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The Greatest Things to Do in Amsterdam

So, you're heading to 'Dam? Here are our favourite ways to spend the time

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Terraced buildings alongside a canal in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Holland this, the Netherlands that. Who cares what it is really called (some people might) - the fact is, it’s great. In terms of the stereotypical images it conjures up, there are few to rival the country in quantity. Tulips, canals, bikes, cheese and certain activities considered illicit elsewhere. As the capital city of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is at the centre of all of this. From its medieval centre - replete with those famous coffee shops and the Red Light District - to the Canal Ring, it makes for a fascinating destination. And here at Plum Guide, we can make it even more fascinating if you heed our expert advice, because we've gone above and beyond to create the ultimate guide for you to enjoy the perfect trip away. You’ll go on tours to learn about (and sample) cheese and beer, before delving into some of the best art galleries in Europe. And then, a poignant foil to the fun and debauchery in this city in the form of the Anne Frank House. It serves as a reminder of some of the worst moments in human history, and sits high on any list of things to do in Amsterdam.

Visit the many museums

Speaking of learning, one of Amsterdam’s allures is its great range of museums and galleries. The Rijksmuseum is all the rage, as one of the most comprehensive museums in the country. It tells the story of Holland (or the Netherlands) from the Middle Ages up to the 20th century. Here, you’ll also be able to see paintings by Rembrandt, before exploring the Asian Pavilion and the fountains in the garden. Other top museums here include the Van Gogh Museum, the Body Worlds and the Moco Museum Amsterdam. It’s the perfect solution for a rainy day in Amsterdam (though, here’s hoping for sun and blue skies).

Dutch Days, Plum Guide home in Amsterdam

Dutch Days, Plum Guide home in Amsterdam

Travel on two wheels

Bicycles leaning against a railing above a canal in Amsterdam

Bicycles leaning against a railing above a canal in Amsterdam

If you really want to experience Amsterdam like the locals do, then forget the wooden shoes and tulips. It’s bikes that really spur the Dutch soul on. There are 320 miles (515 kilometres) of cycle lanes in the city, and apparently more bikes than people. It could even be said that locals value bicycles as much as people (so watch out, as you cross the lanes). The city is flat and relatively small, so renting a bike from one of the many shops is a great way to get around and visit all your favourite attractions.

Clockwork Orange, Plum Guide home in Amsterdam

Clockwork Orange, Plum Guide home in Amsterdam

Walk along the canals

Boats docked and a boat driving along a canal in Amsterdam

Boats docked and a boat driving along a canal in Amsterdam

They don’t call it the Venice of the North for nothing. Amsterdam is absolutely riddled (but in a positive way…let’s say criss-crossed) with waterways. In fact, the 17th-century canal ring around the city centre is recognised as a UNESCO heritage site, so you can feel all cultural, as you explore these historic waterways and the old-world houses that overlook them. And you can also experience these canals from the inside, with all sorts of cruises available. Back outside, dine at one of the restaurants and cafés overlooking the canals, as you soak up the energetic atmosphere - which in itself is definitely one of the top things to do in Amsterdam.

My Darling Clementine, Plum Guide home in Amsterdam

My Darling Clementine, Plum Guide home in Amsterdam

Pop into the coffee shops

Amsterdam is absolutely packed with quaint and charming cafés. But be aware that when people talk about their favourite coffee shops, they might just be talking about the legal highs indulged by the people of this liberal part of the world. Cannabis (or marijuana) is legal here, so certain coffee shops are filled with so much smoke that you can get high just from looking at them (or at least, sitting within them). It might not be your thing, but it’s still interesting to see some of the iconic coffee shops even if you don’t partake. Among the most iconic ones are the Grey Area, Barney’s Coffeeshop and Green House United.

Black Tulips, Plum Guide home in Amsterdam

Black Tulips, Plum Guide home in Amsterdam

Enjoy the scenery

View of a tall bell tower from the Staalmeestersbrug bridge overlooking a canal, Amsterdam, Netherlands

View of a tall bell tower from the Staalmeestersbrug bridge overlooking a canal, Amsterdam, Netherlands

In addition to being a hub of culture and entertainment, this city is a sight for sore eyes. When looking for things to do in Amsterdam, sometimes ‘looking’ suffices. Make your way to the A’dam Lookout for spectacular views. If you’re feeling brave enough, get on the swing at the top of the lookout. Stop for breakfast, lunch or dinner at the Madam Restaurant & Sky Bar here too. Continue relishing the beautiful vistas at the Vondelpark, and enjoy a picnic by the lake.

Take a trip to the Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank House is simply one of those destinations that you have to see. The museum is dedicated to the young girl who kept a diary while hiding in the attic from the Nazis. Embark on the audio tour to learn about her story, and study some of the artefacts and original items that belonged to her, playing a part in her tragic history.

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