Last Updated on February 27, 2023 by Nellie Huang
Having lived in Amsterdam for four years, I’ve gotten to know Amsterdam really well. Here’s my recommendation for a 3-day Amsterdam itinerary, that will bring you through the best parts of the city.
Regardless of where you are in Amsterdam, you’ll hear the sound of bike bells echoing through the streets and trams trundling along the tracks that weave their way through the cobblestoned streets of the historic center. Boats drift down the canals, passing under picturesque bridges and alongside centuries-old buildings. The scent of fresh stroopwafels and bitterballen wafts from street vendors, tempting hungry passersby.
Amsterdam is a city that is both timeless and modern, where old-world charm meets contemporary flair. With its winding canals, vibrant nightlife, and rich artistic and cultural heritage, there is always something new to discover in this city of contrasts. We lived in Amsterdam for over four years, and we were always finding new experiences and places to explore.
To help you make the most out of a weekend in Amsterdam, I’ve compiled a detailed 3-day Amsterdam itinerary that will take from the storied city center to the alternative districts, and beyond to the surrounding Dutch countryside. Grab your bike, hop on a canal boat, and get ready to experience the magic of Amsterdam. Let’s dive in!
My Amsterdam Weekend Itinerary
Amsterdam Itinerary Day 1: Explore Amsterdam City Center
Begin your first day in Amsterdam with at my favorite cafe in Amsterdam: Café Restaurant Hans en Grietje. This traditional Dutch cafe has been a local favorite since 1876. The cafe’s name translates to “Hansel and Gretel,” and the cozy, rustic decor is designed to evoke the feeling of a fairy tale cottage. You’ve got to try their famous Dutch pancakes and delicious homemade cakes. The iconic cafe has a large and lovely terrace with a beautiful view of the Rijksmuseum and the canals.
Start at Museumplein
After loading up, it’s time to head to the Museumplein, a large public square in the heart of the city that is home to some of the world’s most renowned museums. Make your first stop at the Rijksmuseum, one of the largest and most comprehensive art museums in the world, housing over 8,000 objects from Dutch history and art, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gogh. Even if you’re not an art of history enthusiast, it’s worth checking out the building as the masterpiece is an iconic landmark of Amsterdam.
The Van Gogh Museum, located next to the Rijksmuseum, is dedicated to the life and work of the famous Dutch painter. With over 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and 700 letters, the museum offers a comprehensive look at Van Gogh’s artistic evolution and personal struggles. On the other side of the square, the Stedelijk Museum is a contemporary art museum that features works by modern masters such as Picasso, Matisse, and Warhol. It also showcases Dutch design and experimental contemporary art.
If you’re visiting during the summer months, be sure to check out one of the many outdoor events and festivals that take place in the Museumplein, including music concerts, food markets, and cultural performances.
Check out the Central Station
From there, walk over to the Central Station, the most iconic landmark in the city. Amsterdam Centraal was designed by Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers and opened in 1889. It features a Gothic, Renaissance Revival station building and a cast iron platform roof spanning approximately 40 metres. As with the Rijksmuseum, the station’s overall architecture reminded many contemporaries of medieval cathedrals. The station is located at the city’s waterfront effectively separating the city from the IJ lake.
Stroll through Vondelpark
After a satisfying lunch, take a leisurely walk through the Vondelpark, the largest park in Amsterdam. The lush park offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, with glorious lakes, fountains, playgrounds and outdoor theaters. You can have a picnic, rent a bike, and enjoy the beautiful greenery. When the sun’s out, you’ll find many locals sprawled on the greens soaking up the (rare) sunshine. Stop for lunch at my favorite cafe in the park: Groot Melkhuis. In summer, its riverside terrace is a glorious place to enjoy some sunshine.
Check out the Local Food Scene
For dinner, head to De Foodhallen, a trendy food market housed in the tram-depot-turned-cultural-complex, De Hallen. We used to come to Foodhallen every other week — there are over 20 stalls here offering everything from Dutch snacks to international cuisine. I highly recommend trying the typically Dutch bitterballen (deep fried meatballs) from De Ballen Bar and the outstanding bun cha (vermicelli salad) served up at Viêt View. There are also several indie art stalls, a bike shop, cafe and an indie cinema within De Hallen.
