5 touristy things you should probably do in Amsterdam


Touristy stuff you should really do on your next trip to Amsterdam.

I’m so over the whole (murky) “traveller” vs. “tourist” debate.  To me, they are one and the same — two sides of the same coin.  I’m not sure when it became cool to not do the touristy stuff in a destination (though I’d wager it was around the same time that the phrase “travelling off the beaten path” catapulted itself into rampant overuse), but I for one still find it important to experience some of the more salient aspects or attractions of a place.


With this in mind, after  Liebling and I booked our plane tickets and hotel for Amsterdam, I contacted the tourism board  to see if they could assist with what to do once there. In response, they provided us with a long list of information and things to try, a tad overwhelming since we had less than 36 hours in the city.  They also gave us two I amsterdam city cards— the cards provide free entry to or significant discounts on most of the attractions the city has on offer.

Anyhoo, I digress. I present five über touristy things we did that you probably shouldn’t miss when in Amsterdam:


1. Ride a bike

I usually prefer using my own two feet to get me places but I longed to join the oodles of people on bikes in Amsterdam. So it was inevitable that I would twist Liebling’s arm and get a little cycling in. We got our wheels from MacBike and spent the afternoon leisurely pedaling around town. (Not going to lie though, there was torrential rain part of the time, I had difficulty maneouvring traffic and damn near ran into a tram, and my derriere was sore for a few hours after our adventure. Eh.)





2. Do a canal tour

Jumping in a boat and navigating Amsterdam’s waterways is another fab way to explore the city.




3. Stroll through the Red Light District

I wrote that  my visit to the district made me highly uncomfortable and challenged my beliefs about moral responsibility and female agency.  Whatever your feelings on the topic of legalized prostitution, you should stroll through the district at least once.  Not to ogle, but to become more aware.



4. Visit the Van Gogh museum/ Anne Frank House/ Rijksmuseum

Tight on time, we only made it inside the Van Gogh museum (though we did manage to walk around the premises of the nearby Rijksmuseum and snap pictures before the iconic I amsterdam sign). Van Gogh’s artistic genius and documented struggle with mental illness have always piqued my interest, despite me not being a huge fan of his actual work.





5. Indulge in some Dutch street eats

Have some raw herring or poffertjes (dutch mini pancakes) or fries (topped off with one of many special sauces available — though admittedly, plain old mayo is my favourite).



 Have you ever been to Amsterdam?  Do you agree with my suggestions?


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  • Thanks for posting this. We are heading there in a couple of days to visit my sister. We have done 2 – 4 so we’ll have to try for 1 & 5 this time around. Thanks!

  • Yes, I agree considering I’ve done 3 out of the 5 things on your list. Perhaps next time I’m in Amsterdam I’ll dare to ride a bike, and I definitely have to hit up the street food scene the next time as well!

  • Been to Amsterdam and done all these minus riding a bike, i preferred walking:) it’s such a lovely city.

  • I’ve been to Amsterdam many times although I’ve never taken my bike (or rented a bike) there. I did a blog post about them once, though (http://farfromkansas.blogspot.nl/2013/04/pas-opfiets-sundays-in-my-city.html). I’ve done all the other things on your list plus a whole lot more. There’s a great photography museum called Foam that I highly recommend to anyone who likes photography. The Museum of Dutch Resistance is great for those interested in WWII history…post about that here (http://farfromkansas.blogspot.nl/2013/04/i-amsterdam.html). I could go on and on…and on as Amsterdam is my favourite city!

  • Amsterdam is just a happy place! I love everything about Amsterdam and I will definitely be back again and again.

  • Great article. I’ve been to Amsterdam a several times, and each trip, I never used anything but a bike! I also almost ran into a tram (I just got the bike and didn’t realize they were back pedal brakes). But having a separate bike lane, complete with traffic lights was superb. There are more bikes than cars in the city, and whole families sometimes ride the bike. I love to see it so much! Especially since Dutch men and women are typically very tall, so their bikes are massive. Well, my ex was from Amsterdam, and because of him, I was shown many of the amazing parts of the city, touristy and local. All your suggestions are point-on. For those into it, the Heineken Museum was pretty cool. You learn how to make it, you get some free tastings, etc. There are several outdoor vintage markets, there are a few “squares” where locals/tourists hang out, there are chocolate factories, there are the windmills. You’re right. It’s too much!
    Other suggestions are to catch the tulip festival outside of Amsterdam. It’s seasonal, and ends in Spring!
    Overall, Dutch people are amazing. They are very down to earth (hence the lackadaisical attitude toward sex workers and cannabis)! Also, I love the diversity. There are many people from Suriname (another suggestion is to try Surinamese food. Wow!).
    Thanks for allowing me to reminisce!

  • Hear hear re the traveler / tourist thing!
    And for the touristy things in Amsterdam: yes. (though due to long long queues at the Anne Frank House that may not be the best option if you only have 36 hours). I’m Dutch, currently living in Germany, and I think also for locals it’s good and fun to sometimes do touristy things in their own country/city.

  • Haven’t been to Amsterdam yet, but these are some of the top things I want to do there!

    Totally hate the stupid tourist vs. traveler debate as well… nothing wrong with seeing some of the more “touristy” things!

  • The canal tour I did was one of my favorite parts of my Amsterdam trip. As well as the Anne Frank House – I recommend that to anyone who doesn’t have knee problems, as those stairs are SUPER steep.

  • Great list! I’ll be sure to take a look once I make my way there. What I think is interesting about that whole tourist vs. traveller debate is that a lot of the things that are considered ‘touristy’, locals often haven’t done! I’m not sure what my point is, but I think it intrigues me as to why that is – especially when some of the things were there prior to tourism booms.

    Yours in Travel,

  • I have been a few times and if you want to do something really weird and whacky you should go to the Sex Museum. It is a hilarious place!

  • Hi Oneika! Great tips. I just loved the raw herring; I had it both plain and on a bun with pickles and onions. To your list, I’d add two things:
    —Go to an outdoor market – there are so many, and you can find great mementos for your trip.
    —Hit Vondelpark – make a picnic (or by herring and fries 😉 and head into the park to relax and stroll. This is a great spot to see the Amsterdammer’s doing what they do.

    If you’re interested, here’s my post – http://bostonurbansafari.blogspot.com/2012/07/safari-59b-bostonian-in-amsterdam.html

  • Oh noo not the mayo! Amsterdam looks lovely, but no one will ever convince me to mayonnaise on anything. I’ll stick with the sightseeing, instead.

  • I´ve LOVED the canal tour! And also the 3 museums you wrote about. About the food, i think the best dutch thing are the stroopwafel!! About the bike, i think there are too many in Amsterdam so for me it would not be a good idea to ride one! hehehe I have a travel blog in Portuguese, but if you guys want to read, there´s a traslation button on the top right part! My Amsterdam posts are here: http://taindopraonde.blogspot.com.br/2013/09/post-indice-amsterda.html

  • While in Netherlands You should go for Vodka Museum for a boy’s night out or a stag weekend which combines fun with learning! Take a tour around the museum learning everything there is to know about vodka from its history to its production along with the different types of vodka. Of course, you’ll get to learn all about the taste of it too!

  • I absolutely love Amsterdam as an African American. I never felt so accepted anywhere else on the planet. I have visited on a few occasions and on each occasion, it never fails that I have been asked if I am an American. Anecdotally at least, they have very little concept of “African American” only American. Once identified, don’t be surprised that you are invited to parties, bars, homes, etc.

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