I’ve been living in the Netherlands for nearly three years with most of my time spent living in Amsterdam. I usually recommend that if you’re visiting Amsterdam, three days in Amsterdam is perfect. I’ve created a three day itinerary for Amsterdam with advice on what to do in Amsterdam for all budgets. As someone who’s spent quite a bit of time in Amsterdam, I cover the famous sights, but I try to focus on showing you some of neighborhoods that make Amsterdam unique rather than the touristy hubs. I include a free downloadable map (at the bottom) with the best places to visit in Amsterdam during 3 days.
This is a suggested itinerary for Amsterdam, so I try to give options and I completely understand if you choose to skip something. That said, I’ve carefully crafted this Amsterdam itinerary to minimize walking, public transit, and biking.
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Your three day itinerary for Amsterdam
I’ve tried to keep it more low-key. Obviously, it’s possible to pack in more activities, but half the fun of Amsterdam is getting lost along its gorgeous canals. This Amsterdam itinerary is in three parts: Classic Amsterdam, Cultural Amsterdam, and New Amsterdam. If you’re in Amsterdam for only two days, you can pick two of the days to follow and I have a one day itinerary for Amsterdam if you’re in a rush. 😉
I’ve designed this Amsterdam itinerary to minimize walking as much as possible as well as public transportation and biking. I’d recommend maybe renting a bike for Day 3. I have tips for biking in Amsterdam with information about bike rental and etiquette.
Day 1: Classic Amsterdam
Today’s itinerary for Amsterdam will cover the must-sees of Amsterdam at a reasonable pace with designated snack stops. Although I published a one day in Amsterdam, I’ve tried to minimize walking to make it easier on you if you’re coming off a flight from the US.
Let’s start off with breakfast
Head to Omelegg for a tasty and affordable omelette or the Bakkerswinkel if you’re looking for a tasty pastry (and coffee) with your coffee. Both can get busy later in the morning on weekdays, but it shouldn’t be too bad on a weekend if you get there on the earlier side. I also like Bakers and Roasters, a Kiwi breakfast place serving up delicious vegan-friendly food, but it’s a bit more of a walk.
Red Light District in Amsterdam
You might be wondering why I’m recommending going to the Red Light District after breakfast, but this area is absolutely insanity at night and/or weekends. The hard-working ladies in Amsterdam work daytime too. I find the area is far less crowded during the day, so I recommend seeing it if you’re curious. Just be aware that you cannot take photos in the Red Light District due to maintaining privacy for the workers.
Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder
This museum in Amsterdam is one of my favorite museums. Although it’s not as famous as many of the others, it’s a great way to learn about Dutch history, architecture, and religious persecution while seeing the well-maintained interior of three beautiful canal houses. It’s a bit quirky, but it’s never crowded and entry is affordable. The coolest part? There’s a hidden secret church with two stories in the attic.
Stop for cookies at Van Stapele Cookies
These Amsterdam cookies are made-to-order and if you’re a chocolate fanatic, you must stop off here while you’re in Amsterdam. The cookies are soft, but the interior is just pure white chocolate that melts in your mouth. If you’re in need of a drink after, I recommend the ubiquitous Coffee Company for a pick-me-up.
Browse books at American Book Center
If you’re a literature lover, you’re guaranteed to find a good book to read at the American Book Center. Click for a list of my 15 favorite books about Amsterdam. It’s just cozy and I often spend hours in here.
Discover secret Amsterdam (ish): Begijnhof
Close to the entrance to the American Book Center, you’ll find the entrance to the Begijnhof. This historic hofje used to be where women who chose to be dedicated to the church would live together. It’s a little touristy compared to other hofjes in Amsterdam, but you’ll feel like you’ve discovered a secret as soon as you walk through the door. It gets very quiet and people still live in stunning historic hofje.
Lunch at Blue Amsterdam
This restaurant with epic views of Amsterdam is hidden in a shopping center close to the Bloemenmarkt. I recommend using your phone GPS to find the mall prior to taking the elevator up to the top.
Browse the flowers at Bloemenmarkt (Amsterdam flower market)
If you have a bit more time in Amsterdam, you can take a day trip to see the tulip fields. However, if you have limited time, you can head to the Bloemenmarkt (the Amsterdam Flower Market) to browse for Dutch souvenirs. Be sure to have the vendor check if you’re allowed to bring that variety in back to your home country as some are not allowed to be exported outside of the EU unfortunately.
A canal cruise is one of the most relaxing things to do in Amsterdam and I think it’s a must if you only have three days in Amsterdam. Instead of going to the canal cruises outside of Amsterdam Centraal that have recorded tours, I recommend looking for one with a live captain. It’s far more engaging and I enjoyed the canal cruise that I went on.
