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Café Kuijper interior
Image from Café Kuijper

Rainy day activities in Amsterdam

Thanks to its location in northern Europe, the Dutch weather can be a fickle mistress. If you’re not quite ready for the one-handed umbrella cycle, here’s a fine selection of indoor activities and attractions to keep you warm and dry on your next trip to Amsterdam. So don't let rain deter you: here are all the wonderful things to do during these pesky wet weather days.

Visit the Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum gallery of honour
Image from Erik Smits

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, 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 lovely gardens, albeit in the rain.

Discover museums and galleries galore

Rembrandthuis Rembrandt House Museum
Image from Kees Hageman

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 among Amsterdam’s top attractions, but if the queues are too large on a rainy day, head out to one of Amsterdam’s more unusual museums, which include an entire canal house given over to cat worship, and a macabre collection of skeletons and body parts.

Hang out in cosy pubs

Café Kuijper food and drinks
Image from Café Kuijper

Now we’re talking. What better excuse 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. Hungry? Here's our round-up of the cosiest spots for comfort food

Tour a brewery

Proeflokaal van Wees café-restaurant indoor terrace
Image from Proeflokaal van Wees

While we’re on tipples, you could also escape the rain at one of Amsterdam’s many breweries, craft beer bars 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 indulgence, jenever, at House of Bols - or try some homemade liqueurs at a historic proeflokaal like A. Van Wees or Wynand Fockink.

Go shopping indoors

Bijkenkorf Amsterdam
Image from Bijenkorf Amsterdam

Well, you might need to buy an umbrella. Or a raincoat. 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 Oud-Zuid. If you want to keep your entire shopping trip indoors, visit Amsterdam’s famous department store, De Bijenkorf, or the Magna Plaza shopping centre in a historic building behind Dam Square.

Eat, drink and be dry at De Hallen

This converted tram depot in the southwest 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 one of the city's best arthouse cinemas, a boutique hotel and several independent outlets, and a vibrant local goods market every weekend. De Hallen’s piece de resistance has to be its beautiful Foodhallen – a vast indoor foodie market offering a fantastic selection of upmarket street munchies from local Amsterdam vendors and a range of specialist bars. Rain? What rain?

Soak up some culture (without getting soaked) at Westergas

Het Kethuis cinema interior in Westerpark
Image from Arjen Veldt

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, a cinema, trendy restaurants and exciting 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

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

Created in the 17th century to keep the sea at bay, Amsterdam’s UNESCO-protected canal belt is the quintessential picture postcard version of the city – and it doesn’t need to be a dry day to enjoy a canal cruise. In fact, touring the city’s waterways in a cosy glass-ceilinged boat is one of the 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, from hop-on-hop-off sightseeing tours to atmospheric candlelit evening cruises.

Immerse yourself in science

Nemo museum
Image from DigiDaan

Wet weather is no match for NEMO Science Museum, Amsterdam’s iconic green-clad science centre in the city’s Eastern Docklands. The ideal place to keep kids entertained on a rainy day, this vast, 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

Clothing in the IJhallen
Image from Nichon Glerum

Throughout the month, various indoor markets are held across Amsterdam, offering the opportunity to go treasure hunting for bargains and local wares in unique and exciting 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. Meanwhile, De Hallen, a cultural centre in Oud-West, invites local artisans to the Maker Market, where they present their wares once per month to those looking for unique, made-in-Amsterdam items.