You check the weather on Google, and it says it’ll be sunny all day. You check the niche local weather app you downloaded before your trip (Buienradar) and it informs you that there’s 0.0/mm of precipitation expected within the next 90 minutes. You look outside. It is raining. Welcome to Amsterdam.
The Dutch capital is a beautiful city, but anyone who’s lived here knows that you’re in for more than your fair share of wet weather. That shouldn’t stop you from making the most of your day. Here’s what to do when it rains in Amsterdam.
1: See Dutch masterpieces at the Rijksmuseum
Amsterdam is famous for its many museums, and the Rijksmuseum is unmissable for anyone with even the slightest interest in art. It’s the national museum of the Netherlands and features masterpieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer, some of the world’s most famous bird paintings, and incredible historical artefacts and objects dating back many centuries.
One of the Rijksmuseum’s biggest benefits for rainy days is how large it is; you can shelter from the weather here for several hours, and it might even be sunny by the time you’ve finished admiring the last evil monkey painting in the museum’s extensive collection.
2: Visit Vincent at the Van Gogh Museum
In a nation known for its famous historical painters, Vincent van Gogh is the most well-known across the world (apologies to Rembrandt and Vermeer above, but there’s no arguing against it). A trip to the Van Gogh Museum will let you forget about the gloomy rain and delve into a world of French sunshine, wheat fields, irises, sunflowers, and intensely scowling self-portraits.
The museum is located in the heart of Museumplein (Museum Square), which is easily accessible by public transport and features other gems like the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, and Moco. Exploring the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh artworks is an easy choice for anyone looking for an indoor activity on a rainy day in Amsterdam.
3: Marvel at the Fabrique des Lumières
A relatively new addition to the ‘what to do when it rains in Amsterdam’ scene, the Fabrique des Lumières is located in the scenic Westerpark. It’s the site of an old gasworks, and its expansive brick walls now find themselves covered in beautiful full-length illuminations.
You’ll be able to see works by artists like Gustav Klimt and Friedensreich Hundertwasser like never before, or enjoy watching incredible images by photographer Jimmy Nelson come to life in front of you. It’s a wonderful way to spend an hour or so, and serves as a great photo opportunity when the weather isn’t cooperating with your idea of taking nice pictures in the park.
Once you’re done, explore the park and its scenic pond, or if it’s still raining, take shelter in one of the many cafés and bars next door.
4: Cruise along the canals (on a covered boat)
Cruising along Amsterdam’s UNESCO-listed canals is always a favourite activity for visitors and locals alike, and just because it’s raining doesn’t mean you should cancel your plans.
Most tour boats have roofs and even heating to keep you warm and dry; the Dutch are used to planning around this kind of weather. If anything, seeing the centuries-old buildings lined along the waterways while rain pours onto them is actually more impressive than on a regular old sunny day.
And, as a bonus, you get to watch all the miserable people biking against the wind while it rains, as you pull a blanket over yourself and enjoy a stroopwafel/hot chocolate combo.
5: Turn your day around at The Upside Down
Billed as the biggest Instagram museum in Europe, The Upside Down is for people who want to take some unique photos and have a fun time together with their friends or family.
It’s one of the better things to do with kids on a rainy day in Amsterdam; they’re probably going to get bored of Dutch Golden Age-style paintings fairly quickly, and would much prefer to immerse themselves in a giant foam/ball pit.
The Upside Down is also easily accessible by tram and metro, which makes it perfect for people wanting to stay dry and find a good indoor activity in Amsterdam.
6: Unleash your scientific genius at NEMO
“Oh, how I wish for soothing rain…” – Nightwish, Nemo (2008).
Luckily, NEMO Science Museum doesn’t share Finnish symphonic metal’s passion for precipitation; you’ll be warm and dry inside this exciting science museum shaped like a ship. NEMO offers five floors of scientific adventures, and is perfect for visitors of all ages.
The exhibits at NEMO are far from theoretical or boring. You’ll get practical and fun insights into science through hands-on learning. Blow gigantic bubbles, do chemistry experiments, watch a gigantic Rube Goldberg machine in action, and more.
Once the rain subsides, you can even enjoy the view of the water from the museum’s rooftop terrace, or sprint back to Amsterdam Central Station (which is only a short distance away) while the weather holds up.
7: Get cultural at the Heineken Experience
In terms of famous Amsterdam exports, Heineken is one of the most well-known around the world. Visit the original Heineken brewery (now a modern museum devoted to beer and its production), and try some of Amsterdam’s most popular local produce. Is this entire paragraph a justification you can use to convince your friends and/or family that day-drinking is actually a legitimate cultural activity? It is, and you’re welcome to use it.
The Heineken Experience is located in De Pijp, which is full of bustling cafés, shops and restaurants, making it a perfect place to go on a rainy day in Amsterdam. As well as giving you a couple of beers to sample during the experience, you’ll also gain a genuine insight into the history and production of Heineken, and learn a fair bit about beer production in general.
Non-drinkers are catered for as well; they can enjoy the interactive exhibits and historical value of the experience as well as some soft drinks to make sure they don’t go thirsty.
