50 More Things to Do in Amsterdam (and Beyond)

••• Photo © j. kunst (CC BY-ND)

The first list of 50 activities for Amsterdam visitors was so easy to compile, I decided to try my hand at another 50; and lo, this list was just as effortless. This next 50 focuses on specialized and off-the-beaten-path attractions and those that explore the wider horizons of Holland and the Netherlands.

Arts, Culture & Nature

  • Wander the WesterGasFabriek Culture Park, where visitors are bound to find shops, food, art, music and more in this converted factory complex.
  • Appreciate the influence of a short-lived abstract expressionist movement at the Cobra Museum.
  • See photos from the pros in a 17th-century canal house at Huis Marseille.

Places of Worship

  • Check out the latest of the consistently superb exhibits at the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), which stands beside the Royal Palace on Dam Square.
  • Climb the stairs to a historic attic church, where parishioners worshipped in secret at Our Lord in the Attic.
  • Visit the medieval Oude Kerk (Old Church), preferably while it hosts the annual World Press Photo exhibit.
  • Tread the wooden floors of the 17th-century Portuguese Synagogue, which miraculously escaped destruction in World War II.
  • Admire the Chinese palace-style architecture of the He Hua Buddhist Temple, a Mahayana Buddhist temple in Amsterdam Chinatown.
  • Visitors with stamina to spare can climb one of the publicly-accessible church towers of Amsterdam for phenomenal panoramic views.

Day Trips

There are so many worthwhile day trips from Amsterdam that it's difficult to choose one or more to fit into an itinerary. No one stands out above the others; it's all a matter of personal preference, as well as what one's travel schedule can accommodate.

  • Meander around Amersfoort, one of the best-preserved medieval cities in the Netherlands and birthplace of 20th-century painter Piet Mondrian.
  • Discover the source of all that exquisite Delft blue porcelain in the eponymous city of Delft.
  • Find the confluence of art and industry in Eindhoven, in the province of North Brabant, home to both Philips Electronics and the renowned Van Abbemuseum.
  • Watch the crowd bid on wheels of Gouda cheese at the (ceremonial) cheese market in the namesake city of Gouda.
  • Trek out to the far north of the Netherlands (really just 3-4 hours) to see the northeastern metropolis of Groningen, which boasts all the amenities of its Randstad counterparts amid bountiful nature ...
  • ... and Leeuwarden, the proud capital of Friesland (Fryslân) and its distinctive culture.
  • Tread in the steps of the Dutch master Rembrandt, who was born in 17th-century Leiden - a canal-laced city that still retains the atmosphere of the time, as well as much of the art in its fantastic museums.
  • See the vast carpets of multi-colored tulips and other bulb flowers from late March to early May at Keukenhof in Lisse.
  • Head down to the Netherlands' Deep South to visit Maastricht, whose romantic streets are dotted with upscale shops, restaurants and fine art.
  • See how Nijmegen, the oldest city in the Netherlands, matured from a first-century BCE Roman military camp into the vibrant modern city it is today.
  • See how Amsterdam stacks up to its football rival and cultural competitor Rotterdam.
  • Visit The Hague, the city that's been the epicenter of Dutch politics since the 15th-century, and the millennium's worth of architecture that's built up around it.
  • Find out why the Netherlands' fourth most populous city, Utrecht, is a favorite for culture lovers, shoppers, diners and students.
  • Find pockets of old-fashioned Dutch culture in the western Hollandish cities of Volendam and Marken.
  • Explore artisan crafts and culture - the stereotypically Dutch windmills, wooden shoes, cheese wheels and more - at Zaanse Schans, an open-air celebration of typical Dutch handicrafts.

    Spots for Shoppers

    • Amble around the 9 Straatjes ("9 Streets") district for the most fashionable apparel in town.
    • Rub elbows with the locals at one of Amsterdam's popular outdoor markets.
    • Visit the department store of the Netherlands, De Bijenkorf, at its prime location on the Dam.
    • See a Dutch twist on a typical mall: Magna Plaza, an elaborate neo-Gothic monument nestled behind the Royal Palace.
    • Find fair-trade accessories in radiant textiles at Mono, a Dutch enterprise based in Thailand.

    Food & Restaurants

    • Try a favorite Dutch home-style dinner - the Dutch spin on pancakes (pannekoeken) - at one of these pancake restaurants.
    • Sniff out aromas from not just China, but all over Asia in Amsterdam Chinatown.
    • Sip on superlative slow-brewed coffee at Screaming Beans, a real connoisseur's cafe in the heart of the 9 Straatjes (Streets) district.
    • Taste cuisine from the roof of the world at Restaurant Tibet in Amsterdam Chinatown.
    • Duck into contemporary arts center SMART Project Space before an exquisite French dinner at the artsy Lab111.
    • Tuck into a Swiss classic - fondue - in the atmosphere of an old-fashioned Dutch brown cafe at Cafe Bern.
    • Sample the Dutch take on bread - not to mention other bakery-fresh treats - at one of the best bakeries in Amsterdam.
    • Find the best okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes) outside Osaka at Japanese Pancake World in the Jordaan.
    • Leave with your table and chair at Latei, a retro-themed cafe where all the 1960s and '70s-era furniture and knick-knacks are for sale.
    • Cool down in De Wallen with Metropolitan Deli, whose amarena cherry and lemon-lime/basil flavors are as irresistible in summer as their hot chocolate is in winter.

    Yearly Festivals & Events

    • For sci fi, horror, anime, and other fantasy-driven films, no Amsterdam event can top the Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival.
    • Taste the season's best beers every April at the PINT Meibockfestival, dedicated to the brew from Einbeck.
    • Cash-conscious travelers can time their visits with Museumweekend in April, when hundreds of museums nationwide offer free admission.
    • Witness the most raucous party of the year on Queen's Day in Amsterdam, or hit the road for a calmer Queen's Day outside Amsterdam.
    • Bid farewell to the past year's cultural season at the Grachtenfestival, where classical music takes to the canals ...
    • ... and kick off the start of a new season with Uitmarkt, which treats the town to loads of free performances.
    • Join electronic and dance music buffs at the part-festival, part-conference Amsterdam Dance Event.
    • View art into the wee hours on Museumnacht, when a special passepartout allows access to Amsterdam museums until 2 a.m.
    • Watch Sinterklaas, the Dutch "Santa Claus", sail into town with his horse and helpers in mid-November, or celebrate his name-day on December 5.
    • Scoop up reservations for one of Amsterdam's hottest restaurants for the semi-yearly Restaurant Week, a full week of discount prix fixe menus.
    • Usher in the New Year with street parties and indoor events on New Year's Eve.