As the capital city of a country of which 26% lies below sea level, it’s no surprise that Amsterdam is a popular destination for river and canal cruising. If your cruise docks in the Amsterdam Cruise Port, you’ll want to make the most of the city before sailing off to other exciting destinations in your floating hotel-restaurant-club-bar!

Follow the tips below for river cruisers, whatever your sightseeing style, and however much time you have to enjoy the city!

Those arriving in the city as part of a cruise will find themselves moored on a one-mile stretch along the river embankment, somewhere between the central railway station and the chocolate factory.

Basilica St Nicholas
Yellow Bike

Things to Do in Amsterdam

The great thing about Amsterdam Cruise Port is that you only have to step off the cruise ship and you are right in the beating heart of the city centre. Consider renting a bicycle at Yellow Bike – just a 20-minute walk from the passenger terminal – to be prepared for an authentic Dutch day and night out. From the Yellow Bike rental, it’s an easy ride into the Red Light District, where you will find myriad attractions, including the neon-lit windows for which Amsterdam is so famous.

Popular attractions in and around the Red Light District

  • Sexmuseum: an eccentric collection of artefacts including toys, dolls, illustrations and statues depicting sometimes baffling sexual scenes (warning: some are quite graphic).
  • Oude Kerk: the church around which the Red Light District is centred.
  • Basilica of St. Nicholas: another unexpected religious building amongst the hustle and bustle of the Red Light District.
  • Red Light Secrets: Amsterdam’s museum of prostitution, where you can experience the District from behind the red-lit windows where sex workers sell their services.
  • La Vie en Proost: an affordable, friendly strip club where visitors can order a beer and a lap dance from one of the barely dressed dancers.
  • Red Light Radio: behind one of the windows lies something unexpected: the studio of a radio station that has been broadcasting from here since 2010.
  • Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum: a museum dedicated to the history, science and uses of Cannabis sativa L.
  • Zeedijk: a vibrant street in Amsterdam’s Chinatown that’s full of restaurants offering various Asian cuisines.

From the Red Light District, jump on your bike and head further down into the city centre, stopping off for a beer on Rembrandtplein or Leidseplein. Rembrandtplein offers fun photo opportunities with the sculpture of the Night Watch, Rembrandt van Rijn’s most famous painting, and Leidseplein stands out for its amazing music venues and host of packed pubs and clubs.

Red Light District
Oude Kerk River

Marvellous clubs and music venues close to Leidseplein:

  • Melkweg: book tickets for an amazing music gig at the Melkweg, or stop by later at night when the venue turns into a nightclub. In both scenarios, you can enjoy the photo exhibitions at the Melkweg Expo for free.
  • Paradiso: set in an old church – complete with high ceilings, balconies and large, illuminated windows – Paradiso is arguably one of the most beautiful music venues in The Netherlands.
  • Jimmy Woo Club: if you really want to go out in style, the Asian-themed Jimmy Woo Club offers a night out worthy of the rich and famous. Dress to impress if you want to enter this venue!
  • Sugar Factory: this is a more offbeat and artsy nightclub where lesser-known artists gig, perform and exhibit their work.
  • Café Alto: if it’s jazz that rocks your boat, the small, brown-café style Café Alto features live music every day of the week in a laid-back atmosphere.

If you’ve grown an appetite by the end of a long night, why not do as the locals do and step into a snack bar to order a kapsalon? This brilliant dish, invented by a Cape Verdean hairdresser in Rotterdam, features fries covered with döner or shawarma and gouda cheese, melted under the grill until it drizzles all over the fries and meat. A generous portion of salad on top ensures a wholesome meal to soak up the alcohol before jumping back on your bike to head back to the ship.

Busy Amsterdam Street

For Culture Buffs

Daytime in Amsterdam provides an excellent opportunity to explore some of the unique cultural experiences the city has to offer. Take the tram from Amsterdam Cruise Port, and within 25 minutes you’ll find yourself on Museumplein, where you’ll find a host of world-famous museums within walking distance of each other. Don’t forget to take a picture in front of the IAmsterdam sign too!

Museums on Museumplein:

  • Rijksmuseum: this prominent Dutch national museum reopened in 2013 after a 10-year renovation. The collection features paintings from Dutch masters such as Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt, Jan Steen and Frans Hals.
  • Van Gogh Museum: a museum dedicated to the troubled Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, whose praised post-impressionist works include Sunflowers, Almond Blossom, The Potato Eaters and Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.
  • Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam: for modern and contemporary art, head to Amsterdam’s Municipal Museum, colloquially known as the Stedelijk. Set in a modern building, its collection features works from famous artists including Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Karel Appel and Andy Warhol.
  • Moco Museum: a private museum set in a villa on Museumplein best known for its exhibitions of works by Banksy and Andy Warhol.

