Amsterdam, known to some as the drugs capital of the world as it is renowned for its coffee shop and the red light district it might not seem as the best option for tourist that want a more conventional trip to a nice urban setting. Yet the city of Amsterdam is in fact a great tourist location with a wide variety of activities ranging from historic buildings and museums to tourist attractions that your friends will have never heard of.
So, for those who are not afraid of the occasional hippy or cyclist that approach at an unceasing pace we have compiled a list of 5 of the very best tourist attractions that the city of Amsterdam has to offer to its visitors.
1. Artis Zoo
Its full name in latin means “nature is the teacher of the arts”, it is the oldest zoo in the Netherlands and it has 27 historically significant buildings, bridges and ponds that to a large extend are still used as enclosures within a zoo that is within a city.
Artis has about 900 animals ranging from elephants and lions to butterfly’s and including 5 endangered species that are actively bred within the zoo making it a unique zoo in more than one way. The zoo is divided by an open structure with historic buildings and differing enclosures spread throughout the zoo as well as the botanical garden, aquarium and the famous planetarium. This unique combination means that for those who go to a zoo to learn more about nature, Artis is more than equipped to learn you all about the balance of life on Earth, or show you how to finally find the Northern star of course.
Compared to other activities the Artis zoo also has a stand out feature as it is the only activity on this list that keeps you away from the active city life after a busy day of other activities or just to start your holiday of with some peace and serenity before venturing further into the city.
2. Amsterdam Ice bar
The Amsterdam Ice bar which also goes by the name Xtracold Icebar Amsterdam is to no one’s surprise a bar that is entirely made from ice. With an average temperature of roughly minus 10 degrees Celsius as well as an interior that is entirely made from a thick layer of crystal clear ice that is filled with props and colourful lights this is definitely a first for most pub goers.
Visiting the Xtracold Icebar is just as unique. Anyone who visits gets 3 tokens that are divided into 2 tokens for inside the Icebar itself and 1 token for the “waiting area” which just so happens to be a bar as well, how delightful. Inside the Icebar you can choose between a Heineken lager or several types of shots with entries such as a Nutella shot to add to the exquisite experience that is created by the fact that you are drinking out of glass that is not actually a glass as it is made of ice just like the bar you are standing in. And no worries, all the clothing needed to survive the winter cold are available on site and are Covid proof except for the obligatory facemask.
Once you have had your 2 shots or beers you can go back to the waiting area to warm up before venturing into the city again. Inside the regular bar you can choose between beer, wine, cocktails or soft drinks with your last token. Once you have used this token you are more than happy to stay inside the bar for more drinks and snacks that can be purchased as in any regular bar, or to purchase the pictures that were made inside the Icebar.
3. Ripley’s believe it or not
Our third instalment is arguably the most bizarre museum you have ever seen. Ripley’s believe it or not is a museum inspired by the life of Robert Ripley who travelled to over 200 countries and is the founder of the “believe it or not” newspaper panel, radio and tv show about the world’s great oddities to world records or simply unique artefacts that inspire imagination but also about simpler things such as interesting local oddities or traditions from all across the world.
The Ripley’s believe it or not museum contains just that, inspired by the collection of Robert Ripley itself. The 5 floors of this establishment has no less than 19 themes and 500 artefacts that can range from a 7 meter tall transformer robot made from actual car parts up to the only shrunk human head in Amsterdam, or at least we hope so.
What makes this museum fascinating is the fact that is not just unconventional but also very informative. The collection that indeed has some at best odd artefacts among it also has scientific, cultural and historical pieces that jointly are very much able to learn its visitors something new about the world that would be left untouched by most other museums.
We can imagine that some of the items you might come across as a running gag, we can insure you however that everything you see or hear is absolutely authentic. This makes the museum so unique as it is completely aimed at all the things so hard to believe one would not think it is possible or at least not a real example of what is being showcased but rather a replica.
4. The Anne Frank house
Likely the best known instalment on this list. The Anne Frank house is a 17th century canal house where Anne Frank hid from late 1940 to 1943 when they were betrayed and ultimately found their end in the Nazi’s concentration camps that only Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank would survive and in 1947 publish the now world famous diary of Anne Frank and her experience and thoughts as she hid from the Nazi’s as so many Jews were forced to do during the second world war.
The museum itself is the actual (ware)house in which the Frank family hid during the war. Inside the building you will find a variety of artifacts from the family and photo’s made during the period of hiding, although the main subject is of course the story of Anne and how she offers a very personal insight in what the life of a Jew is like.
Inside the museum you will find 2 major area’s of interest. The front part of the building is a broader explanation of what happened in the time period and how it came to affect families like the Frank family, followed by the chain of events that in the end would mean the horrific demise of the family itself and how it happened. Continuing into the so called Achterhuis (Dutch for “backhouse”) you will find a far more personal story that explained the living space of the family, the role of each family member and how they lived their daily lives and felt the fear of exposure as well as the story of the friends of the family who did everything in their power to aid the Frank family.
The Anne Frank house is a canal house in the heart of Amsterdam so it is quite easy to visit it when going on another type of tour such as a canal or bike tour through the city. But visiting the city specifically for this impressive museum is worth will nonetheless.
5. Amsterdam canal cruise
Last but not least are the canal cruises through the canals of Amsterdam. Starting at the Anne Frank house and passing many famous sites such as the Jordaan, the Houseboat Museum, Leiden Square and the Rijksmuseum. This boat tour is all you really need to experience the city from its best perspective, the famous canals of Amsterdam.
Not only is this activity the best of the 5 options to explore the better part of the city, it is also a very relaxing experience as the canals mostly cross the older parts of the city and are lower than the regular street level. The tour visits virtually every major landmark one can name in Amsterdam and Is fully guided by the captain or a hostess to ensure you do not miss a single thing along the way.
The best experience of the canals would be on a summer day as the open top boats are very pleasing to waft along with some nice sunshine and the onboard drinks ensuring that the experience is both relaxing and informative as you float through the canal on the electric cruisers.
Given the Dutch weather is far from predictable it is worth noting that there is the option to go along but under the cover from a add on roof or choose another time or date at your choosing without any extra costs.
The total tour will take about 60 minutes and includes dozens of stops to ensure that everyone who steps aboard will get the best possible experience from the guided boat tour. So a good experience is pretty much guaranteed.
Dylan Broos, Daan van den Elsen and Wout Gevers