Overview: This guide provides a tour of the most popular sites in Amsterdam's city center. Cycling is recommended as it is the best and most... more »
Overview: This guide provides a tour of the most popular sites in Amsterdam's city center. Cycling is recommended as it is the best and most... more » efficient way to experience Amsterdam. By bicycle this tour will take approximately 3-4 hours. If you choose to walk instead, you can do it but allow approximately 4-5 hours. less «
Bicycling: There are several reputable bicycle rental companies in town including Mac Bike, Mike's Bicycle Rental, Bike City, Orange... more » Bike and Yellow Bike. Check with your hotel or B&B for the location closest to you. Rental shops can instruct you on how to secure your bicycle, where to park your bicycle and how best to cycle in Amsterdam. Pricing and services offered are fairly consistent for all these companies.
Four essential bicycle tips are: Stay to the right, always use hand signals when turning, cross tram tracks at as close to a right angle as possible and when indecisive pull over to the side to figure things out.
Museum entrance: The most efficient way to see any of the major Amsterdam museums (i.e., Anne Frank, Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh) is to buy your tickets in advance online or purchase an Iamsterdam City Card or Museumkaart (museum card). Any of these options get you directly to the front of the line.
The Iamsterdam City Card has three flavors: 24 hours, 48 hours or 72 hours and includes unlimited public transportation, a Blue Boat Co. canal cruise and entrance to two, three or four museums respectively (does not include entry to the Anne Frank House).
The Iamsterdam City Card can be purchased at the VVV Information office at Central Station. The Museumkaart can be purchased at any museum and gets you into all major museums in Amsterdam (except Anne Frank House). The card is valid for one year, and the cost is €40. If you plan on going to four or more museums this is a good value. less «
Since Amsterdam’s beginnings in the 13th century, Dam Square has been the heart of the city. The square's name is derived from the fact that the Amstel River was originally dammed at this spot, giving Amsterdam its original name: “Amstel-damme.” Major points of interest on “the Dam” include the Royal Palace to the west, the New Church to the north... More and the white, phallic National Monument to the east commemorating WWII casualties.
The Royal Palace was completed in 1655 and originally built as a Town Hall. It served that purpose until 1806 when Louis Napoleon, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, became King of Holland. King Louis converted the Town Hall into a Royal Palace, which it remains to this day. The Netherland’s current royal family, the House of Orange headed by Queen Beatrix, maintains its permanent residences in The Hague 35 miles south of Amsterdam. Today the Royal Palace is open to visitors and is occasionally used by the royal family for official functions. The palace is open Tuesday-Sunday 12pm-5pm. Cost is €7.50 for adults, €6.50 for kids aged 5-17 and children younger than 5 are free.
The New Church was originally consecrated in 1408, but was rebuilt in its current Gothic style after a devastating fire in 1645. Today the church is no longer used for regular services, but is a popular exhibition space. It is also used on special occasions such as inaugurations, royal weddings and national memorial services. The New Church’s most famous permanent resident is Michiel de Ruyter (1607-1676), considered the most skilled admiral in Dutch history. The New Church is open daily from 10am-5pm. Cost is €8 for adults; children 15 and younger are free.
As you stand with your back to the Royal Palace, walk (or bike) east across Dam Square and onto Damstraat to continue with the tour.Less
The Old Church, consecrated in 1368, is so named to differentiate it from the New Church that you saw on Dam Square. It is well worth a visit inside to see the beautifully rustic interior and floor burial stones commemorating the historic and wealthy Amsterdam residents buried beneath. Most notable are the organist and composer Jan Pieterszoon... More Sweelinck (1562-1621) and Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh (1612-1642). Rembrandt himself is interred in a pauper’s grave at the Westerkerk across town (more on that later).
Address: Oudekerksplein 23, 1012 GX Amsterdam
Phone: 020 625 8284
13 and older €5
Tower climb €5
Now for a quick trip across the oldest part of Amsterdam. If you are doing this tour by bicycle, I suggest you walk your bike through these areas as the streets are narrow, and some are pedestrian only. I’ll let you know when you should get back on your bicycle.
Notice the red-lit windows surrounding the Old Church. As you walk away from the Old Church you will pass several cannabis coffee shops and pubs on Warmoesstraat, the oldest existing street in Amsterdam.
