It does happen to rain quite often in Amsterdam – this is northern Europe after all. The Netherlands has a temperate, oceanic climate with over 200 wet days a year and an average annual rainfall of about 760mm. So do expect the chance of some rain on a visit to Amsterdam!
Apart from packing your umbrella and raincoat, here are a few things to do in Amsterdam if you get caught out by the wet weather…
1. Head to Museumplein – Amsterdam’s Museum Square is home to 3 large world-class museums which can provide hours of escape from a rainy day. The Rijksmuseum hosts a vast assortment of Dutch art including Rembrandt’s iconic Nightwatch painting.
The Van Gogh Museum has the world’s largest collection of works by Vincent Van Gogh. The next door Stedelijk exhibits modern and contemporary art. All 3 museums have café and restaurant facilities and free WiFi.
Museumplein also hosts the smaller MOCO museum which features pioneers of modern art. The downside is that these museums can get a little busy on rainy days.
2. Go to the cinema – Cinemas in Amsterdam tend to show films in their original language with added Dutch subtitles. There are some lovely cinemas in the city including the stunning art nouveau Pathé Tuschinski (Reguliersbreestraat 26-34, near Rembrandtplein).
The nearby Pathé De Munt (round the corner on Vijzelstraat) is a 13 screen multiplex with all the latest releases. Or jump on a ferry at Amsterdam Central and visit EyeFilm which has film-themed exhibitions and shows a regular program of retrospective films.
3. Hang out in Amsterdam’s library – The OBA is Amsterdam’s central library located at Oosterdokskade, a few minutes walk east of Central station. Spread over 9 levels there are plenty of things to do. You can browse international newspapers and magazines at the mezzanine level. Grab a book and lounge on one of the easy chairs. Or head up to the top floor Babel café/restaurant and enjoy some good views of Amsterdam.
There are exhibition areas and the bottom level is reserved for kids. Note internet access is only free for members, non-members pay €1 for 30 minutes. The OBA is open daily until 2200, there is also a Vapiano pizza/pasta restaurant next-door.
4. Go shopping at Bijenkorf – Amsterdam does not have much in the way of large shopping malls. De Bijenkorf (or “Bee Hive”) is the largest department store in Amsterdam and is located on Dam Square. With 5 levels this store sells designer label clothes and accessories, kitchenware, household and electronic items, luggage, stationary, books, music and gifts.
On the top floor you can find Bijenkorf Kitchen, a self-service restaurant. Bijenkorf is open daily.
5. Visit the Tropenmuseum – Near Oosterpark in eastern Amsterdam can be found the hidden gem that is the Tropenmuseum. This ethnographic museum tells the story of humankind and features exhibitions on many non-Western cultures.
It has superb presentations and historic reconstructions of life in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Being slightly out of the centre it gets nowhere near the visitor numbers of the big Museumplein trio. It is well worth immersing yourself for a couple of hours. Open Tue-Sun, closed Mondays.
6. Grab a theatre bargain – After 10am each day log onto the Last Minute Ticket Shop (LMTS) website. It sells selected theatre shows and concert tickets in Amsterdam for that day at a discounted price – normally 50% off but sometimes up to 65% off. Some performances will only be suitable for Dutch speakers so avoid those marked ‘NL’.
Note, the LMTS allows only 2 tickets maximum per client. If everything is sold-out or nothing takes your fancy on LMTS, then there are daily comedy shows at Boom Chicago, international jazz at Bimhuis, classical concerts at Concertgebouw and high caliber performances at the National Opera/Ballet.
7. Browse in a bookstore – Amsterdam has 3 large bookstores located in the centre. The Spui square is home to both ABC and Waterstones. The 3 storey independent ABC (American Book Center) claims to be the best stocked English language bookstore in continental Europe – although it does lack seating.
Waterstones is a major UK book chain and its Amsterdam branch has 4 floors with a few seats. A short walk away (on Rokin, close to Dam Square) is Scheltema, the largest bookstore in the Netherlands with 5 levels. It has a good number of English language titles, lots of seating and a café.
8. Drink with a view – Amsterdam has a number of cafés and restaurants which offer panoramic views. Café blue° is a glass structure at the top of the Kalvatoren shopping centre near Muntplein/Flower Market. It is a good value place for lunch and has decent views of the centre.
Alternatively the A’DAM Lookout on the north bank of the IJ river has superb 360° views of the city. It’s 20th floor panorama deck has a bar; it also has a fine dining revolving restaurant on the 19th floor. Get there by free ferry from the back of Amsterdam Central station.
9. Visit the city archives – The Stadsarchief is housed in a historic former bank building called De Bazel at Vijzelstraat 32 in the city centre. Open to the public (closed Mondays) there are often photos and displays about Amsterdam on show in the impressive glass-roofed main hall. It also hosts regular city-themed exhibitions. There is a café at the front of the building and an interesting bookshop.
Just around the corner on the Keizersgracht canal you will also find the renowned FOAM Photography Museum and the Museum Van Loon, a 17th century canal house. Both are open daily.
10. Go to the zoo – Open daily, the Artis Amsterdam Royal Zoo in Amsterdam’s Plantage district dates from 1838 and has beautiful landscaped grounds. Although many of the animal enclosures are outdoors, there are plenty of activities inside should it be raining. This includes an aquarium, an insectarium and a planetarium. Also on-site is Micropia, the world’s first museum dedicated to micro-organisms.
And just across the road from the zoo’s front entrance is the Dutch Resistance Museum (Verzetsmuseum) – a fascinating yet poignant way to find out about life in the Netherlands under German occupation in World War 2.
11. Monitor Buienradar – You can keep your eye on the rainy weather by checking out Buienradar. This popular Dutch site (owned by the RTL media company) has rain shower radar maps giving expected projections for the coming 3 or 24 hours – click “Radar +3uur” for the next 3 hours of showers.