Top 11 best things to do in Amsterdam – Outside Amsterdam!
What is Amsterdam known for?
Amsterdam is one of the world’s most visited capital cities – for a good reason. Home to bustling canals, cobblestone streets, impressive museums, lively local markets…, almost too many things to do. Tourism has rapidly increased in Amsterdam, year after year. Each year millions of people from around the world visit Amsterdam, exceeding the not-even-a-million local people who call Amsterdam their home.
Tourism in Amsterdam has been of all times. The historical old city with dreamy canals, historic buildings, cute houseboats, and brown Dutch cafes, are attracting tourists of all ages for as long as one can remember. Amsterdam has also been a haven for tolerant policies for centuries. The city legalized sex work and tolerates the use of marihuana.
And for the last decades, Amsterdam is also known for over-tourism.
Over tourism in Amsterdam is a major issue. The city has reached breaking point as the overload of tourists starts to impact the ability of residents to enjoy everyday life. Streets take on the appearance of a theme park for adults. It’s hard to walk around in Amsterdam as your way will be constantly blocked. Cleaners have their hands full keeping the city tidy. These amount of tourists have created an unhealthy situation which is unsustainable.
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Ready to leave Amsterdam city?
Here is where you can see the best things to do in Amsterdam – outside of Amsterdam.
Amsterdam has many great things to do and is filled with must-sees. But we’ll let you into a secret….sssst…. you can also see these Amsterdam highlights in other cities, outside of Amsterdam. Not a fan of crowds? Like to wander and not travel in packs? Want to be pleasantly surprised by off-the-beaten path gems? Here are our suggestions for the tourist highlights of Amsterdam in other cities in the Netherlands. Enjoy our tips and thank you for being a responsible traveler.
The Rijksmuseum is the most visited museum in Amsterdam – and The Netherlands. If you love to see Dutch painters like Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Steen in a beautiful building, you need to visit the Mauritshuis in The Hague.
Mauritshuis is world-famous for its unique collection of paintings. Who hasn’t heard of 17th-century masterpieces such as Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, Two African Men by Rembrandt, and Fabritius’s Goldfinch. You will never find as many impressive paintings per square meter in the Netherlands as here, in the Mauritshuis. There are so many special works of art in the museum, so we invite you to come and marvel at masterpieces from Frans Hals, Peter Paul Rubens, Ruisdael, Jan Steen, and many others.
Once your heart is filled with beautiful art from the Mauritshuis, there are even a lot more great things to do and see in The Hague.
Anne Frank House is the most visited attraction in Amsterdam. And for a good reason. The diary of Anne Frank reminds us about our childhood, and the horrors humankind is capable of and never to forget. Because it is so popular to visit, tickets are often sold out, and many tourists cannot visit Anne Frank house.
People were hiding all over The Netherlands, including at the home of the Ten Boom family in the city of Haarlem. Corrie was a remarkable lady during WWII, who, because of her strong faith in God, felt the purpose to help people that needed a hiding place in WWII. You can visit the Corrie Ten Boom house. Get to know the family Ten Boom, and learn what price they paid for helping people hide in their house. Their story will give you goosebumps.
One of the highlights of Amsterdam is a boat cruise through the 17th-century canals. About 550 commercial boats plus many private boats roam the canals of Amsterdam for 14 hours a day. Often in a single file.
Luckily, we have many 17th-century cities in The Netherlands, and they all have magical canals to cruise as well. Think of Utrecht, Den Bosch, Haarlem, Dordrecht, Alkmaar, Delft, etc. All with typical Dutch stunning canals and the possibility to cruise them on a boat tour. Seeing a Dutch city from a boat on the canals is a relaxing and enjoyable experience, giving you an entirely new perspective from the old cities. Take at least one; it’s unforgettable.
The majority of people in Amsterdam live in apartments without any outside space or air-conditioning. So when the sun comes out, they find a place in a park, together with the many tourists. The most visited park in Amsterdam is Vondelpark. Many people relax, cycle, walk, and look at the local wildlife (loud -once escaped- green parakeets).
If you truly want to relax in nature, travel just outside the city of Amsterdam. Here you can find a city park that is three times the size of New York’s Central Park: Amsterdamse Bos. In spring, this is the best location to see cherry blossoms in The Netherlands. And during summer, people swim in the river and sunbathe or relax in this beautiful Dutch park.
