Three days are enough to visit the most important places in Amsterdam. In that time you can visit museums, stroll through canals and parks, and hang out in the hippest pubs. However, it is worth staying longer to stroll through the charming streets of Amsterdam.
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An open horizon, a rich history, elegant brick buildings – Amsterdam is definitely a place where you want to stay longer. Add to that the lightness of the city and it will probably be one of the most beautiful cities to live in. It is very easy to fall in love with this city and I hope you will feel the same when you first come here.
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What is Amsterdam? How long does it take you to see it?
There is so much to do in Amsterdam. For me, as a foreigner, Amsterdam is just a charming capital with a variety of attractions. There are beautiful canals, green parks and impressive buildings. I Amsterdam is home to one of the largest museums in the world and an example of modern architecture. To visit the main sites, you only need to spend 3-4 days there. However, you can easily immerse yourself in the atmosphere of Amsterdam – if you do, you can spend a few weeks here and feel like you haven’t seen everything you wanted to see yet. The more I live in Amsterdam, the more I realize that I will never discover all the hidden treasures of this amazing city. Below you’ll find a list of all the things I recommend you see if you’re only staying in Amsterdam for a few days.
Western Canal Ring
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I have to admit, this is my favorite neighborhood. This is the Amsterdam you see on postcards – bridges with bicycles, old Dutch houses and flower boxes – I could walk there endlessly. The ring of canals was built in the 17th century. Canal tours are a great way to discover Amsterdam up close. A canal cruise is a must!
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The museums of Amsterdam are a must!
Amsterdam has so many museums. It’s almost impossible to visit them all if you only stay in the city for a few days. I’m going to share a few of my favorites with you:
The Anne Frank Museum is located in the Jordaan, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Amsterdam. The exhibition is housed in a 17th century canal house. Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis for two years. This museum is one of the most important historical sites in the world and the most popular attraction in Amsterdam. Yes, when I say popular, I mean it’s not easy to get in. You can buy tickets 60 days in advance. If you are already in Amsterdam and want to visit Anne Frank, tickets will not be easy to get. It is almost impossible. In that case, I recommend you take a guided tour of Anne Frank, like this one. During this tour, you will learn more about the life of Anne Frank and the history of Amsterdam’s Jewish neighborhood during World War II.
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This museum is the largest collection of works by Van Gogh in the world. In addition to Van Gogh’s creations, you can also view the works of his friends and disciples. In addition, the museum offers many other activities such as musical and artistic events. The Van Gogh Museum is located next to the Rijksmuseum on the museum square. The ticket costs 21 euros and you can buy it here. It is best to buy it in advance to avoid queues. Sometimes it is ridiculous to have to wait so long.
The Rijksmuseum has more than a million works of art. I think it is one of the most impressive collections in the world. It is estimated that it receives more than two million people a year. The museum is located on Museum Square and admission is free for minors. Adults must pay €17.50. In addition, the building itself is listed as a UNESCO heritage site. It is simply breathtaking, both inside and out. A regular ticket for the Rijksmuseum can be avoided at this site.
If you prefer less visited places, you can also visit lesser known museums, such as the Museum of Photography of the MOUSSE or the Tropical Museum.
Red Light District
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For many of you, it’s the first place you think of when you hear the word “Amsterdam,” right? But it’s certainly not the only one. The Red Light District is the oldest part of Amsterdam. This area has cafes, coffee shops and sex shops, houses on the canals and historic churches. If you want to know more about the area, I can recommend an excellent city guide and my friend Otto – you can sign up for a visit with him on this site.
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I can’t imagine Amsterdam without Vondelpark. Vondelpark is called the lung of the city and is the only public park (in the world) where you can legally smoke joints or barbecue. Amsterdammers come to Vondelpark to bike, exercise, run or relax. There is also a beautiful rose garden and sometimes an open air theater. Amsterdam is a green city and there are several parks. Some of my favorites are Vondelpark, Sarfati and Amstelpark. Sarfati is a little smaller with a small pond in the middle and is suitable for dogs. I really like Amstel Park because it’s a place where you don’t get bored. There is a lot to do here, there is a zoo and a playground for the kids. There is also a lake, a beautiful fountain and two cafes.
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Did you know that Amsterdam has one of the oldest zoos in Europe? Besides the usual animals like elephants and big cats, there is a planetarium and an aquarium and the world’s only microbe museum, Micropia. It is undoubtedly an ideal place for a date or a family outing. I suggest that you do not buy tickets online in advance. You can find them on this site.
