What Is Amsterdam Known For? (Local Tour Guide Explains)

December 18, 2020

As a born Amsterdammer, I know the city like the back of my hand. I love this city, and so I like to share my love for it with others. I do that through my city tours, but also through this article. But what is Amsterdam known for?

Amsterdam is known for its beautiful canals, quirky architecture, rich history, museums, Anne Frank, Dutch art, coffeeshops, diverse cultures, and the Red Light District. Because of this, Amsterdam is visited by millions of tourists each year.

If you are looking for a city that pulls you in with its art, charm, grace, and beauty, look no further than Amsterdam. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at what makes Amsterdam so great and why it is visited by more than 9 million tourists each year.

What is Amsterdam Famous For?

When talking about what makes a city famous, we have to look at exactly what sights, histories, and cultural influences the city has.

Amsterdam has no shortage of all of these for us to explore. And yes, before we get started, Amsterdam is far more than just a layover spot for backpackers to grab some “green.”

So, what is Amsterdam known and famous for?

This has everything to do with what Amsterdam has to offer for tourists and what makes it worthwhile for people to visit the capital of the Netherlands.

The cultural significance of Amsterdam:

Amsterdam is a relatively compact city in terms of land coverage to population density. In just 219 sq km (84 sq mi), over 838,000 people live and thrive in the city.

But this isn’t the most impressive stat.

The most impressive feature of Amsterdam is that within the confines of this city, there are over 50 museums, many of them world-famous!

This means there is nearly one museum for every 0.25 sq km (0.09 sq mi). That is absolutely insane!

This is what makes Amsterdam the cultural capital of the entire region.

The city is bursting at the seams with art, history, and culture to be experienced and learned. 

From the real-life Anne Frank House to the world-renowned Rijksmuseum and even the Van Gogh museum, which houses the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings on earth, you will find it all here.

But the culture doesn’t end there.

Amsterdam is not only a center for cultural and historical remembrance. It is a living and breathing cultural melting pot.

In Amsterdam, over 170 distinct nationalities live together and coexist. 

In the entire world, only a few cities have more different nationalities. This makes Amsterdam one of the most culturally diverse places on earth.

You will notice this in the food, music, art, and people you meet on every corner. Amsterdam is famous for its varied cultural experience!

The beauty and charm of Amsterdam:

Amsterdam is an incredibly charming city to visit.

The beautiful 17th-century Golden Age architecture paired with the intricate canal systems makes central Amsterdam one of the most amazing cities in the world.

It leaves you feeling like you took a step back in time, to a place outside of this era completely.

The canals of Amsterdam are some of the most romantic and beautiful in the world.

While Venice is known as the city with the most beautiful canals, we should also definitely not forget Amsterdam. This is also why Amsterdam has been nicknamed Venice of the North.

You can walk for miles along the beautiful and famous canals or sit on the dock with a bottle of wine to watch the boats go by. Of course, you can also take a boat tour and enjoy the city’s beauty from the water.

You can enjoy Amsterdam in many different ways:

What Is the netherlands Known For - Canals Amsterdam

Aside from the beautiful architecture and canals, the local people are mostly very friendly.

If you are looking for something, they are willing to help you and do this in excellent English. This is because the Dutch people are known for talking many foreign languages.

But I must also say that not all Amsterdam residents are happy with the many tourists. Because of the many tourists, there is also a regular nuisance for local residents.

Amsterdam is also known as the Sin City of Europe:

Yes, yes, I know I can’t avoid it. We have to talk about the quirky features of Amsterdam at some point. At least, if we want to discuss everything Amsterdam is known for.

Because, in its own way, Amsterdam is famous for being a very quirky city all around.

Most notoriously, Amsterdam is famous for what you ​can​ do rather than what you can’t. This is why Amsterdam got nicknamed the City of Sin.

You see, authorities in Amsterdam long ago decided that it was best to allow the people certain pleasures, so long as no one was getting hurt.

This included the use of soft drugs like marijuana and prostitution.

This led to the rise of coffeeshops and the Red Light District. But rest assured, Amsterdam is not a city of evil! For most people, these places are just there and are not looked at strangely.

However, the fact remains that Amsterdam has a bit of a quirky side.

You can roll up a joint at a coffeeshop or go and meet a legal sex worker in the red light district. Take that, Las Vegas!

Amsterdam is one of the most eco-friendly cities:

The city’s cleanliness is another area in which Amsterdam is world-renowned and famous. From its appearance to its actual eco-friendly nature of it.

Amsterdam is famous for being incredibly conscious of its surroundings and their impact on the world. Amsterdam ranks 5th among the most eco-friendly cities for working people.

This is partly due to the many cycling and walking to work, the high number of vegetarian and vegan eateries, renewable energy, and the many techniques used to be environmentally friendly.

For example, 58% of Amsterdam residents go to work on foot or bike each day. This is also why Amsterdam is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the entire world.

But Amsterdam is not satisfied with this.

For example, the city wants to emit 95% less CO2 by 2050, and 80% of the houses must run on sustainable energy by 2030.

Another good example is the quality of the water in the Amsterdam canals.

In the past, the sewers even ran into the canals, and people got sick from the water. This has improved enormously in the last decades.

