19 In Amsterdam/ Europe/ Netherlands/ Travel

Itinerary: How to Spend 3 Days in Amsterdam

Amsterdam itinerary

I’ve now been to Amsterdam a fair few times, and it really is an amazing city for a European city break. All of my trips have been completely different, but a mixture of all three of them would give what I would consider to be a pretty amazing three day break. In any famous, popular city that is full of expectations, stereotypes and tourist attractions, there’s a definite need to get a balance between the typically tourist activities, and getting a more genuine feel for the place. This Amsterdam itinerary includes a mixture of both!

 

3 day Amsterdam itinerary

 

Travel to Amsterdam

However you’re getting there, whether it’s flying, by ferry, or by train I think it is ALWAYS worth planning to get there early on your first day. How else will you make the most of the full three days? The good thing is that however you get there, it’s less than an hour transfer into central Amsterdam from both airport and port. If you’re travelling in by train then better still as Amsterdam Centraal is exactly as the name suggests – right in the centre.

 

Grand Centraal Amsterdam

 

From what I’ve heard taxis can be around the 40 euro mark, while trains from the airport are cheaper at less than 10 euros. On all of my visits to Amsterdam, I’ve been dropped off at or arrived at the station, and for many this will be the first glimpse of the city. It’s a pretty impressive first glimpse too, with wide sweeping canals running past the ornate old station, trams are clanging their way past, and cyclists whizzing by.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

Lots of canal tours start at this point as well, so while it may seem like you can take in almost everything Amsterdam has to offer in one sweeping glance, the reality for me is that this barely scratches the surface. Amsterdam’s real beauty lies a lot deeper in to the maze of canals, bridges and neighbourhoods.

 

Where to stay in Amsterdam?

I’ve stayed at a few locations, right by the station, in Nieuwmarkt, and in the Jordaan neighbourhood. By far my favourite is the Jordaan, right next to the Nine Streets and it was here that I stayed at the stunning Ambassade, in a real canal house. Staying next to the station was actually very useful for one of my trips when I was there for work, and needed to cover a lot of ground in a short space of time.

 

Ambassade Hotel

 

If your stay is shorter than you’d like, and you don’t mind the hustle and bustle of this area then near the station is perfect for that. It’s also handy for transport and transfer links as you don’t have to navigate your luggage far (tried and tested dragging a case through some of the narrow streets and its a big fat fail), and if you want to target specifically tourist sights.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

Niewmarkt was a bit more ‘sketchy’ I would say, with frequent wafts of weed floating out of certain establishments, but nevertheless an area full of history and very close to the Red Light District and farmers market. The Jordaan however is just pure Dutch beauty. Picturesque canals, lit up bridges, boutique shops and a lot fewer tourists it’s the winner for me anyday.

 

Ambassade Hotel, Amsterdam

 

Amsterdam Itinerary – Day 1

Canal Cruise

If you’ve arrived first thing, checked into your hotel and left your luggage, the first thing I would suggest for anyone to do is go on a canal cruise. Very touristy, but actually a really great way to see the city and where things are. You will get an insight into the culture, spot things you want to go back to, and learn a lot from your guide.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

It’s also a lot more relaxing than navigating the city and dodging the cyclists which can be a bit overwhelming. If it’s not your first time in Amsterdam then a canal cruise is a great refresher. I’ve done both a luxury canal cruise with Friendship, and a Lovers canal cruise too (this isn’t a romantic reference, it’s the name of the owner and they have loads of different canal cruises on offer).

 

Amsterdam Canal Cruise

 

Most canal cruises are an hour long, and you will be surprised how much you learn in that short space of time. Lovers boats can be picked up just outside the station, and you can also buy a one or two day city sightseeing pass too, which is a hop on hop off service throughout the city. I much prefer to walk, but like in most capital cities your feet will get tired and you might appreciate the break.