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Have you ever seen a floating flower market? If you have never been to Amsterdam, probably not, because it is the only floating flower market in the world. It is very crowded, but the flower market is worth the trip. There are about fifteen florists offering flowers, souvenirs and bulbs. The floating market has been around for a long time. In the beginning, traders brought their flowers and tulip bulbs to the center of town on their boats. They sold their goods directly from the boats. Today, the vendors sell their flowers in exactly the same place. The difference is that the boats are now firmly anchored.
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No other city in the world has so many bicycles. For the people of Amsterdam, cycling is not only a means of transport, but also a way of life. The impressive network of bicycle paths makes cycling in Amsterdam particularly easy and enjoyable. I think there is no better way to explore the main attractions of Amsterdam than by bike. If you are in Amsterdam for the first time, you will be surprised by the large number of bicycles in the city center.
If you are considering renting a bike in Amsterdam, I can recommend several options. The best way to rent a bike is online at MacBike – you can reserve your bike here.
What if I only have one day?
Don’t worry. Most of Amsterdam can be done in a day. Of course, you will spend a day on the road, but this time you will enjoy it. If your itinerary is tight, it is a good idea to book some attractions in advance. Of course, you should do this if you want to take a canal tour. If you are only in Amsterdam for one day, I think you don’t want to waste your time. That’s why I made a quick itinerary of the most fun things to do in Amsterdam (in one day). You might also consider renting a bike to get from one place to another quickly. Biking is the most efficient and cheapest way to get around in the city center. However, keep in mind that cycling in the city can be quite tiring for inexperienced cyclists. Near the Red Light District, Dam Square and Central Station, it is very crowded. In this article you will find information on what to look out for before cycling in Amsterdam.
Start with museums
I would start with the museums, because they expect a certain concentration and attention. Later I would go to events where I could relax. I also have a bit of advice for you. If you only have one day, don’t waste your time walking around. Enjoy this beautiful city. You can even spend the whole day walking along the beltway and it will be one of the best things you can do. But back to the museums. You can start with the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. These two museums are the most famous museums in Amsterdam (as long as the crowds keep you on your toes). It will probably take you about 3 hours. Also visit the tulip museum, which is located in the nearby tulip store. It’s never crowded there and it only costs 5 euros. Highly recommended! Since you only have one day, I would buy your skip line tickets so you don’t have to wait, you can get such tickets here.
Anne Frank House
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Anyone who visits Amsterdam will pass by the Anne Frank House. The house is full of hidden rooms and movable shelves – you can’t miss it. If you want to visit the Anne Frank House, you must buy your tickets in advance. Getting tickets is not easy. I went to book tickets to the Anne Frank House yesterday, and when I booked my tickets, the number 1246…. was waiting for me. I think only 200 people a day get tickets. Tickets can be booked 60 days in advance. So if you are planning a trip to Amsterdam, you can try to book your ticket now. The way there is really not easy. You can try to book your tickets here -> Link
Chances are you won’t get tickets to the Anne Frank House, and if you do, I recommend a walking tour of the Anne Frank House with a guide who will tell you the story of little Anne and teach you about the history of the Jewish Quarter during World War II. You can register for this visit here at GetYourGuide.
Lunch at the museum square
There are many food stalls. You can also have lunch at the Café-Museum, which is located in the Van Gogh Museum.
Go to the Vondelpark and the flower market.
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The Vondelpark is the place where Amsterdammers come to relax. If it’s summer, you can lie in the sun for a while. After a few hours in the museums, it’s wonderfully refreshing. Then you should go to the only floating flower market in the world. If you are looking for souvenirs, you will find them here. Even if you are not planning to buy flowers, it is a nice place not far from Rembrandplein and Dam Square.
Boat ride on the canal
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Amsterdam literally grew up around the canals. The canals are probably one of the most recognizable parts of the city. And there’s nothing like seeing Amsterdam directly from a boat. You can take a cruise on the canals, and they are excellent. I participated in one and really enjoyed it. You can also rent a private boat for a cruise or take a private tour. There are many different options. It is not expensive – about 20 euros per hour. The private tour is much more expensive, but if you can afford it, I can definitely recommend it, because the experience is exceptional. If you are only in Amsterdam for a day, there are a few canals you should start with: the Heerengracht, the Kaisersgracht, the Prinsengracht and the Singel. There are many different companies that offer canal tours in Amsterdam. If you want something affordable, I recommend this tour – link. If you want a canal tour with a private guide, I love these guys – Canal Cruise with Carl.
