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Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do


Visiting Amsterdam for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do
Hi, I'm Helen!

South Londoner on the loose in Switzerland, with a cat and baby in tow. Trained teacher, student, and travel writer, with a passion for drama, drag, and adventure.

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With cultural landmarks, vast canals, and liberal coffeeshops to explore, it can be tricky to know where to start in Amsterdam. From money-saving cruises to must-try cuisine, here are the must-see sights and top experiences that are ideal for first-time visitors to the Dutch capital.


Skip the line at must-see museums

A top time-saving trick.

Amsterdam’s best museums are known for both their cultural content and long lines. Book skip-the-line entry in advance to spend less time queueing and more time admiring the work of Dutch masters in the Rijksmuseum or masterpieces by the Netherlands’ favorite son at the Van Gogh Museum.

Skip the lines in Amsterdam

Cruise on the canals

The quintessential Amsterdam experience.

No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a ride on its canals, which comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hop-on hop-off boats save you money on city transport and provide prime views of the Skinny Bridge, Old Church, and more, while lunch or dinner cruises offer a more intimate experience on the romantic waterways.

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Tourists onboard a boat on the Amsterdam canals
Tourists enjoy a tranquil canal cruise in Amsterdam. Photo: Frits Meyst / Viator

Bike like a local

See more than you could on foot.

Saddle up and set off on a bike excursion to experience one of the world’s most cycle-happy cities like a local. Follow a safe network of bike-friendly paths to cruise along canals, glide through Vondelpark, or head deeper into the suburban countryside, gaining an intimate glimpse of Dutch life along the way.

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Sightsee in the Zaanse Schans

Give tulips a "schans."

If you only have time for one day trip, the Zaanse Schans is a must. Near enough to the city to be ticked off in half a day, the historic neighborhood is known for its centuries-old windmills, traditional workshops, and tulip-filled fields.

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A windmill in Zaanse Schans, Amsterdam
Zaanse Schans is one of the best day trips from Amsterdam. Photo: Frits Meyst / Viator

Discover Dutch delicacies

There's no better place to do so.

While visiting the home of raw herring and decriminalized cannabis, every first-timer should immerse themselves in the city’s culture and cuisine. Join a tasting tour to sample a range of specialities, or opt to visit coffeeshops with a guide for deeper insight into the country’s liberal legislation.

Don't miss these dishes

Visit the Jewish Quarter

And the Anne Frank House, of course.

Learn about Jewish culture in Amsterdam and the city’s wartime history on a tour of must-see monuments including the Jewish Historical Museum and National Holocaust Memorial, or vist the Anne Frank House, the canalside lodging where the teenage diarist spent her last years in hiding under Nazi occupation.

Gain insight into history

More ways to explore Amsterdam

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Hi, I'm Helen!

South Londoner on the loose in Switzerland, with a cat and baby in tow. Trained teacher, student, and travel writer, with a passion for drama, drag, and adventure.

Keep exploring
See all Amsterdam tours
1,244 tours & tickets
Things to do in Amsterdam
See all things to do in Amsterdam
Top 5 Museums in Amsterdam
5 Must-See Amsterdam Museums and How to Visit