So you have a planned trip to beautiful Amsterdam. Whilst it can be quite nice to just amble around the streets of somewhere new, it can also sometimes be a good idea to make a plan. There are a multitude of options that can introduce you to this wonderful city’s cultural offerings; whether you prefer to uncover the history of Amsterdam by canal cruise, experience the city culture on a bike tour or take in the architectural sights with an Amsterdam walking tour, there is something to suit all ages and tastes. But what is the best way of experiencing this diverse city? With a wide variety of options to choose from, I have put together my top 10 of the best tours in Amsterdam.
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1. Bubbles & Bikes Tours
The best way to experience Amsterdam has to be with the amazing Bubbles & Bikes tours. Run by the lovely Maartje, this luxury VIP tour has to be one of the easiest and most practical ways of seeing the city, its stunning architecture and symbolic canals. Amsterdam is world renowned for its use of the bicycle so what better way to see the sights than by pedalling along in the fresh air whilst soaking up the enchanting beau-ty of this vibrant city.
Unlike other tours, Bubbles & Bikes provides a whole new luxury experience as tours are kept to an exclusive one or two guests at a time. This results in an intimate tour with a friendly and knowledgeable ‘local’, who offers fantastic insights that only a true local can. With three tours to choose from (Wine, Prosecco and Champagne), we opted for the Wine tour and cycled our way via landmarks and past breathtaking 13th century architecture before stopping at a lovely little cafe where we sat on the outdoor patio, sipping our drinks in the warmth of the sun. This proved to be a wonderful opportunity as we shared our trip experiences with some other cyclists, gleaning information from each other about further places to visit and explore in this fantastic city.
Subsequent stops with Bubbles & Bikes included a visit to the largest and most popular outdoor market in the Netherlands: the Albert Cuyp market. Here we had the opportunity to try some of the local delicacies before meandering our way over the glistening canals to the Gassan diamond factory, an historic building where we watched diamond cutters at work and learnt about diamond processing in our exclusive tour, whilst sipping a glass of champagne! A’dam Lookout was next on our stop where if you are brave (or mad) enough you can try Europe’s highest swing over the edge. I just settled for a couple of relaxing drinks whilst admiring the panoramic view of the city beneath me!
The beauty of Bubbles & Bikes is that cycling is a fantastic way to see the city’s main highlights and experience Amsterdam without the pain of fumbling through a guidebook or getting lost looking at the map. It is a factually interesting, yet relaxed tour and provides a totally new experience for a tourist to see the city through a genuine locals eyes.
2. Luxury Canal Cruise
With more canals than Venice, another wonderful way to experience the remarkable sights and beauty of Amsterdam’s intricate canals is with a ‘Flagship Amsterdam’ scenic cruise. Starting and finishing at the Anne Frank House this is a really informative way to enjoy all the beauty that Amsterdam has to offer whilst sitting back and enjoying a drink from the on-board bar. The tour guides you around the picture postcard canals and waterways of Amsterdam, and at one hour long provides a short introduction to Amsterdam history and life along the canals which is really interesting. The best bit is that as there are no sides or roof to the boat the views are amazing – perfect for taking those all important holiday snaps!
3. The Story of Amsterdam
To discover the hidden treasures of Amsterdam, ‘W.O.W Tours’ walking tour is one to join. As you stroll along Amsterdam’s enchanting canals, you realise quite quickly that this is a great way to experience the city’s must-see sights away from the crowds. As well as passing some of the attractions such as the Rembrandt House Museum, we also got taken to hidden special places and given hints as to where to get the best food and souvenirs, as well as the places to avoid! A personable and interesting guided tour which gave us a real insider view of Amsterdam.
