Wet weather activities in Amsterdam

Thanks to its location in northern Europe, Amsterdam weather does inevitably enjoy some variation from time to time. Ok, a lot of the time. But a little rain never hurt anyone – especially not the locals who you'll see whizzing around on their bikes in all weathers, expertly balancing umbrellas, children, luggage and dogs as they go. If you’re not quite ready for the one-handed umbrella cycle and you’d rather keep warm and dry on your next trip to the city, then there’s a fine selection of indoor activities and attractions in to keep you busy in Amsterdam.

Visit the Rijksmuseum

JL Marshall

The Rijksmuseum was made for rainy days in Amsterdam

A bit of a no-brainer, but the Rijksmuseum should be top of anyone’s list of indoor activities in Amsterdam. You can easily spend the entire day exploring the museum’s vast collection without even noticing the weather outside, so save it for a rainy day to enjoy its wonders without a shred of anxiety about missing out on the sunshine. Once you’re cultured up to the max, then you can get something to eat or drink while you watch the crowds at the museum’s beautiful atrium café, or enjoy more formal dining at RIJKS restaurant, with its views of the Rijksmuseum’s lovely gardens, albeit in the rain.

Discover museums and galleries galore

Rembrandthuis Amsterdam Kees Hageman

Rembrandt's former home is now a museum dedicated to his life and works

There are over 100 museums and galleries to explore in Amsterdam, ranging from the grand and formal to the quirky and unusual. The Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, Rembrandt House and Stedelijk Museum are all amongst Amsterdam’s top attractions, but if the queues are too large on a rainy day then head out to one of Amsterdam’s more unusual museums, which include a psychedelic fluoro basement, an entire canal house given over to cat worship, and a macabre collection of skeletons and body parts.

Hang out in cosy pubs

Keep cosy and dry at a traditional Amsterdam pub like Cafe Heffer

Now we’re talking. What better excuse is there than wet weather to hole up in a cosy pub and wait for the storm to pass. Amsterdam is famous for  its traditional, historical café bars - known as Brown bars due to their wood-heavy décor and nicotine stained walls. Or for maximum cosy points, find a pub with a sheltered outdoor terrace and snuggle up under the heaters while the rain pounds the cobbles around you.

Tour a brewery

The Heineken experience will keep you dry on rainy days, though not in all senses of the word

While we’re on the subject of imbibements, you could also escape the rain at one of Amsterdam’s many breweries or tasting houses. Beer fans should head to the behemoth Heineken Experience brewery tour, or for a more local experience, visit one of the city’s many independent microbreweries. If beer’s not your thing, then you can learn all about the city’s other favourite tipple, Jenever, at House of Bols - or try some homemade liqueurs at a historic Proeflokaal like De Admiraal or Het Gemaal.

Go shopping indoors

Indoor shopping centres like Magna Plaza are best saved for a wet day

Well, you might need to buy an umbrella. Or a rain coat. Or maybe a lovely new pair of shoes. Shopping opportunities in Amsterdam are abundant – from the quaint, boutique-filled lanes of the Nine Streets to the high-end Designer stores of Museum District. If you want to keep your entire shopping trip indoors then visit Amsterdam’s high-end department store De Bijenkorf, or Magna Plaza shopping centre, located in a historic building behind Dam Square.

Eat, drink and be dry at De Hallen

Foodhallen Amsterdam De Hallen Franklin Heijnen

Eat your way around Amsterdam under one roof at De Hallen's upmarket food hall

This converted tram depot in the south west of the city is now a funky haven of food, film and culture, and an ideal place to take shelter on a rainy day in Amsterdam. The vast, industrial building houses an arthouse cinema, boutique hotel and several independent outlets, as well as a vibrant local goods market every weekend. De Hallen’s piece de resistance has to be its beautiful Foodhallen – a huge indoor foodie market offering a fantastic selection of upmarket street munchies from local Amsterdam vendors, as well as a range of specialist bars. Rain? What rain?

Soak up some culture (without getting soaked) at Westergasfabriek

Cultuurpark Westergasfabriek Amsterdam Edwin van Eis

The city's former gasworks is now a sprawling cultural complex

This complex of late 19th century industrial buildings in Westerpark was once the city’s gasworks, but after a complete redevelopment in 2003 it re-opened as a cultural complex, housing a selection of independent shops, galleries, trendy restaurants and interesting venues.  While the complex does host frequent outdoor markets and events, it has enough going on indoors to keep any visitor entertained for an entire rainy day – and with a busy schedule of indoor exhibitions, food markets and cultural events, you’ll always find something new to discover.

Take a canal cruise

Merijn Roubroeks

Amsterdam's canal boats have retractable rooves to keep you dry on rainy days 

Created in the 17th century to keep the sea at bay, Amsterdam’s UNESCO protected canal belt is the quintessential picture-postcard vision of Amsterdam – and it doesn’t need to be a dry day to enjoy a canal cruise in Amsterdam. In fact, touring the city’s waterways in a cosy glass-ceilinged boat is one of the very best ways to see the sights in wet weather, and you’ll learn lots of fascinating facts along the way. There are many different canal cruises to choose from, from hop-on-hop-off sightseeing tours to atmospheric candlelit night time cruises. Find out more about Amsterdam canal cruises and book your trip online.

Immerse yourself in science

Nemo Amsterdam Edwin van Eis

Keep the kids happy and dry at NEMO Science Museum 

Wet weather is no match for NEMO; Amsterdam’s iconic green-clad science centre located amidst the city’s Eastern Docklands. The ideal place to keep kids entertained on a rainy day, this huge, interactive museum has five floors of continuously updated exhibitions, theatre performances, films, workshops and demonstrations. Playful installations help kids and big kids alike smell, hear, feel and see how the world works – and you might even learn something hopeful about the weather outside.

Explore an indoor market

Amsterdam Roest

Amsterdam Roest hosts regular indoor markets and fairs 

Throughout the month there are various indoor markets held across Amsterdam, offering the opportunity to go treasure hunting for bargains and local wares in unique and interesting locations. The IJ-Hallen at NDSM Wharf is a cavernous warehouse which hosts the biggest flea market in Europe every couple of weeks, in impressive post-industrial surroundings (check the website for dates). The similarly industrial Amsterdam Roest also hosts regular indoor markets and fairs - so check their agenda for details. Meanwhile, the Neighbourfood Market takes place at Westergasfabriek every third weekend of the month, bringing a vibrant mix of food truck vendors together in one place for a culinary, cultural experience that’ll make you forget all about the weather outside.  

Read: 10 reasons why winter is the best time to visit Amsterdam
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