Some offbeat things to do in Amsterdam

Some offbeat things to do in Amsterdam

People commonly associate Amsterdam with three things: marijuana-smoking coffee cafes, the Red-Light District, and canals.

And for the most part, that's all they'll see.

Younger visitors like to visit coffee shops or walk the Red-Light District, whilst older visitors prefer to go on bike tours, canal trips, or visit museums. They then move on to their following location after three or four days.

There's much to see and do in Amsterdam. 

From museums to parks, cuisine excursions, canal tours, and everything in between.

Artists, beatniks, creatives, and rebels abound in Amsterdam. It's a city that thrives on being unique and bold. As a result, Amsterdam's specialized and eccentric activities provide a deeper understanding of the city's varied, arty, and diversified nature.

As you schedule your vacation to Amsterdam, consider these off-the-beaten-path sites and tours, which provide a more comprehensive and in-depth look at the city's culture outside of the tourist traps. Here we helped you with the best 21 offbeat things to do in Amsterdam!

Most Beautiful Tulip Museum

This small museum explains the history of tulips in Holland and is housed within a tulip shop. The famed tulip craze, which occurred during the Dutch Golden Age, is often regarded as history's first economic bubble.

Tulips were imported to the Netherlands from the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century, and they quickly became trendy throughout the country (but especially with the upper class). Tulip prices soared to the point where the bulbs were worth more than the same weight in gold at one point.

Over 60% of the world's tulips are grown in the country, and viewing the vast tulip fields that dot the countryside is a favorite springtime activity. This charming museum can teach you about the flower's history even if you aren't visiting during tulip season. And, most of all, there will never be a line here! Tulip fever didn't endure long, but tulip has a particular place in Dutch culture to this day.

The Excellent Houseboat Museum

Over 2,500 iconic houseboats, floating houses that began as converted seafaring vessels, can be found in Amsterdam. As housing demand grew in the 1960s and 1970s, more people turned to the canals, creating the contemporary, electrified houseboats that now adorn the canals.

While this painted houseboat isn't much of a museum, it does provide a fascinating peek into life on the canals. The boat was built in 1914 and was initially used to transport sand, coal, and gravel. Later, the owner converted it into a museum to answer the frequently asked questions about living on a houseboat. It was transformed into a houseboat in the 1960s and lived in for around 20 years.

The Jordaan

Considering its proximity to the city center, it's incredible how few tourists visit Jordaan. This once-working-class neighborhood has been transformed into an artsy district with a maze of cafes, small shops, restaurants, and art galleries. People love to grab and eat mostly in the summer months here.

Several of the city's most important markets are also located in this area. The historic Lindengracht Market takes over the same-named street every Saturday, with over 200 vendors selling everything from fresh flowers, fish, and cheese to Dutch stroopwafels. Every Saturday, the Noordermarkt takes place along the nearby canal. This one is more akin to a flea market, with antiques and vintage clothing available for purchase.

Even though the markets aren't open, you'll enjoy wandering around the narrow streets, which are lined with intriguing shops and pubs. It's a great place to go window shopping or pick up some souvenirs.

Explore Oost

The "Oost" neighborhood, which means "east" in Dutch, is diverse with a fantastic park, zoo, and a plethora of delicious Middle Eastern restaurants. You'd be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of tourists wandering around here, the majority of whom are probably lost.

Visit Dappermark, a street market operating for over a century. It's an excellent place to browse or people-watch because you can find almost anything here. Also, don't miss Oosterpark, the neighborhood’s central park, a great place to go for a walk, a bike ride, or a picnic. The park hosts several cultural festivals throughout the year, so there's always something going on.

5. Visit Rembrandt Park

This park west of the city is another good place to wander, not confused with Rembrandtplein in the city center. It's the city's second-largest park, named after the famous 17th-century painter Rembrandt van Rijn. Come for the park's many walking and cycling paths, as well as the sculptures, are strewn about.

The area around the park, which dates from the 1940s, is pretty working class and a bit more modern, providing a nice contrast to the historic center. When signs stop being printed in English, you'll know you've arrived!

Visit FOAM

FOAM (Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam) is a photography museum located in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It first opened its doors in 2001. The museum hosts four exhibitions by internationally renowned photographers and 16 smaller temporary exhibits featuring emerging artists every year. Documentary, street, and portrait photography are the main areas of interest for FOAM. Despite its location in the heart of the city, the museum sees very few visitors, and it's a must-see for any photography or art enthusiast. All of the black-and-white photographs, as well as the outdoor garden, will delight you.

