Amsterdam is well known around the world for its extensive canal system, its welcoming people, and its rich history that sprung out of its Golden Age in the 17th century. It is a place that is so familiar, many people may feel that they know this city without ever having been there. But the charm of Amsterdam is truly evident when you pay it a visit.
Many River Cruises either begin or end in the city of Amsterdam – whether you are cruising the Rhine River, seeing more of The Netherlands and Belgium on a tulip time cruise, or venturing to the Danube on the Main-Danube canal, you will almost certainly have a chance to explore this magical city. If you can, spend a few extra days here so that you can see as much of this city as possible.
Here are some of the highlights of Amsterdam that you should be sure to explore:
The Jordaan Neighborhood
The Jordaan district is one of the most fun and walkable places in Amsterdam. Built during the city’s rapid expansion during the 1600s, this neighborhood was originally home to working-class families. In the ensuing centuries, it has been transformed into an artistic district known for its winding streets and rich culture.
Those who don’t feel like walking can experience Jordaan via a canal and food tour, where you will experience the beauty of this neighborhood from the water between stops to try authentic Dutch food. Foodies should also visit Jordaan’s open-air markets: Noordermarkt or Lindengracht on Saturdays, and Westerstraat on Mondays. Along with these activities, a trip to the Amsterdam Tulip Museum and the Houseboat Museum will let you learn about some important traditions of the area.
This impressive museum is home to a collection of over 8,000 works, including some truly illustrious artists. Here you will find pieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, De Hooch, and the Hague School. Along with this artwork by some of the Netherlands’ most celebrated painters, you can also view paintings, statues, pottery, and more from around the world and across time. Before leaving, enjoy a meal at the Michelin-rated Rijks Restaurant, then take some time to view the statues on a walk of the surrounding grounds.
The Van Gogh Museum
This museum is entirely dedicated to the impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh. Learn about his life and see how this affected his work by wandering this curated collection that includes his oil paintings, sketches, and letters. Dive deeper into the context of Van Gogh’s work by exploring the collections of paintings by his contemporaries and prints from 19th century Paris, the world he occupied. Finally, take a peek into his personal inspiration by exploring Van Gogh’s own collection of Japanese prints.
Anne Frank House
Born in Frankfurt, Germany to Otto and Edith Frank, Anne Frank and her older sister Margot enjoyed a peaceful life in their homeland until Adolf Hilter’s rise to power in 1933. The Franks then emigrated to Amsterdam, where they lived happily until the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands. They then went into hiding in the annex above this building for two years, before being discovered and sent to concentration camps.
As the lone survivor, Otto transformed the building where they hid into a museum named for his daughter, whose experiences during this time were immortalized in her famous diary. While here, see the rooms where the family stayed, learn about the others who hid with and helped them, and view Anne Frank’s original diary. Make sure to get tickets ahead of time (they become available two months in advance and sell out quickly), as this is a popular destination and visitation is limited.
This beautiful park is the perfect place to spend an afternoon in nature without actually having to leave the city. Built in 1865, it is filled with old trees and has become home to many local bird species. Like the rest of Amsterdam, the park has aquatic features – in fact, the ground level here periodically sinks below the water level, making periodic renovations necessary. In Vondelpark you will find a tea house, statuary, a rose garden, and many bike paths, making this the perfect place to explore via the city’s favorite mode of transportation: the bicycle.
I hope that this guide helps you plan your visit to Amsterdam – or simply makes you want to plan one! to preparing for your river cruise! Please reach out to me if you have any questions about this city or planning a River Cruise.
Kira Gartner is the owner of Blue Sky Destinations, a boutique travel agency specializing in river cruises, luxury expedition cruises and customized European vacations. For years she has helped curious travelers plan vacations that allow them to unwind, reconnect, and immerse themselves fully in a destination. Reach out to her for a free consultation - and let her start designing your dream vacation!