Amsterdam Weekend Itinerary: Things You Must Do in 3 Days
Amsterdam is one of the most sought-after travel destinations in Europe.
This historic city is known for its iconic architecture, fascinating history, and the unique culture of liberalism and tolerance which has shaped its contributions to Western civilization for centuries.
There’s much more to Amsterdam than weed and bicycles, and although the city is definitely known for its naughty side, the Dutch capital has so much more to offer visitors.
Our Amsterdam travel guide is here to make sure that you’re ready to make the most of every minute and enjoy the best things to do in Amsterdam in 3 days.
This article is prepared with the help of Timo, native Amsterdamer and a tour guide.
Tips for visiting Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a small city compared to other major European capitals, but there is a wide range of things to see and do. Getting around is very easy, with an excellent public transportation system.
Also, there’s no need to worry about a language barrier – almost everyone in the city speaks English and normally at least one other language!
You can buy a ticket for public transport (which works on all metros, trains, and buses) from any station, on the tram itself (with card only) or in some shops (such as post offices).
It’s worth getting the 48- or 72-hour ticket if you’ll be dashing around a number of attractions in Amsterdam.
When it comes to using debit/credit cards, you can have problems outside tourist areas – some shops, such as supermarkets, will only accept Maestro/V Pay cards, credit cards (especially American Express), or Visa. It’s always best to check before purchasing anything.
Perhaps the best tip you can get is to try and see the city from as local a perspective as possible – whether you’ve booked a bike rental or a boat rental Amsterdam is best experienced the way Amsterdammers see it.
Whether you’re interested in culture, history, and art (Amsterdam has more museums and galleries per square kilometer than anywhere else on earth!), eager to explore the beautiful cityscape or just here to party, there’s something for everyone.
How to get to Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a major transportation hub and getting to the Dutch capital is very easy.
New in Europe? Check this list of great places to visit first!
Its airport, Schiphol, is just a short distance outside the city (less than 10km) and is one of Europe’s largest and best-served airports with frequent flights from around the world.
Amsterdam is also a hub for bus and coach travel around Europe. Most major bus and coach companies stop in Amsterdam and this provides an excellent transport option for those traveling on a budget.
The major operators stopping in Amsterdam as the destination for direct journeys (or as a stop on a number of major European routes) arrive in Sloterdijk, Duivendrecht, or Amsterdam Centraal, all of which are conveniently located within the city for onward travel.
Check omio.com to find the most convenient bus or train for you.
If you are arriving by train, it is likely that your trip will terminate at Amsterdam Centraal (which, as the name suggests, is right in the center of town, allowing easy onward to travel to your hotel).
Should you be arriving from elsewhere in the Netherlands, it may be possible to get off at one of the other major railway stations in the city, which is closer to your accommodation.
With Airport Transfer
The most convenient way to get to your hotel in Amsterdam is by reserving an airport transfer with the driver picking up you and your luggage and driving to the place you want.
It is also a money-saving option if you travel with many people. You can reserve it cheaper and safer here.
If you’d like to visit other places in the Netherlands (which I highly recommend, the country is extremely interesting to visit and easy to navigate in), it would be more convenient to rent a car right at the arrival airport and then drop off at the departure airport.
You can compare different car rentals here.
How to get from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam
Getting from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam couldn’t be easier – there is a train station right below the airport with almost-constant connections to the city center.
The direct train takes you from the airport to Amsterdam central station within 17 minutes and is simple to find (signs and announcements on the station are in English and Dutch).
What about visiting London after?
Where to Stay in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a fairly small city compared to most European capitals but has a wide variety of neighborhoods each with a unique vibe.
You’re never more than about 40 minutes from the center by public transport whichever part of the city you’re in, but there are a number of pros and cons to each part of town.
The city center is convenient for people wishing to see the sights easily (most of which can easily be explored on foot) but can be expensive and noisy.
