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Discover Amsterdam
Meetings and Conventions
Live, Work and Study
Second-hand book market at Het Spui.
Image from Koen Smilde

Things to do in Amsterdam City Centre

With a heritage that stretches back centuries, Amsterdam Centrum buzzes with sights and attractions for all kinds of visitors to the Dutch capital. Meandering through the cobbled streets, you’ll find market squares and tasting rooms, elegant courtyard gardens hidden behind canal houses, age-old churches, world-class museums, department stores and luxury boutiques. Explore the area from the waterways on an unmissable canal cruise or navigate on foot using a themed walking route.

Get stuck into the Museum Quarter

People walking outside Rijksmuseum at Museumplein
Image from Koen Smilde

How could we list things to do in central Amsterdam without insisting you hot-foot it straight to the Museum Quarter? This small area is crammed with some of the most impressive art collections in the world, from old to modern masters, by way of the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh, Moco and Stedelijk museums. Armed with the I amsterdam City Card, you’ll have access to Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk, and more than 70 other museums across Amsterdam. If you’re a real culture vulture, follow our monthly culture guide to see which exhibitions coincide with your trip.

Browse the boutiques along Haarlemmerstraat

Rumors Vintage shop window
Image from Rumors Vintage

You can find a great range of smaller stores on the cosy adjoining shopping streets of Haarlemmerdijk and Haarlemmerstraat. These include a fantastic selection of curated pre-loved and vintage fashion stores without that famous whiff, like Archive 1906, Rumors Vintage & Design, UMÉ Studio and Studio Onrust and independent fashion and decor boutiques like Future Days Shop, The Darling, SUKHA and Six & Sons. The streets’ mind-boggling collection of specialists includes Affaire d’ Eau (bathroom antiques), Vivian Hahn (tableware), Hooks and Yarn (knitting supplies), Lof (wine), Jordino (chocolate and ice cream), ‘t Zonnetje (coffee, tea and herbs), Teuntje (toys and baby supplies), HARTRUYT (designer lighting) and De Kookboekhandel (cookbooks).

Tip: There’s also an organic farmer’s market on Wednesdays at Haarlemmerplein at the end of the Haarlemmerstraat.

Gaze upwards

Canal houses
Image from Koen Smilde

There is so much outstanding architecture in Centrum, the oldest part of Amsterdam; the main challenge is not bumping into people while walking around and gawping up at things. Take your time to appreciate all the beautiful hidden details, from elegant canal house façades with gable stones to quirky statues, monuments, and narrow steegjes (passages). The city’s cherished secret gardens - sometimes hidden behind the doors of unique museums - offer a welcome retreat from a day of sightseeing.

Sample age-old jenever recipes

Proeflokaal Wynand Fockink jenever genever distillery tasting room.
Image from Philipp Benedikt

Centrum’s cobbled streets conceal some charming proeflokalen (tasting rooms), many of which have existed for centuries. Wynand Fockink retains its 17th-century character and product assortment, offering punters the opportunity to sample a variety of jenever (Dutch gin), draft beers and fruit brandies. Impress the bartender by maintaining the tradition of bowing before taking your first slurp. Likewise, Proeflokaal A. Van Wees is a tasting room for the Van Wees Distillery, which continues to make delicious house-made liqueurs and spirits - the perfect aperitif before tucking into the menu of traditional dishes. Have a read of this list of Dutch cuisine to try in Amsterdam to find out what you're getting yourself in for.

Explore on foot

Aerial view of the Homomonument (Gay monument).
Image from Henri Blommers

Amsterdam Centrum is an extremely walkable area, with much to explore crammed into a compact area. Those endless canal rings can sometimes feel disorientating, so why not plan your route using a self-guided itinerary? These themed walking tours have been put together by the city’s best guides, encompassing fascinating topics like the LGBTQI+ history of Amsterdam, maritime trade and sustainability or the romantic stories hiding behind some of the city’s most iconic buildings. All routes include great suggestions for coffee and cake pitstops, too.

Hop on a canal cruise

Canal cruise boat goes under the bridge over the Herengracht canal.
Image from Dennis van de Water

Whether you’re a first-time or frequent visitor, Amsterdam’s UNESCO-listed canal belt is all the more magical when viewed from the water. Glide past the city’s historic offerings on one of the famous canal cruises, witnessing 16th-century churches and iconic drawbridges like the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) from a new angle. Here's a selection of the various tours on offer with multiple options to suit your travel plans. Don't forget that many tour operators are part of the I amsterdam City Card!

Chill at the Marineterrein

People sitting on the terrace of Pension Homeland at the Marineterrein
Image from Pension Homeland

This up-and-coming former-docklands area east of Centraal Station is teeming with hotspots to explore. Pension Homeland encompasses a hotel, restaurant, and brewery with a large waterfront deck that allows you to enjoy a lovely view of the National Maritime Museum and the VOC ship replica. Blissfully off the beaten track on the opposite bank, Hannekes Boom exudes a quirky vibe and boasts one of Amsterdam’s best beer gardens. Locals and savvy visitors gather on sunny days to enjoy the funky vibes, good music and home-cooked BBQ food.

Step into Anne Frank’s diary pages

Anne Frank Huis Museum diary
Image from Cris Toala Olivares

No visit to Amsterdam would be complete without exploring the house where a thoughtful teenager whose name is now known across the world hid during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. Opened in 1960, the Anne Frank House Museum in the Jordaan neighbourhood preserves the annexe where Frank lived with her family for two years. View Anne’s original red-checked diary up close and see the hinged bookcase that led to their concealed living quarters. Check out this dedicated guide for more museums and cultural hotspots in central Amsterdam.

Browse the markets

Noordermarkt market stalls
Image from Koen Smilde

Amsterdam’s historic market squares are taken over by traders and stalls flogging all kinds of wares throughout the week. Nieuwmarkt is the place to go for locally-grown fruit and veg on Saturdays, and in the summer, you can haggle for vintage bargains on Sundays. A flea market and farmers’ market in one, Noordermarkt is a haven for delicious, organic produce, including honey, cheese and homemade cakes, as well as antiques, books and vintage fashion (Monday mornings and Saturdays). Or have a rummage at Spui for rare, second-hand and out-of-print books on Fridays and affordable local art on Sundays.

Indulge in some retail therapy

Shoppers at the Negen Straatjes shopping area.
Image from Koen Smilde

Amsterdam Centrum is home to many of the Netherlands’ flagship stores, grandest department stores and most chic boutiques. For luxury shopping, there’s no better place to start than De Bijenkorf and Magna Plaza, two iconic department stores which tower over Dam Square. Nearby, hit Kalvertoren on Kalverstraat - one of the busiest retail thoroughfares lined with the biggest Dutch and international brands. Or, for independent boutiques and vintage finds, head to some of the centre’s more alternative shopping districts, including De Negen Straatjes (9 Streets), Haarlemmerbuurt or the Spiegelkwartier.