After turning onto Oudebrugsteeg, at the end of the block of buildings on your left, notice an ornately decorated building. This is the old tax collector's office, built in 1638. At that time the main harbor was just across the street, where today you see several canal cruise ships docked. Taxes were assessed on the goods coming off the merchant ships in this harbor. Notice the Amsterdam coat of arms consisting of two golden lions holding the crest emblazoned with three St. Andrew's crosses and topped with the Austrian imperial crown (once the protectorate of Amsterdam).
Follow the GPS instructions along narrow walkways and pedestrian shopping streets until reaching a cobblestone terrace above the Singel Canal. On this terrace you will see a large statue of Multatuli. Multatuli (a pen name for Eduard Douwes Dekker) was a novelist who wrote about the abuses of colonialism in the Dutch East Indies, earning him the role as Holland’s conscience in the 19th century. As you look north along the Singel you will see the copper dome of the Neo-Classical Round Lutheran Church, which opened in 1671.
OK, back on your bicycles and continue west, crossing over the Herengracht and Keizersgracht. You are now out of the old center and into the western canal district, one of the grandest residential neighborhoods of Amsterdam. In the 17th century (known as the Dutch Golden Age), these neighborhoods were home to the wealthy merchant class that ran Amsterdam. As of 2009 the canal ring is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are four main canals that ring the old center. They are (in order as you move away from the center) the Singel (old Dutch word meaning circle), the Herengracht (Gentleman’s Canal), Keizersgracht (Emporer’s Canal), and the Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal). The Singel was dug around 1450, while the other three were dug in the early 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age.
When you come to the Prinsengracht make a left before crossing over the canal. If you’re biking, you are now traveling against traffic so ride carefully. Riding a bike against traffic is acceptable if your destination is on that block. This applies to you, as you are only 150 meters from our next point of interest, the Anne Frank House.Less
The understated, moving and essential Anne Frank House is well worth the time spent among the tourist throngs. The best way to avoid an hourlong wait is to buy tickets ahead of time online or show up at 8:30am before the museum opens.
During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands (1940-1945) Anne Frank, her parents, her older sister and four... More others spent more than two years hiding in a secret annex behind her father’s business. During this time Anne kept a diary of her thoughts and experiences. The group was arrested in 1944 and sent to concentration camps in Poland and Germany. Only Anne’s father, Otto Frank, survived. This museum tells their story.
Anne Frank House is open daily Sept. 15-March 14 from 9am-7pm and March 15-Sept. 14 from 9am-9pm. Admission prices are €8.50 for adults, €4 for children 10-17 and free for children infant to 9 years old.
Address: Prinsengracht 267, 1016 GV Amsterdam
Phone: 020 5567105
After visiting the Anne Frank House continue south and take in Westerkerk (West Church), which was opened in 1631. Its most famous permanent resident is the Dutch master painter Rembrandt van Rijn who was buried in a pauper's grave here in 1669. At 279 feet, the Westerkerk tower looks over the western canal ring of Amsterdam.
Westerkerk is open to the public Monday-Friday 11am to 3pm (April through October). It is free to view the interior of the church and costs €5 to climb the tower, which you have to be at least 6 years old to climb. Church services (in Dutch) are 10:30am Sundays.
Now follow Prinsengracht eastward. If you’re on a bicycle make sure you are on the correct side of the canal—each side is one way. Just before you reach Leidsestraat pull off to your left to see wonderful examples of neck gables on seven consecutive canal houses. On them are the names of the original seven provinces of the republic: Utrecht, Over-Yssel, Holland, Gelderland, Zeeland, Vriesland and Groeningen.
Turn right on Leidsestraat and hop off your bike, as Leidsestraat is pedestrian only. If you feel like a coffee break, you are presented with two distinct choices. There is a Starbuck’s about 100 meters ahead of you on the left. Or, for something more grand and European, you can go 200 meters farther and enter the Art Deco American Hotel on the right and enjoy the hotel’s beautifully decorated café and restaurant.
Continue away from the center on Leidsestraat and cross the canal. After crossing Stadhouderskade, turn left. After 100 meters you will see the main entrance to Vondelpark on your right.Less
Vondelpark is the most central and most crowded of several large parks that ring Amsterdam’s center. Opened in 1865, the park is named after 17th century author Joost van den Vondel. You will find a statue of Vondel near the first large pond you come to after entering the park. On nice days Vondelpark’s 120 acres are a hub of social activity, and ... Morein the mornings (regardless of weather) it is pleasantly crowded with bicycle commuters crisscrossing the city.