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At the end of the day, you can explore Amsterdam further or consider a short trip to Haarlem. You can take the train – it is only 15 minutes from Amsterdam. I lived in Haarlem for 5 years and I must admit that it is a medieval city of exceptional beauty. As I said, it would be fun to go there for a few hours and walk around Spaharn, but I encourage you to spend a whole day there. What will you find there? In the morning, you can visit some of the markets in town. After that, I suggest you have dinner at the JinLai (a little crowded, but it’s really worth it). A visit to the Adriaanse Windmill or a trip to the National Park Zuid Kennemerland is also fun to do. In the evening I can recommend a visit to the Jopenkerk, a former church and now a brewery.
Don’t forget to visit the brown coffee shops.
London has traditional pubs. In Amsterdam, there are brown cafes (brown cafés). If you are in Amsterdam, you cannot miss visiting at least one brown café. There are many on Leidseplein and on the road to Rembrandtplein. The atmosphere there is very special and if you are a beer lover, you will not be disappointed. In the brown cafes you can buy traditional Dutch food, such as bitterballen, kroket or frikadel. Try them served with “fries” and beer. Traditional Dutch mayonnaise is a must in this case. To spend an authentic evening with someone living in Amsterdam, tasting Dutch food and drinking beer, I recommend this Withlocals -> Link tour.
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When to visit Amsterdam
The best time to visit Amsterdam is just before (or just after) the summer season. This is the only way to get the most out of your visit while avoiding the high season. The “season” in Amsterdam runs from mid-April to mid-October, while the high season runs from early July to late August. During the summer vacations, it is extremely difficult to find hotel rooms. Therefore, remember to plan and book your summer trip to Amsterdam at least a few months before the start of the season. I worked in a hotel in Amsterdam and most of the time all the rooms were taken. People called me and told me that this was the 15th hotel they called and everything was full.
So, in my opinion, the best months to visit the city are April, May and then September. If you want to book a hotel, I recommend doing it through booking.com.
A few words about the weather
The beginning of summer and the beginning of autumn is the ideal time to visit Amsterdam. The climate is somewhat similar to the British climate – the winters are quite wet and the summers are generally warm, but there are rainy days. The climate in the Netherlands is never really extreme.
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Personally, I prefer the summer in Amsterdam. Sometimes it is more than 30 degrees there and it almost never rains. The summer climate is mild and pleasant. If you want to try skating in the Vondelpark, you should definitely come to Amsterdam in July or August.
If you choose summer for your visit, you can also sunbathe on the café terraces and maybe even take off your clothes on the beach at Zandvoort. Summer is also the best time for cycling, and everyone knows that cycling is a must in Amsterdam. And if you decide to come a little earlier, in March/April, that’s the best time to see the tulips in bloom.
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The winters in Amsterdam are also very beautiful. There are many beautiful days. If the temperatures are low enough, you can see the frozen rivers, lakes and canals. If you skateboard, you should definitely try one of these sparkling roads! Moreover, winters in Amsterdam are a bit more affordable when it comes to accommodation and recreation. Hotels, restaurants and cafes are less crowded. And if you come between November and February, you have the chance to see all the beautiful exhibitions, Christmas markets and skating rinks.
Vacations in Amsterdam
Certain dates on the Dutch calendar can make your trip even more special. The major public holidays in Amsterdam are New Year’s Eve, Easter Sunday and Monday, Ascension Day, Christmas (and December 26), Good Friday, Queen’s Day, and Pentecost Sunday and Monday. However, if you are traveling to Amsterdam on these days, you can expect offices, banks, some stores and museums to be closed. Also, make sure you have a schedule of public transportation for Sunday. You can read more about the Dutch public holiday calendar here.
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Where to stay in Amsterdam
It is not easy to decide where to stay when you visit Amsterdam for a few days. There are so many hotels and hostels. Amsterdam is one of the most popular destinations for a trip to Europe. Whatever your requirements and expectations are, you will surely find a place that suits you. It is very important to decide in which region you want to stay. Amsterdam is a very diverse city, so it is crucial to choose the best area of the city to have a good time here. Since Amsterdam is not very big (just over 220 square kilometers), you can easily move around the city every day.
In short, Amsterdam is divided into 8 city districts, which are in turn divided into neighborhoods. In addition, the center of the city is called the ring district, and everything outside of it is simply “outside the ring”. This can be a bit confusing for the first-time visitor, but if you spend some time here, it will become much easier.