This is also true for the neighborhoods bordering the center (particularly De Jordaan, Oud West, Oud Zuid, and Oost). These are arguably the best neighborhoods in which to stay.
They are all situated a short distance from the center of town but offer a more authentic stay and tend not to be quite as expensive as a city-center hotel.
Another benefit, particularly for couples or families, is that these areas tend to be a bit quieter. Far away from the stag parties, screaming bachelorettes, and everything else in the city center, these neighborhoods are still home to a lot of local people.
If you’d like to stay somewhere a little more authentically local than the center but still bustling and lively, why not consider De Pijp? This neighborhood (just south of the center) is home to the Albert Cuyp Markt and numerous bars, restaurants, and shops.
It is one of the most popular areas of the city and well worth considering for those looking to book an AirBnB.
Amsterdam has a wide variety of accommodation options for every budget. From centrally located hostels such as Hans Brinker, Flying Pig (uptown or downtown) and Stay Okay (Vondelpark or Stadsdoelen) to grand 5-star hotels such as the W Hotel (with its wonderful rooftop bar) or the Amstel Hotel (which has been a favorite of everyone from Michael Jackson to Queen Elizabeth).
It’s unlikely that you’ll be spending a lot of time in your hotel when there’s so much to do in Amsterdam, but it’s important that you find somewhere comfortable at a decent price. Shop around and be sure to look at the location, as well as the facilities on offer.
Use the form below to find the best place to stay in Amsterdam:
Amsterdam Weekend Itinerary
There are so many things to do in Amsterdam in 3 days and you will have no trouble filling up your time in the city.
Here’s a suggested Amsterdam weekend itinerary of where to go and what to do.
Getting your bearings and a real feel for the city is the best way to spend the first day. Take a walk along the canals, stopping for a coffee and a slice of traditional apple cake at Winkel 43 (this is best done earlier in the day as it can get extremely busy later on).
A leisurely morning walk through the Jordaan is a fantastic way to get a feel for the city, with its historic canal houses and iconic waterways.
Having refueled on a local delicacy, head into the center of the city and marvel at the architectural wonders of Dam Square. Although this part of the city can be extremely busy with tourists, Dam is one of the best known and most iconic locations in the city.
Dam Square, built around the site of the original dam on the Amstel river shows a number of contrasting architectural styles, from the neoclassical Royal Palace and gothic Nieuwe Kerk (a beautiful 15th-century church) to the imposing figure of the national monument (built in 1956 in commemoration of the casualties of WW2).
To really get your bearings and enjoy a fantastic aerial view of the most historic and beautiful part of the city, head to the Oude Kerk. This incredible building was constructed in 1213 (making it the oldest building in the city!) and after climbing up its many steps, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view across the historic center of Amsterdam.
By the time you’ve climbed up and down again, you’ll probably have built up a bit of a thirst – no problem, there’s an excellent drinking hole just a few minutes’ walk along the canal.
‘t Aepjen is one of the city’s oldest bars – built before 1550, this traditional brown café is the perfect place to catch your breath and try a local beer. Visiting a local Brown Café is an Amsterdam must-do and ‘t Aepjen is an oasis amongst the tourist trap sports bars of the Red Light District.
For a really local experience, try ordering a ‘Kopstootje’ – a glass of beer paired with a jenever (the precursor to gin and the country’s best-known spirit).
As the sun starts to set, take a look around the Red Light District (one of the best known and most infamous attractions in Amsterdam for visitors). This is one of the most popular tourist sites in the city and is certainly an eye-opener!
As well as the famous girls behind the illuminated windows, the Red Light District is home to an array of coffee shops, sex shows, and everything else you can imagine!
After taking a look around this unique neighborhood, head down the road to Nieuwmarkt. This beautiful little square with its historic cafes and bars is a great spot to grab some dinner.
Whether you fancy a Chinese from one of the many restaurants on the Zeeburg (Amsterdam’s China Town) or something a bit more local in the square itself, it’s a great spot to relax and take stock of everything you’ve just experienced!