Hit the Brown Bars
As the day draws to a close, head to the Red Light District. While it may be known for its controversial reputation, the area is also a fascinating part of Amsterdam’s history and culture. Stroll through the narrow streets and indulge in a local specialty like stroopwafels (thin, round waffle cookie) or herring fish from a street vendor. Then duck inside Cafe Hoppe, one of Amsterdam’s storied old brown cafés. Opened in 1670 as a jenever distillery, the historical bar is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
Amsterdam Itinerary Day 2: Weave through its Waterways
On the second day of this Amsterdam itinerary, take to the water to explore the city’s famous canals. Start your day with a delicious breakfast at Pancakes Amsterdam, which serves some of the best pancakes in the city, with a wide variety of toppings and fillings to choose from.
After breakfast, take a boat tour of Amsterdam’s canals, providing a unique and memorable perspective of the city’s architecture and scenery. There are plenty of companies offering boat tours, catering to all interests and budgets. We’ve been on this wine and cheese canal cruise a few times and always had a great time! Book your canal tour in advance especially if you’re traveling in high season.
Get Lost in Amsterdam’s Biggest Outdoor Market
The next stop on this Amsterdam itinerary is the Albert Cuypmarkt, a lively street market in the De Pijp neighborhood, where over 300 stalls offer everything from fresh produce to clothing to souvenirs. Amsterdam has many outdoor markets that take over squares and streets every weekend, but Albert Cuypmarkt is the biggest one. This is the best spot to buy Gouda cheese, Dutch biscuits and other souvenirs home. We always came here for the stroopwafels and amazing kibbeling (battered fish chunks).
Tour the Heineken Brewery
Since you’re in De Pijp, head over to the Heineken Experience especially if you’re a beer lover. The museum is housed in the former Heineken brewery, which has been transformed into a high-tech and interactive museum. One of the highlights of the museum is the brewery tour, where you get to see the brewing process and learn how the hops and malted barley are mixed together to create the wort, which is then fermented to create beer. And of course, the tasting session at the end of the tour is a real treat.
Visit the Anne Frank House
In the evening, explore the charming Jordaan neighborhood, with its narrow streets, quirky shops, and picturesque canals. While in the neighborhood, you can also visit the Anne Frank House, which offers a powerful experience to see where Anne Frank wrote her diary and learn about her life and legacy. This was the actual house and hiding place where Anne Frank lived during the Second World War is still intact today. Book your tickets online in advance to ensure availability! Alternatively, combine a visit of the Anne Frank House with the Jewish quarter on this tour.
Nibbles and Drinks at Another Brown Bar
While in Jordaan, head over to famous Proeflokaal A. van Wees, located on Herengracht inside a former distillery that dates back to the 19th century. Indulge in the brown café standards—beer, jenever, and a handful of other spirits and soak in the historic atmosphere; the bar also has a decent selection of nibbles (the fondue made from Dutch cheese is a standout).
Amsterdam Itinerary Day 3: Venture Beyond the Center
On final day of your weekend in Amsterdam, head out and some of the city’s more off-the-beaten-path destinations. Start your day at the trendy Amsterdam Noord neighborhood. Take a ferry (it’s free!) from the Central Station — the city’s main train station is also worth a look as its architecture is unlike no other.
Feast on Panoramic Views of the City
First, head up to the top floor of the A’DAM Lookout, an observation deck with mind-blowing views of the city. It also features a number of fun and interactive experiences, including a swing that extends over the edge of the building. There’s a minimum height requirement, so kids aren’t allowed. It’s definitely more of an Instagram mission!
Explore the Alternative NDSM
Next to the A’DAM Tower is the NDSM Wharf, a former shipyard turned creative hub located in the northern part of the city. The wharf is home to a number of art galleries, restaurants, and bars, and is known for its vibrant street art scene. Wander around and admire the mural art, or join a guided street art tour for an in-depth look at the artwork and the artists behind it.
If you’re a bargain hunter or a vintage lover, don’t miss the IJ-hallen, a massive indoor flea market that takes place in a former shipyard building in the NDSM Wharf area. The market is open one weekend a month and features hundreds of vendors selling everything from clothing to furniture to electronics.