If you’re traveling with children, make a pit stop at the Groot Melkhuis (Large Milkhouse) café, which has a wonderful kids play area, food and drinks. Or, for a less frenetic environment, you can stop at the ‘t Blauwe Theehuis (Blue Teahouse). As you pedal around Vondelpark keep your eyes open for a large original sculpture by Picasso aptly named “The Fish.”
After a nice walk or bike around Vondelpark exit the park where you came in, onto Stadhouderskade. Across the street and 30 yards to the right from this park entrance is the ticket office of the next stop, the Blue Boat Co.Less
A canal boat ride through Amsterdam's canals is a touristy and (during the summer months) crowded activity. It is also highly recommended. The Blue Boat Co.'s tours are approximately 70 minutes and take you through the main canals, into Amsterdam's harbor and onto the Amstel River. All boats have comfortable seating, a small bathroom and a small... More outdoor viewing area. The tour offers a unique perspective of Amsterdam with interesting, yet sparse, recorded commentary in several languages, including English.
Catch an early boat if you want to avoid the crowds. There is no food or drink sold during the cruise, so bring that along with you.
Address: Stadhouderskade 30, 1071 ZD Amsterdam
Phone: 020 6791370
Cruises depart every half hour 10am-6pm
Cruises depart every hour 10am-6pm
Kids 4-12 €7
It is only a five-minute walk from the Blue Boat Co. docks to the next point of interest, Museum Square (Museumplein).Less
The GPS map will take you along the main bicycle/walking path that dissects Museumplein. Pull off to the side right in the center of Museumplein to appreciate the view around you. Most of the major museums are on this square: Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, Concert Building (Concertgebouw), Stedelijk Museum (modern and contemporary art museum) and... More Diamond Museum.
As you face north you'll see the impressive Rijksmuseum, completed in 1885. It was designed by the same architect who designed Central Station five years later, Pierre Cuypers. It is easy to see the similarities between the two buildings. The Rijksmuseum houses an unrivaled collection of Dutch art, including Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, Steen and Avercamp to name a few.
The Rijksmuseum is open daily 9am-6pm. Admission for adults is €12.50, visitors 18 and younger are free.
Behind you, to the south, is the Concertgebouw, completed in 1881. This is one of the premier classical music venues in all of Europe. It is still considered an auditory marvel and the highly regarded Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra calls it home. Through most of the year there are free half-hour rehearsals that are open to the public beginning at 12:30pm. Check the website for details. It's a good way to hear some beautiful music and, just as important, to see the interior of this spectacular building.
As you look at the Concertgebouw, the Van Gogh Museum is to your right (west). The Van Gogh Museum is the most popular tourist attraction in Amsterdam. The museum's collection contains many of Van Gogh's essential works. Notable exceptions are "Starry Night" (which is at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City) and several self-portraits. It is a reasonably sized museum and easily can be seen in two hours. It is open from daily 10am-6pm (until 10pm Fridays); admission is are €14 for adults, free for children infant to 17.
Beyond the Van Gogh Museum, also on your right, is the recently renovated Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam's modern and contemporary art museum. It's permanent collection boasts works by Jackson Pollack, Henri Matisse, Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin and Andy Warhol. The museum also has some good activities for children. The Stedelijk Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm (Thursday until 10pm). Admission is €10 for adults, children infant to 12 are free.
Exit Museumplein to the east as you continue the tour through a neighborhood known as de Pijp (pronounced Pipe) to Amsterdam's largest outdoor market.Less
The Albert Cuypstraat Market is the largest outdoor market in the Netherlands and is open Monday-Saturday 9am-4pm year-round. The market began in 1904, shortly after the expansion of the city was completed. The street is named after Albert Cuyp, a famous 17th century landscape painter. Anything from fresh fruit to bicycles to clothing can be... More purchased here at reasonable prices.
A good place to eat on Albert Cuypstraat is Bazaar, a spacious restaurant that specializes in Eastern cuisine (North African, Moroccan, Turkish) with good options for children and vegetarians. The atmosphere is interesting, as it is a former church that has been redecorated to resemble a mosque. It’s a perfect rest point whether you’re ready for a full meal or just a coffee and baklava. Bazaar is open Monday-Friday 11am-midnight and Saturday-Sunday 9am-midnight.
The GPS route will now take you back to Dam Square along the cute shopping street Utrechtstraat and the grandest of the canals, Herengracht (Gentlemen’s Canal). In the 17th century all the wealthiest and most powerful merchant families lived along the Herengracht. Most of the original houses are still here, but many have been converted from private residences into commercial buildings.Less