Enjoy the Jordaan (9 Streets and Canals)
Half the joy of Amsterdam is wandering around its canals. My personal favorite canals are Herengracht and Keizersgracht. I just love strolling along the canals taking in the stunning houses. Before you walk too far up the canals, stop off in the 9 streets, a shopping area filled with local boutiques and cute coffee shops.
Stop off for a drink at a brown bar
Even if you’re not an alcohol drinker, be sure to stop off at a brown bar for the atmosphere. These historic Amsterdam bars often date back to the 1700s and I just love admiring the wooden interiors. Cafe Chris is one of my favorite bars in Amsterdam although you can easily pick the cutest historic cafe that you pass on foot.
Dinner in de Jordaan
Head to my favorite Indonesian take-out place in Amsterdam for a quick to-go meal along the canals: Pondok Indah. Be sure to bring cash and say hi to Pieter for me. You can get a filling portion of tasty Indonesian food for less than than ten euros while taking in the canal views in the tiny restaurant. Otherwise, head to SLA for a healthy organic/vegan meal that is reasonable and delicious.
Anne Frank House
The best time to go to the Anne Frank House is after dinner if you don’t have tickets. I recommend buying tickets ahead for the Anne Frank House using the official website as it allows you to skip the line. However, I understand that there’s not that many tickets. I recommend having an late (or early) dinner to ensure that you give yourself 1-2 hours to try to get into the Anne Frank House. In summer/peak season, you might want to give yourself more time, so check the closing hours. Anne’s story is truly powerful regardless of whether you’ve read her diary prior to going.
Day 2: Cultural Amsterdam
Amsterdam isn’t just weed, prostitutes, and canals. There’s a lot of culture here and this part of the Amsterdam itinerary is about soaking up the culture!
Breakfast in De Pijp (or just coffee)
Start off at my favorite breakfast place in De Pijp: CT coffee and coconuts. This vegan-friendly restaurant in a former theatre is both beautiful and has great coffee. I particularly like their smoothies made with coconut. Just don’t eat too much as I have plans for you!
Second breakfast (or the main event): Stroopwafels and browsing at Albert Cuypmarkt
Let’s pretend that you didn’t eat so much food at CT coffee and coconuts. Save your space for the fresh stroopwafels that you’ll find at Albert Cuypmarkt, one of Amsterdam’s best street markets. Here, you’ll find haring, stroopwafels, souvenirs, batteries, … name it and it’s here. If you’re curious about haring, be sure to stop at one of the haring stalls to sample pickled or raw herring. It’s your call if you prefer to eat in the market instead with getting a coffee beforehand.
Graffiti in De Pijp
De Pijp is the cooler, modern part of Amsterdam and you’re bound to find some great graffiti here. I particularly love the “Wake me up when I’m famous” mural. You’ll find directions to this mural in Amsterdam here, which is easily one of the best photo spots in Amsterdam.
Museumplein / iAmsterdam sign
Can you say that you visited Amsterdam without taking a photo with the iAmsterdam sign? I kid, but you’ll find the famous iAmsterdam sign here in Museumplein. I particularly love lounging in the grass on a nice day with friends after a lazy day spent at one of the museums. (The rest of Amsterdam agrees.)
Rijksmuseum or Van Gogh museum
You can’t miss these two famous museums in Amsterdam if you’re a lover of art. Personally, I prefer the Rijksmuseum as I feel that it’s far larger than the Van Gogh museum. Admission for both is pretty steep, so I think going to both museums during your three days in Amsterdam might be a bit much as you can see a few of Van Gogh’s artwork in the Rijksmuseum. You can buy your tickets ahead for the Rijksmuseum on their website, so you can skip the line.
Snack/Coffee: Bagels and Beans or Albert Heijn in Museumplein
That mid-day slump can come hard after a busy day in the museums. If I’m in the area around Museumplein, I usually stop off at Bagels and Beans for a pick-me-up coffee and/or head into the Albert Heijn in Museumplein for a snack. Both are reasonable, so even if you’re visiting Amsterdam on a budget and feeling broke after the Rijksmuseum, you can afford this.
Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s most famous park and it’s beautiful year-round. It’s a short walk from the museums to Vondelpark and I just love walking around the park. A complete loop can take about one hour and there’s a teahouse in the middle of the park if you want to take a break.
Dinner in de Pijp
Get on the tram back to de Pijp (or walk). For dinner, I recommend heading to Sari Citra for Indonesian food, The Butcher for a great hamburger, Bazar for Middle-eastern inspired food, or Sir Hummus for Israeli food. You can’t really go wrong here as these are all my favorite places to eat in De Pijp.
Drinks in De Pijp
For a beer, head to Gollum for the beer selection as well as atmosphere. Otherwise, head to the secret bar in the back of the Butcher for cocktails. If you’re looking for something different, you can read about Amsterdam coffeeshops with furry friends here.