The choice of accommodation depends on your preferences. If you are a party person, it is best to look for a hotel or hostel near the city center. If you are traveling with your family (even with children), you will probably prefer the outskirts of the center, which are still quite close to most attractions.
From my personal experience and that of people I know, there are wonderful places worth visiting:
- The Vondelpark House B&B is a very famous hotel in Amsterdam. The price may be a little intimidating, but it’s in the heart of the city! LINK
- The Mokum Suites are an ideal place to stay in the Ronde Gracht. It can be a bit expensive, but it’s really worth it! The Gerengracht is a great place. LINK
- Zoku – if you are looking for an apartment in the center of town, this is one of the best options. There’s even a private spa! LINK
- Flying Pig Downtown is a budget solution for those who don’t want to spend a lot of money on accommodation. The hostel is close to the city center and has its own bar on the first floor.
Is Amsterdam safe for visitors?
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Yes, I can say that Amsterdam is one of the safest cities I have seen. Whether you are a family, a student or a woman traveling alone, it is relatively safe to visit Amsterdam. In fact, in 2017, Amsterdam was ranked as the 6th safest city in the world. Public transport is well developed, bicycles, cars and pedestrians work quite well together. There are not many traffic accidents. Moreover, the air is not very polluted. The city government plans to make Amsterdam CO2-free by 2030. Diesel and gasoline cars will no longer be allowed within the city limits.
Amsterdam is also safe when it comes to crime. The risk of being attacked is quite low, and it should be noted that the crime rate is going down from year to year. Of course there are incidents, just like everywhere else. However, there is little harassment even when you are alone in sparsely populated or poorly lit areas. If a crime is committed, it is usually pickpocketing, and this happens most often to tourists. On average, there are about 5 robberies on the streets of Amsterdam every day. If you compare it to, say, Paris (there they steal even 30 to 40 bags or suitcases a day), it’s not that much. The most stolen thing is a cell phone. I have lived here for 6 years and I have never been robbed.
In any case, you need not fear being robbed if you follow a few basic safety rules. Keep an eye on your bag and don’t leave it anywhere. A large wallet is also not recommended. Since pickpockets usually try their luck while you are distracted, you should always be careful if someone asks you for directions or “approaches” you.
What about the whore district?
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Of course, it is advisable to avoid eye contact with drug addicts, noisy people and boredom, but in general the red light district is safe for visitors. And, frankly, drug addicts are rarely seen in the area. It’s very safe. The red light district is a very interesting part of Amsterdam. It’s not just about prostitutes and cafes. If you want to know more about the RLD, I recommend this visit with Otto – LINK HERE.
On the other hand, if you want to rent an apartment in the red light district, I recommend the Krasnopolski Hotel, but remember that it can be a bit expensive. If you are looking for something more affordable, you can choose the St. Christophers Inn in Winston. On the other hand, if you are looking for a smoking hotel, you can read another article here.
Eat, party and get high in Amsterdam.
Whatever hotel or hostel you choose or whatever the purpose of your visit, it is always important to sample the local food and engage in as many local activities as possible. Below is a short list of some of my favorite places to visit while traveling to Amsterdam. If you want to read my Amsterdam guide – you can read it here!
Eat like a local.
Which may seem a little strange, the most popular Dutch dish in Amsterdam is….riisttafel – a large set of small side dishes (cucumbers, spring rolls and satay) with rice cooked in different ways. Riisttafel is originally an Indonesian dish, but it was introduced to the Netherlands by the Dutch colonialists. There are many Indonesian restaurants where you can enjoy it for about 30 euros. Anyway, Amsterdam is simply thriving and there are hundreds of great places to visit. However, I would like to make one specific recommendation:
In my opinion, this is one of the most amazing restaurants in Amsterdam. The food is in season, beautifully presented and the prices are very reasonable for a regular. On weekends, you can order a three-course dinner for just €32.50. What I also like about BAK is the huge selection of natural wines and grape varieties.
The warm atmosphere, the rattan chairs, the fishing rods hanging on the wall – the seaside climate is something you will really appreciate, especially in the middle of winter. Bar Fisk is best known for its Tel Aviv cuisine. Not only fantastic seafood, but also crispy pitas, yogurt tahini and other exotic flavors.
If you’re in the mood for an American brunch, this is the place to be. Gs jordaan is a funky and trendy place – its popularity has exploded in recent years. I love their chicken and waffle burgers and the amazing Damn Mary’s. Don’t forget to reserve your tray online in advance!
