The 4 busiest attractions in Amsterdam (+ how to avoid waiting in line)
Amsterdam is a must visit destination. I should know: I’m Dutch, and I live only 30 minutes from the city center. From the gorgeous canals, to the beautiful parks, the crooked houses in the hip Jordaan area and the world class museums: Amsterdam is really as diverse as it is beautiful. But unfortunately it is also overrun with tourists. This shouldn’t scare you away from visiting, however, you should just be a little more prepared when planning your trip. There are some simple tricks to avoid spending hours of your precious time waiting in lines.
With all the world famous museums that are located here, it would be a shame to waste too much time waiting in line for them. You could spend that extra time eating poffertjes or bitterballen, for crying out loud! Luckily there’s actually many ways to skip waiting in line. Today I’m sharing the four busiest attractions and how to avoid the lines in Amsterdam! (yes, including those of the Anne Frank house!)
FIRST OFF, you can check the waiting times information before heading out to the museum! These queuing times are updated every 30 minutes by the attractions themselves, so you won’t have to be surprised by long lines anymore!
Van Gogh museum
The Van Gogh museum is dedicated to the art of Vincent van Gogh and has the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings in the world. In 2002 two paintings were stolen from the museum: Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen and View of the Sea at Scheveningen. They were missing for 14 years, but in September 2016 they were found, and are currently exhibited again. Around 1,6 million people visit the museum, so it tends to be quite busy most of the days. Fun fact: I’m actually from the town Vincent Van Gogh started his painting career!
Option 1: Most people tend to leave museums and other attractions around 17.00 to go back to their hotel, or maybe to grab some dinner. And since the Van Gogh museum is open till 22.00 on Fridays, 5pm would actually be the smartest time for you to head out to the museum! There won’t be as many people as during the day, the line for the tickets will be shorter and you will be able to see more of the exhibitions and stuff they stall in museums without having to elbow your way trough the halls. Just be aware that the museum closes at 6pm on other days.
Option 2: If you are planning to visit multiple museums in a day you can always check for combination-tickets, giving you entry to a few attractions for a cheaper price. You can exchange your voucher at the Amsterdam canal cruise kiosk for the actual tickets for the cruise and museum(s). This way you only have to stand in line once and won’t have to wait in line for those other attractions anymore! There are many combi-ticket options, for example this ticket for the Rijksmuseum and the city canal cruise and even one ticket for the canal cruise, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum! Yep, three of the busiest destinations on this list! These tickets are very convenient since you only have to buy one!
Option 3: If you don’t want to wake up early and don’t want to wait in line either, you can always buy a skip the line ticket for the Van Gogh museum and just bypass the whole queue altogether. Buy your skip-the-line ticket here. There also are some combination-options, for example, this killer-combo ticket that is perfect for every tourist! With this ticket you can skip the line for the Van Gogh museum AND the Rijksmuseum, plus you get a lunch along the canals.
The Rijksmuseum is dedicated to art and history and is home to some of the most famous artworks of the 17th century Dutch artists Vermeer and Rembrandt exhibiting paintings such as the Milkmaid and the Night Watch. But it doesn’t stop there. There are many more gorgeous paintings to behold with a collection of more than 8000 pieces, making this the largest art museum of The Netherlands! After the museum’s ten years long renovation, it has as many as 80 different rooms and an Asian collection in the Asian pavilion. The museum was in 2013 and 2014 the most visited museum in The Netherlands with record numbers of 2.3 million visitors! Curious about the current exhibitions? You can check them out here!
Option 1: The busiest days for the Rijksmuseum are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so keep that in mind. But the best time to visit the museum and avoid large groups of people would be to go very early, around the opening time 09.00 am or later on the day, after 15.00 pm. The museum is absolutely gorgeous and fairly large so there shouldn’t be too much elbowing work once you’re in.
Option 2: If you’re not in the mood to wait or you’re short on time, I’d recommend buying a skip the line pass for the Rijksmuseum and just skip the whole queue altogether. You can find the skip-the-line ticket for the Rijksmuseum here.
Anne Frank House
(And yep, that’s the dreaded line that’s there every day!)
The Anne Frank House is a museum dedicated to the Jewish girl Anne Frank, who wrote the world famous diary during the Second World War. It houses the Secret Annex (het Achterhuis) behind the bookshelf where the Frank family hid from Nazi persecution and has a permanent exhibition on the life of Anne Frank, all forms of persecution and discrimination. The original diary is on display in the museum, along with Anne Frank’s other diaries and manuscript papers.