 

Dam Square and theΒ Royal Palace

Canal cruises finish where they start, so from the station take a walk straight up Damrak. If you’re surrounded by tourist souvenir shops, McDonalds, BodyWorlds and masses of tourists you’re in the right place. It’s not my favourite part of the city, but it’s the central recognisable street and at the top you will find yourself in Dam Square.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

The national monument stands proud in the centre, and like any city centre square there will be street sellers, entertainment, sometimes a big wheel and market stalls. Madame Tussauds is here, and so is the enormous department store de Bijenkorf.

Facing the centre of Dam Square is the beautiful Amsterdam Royal Palace, which is one of three royal palaces the King may use at any time. This one is usually used for occasions, but is open to the public most days. Take a guided tour around for 10 euros, kids go free. Built in the Golden Age of Amsterdam with the intention of being used as a city hall, the palace is a beautiful work of architecture.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

Lunch

By now you might be getting hungry, and battling the throngs of tourists in this area is definitely going to work up an appetite. A walk behind the palace, and up Paleistraat is going to take you into the Amsterdam that many seek on a visit to the Dutch capital. The manic crowds disappear and the canal network emerges, with cobbled streets taking you between each one, and arch bridges everywhere you look.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

There are cafes and little restaurants everywhere, thankfully no McDonalds or KFC in sight, so choose one and enjoy your lunch while watching the world go by. I’ve ate at a few, and found that the ones on the corners with a perfect view of the canals and bridges are often the most popular, but Ree7 down one of the streets is my favourite.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

Begijnhof

Once you’re refuelled set off among the beautiful streets to find the Begijnhof. The walk will take you through some of the most scenic parts of the city, and you’re bound to spot a lot of very luxurious looking hotels you will want to stay at.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

The Begijnhof is a hidden courtyard in Amsterdam, set off the streets and in a secluded area that dates back to the 14th century. It is signposted, and you may get lucky like we did and realise the crowd of people around a wooden door must be it, but if there aren’t any crowds you need to look for the door yourself.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

Through the door and along the narrow corridor that gently slopes downwards, you emerge in a tranquil courtyard, with private housing, perfectly manicured gardens and two churches. The Begijnhof is sunk lower than the rest of the city, and you can barely hear the outside world from inside. It was built for a sisterhood of religious women, and is still lived in by single women today. Enjoy the peace, but be respectful.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

Bloemenmarkt

A short walk from the Begijnhof is the Singel Canal, which in the past was actually a moat around the centre of the city and used as a defence. The city expanded beyond the Singel, but it is still home to the famous floating flower market, the Bloemenmarkt.

 

Bloemenmarkt Amsterdam

 

I have an entire post dedicated to the Bloementmarkt here, but to summarise down a stretch of the canal are a row of greenhouses, home to all sorts of plants, flowers and bulbs. Being a classic tourist spot there’s also lots of Dutch souvenirs, magnets, clogs, fake tulips etc, and a giant clog photo opportunity at the back of one of the green houses.

 

Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam

 

The buildings that face the flower market are also home to a lot of quirky shops you will want to explore. There’s the Christmas shop dedicated entirely to Christmas, and a number of Dutch cheese shops selling all sorts of incredible flavours. Henri Willig is my favourite, and well worth going in to sample some of the tasters. These shops are also great for picking up chocolates and Delftware.Β At the bottom of the Blocemenmarkt there is an entire shop dedicated to Delftware, the Royal Delft Experience.

 

Henri Willig, Bloemenmarkt

 

You’re probably going to be pretty tired of all the walking on your first day, so head back to your hotel to give your feet a rest and freshen up for the evening.

 

Niewmarkt and the Red Light District

You can’t visit Amsterdam without taking in the sights of the Red Light District, and there’s probably no surprise that it comes to life at night. Despite being home to plenty of half naked women trying to entice men in from behind glass windows, it is a historical area of the city and some of the buildings and bars are some of the oldest in the city. Fast food thrives around here, but there are also plenty of independent little eateries.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

A walk through the main streets of the red light district is pretty eye opening, and with so many people its known for pick pockets so be aware. You might be surprised that it isn’t actually just full of stag dos, although of course they definitely feature. Families, locals, and couples all enjoy the buzz of the area in an evening. Whatever you do, just don’t take photos of the girls. You will land yourself in a lot of trouble.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

Just behind the Red Light District is Newmarket, where there are loads of restaurants and bars with outdoor terraces to enjoy. It’s not that expensive either, so you easily enjoy an evening of people watching with lots of food and drinks. In de Waag is in the centre of Newmarket, an old city gate that is now a restaurant with an outdoor terrace too. It’s a bit nicer than the others and worth booking, but the menu isn’t as big so worth checking you’ll like it before you go.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

Amsterdam Itinerary – Day 2

Spend the morning at the Museum Quarter

After so much ground covered during your first day in Amsterdam, give your feet a break and take the hop on hop off city sightseeing boat to the first area to explore on day two, the Museum Quarter. The city sightseeing boat has three stops so get on at your nearest. These include Amsterdam Centraal, the Anne Frank Haus in the Jordaan and Rembrandtplein. There’s six in total but these are the most likely ones you would need.

 

Museum Quarter, Amsterdam

 

As I discuss in a lot more detail in my Museum Quarter post, this area is my all time favourite in Amsterdam. It has both grand beautiful mansions, impressive museum architecture that you’re bound to recognise, and authentic city streets lined with quirky galleries and shops.

A cafe you might want to head to first to get some breakfast is called Stef’s, and is located onΒ Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. Enjoy a coffee and a Dutch pastry!

 

Museum Quarter, Amsterdam

 

Museumplein itself is the area as the name suggests, where you will find all the famous museums – Van Gogh, Stedelijk, MOCO Museum, and of course the incredible Rijksmuseum. Depending on your cultural and artistic tastes, spend some time enjoying the museum exhibitions, or if not then they can still be enjoyed from the outside. The architecture of the Rijksmuseum is incredible, and the fountain outside is a great spot to sit and relax if the weather is good, as is the giant stretch of grassland between each museum.

 

Museum Quarter, Amsterdam

 

I’ve only ever been inside the MOCO Museum, which was basically a converted mansion. I enjoyed the Banksy exhibition, which is there until the end of August.

 

Museum Quarter, Amsterdam

 

You could choose to take the city sightseeing boat back into the centre of the city, or even go in search of Vondelpark which is nearby (in all my visits I’ve never yet made it there), but I prefer to walk back. As described above and in my Museum Quarter post the area is so beautiful and best experienced on foot.

 

Museum Quarter, Amsterdam

Museum Quarter, Amsterdam

 

Soak up the city in the afternoon

On this second day afternoon you could choose to do any of the other obvious tourist attractions. The Heineken museum isn’t far away from the museum quarter, and exploring the vintage shops and boutiques of the nine streets is always fun too. In keeping with the museum theme there are all sorts of unique museums in the centre too, like the Museum of Bags and Purses, the FOAM photography museum, or even the cat museum.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

Personally, I just enjoy wandering the streets of the canal belts. Walking is pretty heavy going and your feet will hurt. You could head to a cafe called Toos & Roos for lunch, they do sandwiches, pastries and have a good selection of healthy options on the menu too, or have some delicious Dutch pancakes at the appropriately named ‘Pancakes!’.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

You could always grab an ice cream afterwards from one of the many parlours dotted about and take the typical Insta-worthy photos too.

 

Amsterdam Canal Cruise

 

Rembrandtplein

Right in the centre of Rembrandplein square is a giant statue of the man himself, Rembrandt, the famous Dutch painter. A ten minute walk from the main square and you can also find the Rembrandt House Museum.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

This house is where the painter lived and worked for over twenty years. The inside of the museum has been done out in the style of the era Rembrandt belonged, and is home to a huge collection of his work. Even if you don’t go inside it’s quite striking just to look at, with all its colourful shutters.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

Directly opposite is the leaning canal loch house, that still works to clean the canals today. The building nowadays is also a bar, and leans further than the Tower of Pisa. Enjoy a drink outside overlooking the canals.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

Rembrandtplein is a great area to head to in the evening if you’re after a busy area full of terraces, bars, restaurants and late clubs. The square itself is always buzzing with an atmosphere and there’s plenty of choice whatever you’re after as the evening turns to night.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

An evening must – the lit up canals!

