From the Impressionists and Anne Frank to Heineken, canals and parks: discover Amsterdam's best cultural attractions.
You've already puffed your way through the coffee shops and prowled around the red-light district. Take our tour of Amsterdam's top cultural attractions and bring home some worldly wisdom to accompany your risqué stories.
Visit Anne Frank's House
When teenager Anne Frank started to write her dairy, little did she know that it would serve as a catalogue to one of the goriest times in the history of the world. Located on Prinsengracht canal in Amsterdam's city centre, Anne Frank's house could easily be mistaken for just any other waterside dwelling but it was here in a tiny annex that Anne recorded the two years she spent hiding from the Nazi regime. Transformed into a biographical museum dedicated to the diarist in 1960, the 17th-century house is now open to the public. You can tour the cramped 500-square foot annex at the rear of the house to see where Anne, her family and their four friends hid as well and learning about her life and times at a permanent exhibition.
Cruise down the canals
Venice may hold the title of 'The City of Canals', but with a whopping 100 kilometres of waterways, Amsterdam comes in a close second. Created over the centuries to encourage trade and transport and reclaim land for expansion, Amsterdam's 165 canals are the key to its history. 'The Venice of the North' is criss-crossed by some 1,200 bridges and one of the best ways to see the city is passing underneath them on a cruise. Most tours span a little over an hour and cover many of Amsterdam's major sights while providing spectacular views.
Gawk at a Van Gogh
With legendary artists such as Van Gogh and Rembrandt hailing from the Dutch capital, it's hardly surprising that Amsterdam is a world-famous art and museum destination. While the contemporary Stedelijk Museum, the grand Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Rembrandt Museum are obviously must-sees, the city is home to over 50 different permanent exhibition spaces so there's plenty more to discover after you've visted the favourites. We recommend the Hash Marihuana Hemp Museum for an insight into the city's relationship with cannabis and the Vereniging Museumhaven where you can relive the golden age of Dutch trading with an amble around 20 historical ships.
With more than 30 parks, Amsterdam is a surprisingly green city. Visit in spring or summer and you'll understand the Dutch love for stunningly landscaped gardens. Attracting more than nine million people each year, Vondelpark is the city's most popular and provides plenty of entertaining people-watching opportunities. The sunny Rembrandtpark, Sarphatipark with its elaborate fountain, Amstelpark and Beatrixpark are also worth mentioning. Barbecues are permitted in many parks including the Vondelpark, Rembrandtpark, Oosterpark and Park Frankendael making a whole day spent lounging on the lawn a pleasing idea.
Raise a glass
As the marketing tells us, Heineken was 'born in Amsterdam, raised by the world'. Established in 1864, Heineken's first brewery is now the site of an interactive exhibition showcasing the history and production process of the world-renowned pilsner. Tour the 19th century building and marvel at the authentic interior bedecked with the Heineken family's old photographs and state decorations as well as the famous gold medal that was bequeathed at the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris and now reproduced on each beer can. Oh, and there's also the opportunity to ‘become’ a beer through a multimedia exhibit that involves being shaken, sprayed with water and blasted with heat. The adult ticket includes tokens for two glasses of Heineken, which you receive at the end of the tour.