Another crowd favorite is the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. Here you can find an extensive collection of Van Gogh’s paintings and hundreds of sketches and letters Vincent wrote to his brother Theo.
The significant collection of the 90 paintings and 180 drawings of Vincent van Gogh can be seen at the Kröller-Müller Museum. An easy day trip from Amsterdam. This museum is located in the middle of a beautiful national park in The Netherlands: De Hoge Veluwe. The setting of this museum is absolutely stunning. Beyond admiring the beautiful works of Van Gogh, there is also art of modern painters like Picasso, Monet, Leger, Mondriaan, and others. Step outside to marvel at one of Europe’s most incredible sculpture gardens, surrounded by the beautiful Dutch nature of the national park.
The Albert Cuyp Market is a famous street market in the De Pijp neighborhood. While this is a fun market to visit, there’s an even better option waiting for you in the city of The Hague.
De Haagse Markt is the biggest outdoor market in Europe. Stroll along more than 500 stalls full of bric-a-brac, smell the fresh food and spices, colorful exotic fruit, flowers, and clothes. Get a charger for your phone, warm sweaters, great local souvenirs, and more. There is almost nothing that The Hague Market does not offer.
Besides the Haagse Markt in The Hague, almost every Dutch town and city has a weekly market. Markets are a great way to mingle with the locals, smell fresh bread, taste Gouda cheese, and a purchase helps small local businesses thrive.
The floating flower market is another highlight in Amsterdam for tourists. Once a place where fresh flowers were brought into the city by boat to be purchased by local residents. This attracted so many tourists -who don’t buy fresh flowers- that now you can buy tulip bulbs and rubbish souvenirs. Reputable Amsterdam newspaper ‘t Parool reported about the tulip bulb scam at this tourist trap.
Nearby Schiphol Airport, not far from Amsterdam, you can find the largest flower auction in the world in the town of Aalsmeer. To visit Flora Holland, the impressive flower auction, you need to rise early, as it starts at 7 am and closes when all is sold around 10 am. This sight is not only for people who like flowers but also for you when you are interested in the crazy but organized logistics of this immense worldwide business. Get an inside look you will never forget.
One of the most popular shopping areas in Amsterdam is the 9 Streets. It’s the region in Amsterdam where you can find many small, independent shops. And while it’s a great place to visit, you also have these cozy shopping areas in other historic cities.
It is great fun to go shopping in Alkmaar, Zwolle, Leiden, and Utrecht, for instance. The shops in these other cities are often less expensive as these are prices for locals without the tourist surcharge ;)
The Netherlands and beer go hand in hand. The country is home to many famous Dutch beer brands, including Heineken. When visiting Amsterdam, many visitors head to the Heineken Brewery for a tour and a tasting. But there are other (less commercial) options. You can compare Heineken with the American Bud Light or German Warsteiner, all pilseners.
If you like to try something more unique, visit one of the small local breweries you can find all over the Netherlands. Many of them also offer tours with tastings. Cities in every corner of the country like Haarlem, Utrecht, Delft, Alkmaar, Enschede, Maastricht, etc., have multiple local beer breweries. Proud, passionate beer brewers will tell you why theirs is the best. After a taste, you decide. Visiting these local breweries is a great way to get a more authentic experience.
Amsterdam’s Dam square forms the city center’s heart, with its Royal Palace. One of the first stops to visit for many travelers. A beautiful square, often packed with all kinds of people. It is one of many dam squares you can find in the country. All towns and cities with ‘dam’ in their name have a Dam square, and Amsterdam is simply one of them. And it is not the grandest Royal Palace you can visit in The Netherlands.
In the city of Apeldoorn is the spectacular Paleis ‘t Loo. Reopened in 2022 after a four-year renovation, it is the Royal Palace in the country you want to visit. At the revamped museum, you can ‘meet’ the first occupants of Paleis Het Loo, Willem III, and Mary Stuart, who later became king and queen of England. And Wilhelmina, King Willem-Alexander’s great-grandmother, and other Dutch Royals.
The Royal Palace is incredible on its own, but don’t forget to step into the breathtaking palace gardens inspired by the gardens of Versailles.
Sex work is legal, and coffee shops are tolerated throughout the Netherlands. But if this is your main reason for visiting Amsterdam or the Netherlands- Stay Away (campaign Amsterdam)
Written by: Manon van Schagen – Visiting the Dutch countryside.
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