The NDSM Wharf area is home to several great bars and restaurants, including Noorderlicht, a cozy and eclectic cafe housed in a former greenhouse, and Pllek, a trendy restaurant and event space with a large outdoor terrace overlooking the waterfront. These spots are perfect for a leisurely lunch or a refreshing drink on a sunny day.
Hike in an Urban Forest
In the afternoon, head to the Amsterdamse Bos, a huge forest located on the outskirts of the city. The forest covers an area of 1,000 hectares, making it three times the size of Central Park in New York City. We often spent our weekends here, hiking or biking in the forest and swimming in summer. Our daughter’s favorite spot here is the goat farm, Geitenboerderij Ridammerhoeve, where you can pet friendly goats, pigs and highland cows, and even feed them milk. The farm is run by volunteers and is free to visit.
There are over 50 kilometers of cycling and hiking trails, which wind their way through the forest, past lakes and ponds, and over rolling hills. You can rent a bike at the park entrance or bring your own. Amsterdamsebos also has several bodies of water, including the Nieuwe Meer lake, which is great for canoeing and boating. We lived right next to the lake and spent so much time biking around the lake and swimming there in summer.
Dine in De Pijp
For your last meal in Amsterdam, head back to the De Pijp neighborhood for its eclectic mix of restaurants, cafes, and bars. I highly recommend Cafe Caron, a cozy French bistro perfect spot for a romantic dinner or a special occasion. They offer a variety of classic French dishes, like escargots, coq au vin, and boeuf bourguignon, all served in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Another of our favorites is Loetje, a Dutch chain but easily our favorite steakhouse in the Netherlands. They serve up the best steaks and fish & chips in the city, and you know the food is always good!
Day Trips from Amsterdam
If you’ve got some extra time, I definitely recommend squeezing in a day trip to the Dutch countryside. What we love most about living in Amsterdam is just how close everything is to the city — all the interesting sights in the Netherlands are within a 2-hour drive away. Here’s a summary, be sure to check out my full list of day trips from Amsterdam.
See the Tulip Fields of Keukenhof
Located just outside of Amsterdam, the Keukenhof Gardens are a stunning display of tulips and other flowers, and are only open from mid-March to mid-May. With over 7 million flower bulbs planted each year, Keukenhof Gardens is one of the most beautiful and colorful places in the world. I HIGHLY recommend timing your Amsterdam weekend trip to coincide with the tulip season to see the area splashed in beautiful colors. You can book the entry tickets with transfers here.
Visit Windmills at Zaanse Schans
This picturesque village just north of Amsterdam is home to several historic windmills, traditional Dutch houses, and a museum dedicated to the area’s industrial heritage. The open-air museum showcases the traditional Dutch way of life, with historic windmills, wooden houses, and shops. Visitors can learn about how cheese, clogs, and other traditional products are made, and even try some for themselves. Book this tour to visit Zaanse Schans along with Volendam and Marken.
Wander the Cobbled Streets of Haarlem
Just a 20-minute train ride from Amsterdam Central Station, the charming town of Haarlem is a great place to wander and explore. The town center features a beautiful cathedral, a market square, and many shops and cafes. This historic city is filled with beautiful architecture, charming cafes, and boutique shops. Highlights include the Grote Markt (market square), the St. Bavo Church, and the Frans Hals Museum. We used to visit Haarlem every Christmas for their Christmas market, one of the best in the Netherlands!
Be Romanced by Utrecht
This lively university city is just 30 minutes by train from Amsterdam, and features beautiful canals, historic buildings, and a vibrant arts and culture scene. This lively university city is known for its beautiful canals, historic buildings, and vibrant nightlife. Visitors can explore the Dom Tower, the Museum Catharijneconvent, or simply wander the charming streets and enjoy the cafes and restaurants.
The Hague and Delft
Both of these cities are located about an hour from Amsterdam by train, and offer a glimpse into Dutch politics, history, and art. The Hague is home to the Dutch government and the famous Mauritshuis museum, while Delft is known for its charming canals, historic market square, and blue pottery. This was probably one of our favorite Amsterdam day trips as we often went to the Hague to see friends and then Delft to wander and soak in its beauty.
