is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. With its universities, academies, and research institutes, along with more than 40 museums, numerous theaters, and entertainment venues, Amsterdam is the country’s leading cultural center. In addition, the city is famous for its historic homes, laid out in a pattern of concentric segments in the shape of a fan and built on piles driven through an upper layer of mud into the firm, sandy bottom up to 18 meters below. All told, some 6,750 buildings dating from the 16th to 18th centuries are crowded into an area of 2,000 acres, dissected by 160 canals (grachten), themselves home to numerous houseboats. Many picturesque bridges link the city’s 90 islands, eight of them old wooden bascule bridges, including the Magere Brug (Mager Bridge), one of the city’s most regularly photographed. Discover the best places to visit in the city with our list of the top-rated tourist attractions in Amsterdam. Amsterdam’s main attractions include its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, the Anne Frank House, the Scheepvaartmuseum, the Amsterdam Museum, the Heineken Experience, the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, Natura Artis Magistra, Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam, NEMO, the red-light district and many cannabis coffee shops. They draw more than 5 million international visitors annually. The city is also well known for its nightlife and festival activity; several of its nightclubs (Melkweg, Paradiso) are among the world’s most famous. It is also one of the world’s most multicultural cities, with at least 177 nationalities represented.
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Top-rated Sights & Attractions
Dam Square is one of the most tourist-packed areas of Amsterdam, and for good reason. Its most prominent feature is the 17th-century Royal Palace (Koninklijk Palace), former home of the Dutch royal family and present-day venue for royal functions. Dam Square is also home to top tourist attractions like the New Church (Nieuwe Kerk); Madame Tussauds wax museum; and the National Memorial Statue, which is dedicated to Dutch soldiers who lost their lives in World War II. This huge public square is, naturally, lined with cafes and shops, and full of vendors selling food and souvenirs. Tourists will also find a Ferris wheel, perfect for getting a different perspective, as well as plenty of entertainment, which ranges from street performers to annual music festivals.
The Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam. The museum is located at the Museum Square in the borough Amsterdam South, close to the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and the Concertgebouw. The Rijksmuseum was founded in The Hague in 1800 and moved to Amsterdam in 1808, where it was first located in the Royal Palace and later in the Trippenhuis. The current main building was designed by Pierre Cuypers and first opened in 1885. On 13 April 2013, after a ten-year renovation which cost € 375 million, the main building was reopened by Queen Beatrix. In 2013 and 2014, it was the most visited museum in the Netherlands with record numbers of 2.2 million and 2.47 million visitors. It is also the largest art museum in the country. The museum has on display 8,000 objects of art and history, from their total collection of 1 million objects from the years 1200–2000, among which are some masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer. The museum also has a small Asian collection, which is on display in the Asian pavilion.
Anne Frank Museum
The Anne Frank House is a writer’s house and biographical museum dedicated to Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank. The building is located on a canal called the Prinsengracht, close to the Westerkerk, in central Amsterdam in the Netherlands. During World War II, Anne Frank hid from Nazi persecution with her family and four other people in hidden rooms at the rear of the 17th-century canal house, known as the Secret Annex. Anne Frank did not survive the war but in 1947, her wartime diary was published. In 1957, the Anne Frank Foundation was established to protect the property from developers who wanted to demolish the block. The museum opened on 3 May 1960. It preserves the hiding place, has a permanent exhibition on the life and times of Anne Frank, and has an exhibition space about all forms of persecution and discrimination. In 2013 and 2014, the museum had 1.2 million visitors and was the 3rd most visited museum in the Netherlands, after the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum.
Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum is an art museum dedicated to the works of Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It is located at the Museum Square in the borough Amsterdam South, close to the Stedelijk Museum, the Rijksmuseum, and the Concertgebouw.The museum opened on 2 June 1973. It is located in buildings designed by Gerrit Rietveld and Kisho Kurokawa. The museum’s collection is the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings in the world.In 2017, the museum had 2.3 million visitors, and was the most visited museum in the Netherlands and the 23rd most visited art museum in the world.
Rembrandt House Museum
The Rembrandt House Museum is a historic house and art museum in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Painter Rembrandt lived and worked in the house between 1639 and 1656. The 17th-century interior has been reconstructed. The collection contains Rembrandt’s etchings and paintings of his contemporaries. The museum had 237,383 visitors in 2014.
