Amsterdam canals

Welcome to the enchanting city of Amsterdam, where every cobblestone street and iconic canal whispers tales of a rich and vibrant past. In this article, we invite you to embark on a historical journey through the heart of the Dutch capital, exploring seven captivating historical things to do in Amsterdam.

Steeped in centuries-old charm, Amsterdam's historical sites offer a glimpse into the city's storied past, a tapestry woven with the threads of trade, art, and innovation.

From the iconic Anne Frank House, bearing witness to the resilience of the human spirit during World War II, to the majestic Rijksmuseum, housing masterpieces that chronicle the artistic evolution of the Netherlands, these landmarks are more than mere attractions—they are portals to another era.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

1.) Rijksmuseum

When in Amsterdam, don't miss the Rijksmuseum. It combines great art with vivid history and offers both children and adults exciting insights into the past. 

Book a best-of tour and see the most impressive areas in just one hour, including famous works such as Van Gogh's Self Portrait. Or take your time and explore the museum according to your own plan, which you can create with the help of an app. This very family-friendly museum is also well prepared for the little ones, offering free buggies to borrow and four different app tours that take you to the corners most suitable for children.

On your way, you might see impressive dollhouses that are over 300 years old, masterpieces by Rembrandt and many other painters, fashion or furniture from different centuries, and works from specific eras. Or perhaps you find the ship models more interesting, are looking for well-preserved historical weapons or particularly appreciate religious motifs. Whatever your heart desires, you'll find it in the Rijksmuseum! 

7 historical things to do in Amsterdam

2.) Learn about Anne Frank

Put on your comfortable shoes and get ready for a very special walk that will take you back to the time of the Second World War. The Anne Frank Tour in Amsterdam follows in her footsteps. Find out how she lived and what her surroundings contributed. You should also visit the Anne Frank House, which not only served as a hiding place for her family.

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The story of Anne Frank and her famous diary is also the story of a family desperately trying to escape the injustice and cruelty of the Nazis.

On the other hand, it is a story of people who find the courage to remain human even under the most difficult conditions.

All in all, you get an insight into the time of the Second World War and the best, as well as the worst, in people. This is history up close and personal and therefore one of the best historical things to do in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam canals

3.) Explore the historic Canals

Amsterdam's famous canals are still used as traffic routes today. At the same time, they offer a relaxed view of both old and newer parts of the city. Combined with the right guide or a good audio guide, you can learn so much about Amsterdam, making it one of the best historical things to do in Amsterdam.

The historical focus of most historical boat tours is naturally on trade and Amsterdam's rise to become one of the most important trading ports in the world. But there are also other options, such as a tour that focuses on Rembrandt's life.Or maybe you just want to learn about the local culture, either way Amsterdam has a boat tour to suit all tastes!

Enjoy interesting stories, with cool drinks in the evening, following the illuminated waterways.Or take a tour that is rich in history and offers an excellent view of many historic buildings in daylight. When you visit Amsterdam, you should plan at least one boat tour.

7 historical things to do in Amsterdam

4.) Portuguese Synagogue

This synagogue dates back to the 17th century, the Golden Age of Amsterdam. At that time in particular, many Jews from Spain and Portugal were drawn to the flourishing city. Here they could practise their religion freely, whereas in their former home countries they had to choose between exile or conversion to Catholicism. And even that only in the best case.

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In Amsterdam, the growing Jewish community found a new home and came to prosper together with the city. The synagogue was decorated accordingly, and large parts of the original inventory are still preserved and in use today. It is also open to tourists and invites them to learn more about Judaism and the history of the Jews.

Go back to the Golden Age of Amsterdam and walk through the halls of the synagogue. Tickets usually include the opportunity to visit the nearby Jewish History Museum, so be sure to take advantage of that! Learn how the synagogue survived the Second World War, what role Jews played in Amsterdam through the centuries and how they lived.

5.) Van Gogh Museum

The Van Gogh Museum is not only a real eye-catcher for art lovers, it also offers deep insights into the life of Van Gogh and thus into his time. The permanent exhibition shows paintings, drawings and letters divided into stages of his life and thus leads through his time as an artist. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has the world's largest collection of the works and letters of this genius.

Here you wander between world-famous art and the poignant story of the artist. Discover lesser-known works and explore his relationship with his brother.

Nowhere else can you learn more about what occupied Van Gogh during his lifetime. If you choose a guided tour, you can also benefit from the extensive knowledge of your guide. Changing additional exhibitions further enrich the museum.

But the master is also very much in evidence outside the museum, where you can find fresh air and a shady spot for a break under the trees inspired by Van Gogh's paintings.

Want to delve even deeper into the past? Then follow Van Gogh from childhood by booking a combined ticket to visit his home village of Nuenen and the Van Gogh Museum!

7 historical things to do in Amsterdam

6.) Het Rembrandthuis

The Rembrandt House Museum shows how Rembrandt lived and worked. It is located in a house actually owned and lived in by Rembrandt in the 17th century.Based on a list of the inventory sold after Rembrandt's bankruptcy in 1656, the original furnishings were lovingly recreated. As Rembrandt himself was a collector of art from all over the world, there is much to discover here.

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It also contains the largest collection of Rembrandt's etchings. But paintings, of course, should not be missing from Rembrandt's home. Today, this space is occupied by works by his contemporaries and artists he inspired.

A daily demonstration gives you a closer look at Rembrandt's painting technique, if you're interested.

A mixture of Rembrandt's home and museum awaits your visit. Discover everyday objects from the 17th century. Learn how and with what artists of his time painted and enjoy a living feeling that goes back more than 300 years.

7 historical things to do in Amsterdam

7.) Amsterdam Dungeon

Get ready for a highly emotional journey through the darkest chapters of Dutch history! Immerse yourself in times of witch hunts, the plague and much more. Become part of history, make yourself laugh or scream, both are welcome! For those who like a bit of a scare, a visit to the Amsterdam Dungeon is the best historical thing to do in Amsterdam.

A beautiful historical building awaits you, where you will be guided through the different times and events. Take the chance to be present at a witch trial. Let yourself be whisked away to a ship with a particularly bloody past or meet the Grim Reaper in the flesh. A total of 7 changing shows and numerous special effects will make your visit an unforgettable experience.

Who is guiding you? Maybe a witch or an inquisitor, let yourself be surprised! But beware, in a place where so much horror is gathered, it is of course also haunted. You can only hope that your guide will be at your side to protect you.

As this is not for the faint-hearted, children under 10 cannot take part. Children between the ages of 10 and 13 must be accompanied.