Amsterdam is the capital city of The Netherlands and one of the most photogenic cities in Europe. There are a lot of iconic landmarks which make for stunning Amsterdam photography;
- Dam Square and Royal Palace
- Church of Saint Nicolas
- Rijksmuseum + I Am Amsterdam Sign
- Van Gogh Museum
- Heineken Experience
- Canals and Dutch Bike Photography
- Anne Frank House
- Coffee Shops
- Red Light District
In Amsterdam you can find great deals on almost 2000 hotels and you can even stay in a boat hotel on the canal.
Royal Palace, Dam Square
Dam Square is the the center of the city of Amsterdam. The square gets its name because it was originally a dam of the river Amstel. More importantly, this is also how the city got its name, Amstel + Dam = Amsterdam. You may have heard of the name Amstel, not because of the river but because it’s a famous Dutch beer. Dam square is a popular meeting point for Amsterdam tours.
The Royal Palace of Amsterdam is the prominent building on Dam Square. This building was originally the city hall during the Dutch Golden Age, nowadays it is at the disposal of the Dutch royal family. Did you know there’s another Royal Palace in The Hague?
Church of Saint Nicholas
A stunning view in Amsterdam is the Church of Saint Nicolas. Not only is this a unique Baroque style church but it’s also surrounded by Dutch style houses as well as the canal. This is quite a rough canal, as a result it doesn’t offer a reflection, however a long exposure in the evening could produce some special photography.
How to get around Amsterdam
You have 3 main ways of getting around Amsterdam, on foot, by bicycle or by tour bus / boat. The hop on hop off bus service in Amsterdam is part bus and part boat which makes it a more interesting service than in most cities (above). There are also lots of places to hire bikes in Amsterdam if you have a desire to bike like the Dutch! I chose to walk around the city which is very possible when the weather is reasonable.
Rijksmuseum + I Am Amsterdam Sign
The Rijksmuseum building is a photogenic building in its own right. Furthermore, it’s adjacent to a colorful park, as a result you can photograph it from many colorful locations. That’s before you go inside to view to iconic artwork inside. Visit the official Rijksmuseum website to view the latest exhibitions. More importantly, buy the skip the line ticket to immediately start photographing the artwork inside.
Van Gogh Museum
Adjacent to the Rijksmuseum is the circular shaped Van Gogh museum. Because of its circular shape, it photographs beautifully, even more so with a blue sky as well as a few clouds. Moreover, once inside, you can photograph the most famous of Van Gogh’s artwork. Visit the official Van Gogh site to see the latest exhibitions. In addition, buy a skip the line ticket so you can enter first!
Did you ever visit a brewery and see the processes involved in creating beer? Even if you’re not a fan of Heineken you can’t deny it’s an extremely popular beer. If you take a tour of the Heineken Brewery, you’ll not only learn about beer but you’ll also come away with some fantastic photos. Moreover, when you’re walking around Amsterdam, there’s nothing more Dutch than a photo with a Heineken object in it! Alternatively, you can get an Amstel subject in your photo.
Canals are one of the most famous landmarks of Amsterdam. They are incredibly picturesque, not just for the colorful boats on them but also for the typical Dutch houses as their backdrop. If you walk into the quieter parts of the city, often the canals are much calmer and picturesque. You’ll be rewarded for exploring several different canals of the city with unique photos. Additionally, you could organise a canal cruise to photograph the canals from a different angle.
There is an area of Amsterdam famous for its historical houses and churches. When you combine this iconic architecture with canals you’ll come away with some wonderful photos.
Dutch Bike Photography
There are millions of bikes in Amsterdam. Most are the traditional Dutch bike but to mix things up they come in all sorts of colors and designs. As you’re walking through the streets of Amsterdam keep your eyes open for especially picturesque parked bikes.
Anne Frank House
Imagine being locked up in a small room for 2 years. You can visit the house which Anne Frank and 7 others were hiding from the Germans during World War II. The house is now a popular museum devoted to the diarist, Anne Frank. Inside you’ll see her living conditions and how she survived here before sadly being discovered by the Nazis and taken away towards the end of the war. Although this is not a photogenic location, Anne Frank is an important reminder of World War II history in this region. You may have heard of the top selling book known as The Diary of Anne Frank.
