Tulips & Canals: The Best Things to Do in Amsterdam in Spring

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I’m sure Amsterdam is a wonderful place to visit other times of the year. Yet, there is something particularly romantic about visiting Amsterdam in spring. Between the tulips and the canals, you’ll find that the best things to do in Amsterdam in spring are better than in any other season.

Just over a year ago, I spotted tickets for a direct flight to Amsterdam for $388 roundtrip! Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t right, and I sadly had to pass them up. Fast forward a year. When I saw cheap tickets to Amsterdam again, I knew I had to jump.

Actually, I had a choice of tickets – Amsterdam or Rome. While Italy sounds amazing, I chose Amsterdam for one simple fact: tulip season. Though being able to combine my visit to Amsterdam with a weekend in Paris and a walking tour of Brussels might have helped to sway me a bit.

If you ever have the chance to visit, Amsterdam in spring is just too magical to pass up. So here is my list of the best things to do in Amsterdam in spring.

Thank you to Those Dam Boat Guys for sponsoring my canal tour. For more information, read our Disclosures.

De Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Explore the Sights of the City

The seasoned travelers out there might scoff, but I am all for playing tourist when I visit somewhere new. It’s all about finding the right balance. The best trips always mix together sightseeing with some longer and more memorable experiences. You want the best of both worlds: the best things to see and the best things to do in Amsterdam in spring.

Amsterdam is a very compact city, as evidenced by the rowhouses all squeezed in together. You can easily cover the whole city on foot. I suggest first picking your big experiences, like a canal tour or a museum, and adding in your sightseeing as you go from one spot to the next.

Here are a few of my favorite sights:

Churches – Amsterdam’s churches are beautiful. De Oude Kerk, pictured above, is actually Amsterdam’s oldest building.

Dam Square – The main town square in Amsterdam, Dam Square is surrounded by notable buildings and monuments. And full of pigeons. We even spotted Darth Vader while we were there.

Bloemenmarkt – The flower market sits on floating stalls on a canal. Just so you know, if you plan to buy tulips, make sure you get ones specifically labelled as allowed through US Customs.

Vondelpark – Every city needs some green space, and Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s version. We took an evening stroll, and the park was full of people enjoying the beautiful weather.

Centraal Station – Most likely you’ll start your visit here. One one side you have the free ferries going to Amsterdam Noord, and on the other side you have bicycles, bicycles and more bicycles. Oh, and the city.

Jordaan – The Jordaan neighborhood is one of the prettiest spots in Amsterdam. Charming rowhouses intermingled with vintage shops and restaurants make it the perfect spot to grab a meal before visiting the Anne Frank House or going on a canal tour.

Hofjes – As we were exploring the city, we noticed a gorgeous doorway with tons of people entering inside. Obviously, we followed them. We had stumbled upon a hofje, a hidden inner courtyard. There are a bunch of them around the city, so feel free to explore.

And there are so many more sights to see in Amsterdam. Just make sure you don’t spend the whole time sightseeing or you’ll miss out on some of the best things to do in Amsterdam in spring.

Related: How to Survive a Red-Eye Flight with Kids

Those Dam Boat Guys canal tour, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Tour the Canals with Those Dam Boat Guys

What was your favorite thing you did on your trip? That’s what people keep asking me. I’ve been struggling to answer this question because the entire week was basically magical. Generally my answer has been: our boat tour through the canals of Amsterdam.

If you are looking for the best things to do in Amsterdam in spring, you absolutely must go out on the water. There are a number of canal tours from which to choose, but I eventually settled on Those Dam Boat Guys. They are simply the best canal tour in Amsterdam. Just look at their Trip Advisor stats if you don’t believe me. I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed my tour.

One of the best advantages of Those Dam Boat Guys is that they do small group canal tours. Our canal tour had only 11 people on the boat. Compare that to the 50 people who ride on the larger canal cruises. Because of the smaller group, the tours are much more personal. Plus, our small boat could fit through all the small canals that the large cruises can’t navigate.

Our guide, Leeroy, started the tour by asking what everyone most wants to see. That’s the beauty of a small group. Our guide was not constrained by a set route or talking script. He personalized the tour to our interests and our questions.

Of course, this means that your tour is highly dependent on having amazing tour guides. Let me tell you, Those Dam Boat Guys delivered. They have gone out of their way to hire guides who are super-knowledgeable about the city. I was amazed at how much our guide knew about Amsterdam. He answered questions on history, architecture, local culture, drug policy, and current events. He even answered all my husband’s engineering questions on water management.

You can’t actually say you’ve done all the best things to do in Amsterdam in spring unless you’ve been on the canals with Those Dam Boat Guys.

Special thanks to Those Dam Boat Guys for being a sponsor of the Pingel Sisters! Although I received the canal tour for free, all opinions are my own.

 

rows of yellow tulips, red tulips and pink tulips and the Keukenhof Gardens outside Amsterdam in The Netherlands

See the Tulips at the Keukenhof

Whenever I plan a vacation, I start by making a list of the one thing I absolutely have to do. When I made a list of the best things to do in Amsterdam in spring, seeing the tulips was at the top of my list. Honestly, tulip season was the deciding factor for choosing Amsterdam over Rome.

