Living in one of the most unique cities in Europe, we asked Sam, a local to Amsterdam to share her favourite inside tips. The following are her recommendations for the best unusual things to do in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is an extremely popular tourist destination in the Netherlands that attracts millions of tourists a year. The sheer amount of people visiting Amsterdam and exploring the city means that all the main attractions in the city and the popular things to do can become overrun with tourists. This can result in one feeling like you are merely floating amongst a sea of tourists, which can be overwhelming and can almost ruin the authenticity of this beautiful city.
As a local of Amsterdam, I know there is so much more to the city than the main tourist spots and attractions and visiting these will make your visit much more enjoyable. That is not to say the touristy things to do in Amsterdam should be ignored (because some of them are amazing and worth the touristy crowds to see). However, it is nice to see a different side of the city and visit some lesser-known sights and attractions in Amsterdam.
I have a list of 10 unusual things to do in Amsterdam that will bring you away from the city centre and to some hidden places in the city. Be sure to check a few of them out during your adventures in Amsterdam!
Our Favourite Unusual Things to Do in Amsterdam
Explore Hortus Botanicas
Hortus Botanicas is the vast botanical gardens location in Amsterdam’s Plantage area. The gardens are enclosed by glass walls and are full of green trees, plants, and giant cacti.
These botanical gardens are one of the oldest in the world, and their inception dates back to 1638.
Back in those days, the gardens were used for growing plants that would be harvested and turned into medicines by doctors.
Today they are just full of lush greenery that is great for unique explorations.
Walk Around the Begijnhof – One of Many Unusual Things to Do in Amsterdam
The Begijnhof is one of those hidden-in-plain-sight Amsterdam attractions. This may be the reason why it doesn’t get nearly as many visitors as some of the others within the city.
The Begijnhof area is a small yet very historic area of Amsterdam that is home to the oldest home in the city! It is a small courtyard surrounded by a circle of houses and is called a hofje. There are many hofje throughout the city, but this one is the most historic.
Today it is inhabited by residents of Amsterdam, but it used to be an area for women who vowed their life to chastity.
The lovely Begijnhof is a charming section within the city and offers a welcome escape from the busy streets that surround it.
Check Out a Live Flower Auction
Amsterdam (and all of the Netherlands) is very well known for all the beautiful tulips that come alive during the spring months. You may be surprised to learn that spring isn’t the only time you can find tulips in Amsterdam, though, they can be found in secret places year-round.
One of the most unique places to see tulips is at one of the live flower auctions that happen every day from 7 am – 11 am!
The auction house is a little bit out of the city of Amsterdam, but if you are down for an adventure, this is one you surely will not forget.
Hidden in plain sight within the maze of streets in Amsterdam is a row of tiny houses tucked away between two buildings.
Finding these houses can be a struggle because they are quite small and very well blended within the crack. However, going on a search to find them can be exciting as they are located near Amsterdam’s centre but closer to the beautiful Jordaan district of the city.
The houses were put there by a marketing agency to bridge the gap between the two houses as the house numbers jump for 54 – 70 without notice.
An adventure awaits when looking for these unique houses with a quirky story!
Vondelpark is by far the most famous and visited park in Amsterdam.
After a long walk around the park and visiting one of the many restaurants, you may think you’ve seen it all. However, the park holds some secrets that only a few know about, one of which is Vondelbunker (and we are quite literally talking about secrets)!
Vondelbunker is a secret bunker hidden under a bridge in the famous Vondelpark.
The bunker was built as a bomb shelter in WW2 and has seen been remade into a hot spot for unique events and activities. There are a ton of things to do in Amsterdam at night, and heading to the bunker is one of the most unique! Here you can find concerts, a cinema, art exhibits, dinners, and even a microbrewery!
Make Friends at the Pozenboot
The Poezenboot is the world’s only floating cat sanctuary that really speaks volumes about Amsterdam life.
This catboat shows Amsterdam’s dedication and love to canal houses, and it is the only place you will find a floating houseboat wholly reserved for the stray cats in the city!
You can experience the catboat in two ways. Either by viewing the boat from a distance and watch the cats enjoy their days on the water (don’t worry, the boat is closed in with wire). Or you can go on it for yourself.
This is an excellent opportunity not only to spend some time with Dutch cats, but also to experience an authentic Dutch houseboat.
The A’DAM swing is a rooftop swing located on the top of the A’DAM Tower in Amsterdam North.
Visitors are allowed to ride the swing for 5 euros over the edge of the whole building!
The experience is exhilarating and exciting and something not many people know about. For those seeking a dose of adventure and adrenaline though, it is certainly one of the most unique things you can do in Amsterdam.
Be Amazed at Cuypers Library
One of the best-kept secrets of the Rijksmuseum is Cuypers Library, which is a vast wooden library filled with floor to ceiling books!
When most visitors arrive at the Rijksmuseum, they head straight for the Van Gogh paintings, or to Rembrandts Nacht Watch, but very few think to go to the library. However, the views from the observation deck are lovely, and it feels as though you’ve traveled back to the 19th century.
Recently, more people have learned about the library, and it is busier than it had been previously. But if you go during non-peak hours and non-peak days, you should get to view it without much distraction.
Plus, you can spend some time exploring the vast and marvellous museum if you want to wait for it to quieten down.
Catch a Film at Theatre Tuschinski
Theatre Tuschinski is an old and magnificent movie theatre located right in the centre of the city. This movie theatre is old, and the interior is decorated in ornate details that are a reminiscence of the 1920s. You may even find yourself looking more at the plush velvet seats and details around the screen than the movie itself!
I know it may sound odd to suggest going to a movie whilst visiting a city. We are taught to always be on the move and to see as much as we can in a short amount of time.
However, it is nice to sit back and relax at some points and soak in your surroundings. Plus, Amsterdam is a notoriously rainy city, and having a backup plan if the weather is unsatisfactory is always a good idea.
Also, for your information, they do play movies in English, so no need to worry about not being able to understand the language.
Oudemanhuispoort Bookmarkt – The Last of Our Unusual Things to Do in Amsterdam
Oudemanhuispoort Bookmarkt is another hidden in plain sight Amsterdam attraction that I highly suggest you find!
This is the best place in the city to visit if you are a fan of art or literature because this whole path is filled with stands selling second-hand books and art pieces. Although this secret spot in the city is right in the heart of Amsterdam, it is easily missed by most tourists, which is great because it remains authentic and uncrowded.
Interestingly enough, this walkway was frequented by the famous Vincent Van Gogh as he enjoyed walking through it during his strolls. So, not only is it an exciting find for discovering new literature today, but it also holds historical value!
If you are looking for a unique gift or souvenir to bring home from Amsterdam, this is the best place to get it. Or if it is raining, this offers the perfect hideaway to escape the cold rain.
Amsterdam is so much more than the typical tourist attractions you routinely hear about. Although it is nice to visit the main sights of the city, it is also a joy to see a different side of Amsterdam and feel like more of a location exploring!
Be sure to visit and enjoy some of these unusual things to do in Amsterdam during your next visit. You will not be disappointed and will have a new perspective on the city.
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Guest Post: Samantha Karen is the founder of the travel bog Sam Sees World. She is a millennial traveler on a mission to seek the new and unknown so she can document her experiences and inspire others to explore this wondrous world. Her objective is to provide valuable information on the best things to do, see, eat, and experience while traveling and getting some good Instagram photos along the way! Find her on Instagram and Pinterest.