The Jordaan is the most popular of Amsterdam’s neighborhoods, known for its mix of residential areas with garden courtyards, lively markets, and upscale boutiques and eateries. Tourists could easily spend a day simply wandering the picturesque streets, but the area is also home to plenty of things to do. Known to most as the home of the Anne Frank Museum, the area is also home to lesser-known treasures like the Woonboots Museum, a floating museum dedicated to houseboats. On Saturday mornings, Lindengracht turns into a huge open-air market, where you can find local crafts, produce, flowers, and goodies perfect for filling a picnic basket. Monday mornings, it is Westerstraat that fills with 200 vendors’ stalls, this time selling a wide range of goods in a flea-market-style bazaar. The Jordaan’s restaurants and cafes have become the trendy place to sit and people-watch while enjoying traditional Dutch folk music.
The Begijnhof is one of those rare tranquil inner-city spots that many tourists simply don’t notice as they hustle from attraction-to-attraction. And that’s a shame, as this stunning old corner of Amsterdam simply begs to be strolled. Although most of the old homes are occupied, the tiny lanes and pathways around them provide public access, so don’t be shy to explore. You’ll be rewarded with views of well-kept green lawns – the courtyards – surrounded by some of the oldest houses in Amsterdam, including its only remaining wooden house from the 14th century. Originally occupied by a commune of pious Catholic women (begijnen), the area’s small chapel (still open for services) saw the last of these women buried here in 1971.
The Vondelpark is a public urban park of 47 hectares (120 acres) in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It is part of the borough of Amsterdam-Zuid and situated west from the Leidseplein and the Museumplein. The park was opened in 1865 and originally named Nieuwe Park (New Park), but later renamed to Vondelpark, after the 17th-century playwright and poet Joost van den Vondel. Yearly, the park has around 10 million visitors. In the park is an open-air theatre, a playground and several horeca facilities.
The Royal Palace of Amsterdam in Amsterdam is one of three palaces in the Netherlands which are at the disposal of the monarch by Act of Parliament. It is situated on the west side of Dam Square in the centre of Amsterdam, opposite the War Memorial and next to the Nieuwe Kerk. The palace was built as a city hall during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. The building became the royal palace of King Louis Napoleon and later of the Dutch Royal House.
Botanical Gardens & the Zoo
Amsterdam offers a double dose of nature in the heart of the city. Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam, the city’s botanical garden, is one of the world’s oldest. Founded in 1638, it began as a humble herb garden for doctors and apothecaries. Today, it features rare plants and trees, exotic flowers, and a large hothouse encompassing different tropical zones. Less than a five-minute stroll away, Natura Artis Magistra (“Artis”), Amsterdam’s excellent zoo, spotlights creatures from around the world in a shady garden setting dotted with historical buildings. In the aquarium, you can learn about coral reef systems and take a peek under an Amsterdam canal. Other highlights include the nocturnal animal house, zoological museum, Insectarium, Butterfly Pavilion, and Planetarium. Also of interest near these fun nature-based attractions is a replica of the Normaal Amsterdams Peil, the NAP, which shows the average water level of the North Sea.
Oude Kerk (Old Church)
The Oude Kerk (Old Church) is Amsterdam’s oldest building and oldest parish church, founded circa 1213 and consecrated in 1306 by the bishop of Utrecht with Saint Nicolas as its patron saint. After the Reformation in 1578 it became a Calvinist church, which it remains today. It stands in De Wallen, now Amsterdam’s main red-light district. The square surrounding the church is the Oudekerksplein.
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam colloquially known as the Stedelijk, is a museum for modern art, contemporary art, and design located in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The 19th century building was designed by Adriaan Willem Weissman and the 21st century wing with the current entrance was designed by Benthem Crouwel Architects. It is located at the Museum Square in the borough Amsterdam South, where it is close to the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, and the Concertgebouw.The collection comprises modern and contemporary art and design from the early 20th century up to the 21st century. It features artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Karel Appel, Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning, Marlene Dumas, Lucio Fontana, and Gilbert & George. In 2015, the museum had an estimated 675,000 visitors.
