First-timers in Amsterdam - Things to Do | #Netherlands |

First Timers to Amsterdam – Top Things to Do

Amsterdam is the city of canals, bikes and well-preserved 17th to 18th century architecture. To be honest, Amsterdam was low on my travel list. I always viewed it as a good-time city, with its liberal views on drugs and prostitution, I just didn’t think it would ever appeal to me. Oh, was I ever wrong! I absolutely fell in love with this city. It’s chock-full of amazing museums and art galleries, stylish boutique shops, design-savvy hotels and trendy restaurants that satisfy any foodie. Amsterdam has definitely cleaned up its act and is no longer just the stag-doe party scene it used to be known for.

First-timers in Amsterdam - Things to Do | #Netherlands |

For those visiting Amsterdam for the first time and wonder what to add to your itinerary, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. No matter if you are only spending a day or a week, I’ve pulled together a list of options that you can choose based on your time and interests. 

Stroll through The 9 Streets

Amsterdam is such a beautiful city with its 200-year-old canals lined with picturesque townhouses. It makes it such a delight to roam and get lost in. The unique architecture of the tall, thin, large-windowed, gabled canal townhouses are unlike anything else you will find in Europe. 

First-timers in Amsterdam - Things to Do | #Netherlands |

It is required that each townhome be personalized and distinct from its neighbour while complimenting it. Such care was taken. That is why you see such elaborate details in the gables, brick details, plaster crests, scrolls or masks.

First-timers in Amsterdam - Things to Do | #Netherlands |

The townhouses in the Jordaan neighbourhood, specifically in The 9 Streets, were my favourite. This picturesque area is literally made up of 9 streets (3 x 3).  They sit right in the middle of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the canal belt running between Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht. It is an area brimming with unique shops and charming eateries too.

Some of my absolute favourite streets in this area were:

  • Browersgracht
  • Herengracht
  • Keizersgracht
  • Palmdwarsstraat
  • Prinsengracht
  • Willemstraat
  • Lindenstraat

Time: 2 to 3 hours

First-timers in Amsterdam - Things to Do | #Netherlands |

Meander through the Museums

Amsterdam is home to some world-class museums. That is why you might want to see if I Amsterdam City Card or the Amsterdam Pass is worthwhile to take advantage of the city’s top attractions. I did a cost comparison and found it was almost cost neutral based on the attractions I wanted to visit. What weighed out more in the end for me was flexibility, as I was visiting for a week and wanted to spread out my itinerary. The Card and Pass offers a 24, 48, 72, 96, 120-hour options, and a very attractive perk of ‘skip the line’. If visiting during peak tourist season it would’ve been worth it. Almost all museums require you to buy your tickets online and in advance, therefore, ticket-holder lines can get long.

Anne Frank House

I can remember the exact moment in time when I first read the Diary of Anne Frank. I knew I needed to see the secret annex, tucked behind a bookcase where Anne and her family hid for 2 years before they were eventually discovered. The museum tells the story of the Frank family as well as a quiet memorial to all the lives lost during the Holocaust.

Click here to learn more and book tickets online.

Time = 1 hour

First-timers in Amsterdam - Things to Do | #Netherlands |


This is the most-visited museum in the Netherlands with over two million people a year. It offers a rotating display of artwork and objects that tell the Dutch 800-year story. At the time of our visit, we were fortunate enough to see the world’s largest research and live conservation of Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’. The museum itself, both the interior and exterior, is worth a visit alone.

Click here to learn more and book tickets online.

Time = 2-3 hours

First-timers in Amsterdam - Things to Do | #Netherlands |

The Van Gogh Museum

The world’s largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s work, with around 200 paintings and over 1,000 letters and drawings, tell the story of his life. You gain real insight into his life, his relationships and his mental health. Each room is a certain time period and you can see how this has influenced his work. Of course, the real highlight is to see his most famous work, the Sunflowers, Almond Blossom, and The Potato Eaters.

Click here to learn more and book tickets online.

Time = 1-2 hours

First-timers in Amsterdam - Things to Do | #Netherlands |

The Heineken Experience

Located in the original Heineken Brewery you are told the story of Gerard Adriaan Heineken buying the building back in 1863, when it was the ‘De Hooiberg’ brewery, and how it was turned into the largest producer of beer in the country. It is truly is an interactive experience, focusing on keeping it short, fun and entertaining as you walk through this historic brewery and horse stables. Your tour ends in the Heineken bar where you will be treated with 3 beer tickets. 

Click here to learn more and book tickets online.

