Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most charming cities, with picturesque canals, historic architecture, and vibrant culture packed into a small and easy-to-navigate city center. If you’re planning on visiting, a pre-prepared itinerary for Amsterdam is your best bet to get the most out of your trip.
Securing tickets in advance for popular attractions like the Anne Frank House or the Van Gogh Museum is critical, leaving you plenty of time to discover hidden gems, cozy cafés, and lesser-known museums at your leisure.
This Amsterdam itinerary will cover all the best tips and tricks for a great visit to the Venice of the North from a local’s perspective – we’ve lived here for a few years already, and definitely have the wisdom to share! Amsterdam truly is a gem of a city, and we’re so excited to share our one-day, two-day, and three-day itineraries with you below.
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How Long Should I Spend in Amsterdam?
We recommend spending at least two days in Amsterdam to see most main sights. A one-day itinerary allows for quick visits to can’t-miss places like the Rijksmuseum or Anne Frank House, and maybe a short canal cruise, while two days allow you to add in a few more cultural gems like the Van Gogh Museum or a morning meandering through the Jordaan neighborhood.
However, three days (or more!) allows you to venture outside the tourist spots and start getting to know the city on a personal level, as well as squeeze in a day trip from Amsterdam to other parts of the Netherlands, which are really easily accessible by train.
A more relaxed stay is ideal, giving you time to indulge in some local cuisine, people-watch for a few hours in local cafés, check out a show or a ballet, and discover a few more of the city’s lesser-known neighborhoods. You’ll go home practically a local!
While biking is the main form of transportation and definitely the easiest way to get around the city, it’s not ideal for everyone. If you’re accustomed to urban biking, you can rent a bike for as little as €10 per day, and many hotels also provide them. With a bike, the city is your oyster. The bike lanes are fabulous and well-maintained, and bike etiquette is largely respected.
However, if you aren’t used to it, consider proceeding with caution – locals cycle very fast and quite aggressively, and the advent of electric bikes can make the pace feel stressful for the uninitiated.
If you’d rather stick to walking or public transit, never fear – there are tram and metro passes available from the GVB at kiosks around town, and the city center is eminently walkable.
Keep in mind that Dutch weather is infamous for its unpredictability, so be ready to shift your plans around if a storm blows in, and have indoor and outdoor alternatives ready. It’s also best to always have a rain layer with you, no matter the forecast.
Where to Stay in Amsterdam
For an ultra-convenient Amsterdam experience, consider staying in the super-central Canal Ring (Grachtengordel). This area is beautiful, and also super close to major attractions.
For a taste of local life, Jordaan is a charming district within the Canal Ring known for its narrow streets, boutiques, and cozy cafés. Budget-conscious travelers should check out The Flying Pig Downtown Hostel, while those seeking mid-range options may like Hotel Estheréa or Hotel Pulitzer Amsterdam. For a luxurious stay, the Ambassade Hotel or the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam are both iconic options right along the canals, though the prices are eye-popping.
On that note, keep in mind that even the budget options in the city center are likely to be very pricey, and Amsterdam is a pretty small city, so it’s easy to get here from other places if city center accommodations aren’t in your budget.
On that note, if you’re seeking a trendy and eclectic atmosphere that’s still really close to the center, consider Oud-West. This neighborhood is known for its hip shopping and dining options, like the popular Foodhallen, which has a food hall, a vintage cinema, and fabulous shopping. In Oud-West, budget-conscious travelers can opt for boutique hostels like CityHub Amsterdam, while mid-range options include Hotel De Hallen and The Hoxton Amsterdam.
“The Oud-West area is where we call home, so we may be a bit biased, but it’s our favorite part of the city!”
Another trendy neighborhood in Amsterdam is de Pijp, previously a more bohemian place now popular with expats and visitors. De Pijp is a great place for food enthusiasts, home to the famous Albert Cuyp Market and a variety of international cuisine options. In de Pijp, Ecomama Hostel offers a budget-friendly and eco-conscious option that’s really popular with visitors.