See KattenKabinet 

This quirky museum, housed in a 17th-century townhouse, was the brainchild of Bob Meijer, who founded it in 1990. After losing his pet cat, he began collecting cat art and memorabilia, which grew to fill his entire house over the years.

Not only does the museum have all kinds of strange and wonderful cat art on display, tracing the importance and roles of cats throughout history, but it also has live cats. While it is a strange museum, it is presented in a very typical, stuffy museum manner, which adds to its amusement and wit.

Visit Electric Ladyland

It is the world's first (and probably only) museum dedicated to fluorescent light, open since 1999. Visitors will learn about various naturally fluorescent minerals and crystals and see various artificial fluorescent objects, such as lamps and advertising signs, during the guided tour.

It isn't your classic art gallery or museum! When the black light is turned on, some displays react and light up a more experiential space where you can wander and interact with the colors and objects you see. Through the "Participatory Art" section, visitors can even become a work of art.

See The Hemp Museum and Hash Marihuana 

This museum, which opened in 1987, features a vast collection of over 9,000 items, many of which were collected during the museum's founder's global travels. The museum does an excellent job of demonstrating the importance of hemp, hash, and marihuana throughout history, from rope and clothing to the plant's more illicit uses. There's even a cannabis-plant-filled indoor garden to explore.

It isn't a stoner museum, contrary to popular belief, but rather an educational look at one of the world's most essential plants' past, present, and future.

Explore Micropia

This "zoo," which is another first of its kind, is home to a wide variety of microbes and bacteria. You can walk through the exhibits, peer through microscopes, and learn about all invisible microbes that we encounter daily. You can even do a self-scan to see what bacteria and microbes are on your body! The museum's mission is to bridge the gap between the scientific community and the general public, fostering positive interest in the critical but often overlooked microcosm.

You can collect your favorite microbes as you walk through the museum and then release them onto the Microbe Wall at the end. The museum constantly adds new exhibits, such as one on bioplastics, exploring how microbes could be the new plastic in the long term.

See The Torture Museum

This museum is dedicated to displaying the various forms of punishment that inmates have faced throughout the city's history. A hanging cage (in which the guilty party would be suspended in the air for all to see), an Inquisition chair, a guillotine, thumb screws, an iron maiden, and a skull crusher, to name a few, are all on display. Unsurprisingly, the museum frequently appears on lists of the world’s "weirdest museums."

Although it's not the best place to take the kids, it's worth a look if you're interested in how justice was administered in the past. The museum provides a detailed history of torture throughout the ages, in addition to the gruesome devices and in-depth explanations of their use.

NDSM Wharf

This former industrial shipyard has been transformed into a thriving cultural and artistic hub, complete with everything from urban beaches to a crane-based hotel. You can enjoy dining at restaurants and cafes in converted greenhouses and shipping containers or play classic games at an arcade with a classic arcade bar. There are film screenings on the beach in the evenings.

From a sizeable monthly flea market to electronic music dance parties, NDSM features a variety of festivals and events. There's always something interesting going on, no matter when you come.

Museum Vrolik

As it houses one of the world's largest collections of human (and animal) deformities, this museum is not for everyone. The collection was amassed by the Vrolik father-son team, both professors of anatomy, in the late 1800s. Their alma mater, the University of Amsterdam, now owns it.

The collection has since grown to over 10,000 items, including terrifying jars containing fetuses, human and animal skeletons, and even the remains of a pair of conjoined twins. It's exciting and informative, but it's also a little strange.

De Poezenboot, also known as Cat Boat

The Cat Boat is an animal sanctuary housed on a canal boat. Founded in 1968, it has collected — and placed — many of the city's stray cats over the years. There are up to 50 cats on the boat, some of which are permanent residents and the rest are available for adoption.

Visitors must schedule a visit with the cats, who can roam the boat as they please. The Cat Boat relies on donations to stay afloat, so please leave a small donation if you stop by to play with some of the feline residents.

Free Alternative Tour of Amsterdam

When you arrive somewhere, one of the first things you can do is go on a walking tour. It's the most convenient way to meet a knowledgeable local guide who can answer all of your questions and show you around the city's highlights.

The local side of Amsterdam is explored on this alternative tour. You'll discover how cycling became such an essential part of Dutch culture, learn about the history of Amsterdam's famous coffee shops, stroll through the Jordaan district, and see some of the city's most unique street art.

Refugee Boat Tour

A canal tour is a must when visiting Amsterdam, but this tour, in particular, offers something unique. All of the guides are former refugees, and all of the boats were used to transport refugees across the Mediterranean.

The tour focuses on the importance of migration in the development of Amsterdam as a city, with the guides sharing their own migration stories. They host a free boat ride on Friday afternoons with music, storytelling, and other activities for those interested in learning more about the culture.


