5 Hidden Gems to Visit in Amsterdam


by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Ray M.

Last updated : Nov 25, 20226 min read

Amsterdam is a treasure trove of top class museums and historic landmarks of global renown, attracting visitors in their millions. Yet there are many quirky, lesser-known attractions hiding in plain sight. The city’s secret gardens, unusual specialist museums, and weird and wonderful architecture are symbolic of a city that takes quirkiness to a whole new level.

Being unconventional is at the very heart of life in Amsterdam. It is always very satisfying getting to experience something very few other foreign visitors do. Amsterdam is a place that will constantly surprise you – however many times you choose to visit. 

We’ve compiled our favourite little-known hidden gems across the city. To get the most out of these secret spots, get in touch with our Amsterdam private guides, who will organise a private tour just for you.

Hortus Botanicus 

A feature of Amsterdam life for nearly 400 years, the Hortus Botanicus is surprisingly unknown to most foreign visitors. One of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, Hortus Botanicus serves as a peaceful haven to seek respite from the city buzz. This green oasis houses more than 6,000 local and exotic plant species.

Botanical highlights include the famous Victoria giant water lily, which is over 150 years old, as well as a 2,000 year old agave cactus. There is a comprehensive collection of non-native plants in the hothouse, which replicates three different tropical climates. Not to be missed is the Butterfly Greenhouse housing hundreds of colorful butterflies.

The gardens are set out to emulate classical European ornamental gardens with large hedgerows and serene ponds. There is an onsite cafe and gift shops selling plants and seeds as well as various horticultural souvenirs. Hortus Botanicus is located in the Plantage district of Amsterdam and just a stroll from other attractions, including the Rembrandt Museum and Amsterdam Zoo. Explore the area stress-free with the aid of an Amsterdam tour guide today.

Cuypers Library

The largest and oldest art library in the Netherlands is located inside one of Amsterdam’s top tourist attractions, yet remains virtually hidden in plain sight. Although millions visit the Rijksmuseum to view the iconic artworks, few make time to visit the attached Cuypers library.

Dating back to the 19th century, it exudes history with towering walls filled with books. Bookworms can ascend the spiral staircase to view various tomes over several floors. It covers a rich collection of books, journals, periodicals and historic art catalogues, housing a mammoth 450,000 items in total. There is also a section of drawings and etchings by the Old Masters.

For serious art lovers, spend time in the Cuypers Library reading room to explore the evolution and backstories behind the iconic artworks displayed in the Rijksmuseum galleries.

Amsterdam’s Tiny Houses

Greger Ravik (CC BY 2.0), via Flickr

It is easy to blink and miss the curious tiny ‘houses’ when strolling down Westerstraat in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district. This is one attraction where a knowledgeable Dutch tour guide is so valuable. On one side of the street, the house numbers skip from 54 to 70, but if you look very closely you’ll see seven tiny houses stacked on top of each other into a gap measuring just four-inches wide.

These are actually very detailed paintings depicting scale models of the real houses on the street. This spot used to be a small alleyway leading to a courtyard where the missing houses used to be located. Originally designed as a joke, it has now become a quirky visitor attraction, and a great photo spot.

The Catboat

Amsterdam’s canals are home to a host of eclectic houseboats, and ‘De Poezenboot’ is arguably the most unique of all. This floating animal shelter is certainly a must-visit for cat lovers, acting as both care shelter and kind of ‘cat cafe’. This refuge for abandoned cats is open to the public to view and play with the felines.

The Catboat has been run by kind-hearted volunteers for over 50 years, and they request only a small donation to visit. Visitors are welcomed to relax with the cats and learn about the Catboat’s work, its history, and charismatic founder Henrietta, ‘the cat lady.’

Of course, cats famously hate water but feel right at home in the spacious Catboat. It is the perfect sanctuary for cat lovers to indulge themselves for a relaxing moment away from the busy city.

Electric Ladyland

Robin Sheat, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This unique art venue is an underrated hidden gem in a city famed for its classical art heritage. It is by far the most visually stimulating attraction in Amsterdam, and is also the world’s first museum dedicated to fluorescent lighting art.

This extremely small venue is filled with bulbous neon shapes that shimmer brightly in the dark. It creates a vibrant, fluorescent environment akin to a psychedelic forest within a cave-like space. As well as the garish neon colours there are natural elements too, with a collection of rocks and minerals which react to light by giving off a dazzling phosphorescent glow. 

Described as ‘fluorescent participatory art’, there are interactive elements allowing visitors to push buttons to turn on various lighting effects. It is definitely a place to stimulate the senses, and anyone nostalgic for the psychedelic summer of love or waving glows sticks at all-night raves will find it a cool alternative to classical art. Electric Ladyland is situated in the heart of the Jordaan district. Contact one of our Amsterdam private guides if you’re unsure how to visit this dazzling attraction. 


Not all the best tourist attractions have to be crowded with long waits in line. Get off the beaten path and experience Amsterdam’s offbeat culture and history, and you will experience city life like a true local. Amazingly, all our top picks are right in the heart of central Amsterdam, often just a short stroll from some of the city’s globally renowned landmarks and attractions. Embark on an authentic Amsterdam adventure with one of our local tour guides who will curate the best local experiences with a tailor-made Amsterdam private tour.

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