Ever find yourself obsessively refreshing your weather app in the run-up to a vacation? I’m definitely guilty of keeping one eye on the elements when planning a trip away. But rainy days are all part of the travel experience – especially in Western Europe!
Luckily, Amsterdam is one city that can handle a little rain. Packed full of world-class museums, vibrant indoor markets and a blossoming foodie scene, there’s plenty to keep you entertained, come rain or shine.
Here’s 8 ideas of fun rainy day activities to do in Amsterdam.
1. Fill up on pancakes
Start your rainy day off the best way possible – fill up on pancakes and coffee. The Dutch do both impeccably well.
There are pancake houses dotted all over the city, providing the perfect sugary shelter from the rain. My personal favourite was Mook – a trendy little spot in Amsterdam West, serving up delicious organic pancakes to retro hip-hop beats (what’s not to love?)
Culture Trip have also published a handy guide to some of the top pancake restaurants in the city, if you need more inspiration.
2. Visit the Moco Museum
Amsterdam is home to some of the best museums in the world and you could easily spend a whole weekend (and a whole wad of Euros) wandering around the likes of the Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt’s House and the Stedelijk Museum.
But Moco Museum might just be the best of the bunch (and the most under-stated).
This boutique museum showcases some of the world’s best modern and contemporary art, from the likes of Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst and Salvador Dali.
Until January 2019, Moco is exhibiting the works of global street artist Banksy in a stunning and thought-provoking display. You can also step inside Roy Lichtenstein’s mind-blowing 3D room and explore the Moco Garden, with its pink confetti grass and giant gummy bear installation.
Visiting Moco is much cheaper than some of the city’s more high-profile museums. And (unlike the other museums dotted around Museumplein) there’s no need to pre-book, which makes it the perfect spontaneous stop on a rainy day.
Cost: €13.50 (€12 online) or €11 (€10 online) if you visit before 11am or after 5pm.
3. Step back in time at the Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House is one experience that should not be missed on any first-time visit to Amsterdam. Stepping behind the bookcase and into the world of Jewish teenager, Anne Frank, and her family is a humbling and fascinating experience.
Tickets sell out several months in advance and are only available online, so you absolutely must pre-book. 80% of tickets go on sale two months in advance and the remaining 20% are released on the official website on the day. No tickets are available on the door, despite what you may read online.
My advice would be to book yourself the museum visit + introductory program through the website. This was the only way we were able to get our hands on tickets, a few weeks in advance. For an extra €5, you’ll get a fantastic half-hour introduction to the history of Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, which helps set the context for your visit. You’ll then be able to explore the museum and house at your own pace.
The museum is open until 7pm throughout the winter and until 10pm between April and October, so I’d recommend planning this in as an evening activity, in case the sun does come out during the day,
Cost: €10 for the museum visit only or €15 for the museum visit + introductory program.
4. Discover the Secret Church
One of the lesser-known attractions in Amsterdam is Museum Ons’Lieve Heer Op Solder (Museum Our Lord in the Attic), located in one of the oldest parts of the city.
Originally built in 1663, this ordinary looking canal house-turned-museum, takes you on a journey through narrow hallways, winding stairways and ornate rooms up to a beautiful church, tucked away in the attic.
This clandestine church provided a secret place of worship in the 18th century when the Catholic religion was banned in the Netherlands.
It’s an unusual and interesting period of Dutch history and a beautiful building to explore, whilst hiding away from the rain.
Cost: €8 (or included in the iAmsterdam card)
5. Browse De Hallen
De Hallen is a stunning former tram depot that has been transformed into a cultural hub; full of quirky galleries, boutique fashion stores, and one of Amsterdam’s leading independent cinemas.
Situated within De Hallen is the even more wonderful Foodhallen, where you absolutely MUST eat at least once during your trip. Lined with stall after stall of delicious, freshly cooked street food, local beers, and perfectly crafted deserts, it’s a great place to take a break from sight-seeing and indulge in some global cuisine.
There is every type of food you can think of of, from Mexican to Dim Sum to the best Vietnamese street food I’ve had outside of Hanoi (make a beeline for Viet View and order the veggie bowl. You’ll thank me later!)
Cost: FREE to visit
6. EYE Filmmuseum
I DETEST the word “hip”… but there really are no synonyms more apt to describe the Amsterdam Noord area.
Shipping containers-turned-restaurants and mural-covered warehouses… this alternative part of the city is the definition of “cool” and reminded me a lot of my home-town, Bristol.
To get to Amsterdam Noord, catch the free ferry to Buiksloterweg from Centraal Station – it only takes a few minutes to make the crossing and you’ll spot the futuristic EYE Filmmuseum building a mile off.
Once inside, the museum will transport you through the history of cinema, with immersive movie-reel rooms, live film pods, as well as four giant cinema screens showing art-house films.
Whilst you’re in the Noord area, be sure to check out Pllek – a chilled out restaurant/bar located about 30 minutes along from the museum. It’s the perfect place to relax on a rainy day, with comfy sofas to curl up in and a great selection of local beers to keep you company.
If the sun does make an appearance during your visit, Pllek even has a little beach area where you can kick back in a deck chair, with panoramic views back towards the city centre.
Top tip: if you want to avoid the 30-minute walk in the rain, you can always catch the free ferry back to Centraal Station and then get the next free ferry to NDSM Wharf. From here, it’s just a few minutes’ walk to Pllek.
Cost: €10 online or €10.50 directly from the Box Office (and included in the iAmsterdam card) Additional charges apply for film screenings and special exhibitions.
7. Learn about Vincent Van Gogh
Full disclosure – I very nearly skipped past the Van Gogh Museum during our visit to Amsterdam. The price at €18 a pop seemed particularly steep, and I had visions of pretentious European types spending far too long staring at the walls.
Thankfully, our wonderful AirBnB host persuaded us to make a visit to Amsterdam’s most popular museum and this turned out to be one of my favourite attractions in the city.
The museum maps out the tragic life and death of Vincent Van Gogh, taking you on an immersive experience through his childhood, rise to artistic fame, and subsequent mental breakdown.
It’s a wonderfully insightful journey from beginning to end and I came away desperate to learn even more about this hugely talented, yet troubled, icon.
The museum also houses the largest collection of Van Gogh’s works in the world, including the original “Sunflowers” painting.
Cost: €18 (or included in the iAmsterdam card) Tickets are only available online and you do need to book in advance.
8. Visit the Bloemenmarkt
Your visit to Amsterdam isn’t complete unless you’ve seen tulips. Lots and lots of tulips.
Yes, Amsterdam is all about the flowers and the floating flower market or “Bloumenmarkt” (the only dutch word I knew before my visit, thanks to ‘Friends’) is a lovely place for a wander, if the weather makes a turn for the worst.
It’s a bit of a tourist trap these days, with an Instagrammable flower ceiling and decadent floral archways stealing all the attention… but it’s a nice place to take shelter and pick up a few souvenirs, nonetheless.
Cost: FREE to visit.
There are plenty of rainy day activities to keep you busy in Amsterdam, no matter what time of year you visit. And of course the city’s architecture and canals are so beautiful in their own right, that they are worth getting wet for! Stay tuned for more tips on exploring the Netherlands, coming soon.
Visiting other parts of Europe? Check out my European itineraries and guides here.