There are two ways I’d recommend soaking up Amsterdam’s sights–the I AMsterdam city pass or the Amsterdam Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour. The former gets you into 24 museums, and if you pair it with a bike rental, this is a really fun way to see the city. As for the the latter, it’s also fun, and the audio-guide is very informative. Personally, I’d prefer the pass and bicycle route, because while Amsterdam isn’t huge, it’s still big enough to explore multiple times. If you’re a return visitor, buy the pass and rent some wheels; first-timers will be fine with the Amsterdam bus tour.
But never mind how you do it. What are you going to see? Well, for starters, there are all those museums. I’m a big fan of Northern Renaissance painters AND Van Gogh, and Amsterdam is a great place to see priceless paintings. If you can do this after you’ve gone to the coffee shops, all the better. And there’s more history in Amsterdam than historical artwork. You can go on your own or book a walking tour; either way, you’ll want to get in the House of Anne Frank, the Jordaan Neighborhood, Descartes’ house, the flower market and the old city gates. The walking tours cover these and many more points of interest.
I’d also suggest not missing the Amsterdam Dungeon. Sure, it’s pretty macabre–it is officially a tribute to torture, pain and death–but it’s actually pretty fun, even for families. It has a cool mirror maze and roller coaster based on the Grim Reaper.
If you prefer a more static version of creepy characters, you’ll want to check out Madame Tussauds. Like its counterparts in London (and Las Vegas and New York and Washington DC, etc.) the Amsterdam wax museum is host to your favorite faces from film, song and history, all rendered in eerily lifelike detail.