4. Evening Cruise
The ‘Blue Boat Company’ nighttime cruise provides an experience not to be forgotten. When the sun goes down and the city lights are switched on Amsterdam turns into a truly magical city with fairy-tale twinkling lights highlighting the hundreds of illuminated bridges, merchant houses and iconic buildings alongside the canals. Once on-board the host welcomes you on the 1.5-hour canal cruise and proceeds to tell you many stories, legends, and historical facts about Amsterdam as you glide over the tranquil water. An interesting tour and a truly mesmerising sight to see this captivating city by night.
5. Jewish Quarter Anne Frank Walking Tour
A visit to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without a historical visit to the Jordaan District, where Anne Frank’s house is located. Starting from the Jewish Quarter, this 2-hour small group walking tour with ‘360 Amsterdam Tours’ follows Anne Frank’s footsteps during WWII and gives you a real insight into not only her life but what Amsterdam life was like during that time. Our guide showed us documents and pictures as we navigated through the area which made the whole experience even more humbling. This is definitely a tour where you will learn and see a lot (including the Jewish Historical Museum and the Auschwitz Monument) and it ends at the Anne Frank house where you can opt to explore the museum on your own if you so wish.
6. Tuk Tuk City Tour Including Cheese Tasting
So if you are a cheese lover like me then whilst in Amsterdam sampling their local cheese varieties is heaven! What better way to see the sights and sample than with ‘Amsterdam City Tours’. This two hour tour is a really fun and different way of seeing the city and you still get to see all the sights through your window-less Tuk Tuk. At the end of the city tour we thoroughly enjoyed our cheese tasting session at “Cheese & More” where we learnt about the authentic cheese making process and enjoyed our four different kinds of cheese with dips and mustard, washed down with some speciality beer from the Maallust brewery. Yummy!
7. Heineken Experience and 1-Hour Canal Cruise
This three hour experience by ‘Lindbergh’ is a lovely day out and provides some interesting information about the history of Heineken. The tour of this original factory – transformed into a museum in 2001, is self-guided (roughly taking two hours,) but you learn the story of the world famous Heineken brewery and get a behind-the-scenes look at facilities including the gigantic copper tanks where the lager was brewed. You also have the opportunity to take part in a tasting session and test your skills at drafting a perfect beer. Follow up the tour with an audio-guided 1-hour canal cruise where you can absorb the most beautiful architecture and see some of the iconic landmarks such as the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) – grab a seat on the side of the boat though so you can take pictures out of the window!
8. Amsterdam Red Light District and Coffee Shop Tour
Whilst in Amsterdam it’s worth exploring the phenomenon of the red light district and coffee shops. With ‘Trigger Tours’ you’ll get to hear the facts behind Amsterdam’s tolerant attitudes and laws and learn about the area’s colourful past and how prostitution came to be legalised. This fascinating 2.5 hour walking tour is not only educational, but fun and very informative – we walked around the district and got a really good understanding of the background and history, and also the perspective from a locals point of view which was really interesting to hear.
9. Amsterdam Street Food Tours
Taking you through different Amsterdam neighbourhoods and sampling delicious goodies along the way are the ‘Hungry Birds’ who run street food tours in Amsterdam. With a choice of a 3.5 or 5 hour daytime or evening tours, you visit places you would have never found on your own, chat to the people ‘behind-the-scenes’ and get to hear a bit of history about that place. A really great way to experience the true parts of Amsterdam whilst tucking in to not only Dutch cuisine, but the cultural influences that make Amsterdam. Foodie highlights have to be the waffles smothered with caramel!
10. Hop On – Hop Off Bus
‘City Sightseeing’ is well known for its double-decker, hop-on hop-off bus. Stopping at some of the famous touristy spots in Amsterdam such as the National Maritime Museum, you can stay on the bus or get off at any of the 11 stops as many times as you like. If seeing the city by road wasn’t enough, there is also the option to upgrade to include a hop-on hop-off sightseeing cruise around Amsterdam’s canals which I feel provides even better visibility of some of the sights and buildings. Like the bus tour, the canal tour provides you with earphones so that you can listen to the stories about Amsterdam as you sit back and relax on the peaceful canal waters.
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