Welcome to Amsterdam Armchair Travel!
Now is not the time to travel to Amsterdam, or anywhere, for many people. At least not in the physical sense, but if there's one thing that this current time has opened up my mind and eyes to, it's the wealth of virtual travel opportunities at your fingertips thanks (mostly) to the Internet. But before we get into this, if you are still coming to Amsterdam, or thinking about it, you will also want to stay safe while you're here, and with this in mind, here's a post to help you plan your 2021 Amsterdam trip taking into account all the social distancing rules and regulations. Alternatively, if you are planning a staycation in Amsterdam this guide will help you get that sorted.
I am going to publish a round-up of all the many fantastic ways we can indulge in some armchair travel while we live in a world where travel is not an option right now, but firstly, I wanted to highlight the many fantastic ways you can enjoy a virtual tour of Amsterdam right now.
Below I've listed the best Amsterdam virtual tours of the city, some amazing virtual tours of Amsterdam museums, and some virtual tours of other places in Amsterdam that are also worth checking out. I've also included links to videos you can watch right now that take you on a tour of Amsterdam and you can also find a list of live webcams showing you what the city looks like right now at this very moment in time . You can also check out my own little bit of Amsterdam photography sharing some beautiful photos of quiet Amsterdam landmarks, streets and canals.
I also list a few other ways you can travel virtually to Amsterdam that don't include the Internet because not al of us want to spend our lives online and in many ways these are my very favourite ways to travel right now - spoiler alert it includes books and cooking!
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Travel to Amsterdam Without Leaving Your House (or Using the Internet!)
If you're anything like me one of the ways you will love to travel without travelling is through the magic of literature. Books have always taken me places - both in terms of the world and also to other emotional or spiritual places - so it makes complete sense to me that you can travel to Amsterdam by reading books set in Amsterdam or books about the city.
This list has over 30 different books about Amsterdam so I'm certain you'll find something you like, but if you want a quick run-down of the ones I would recommend above all others it would include The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach, Amsterdam: History of the City by Geert Mak, The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank, and Love in Amsterdam by Nicholas Freeling. Amsterdam by Georgien Overwater is a lovely child's book that would be perfect for getting any child interested in Amsterdam because yes, Amsterdam is a great place to visit with kids.
If books don't do it for - I mean, I will try not to judge you if this is the case, but it will be hard, then there are other ways to do a bit of armchair travel to Amsterdam. Firstly, you can fill your home, or maybe a small part of your home with lovely Amsterdam souvenirs. Many of the things we consider to be iconic Amsterdam symbols are actually charming things to bring into your home - tulips, models of beautiful canal houses, and Deflt blue china. This post rounds up a lot of the best Amsterdam souvenirs you can buy online.
The final way I think you can do some virtual travel to Amsterdam is possibly the most fun of all because it involves FOOD!!! I am not a professional chef and there are some (like my kids) who would even say I'm anything but an average cook, but I do know that trying different dishes from around the world is something that actually helps you explore a place and culture, and its traditions in a deeper way than just reading a book or going online to do virtual tours.
There is something about cooking that is inherently creative and memorable, so taking time to make some typically Dutch dishes is a great way to do some armchair - or rather kitchen worktop - travel to Amsterdam. I will maybe do a post about my favourite Dutch meals and foods to cook, but for now go Google stamppot, poffertjes and erwtensoep to start making these heart-warming dishes which you will hopefully be able to try in Amsterdam one day soon. Here's a great Dutch cookbook you could get to really immerse yourself in!
The Best Virtual Tours of Amsterdam
So, you've spent a bit of time reading, shopping and cooking up some Amsterdam travel inspiration. Now it's time to actually go there. Kinda.
The first place I would start having some fun doing a virtual tour of Amsterdam is Google Earth
The second place you can check out some really fun videos of Amsterdam is I amsterdam's YouTube channel. I love that some of the videos include local people showing you local places.
If these videos are a bit out of date for you, why not watch the most up to date videos of Amsterdam on live webcams. There are two webcams right in the heart of Amsterdam, there's this one in Dam Square and another just down the road on Beursplein. One that shows a number of different water views in Amsterdam is the Port of Amsterdam webcam. (And if you do enjoy a live webcam, you can find a rabbit hole of them for the Netherlands and strangely beyond here!)