Amsterdam Travel Guide
How to Get to Amsterdam
Amsterdam is well-connected to the rest of Europe and the world, with direct flights to many major cities. Schiphol Airport is one of the busiest airports in Europe and is located just a few miles outside of the city center.
You can fly from New York to Amsterdam for just US$500 return or Los Angeles to Amsterdam for US$600 round-trip. It’s really cheap to fly to Amsterdam from other parts of Europe. You can even get business class tickets from New York to Amsterdam for $2771. Click here to find the best business class deals.
If you’re flying from other parts of Europe, flights from London to Amsterdam are incredibly cheap (around US$50 each way). Amsterdam is also well-connected to many European cities by high-speed trains, including Paris, London, and Brussels. We’ve taken the Thalys train to Paris several times and it’s always comfortable and punctual (costs around the same as flights though).
How to Get to the City from the Airport
The easiest and most convenient way to get to the city is to take a train directly from the airport to Amsterdam Central Station. The journey takes just 15-20 minutes, and trains run frequently throughout the day and night.
Another option is to take a taxi or an Uber from the airport. Taxis are readily available outside the arrivals hall, and the journey to the city center takes around 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic. An Uber can cost around US$30 each way.
You can also take a bus from the airport to the city center. The Connexxion bus 397 runs between Schiphol Airport and Amsterdam’s Museumplein, and the journey takes around 35-40 minutes.
Cost of Travel in Amsterdam
Let’s face it: Amsterdam is an expensive city (museum entry costs around $30 and meals are around $20-40). There are several city passes available for Amsterdam that can save you money and provide convenient access to the city’s top attractions. Here are a few of the most popular options:
- I amsterdam City Card – This all-in-one pass provides free entry to over 70 museums and attractions in Amsterdam, as well as a free canal cruise and unlimited use of public transportation. It also includes discounts at restaurants and shops throughout the city. The card is available in 24, 48, 72, 96, and 120-hour versions.
- Amsterdam City Pass – This pass includes free entry to 3, 4, or 6 of Amsterdam’s top attractions, as well as a free hop-on hop-off bus tour. It also includes discounts on additional attractions and activities, as well as a guidebook with information on the city’s sights and history.
- Museumkaart – This card provides free entry to over 400 museums and attractions throughout the Netherlands, including many in Amsterdam. It’s valid for one year and can be a good option if you plan to visit several museums during your trip. We had this card and used it almost every weekend in Amsterdam!
How to Get Around Amsterdam
Amsterdam has an excellent public transport system and it’s easy to get around on trams, buses, and metros. If you’re staying in the city center, you can also easily navigate on foot or bike.
The best way to explore the city is by bike, which is a popular mode of transport among locals and visitors alike. There are designated bike lanes everywhere, connecting the various boroughs and neighborhoods. You can rent a bike from one of the many rental shops around the city, or use the city’s bike-sharing scheme, which allows you to pick up and drop off bikes at various locations around the city. I also recommend doing this 3-hour bike tour if you’d like to be oriented.
Another option is to use the city’s trams and buses, which offer a convenient and affordable way to get around. You can buy a disposable chip card or a rechargeable OV-chipkaart at a train station or tram stop, which can be used on all public transport in the city.
Uber is readily available everywhere in Amsterdam and it’s definitely cheaper than taxis. Expect to spend around US$10 for each ride within the city center, and $20-30 to go beyond.
Best Time to Visit Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a year-round destination, but the best time to visit is from late April to early October, with mild temperatures and fewer rainy days. Late March to May is tulip season, so it’s the best time to see the tulip fields all splashed in colors. Summer (June-August) is the warmest time of year, but it’s also the busiest and most expensive, so be sure to book well in advance.
Amsterdam is a city that loves to celebrate, and there are numerous festivals and events throughout the year, including King’s Day (April 27), Pride Amsterdam (late July/early August), and the Amsterdam Dance Event (mid-October). Be sure to check the dates and book your accommodation well in advance.
Amsterdam can be an expensive city, particularly during peak travel periods. If you’re looking to save money on accommodation and activities, consider visiting in the off-season (November-March), when prices are lower and crowds are smaller.
Where to Stay in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has a wide range of accommodation options, from budget hostels to luxury hotels. Be sure to book well in advance, particularly during peak travel periods, to secure your ideal accommodation.