Time = 1 to 1.5 hours

First-timers in Amsterdam - Things to Do | #Netherlands |

Wander through Vondelpark

Amsterdam’s largest park is lively and well-visited by locals and tourists alike. It includes cycle paths, winding footpaths, pristine laws, ponds with swans and tiny cafes. With its close proximity to the main museums and some great foodie cafes and restaurants, it’s a great addition to your itinerary while in this area of the city.

Time = 1 to 2 hours

First-timer in Amsterdam - Things to Do | Netherlands |

Roam through Albert Cuypmarkt

The city’s largest and busiest market offers 260 stalls of flowers, produce and cheese; and housewares and clothing. It also includes food vendors full of Dutch treats like frites (fries), poffertjes (tiny Dutch pancakes dusted with icing sugar) and caramel syrup-filled stroopwafels. As well, the surrounding area is full of cozy cafés and restaurants.

Time = 1 hour

First-timers in Amsterdam - Things to Do | #Netherlands |

Lookout at A’DAM Tower

This 22-story building used to be the Royal Dutch Shell oil company offices. Today, it has been turned into one of the city’s biggest attractions. It offers visitors an observation deck with 360-degree views of the city and the adrenaline rush on Europe’s highest swing ‘Over the Edge’. It also has a restaurant and cocktail bar and makes a great place to enjoy the sun setting over the city. 

Click here to learn more and book tickets online.

Time = 1 to 3 hours

First-timers in Amsterdam - Things to Do | #Netherlands |
Photo credit:

Walk through De Wallen

De Wallen is best known as the red-light district where there are approximately 300 one-room spaces rented by prostitutes. They are interspersed through a network of alleyways where you will find high concentration of coffee shops, bars, chain restaurants and stores. You will also find some beautiful churches and historic buildings. The quietest time to explore this area would be in the morning.

Time = less than an hour

First-timers in Amsterdam - Things to Do | #Netherlands |

Tour on Bike and Boat


Aside from it being a walk-able city, there are as many bikes as there are people which means it is extremely bike friendly with its well-planned infrastructure and separate bike lanes. Why not join the locals and either rent bikes or join a bike tour. 

Time = 1 hour, 1/2 day or full day

First-timers in Amsterdam - Things to Do | #Netherlands |


Taking a boat tour is one of the best ways to appreciate the city’s urban canal ring and the city’s other waterways. Let the guide tell you the history of its 165 canals that were created in the 17th century. 

Time = Less than an hour

First-timers in Amsterdam - Things to Do | #Netherlands |

As a holidaymaker…

Amsterdam is a culturally rich city- full of history and museums. The best area to stay in is The 9 Streets. Not only is it picturesque, but it’s in close proximity to the best boutique shops, cafes and restaurants. Everything is right at your doorstep.  

Visiting Amsterdam, Netherlands for the first time? Check out this guide sharing all the best info and tips to plan your trip.
Visiting Amsterdam, Netherlands for the first time? Check out this guide sharing all the best info and tips to plan your trip.


  • Angela

    I haven’t been to Amsterdam for about 30 years so a lot of new things have sprung up including that hair-raising swing at the A’Dam lookout! My son visited for the first time last month and went on it (oh to be young and unafraid again!) Good advice to get Anne Frank tickets in advance, he didn’t and so missed out. I think I need to return at some point.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Definitely time to return! Just think how your perspective might have changed over that 30 years. Thanks so much for commenting Angie.

  • Linda (LD Holland)

    We only had one day in Amsterdam on a cruise and would love to go back. So this guide will be helpful in planning. It would be great to start at the A’DAM Tower to get a panoramic view and plot our travels. We did a canal tour but did not get to wander around the streets. The 9 Streets look like the perfect spot for a stroll. The Van Gogh Museum would be on my list for sure. Love to see that large collection. But hubby would be voting for the Heineken Experience. It is one of his favourite beers. Definitely need a return trip.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comment Linda. It indeed sounds like you would love spending more time in this city. Hopefully you get a chance to return so that you can roam the 9 Streets, swing over the edge, visit the largest Van Gogh collection and sip a few Heineken beers!

  • Patricia Pagenel

    I remember walking by the 9 Streets, probably the highlight of our trip to Amsterdam! We did not bike at that time as it was pouring that weekend, next time. These buildings have such fantastic architecture. We did not get to visit the Ann Frank Museum, can’t remember why. We will know to book our tickets ahead of time when we do get back.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comment Patricia. I’m so glad you enjoyed the 9 Streets as much as I did. It is certainly a great place to wander.