Amsterdam is famous for its coffee shops which sell a lot more than coffee! You’ll walk past countless coffee shops in streets of Amsterdam and the smell is very identifiable. Because of this coffee shop culture, Amsterdam receives a lot of tourists from all over Europe visiting for a weekend of smoking. Coffee shops are not only in Amsterdam, they are also found in other parts of The Netherlands such as Utrecht and Rotterdam. There is also a similar culture in Christiania, Denmark. Remember to act sensibly and responsibly whilst enjoying the entertainment in Amsterdam! Finally, from a photographers perspective, these coffee shops create excellent street photography.
Red Light District
The Red Light District is probably the most famous landmark of Amsterdam. It’s actually several blocks of bars, nightclubs and of course, the women. Additionally, in this area you’ll find some of the strangest museums in the world. With all the questionable legal activities in Amsterdam, you don’t need to stretch your imagination too far to work out their subjects! It’s forbidden to photograph the women but if you really want a photo I’m sure you can sneak one.
Enjoy your Amsterdam Photography Experience
There is a negative side to Amsterdam, it suffers from over tourism. As a matter of fact, during holidays it’s difficult to walk around the city because of the number of people. For this reason, I strongly recommend you visit off season, alternatively you can visit other cities in The Netherlands which are much quieter and offer equally as good photo opportunities.
Like how detailed your post is. Amsterdam seems like a really fun place. I feel bad I missed the Anne Frank museum on my last visit!
I loved Amsterdam, have been there twice now. Have visited the Anne Frank museum which was really well set up and very interesting. I walked through the entertainment district and that was an interesting experience. It’s a great city to visit, though the drinks were really expensive!!!
Amsterdam is amazing. I have plans to visit it and can’t wait to photograph the points of interest.
Great post James, especially the details on boat hotel, quite interesting.
I love Amsterdam and try to go there every year. Such a beautiful city, especially after a visit to a coffee shop 😉
My favorite thing to do in Amsterdam is to rent a bike and just bike around. Once you get a bit out of the city center there are a lot of beautiful spaces not as overrum by tourists as the center is.
Very cool! I haven’t been to Amsterdam yet, but it’s on the list. It’s very interesting all that you can see in the Dutch capital and the canals look amazing!
That is a very detailed post. I’ve been a few times in AMsterdam, but there are still hidden gems to be discovered. And the pics are great!
For the first time reading one of your posts I’ve actually visited almost all of the main points of interest on your list! Except the Heineken experience, but that’s only because as a non-drinker I preferred to spend that time doing other things. When I walked past the canals of Amsterdam I made some beautiful reflection photographs.
I’m happy you made some good photos!
I’ve recently been making a number of visits to Amsterdam and really do feel at home there. I’ll see if I can get on the hop on hop off bus service as I definitely missed that.
Amsterdam is so amazing. Sadly I only had two days there but can’t wait to get back. This was a great overview of what to expect for new visitors. Your shots of I Amsterdam came out great. Nice frame work
I have yet to visit Amsterdam but really need to head over there. It sounds so interesting and different from most major cities in Europe. I think I would be really interested in Anne Frank house. So much history there.
And of course the more seedy side to Amsterdam would be interesting to experience too.
Been to Amsterdam but I missed so much. Must return and see more especially Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh, Anne Frank and
Rembrandt. Great post thank you for sharing!
Great post James and all I can say is that Amsterdam looks so beautiful. Even though you had bad weather your photos came out great. Photographing around the canals looks very rewarding!
Thanks so much for sharing. All the museums here look so neat. I would love to check out the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh museum. Great photos of this legendary city!
I visited Amsterdam last year and went to most of places you listed above, except Anne Frank house. It’s so interesting is the history of Anne Frank. I actually didn’t know she lived there, next time I’ll visit!
I love the use of the wide angle lens in Amsterdam. It’s interesting to see the city photographed through this lens. Photography by canals is always rewarding. Great post altogether! Thanks!