If you’d like something a bit quieter and more laid-back, Oost is a great choice, home to the Dappermarkt and the peaceful Oosterpark, one of our favorite parks. In Oost, the Social Hub Amsterdam City is a fantastic place to meet fellow travelers to organize day trips and nights out.
Again, Amsterdam is a fairly small city, so truly you can’t go wrong where you stay. If you stay further out, in areas like Diemen or Nieuw West, be sure you’re near public transit to make getting into the city center easier.
Recommended Amsterdam Itineraries – 1, 2, 3 Days
1 day, 2 days, or 3 days?
Day 1 – ‘Amsterdam in a Nutshell’
Good morning! Your first stop is the Noordermarkt area. Early risers are rewarded with front-of-the-line spots at SAINT-JEAN, a delicious French-style bakery you’ll never guess is fully vegan.
For something a little heavier, our favorite place to grab traditional appeltaart (Dutch apple pie) in the city is Café Winkel 43, also nearby. It’s generally best to visit right when they open to avoid the massive line, and always ask for the fresh slagroom (whipped cream) on top.
If you’re able to come back later, Noordermarkt has a great local market setup, featuring delicious cheeses, veggie stands, and fresh bread; beautiful textiles, vintage clothes, antiques, and vinyl; hot food, pastries, and more.
If you’re in a hurry, grab a coffee and croissant at Café Sonneveld, Kafenion Amsterdam, or Selma’s centrum location before starting your day at the Anne Frank House. The museum does a wonderful job sharing Frank’s life and dreams with visitors, and it’s truly a very touching and emotional experience to stand in the Secret Annex, where she hid from the Nazis with her family and friends for two years during World War II. Give yourself some time to stand quietly and reflect here, and note that no photos are allowed (strictly enforced).
Here is a general note about museums in Amsterdam, and the Anne Frank House specifically: we strongly recommend booking your tickets as far in advance as you can. For the Anne Frank House, tickets are released exactly three months in advance, so mark your calendar and get your tickets ASAP.
Due to its small size, there are very limited visitor numbers, and once the tickets are gone, they’re gone. You don’t want to miss out on this experience while visiting, it’s an absolute must-see and something you will never forget. We’ve heard of so many people coming to visit that weren’t able to make it there or to other popular museums because tickets sold out, which is such a shame! Definitely book in advance.
If you’re keen to do a canal cruise, there are options from companies like Flagship and LOVERS that depart from right in front of the Anne Frank House, offering different amenities (e.g., wine and cheese, 60-minute, 90-minute, open-air, closed, etc.) starting at around €20.
While undoubtedly a touristy experience, we always recommend this to visitors and even partake in them ourselves from time to time! You’ll get beautiful photos and there’s nothing like seeing the canal houses from the water.
Afterwards, explore the charming Jordaan district, known for its narrow streets and boutique shops. Be sure to leave some space in your suitcase for local vintage finds, and stay on the sidewalk whenever you can – while it’s very cute and cozy, cars and bikes still use these narrow streets. Pop into the Embassy of the Free Mind or Museum Van Loon for great examples of Dutch architecture.
“We also recommend sampling the city’s best fries (in our humble opinion, though this is a loaded question!) at Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx!”
Exploring along the nearby Spuistraat, pop into the American Book Center for three jam-packed stories of English-language reads, or enjoy the open-air book markets right outside or other shopping continuing onto the Kalverstraat.
If you’re visiting at the end of April, the Jordaan is where all the Kings’ Day festivities take place, so be sure to bring your orange outfit and get ready to drink a lot of Heineken in celebration of the king’s birthday.
Walk a little further into Dam Square and check out Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam, the Royal Palace. While the Dutch royal family doesn’t live here (they live in The Hague), the large and splendid building is worth a peek.
There are often demonstrations going on in Dam Square, as well as lots of pigeons, people-watching, and comings and goings. Be aware of pickpockets here. If you have time, there are guided tours of the Royal Palace available to see the beautiful interior.