Nowadays, water is pumped from the IJsselmeer through the canals, dramatically improving water quality. This makes it possible to swim through the canals, which is also done annually for a good cause.

In this way, Amsterdam tries to remain one of the most eco-friendly cities in the world. Many cities worldwide could take an example from this.

What Tourist Attractions is Amsterdam Known For?

As we discussed above, Amsterdam is famous for its culture and architecture. This means that there are plenty of unique places to see and experience when you are there.

The city has some incredibly famous landmarks that visitors from around the world go out of their way to see. Here are just a few!

Dam Square​:

Otherwise known as the “Dam,” this massive central city square is where it all happens.

Here you will find festivals, shops, street performers, and breathtaking architecture surrounding you. The Dam Square is a must-see for everyone visiting Amsterdam and is one of the city’s most famous sights.

The famous “Dam Square” in Amsterdam:

Anne Frank House:

The Diary of Anne Frank is a heartbreaking tale of a young Jewish girl hiding from Nazi persecution during WWII. That girl lived in Amsterdam, right on the canal in this famous canal house.

She penned much of her diary in this house and lived in the ‘secret annex’ hideaway for over two years. This home is now a world-famous museum and is one place every visitor to Amsterdam must see and experience.


The Rijksmuseum is among the most famous museums in the entire world. Here in this 19th-century complex, you will find some of the most famous European masterpieces of the ages.

You will be able to see such paintings as ​“The Night Watch”​ by Rembrandt van Rijn, The ‘​Self-Portrait’ by Vincent Van Gogh​, and ​“The Battle of Waterloo” ​by Jan Willem Pieneman.

If you are a bibliophile, you will also love visiting this museum because it is home to 35000 old books and manuscripts. It also houses a collection of medieval sculptors and traditional handicrafts.

This museum of art is home to some of the most breathtaking works of human history and must be seen to be believed. It may be the most famous place in all of Amsterdam.

Van Gogh Museum:

One of the country’s top attractions is the museum dedicated to the most revered painter of the Netherlands, Vincent van Gogh.

Established in 1972, this museum exhibits the exceptional artistry of the artist. 

In this museum, you will find 200 paintings, 500 sketches, and 700 letters from Van Gogh. Moreover, you will see a colorful multimedia presentation of Van Gogh’s life.  

The Royal Palace:

The Royal Palace of Amsterdam was built in 1648. Ancient Rome inspires its classical architecture.

The Council hall is the most beautiful and largest room in the Palace. It is one of Europe’s best staterooms. The ceilings of the Palace are painted by Rembrandt’s pupils, Govert Flinck and Ferdinand Bol. 

Red Light District:

Amsterdam red light district

I mentioned it briefly, but the Red Light District is, of course, one of the most famous tourist attractions in Amsterdam.

Although most Dutch people are not surprised by this neighborhood, it remains strange for many tourists.

Where the Red Light District once began as a service, so to speak, it has now become a real attraction. This is not necessarily a positive development.

First of all, the ladies are just there to do their jobs and not to be seen as some kind of zoo animal. So I want to emphasize that when you walk the Red Light District, treat the people who work there with respect.

Moreover, tourists cause a lot of nuisance in the Red Light District. First, because it is simply too crowded, but also because of excessive alcohol and drug use.

Magere Brug (skinny bridge):

The Skinny Bridge is one of Amsterdam’s most iconic bridges. This bridge over the Amstel River connects two parts of the city.

It is especially recommended to come to this place in the dark. This is because the bridge is then beautifully illuminated with hundreds of lights.

This makes it one of the most photographed places in Amsterdam.


The Jordaan is probably the most famous neighborhood in Amsterdam. It is a romantic neighborhood with beautiful houses. Surrounded by numerous canals, the Jordaan used to be known as a real working-class neighborhood.

Today it is one of the most popular and hip neighborhoods in the city. You can stroll through it and experience the real old Amsterdam.

Museum Het Rembrandthuis:

Rembrandt van Rijn, even people who don’t like art know this name. This museum, named after the Dutch painter, is located in his old house.

That alone should be reason enough for an art lover to visit this museum. But in addition, this museum has a wonderful collection, which every art lover dreams of.

On display are not only works by Rembrandt himself but also by his many pupils.

This museum is well worth a visit for its art, but also for the history of the building in which it is located.

Then please check out the following articles:

- Why Is Amsterdam Called The Venice Of The North?
- Why Is Amsterdam The City Of Sin?
- Why Is Amsterdam The Capital Of The Netherlands?
- 45 Interesting Facts About Amsterdam (Fully Explained)
- 12 Best Amsterdam Canals Facts You Didn’t Know


Amsterdam is among the most charming, beautiful, and unique cities in the world. Its quaint beauty is often overlooked by bigger and flashier cities in western and central Europe.

However, I hope that by reading this, you now know what Amsterdam is known and famous for. This must-have ensured that Amsterdam is on the top of your list for cities to visit.

Hopefully, thanks to this article, you know which places to visit during your visit to Amsterdam!

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Written by

Leo van den Berg
As a Dutchman I am extremely proud of the beautiful country in which I live. My goal is to convey my passion and love for the Netherlands to as many people as possible.

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