Day 3: New and off the beaten path Amsterdam
The itinerary for this day in Amsterdam focuses more on showing you something different. If you’re feeling like you’ve seen the canals and you’re after something different, this should give you a peek into the secret side of Amsterdam and some residential areas that are a bit different. Alternatively, it’s very easy to take a day trip to another Dutch city. If you’re curious about bike riding in Amsterdam, I recommend this day for the day that you rent a bike. I have a post detailing what to know about bicycling in Amsterdam.
Breakfast on Haarlemmerstraat
You’ll be starting off today in a different area outside of Center. If you’re not too hungry, I recommend stopping into Stach on Haarlemmerdijk for a coffee before taking in spectacular views of the canals nearby. I especially love their homemade peanut butter cup and pastries.
If you’re looking for a full breakfast, head to G’s Jordaan for a hearty creative breakfast (check hours as they’re not open every day) or The Breakfast Club for a classic brunch. Alternatively, you can stop at Bagels and Beans for a healthy and quick breakfast with friendly service.
Wander down Haarlemmerstraat and find Cafe Papeneiland
It’s hard to miss this iconic Amsterdam photo spot and the view still makes me sigh when I walk past it. It’s one of those iconic Amsterdam things. Afterwards, stop into Kaasland, a local cheese shop, for samples and buying cheese as a souvenir. It’s not like the touristy ones in Center, so it’s well-priced and you can try ALL kinds of cheese here. Once you walk down the street, you’ll find lots of cute shops as well as a few with adorable cats. Click for my favorite shops with cats in Amsterdam, which includes a few in this area.
Once you’re done, head up towards the scary looking tunnel close to Nieuwe Teertuinen. As soon as you pass underneath, you’ll be entering one of my favorite neighborhoods in Amsterdam: the Westelijke Eilanden. These artificial islands were warehouses and the homes of shipbuilders historically and the area is just dreamy with few tours. Don’t come here on a segway. It’s just lovely to walk around this calm and beautiful area after spending two days in Amsterdam’s busiest area. You’ll find a couple of secret spots in this area included in my secret Amsterdam guide.
Ferry to NDSM
Once you’ve seen it, head up to the Westerdoksdijk ferry to NDSM. The ferry is 100% free and you’re allowed to bring a bike on the ferry! NDSM is a newer part of Amsterdam that is warehouses, but not the historic sort. It’s the “Williamsburg” of Amsterdam.
Lunch at Noorderlicht or Pllek
Once you’re in NDSM, you’ll be sure to be delighted by the graffiti, but be sure to stop off for food at Noorderlicht or Pllek. Both are restaurants with a good assortment of food and great views of the water. Pllek is made of shipping containers while Noorderlicht is an old greenhouse.
Exploring NDSM / IJhallen (if you’re lucky)
I often just love exploring the new graffiti around NDSM although if you’re lucky enough to come here during the once-monthly IJhallen, Amsterdam’s biggest flea market, you’ll want to bring cash with you. I consider NDSM kind of a must if you’re in Amsterdam for three days as most people only see the historical part of Amsterdam without every seeing the modern part.
Ferry back to Amsterdam Centraal
Instead of heading back the same way, catch the ferry back to Amsterdam Centraal prior or walking of taking the bus to Brouwerij ‘t TIJ. You might be wondering how I’ve managed to write an Amsterdam itinerary without including Heineken, but there’s a method to the madness. As a resident, I feel that it’s overrated and expensive, so I’ve brought you to my favorite alternative to the Heineken Experience.
Brouwerij ‘t IJ
You might have noticed that I left the Heineken Experience off this list. Why? You can get 100% Amsterdam produced craft beer that you won’t be able to find outside of Amsterdam. Similarly, for the cost of entry to the Heineken Experience for one person, you can get 5 beers at Brouwerij ‘t IJ, a local Amsterdam brewery in a windmill.
Hipster it up and enjoy a night out in Amsterdam Oost.
After some beers, head to Instock for a delicious meal that is no waste. This restaurant has teamed up with a major Dutch supermarket to make innovative food to prevent food waste from occurring. The food is delicious, affordable, and vegan-friendly (if needed).
Looking for something a bit more modern/edgy and/or more beer? Head to Amsterdam Roest for a cheap and affordable meal in a former warehouse with a beach. They have a fantastic selection of local beer, fun events with DJs, and reasonable food if you’re looking for a fun last night out in Amsterdam.
Where to stay in Amsterdam for any budget
If you’re looking for something cheap and central, consider staying at Stayokay Hostel. For a mid-range hotel, I recommend the Student Hotel, which has a great design and comfy beds. Those looking for a boutique hotel will love Pulitzer Hotel with a central location composed of 20 typical Amsterdam canal houses. For a more luxurious experience, consider staying at the Conservatorium Hotel.
Your free map of your complete Amsterdam itinerary for three days
Have you been to Amsterdam? Any feedback on this three days in Amsterdam itinerary? Anything you hated?
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