Amsterdam is one of the most unique cities in the whole of Europe.

Interspersed with canals and a hugely liberal way of life, the Dutch capital tends to be high up on many a bucket list. Originally developed as a small fishing village in the 12th century, Amsterdam has turned into one of the most cosmopolitan, hippest places you're likely to find. It even boasts a small medieval centre which has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Many River cruises of both the Danube and the Rhine begin in Amsterdam offering the perfect way to start your adventure by exploring this magnificent city.

So what is there to do for a day or two in Amsterdam? Here are our suggestions of what's not to be missed before you set sail through the rest of Europe.

Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum museum Amsterdam

Start your day with a trip to the Rijksmuseum, the largest of its kind in the whole of the Netherlands. Opened in 1800, it began life as home to a collection of art from all over the country. It moved around quite a bit during its early days before finally relocating to its current home in 1885, a building designed by Dutch architect Petrus J.H. Cuypers in a neo-Renaissance style.

Many recognise Rijksmuseum as being one of the most breathtaking in all of Europe and it is in the enviable position of displaying some world renowned pieces of art. Amongst the amazing collection of around 8,000 objects is Rembrandt's 'Night Watch' as well as several paintings by Vermeer, van Dyck and Jan Steen.

You will also be able to visit the newest exhibits following the museum's ten-year renovation, which was completed in April 2013.

It is open throughout the year with entrance charged at around €17.50 (£12).

Van Gogh Museum

Right at the top of many people's to-do lists when they come to Amsterdam is visiting the Van Gogh Museum. Honouring one of the most well-known and popular artists the world has ever seen, this is a showcase of Vincent van Gogh's (1853-1890) very best work. From paintings to drawings to letters, no stone is left unturned when discovering his incredible artwork.

Opened in 1973, the museum has quickly become one of the most popular in Europe with 1.6 million people visiting it every year. There are over 200 paintings and 500 drawings of Van Gogh's housed here, along with other works from fellow Impressionists and Post-impressionists around at the same time.

The museum is charted chronologically representing different periods in Van Gogh's life - The Netherlands, Paris, Arles, Saint-Remy and Auvers-sur-Oise. They are set in a wonderful space meaning you can take your time simply admiring this great collection of work.

Open throughout the year admission is around €17.

Oude Kerk

If you are looking for more of a spiritual experience then head to De Oude Kerk (The Old Church). Ironically situated in Amsterdam's Red Light District, this huge, monumental church is a symbol of the national character of Dutch Protestantism. It also symbolises the tradition and the present-day of the city.

Standing in the city since 1213, Oude Kerk is one of the very few Protestant churches with unique architecture. From the sculpted misericords in the choir to the impressive gravestones that line its floor, it really is a sight to behold. The focal point of the church is the 17th century grand organ which plays a major part in a series of concerts throughout the year.

Oude Kerk opens all year round with admission prices starting from €5.

Anne Frank House

Canal at Anne Frank house


Tucked in an unassuming Amsterdam suburb is the home of Anne Frank. The building at Prinsengracht 263 became a residence synonymous with the second world war and the Nazis' occupation of the city. Anne lived there for over two years with her family writing a diary to account the goings-on of the time.

Being sheltered there, they were exposed in August 1944 and deported to various concentration camps, with only Otto Frank of the group surviving the war and going on to have his daughter's diary published. In 1960, the home was converted into a museum and visitors are able to see into the exact room where the Frank family hid from the oppression of the Nazis.

While the room remains empty, visitors will still feel the atmosphere of the time.

Amsterdam Brown Cafes and Canal Walks

Amsterdam canals


With a long day of sightseeing behind you, it is time to relax a little and unwind and this is where Amsterdam comes into its own. There are over 1,500 restaurants, cafes and bars dotted across the city but for a true taste of local way of life is to visit one of the many brown cafes.

They are a quintessential side of Amsterdam culture. Known as bruine kroeg in Dutch, they are characterised by their dark wood interiors and smoke-stained walls. Relax with a wide selection of beers and borrel hapjes (typical bar snacks), before moving on to a restaurant later on in the evening.

Crown your day in Amsterdam with a stroll under the stars as you wander through the canals, just keep an eye out for hurried cyclists. Biking is a very popular form of transport in the city.

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