Things to do in Amsterdam
Our favourite things to do in Amsterdam
Weekend breaks to Europe are cheap. If you find the right flight and the right hotel at the right time of year, they can be cheaper than weekend breaks in the UK. In short, weekend breaks to Europe are the ‘in thing’.
And with flights from Glasgow Airport to Amsterdam available for as little as £80, and taking only an hour and a half, Amsterdam is a great choice. Of course, it isn’t just the relative inexpensiveness of the flights that makes Amsterdam such a good option.
It’s the fact that Airport Park and Ride provides the safest, most secure airport parking options in Glasgow as well.
Seriously, Amsterdam is a beautiful city, and there is so much to do there that it can be difficult to know what to try to pack into a weekend visit. Whether you’re there for the culture, or there for the sub-cultures, Amsterdam really does have everything.
For your delectation, and to help you to plan your trip, we’ve put together a list of our favourite things to do in Amsterdam.
Explore the Red-Light District
The oldest part of Amsterdam is, again, under scrutiny from the council – this time there is talk of the City Council trying to gentrify the area, by opening smoothie shops.
However, the red-light district is still an interesting area to wander around, with everything from a museum of weird and wonderful condoms, to the more obvious.
The coffee shops
Another quintessential element of Amsterdam is the myriad cannabis cafés that operate there. Even if, like me, you don’t partake, some of the cafés are really cool places to go and have a coffee and watch the city go by.
Hill Street Blues is particularly cool inside, with graffiti-laden walls, pool tables and a lower section at the back that opens on to a terrace over the canal.
Visit the flower market
I feel that this particular item is best preceded with an anecdote from my own experience.
The second time I went to Amsterdam, my friends and I got the ferry from Hull to Rotterdam, then drove from Rotterdam to Amsterdam. On the way, there is the longest, straightest road you’re likely to see outside of Route 66. And it’s bordered by tulip fields for its entire length. It’s a truly magnificent sight when they are in flower. A patchwork of colourful fields as far as the eye can see, punctuated by the occasional greenhouse or windmill. Stunning.
The flower market in Amsterdam is an extension of these fields – the Bloemenmarkt is a wonderful place for an afternoon stroll.
The Botanical Garden at Vrije University
Staying with the theme from the last item on the list, I also highly recommend the Botanical Gardens at Vrije University.
With over 6,000 species of plant growing in this small garden – which interestingly, often becomes the final resting place of rare and endangered plant species intercepted by customs at Schiphol Airport – it’s a really interesting, vibrant place to visit.
It also hosts concerts and workshops.
Try the street food
Amsterdam is home to some amazing street food.
The waffles are amazing. Try them. Then try them again. You will not be disappointed.
Also, perhaps less popular than the waffles, but maybe more interesting in a weird way: you need to try the raw herring. It may sound disgusting to some, but it isn’t. Especially if you are there between May and July when the new catch comes in.
There are herring stalls all over the place, but I think one of the best is Stubbe’s Herring, near Centraal Station.
Take a brewery tour
The ‘Heineken Experience’ takes place in the old Heineken Brouwerij, and it’s a nailed on ‘must do’ if you’re in Amsterdam and you like beer.
There’s a virtual reality ride, a history of the Heineken family and, best of all; a free beer tasting – you get three pints at the end of the tour. There’s even an app that will take visitors on a historic journey round the brewery.
There’s also a tour available at the local microbrewery, the IJ Brouwerij.
Visit the Vondelpark
The Vondelpark is the largest green space in Amsterdam and it also just happens to be the perfect spot for a picnic.
Named after Amsterdam’s best known poet, Joost van den Vondel, – whose play Lucifer incensed the religious institution of the time – in summer, the park is filled with people who gather to drink, smoke, eat and relax.
The park also houses a variety of sculptures, including one by Picasso, and from June to September a variety of music, dance and children’s activities are on.
Anne Frankhuis (Anne Frank’s house)
You can’t really do a list of things to do in Amsterdam without including this.
The world-famous house where Anne Frank wrote her diaries, and hid with her family during WWII can get busy, but is an atmospheric and emotional experience. Definitely one to visit.
The Van Gogh Museum
Pretty self-explanatory, really, this one.
The museum is home to a vast collection of paintings, prints, etchings, correspondence and other works by the celebrated Impressionist who was famously alcoholic (with a particular taste for absinthe), cut off his own ear and went on to commit suicide by shooting himself in the chest.
Interestingly, only one of his paintings ever sold during his lifetime. If you are at all interested in art, the Van Gogh museum is well worth the time.
Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt’s house)
The house doesn’t actually house any of Rembrandt’s paintings. However, the restored building where Rembrandt van Rijn once lived does house the world’s most complete collection of his magnificent etchings and interesting objets d’art that he once owned.
There’s an audio guide included in the admission fee, and you can even watch an etching demonstration to give you a greater idea of, and appreciation for, the skill involved.
Artis Royal Zoo
The zoo itself is home to around 750 species, and there’s also an aquarium, a butterfly garden, a planetarium and an insectarium.
It will probably take you a whole day to make your way round all of it, but if you’re looking for things to do in Amsterdam and have a family in tow, the zoo is a great option.
Not even close to the size of the Vondelpark, Begijnhof provides a lovely little island of tranquillity in the middle Amsterdam. Begijnhof is a small, grass courtyard, accessed via a narrow passageway, in the middle of a square of historic buildings, dating back to the early 1300s.
Begijnhof isn’t the place to drink and smoke that Vondelpark provides, but it is a fantastic place to sit and relax, have a read and admire the architecture.
Now re-opened, after extensive restoration works that took 10 years, the Rijksmuseum has a truly world-class collection of art.
If you want to see the Netherlands’ most extensive and impressive collection of art and artefacts from the 15th century to the present day, then the Rijksmuseum is the place to go.
Home to Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, and Vermeer’s Kitchen Maid, along with a new atrium and a new Asian Pavilion, it really, really is worth a visit if you have even a passing interest in art.
Leidseplein is the centre of Amsterdam’s night life scene. It has everything: concert venues; theatres; casinos; nightclubs; cinemas; restaurants and coffee shops – catering for pretty much everyone.
If you like to really get into the atmosphere of a city while you’re there, then Leidseplein is the place to go. A must visit if you like a bit of excitement.
Amsterdam’s Latin Quarter, De Pijp is home to ethnic restaurants, eclectic shops, and a lively atmosphere. The area is also well known for its fantastic 19th century architecture, and you can find the famous Albert Cuyp Markt here, too.
A brilliant place to find a café, have a coffee and a waffle and use as a starting point for a wander round this stunning city.
Glasgow Airport Park and Ride
When you’re planning your trip to Amsterdam, there’s no better place to book your Glasgow Airport parking than www.airportparkandride.com. With the largest selection of Park Mark awarded, secure airport car parks in Glasgow, all of which provide on-demand shuttle buses to and from the airport, book your airport parking with us and make sure your car is in safe hands while you’re enjoying the sights in Amsterdam.