Three days in Amsterdam may sound like plenty of time to get to know the Dutch capital, but you'll be surprised just how quickly time can fly by. If you don't plan your time carefully when you're visiting Amsterdam, before you know it you'll be repacking your suitcase while kicking yourself for not doing half the things you wanted to do.
Just because you plan in advance doesn't necessarily mean you have to stick rigidly to any Amsterdam itinerary you create before you go; you can still be flexible when you get there. Amsterdam is a very friendly place so you're bound to connect with other travelers who you'll want to share a beer or coffee with, so it pays not to be too rigid about sticking to your plans.
At some point during the three days you visit Amsterdam you'll probably be stuck with your bags. It might be when you first arrive and are waiting to check in or it could be when it's time to check out. As with most hotels and hostels in many European cities, including in Amsterdam, the regular check out time can either be midday, or sometimes even as early as ten in the morning.
If that happens to you, don't waste hours sitting in a cafe with your bags by your side. Store your stuff at one of the Bounce luggage storage facilities in Amsterdam and head off to the city center to tick a few more things off your bucket list.
Here we’ve put together a sample Amsterdam itinerary to give you a general idea of just how many activities you can pack in when visiting Amsterdam. All of the activities on this Amsterdam travel itinerary may not interest you, but you can always substitute those things for something else because there’s definitely no lack of great things to do in Amsterdam. There are also Amsterdam travel tips that will help you make the most of your stay.
After traveling to Amsterdam you'll probably sleep a little later than you normally would on the first morning. That's understandable as traveling can be tiring. What you'll need to start your stay off well and to energize you for the day ahead is the best brunch in Amsterdam.
Once you've brunched and consumed enough coffee to get over any jet lag or general travel tiredness, it'll be time to set out and begin exploring the city. One of the best ways to do that is on a self-guided walking tour of the city center and if you did enough pre-prep on your Amsterdam trip planner, you'll have marked your route on a Google map and printed it out.
TIP - If you didn't make your own route map, check out where the nearest tourist information center to your hotel is and make that your first port of call. Many hostel and hotel receptions often have piles of maps and leaflets so check there first and you could save yourself some time.
Dam Square, Damrak Waterfront, the Royal Palace, and the Bloemenmarkt
Whatever area you decided to stay in when you visit Amsterdam, you'll find the easiest place to start your exploration is Dam Square in the city center. There are lots of public transport connections to Dam Square from all over the city and if you need to ask someone for directions, it's one of the easiest names to pronounce.
Take a stroll around Dam Square, the city's main square, stop for coffee and do some people watching, then you have a choice of directions you can take. You can go and take a look at the Royal Palace or head for Damrak Avenue and the photogenic Damrak Waterfront.
Alternately, head down Rokin and you'll be on the right street for starting your shopping in Amsterdam. Keep going and you'll eventually come to the turn-off for the Bloemenmarkt, the famous floating flower market. It is quite a trek, so you may want to consider hiring a bicycle and doing it the Dutch way.
Tip: If you don't feel confident to go exploring on your own, the best thing to do is join one of the free walking tours of the city. There are several that start from Dam Square by the National Monument. In two hours you'll have seen quite a few of the more famous Amsterdam attractions, learned about Dutch culture and rich history, and depending on which tour you take, have visited the city's red light district. Tours depart at regular intervals throughout the morning from ten-thirty onwards.
While you're in the city center, it might seem like a good idea to head for the Museum Square as you'll be in the right vicinity and spend the afternoon there. Before you dive through the doors of the Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmuseum, stop.
I Amsterdam City Card
It might seem a bit of a steep outlay initially, but purchasing an I Amsterdam city card will, in the long run, save you lots of money. You can purchase a card that's valid for the entire three days for a cost of €110, for two days for €90, or for one day for €65.
You can use your I Amsterdam city card on all public transportation and at many of the popular tourist attractions as well as for entering all the museums except the Anne Frank House. It will give you access to the A'Dam Lookout, a day's bicycle hire, and a free canal cruise, which if you were paying for them individually would add up to quite a lot more than the cost of the card. The card also gets you discounts at many more of the main Amsterdam attractions so is definitely worth considering.
To end your first day in Amsterdam with a mega thrill there's really only one place to go and that's to the A'Dam Lookout. The A'dam Lookout is a twenty-story high tower block right opposite Amsterdam Central Station with an observation deck at the top. From there you'll get panoramic views of Amsterdam by night which are great but not as exciting as the Over The Edge Swing which flies over the edge of the building. Do it if you dare. It’s a pretty memorable way to end your first day in Amsterdam.
If swinging off the edge of the A'dam Tower didn't keep you awake with recurring nightmares and you're ready for an early start on day two of your Amsterdam visit, fair play. There's still a lot of the city to see so consider jumping aboard the hop on hop off bus.
When it's not a rainy day in Amsterdam you can take a seat on the open-roofed top deck and get a blast of fresh air as you go around. The bus route has ten stops and you can get off at every one, take a look around, then get back on the next bus passing.
Just to give you an idea of where the bus goes, there are stops in the Jewish Quarter near the Anne Frank House, the diamond quarter where you can have a free visit to a diamond merchant, the Heineken Experience where there's a chance of some beer tasting, and Westerdok, one of Amsterdam's great waterfront areas.
Before you head back to the Museum Quarter to visit another of the city's museums, treat yourself to a traditional Dutch snack washed down by a beer or two at Bar Bitterbal. Bar Bitterbal on Utrechtsestraat serves twenty-five different types of croquette-style deep-fried balls with dips that go perfectly with a few drinks.
There are numerous canal cruises you can take in Amsterdam and a variety of different boats you can take canal cruises on. Whichever you choose, it's a pleasant way of spending a couple of hours and seeing parts of the city from a different perspective. One of the nicest ways though is to take a canal cruise at night along the Amsterdam canals when all the bridges and buildings are illuminated. It can be quite romantic so if you're looking for a reasonably priced date night option, a one-and-a-half-hour canal cruise is ideal.
On the evening of your second night in Amsterdam, you'll probably be more than ready for some social vibes. One of the best places to go for a relaxed social evening that isn't a coffee shop is the Foodhallen on Bellamyplein. The Foodhallen is a food hall housed in a massive restored warehouse-style venue. It's occupied by pop-up restaurants and craft breweries and has one of the best nighttime atmospheres in the city center. There you can eat and drink until around midnight and if you want more, you'll be just a ten-minute cab ride from the Rembrandtplein where all the late night bars and clubs are.
If your hangover from the night before isn't too debilitating, have an early breakfast to fortify yourself and head for the chaos of the Albert Cuyp Market. The Albert Cuyp Market is Amsterdam's iconic street market that operates six days a week in the de Pijp district of the city. The market occupies the entire length of Albert Cuypstraat with well over two hundred and fifty stalls. It might not be the best place to find the perfect souvenir, but it's fun to visit and has a great atmosphere.
After you've had enough of elbowing your way through the market crowds make a visit to the Heineken Experience which is a museum dedicated to the history of, yes, you guessed it, beer. At the Heineken Experience, there are lots of interactive exhibits and a tasting room where you get to sip a couple of dregs of this famous Dutch lager.
Alternatively, if after the bustle of the market you're in need of some peace and quiet, you'll be just a couple of minutes' walk away from a beautiful park, the Sarphatipark. This famous park in the de Pijp district is the ideal place for a chill out and if you buy bread, cheese, cured meats, and other things to nibble on at the market, a great spot for a picnic lunch.
When you've had your fill of all the tourist attractions and famous museums, it'll be time for a change of pace and maybe do some shopping. Either retrace your steps and go browsing the stores on Rokin. That'll take up a couple of hours at least, or instead, make your way across the city to the Magna Plaza shopping center on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal.
The Magna Plaza is a beautiful two-story indoor mall with lots of independent traders and a good place to search for gifts or last-minute Dutch souvenirs. If you haven't had enough of the city's famous museums like the van Gogh Museum and still have a few hours of the afternoon to kill, you'll find the NEMO Science Museum is just a short walk from the shopping center.
If you're not heading for Schiphol Airport until the following morning, then you enjoy your last night in Amsterdam, but it's wise not to get too carried away. Missing early morning flights from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport can turn out to be stressful and an expense you don't really want. The best thing to do on the last night of your stay in Amsterdam is to go for a relaxed traditional Dutch dinner somewhere like Moeders on Rozengracht.
At Moeders they make Dutch food like Dutch mothers make so you know it's going to be hearty and filling. Eat a plate of hotchpotch or suddervlees at Moeders and it'll sustain you throughout your trip home. You certainly won’t feel like hitting the dance floor after a dinner like this and that’s probably a good thing.
So now you know at least some of the things you can do when you visit Amsterdam. This Amsterdam itinerary is just an example so you can swap and change the activities to suit what you enjoy best. The one thing you are guaranteed in Amsterdam is that, no matter what you do or what order you do it in, you'll have a fantastic time in this famous city.