8: See the world’s best street art at STRAAT Museum
The worst part about street art is that you have to go outside to see it. Rain, fog, the general public… gross! If only someone could gather up the best street artists from all over the world, get them to let their creative imaginations run wild on gigantic canvases, and then display the results in a super-cool warehouse/hangar-style location…
That someone (or those somebodies?) would be the fine folks at the award-winning STRAAT Museum. Check out our insider guide to the museum for a sneak peek into what you can expect during a visit here. As far as rainy-day activities in Amsterdam go, it’s one of the very best.
9: Learn more about the city at Amsterdam Museum
This museum devoted to local history is a bit of a hidden gem, but its location in the very heart of the city makes it a great place to duck into if you’re looking for something to do while it’s raining in Amsterdam.
You won’t find anywhere else in the world where you can learn more about the history of the Dutch capital, and you’ll leave with a newfound appreciation for the ingenuity behind just how this settlement was even possible. Visiting (or living in) Amsterdam will be greatly enhanced by learning more about its history.
10: Go behind the scenes at Red Light Secrets
The Red Light District is a bit grimy, which admittedly is part of the appeal for many visitors. Amsterdam’s oldest neighbourhood is usually full of tourists, drunk people, and annoyed locals. Stand in one place for too long and a few loitering street dealers will try to sell you something that definitely isn’t what they claim it is, and there’s a good chance that as you’re shuffling around in the horde of visitors, it’ll start to rain.
When that last bit inevitably happens, you’ll be glad you’ve got some tickets to Red Light Secrets: the spiciest museum in Amsterdam. Duck into this unique museum (you’ll notice it by the red lights), and learn more about what goes on behind the infamous red curtains. You’ll even be abe to look out through the glass at the rain-soaked crowds and get a glimpse of life as a sex worker in De Wallen. Whether you like what you see is a different matter entirely…
11: Pay tribute to cats at The Cat Cabinet
Over to something altogether more wholesome: The Cat Cabinet. If you like cats, this is the place for you. If you don’t like them… well, you’re out of luck on this one. This small museum is basically a traditional Amsterdam-style canal house, transformed into a shrine to our feline overlords.
You’ll see all kinds of depictions of cats (including a Picasso sketch or two), as well as some real-life specimens lazing around if you’re lucky. If you’re wandering around the canals and find yourself stuck in the middle of a burgeoning hail storm, the Kattenkabinet might be your best option, assuming you’re not allergic.
12: Party the day away at AMAZE Amsterdam
Amsterdam, and the Netherlands as a whole, has a big dance music and EDM culture. AMAZE Amsterdam is a fun and easy way to sample some of it without needing to get your shoes wet in the middle of a festival paddock somewhere.
AMAZE was created by the world’s largest dance event organiser, ID&T, and provides you with an immersive journey full of cutting-edge audiovisual technology. It’s really, really much cooler than this description is making it sound.
If you’re wondering what to do in Amsterdam when it rains, jump inside here and enjoy shows full of lasers, visuals, as well as sound from all directions and dimensions (it’s ‘11D’ and you’ll soon find out what that means). AMAZE is basically the best night out ever, except you can do it any time during the day, it’s family-friendly, and you won’t be hung over afterwards.
13: Visit the Foodhallen (and Filmhallen)
Amsterdam’s famous Foodhallen can be found on most must-do lists for visitors to the city, but they’re especially great on a rainy day. It’s all indoors, there are lots of stalls offering different international cuisines, and you can get the best street food without the inconvenience of needing to actually be out on the street while it’s raining.
What people don’t talk about often enough is the movie theatre right next door: The Filmhallen. Once you’ve warmed yourself up with some of the Foodhallen’s best offerings, watch a movie next door in one of the Filmhallen’s comfy theatres. It’s a great place to take shelter from the rain for a few hours.
14: Duck into a café
If you’re reading this, you’re probably somewhere in the Dutch capital and trying to think of what to do when it rains in Amsterdam. No matter what neighbourhood you’re in, there will be a café. If you’re looking for particularly good ones though, take a metro or tram to De Pijp and go from there.
From traditional Dutch ‘brown café’ pubs to hipster bars where everything is made out of avocado, you can’t go wrong. Unless you accidentally sit on a priceless modern artwork made of avocado, in which case just sneak out and pick one of the other eighteen options in the neighbourhood.
15: Power through it
If you’re wondering what to do when it rains in Amsterdam, look out of your window and see what everyone else is doing. Hint: it’s whatever they were going to do anyway before it started pouring down.
Dutch people don’t really let the rain stop them from carrying out their plans. Put on a good rain jacket (or your most stylish rain poncho from HEMA), get on your bike, and go make the most of your day!
It rains approximately 189 days per year in Amsterdam – that’s more than half of the time. It leaves locals with very little option other than to just accept getting a little wet, and making the most of it. With that being said, if your plan was a romantic tandem bike ride along the canals, it might be time to hit up the Kattenkabinet instead.
We hope you enjoyed this guide on what to do when it rains in Amsterdam! For a full list of Amsterdam-based activities, check out our curated experiences here. For related inspo, take a read of 10 Landmarks in Amsterdam You Shouldn’t Miss.