11 Unforgettable Activities to Experience in Amsterdam on Your Cruise Stop

Welcome to Amsterdam, a must-stop for cruise passengers seeking a rich mixture of culture, history and stunning landscapes. Whether you’re joining a guided shore excursion or venturing out on your own, there are plenty of things to do in Amsterdam, from landmarks like the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum to leisure canal cruises.

Getting around the capital of The Netherlands is simple and can be done by bike, e-moped, walking or public transport. Explore Amsterdam with the city’s primary travel operator, Gemeentelijk Vervoerbedrijf (GVB), which offers tram, bus and metro services. One ticket grants access to all three modes of transport and is available for purchase at metro stations with English-language options on ticket machines.

The city is bike-friendly, with rentals and luggage lockers available near the cruise terminal entrance, for those with a pre- or post- cruise extension. Public transport (trams, buses, metro) is reliable, and walking is ideal if you don’t plan to stray from the compact city center.

Choosing between ship-sponsored excursions and exploring Amsterdam independently depends on your travel style. Here are 11 can’t-miss things to do in Amsterdam on a cruise, all of which are excursions commonly available on cruises, though many of them can also be enjoyed solo.

1. Learn About the City on an Amsterdam Canal Cruise

No visit to “The Venice of the North” is complete without an Amsterdam canal cruise. It’s a relaxing way to see the city’s canals, historic buildings and iconic bridges. Many canal cruise options include guided tours with historical commentary or themed cruises.

Top-rated options like the Amsterdam Classic Boat Cruise with Live Guide, Drinks and Cheese are available as shore excursions for an extra fee. Cruises with AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Celebrity, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), Oceania Cruises, Viking River Cruises and Virgin Voyages all offer this unforgettable experience.

2. Take a Tour of Zaanse Schans Windmills and Cheese Factory Tour

Discover Zaanse Schans, a traditional Dutch village known for its historic windmills and wooden houses. Meet at a centrally located point in the early morning, board the comfortable bus and enjoy the short 20 to 30-minute journey from Amsterdam to the charming countryside.

Your guide will share fascinating facts and anecdotes about each stop, including a traditional clog shop, an artisan cheese factory and the picturesque village of Giethoorn.

Full-day tours offer an immersive experience at a cheese factory, where you can learn about Dutch cheese-making and savor tastings of Edam, Gouda and Leyden. This excursion is available for a fee on Virgin Voyages, Viking River Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Celebrity Cruises. Royal Caribbean also offers a Zaanse Schans and Windmills tour, though it excludes the cheese factory component.

3. Admire the Natural Beauty in Keukenhof Gardens

If you’re visiting Amsterdam in the spring, a trip to Keukenhof Gardens should not be missed. Open from mid-March to mid-May (the exact opening dates can vary), this floral wonderland coincides with the blooming season of tulips and other spring flowers. Over seven million flower bulbs burst into bloom, showcasing a dazzling array of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths.

The expansive gardens offer endless photo opportunities, making it a perfect stop for both nature and photography enthusiasts alike. Cruise lines offering this enchanting excursion for a fee include Virgin Voyages, Viking River Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity, AmaWaterways and Avalon Waterways.

4. Join a Volendam, Marken and Edam Tour for Traditional Wooden Houses and Enjoy Edam Cheese

Explore the charming fishing villages of Volendam and Marken, just 30 minutes from Amsterdam, with a convenient round-trip transfer from central Amsterdam. You’ll experience traditional wooden houses and local crafts like wooden shoe carving, costume sewing, lacework, and pottery.

This tour also takes you to the nearby village of Edam, renowned for its delicious mild, slightly nutty cheese. Virgin Voyages, Viking River Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity and Avalon Waterways all offer this excursion for a fee.

5. Gain a Profound Insight into Anne Frank at the Anne Frank House

Immerse yourself in Amsterdam’s poignant history with a visit to the Anne Frank House from your cruise. The Anne Frank House is where Anne Frank and her family sought refuge from the Nazis during WWII, gaining a profound insight into her courageous story amidst the turmoil of war. Touring the Anne Frank House is a moving experience that underscores the enduring legacy of Anne Frank.