A quick search on YouTube or Vimeo will help you find some amazing videos of Amsterdam either up close and personal or from afar or above. I personally found the following videos of Amsterdam very cool.
Firstly, here's a drone video of Amsterdam from above and from many different angles.
And here is a very recent compilation of drone footage of many of the Netherlands' most popular tourist and domestic attractions all completely empty. It's quite haunting too!
There are also some pretty special timelapse videos of Amsterdam out there, like this one:
I was amazed how many videos there are of random Amsterdam tours and experiences too. For example this is a recording of a canal tour in Amsterdam, including some audio from the guide so you can sort of feel like you're on the boat too!
And here is one guy checking out a lot of Amsterdam's most famous coffee shops (the ones selling cannabis products, FYI!)
And here's a video sharing some recommendations of foods you could and should try in Amsterdam:
Yoo can even even take a tour of an Albert Heijn, a Dutch supermarket (this one is in Amsterdam):
Or have a look inside one of my favourite Dutch shops, HEMA:
There really is something for everyone, like a video all about the process involved in hiring out the windows sex workers use in the Red Light District!
The Best Amsterdam Museum Virtual Tours
If you read any list of the best virtual museum tours in the world right now and you'll be sure to find a couple of Amsterdam museums on that list. But there are many more brilliant Amsterdam museum virtual tours out there than just Van Gogh Museum or Rijksmuseum, although, yes these are both brilliant. Below I've shared a short introduction and the links to the best Amsterdam museum virtual tours you can do right now online and as I find out about more, I will add more to this list.
I just quickly want to add that most of these museums receive no funding from the Dutch government at all and ticket sales make up the vast majority of their income so they are experiencing financial loss and uncertainty right now. If you know for certain you are visiting Amsterdam in the future please do consider buying their flexible tickets, where available.
Okay, so yes, Van Gogh Museum is offering one of the best museum virtual tours right now having opened up their whole collection to view online. I have to say that as good as it is Van Gogh isn't my favourite Amsterdam museum and I'll often recommend others over it, and I suspect that has something to do with it always being quite busy, so in my mind going on a virtual tour of Van Gogh Museum while it's completely empty, taking my time, that's possibly better than the real thing! There are also some experiences only available online, like looking at Van Gogh's collection of Sunflowers paintings.
The Rijksmuseum is another museum that has long had virtual tours available online and in the current times they are going to great efforts to enhance what is available. Keeping in mind that this huge museum would easily take at least a day to walk around in full, you may want to do a quick virtual tour and then save the most famous sights in the museum for when you're actually on the ground, i.e seeing some of the Dutch Masters' great works up close, like Rembrandt's The Nightwatch, or for spotting the famous miniature doll's house that inspired the novel The Miniaturist, one of my favourite books set in Amsterdam as mentioned above.
One museum I should recommend more often as it often falls outside people's radar's is Amsterdam Museum. Arguably the best place to get to know the history of the city the best - and it's fantastic for kids visiting Amsterdam too - I was really happy to see they have a vast online collection of things from Amsterdam's history that people can browse if you fee like you're missing out on being in Amsterdam right now.
One of my favourite museums in Amsterdam, the modern art and design hub, the Stedelijk has always had an online collection available to the public, but now it also has a whole page dedicated to experiencing the museum while also still staying at home. They have video mini-documentaries, online tours and stories about many of their exhibits. They will keep updating the page too so be sure to check back regularly.
Another of Amsterdam's modern art museum, located just down the way from Stedelijk, is MOCO Museum, home to a vast Banksy collection. They don't have much online but you can check out this video teaser to get some idea of what there is to look at.
One Amsterdam museum that has always had great resources and exhibits online is Anne Frank House. Not only can you explore each room in the Secret Annex in a VR style experience but they've reinterpreted Anne's original diary and turned it into a vlog with regular new episodes getting shared on YouTube each week. It's been done in Dutch but there are subtitles available in a number of languages. You can also take a tour of the house Anne and her family lived in before they hid in the Secret Annex; this is very special as this house is only ever opened up to the public one day a year.