As day turns to night, you’ll probably have partying on your mind. Amsterdam has a world-renowned nightlife and you’ll be spoiled for options.
From dance bars in Leidseplein or Rembrandtplein to underground techno clubs like Shelter, De School or Marktkantine, there’s something for everyone!
For backpackers looking to meet fellow travelers on a Pub Crawl, these are organized in Leidseplein and the Red Light District.
If weed is more your thing, there are numerous great coffee shops where you can chill out and experience the city’s cannabis culture. Some of the best include Boerejongens (very popular with locals for their high-end strains and modern vibe) or Coffeeshop Johnny (if you’re interested in Amsterdam drug laws and culture, learn the main information here).
If you’re a mixed group of smokers and drinkers, a good compromise can be found at Hill Street Blues on the Warmoesstraat where you can both smoke and drink (you’ll have to bring your own weed, however, as premises cannot sell both simultaneously).
After a night out, you might be in search of some drunk food. You’re in luck – the Netherlands is home to the king of drunk foods – the Kapsalon – a deliciously calorific combo of fries layered with kebab meat, slathered in cheese, sauce, and salad! You can find this tasty treat in almost every late-night takeaway shop in the city.
Have a good rest before a tour around Amsterdam’s main attractions!
By your second day, you’ll have had a chance to settle in and be raring to go out and see the city sights! Get a city pass to save money on visiting museums and transportation.
Head over to the Museumplein and take your pick from the Van Gogh Museum (home to the masterpieces of perhaps the most famous Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh) or the Rijksmuseum (which houses some of the world’s finest art including Rembrandt’s Night Watch or Vermeer’s The Milkmaid) – even if you don’t head inside, the Rijksmuseum is one of the most architecturally impressive buildings in the city.
After taking your time to admire some of the best European masterpieces, it’ll be time for some lunch.
For a really great local experience, head over to the Albert Cuyp Markt – it’s only a short walk away and will give you a chance to take in some of the beautiful parts of the leafier, southern side of the city center.
The Albert Cuyp market is home to some of the city’s best street food – try Kibbeling (freshly fried chunks of fish), the infamous Haring or a stroopwafel fresh off the press!
The market is always bustling with locals and a great place to get a feel for the real Amsterdam. If you fancy something a little more exotic, why not try some Surinamese or Indonesian food?
Both of these countries were colonies of the Netherlands and their culinary and cultural legacy can be felt (and tasted!) here.
Not to miss any taste, get a guided food tour with a local:
When you’re full up of delicious food, you’ll be ready for a real adventure. The best way to see this canal-filled city is by boat. The best boat rental Amsterdam has to offer is provided by Starboard Boats.
You can cruise the canals like the locals, with plenty of ice-cold beer or wine and a local guide and skipper will be able to entertain and inform you whilst answering any questions that you may have about this incredible city.
After you disembark, why not check out the famous Bloemenmarkt? This floating flower market is situated on the Singel (the oldest canal in Amsterdam) and is a colorful spectacle where you can buy some tulip bulbs to take home with you, allowing a piece of Amsterdam to stay with you forever and remind you of your trip each and every spring!
If you’re a real plant lover, the Hortus Botanicus is well worth a trip – this historic botanical garden has specimens from all over the world and is an incredible green oasis in the east of the city.
The Artis Zoo is just around the corner and is another great option for people who are interested in the natural world.
If all this has given you time to work up an appetite it’s time for another Dutch delicacy – fries with mayonnaise! It might not be classy, but it sure is delicious – and you’ll need to line your stomach for another big night out!
Check out Resident Advisor for a run-down of all the events in Amsterdam to find something to your taste!
The Jordaan is also home to the Anne Frank House, one of the most interesting and moving places in the city. This museum, based in the house where Anne Frank hid from Nazi persecution during WW2 (whilst writing her famous diary) is well worth visiting and tickets can be purchased up to two months in advance – head over in the morning and take your time learning about this incredible story.