For this Amsterdam itinerary, it’s best to stay in the city center. But hotels in the center are expensive; those on a budget can find much better hotel deals if you go further out, to areas such as Oud West, Jordaan, and the up-and-coming Noord neighborhood. Here are a few of our top picks to consider for your stay:
*Unique: Crane Hotel Faralda
For a truly unconventional experience, book a stay at this crane-top hotel by the harbor, boasting luxurious suites overlooking the entire city. I have always wanted to stay here but still haven’t had the chance. Let me know how your stay goes! Check rates here.
Luxury: Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam
This luxurious hotel is housed in a series of historic canal houses in the heart of Amsterdam. The rooms are elegant and spacious, and the hotel boasts an indoor pool, a spa, and a Michelin-starred restaurant. Check rates here.
Luxury: Pulitzer Amsterdam
This stylish and sophisticated hotel is located in a set of converted 17th-century canal houses, and features chic rooms with contemporary decor. The hotel also has a garden courtyard, a restaurant and bar, and a fitness center. Check rates here.
Mid Range: The Hoxton, Amsterdam
This trendy boutique hotel is located in the heart of the city, and features stylish rooms with unique design touches. The hotel also has a buzzing lobby bar, a chic restaurant, and a rooftop terrace with views over the city. Check rates here.
Mid Range: CitizenM Amsterdam Amstel
This trendy budget-friendly hotel offers compact yet stylish rooms, featuring sleek and modern design. The hotel also has a 24-hour canteen, a chic bar, and a rooftop lounge with stunning views of the city. Check rates here.
Budget: Stayokay Amsterdam Vondelpark
This modern and eco-friendly hostel is located right next to the beautiful Vondelpark, and features comfortable and colorful dorms and private rooms. The hostel also has a bar and restaurant, a game room, and a spacious terrace. It’s known for its friendly staff and lively atmosphere. Check rates here.
This cozy and charming hostel is housed in a historic building in the trendy De Pijp neighborhood, and features comfortable and uniquely decorated dorms and private rooms. The hostel also has a fully-equipped kitchen, a cozy lounge, and a lovely outdoor garden. It’s known for its homely feel and helpful staff. Check rates here.
Where to Eat in Amsterdam
De Kas – Located in a set of greenhouses in Park Frankendael, De Kas offers a farm-to-table dining experience featuring seasonal produce grown on site. The daily changing menu includes meat, fish, and vegetarian options, and the airy, greenhouse setting is both beautiful and unique. Book a table.
Restaurant Blauw – We used to come here often on weekends! This is the best place for authentic Indonesian food. The star of the show is the rijsttafel, a multi-course meal of small plates that’s perfect for sharing. The restaurant’s colorful decor and friendly service make it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Book a table.
Cannibale Royale – If you’re in the mood for some hearty comfort food, Cannibale Royale is the place to go. They specialize in burgers, steaks, and ribs, all cooked to perfection on a charcoal grill. Book a table.
Bakers & Roasters — This cozy cafe is known for its delicious breakfast and brunch options, with a menu that features everything from avocado toast to American-style pancakes. The cafe also serves excellent coffee and fresh juices, and has a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Read reviews.
The Avocado Show — A true pioneer in the avocado trend that has swept the world, this avocado-focused cafe celebrates the humble avocado, with aethestically pleasing dishes that taste as good as they look. Read reviews.
Pluk – This cute and colorful cafe is located in the trendy Nine Streets neighborhood and is a great spot for breakfast or brunch. The menu features healthy and fresh options like acai bowls, smoothies, and avocado toast, as well as sweet treats like homemade cakes and pastries. Read reviews.
De Bakkerswinkel – This bakery and cafe has several locations throughout the city and is known for its fresh bread, pastries, and sandwiches. The breakfast menu includes options like yogurt with granola, quiche, and croissants, and the atmosphere is cozy and inviting. Book a table.
Planning Your Weekend Trip to Amsterdam
With so much to see and do in Amsterdam, it can be hard to fit everything into just a few days, but this Amsterdam weekend itinerary should provide a good starting point.
Feel free to print out this Amsterdam itinerary and bring it with you on your Amsterdam weekend getaway! Be sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions. Here are more of my articles from Amsterdam and other parts of Europe:
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