NEMO Science Museum doesn't have any virtual tours unfortunately, but if your kids are stuck at home you may want to check out some of the recommended experiments and tasks they can do on the NEMO website, as well as interesting facts and stats. They also have more in Dutch, and Google Translate will work well with those, but either way I really like how they're all laid out - they're very easy to follow!
FOAM Photography Museum (another favourite of mine) has also curated a special online collection of exhibits for you to explore. You can find Q&As with artists, videos introducing exhibits, and they have made all back issues of their magazine free online!
As much as I recommend heading to EYE Film Museum over on North Amsterdam, if only for the views across the water, they have a fantastic array of online resources ready for any film buff or cinephile to explore. As well as their online film viewing portal Picl (which isn't free), they have a YouTube channel packed full of free short films, documentaries, interviews and historic moving images from the last hundred years or more.
Another top five museum of mine is the Tassenmuseum, or the Museum of Bags and Purses, which is home to one of the largest collections of handbags, purses and other bags, dating back up to 400 years. They are currently doing a quick virtual tour of their latest exhibit of trunks and suitcases, and their blog has lots of other fun things to read if you love handbags, like this interview with the museum's new director.
Hard to believe but one of Amsterdam's quirkiest museums is the Kattenkabinet, a museum dedicated solely to art that features cats or feline creatures. And they have taken their museum and collection online! You can now step inside most of the rooms on a virtual tour of their grand canal mansion house and find out what all the feline fuss is about! https://www.kattenkabinet.nl/index.php?lang=en
There are more virtual tours and exhibits online for Amsterdam museums and many other fantastic museums in the Netherlands on this Museum TV channel, with many resources available in English. And if your Dutch is up to it, you can also get a daily dose of culture from many of Amsterdam and the country's best museums on Thuismuseum, a site created to serve exactly this purpose - bringing museums to people's homes.
Other Amsterdam Virtual & Audio Tours
Another great place for finding a whole bunch of Amsterdam virtual tours - both inside and out - is Google Arts & Culture. Many of the museums listed above, plus several more, have collections listed here, and you can also step inside other Amsterdam landmarks that aren't museums, like the Royal Palace. All of these virtual tours are free and I'm sure many more will be added soon, so definitely spend some time hanging out there to do some virtual travel to Amsterdam.
The Street Art Museum is also found on Google Arts & Culture, and you can also find some videos of this outdoor museum that basically gathers together some of the best street art and murals in Amsterdam.
There are also some really great audio tours of Amsterdam, including this special audio tour of the Red Light District as produced by an English-speaking radio station that is based in the RLD. You can find other audio tours that can be used as guides when you're on the ground, or as a virtual tour of Amsterdam you can go on while not being glued to a screen.
And if you do want to come to Amsterdam and do an audio tour on the ground, I recommend Lonely Planet's audio tours.
Best Virtual Tours Near Amsterdam
There are a few virtual tours I want to include in this list that are for places just outside Amsterdam, places that people often go to as part of a visit to Amsterdam. Keukenhof Spring Gardens is missing a season this year for the first time in well, ever, I think, but they are doing what they can to bring all those beautiful blooms to people even if not in person. They have recorded and published a number of videos of the gardens on their YouTube channel and they will be updating with many more as the season goes on. Even in the future, you will now be able to enjoy the unique spring gardens of Keukenhof from all over the world. (See my photos and find out more about visiting Keukenhof from Amsterdam here.)
They used to have webcams on the tulip fields here in the Netherlands but sadly that is no longer the case, but that doesn't mean the tulip and flower fields aren't in bloom in spring, nor does it mean you can't enjoy them if you are unable to travel to Amsterdam right now. This video is a compilation of drone footage of the fields, all completely empty of people. It's really quite a special sight, if I'm honest, after years of many fields becoming too frequently visited and often plants not treated respectfully by tourists.
And finally, another place people love to visit from Amsterdam is Zaanse Schans, an area just north of Amsterdam that is famously comprised of canals and windmills that is oh so typically Dutch. You can go on a virtual tour of Zaanse Schans on Google Earth, and you can learn lots about the area's history on their website which has an interactive timeline you can scroll, translated into many different languages, and there is an online collection to explore on Zaans Museum's website.
That's it for Amsterdam's best virtual tours... for now! As I said, I'll do my best to keep this post updated, but in the meantime here are some images you can pin if you'd like to save or share this post:
Frances M. Thompson
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