One of the most popular attractions in Europe is the UNESCO-protected canal belt, also known as the Grachtengordel. The canals are located in Amsterdam's city center and scream "summer" with their picturesque water bodies lined with over 400 bridges. It is true that because of this summery landscape, the canals are a popular place for both locals and tourists alike.

The canal belt was mainly due to the 17th-century Golden Age when Amsterdam rise in power. During this time, wealthy merchants wanted to create perfect homes on the outskirts of town where they could relax by their own country house and view the water.

At a historic brewery, sample some local beer

The IJ-toren, a white stone building that towers over the neighborhood near the De Gooyer windmill, offers excellent views of the city from its rooftop bar. Just across the water from Amsterdam's famous canal belt, it's a great place to kick back and relax with a drink in hand and enjoy one of Europe's most picturesque cities.

The bar is on the top floor of the IJ-toren, a former water tower built in 1862, which was transformed into a restaurant five years ago after serving as an office for 20 years.

You can observe the De Gooyer windmill from the roof, Amsterdam's oldest preserved mill, from 1766. Although it no longer functions as a mill, a working water wheel is attached to it that turns slowly away from the windmill as the beer barrels below are filled with tasty local beer.

The Brouwerij 't IJ microbrewery opened underneath the De Gooyer windmill in 1985 and is still brewing its delicious brews on-site. The brewery's Aajt, a tasty dark ale, is one of the most popular beers in Amsterdam and can be purchased at any local pub or grocery store.

While you're there, don't miss out on a tasting session with one of their friendly bartenders – it's an opportunity to discover some truly unique flavors.

Learn about Anne Frank's life

The Prinsengracht house, where diarist Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis for two years, is now a museum that allows visitors to retrace their steps. The front of the house lies on a quiet canal just off the bustling Prinsengracht. It has been turned into a thought-provoking museum. But the back annex has been preserved to give visitors a sense of what life was like for Anne and her family during their two years in hiding. This little yellow building has become one of Amsterdam's most popular attractions.

The house was built in 1911 and featured many of the 19th-century architectural elements that were popular during that era. The front house is where Anne's father, Otto Frank, worked and where he and his family lived before going into hiding. While much has been altered to turn it into a museum, you can still see Anne's father's office as well as the bookcase where she probably hid her diary.

Visit Amsterdam's central park “Vondelpark”

Amsterdam's Vondelpark in the heart of Amsterdam is a popular meeting place for residents and tourists alike. On a summer day, thousands spread out on the grass to picnic, read books or play games. The park also offers something for active types: playing tennis or basketball, bicycling, boating, and taking walks through meadows and forests.

The Vondelpark began in 1864 when the city's government bought a tract of peat bog from a local farmer. In honor of Dutch playwright Joost van den Vondel, known for his baroque style, the park was named after him. The transformation from the marsh into the park took years and had some interesting byproducts. Peat excavation unearthed the remains of several prehistoric dwelling sites, which are now open to visitors at Muiderslot Castle, built-in 1270.

Visitors can rent bikes and picnic gear from shops along the park's edges. There are also several playgrounds with children's equipment for a less sedate outing.

Explore Amsterdam's unique shopping districts

How do you like to spend your free time? Going shopping is always fun, especially in Amsterdam. The city has many exciting shopping areas worth exploring; Nine Streets and Nieuwendijk-Dudok van Heel Street are just some of them.

Amsterdam's Nine Streets is a beautiful neighborhood with cute little shops, posh boutiques, and lovely cafes. The nine streets are nine little alleys that pass by the Oude Kerk (Old Church) in Amsterdam's city center. On these small, narrow alleys, you will find some of the most exclusive shops selling luxury brands like Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, or Cartier.

The Nine Streets area is always bustling with people, especially at the weekends when tourists and locals come to visit this shopping hotspot. If you see the area, don't forget to pay a visit to one of Amsterdam's best chocolate shops: P. Kamerlingh Onnes. They have made chocolates for more than 100 years, and the quality is undeniable.

Once you've finished shopping around in Nine Streets, just cross the road to Nieuwendijk-Dudok van Heel Street. Here you'll find more independent shops selling everything from vintage clothes to cupcakes and handmade shoes! The atmosphere is very different from the nine streets but equally hip and charming.

Ending Note!

Amsterdam has so much to offer that categorizing it as a city of sex workers, pot smokers, and canal tours is a disservice to the town. There's so much more to see and do in Amsterdam, so venture beyond the tourist traps, discover hidden gems and local neighborhoods, and discover that Amsterdam is everything you didn't expect it to be!

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