Everybody knows about the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House and Van Gogh museum so I won’t talk about these here, other than to say that expect to queue a long time for Anne Frank House unless you book a long way ahead – and don’t go there hungover… it’s a difficult and sobering experience.
Some of the less well-known things to do that I’ve enjoyed are listed below. There’s plenty of others – just wander around and see what you find – I find something new and interesting every time I visit.
An afternoon in Plantage
This area is where you’ll find the Botanical Gardens, an incredibly beautiful garden with a large palm house overlooking a canal. An ideal place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre for an hour or two.
Not far from the gardens is Artis Zoo. There are valid ethical reasons to object to zoos, but this is very well-run and the animals do seem to have more space than many zoos. There’s a great range of exotic animals to see, and the grounds are lush and green.
Virtually opposite the zoo entrance is the Dutch Resistance museum, showcasing the efforts of Dutch nationals and persecuted Jews to rebel against the occupying Nazi’s. A small but very interesting museum. There’s some lovely cafes in this area for a spot of refreshment too.
IJ’ve got a good idea
Sorry for the awful pun. The IJ (pronounced “eye”) is the river that passes behind Centraal Station. The magnificent station is a landmark in itself, but if you pass through the central walkway you come out on the IJ side, from where you can catch a free ferry to Amsterdam Nord, the district on the other side of the river.
It’s a busy river with vessels of all shapes and sizes and the crossing is fun, but there’s plenty to see on the other side, including the EYE film museum and the A’DAM lookout, a 20-story building with a restaurant/bar at the top affording amazing views of the city – and even an over-the-edge swing if you’re feeling brave!
Hidden gems amongst the windows
The Oudekerk in the red light district is a beacon of hope and morality amongst the sin and excess of the surrounding area. Or being less dramatic, it’s a lovely church where you can climb the tower, be deafened by the bells on the way up and gaze over the rooftops from the viewing area at the top.
Just round the corner from here is the Museum Ons ‘Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic), a 17th century Dutch house with a hidden church in the attic. The church dates from 1663 and a time when it was prohibited to practice Catholicism and celebrate mass, so hidden churches sprung up including this beautiful one in the attic. Well worth a visit.