As you wander around the area, we recommend grabbing a more substantial bite to eat before tackling the afternoon’s museums, as they’re huge and thus not ideal to explore on an empty stomach. A few nice lunch options in the vicinity include Kessens, Maijard Smashburgers, or the Pancake Bakery if you haven’t kicked the breakfast craving yet – the Dutch are famous for their pannenkoeken! The further west you go (towards Westerkerk along Rozengracht), the less touristy the restaurants get.
Head over to the Museumplein area. If you only have one day, pack in quick visits to the van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum for a ‘Dutch Art History 101’. The Rijksmuseum is the Dutch national gallery, overflowing with Vermeer, Rembrandt, and other jaw-dropping Dutch Masters alongside innumerable other treasures, housed in a stunning building.
The Van Gogh Museum is located practically right next door and is also a must-see. It’s good to know in advance that Starry Night is not there (it’s at the MOMA in New York), but it’s a beautiful museum nonetheless and pays a moving homage to van Gogh’s short and tumultuous life.
It’s packed with drawings and other paintings (including many that you’ll surely recognize), as well as original letters and family history – you’ll gain a new appreciation for Vincent, as well as for his brother, Theo, and will surely be touched by how much they loved each other.
If you’re not tired of museums yet, the Stedelijk, a modern art museum, is located next door as well. Nicknamed ‘the bathtub’ due to its distinctive shape, it’s absolutely massive and a very intriguing place well worth a visit.
Note that the tip about advance tickets strongly applies to these museums as well. If you can, it’s best to visit the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh on weekdays, right when they open or right before they close – do a bit of research to see which you’d prefer, and book the second for a few hours later, calculating how long you’d like to stay at each. The museums get extremely crowded in the middle of the day, which will certainly impact your enjoyment.
To get some outside time after all those museums, take a stroll through Vondelpark, ‘Amsterdam’s Central Park’, and the green lung of the city, to stretch your legs. Afterwards or while you meander, take in the Oud Zuid area, Amsterdam’s ritziest neighborhood.
If you’d like a snack or a nice biertje (pint), check out Proeflokaal ‘t Blauwe Theehuis, a cute blue pub inside the park. For those of you craving a sweet treat, Miuz Gelato is one of the city’s best, also located near Vondelpark. And, if you love a bit of luxury shopping, the area around Vondel has Gucci, Hermes, and other high-end brands in glittery storefronts.
For dinner, double back to the city center and check out the Leidseplein area for food and a show at Melkweg, DeLaMar, or Internationaal. This is often one of the busiest parts of town and is packed with theaters, restaurants, clubs, and bars.
If you’re looking to splurge, check out dinner at Momo or the beautiful Art Deco-style Café Americain. Note that there are loads of restaurants here and many (if not most) of them are tourist traps, so be sure to check reviews to help you choose.
Afterwards, if you’re keen to explore the Red Light District, this is also relatively nearby. Please remember to be respectful of the sex workers – no photos are allowed, and this is strictly enforced.
Note that in most of the Wallen area, no drinking or smoking is allowed either, though open containers are mostly allowed in the rest of the city. It goes without saying that this area gets very rowdy and is a hotspot for badly behaved tourists, to the point that the city is actively trying to discourage stag parties and large groups from visiting.
The area isn’t necessarily for everyone, though it can be fun and informative to check out. While here, don’t miss the beautiful Nieuwe Kerk and Oude Kerk, two of the city’s most beautiful churches.
Day 2 – ‘Amsterdam Noord and Westerpark’
Start the second day of your Amsterdam itinerary at the NEMO Science Museum, perhaps having breakfast on its huge rooftop for a great photo op and exploring the various science-based exhibits (though this is a bit more targeted towards children.)
If you’re keen to check out another museum, the nearby Scheepvaartmuseum (National Maritime Museum) has a super cool replica 18th-century merchant ship that you can walk around inside and the museum gives a great history of the Dutch maritime influence. Next, take a ferry from nearby Centraal Station to Amsterdam Noord. The ferries are free, run frequently, and offer scenic views of the city – you really can’t beat it!