  • Emma

    I absolutely adore how all of the Townhouses in the 9 Streets were made to be purposely different. In today’s world everything is run-of-the-mill that it inspires little creativity. This sounds like a really great wrap-up of things to do in Amsterdam to tick the boxes. Even just wandering around, trying out coffee shops and exploring would be a great way to spend a few days there.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Emma, for your comment, and I agree, I love how they have strict standards about the design details of the townhouses.

  • Maggie

    Amsterdam is never really been on my list for the same reasons you had – I’m not a party girl or into all of the things they have legal there lol. But it sounds like I need to give the city a chance! I have always wanted to visit the Anne Frank House – I read that book so many times growing up. Good to know that it’s tricky getting tickets though! And I definitely want to visit Albert Cuypmarkt – there are few things I love more than markets, and the Dutch have such incredible food that I can only bet THAT market is amazing!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      You are exactly right Maggie, the market was a great place to explore, and is always on my list of things to do in a new city. I too had the same experience with Anne Frank’s novel, and visiting there is such a powerful experience. It’s worth the visit to the city! Hope you get there one day.

  • Candy

    We recently visited Amsterdam for the first time and absolutely loved our time there. We checked off many of the things on your list; however, we did not have time to visit the original Heineken Brewery. Although we are not huge beer drinkers, we do enjoy brewery tours as you surprisingly learn so much history about the city. That’s awesome that you get 3 beers at the end. Usually, the brewery tours we’ve done we only get 1 beer or three small samples.

  • Ada

    Yes! I’ve never been to Amsterdam, but share your thoughts about it exactly. I’ve just never been that interested in it, but I think like you, I would really enjoy it if I visited. So many cool museums and architecture to check out!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Yes I was so pleasantly surprised and would return again! Hope I convinced you too!

  • Carol Colborn

    It just goes to show what all I missed when I was there ages ago, especially the museums. I love the detail on the number of hours the landmark might take to cover for planning purposes, too.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Carol for your comment. The museums were a pleasant surprise, it’s not the first place you think of when you hear museums.

  • Travel with Mei and Kerstin

    Amsterdam is a nice city. We’ve visited twice and liked it very much. Winter was cold and foggy, but still awesome to explore around and taste Dutch cheese at every corner of the city! We’ve never been to Vondelpark though, would definitely try to go there next time.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Glad to hear you enjoyed the city that much that you would return a second time. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Josy A

    I am not surprised that I like the look of the parks, canals and back streets, I mean, they all look great for a stroll. But now I have seen it, I also looove the look of the ‘Over the Edge’ swing. Did you go on it? It looks like just the right mix of scary and awesome!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      We didn’t go on it. The time we were in that area it wasn’t great weather, yes it rains a lot! But I would definitely love to have gone. Next time. Thanks Josie for your comment!

  • Anshul

    I want to visit Anne Frank’s house. I would also love to stroll around these roads and click a lot of portraits. Amsterdam is a gorgeous place and will be fun to explore.

  • Thomas & Paloma

    I missed so much! I used to live only 3 hours away from Amsterdam so always considered it “too close to home to be exciting”! The one time I went it was for the Anne Frank Museum which was a very moving experience but the rest I have never seen!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Isn’t that funny how our perspective of “too close to home” plays on our ability to explore. I am envious that you lived so close to there, and perhaps you feel the same way about where my “too close to home” is too. Thanks for your comment.

  • Steph

    So far I’ve only ever been at Amsterdam airport. The city never really appealed to me for reason similar to yours. But after reading this post I might just change my opinion. The Adam Lookout with the swing sounds like my kind of thing!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Hopefully you get the chance to visit more than just a stopover next time. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • Tania Muthusamy

    Would love to see the house of Anne Frank and the Museums in Amsterdam. The boat tour on the canals would be a must too. Hoping to get there on my next trip to Europe.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Definitely visiting Anne Frank House is a must visit, it is a haunting time in our history and touring it is a moving experience.

  • Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions

    I’m glad to know that Amsterdam beat your expectations and that it was so much more than its reputation! I had no idea that the townhouses had to adhere to such strict rules, but the resulting cohesion of a row of them is really stunning. I would also definitely want to check out the Anne Frank house since her diary is such a memorable and haunting piece of history.

  • Jen Rogers

    Great article with such beautiful images. I too remember reading the Diary of Anne Frank as a child. It left a huge impression on me as well, and would love to visit where she spent those years. Hopefully, we can travel freely again soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *