Some people say that walking around in Amsterdam is like walking in one big open air museum. There is just so much to see and historic sites to visit that it’s advices to plan your trip carefully. Luckily most historic sites are located close to each other in the old city center.
Every city has its own unique feel and vibe, which is determined by a number of things. The local historic sites are no doubt one of the largest contributing factors to the aura that surrounds a city. When in Amsterdam, users recommend paying a visit to Anne Frankhuis, in the Jordaan area to get a feel for what truly makes up the city.
Another great area to experience and wander around are the most famous canals the: Prinsengracht, Herengracht and Keizersgracht. There you find the unique museums Willet-Wolthuysen and Museum van Loon. If you always wanted to know what a canal house looked like on the inside during the 17th century these museums are two historic sites not to miss.
In the evening the Tuschinski theater is perfect for a night out. This cinema is located in an old art deco theater and seeing one of the blockbuster movies there is just a totally different experience.
If you take the train to the airport plan some extra time to check out the beautifully renovated central station in Amsterdam.
So many historic sites in Amsterdam! This list will give you some guidance on where to go.
Amsterdam Centraal Station, one of the Netherland’s main transportation hubs, is an intersection of activity. Trains, trams, taxis, buses, ferries and metros – you name it; this station gets people where they need to go. While many visit Centraal Station on a daily basis, the beauty and history of the building is often lost in the hustle and bustle. The building, which was designed by Pierre Cuypers and A. L. van Gendt, opened in 1889. The station is located on three man-made islands. Wooden piles support the structure, as the base is sandy soil. Centraal Station is a striking attraction that plays a significant role in Amsterdam’s past, present and future.
Recommended for Historic Sites because: After years of restoring the Centraal Station in Amsterdam is finally looking beautiful again.
Anne’s expert tip: Go for coffee at the cafe above the train track!
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Photo courtesy of Jessica Lipowski
A stately, elegant home built in the late 17th century, this museum displays the wealth of generations, as well as various decor styles popular during the past few centuries. The home’s final owner, Louisa Holthuysen, bequeathed the residence to the city in the late 19th century on the condition that it be made into a museum. These days, the beautiful interior, the gardens, and the art collection are stunning glimpses into Amsterdam’s past and the life of its well-to-do denizens.
Once a year Museum Willet-Holthuysen opens the garden to the public and hosts tours telling all about the unique very old inner gardens of canal houses.
Recommended for Historic Sites because: Discover the rich history of the rich people on the Amsterdam canals at museum Willet-Holthuysen.
Anne’s expert tip: This museum has changing exhibits worth to check out.
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This gracious, beautifully ornamented canal house dates from the late 17th century and is a virtual time capsule of decorative arts, family treasures and city history. Purchased by the Van Loon family (one of Amsterdam’s foremost dynasties) in 1884, the home was filled with their portraits, furnishings and goods. Instituted as a museum in 1974, the canal house was meticulously restored, and its interior and landscaped grounds are open to history buffs and lovers of architecture and design alike. Personal tours are available for an additional fee.
Museum van Loon is by far the best museum if you want to see an original canal house interior in Amsterdam.
Recommended for Historic Sites because: One of the most unique museums in Amsterdam giving a gimps of the rich history of canal houses.
Anne’s expert tip: Book a personal tour for the best experience.
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Make your way to Dam Square and enjoy the constant hustle and bustle. The square is home to many attractions, including the Royal Palace, National Monument, Madame Tussauds and others. Take a tour of the Royal Palace; admire the beautiful architecture and elegance. In addition, the Royal Palace is still being used by the monarchy for state functions, ceremonies and other receptions, so you can experience not only history but also the here and now, modern day affairs. Make sure to check opening hours. The National Monument, situated at the other side of the square, is a memorial to the victims of World War II, as well as a symbol of liberation and peace. The Dam is also home to many events, such as celebrations, fairs and memorials. As it’s less than a kilometer from Centraal Station, you cannot miss it.
Recommended for Historic Sites because: Dam Square, home to the Royal Palace, Nieuwe Kerk and National Monument, always has something going on.
Anne’s expert tip: As the Dam is always busy, watch out for bikes, trams and cars.
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Get a glimpse behind the scenes of the famous Dutch painter, Rembrandt van Rijn. Visit The Rembrandt House, where you can explore the place he called home, as well as a studio, from the years 1639 and 1658. This historic building is made up of memories and is a place where numerous pieces of art, including several of his more famous masterpieces, were created. The interior has been refurnished to appear similar to how it would have looked in Rembrandt’s time. Plus, you’ll see some of Rembrandt’s etchings on display (they rotate). Don’t forget to admire the fantastic works of art, both from Rembrandt and his teacher, pupils and contemporaries. Last but not least, you have the chance to learn about the etching technique and how to prepare paints.
Recommended for Historic Sites because: The Rembrandt House enables visitors to explore the home in which the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn lived and worked for 20 years.
Anne’s expert tip: Plan your visit around one of the etching or paint preparation demonstrations
Read more about Museum Het Rembrandthuis →
Designed by Hendrik van Berlage, this structure originally housed Amsterdam’s Stock Exchange. Illustrating the shift from 19th to 20th-century architecture, the substantial building makes evident its methods of construction, even utilizing them as decoration. Berlage, in fact, was an aesthetic contemporary of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. These days, the building is employed as a conference center and also features gallery space. If you opt for a climb to the top of the structure’s tower, you’ll be rewarded with fabulous city views.
The Beurs van Berlage is located in the middle of the city center and a perfect start of a day exploring Amsterdam.
Recommended for Historic Sites because: A famous building by the Dutch architect Hendrik van Berlage.
Anne’s expert tip: Go to the top for a great view over Amsterdam!
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Visit the former headquarters of one of the most powerful companies in history, the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC in the Dutch language). Founded in 1602, the company’s main goal was to trade with Asia. The East India House, probably designed by Hendrick de Keyser, was home to the boardrooms, administration and warehouse. The building signified class and luxury. When the VOC shut down in 1799, government entities occupied the building. The building, now a national monument, is in use by the University of Amsterdam. Today, you can relax in the peaceful courtyard or stroll through the corridors and admire the numerous paintings.
Recommended for Historic Sites because: The Dutch have a rich history of the Duch East India Company and the Oost-Indisch Huis is one of the most important remains of that.
Anne’s expert tip: I went to University there for years! You can walk in and check out the inner court yard.
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Many of Amsterdam’s historic buildings have enjoyed multiple uses through the centuries, and this turreted edifice on the Nieuwmarkt square is no exception. Constructed first as a gate for the city’s fortified walls, it was later transformed into a ‘weigh house’ where goods brought back by ships from overseas were weighed.
In later years, it served as a guild house for local professions and has also been a museum, fire station and more. In its most recent incarnation, the Waag houses a well-received café-restaurant as well as space (the former anatomy theater) for various types of exhibits.
The Waag is located in the Chinatown district of Amsterdam.Great place to go for Chinese food afterwards.
Recommended for Historic Sites because: De Waag is a beautiful historic building with a rich history. It’s an iconic building in the Chinatown district of Amsterdam.
Anne’s expert tip: On the weekends there’s a farmer’s market in front of De Waag.
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Whimsical and extravagant, this circa-1921 theater is a mad foray into creativity, an Art Deco study of color and shape. Named for the Jewish tailor who envisioned and financed the structure, the movie theater is a spectacle of stained glass, exotic woods, handmade carpets, and painted murals. Completely restored in April 2002, the theater is not only a bit of history reclaimed but a tribute to Abraham Tuschinski, who created the building and was put to death in a concentration camp. Movies are still shown today, but even if you don’t experience one, make sure to step into the Tuschinski for the pure visual appeal.
Recommended for Historic Sites because: Without a doubt the Tuschinski cinema is the most beautiful theater in Amsterdam.
Anne’s expert tip: Book a love seat and you will have the greatest night out with your date.
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Thanks to her diary, the story of Anne Frank’s hiding from the Nazis is a well-known historical event. Nevertheless, visitors to the actual building where she, her family and friends hid during the German occupation will find themselves thrown into instant contemplation in the face of this tangible reminder. Once-hidden rooms still contain period memorabilia, along with the haunting presence of those who spent two years of their lives secreted behind walls, dreaming of eventual freedom. Although only Otto Frank, Anne’s father, would realize that hope, the experience of the rest will never be forgotten. Come early – or in the evening – to avoid the lines at this humbling site.
Recommended for Historic Sites because: The story of Anne Frank is a story we should never forget. The Anne Frank house is a unique place to visit and remember.
Anne’s expert tip: My name is Anne too and ever since I’m a little girl the story of Anne Frank made a big impression on me.
Read more about Anne Frankhuis →