Cinephiles will love the Eye Filmmuseum’s huge collection of movies and film posters, and don’t miss arguably the best views of the city from its roof. A rival for those seeking the best city views is the nearby A’DAM Lookout. Thrill-seekers will enjoy the ‘Over the Edge’ swing on the rooftop– we recommend purchasing skip-the-line tickets in advance if you’d like to do this, though it is a bit touristy.
Next, head to the NDSM werf (wharf) area, a former industrial area turned creative hub. Check out the super cool street art, an open-air gallery showcasing international and local graffiti. If you want more street art, check out the STRAAT Museum. Many artists and creatives have studios and workspaces in the NDSM area, and several of which are open to the public.
While here, you can grab a bite to eat or a drink at Pllek, a unique restaurant, nightclub, and cultural venue built from old shipping containers right on the water, or try a great local brewery called Oedipus Brewing. Lastly, if you’re visiting on the second weekend of the month, you’re in for a special treat – Europe’s biggest flea market, the IJ-Hallen, takes place at the NDSM werf, and it’s truly a sight to behold.
When you’re done exploring Noord, take the ferry back across to the Spaarndammerbuurt neighborhood, and check out Westerpark. Begin at the Westergas, a cultural complex housed in a former gasworks building, that often has interactive art exhibits. The Westergasfabriek area has loads of creative spaces, shops, and cafés, and is a great place to grab a bite to eat for lunch.
“We love the beer at local Brouwerij Troost, and their Westergas location often has space for walk-ins and great vegan burgers, fries, and beer flights.”
Next, grab a coffee at Espressofabriek or Bakkerswinkel, or check out Het Schip, a unique expressionist building and museum dedicated to ‘Amsterdam School’ architecture, if that’s your type of thing. Regardless, it’s the perfect time for a stroll through Westerpark, another of Amsterdam’s best green spaces.
Walk through the park in the direction of the Haarlemmerbuurt. You’ll see an arch that looks a bit like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and walking through there, you’ll enter the Haarlemmerdijk, a really cute shopping street. The West-Indisch Huis is a great place for a photo – a historical building with ties to the Dutch West India Company, and if you keep walking along the street, you’ll end up right back in the Canal Zone or at Centraal Station.
Check out the nightlife at one of the many bars in Haarlemmerbuurt. Have a drink at Bar Bukowski or an ice-cold beer at Proeflokaal Arendsnest, which specializes in local Dutch beers.
“We really recommend visiting at least one brown bar while in town – a traditional type of pub commonly found in the Netherlands. They’re called brown because of the dark wood interiors that were often heavily tobacco-stained in the past, creating a warm and cozy ambiance”.
Brown bars are the most authentic place to have a few drinks in the country, and were often considered the heart of local neighborhoods in the past – places where folks gathered to enjoy a cold pint and engage in conversation.
All in all, these are still a great place to experience Dutch culture, sample Dutch beers, and try traditional Dutch bar snacks like bitterballen, kaasstengels, frikandel, and other fried goodies.
Arendsnest is our favorite, but Café ‘t Smalle is a close second, and Café Hoppe another good option (in a great location, but a bit more touristy). If you’d also like to try Dutch spirits like genever, check out De Drie Fleschjes.
Note that if you liked the vibe at Pllek, they also have great nightlife there if you’re keen to double back over to Noord.
Day 3 – ‘Amsterdam Oost and de Pijp’
Start your day in Amsterdam Oost by exploring the Dappermarkt, a lively street market offering a variety of goodies. Grab breakfast at Rum Baba, a cozy spot for pastries and coffee, or heavier fare at Box Sociaal, and check out the Tropenmuseum, which highlights world cultures in a sprawling and beautiful building. If time allows, take a stroll through the serene Oosterpark, another of Amsterdam’s gorgeous green spaces.
In addition to (or instead of) the Tropenmuseum, check out the ARTIS complex: consisting of the Groote Museum (focused on human evolution), the Micropia (about microorganisms), and the Zoo (one of the oldest in Europe.) This is a great place to spend a half day, and combination tickets are available for the three spots.
