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8 Must-Visit Cultural Sights in Amsterdam

With thousands of preserved renaissance buildings and numerous museums, Amsterdam is, without a doubt, a European cultural hub.

Concentrated on about 2,000 acres in Amsterdam are close to 7,000 buildings initially erected in the 16th to the18th century. The area is also home to the city’s grachten – a network of 160 canals connecting small islands within the city. 

The connecting bridges have had their original charm largely preserved and are a sight to behold in itself. These eye-catching bridges would, of course, include the famed wooden Magere Bridge. 

But that’s not all, of course. For any visitor spending some time in Amsterdam, the following cultural sights are must-visits. 

1. Van Gogh Museum

For some 50 years, the Van Gogh Museum of Amsterdam has been a mecca of sorts for art lovers and tourists. Even the building itself is an excellent example of contemporary architecture.

It houses one of the world’s most extensive collections of the legendary painter’s works and personal artifacts, most of which came from Theo van Gogh, the brother of Vincent. 

In addition to the 500 etchings and 200 canvases housed, you can also see Van Gogh’s personal letters. What’s more, all of the critical periods of Van Gogh’s works are on display. 

You can also opt for the Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience while there. It’s an interactive presentation of the painter’s life and most iconic paintings. 

2. Dam Square

Dam Square is a fixture on any given tourist’s Amsterdam map.

The main attraction here is the Koninklijk Palace, which is still the site of Dutch royal activities. On top of that, adjacent cultural attractions include Madame Tussauds and the Nieuwe Kerk (the New Church). And this is where you can see the National Memorial Statue that was built as a homage to WWII soldiers.  

When you run out of energy, you can take a break at one of the restaurants and cafes nearby. There’s also a Ferris wheel on which you may acquire a unique perspective of the area. 

3. Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam

Located in the heart of Amsterdam, the botanical garden is among the oldest in the world. It was a small garden of medicinal plants when it first opened in the mid-17th century. Fast forward almost 400 years and the botanical garden of today has an impressive collection of exotic and rare flora. 

Of particular interest is the hothouse that contains several zones of tropical plants. Additionally, you may want to check out the garden’s old pavilion that dates back to the 17th century. 

Want to see some rare plants? Keep your eyes peeled for the Persian Ironwood just for a start. 

4. The Begijnhof

If the Amsterdam weather obliges, make sure to take a walk to the Begijnhof. This is actually part of old Amsterdam with historic homes and charming pathways and lanes. 

You’ll see some of the oldest homes in the city, including an intact wooden building from the 1300s. Some of the most beautiful green lawns you’ll ever find are right here. The Begijnhof also has a small chapel erected by the original settlers that’s still operational and open to visitors. 

A hideaway in the middle of the city, the best way to explore the area is to travel on foot and soak up its unique vibe. 

5. Rijksmuseum

Believe it or not, the Rijksmuseum collection encompasses a million artifacts that date back to as far back as the 13th century. The museum’s 250 rooms have 8,000 paintings on display, including those by the world’s most renowned artists. 

Book lovers will also be delighted once they step foot in the Rijksmuseum. After all, it’s home to more than 35,000 manuscripts and books, and those on display ably demonstrate the evolution of Dutch culture and art.

Other notable collections include medieval sculptures, traditional handicrafts, and contemporary art. The museum even has a Michelin-starred restaurant where you can really treat yourself and your company. 

6. Jordaan

Distinctly memorable, this district has a captivating mix of traditional architecture, high-street boutiques, and open-air markets. 

When in Jordaan, know that you’re only a short walk away from the Woonboot Museum, the Anne Frank House, and the Amsterdam Cheese Museum. And if you’re visiting on a Saturday, you’ll want to check out Lindengracht street. Formerly a canal, the street turns into a market where you’ll find an array of local produce and crafts on that particular day. 

As you might expect, this is a district where trendy cafes and restaurants abound. Some are even known to put on regional traditional folk music all day. 

7. Anne Frank House

A monument to a WWII tragedy, Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam has been restored and preserved to the original state left behind by Anne Frank’s family. In fact, the original copy of the famous diary is on display. 

Considering this is one of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attractions, tickets must be reserved well in advance. To be absolutely sure, you might want to book your tickets at least two months prior to your visit.

8. Vondelpark

Covering 120 acres, Vondelpark is the biggest park in Amsterdam. It has an eclectic mix of cultural hotspots and captivating gardens but the rose garden may be of particular interest to those yearning to see a collection of the most fantastic varieties.

There are statues, sculptures, and cultural venues to be found here. The Vondelpark Open Air Theater is a highlight and, if you visit at the right time, you can see a show as it holds stage productions between the months of May and September. 

You’ll also find that the locals often organize picnics at Vondelpark. But for the tourists, the plentiful cafes in and around the park may be a more convenient option if you get hungry. 

Your Cultural Renaissance in Amsterdam

It’s safe to say that the cultural riches of Amsterdam put the glorious history of the Dutch on full display. From stunning works of art to one-of-a-kind public spaces, this city is bound to leave you breathless. 

You can even walk to most of the attractions when in Amsterdam. Needless to say, you can discover so much about the city in such a short time.