Jewish Historical Museum
The Joods Historisch Museum (Jewish Historical Museum), part of the Jewish Cultural Quarter, is a museum in Amsterdam dedicated to Jewish history, culture and religion, in the Netherlands and worldwide. It is the only museum in the Netherlands dedicated to Jewish history. The museum’s collection includes some 11,000 art objects, ceremonial objects and historical objects, only some five percent of which is on display at any one time. It has two permanent exhibitions as well as regularly changing temporary exhibitions. The exhibition on the ground floor focuses on Jewish traditions and customs. The presentation is inspired by the former interior of the synagogue. Ceremonial objects from the museum collection are shown in locations where they used to be placed in the synagogue. This gives visitors a sense of the surroundings in which they find themselves and enables them to taste the original synagogue atmosphere.In 2014 the museum presented an exclusive exhibition of Roman Vishniac’s photos. The photographer is famous for capturing the life of Jews during the world war. The galleries of the Great Synagogue feature a new presentation on the history of the Jews of the Netherlands from 1600 to 1890. The central theme is what it meant to be a Jew in the Netherlands in this period. Stories about how Jews arrived in the Netherlands, the extent to which they managed to integrate, the cultural interchange with non-Jewish countrymen and the preservation of their identity resonate today in contemporary situations and debates.
The Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) is a 15th-century church in Amsterdam located on Dam Square, next to the Royal Palace. Formerly a Dutch Reformed Church parish, it now belongs to the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. The Nieuwe Kerk is no longer used for church services but is used as an exhibition space. It is also used for organ recitals. There is a café in one of the buildings attached to the church that has an entrance to the church (during opening hours). There is a museum store inside the entrance that sells postcards, books, and gifts having to do with the church and its exhibitions. The church is used for Dutch royal investiture ceremonies (as per Article 32 of the Dutch Constitution) most recently that of King Willem-Alexander in 2013, as well as royal weddings, most recently the wedding of Willem-Alexander to Máxima in 2002. The investitures of Queens Wilhelmina, Juliana and Beatrix also took place there.
The Kalverstraat is a busy shopping street of Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. The street runs roughly North-South for about 750 meters, from Dam Square to Muntplein square. The Amsterdam Museum is located in a former orphanage between Kalverstraat and Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal. The Kalverstraat is the most expensive shopping street in the Netherlands, with rents of up to 3000 euros per square meter (2016). In 2009 it was the 17th most expensive street in the world measured by rent prices. The Kalverstraat is also the most expensive street in the Dutch version of Monopoly.
The Amsterdam Museum, until 2011 called the Amsterdams Historisch Museum, is a museum about the history of Amsterdam. Since 1975, it is located in the old city orphanage between Kalverstraat and Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal. The museum exhibits various items related to the history of Amsterdam, from the Middle Ages to the present time. Many of the original furnishings of the city orphanage are on display, as are artifacts relating to the Rasp house, the former house of correction in Amsterdam where the prisoners were forced to rasp wood to make sawdust. As of 2011, the museum manages 70,000 objects kept in various buildings and storage areas. Of those, approximately 25,000 have been photographed and are available to the public online. To celebrate the change of their name (dropping the word “Historical”) and the 10th anniversary of Wikipedia on January 15, 2011, the museum “gave” Wikipedia a USB stick with the online photo collection to symbolize the public release of their high-quality digital photographs made of their collection. This includes all two-dimensional objects that were already free of copyright, but new is the set photos of three-dimensional art. The museum has on display paintings, models, archeological findings, photographs, etc.
The Tropenmuseum (Museum of the tropics) is an ethnographic museum located in Amsterdam, Netherlands, founded in 1864. One of the largest museums in Amsterdam, the museum accommodates eight permanent exhibitions and an ongoing series of temporary exhibitions, including modern and traditional visual arts and photographic works. The Tropenmuseum is part of the Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (Dutch Museum of World Cultures), a combination of three ethnographic museums in the Netherlands. Until March 2014 the museum was owned and operated by the Royal Tropical Institute, a foundation that sponsored the study of tropical cultures around the world. The museum had 176,000 visitors in 2009. The museum houses 175,000 objects, 155,000 photographs and 10,000 miscellaneous drawings, paintings, and documents. It inherited 15,000 of these from the Ethnographisch Museum Artis. These objects are split up into many collections. The museum houses collections for many geographical areas such as Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia & North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. They also have several collections in storage that fall outside of their scope. These include collections for China, Japan, Korea, and Europe. The photography collection consists mainly of historical photographs of the former Dutch Colonies from 1855–1940. In the period 2009-2015 the Tropemmuseum released 50,000 photographs under a Creative Commons licence to the Wikimedia Commons. A theatric collection is housed at the Tropenmuseum as well. The collection houses 5,500 musical instruments as well as various other theatrical objects such as masks and puppets. It also features 21,000 textile artifacts, a majority of which are from Indonesia. Tropenmuseum Junior is a sub-museum. It features interactive exhibits, and draws 30,000 children a year.