An alternative option if you prefer something more civilised, and also my preferred option, is a nice meal at one of the cities many brasseries. I’ve ate at Mezzo (Italians), Hoofdstad Brasserie (VERY posh, I felt like the Queen but beautiful location), and a sushi restaurant called Sumo Amsterdam 4. Follow up your meal with a wander among the lit up bridges which look incredible at night.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

Red Light District Amsterdam

 

Amsterdam Itinerary – Day 3

Breakfast or Brunch

For breakfast and/or brunch I find it hard to look past Pluk Amsterdam. If you’re staying in the Joordan it’s within walking distance, and if not then you could get the city sightseeing boat and get off at the Anne Frank Haus. There are obviously tons of cafe choices but I really love Pluk for it’s little attic cafe and shop. It’s in the Nine Streets area, and hugely popular so a weekday is definitely the time to go. You might pick up a less touristy souvenir from the shop section too. You can read my full post on Pluk Amsterdam here.

 

Pluk Amsterdam

 

Anne Frank Haus

You can’t visit Amsterdam without at least seeing the Anne Frank Haus and museum, located on the Prinsengracht canal. Tickets are sold out months in advance online, and the queue to go in on the day is often over two hours long. I’ve never been in myself because of this, but it’s worth going along to see it even if you aren’t prepared with tickets in advance to go inside.

Amsterdam itinerary

 

The Prinsengracht is a beautiful canal, and one of three that were made as Amsterdam expanded from it’s medieval centre. The enormous Westerkerk church is also on the banks, and directly next to the Anne Frank Haus, with only a pancake house between them in the square.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

Moving away from the tourist sights, the three canals that make up the canal belts (Prinsengracht, Kaizersgracht and Herengracht) have endless beautiful sights – the stone arch bridges for one, and a mix of some of the most traditional and grandest looking architecture in Amsterdam.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

Revisit your favourite area

Your final afternoon in Amsterdam should be spent in your favourite area. Wandering around the streets throws up so many surprises, new views and unique looking cafes to dive into that there’s no way you will get bored.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

Before you leave Amsterdam

In all my visits to Amsterdam I’ve never once been picked up in a taxi from my hotel. I’ve always head back to Centraal Station to be picked up or get public transport. Opposite the station you’ll find the oldest bar in Amsterdam, Cafe Karpershoek.

 

Amsterdam itinerary

 

It’s worth spending your last hour in this fabulous city with a drink outside watching the world go by. It’s a far cry from the peaceful scenic parts of the city, and chances are you’ll have the pleasure of someone blowing smoke in your face, but the people watching is great and the bar has been standing since 1606, it deserves your custom even just for one while you plan your return!

 

Other Amsterdam posts:

How to be a tourist in Amsterdam

Ambassade Hotel Review

Pluk Amsterdam

Bloemenmarkt

A Canal Cruise with Friendship

The Museum Quarter of Amsterdam

The Banksy Exhibition at MOCO Museum

 

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Itinerary: 3 days in Amsterdam

Itinerary: 3 days in Amsterdam

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    Rachael Dickinson
    25th July 2017 at 9:24 am

    Some great ideas here – love the idea of going back to Amsterdam. I didn’t really enjoy it the first time I went!

    Rachael xox

  • Reply
    ada
    26th July 2017 at 10:52 am

    Looks great! Ive been in Amsterdam for 3 days this year as well and also visited those places! Such a beautiful city. ! that Pluk Amsterdam place looks amazing! I found similar one called Coffee and Coconut and I can’t wait to go back there again one day!