Booking this excursion through your cruise line offers skip-the-line access, ensuring minimal wait times, particularly during peak tourist seasons. Visiting the Anne Frank House via a shore excursion for a fee is available with Virgin Voyages, Viking River Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity, AmaWaterways, and Avalon Waterways.

6. Learn About Dutch Art and History on a Rijksmuseum Tour

Submerse yourself in Dutch art and history with a guided tour of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, home to masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer and other European masters.

On this skip-the-line-tour dive straight into the heart of the Dutch Golden Age, exploring iconic paintings and sculptures set amidst the museum’s lush gardens. This enriching experience is available as a tour through Virgin Voyages, Viking River Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity, AmaWaterways and Avalon Waterways.

7. Educate Yourself on (and Drink Some) Heineken Beer at the Heineken Brewery

For beer enthusiasts, visiting Amsterdam’s historic Heineken Brewery is a must during your time ashore from your cruise. The Heineken Experience, located at the original brewery site dating back to 1873, spans four levels of immersive exploration into the brewing process, the history of the Heineken brand and the ingredients used in brewing.

The tour culminates in a beer tasting, offering a delightful finale to your visit. If opting for the shore excursion through Royal Caribbean or exploring on your own, the brewery is conveniently located in the De Pijp neighborhood, south of the city center, easily accessible by tram or a short cab ride from Amsterdam’s main attractions.

8. Get Up Close and Personal with Vincent Van Gogh’s Masterpieces at the Van Gogh Museum

Art enthusiasts can dive deep into the world of Vincent van Gogh at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. With the largest collection of his works under one roof, this museum offers a journey into the life and artistry of the iconic painter.

Skip the lines and enjoy a private guided tour to explore van Gogh’s masterpieces, including the famous “Sunflowers” and insights into lesser-known gems. Learn about the artists who influenced him, like Gauguin and Monet, making this excursion a perfect introduction to both the museum and van Gogh’s remarkable legacy. Available through Virgin Voyages, Oceania Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, AmaWaterways and Avalon Waterways.

9. Take a Bike Tour of Amsterdam

Discover the city of Amsterdam like a local with a guided bike tour, like Mike’s Bike Tours Amsterdam. Choose from a standard bike or an electric bike, allowing you to cover more ground effortlessly.

Pedal through picturesque streets, parks and along canals, immersing yourself in the city’s charm while learning from a knowledgeable guide. Explore the rich history and heritage of Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter, visiting iconic landmarks like the Portuguese Synagogue, the Jewish Historical Museum and the National Holocaust Memorial — all from a bike seat.

This four-hour excursion is offered by Virgin Voyages and Viking River Cruises. For those preferring a shorter experience, Celebrity Cruises offers a three-hour, small-group guided bike tour operated by We Bike Amsterdam.

10. Explore the Jordaan Neighborhood

Explore Amsterdam’s Jordaan district with a local guide and learn about the culinary traditions of this transformed neighborhood, which was a working-class area now turned trendy gastronomic hub.

Stroll along picturesque waterways past cafes and restaurants to favorite foodie spots. Don’t forget to stop into authentic shops for Dutch specialties like smoked sausage, Gouda cheese and herring while learning about the area’s unique cuisine. This tour is offered by Virgin Voyages, Viking River Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Avalon Waterways.

11. Marvel at the Red Light District (Viewer Discretion Advised)

Amsterdam’s Red Light District (De Wallen) is one of the most popular attractions in the city, as it offers typically “taboo” services that other European cities don’t allow. Picture (legal) prostitution, sex shows and sex shops along with people in lingerie posing in red-lit windows.

During your 2.5-hour walking tour with a local guide, your guide will separate fact from fiction about the area’s history and tolerant attitudes as you wander through cobbled lanes, Zeedijk Street and Chinatown, looking on at the aforementioned red-lit windows, sex shops and erotic theaters. Throughout your meander, you’ll learn about the district’s colorful past, the legalization of prostitution in 2000 and Amsterdam’s “coffee shop” culture (no, coffee isn’t the focal point in these coffee shops — marijuana is).

You can upgrade to visit a coffee shop or the Erotic Museum, where you’ll explore a vast collection of erotic artifacts. This tour meets a 20-minute walk or a 10-minute cab ride from the port and is available via Viator.

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