Looking for a way to spend an afternoon in Amsterdam? This culturally rich capital city has plenty to offer, with no shortage of ways to pass the time. For starters, you could visit one of the many, many museums; take a day-trip to The Hague; drink up the Heineken Experience; or catch tulip mania at Bloemenmarkt. Or, you could also try one of our favourite things to do on a beautiful afternoon in Amsterdam.
For the best views of the canals, narrow homes, and architecture that make Amsterdam the gorgeous city that it is, head up to the observation deck at the top of the A’DAM Tower. Located in Amsterdam-Noord, visitors can expect 360° views of the Port of Amsterdam and the historic city centre, learn about the city’s history and culture with an interactive exhibit, and top it all off with a cocktail, snack, or dinner to accompany the stunning panoramas. For thrill-seekers, daredevils, and adrenaline junkies, try Over the Edge, Europe’s highest swing! Yep, for an extra €5 (on top of the €12,50 entry fee) you can swing out over the edge of the tower 100 metres above the ground, as you imagine momentarily that you’re flying over Amsterdam. Bargain!
2. Not-your-mother’s canal tour
If this is your first visit to Amsterdam, or you’ve been but haven’t taken one, a canal tour is a pretty essential part of the Amsterdam experience. It gives you a chance to get a the lay of the land (which means it can be a good choice for the start of your trip), offers you the opportunity to learn a bit about the history of the canals and the city, and also happens to be downright delightful. Seriously, there are few lovelier ways to spend a sunny day than cruising the canals of Amsterdam. There are many canal tour options to choose from, and we love Those Dam Boat Guys, who — as their name suggests — aren’t your average canal tour company. To start, guests are invited to bring aboard whatever they’d like to make the cruise as enjoyable as possible ( 😉 ), and from there, your guide does the rest to make your tour unforgettable. Forget the scripts and set routes, your guide’s deep knowledge, as well as the interests of the guests, determine where you go and what you see, meaning each tour is a unique experience.
Everybody loves free stuff, and SANDEMANs’ free Amsterdam walking tour is no exception! Choose from several time slots available every day, and let one of the local guides show you around some of Amsterdam’s most well-known sights, as well as off-the-beaten-path attractions, helping you get your bearings in a city whose layout can be confusing. Start your tour at the meeting place in Dam Square, and spend the next 2.5 hours discovering the city’s highlights, including things you won’t find in any guide book, as your passionate, local guide offers their twist on each tour. Learn about the story of Anne Frank and Dutch bike culture, uncover hidden churches, and explore the Jewish Quarter, as you become familiarised with this vibrant, historical city.
4. Escape into nature without ever leaving the city
The Netherlands’ oldest zoo, ARTIS, is beloved by locals and visitors alike. More than just your average zoo, ARTIS is an educational institution helping foster a love, appreciation, and knowledge of nature in people of all ages. Step into another, enchanted world in the Butterfly Pavilion (as it’s covered and kept warm, this is a great escape on a cold, wet day!) and walk through a lush, tropical setting where butterflies flutter about freely; take a leisurly walk around the (free to enter!) Artisplein and encounter living nature as it melds into the cityscape; and get to know the many residents of ARTIS, including zebras, elephants, giraffes, birds, and primates. They even have an entire exhibit dedicated to the incredible wonders of microbes, which we promise is cooler than it sounds.
Mere steps from Amsterdam’s Centraal Station is the holy grail for shopaholics: Haarlemmerbuurt. This neighbourhood is home to Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk, two streets that have been voted as the best shopping streets in the Netherlands. There are literally hundreds of boutiques, cafes, home goods stores, restaurants, and more to explore, which means that you can spend hours window shopping, finding the perfect gifts to bring home, and treating yourself to a little something. Taste test your way through the specialty food shops, check out the fashion at the independent small shops, and if you’re there on a Wednesday, don’t miss the weekly street market in Haarlemmerplein.
All great cities have at least one great park, and Amsterdam is no exception. This green space is cherished by locals and loved by visitors, and offers up more than just a grassy knoll on which to bask in the sun. During the summer months (May-September), catch a variety free performances at the Open Air Theatre, Friday-Sunday, including live music, cabaret, and dance performances. Hungry? Got kids? Groot Melkhuis is situated in the middle of Vondelpark along the water, is the perfect place to stop for a drink, sandwich, and an ice cream, and has fantastic playground for kiddos of all ages. Another option is the Blauwe Theehuis (Blue Teahouse) where you’ll find hot and cold sandwiches, snacks, sweets, and an extensive menu of beer, wine, and liquor.