    • Reply
      sfox
      27th July 2017 at 10:44 am

      I’ve not been to Coffee and Coconut but it sounds like somewhere Id like! Will have to visit next time I go πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Chloe - New Girl in Toon
    27th July 2017 at 8:19 am

    Oh wow! This is such a brilliantly detailed travel guide – you don’t fancy going to Dublin before December and writing me one do you? It’d save me a lot of research!

    I went to Amsterdam a few years ago with a friend and we had the best time, there’s just so much to do there. Unfortunately we’d just missed the tulip season so I have always said I’d love to go back and as Simon’s never been I have a few excuses to plan another trip. I quite fancy the idea of getting the ferry across, it’s so easy from the North East it seems silly not to take advantage!

  • Reply
    Travelling Dany
    29th July 2017 at 10:13 am

    We absolutely love the time spent in Amsterdam, but we never thought of using a taxi, they are very, very expensive! Public transport is perfectly fine and it won’t hurt your budget too much!

  • Reply
    Suman doogar
    29th July 2017 at 10:23 am

    Mostly people when they travel they only see the famous places, the real joy of travelling is to do it slowly and soak in the culture of the place of your visit.

  • Reply
    Lisa
    29th July 2017 at 10:32 am

    I just love Amsterdam <3 Maybe I will go in the next weeks and definitely think about your recommendations πŸ˜‰

  • Reply
    Lisa
    29th July 2017 at 11:25 am

    I absolutely love Amsterdam and this is a great itinerary.

  • Reply
    Lucy
    29th July 2017 at 11:28 am

    I’m going to Amsterdam again soon and you have showed me places I haven’t been too! So pleased! Great info and beautiful photos.
    Happy Travels
    Lucy @ http://www.lucywilliamsglobal.com

  • Reply
    MaΕ‘a
    29th July 2017 at 11:34 am

    This post has SOO MANY beautiful photos in there! Especially since I love Amsterdam so much. Love how you captured it and make that 3 days itinerary. Makes me wanna go back again (event hough this year I was already twice there!) <3

  • Reply
    Kate
    29th July 2017 at 11:53 am

    Love this article! I had the chance to live near Amsterdam for a year and you’ve mentioned all the places that I loved! it’s such a wonderful city, behind every corner there is always something amazing! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Michelle de Klerk
    29th July 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Wow I feel so blessed to have come across your blog as we will be spending a day or two in Amsterdam soon and I didn’t really know what there is too see – really looking forward to a romantic canal experience with my hubby now and the Christmas shop as my mom will absolutely love it!

  • Reply
    Caroline
    29th July 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Ah, I love Amsterdam! I’ve not been since 2011 when I went with friends and didn’t actually see enough of the city because it was more of a boozy holiday – I need to return! The canal cruise is a lovely way to start off.

  • Reply
    David @theworldnus
    29th July 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Great photos! I feel like you’ve taken me on a tour of Amsterdam. Would love to visit one day and explore. I’ve heard it can be a very expensive city.

  • Reply
    Sapna
    29th July 2017 at 2:35 pm

    Amsterdam is high on the bucket list, saving your itinerary it for future.

  • Reply
    Cherene Saradar
    29th July 2017 at 8:14 pm

    I definitely need to go back to Amsterdam and do more of these things! The bike riding sounds super fun. Love your photos too!

  • Reply
    Kristof
    31st July 2017 at 9:14 pm

    I just got back from Amsterdam and can totally relate to your suggestions! The Museum Quarter is a place you could easily spend more than half a day, especially the Rijksmuseum is quite impressive!

  • Reply
    Stuart Forster
    17th August 2017 at 2:37 pm

    There are some good tips here. The Rijksmuseum is definitely worth popping inside for a look around. If you have a chance when you are next in Amsterdam, take a look across the River Ij from the central station. The Eye film institute is well worth a visit and is a gorgeous contemporary building.

    • Reply
      sfox
      17th August 2017 at 2:38 pm

      Thanks for the tip Stuart!

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