On your way back from Museumplein, there are another couple of cultural highlights to consider visiting. Of course, there is the Anne Frank Huis, which tells the story of the Jewish girl who spent over two years hiding in a secret annex with seven others during the Holocaust. In the museum, visitors can read pages from her diary, learn about her life and see the house and annex where she hid.

Visiting the Anne Frank house is an unsettling though unforgettable experience for most people. For a more light-hearted exhibition, FOAM (Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam) is a good alternative. Featuring photography from across the globe in a friendly museum with a cellar café, FOAM is the place to go for lovers of the still image.

What’s more, art aficionados will love strolling around the Jordaan, a quaint and quirky part of town that’s full of art galleries, vintage boutiques and designer shopping.

NDSM Wharf
Amsterdam Bar

For Off-the-Beaten-Path Cruisers

If you’re the kind of traveller who likes to explore the more alternative side of cities, Amsterdam has a few hidden gems in store for you. Pop down to any of the following attractions, and you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find beyond the tourist highlights!

  • NDSM Wharf: from Amsterdam Central station, located just minutes away from the Cruise Port, take a ferry across the IJ to get to the NDSM Wharf, an eccentric industrial area that now hosts regular festivals, performances and other cultural events alongside a quirky, greenhouse-style restaurant called Noorderlicht.
  • Westergasfabriek: within half an hour on public transport from the Cruise Port, you’ll find the Westergasfabriek. This former gasworks factory is now a cultural venue and features a plethora of restaurants, bars, an ice cream shop and a cinema. Especially in summer, the Westergasfabriek is full of life with music festivals, house parties and markets.
  • Roest: another industrial design venue, Roest is a street food market where alternative artists and events are showcased on a daily basis. Sit inside in the Roest Café or enjoy some fresh air out on the terrace or on the sandy beach!

For Luxury Cruisers

Looking for a more upmarket experience? There are plenty of exclusive things to see and do in Amsterdam as well! Try one or all of these experiences for a luxurious day or weekend in the Dutch capital city.

  • Shopping at the P.C. Hooftstraat: the P.C. Hooftstraat is Amsterdam’s most expensive shopping street, featuring designer stores like Hugo Boss, Agent Provocateur, Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana. It’s located in Oud-Zuid, one of the most affluent areas of Amsterdam.
  • Fine dining establishments: some of the best restaurants in Amsterdam include Restaurant Vinkeles, Bord'Eau Restaurant Gastronomique and Restaurant Vermeer, all of which have earned a Michelin star.
  • Amsterdam’s decadent cocktail bars: for a true taste of luxury, end the day in a chic cocktail bar. Top choices include Lion Noir, SkyLounge, Bluespoon and the Conservatorium Hotel.

See Amsterdam in Limited Time

If your river cruise is departing or arriving in Amsterdam, you will want to take some time to choose from the extensive list of sights and activities above. If you’re just stopping over in Amsterdam, you may only have one day to spend in the city. Here are our recommendations for visitors who have limited time.

An Afternoon in Amsterdam

If you only have an afternoon, we recommend staying close to the Cruise Port and the Central Station. Find yourself a nice terrace in the sun near the Damrak and enjoy a cool Amstel beer with cheese snacks and bitterballen (a delicious meat-based snack). Stroll through the Red Light District – a very friendly area during the day – and consider walking to The Dam, where you’ll find the Nieuwe Kerk church and the Royal Palace. Depending on how you’re doing for time, you might be able to pop into the Sexmuseum or Madame Tussauds before you make your way back to the cruise ship.

24 Hours in Amsterdam

If you’ve got a whole day to spend in Amsterdam, you’ll be able to tick a few more things off your list. Depending on your interest (see our customised recommendations above), you can visit a museum and have a stroll through the Jordaan, or visit one of the alternative venues in the morning and early afternoon. Take your time enjoying the pretty bridges and canals as you wander around town, and don’t forget to sit down for a nice lunch or coffee and cake. Consider doing some window shopping, either at the P.C. Hooftstraat or at more affordable venues. Return to the ship to freshen up before choosing one of our recommended restaurants for dinner and ending your night on Leidseplein or in a fancy cocktail bar. Amsterdam at night has a completely different atmosphere than Amsterdam by day, so spending 24 hours in this captivating capital allows you to see both sides of its charm. A midnight stroll through the Red Light District is an experience like no other in Europe.


48 Hours in Amsterdam

Spending a weekend in Amsterdam allows you to spend one day on art, culture and museums, experience the city’s nightlife and have a relaxed second day shopping, sightseeing or visiting the parks and markets. After a restful night in the cabin of your river cruise ship, you’ll be recharged for the weekend despite all the fun you’re having!

Where will you go in Amsterdam? With so many things to see and do, you can create an itinerary that suits your needs and interests. Viking River Cruises depart from Amsterdam, allowing you two whole days to explore, with fellow cruisers or by yourself. Uniworld, Emerald Waterways and Riviera Travel also start and/or end their cruises in Amsterdam too – enquire today about which river cruise is best for you by calling 0800 810 8220.

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