The museum receives around 1,2 million visitors every year, and so the Anne Frank house is jaw droppingly busy every day of the year. I’ve been there on cold February mornings, and saw lines around the corner, as well as on hot summer days. The popularity of the museum shouldn’t scare you off, there are just some rules to follow to avoid disappointment. They’re recently changed the system, so they no longer sell tickets at the door, only online. These online tickets are made available on the website two months in advance on the website. If you missed out, there’s always a couple of tickets available on the day itself, but you also have to buy those online. You simply book a time slot for when you want to visit, so you are guaranteed of a spot. The demand for these tickets is extremely high, especially on weekends, so it’s recommended to book weeks in advance to get a ticket.
If you couldn’t manage to get an online ticket in time there is still the option for you to buy the tickets on the day itself at the museum entrance. But know that these will only be sold from 3:30 pm until half an hour before closing time. When you do try to get a ticket at the entrance, please make sure you get there as early as possible so you won’t be at the end of the line. On very busy days, the museum starts to turn people away from the line a few hours before closing time, so entry is not guaranteed sadly.
Unfortunately it is not possible to buy skip the line tickets for the Anne Frank House, but if you missed out and would still like to learn more about Anne Frank, her story and the area she used to live in during the WW2, there are amazing walking tours you can follow. We recommend this tour! (Museum admission not included.)
Amsterdam canal cruise
When you visit Amsterdam you can’t miss out on the canal cruise, of course! There really is no better way to experience Amsterdam than from the ancient canals. It really is perfect for any weather condition, as you’ll be dry when it rains, and in the summer you can enjoy the city the locals do.
There are many different companies that offer canal cruises, such as: Holland International, Canal, Blue Boat, Rederij Kooij, Rederij Plas and Lovers. Some even offer romantic evening cruises, pizza dinner cruises, and there is even a hop-on hop-off service from Canal Bus. But how do you know which one to choose? It all depends on what you want from the cruise since every company offers different services. If you are okay with an hour of cruising the canals without too much fuss, than this canal cruise will be enough. And if you want something with a little bit more flair you could go for this 1.5 hour evenings cruise. Or are you looking for something really fancy there is a 4-course dinner cruise! You buy the tickets online and a voucher will be sent to your e-mail address. Go to the Amsterdam Canal Cruises kiosk and exchange your voucher for the actual tickets. The voucher can be used at any time. The long lines you see standing in front of the boats can go pretty fast, as there will be a boat every 20-30 minutes and can hold a lot of people. You can find even more amazing cruises here!
You can also check out more amazing combination-tickets, which will save you some money! Such as this tour through Amsterdam & canal cruise (save €7!), or this canal cruise & admission ticket for Madame Tussauds (save €3,50!).
Amsterdam City Card
And last, but not least: is the I Amsterdam City Card! This pass gives you free entrance to 44 popular attractions, free entrance to the boat cruise, ride the trams and buses for free and you get discount on many things such as restaurants, cafes and bike rental, and more. This card is available in four options. You can choose between a 24-hour, 48-hour, 72-hour or even a 96-hour City Card. You can either get the card delivered at home with worldwide shipping, which will include a detailed city map and free magazine, or you can pick it up on arrival. All you have to do when you pick it up, is present your printed conformation e-mail at one of the pick-up locations. The museum element on this card will be activated the first time you visit a museum or attraction. The same goes for the public transport element. This element gets automatically activated once you use any kind of public transport for the first time. The card itself is valid until 31 December 2017. Get your Amsterdam City Card here!
SKIP THE LINE OPTIONS: if you’d like to skip the lines at any of the other most popular Amsterdam experiences we recommend checking out this website which is full of skip-the-line options that are delivered straight to your phone. Easy does it!
Visiting Keukenhof & Zaanse Schans
Keukenhof and the Zaanse Schans are world famous, respectively as the most famous flower park in the world (perfect to spot tulips) and the place to spot windmills in the Netherlands! If you are planning a trip to either one or both of these places, be sure to check out this Keukenhof, Zaanse Schans and A’dam Lookout tour! This tour combines the 3 highly popular attractions all in one day for a great price and will bring you to the destinations with a comfortable bus.
Hopefully this article will help you set off on your Amsterdam adventure prepared! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me in the comments!