Amsterdam has always intrigued me! It’s like a world all to itself. Would love to go and stay in one of the boat hotels on the canal!
Amsterdam was such a joy on my travels. It was such a mix of emotions with being humbled by Anne Frank’s house, to appreciating the incredible Rembrandt paintings. I particularly enjoyed the espressos and cannot wait to go back.
We love Amsterdam and this is a great guide to some genuine highlights. Be honest. When you were there, did you make any puns about the “Dam” Square? We did, and we’re not ashamed to admit it 🙂
A great overview on touring Amsterdam. I didn’t know that there are 2000 hotels in the city! That’s crazy! I don’t think I will visit those “unusual” museums but definitely will pay a visit to Van Gogh museum and the Heineken Experience!
I left my heart at Amsterdam. I loved photographing the tulips, I visited during the spring bloom. I have such colorful shots from Amsterdam!
I was smitten by Amsterdam after I read the Diary of Anne Frank. I got further bewitched when i saw the beauty of Amsterdam. This place is on my travel list and I can’t wait to tick it off.
Hi James, May be, I am going to Netherlands soon. Hope your article will help me a lot for finding new places. Thanks a lot for your post.
I’m visiting Paris and France in August but Amsterdam isn’t a part of itinerary yet. I think I need to loop in a short trip up there for sure! Walking along the canals, even enjoying a coffee and watching the world go by sounds like a plan to me!
I really wanted to fit Amsterdam into my Europe itinerary this year. But I would have only been able to be there one full day, and I thought it just wouldn’t be right to cram all of Amsterdam into such a small amount of time. How many days would you recommend for an ideal trip to Amsterdam?
Hi Brianna, I think you’d need at least 3 full days to fully enjoy the city! You could see a lot in 1 day but you’d be very busy.
Aw, Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities in the world! I visited almost a year ago, and have been to almost all the places you describe, really nice memories! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this and telling people about the awesome Amsterdam 🙂
Great post James. I loved Amsterdam when I went but it was a few years ago so this article has inspired a return visit! A couple of the museums were closed when I went so it will be good to see them now they are re-opened and will certainly seek out some of the others that you mention that were not even on my radar.
I visited Amsterdam more than 20 years ago and I’ve seen almost all places described.
Didn’t book in hotel but a bed and breakfast and moved mostly on foot.
I would like to use bicycle next time. The canals in Amsterdam are amazing, such a unique European city!
Staying at a boat hotel in Amsterdam would be lovely! And visiting the hash, marihuana and hemp could be interesting, I need to check it out!
There is so much to see in Amsterdam that everyone can find something to enjoy. We chose to walk around Amsterdam as well as go on the hop on hop off bus/boat one day which was fun. Taking photos of Amsterdam from the canal boat is very rewarding.
Amsterdam is definitely on my list of future travels. So far I have only had some short layovers on at the airport there. I have heard from so many friends how nice it is in Amsterdam, and what to go see there. If I was still living in Europe I probably already had visited but it is a little far from my current home, California. Oh, well… someday!
One of my favourite cities in the world! The hop on hop off service is great. Not all of them, art part boat though. We always discover new places when we go back and find there is always more to see and do.
I personally love Amsterdam. I’ve had family live there on and off over the years so I’ve been visiting since I was about 14. It really is a different experience as a kid and adult, in the sense that as a 14 year old I was oblivious to the more ‘adult’ side to the city ha! But it’s such a lovely place!
Great posts! I haven’t been to Anne Frank house. Would love to go there one day.
I love those canal tours! Its such a gorgeous thing to do. Photography of the canals of Amsterdam is so rewarding!
I did visit the Anne Frank Museum too. Its such a humbling feeling!!!
I have been always fascinated with Amsterdam. I would definitely want to visit all the museums there. They are all interesting and quirky. I think Amsterdam is a perfect haven for all artists and art aficionados.
cool post, and what a trip down memory lane it was for me to read this. The Netherlands was my very first trip abroad and all these places were on my list. I really felt Anne Frank’s House was a special visit, but the city itself is really cool and dynamic. great travel tips to visit and i agree the museums you mentioned are definitely worth it too.