Things to do in De Wallen (Red Light District)
De Wallen, as the oldest - and perhaps most notorious - part of the city, offers a fantastic juxtaposition of ancient buildings, romantic architecture and late-night pursuits. Behind the beautiful façades and leaning gabled houses, you’ll find museums, theatres and cultural institutions. The cobbled streets are packed with quirky shops, lively pubs and fantastic restaurants.
Explore a secret church hidden in the attic
On the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, you'll find one of Amsterdam's most unexpected museums. At first glance, Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic) looks like a typical 17th-century canal house, but climb into the rafters, and you’ll find a stunning church, which dates back to when Catholics were not permitted to practice their faith openly. In addition to the hidden church, a tour through this fascinating building reveals grand chambers, living quarters and a surprising story of religious tolerance.
Meet the pharaohs at Allard Pierson
Encompassing 10,000 years of cultural history, Allard Pierson is the archaeology museum and knowledge institute for the heritage collections of the University of Amsterdam. Taking a tour through the permanent exhibition From Nijl tot Amstel (From Nile to Amstel), you’ll encounter everything from Egyptian mummies, Greek pottery and Roman glass to Medieval bibles, Multatuli's manuscripts and plaster casts of famous classical statues.
Marvel at art installations in the city’s oldest building
The Oude Kerk is the city’s oldest building and one of the city’s youngest art institutions. In the seven or so centuries since it was founded, the church has evolved into one of the most imposing Gothic ecclesiastical buildings in northern Europe. Keep an eye on the dynamic exhibition programme to catch installations by international artists specially designed to suit the space and acoustics of the interiors. And when you’re ready for a cup of coffee and a slice of apple cake tucked away in the cloister garden, De Koffieschenkerij is a true local favourite.
Pick up your next read at Oudemanhuispoort Book Market
This atmospheric book market stretches along a covered alleyway (between Oudezijds Achterburgwal and Kloveniersburgwal) and is something of a hidden gem in Amsterdam. Frequented by university students and literature buffs from all walks of life, you’ll find hundreds of second-hand editions ranging in price from €1 to €100 alongside English volumes, foreign-language editions, maps, prints and sheet music.
Peek behind the red curtain
Enter into an intriguing world that remains hidden to many as you uncover the secrets behind Amsterdam’s most notorious neighbourhood. Red Light Secrets offers visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of sex work in Amsterdam, with first-hand stories and a short film providing eye-opening information. You’ll be sure to leave with a new understanding of The Red Light District and the women who work there today.
Experience an intimate classical concert
De Waalse Kerk (Wallonian Church) has been a hidden gem since 1586 and provides an intimate setting for classical music recitals. At almost all concerts, the audience takes a seat around the soloist or ensemble as the music reverberates through the sublime acoustics of the space. The church collaborates with the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, so you’ll frequently be treated to performances by some of the top up-and-coming national talent.
Drink and dine in historic watering holes
Hidden down this historic neighbourhood's narrow alleys and side streets, you’ll find various dining and drinking establishments, which are well worth snagging reservations for. Housed in the courtyard of an old monastery where herbs and spices were once kept, Restaurant Bellezza cooks up culinary works of art paired with stunning audio-visual projections. Or, for a quiet spot for bar bites and delicious cocktails, check out the living room space at Mata Hari, filled with comfortable vintage armchairs and retro chairs.