Edited by Holly Stark
Amsterdam is a place where you can really be whoever and whatever you want to be. There’s no pressure and it’s a city of good vibes. It’s no surprise then that there are plenty of unusual things to do in Amsterdam which match this quirky, anything-goes nature. If you’re taking a trip to the capital of the Netherlands, you might be seeking some of the more unconventional attractions dotted around the city. With many weird things to do in Amsterdam that add to the city’s cultural landscape, from psychedelic museums to man-made beaches, you won’t be stuck for what to do when exploring Amsterdam off the beaten path. From ancient to modern, to covered to outdoorsy, check out this alternative guide to Amsterdam and peel back the layers of a truly weird, wonderful, and liberal place.
A hidden gem located in the heart of Amsterdam, the Begijnhof is an old convent that was established for a Catholic sisterhood of deeply spiritual women who lived like nuns without taking monastic vows. Caring for the sick and educating the poor, the grounds, enclosed courtyard and surrounding buildings served as their sanctuary. The area is home to a chapel, a Reformed Church and Begijnhof 34; the wooden houten huys which dates back to around 1420. It is the oldest house in Amsterdam, cut off from the rest of Amsterdam’s city noise. The little-known tranquil Begijnhof is like a village square that has managed to retain its sanctified vibe, with homes that are still lived in by women who enjoy relative freedom. One of the top free things to do in Amsterdam, visiting Begijnhof is a must for anyone interested in history, spirituality, women and life in the city. Head to the popular Spui student neighborhood between 8:00am and 5:00pm to see the historic neighborhood.
Full of curiosities, the hippie-chic Noordemarkt located in one of the city’s beautiful squares is well worth a visit for anyone who wants a taste of local life. The original seventeenth-century pottery market is one of the oldest organic markets in the cool, historical Jordaan neighborhood. It turns 400 years old in 2023. Since Amsterdam is the market city of Holland, visiting a market is a must when adventuring the city! Taking place on Mondays and Saturdays, the Noordemarkt sells everything from antiques to flowers to etchings and oil paintings. Combining a Farmers Market, Flea Market, and Street Market, you can really get a taste of the best of all types of Dutch markets. Head next door to Winkel; a lively cafe and bar which serves hearty snacks, lunches, dinners and the best must-try apple pie in the city.
Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fluoresce
The Electric Ladyland - Fluorescent Art Museum
For a vibrant alternative to Van Gogh and Rembrandt, check out Electric Ladyland; the first museum of its kind home to fluorescent art. American artist Nick Padalino created a small museum devoted to his fascination with vibrant, fluorescent colors. Named after the 1968 album by Jimmy Hendrix, at Electric Ladyland you have to put soft slippers on your shoes and head downstairs into an artistic cave-like space. In the small cellar, experience a microcosmic, dark collection of fluorescent objects exhibited in a trippy, multicolored cave, with spaces full of vibrant, fluorescent colors. It's immersive and interactive, and relatively easy to find in the center of the city. For funky vibes and weird things to do in Amsterdam, check out the dazzling painted walls, minerals, artwork, and fluorescent lights of the psychedelic Electric Ladyland museum. The museum emphasizes its participatory nature, where every person is more than a viewer and becomes a part of the whole museum.
Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/charlesfred/2486997
If you’re looking for a city beach just outside Amsterdam, Blijburg Beach is the place for you. The laid-back atmosphere is reminiscent of a hippie commune. All are welcome and the spot is perfect for a warm afternoon of doing nothing. One of the best free things to do in Amsterdam if you’re looking for something unique, the offbeat urban beach is great for a quick getaway from the crowded city life. Enjoy the Amsterdam sun at its best, dip your toes in cool waters, sip a cocktail, grab an ice cream or chill out with the locals. The island neighborhood of IJburg is completely man-made, built on artificial islands in the IJ lake, and is mostly a residential area with restaurants and terraces on the harbourside. If you want to learn paddle boarding or try your hand at surfing, Blijburg Beach is a great area to head to. Fancy a beach BBQ or a day outside of the busy city? Be sure to check out Blijburg Beach.
Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Amsterdam
Calling all crazy cat fans seeking unusual things to do in Amsterdam? Head to the weird and offbeat museum dedicated entirely to cats. The KattenKabinet features artwork depicting everything feline and is a bizarre place to soak up quirky Amsterdam vibes. The death of Bob Meijer’s beloved pet cat John Pierpont Morgan meant that in 1990, as an act of remembrance, the idea of KattenKabinet was born. Decorated in the baroque style of a classical museum, the museum holds the feline’s birthday gifts such as paintings, a bronze cat statue, and even a recreated American dollar bill with Morgan in place of Washington. The museum displays cats of all species in a variety of mediums from posters to paintings, sculptures and books. Roaming around the grand halls are some real-life kitties who fill the space with a unique atmosphere. A fascinating and unique museum, KattenKabinet is worth a visit for any cat enthusiast in Amsterdam.
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