If you visit Amsterdam in spring, you absolutely have to visit the Keukenhof. Open only 2 months a year, the gardens attract millions of visitors for good reason. They are absolutely incredible. Meticulously planned, everywhere you look your eye is caught by stunning flowers. And since the gardens are only open for such a short period, every plant is selected to be at is peak bloom.

The best way to visit the Keuekenhof is to catch the bus from Schiphol Airport. As you exit the airport, the bus area is to your right. When we were there, the line for the bus was so long it wrapped around to the front of the airport. Just so you know, buying a ticket beforehand won’t save you any time since the line to buy tickets and the line to board the bus was the same.

For a discount, make sure you buy the Combi Pass which pays for roundtrip bus fare and your admission to the Keukenhof. Else you will have to wait in line again at the entrance to the gardens.

The gardens themselves are stunning. Even if you don’t usually like botanical gardens, you’ll want to visit the Keukenhof. Unsurprisingly, one of the best things to do in Amsterdam in spring is seeing the tulips, and the Keukenhof is the best place to see the tulips. Just make sure to free up some space on your camera, because you will find Instagram-worthy spots galore.

Related: An Amazing 3-Day Paris Itinerary

 

sand path leading to the North Sea, The Netherlands

Ride a Bike to the Ocean

You’ll really be missing out if you don’t get on a bike while in the Netherlands. Amsterdam has bikes everywhere. Actually, there are more bikes than people. While Amsterdam is probably the most bike-friendly city in the world, be very careful if you bike in the city. Instead, take one of the routes out of town. If you take the ferry from Centraal Station to Amsterdam Noord, I’ve heard the bike routes up there are fantastic.

However, for a unique experience, one of the best things to do in Amsterdam in spring is a bike ride past the tulip fields. Outside the Keukenhof Gardens is a small bike rental shop. When you rent your bike, you also get a map with their standard suggested routes varying in distance from 3 to 15 miles.

If you aren’t sure which route to take, just ask the attendant. They will gladly show you where the best tulip fields are and suggest a route based on how much time you have.

We chose the longest route, and I was so focused on how beautiful the tulip fields were that I was caught off guard by how amazing the ocean was. The Keukenhof Gardens are only a few miles from the North Sea that we had a pleasant ride all the way out to the ocean. We dipped our toes in the water, wrote messages in the sand, and collected a few seashells for the kids.

The invigorating sea breeze was just what we needed for a break from our bike ride. Plus, there is a delicious spot to stop and eat before heading back to the Keukenhof.

Related: A Walking Tour of Brussels: See the Highlights in One Afternoon

 

Rijksmuseum gardens in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Visit a Museum or Two

When we arrived in Amsterdam, my biggest fear came true. It was raining. Luckily for us, it only rained the first morning of our trip. However, if you plan to visit Amsterdam in spring, you need to prepare for rain. While having a good raincoat helps, one of the best things to do in Amsterdam in the rain is to visit a museum.

I have a confession to make. Please don’t hate me. I did not go inside a single museum while I was in Amsterdam. Blasphemous, I know. I ended up spending my time outside enjoying the beautiful weather.

It’s a bit of a shame because Amsterdam has some amazing museums.

Anne Frank House – Everyone I talked to in Amsterdam raved about the Anne Frank House. I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t fit it into my schedule. I blame the jet lag. The museum starts on the first floor by describing Amsterdam in the 1930s. As you go through the museums, the rooms get smaller and smaller as the topic starts to narrow from all of Amsterdam to just Anne Frank’s hidden room.

Rijksmuseum – I have no idea why I didn’t snap a photo of the exterior of the Rijksmuseum because it’s a beautiful building. If you want to learn about Dutch art and history, you’ll want to visit. While we didn’t go into the museum, we enjoyed the beautiful gardens outside.

Van Gogh Museum – Right next to the Rijksmuseum is the Van Gogh museum. As with any of the museums, you’ll want to buy your tickets in advance to skip the lines. If you love visiting art museums, this is one you’ll want to see.

Those are just the big three. If it happens to be raining, visiting museum is one of the best things to do in Amsterdam in spring. And if it’s not raining, visiting a museum is still one of best things to do in Amsterdam in spring.

Doesn’t visiting Amsterdam in spring sound amazing?

If you could visit anywhere in the springtime, where would you choose?

The best things to do in Amsterdam in Spring: A complete travel guide if you want to bike through tulips fields, visit the Keukenhof or take the best canal tour in Amsterdam.

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9 Comments

  • Reply My Sons Father May 28, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Sounds like it was magical. I’m so glad you had a good time!

  • Reply Monica May 28, 2018 at 11:04 am

    I want a ride with the Dam Boat guys!! And take a ride to the ocean. Beautiful photos!!! Beautiful place!!

    • Reply Rachael May 30, 2018 at 1:12 am

      You should! They are AMAZING!!

  • Reply Jay | Life of Creed May 28, 2018 at 11:57 am

    Wow, looks like an amazing time. Great photos!! Seems like a great place to add to my list of places to travel to. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Reply Amelia June 4, 2018 at 1:58 am

    This all looks absolutely divine. Love the pics!

  • Reply Em June 4, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Amsterdam has never been somewhere I want to visit but it looks absolutely beautiful and those tulips are gorgeous! I might have to add it to my list – great post!

    Em ~ http://thisisemsworld.com

    • Reply Rachael June 7, 2018 at 10:01 am

      It was never on the top of my list, either. But it totally should have been. It’s really amazing.

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