Unique Bars in Amsterdam for a Fun Night Out

Areas such as Leidseplein and the red light district of Amsterdam need no introduction. But to drill it down further, check out some of the best bars in the city. 

Would you like to have schnapps at a remodeled former pirate radio and TV station? Or maybe cocktails at an 11th floor lounge?  

Whatever your guilty pleasure, the best bars in Amsterdam will deliver beyond your wildest expectations. Discover all the best bars to drop by and brace yourself for an unforgettable night out in one of Europe’s hippest cities. 

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

1. REM Eiland

Perched above a river is an oil-rig-like structure known as REM Eiland. 

Famous Amsterdam architectural company Concrete is responsible for the groundbreaking design, and the fire engine red accents on the exterior make the building even more eye-catching. 

REM Eiland is a booth, bar, and restaurant with a menu to suit any taste. The most popular seating areas are the wraparound platform and the rooftop helipad, for which you might have to reserve in advance. 

2. SkyLounge

The aptly named SkyLounge has one of the best views of Amsterdam’s canals. In fact, this is only one of several bars and restaurants offering a 360° panoramic view of the city. 

The lounge is part of the DoubleTree hotel and great to visit at any time of the day. But if you arrive just before sunset, you’ll be able to catch the cityscape’s transformation from sun-washed to glittery. 

For an even more immersive yet relaxing experience, the SkyTerrace has plenty of sofas on which you and your company can relax with a tasty cocktail in hand. 

3. ‘t Smalle

Situated on the UNESCO-listed Golden Age canal, Café ‘t Smalle is located in a converted 18-century gin distillery. Its unique setting includes a canal-banked terrace at the bar where patrons can dock their boats. 

As soon as you step inside the bar, you’ll be greeted by the lead-framed windows characteristic of Amsterdam’s canal ring. Some of the vintage beer pumps are even still operational. 

And in case you’re wondering, yes, the gin produced at the facility in its previous incarnation is still available for order. 

4. Westergasterras

This bar is in western Amsterdam and within the revamped Westergasfabriek complex. Formerly a gasworks plant, it is now a hotspot frequented by the locals and tourists. 

Among all the attractions in the city, Westergasterras is a definite highlight. The location is a large outdoor terrace overlooking a neighboring weir that’s complete with ponds. 

The bar puts its sizable space to good use, as it hosts events, art exhibitions, and some of Europe’s best DJs. 

5. Brouwerij ‘t IJ

For those with a taste for craft beer, know that Brouwerij ‘t IJ is one of the best beer bars in Amsterdam. The location is a converted mid-18th century windmill with the sails intact and imparting a unique charm.

The organic microbrewery stocks a range of seasonal, standard, and limited-edition beers. And as you might suspect, some of these are far more potent than Budweiser and Coors. 

Brouwerij ‘t IJ also offers half-hour beer-tasting tours. But if you prefer, you can drink at your own pace in the indoor tasting room. 

You may want to hang out at the bar’s tree-shaded outdoor terrace if the weather permits. 

6. Door 74

Door 74 has the feel of a Prohibition-era speakeasy adjacent to the iconic Rembrandtplein square. But what’s most interesting is that you can’t just walk into this bar. 

For a start, the doors are unmarked. You’re going to have to text or call beforehand to get in. It’ll all be worth it, though. 

Besides the speakeasy charm, the pressed-tin ceiling and the liberal use of dark wood add a classy flair to the place. Keep in mind that the menu changes every few months. Just to give you an idea, some of the more unique themes include Tarzan jungle and 1920s horror. 

And here’s an important tip: whenever you feel like drinking, never ask for a mojito. 

7. Flying Dutchmen Cocktails

Out of all the cocktail bars in Amsterdam, the Flying Dutchmen is definitely on the busier side. The crowds gather here for the Art Nouveau interior and award-winning cocktails. 

As if the bar needs any more hype, the Spirited Awards made one of the co-owners a nominee for the best bartender award four years running. 

The Flying Dutchmen serves classic cocktails based on centuries-old recipes. Avid drinkers will have a good time deciding on one or more of the 600 labels that the bar routinely keeps in stock. 

8. Belushi’s

When it comes to partying and fun, Belushi’s is it. 

The bar is on the outskirts of the red light district and a great place to start off a night on the town. It’s a place where many arrive and wouldn’t think of going anywhere else. 

If for nothing else, Belushi’s has the longest happy hour in Amsterdam. Budget-conscious partygoers will delight in the fact that it’s on the affordable side.  

Belushi’s also serves snacks and burgers before the party officially kicks off – that would be 10 pm on most nights. The bar can get absolutely packed and the music is consistently great, though you may want to look up the DJ schedule before heading over. 

In the end, its patrons are probably Belushi’s best assets. This hostel bar is a melting pot of people from all over the world. 

Let’s Tango in Amsterdam

Now you know all the bars in Amsterdam that you can’t afford to miss. So, feel free to hop from one place to another until you find a place to dock. But keep in mind that the above only scratches the surface of what Amsterdam has to offer. 

As you make your way around town, you’re bound to run into some cool bars on your own. And that’s a very good thing, seeing as half the fun is in the search.

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