Next, relax in the Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam’s botanical garden, located nearby. Wandering through its different greenhouses and outdoor gardens, you’ll be impressed with the wide variety of plant species and the sheer size of some cactuses and trees. If you’re not totally museum-weary at this point, the Verzetsmuseum (the Dutch Resistance Museum) is highly recommended for its insight into the Dutch resistance during World War II and also nearby.
All of these super-interesting things to do are part of the Plantage neighborhood, one of Amsterdam’s most charming residential areas. Stroll through the streets and grab a bite to eat at Café Plantage – sit outside on the terrace if you can!
Nearby is one of our favorite breweries, Brouwerij ‘t IJ. It’s located in an old windmill right on the Amstel River, and they have great beer and ample seating (especially if you go a bit earlier in the day.) If it’s not raining, this is a must!
Head over to trendy de Pijp for lunch. Check out the famous Albert Cuyp Market for local treats like fresh stroopwafels, or go for sit-down food at Bazar Amsterdam, Pizzeria Dope, or Sjefietshé.
If you need an afternoon coffee, you’re in luck – the main drag in de Pijp, Ceintuurbaan, is packed with great options. Coffee & Coconuts and Scandinavian Embassy are two of our favorites.
After your lunch or snack, walk through Sarphatipark, the neighborhood’s green space, or window-shop along ultra-cute Van Woustraat and Gerard Doustraat, known for their boutiques and vintage shops.
Next, you can continue along Ceintuurbaan right back to Museumplein and the Vondelpark. This is a great opportunity to check out any museums you missed on day one or explore the area further. In the summertime, the huge green space is the perfect picnic spot, while in wintertime, there’s a super cute skating rink in front of the Rijksmuseum and an equally cute Christmas market to explore.
Elsewhere nearby, fans of Banksy or Yayoi Kusama will enjoy the Moco Museum, and if you’d like to check out some classical music, book tickets at the beautiful Concertgebouw, also on Museumplein. They have great discounts for folks under 30 and often offer lunch concerts.
While this is ultra-touristy, beer fans may want to check out the nearby Heineken Experience for an interactive journey through the world of beer and a history lesson about one of the Netherlands’ biggest exports. It’s conveniently located between de Pijp and Museumplein, so easy to squeeze into this day on your Amsterdam itinerary.
As with museums, it’s best to purchase tickets in advance to avoid long queues or tickets selling out. The area around the Heineken Experience, the aptly-named Marie Heinekenplein, is a great place to walk around and grab a bite to eat or sit and people-watch for a bit.
Whether from de Pijp or Museumplein, you’re quite close to circle back to the city center and continue exploring there. If you walk straight up the Vijzelgracht from the Heineken Experience, you’ll find yourself right back in the canal area.
On the Singel canal, check out the Munttoren, a carillon tower that was originally part of the city walls, and the Bloemenmarkt to purchase tulip bulbs and other flowers in a highly-touristy but charming canal-front market.
Behind the Munttoren to your left is Rokin, a beautiful waterfront street with several shopping streets branching off of it. If you’d like to check out stores like Zara, Uniqlo, or similar, go here. The local department store, de Bijenkorf, is nice for a splurge.
Veering to the right from the Munttoren you can take a beautiful meander along the Amstel River, detouring to visit Rembrandtplein, which is heavily touristy but packed with cafés and nightclubs, or the Reguliersdwarsstraat for gay bars and clubs. If you happen to be visiting during Pride (one of Europe’s best events!) this is a fantastic, though packed, place to be.
As you continue along the Amstel, don’t miss the Magere Brug (or Skinny Bridge), an Instagram favorite spot that’s beautifully illuminated at night. If you’d like a cultural evening, the Koninklijk Theater Carré (Royal Theatre) nearby has great musicals and ballets, as does the Nationale Opera & Ballet near Rembrandtplein.
Again, as residents of Amsterdam, we may be a bit biased… but we truly believe it’s a world-class city and one that will leave you wanting to visit again and again. From its leafy parks to lively bars and clubs, jaw-dropping quantity of amazing museums, beautiful architecture, and yummy international cuisine, definitely budget a solid chunk of time to spend here while on your next European trip, and don’t forget that rain jacket!
What would you add to this Amsterdam itinerary? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!