If it’s a sunny day, head over to Vondelpark for a stroll amongst the flowers and take the time to stop for lunch in this beautiful city center oasis.
Join the hundreds of locals who enjoy a picnic here each day or have a bite at one of the many cafés in the park (Vondelpark3 has a wonderful terrace and serves up a number of Dutch classics).
The park is also home to a flourishing flock of rose-ringed parakeets – these beautiful, green parrots often surprise people but don’t worry, you haven’t smoked too much weed – they really are there!
Nobody knows exactly how they got there but there are now thousands living happily in the Dutch capital!
As it’s your last day in Amsterdam, you’ll need to be sure to make it a good one. By now you’ll have seen plenty of bicycles (and probably narrowly avoided and jumped out of the way of a fair few).
But now it’s your turn! Rent a bike from one of the many bike shops around town or really take things up a gear by booking a Beer Bike!
Amsterdam Beer Bikes combine two of the city’s cultural icons – beer and bikes – in one neat package allowing you to pedal with your friends whilst chugging plenty of local booze.
Where to Go from Amsterdam: One-Day Trip Ideas
There is more to the Netherlands than its capital city and although many visitors to the country only visit Amsterdam, it’s definitely worth getting off the beaten track and explore some of the other towns and cities that the country has to offer.
You might not find these places in an Amsterdam travel guide but the country is small and getting off the beaten path has many rewards.
If you’d like to do a day trip that returns to the capital, however, why not check out the countryside and Amsterdam windmill tour?
Amsterdam, situated in the region of Noord-Holland may be the capital of the Netherlands but, rather unusually, it’s not actually the capital of Noord-Holland. That title sits with the nearby town of Haarlem.
Harlem in New York may be named after this pretty little town but that’s about where the similarities end. This city was once a major trading point on the North Sea and although that is no longer the case, it has kept its medieval defensive wall and historic character.
The city is full of old cobbled streets, leafy courtyards, and beautiful churches. Despite the fact that it lies so close to Amsterdam, Haarlem is hardly touched by tourism and a fantastic place to explore more of the region.
You can climb windmills and explore tulip fields just outside the city and if you’re looking for Gothic grandeur, look no further than the Grote Markt.
In its center is the St Bavo Church, which is quite unusual and definitely no ordinary church. Firstly, the floor is formed of gravestones, under which lie the Dutch elite of the past (in times gone by the stench of these important people would rise up into the church, allegedly leading to the phrase ‘stinking rich’), as well as a dog Whipper’s Chapel (where unruly dogs would be punished in Medieval times) and an organ which has been played by Mendelssohn, Händel and Mozart!
Get a tour with a local to explore Haarlem:
The Netherlands is a mecca for cheese lovers, producing some of Europe’s best! To understand how seriously the Dutch take their cheese, you should look no further than the country’s cheese markets.
During the summer, visiting a cheese market is a wonderful option for a day out. Whether it’s Alkmaar, Edam, Gouda, or Woerden, each of these markets provides a great spectacle for visitors and the option to try and buy some fantastic local cheeses.
The Netherlands may be a small country but it is very diverse and if you visit the southern parts of the country you will experience quite a marked difference. Not only are the beers and accents different but the south is catholic (as opposed to the protestant north), the cities are closer and smaller and the landscape is greener.
Maastricht is perhaps the most beautiful southern city and well worth a visit. Right down in the southernmost point of the country wedged between the German and Belgian border, Maastricht is one of the Netherlands’ most historic cities.
With its imposing city walls, merchant houses, and large squares, this city is known for its rather unique culture and way of life. If you’re lucky enough to visit during the Carnival you’ll be sure to have the craziest time imaginable, but Maastricht is beautiful at any time of the year and worth the journey south from Amsterdam to experience a totally different side to this country.
It was a complete Amsterdam weekend itinerary with the best places to visit, things to do and ways to explore Dutch capital and other cities the best way possible. Have a great time in Amsterdam!