The Netherlands is a river cruiser’s dream. Cities like Rotterdam and Haarlem – the latter, the centre of Holland’s tulip growing district – nestle along canals as rich with history as the destinations they connect.

The most famous of these cities is, undoubtedly, Amsterdam; a charismatic centre of history, culture and unique experiences that shouldn’t be missed on your next Dutch Waterways or Rhine river cruise.

See and do

Vintage shops overflowing with hidden treasures; centres for innovative design; charming chocolate box architecture; there is so much to do in Amsterdam that it can be difficult to know where to start.

Picturesque canals

Boat sailing down a picturesque canal bordered by gabled buildings in Amsterdam

Cruising along this city’s canals is unmissable in itself. Make sure you are on the deck of your river cruise ship as you glide past Amsterdam’s gabled houses and pretty bridges on your way into port; and in the evenings, take a peaceful stroll to see the city’s waterways come alive with twinkling lights.

A boat trip along Amsterdam’s canals is a fabulous way to see the city while you have free time in port, while if you are craving a more active excursion, take to two wheels and join the droves of cyclists on a spin around the city. Cycling is a way of life here; the streets reassuringly bedecked with spacious bike lanes and around 513km worth of dedicated cycle paths.

Fascinating museums

Visitors streaming past an elaborate painting in an art gallery in Amsterdam

Amsterdam has a museum for every traveller. Anne Frank Huis is the most famous; home to hidden rooms where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis during the German occupation. It was here she wrote her famous diary before soldiers found the secret annex – a stark, heart-breaking reminder of a life lived in constant fear of discovery. Pre-book tickets or head there as early in the morning as possible to beat the queues.

Elsewhere in the city there is the Van Gogh Museum (home to more than 200 paintings, 500 drawings and 700 letters by the artist), the Joods Historisch Museum (part of the Jewish Cultural Quarter) and the stunning Royal Palace.

Beautiful green spaces

People riding bikes down a shady path in Vondelpark in Amsterdam


Amsterdam’s parks are as beautiful as its waterways: the perfect place to rest your feet during a day packed with sightseeing. The 47 acre Vondelpark is a haven of peaceful lakes, fragrant rose gardens and open air theatres, while Westerpark is an ideal picnic spot and Rembrandtpark holds the oldest petting zoo in Amsterdam.

Eat and drink

Over the years Amsterdam’s dining scene has gained legendary status. Fine dining and hip bars now sit alongside bruin cafés (traditional Dutch pubs) named for their wood panelling, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer choice available on Amsterdam river cruises.

Wine glasses and jugs of water in the sophisticated bar area of a restaurant in AmsterdamCafé Hoppe

This 17th century bruin café sits just a few minutes away from Amsterdam’s lovely flower market. Legend has it that the Dutch liberal party, D66, was founded here, and that brewing-mogul, Freddy Heineken, drank here in the 1970s. The beer is fantastic and the gezelligheid (cosiness) even better.


Serving unbelievable regional produce, this snug restaurant is the perfect spot for seasonal Dutch specialities and a warm atmosphere. Home-cured and smoked salmon, jellied rabbit and amazingly tender monkfish are just some of the dishes served with amazingly fresh vegetables and complemented by indulgent desserts.

Cafe Restaurant Amsterdam

Nestled in a water pump building more than a century old, Café Restaurant Amsterdam is a great place to experience the city’s more cosmopolitan dining scene. Retro seating, tables made from reclaimed wood and industrial floor tiles create an exciting atmosphere matched by the impressive menu. Carpaccio with truffle mayo, goats cheese with peperonata, and oysters are just some of the dishes you can sample with beautiful wines.

Don’t miss

Bright pink tulips waving in the Bollenstreek tulip fields in Amsterdam

Bollenstreek tulip fields

Amsterdam is so full of things to see and do that it is easy to let some of the most unmissable experiences slip through your fingers. On your next Amsterdam cruise, make sure these activities make your bucket list:

  • Herring carts: These wagons serve an Amsterdam speciality, raw herring, with onions and pickles. Though not technically completely raw (the herring is laid in salt for a couple of days), this unusual snack is an acquired taste but, after your initial bite, surprisingly tasty.
  • Canal cruise: Stepping off your river cruise ship and onto another boat might not be your first thought, but it is a great way to see picturesque scenery and historic architecture you may not have discovered on land.
  • Tulip fields: Bollenstreek (Amsterdam’s world famous tulip fields) are just 20 minutes outside the city and will take your breath away.

Are you desperate to experience the history, culture and laid-back lifestyle of Amsterdam? Call our Cruise Concierge team on 0800 197 0854 to find out more about Dutch Waterways and Rhine river cruises, and to book your perfect trip.

What is your favourite thing to do in Amsterdam? Have we missed any sights off our list? Let us know using the comment box below.

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About Emma Smith

Emma has more than seven years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for nearly five years. She loves learning about new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Princess Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Avalon Waterways and Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in her diary for 2024! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

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