For anyone who loves Italian food. The Toscanini is probably the oldest Italian restaurant in Amsterdam. But there’s no pizza there. Instead, you can enjoy chic antipasti and refined Italian dishes. Natural ingredients, a breathtaking wine list and a unique atmosphere. Unfortunately, Toscanini’s is quite expensive.
- Pancake house Top
One of the best places in the whole city of Amsterdam. A small cafe (only four tables!) in a 16th century house. The menu only features pancakes with a sweet or savory filling. To me, it’s like typical Amsterdam – there are teapots hanging from the ceiling and a very narrow staircase. Don’t forget to try the Indonesian pancake from Bali with Dutch liqueur.
Are you a beer drinker?
If that’s the case, we have something for you here. If you like the best homemade beer and a microbrewery, you should definitely go to the Gueur in Ostelik Eilanden. Another popular brewery in Amsterdam is Brouwerij’t lj, a famous, often award-winning microbrewery that offers a variety of standard and seasonal organic beers. A large outdoor terrace for drinking and a tour for tasting – what could be better? If you like beer, you will definitely enjoy this homemade beer with Otto -> see his visit here.
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For those who like to have fun ….
There are some very good clubs in Amsterdam. With the growing number of places open 24 hours a day, Amsterdam finally has the ability to party 24 hours a day. For nightlife in Amsterdam, my advice is as follows:
- Elemenstraat warehouse
It is a former peanut factory and also one of the first large-scale rave tours. The barn-like space is just legendary.
You’ll love the LED walls and unusual design (designed by Marcel Wanders), as well as the five funky bars. Even though there are a lot of rooms, it’s still pretty intimate. The AIR is currently one of the hottest spots in town, thanks in part to the acoustic system of the crystalline void.
It’s called clubbing. Literally. Truu has it all – great people, naked environments and some brutal sound system. The favorite music here is techno and minimal. Same goes for the design – industrial with lots of steel and concrete.
Here is an article about the best clubs in Amsterdam.
Are you ready to roll the joint?
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Finally, Amsterdam is the perfect place to experiment with soft drugs. You can’t come to Amsterdam without visiting at least one café. Even if you are not yet ready to try a joint or weed, you can always start with a space cake or brownies – they are often very strong. There are many cafes with excellent customer service, amazing things and a good atmosphere. Read some of my articles to learn more about Amsterdam cafes.
Did you see the name of that cafe? That’s the gray area. Why do you think it’s called that? The cannabis rules in the Netherlands are quite confusing. It is not illegal to sell weed, but it is not 100% legal. Weed can be sold, but something is missing in the distribution chain. You are not allowed to possess a lot of weed and you cannot grow more than 5 plants per family. The demand from the coffee shops is huge and they want to buy a lot of weed. This means that it is impossible to supply the coffees with that much grass. Therefore, this is a gray area. The coffee shops sell a lot of weed, but nobody knows where the weed comes from. Of course, everyone knows where it comes from… but we don’t have any rules about it yet.
The final word.
I think Amsterdam is one of the best places to visit among the other European cities if you only have 2 or 3 days. That’s enough time to visit the main museums and enjoy your stay in the Dutch capital without rushing. If you are only visiting Amsterdam for a few days, don’t spend the whole time wandering around. You should also rest, relax, walk along the beautiful canals, have a cup of tea and enjoy the moment. That’s what I like best.
What I love about Amsterdam is that you have a lot of opportunities to do things, regardless of the weather. You can read my article about the 67 things to do in Amsterdam here. Amsterdam has so many attractions and unforgettable experiences! And what’s really great is that every visit to Amsterdam brings something new. I have heard this so many times and I have the same feeling – every time in Amsterdam it feels like the first time.
Frequently asked questions
Are three days in Amsterdam enough?
3 days in Amsterdam is definitely not enough to see this beautiful city completely. … 72 hours in Amsterdam is definitely not enough! However, if you are only in Amsterdam for a short period of time, there are a few things I recommend you do during this short period.
Are two days enough for Amsterdam?
Two days in Amsterdam are enough to see the main sights and central areas. But if you really want to delve into museums, explore other parks, etc. you will need an extra day or two.
Is the week in Amsterdam too long?
Amsterdam can certainly keep you busy for a week – and more. It all depends on what you like to do and how you travel. For me, a week just for Amsterdam would be too much, but that’s because I’ve been there 3 times already and I like to travel through large areas when I’m in Europe.