Exploring new cities is fun but can be a bit overwhelming. There is often too much to choose from. If you are going to Amsterdam, this will be the case. You can go on an exploratory cultural adventure and visit some of the world’s best museums. Or, you can see some of Amsterdam’s other side: the wild party scene with the city’s famous coffeeshops and red-light district.
In Amsterdam, there is something for everyone. No matter what you choose to do, we recommend seeing at least a bit of both. Although you might not be interested in going into a coffee shop, it is a unique part of the city. You don’t need to participate to see what it is all about. Meanwhile, if partying is your primary purpose for your trip, you might be surprised to see that Amsterdam’s museums can also be pretty entertaining.
In this overview, we focus on first-time travelers. That means we have selected tours and excursions that focus on exploring the city. We want you to experience Amsterdam to its fullest. And if you have a little bit more time, you can also leave the city by going on an excursion to some of the Dutch beauty that Amsterdam finds itself in the middle of.
If you are wondering what we know about this. We are locals. We have studied and worked in Amsterdam for many years. All tours and excursions in this overview have been selected by us and are available through our affiliate partner GetYourGuide. Not only does GetYourGuide offer reasonable prices, but you also always have the right to cancel your booking until the day before. If you decide to book through these links, we could earn a commission which we will use to further work on Avoid-Crowds.com.
Canal Boat Cruise
Some call Amsterdam ‘the Venice of the North. Like Venice, Amsterdam has endless canals, bridges, and other waterways. The water is the perfect way to explore the city and has played a crucial role in the history of the city.
While on a boat tour, you will explore the heart of the city center. A canal boat cruise in Amsterdam will take one to two hours and come in many different shapes and forms. Some of the available cruises include drinks and snacks while others don’t. Some you can do in the evening while others only set sail during the day. All of them have in common that they all offer the unique experience of exploring Amsterdam from the water.
We recommend booking tickets in advance. This will avoid potentially higher prices while allowing you to skip lines or waiting times in case boats are full.
Amsterdam Small-Group Bike Tour
As soon as you set foot in Amsterdam, you will notice that bicycles are everywhere. Dutch people own an average of 1.3 bikes per person. Yes! There are more bicycles than people in the Netherlands. According to the Dutch government, 27% of all journeys in the country are made by bike.
Bicycles are the way to go if you want to explore Amsterdam like a local. This three-hour bike tour will discover all of Amsterdam’s main sights. A local guide will show you around and explain where and what you are looking at.
A conscious traveler knows that you should always pick small tour groups. Small tour groups are more enjoyable and limit your impact on the destination you visit. This tour offers precisely that. The group size is limited, so you can make the most of the tour.
Small-Group Walking Tour
The best way to explore new cities is on foot. We recommend doing a walking tour on your first day in Amsterdam. This way, you will start to get a feeling for the town. You will understand how to get around and already know the places to go. You will bump into restaurants you want to return to or highlights you want to see again.
This small-group walking tour is perfect for getting your bearings as you visit Amsterdam for the first time. You will enjoy a walking tour through Amsterdam with a professional guide. During the walking tour, you will hear about the city’s heritage, see some top attractions, and discover some local gems.
Go outside the city of Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is beautiful, but staying in the city wouldn’t give you an excellent idea of what life in the Netherlands is all about. That is why we recommend for those staying in Amsterdam a bit longer also explore the Netherlands beyond its capital.
This will bring you to the small villages of Volendam, Edam, and Zaanse Schans. Although these are touristic hotspots, it gives you an idea of what else the country has to offer. You will enter a famous Zaanse Schans windmill, walk past rows of wooden houses in Volendam, and discover how Dutch cheese is traditionally made.
Some love it, while others don’t. No matter what your opinion is, you cannot deny that Heineken is part of Amsterdam’s rich history and part of the country. That is why we recommend all tourists with a bit of time to explore beyond Amsterdam’s city limits. It shouldn’t go on top of your Amsterdam wish list, but the Heineken Experience is worth the entrance fee. We have also been ourselves, and we liked it.
At the Heineken Experience, you will be walking through the old brewery in the middle of Amsterdam’s city center. The brewery is no longer operational and has been transformed into an interactive museum. You will learn how beer is brewed and how Heineken established itself as a world-famous brand. In the end, you will be rewarded with a perfectly served cold Heineken.
Other activities to consider
While we recommend doing one of the five highlights above, there are many more fun activities to choose from in Amsterdam. Here are some of our favorites.
Johan Cruijff Arena
Amsterdam is home to one of the world’s most famous and successful football clubs, AFC Ajax. Ajax plays at the Johan Cruijff Arena in the Eastern part of the city and offers interactive stadium tours. You can easily reach the stadium by train or metro.
Anne Frank and World War 2 Walking Tour
The Netherlands, and especially Amsterdam, suffered heavily under the Nazi occupation. In this tour, you will learn all about this dark history through the work of Anne Frank. As you meander through Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter, you will hear about Anne Frank’s life and family dynamics. Learn about her family’s move from Germany, their time in hiding, and her father’s life after the war. On tour, you will also hear about the Dutch Resistance during the Second World War and see where secret hiding places were located.
Amsterdam: Brothel tour with Sex Worker Guide
The Red-Light District is a part of the city that most tourists stroll through. This walking tour allows you to look behind the curtains respectfully. A sex worker will explain how the sex industry in Amsterdam works and how the safety of the workers is ensured. This brothel tour is a unique experience to spice up your trip to Amsterdam.
Moco Museum to see Banksy's Laugh Now
Do you want to see art made by world-famous artist Banksy? If you are in Amsterdam, you have the chance. Visit the Moco Museum, next to the Van Gogh Museum, where you can see many modern and contemporary art.