For your next trip, why not explore these lesser-known city treasures?
From the Van Gogh Museum to the Anne Frank House, Amsterdam has its share of blockbuster attractions—but there are plenty of lesser-known, and frankly underrated, sights to explore, too. Here are some of our favorites.
CoBrA Museum of Modern Art
A short tram or bus ride from central Amsterdam in Amstelveen, the CoBrA Museum is inside a beautiful building designed by architect Wim Quist, and houses playful and colorful works by the avant-garde 20th-century CoBrA group (the name was created from the home cities of its members: Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam), by the likes of Karel Appel, Constant and Corneille. The movement began in 1948 and its legacy was significant—Paul Klee was among the artists influenced by it.
This beautiful medieval church is Amsterdam’s oldest building. It occupies a picturesque location in the heart of the red light district, where it seems to attract few tourists (most who come here are interested in quite different things). It’s a great place for getting your bearings in the city—climb the church tower for a stunning birds’ eye view (check the website for times). The church hosts a variety of cultural events, and adjoining it is a postcard-perfect little café with a small garden.
Few tourists seem to explore this eastern district of the city, yet it has some wonderful features: Artis, the city zoo; one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens in Hortus Botannicus; perhaps the best Turkish food in town; and lots of green spaces to stroll through. Take a walk through the Plantage neighborhood to Park Frankendael—once the country estate of a wealthy 17th-century merchant, and now a park complete with a country-house exhibition space and some quality restaurants (try De Kas or Merkelbach).
In the west of town, the area in which this spacious green park is located is a bit too modern and working class to be touristy, but it offers a more restful experience than the ever-busy Vondelpark, as well as a taste of the ‘real’ Amsterdam. The park boasts sculptures, a petting zoo (De Uylenburg) and what many consider the best kids’ playground in town, so it’s great for a family outing.
House of Bols
Founded in 1575 by Lucas Bols, the world’s oldest distilling company, Bols, runs this interactive museum and tasting room in celebration of the original Dutch spirit, genever, and its many flavored offshoots. The tour is an insight into the ancient, and very Dutch, art of distilling, and the visit ends with a delicious cocktail (or two—you can refill your glass for a modest sum).
The Resistance Museum (Amsterdams Verzetsmuseum)
A fascinating look into the Dutch experience of World War II, with a variety of often touching everyday exhibits that help to shed light on what made the collaborators, as well as the resistance fighters, tick. A separate display looks at the last days of Dutch colonialism.
The Tulip Museum
This compact and quirky little museum inside a tulip shop tells the story of the tulip in Amsterdam—including its origins as an early Turkish import, and the phenomenon of tulipomania, the world’s first speculation bubble in Rembrandt’s day.
Jane Szita is on the Netherlands beat for Travel + Leisure. She lives in Amsterdam.