Two Day Amsterdam Itinerary

If you’re looking for what to do during two days in Amsterdam, look no further. This local (well, technically I was a local for 5 years) has got you covered with the best tips on how to spend two days in Amsterdam. You might be asking yourself, are two days in Amsterdam enough? My answer is always a firm “no”, but if two days is all you have, we’ll make it work 😉
In this post, you’ll find tips on what to do in Amsterdam in two days, where to stay in Amsterdam, where to eat in Amsterdam, the best bars in Amsterdam, and how to get around Amsterdam.
amsterdam itinerary
PS. this post is also inspiration for you Amsterdam weekend itinerary!
Need a quick crash course on who the Dutch are or where Amsterdam is? Check out this post, Is Holland a Country?

How to get to Amsterdam

Arriving to Schiphol Airport or Amsterdam Central Station: If you arrive by plane to Schiphol Airport, it will probably be pretty tempting to take a taxi or an Uber into the city – yes, fear not fellow millennials, there are Ubers in Amsterdam.

I’d suggest avoiding a taxi or an Uber though, and opt instead to take the train, depending on how many folks you’re traveling with. Taxis and Ubers into Amsterdam are pretty expensive, and can cost at least €30 for a twenty-minute ride. A quick search on google maps will provide you with a way to your lodging that is likely much cheaper than a taxi or Uber. Speaking of cheaper, visiting Amsterdam is pretty expensive, so you might want to check out this guide to Amsterdam on a budget.

Oh, and don’t assume that wherever you are staying is closest to Amsterdam Central Station – there are many train stations in Amsterdam and Central Station is often not the closest one to where you’ll stay!

Day 1 in Amsterdam

Start your day one of Amsterdam’s best museums

First things first, if its your first time in Amsterdam, you’ll likely want to hit up some of the tourist hotspots. The most obvious of these are the Red Light District, Amsterdam’s museums, and it’s canals. Save the Red Light District for the evening – that’s when the area is really alive, and by “alive”, I mean filled with British men celebrating their stag-do’s (i.e. bachelor parties), and stumbling around the Red Light District. More on that later.

No two day Amsterdam itinerary would be complete without getting you to some of Amsterdam’s most famous museums. Visiting a museum in Amsterdam is also one of the best activities for solo travel in Amsterdam. Before you arrive in Amsterdam, you should probably already decide which of its museums you’d like to visit – especially if you plan on visiting during the summer or peak tourist weekends (like Easter weekend). You’ll need to decide on the museums you’d like to visit ahead of time so you don’t waste your time in long lines waiting to enter the museums! Follow this link for Rijksmuseum tickets.

Rijksmuseum
If you don’t get your tickets ahead of time, you’ll be spending a lot of time waiting in the tunnel under the Rijksmuseum… which isn’t actually that bad!

The Anne Frank House is famous for its huge lines that tourist spend hours upon hours in. Make sure to book your Anne Frank tickets ahead of time. Although I lived in Amsterdam for over 5 years, and in the Netherlands for eight years, I have to admit I never visited the Anne Frank House despite having read the book as a child. I know many people feel it is a rite of passage to visit when you’re in Amsterdam, but I prefer lighter topics on vacation 🙂

Note that the Anne Frank house is not included on the IAmsterdam city pass card – that may determine if you’d like to purchase the IAmsterdam pass. 

Visit the Rijksmuseum or Van Gogh Museum, both are located in Museumplein (Museum Square). The Rijksmuseum holds classical Dutch art, including many Rembrandts. If you visit the Rijksmuseum, be sure to also download the audio tour on your phone ahead of time with the Rijksmuseum App and bring some headphones so you can get your own guided tour – FOR FREE!

rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam – you won’t see the Iamsterdam sign outside of it any longer

If you’re in Museumplein, you might be disappointed to find out that the famous IAmsterdam sign has been removed. The popular sign became an icon for over-tourism in Amsterdam. I can tell you from personal experience that it was incredibly busy around there, and I dodged tourists on my bike in that location on nearly a daily basis.

For even more museums to discover during your two days in Amsterdam, check out my post on the top 10 museums in Amsterdam

Have lunch at the Foodhallen

Photo borrowed from Amsterdam Sights

Next up, head to the hotspot of Amsterdam West, the Foodhallen. The Foodhallen is a restored tram depot that is now one of the most popular places to grab a bite in Amsterdam. It follows the trend of the food halls you find in cities like Madrid and Lisbon, with local Amsterdam restaurants shacking up here with stations offering tons of different types of food.

In true Amsterdam fashion, there’s a Gin & Tonic Bar (G&Ts seem to be the unofficial cocktail of Amsterdam). Grab some food and a drink, and sit back and people watch while you enjoy your lunch.

Tour Amsterdam’s canals

Amsterdam canal cruise

Amsterdam is famous for its canals – there are 60 miles of canals running through this small city, and a tour on the canals is one of the best ways to experience the city. Even after living there for many years, one of my favorite things to do each summer was to rent a boat and go on the canals of Amsterdam – I’d even organize a party boat for my colleagues once each summer!

If you want to hit the canals, you have a few options. The first and most obvious are the big tour boats. When you ride on those, you’ll get the very touristy experience. A recorded voiceover will blare out through the speakers announcing where you are every five minutes. There is nothing wrong with this but.. I don’t recommend it.

what to do in Amsterdam
The best way to experience the canals is to go on a smaller tour OR rent your own boat. You can rent your very own canal boat without a boat license! Canal boats are incredibly easy to operate, plus you can bring your own snacks and drinks (yes, beer and wine) on the boat and cruise the canals at your own pace. That sounds a lot better, right? I have a whole article dedicated to renting a canal boat yourself, so check it out if that’s your jam. One caveat however – you should only rent your own boat if the weather forecast is good (which of course, is a bit unpredictable given the maritime climate of Amsterdam).
amsterdam boat rental
Renting a boat is one of the best things to do during two days in Amsterdam
Finally, you can book a smaller tour boat, like Those Dam Boat Guys, for a more local experience.



Dinner in Amsterdam

For dinner, plan to eat somewhere within walking distance of the Red Light District. My personal favorite options in the area are Mappa (Italian), Cafe de Jaren (Dutch cafe), and Adam & Siam (Asian fusion). Whatever you do, don’t get dinner at a place that is obviously super touristy – there is plenty of good food in Amsterdam, so no use wasting your time on crappy meals! If you’re planning a weekend in Amsterdam, definitely get a reservation at a restaurant ahead of time, the Dutchies love to plan ahead, so if you don’t, you might not find a seat!

red light district
A canal in the Red Light District

After dinner, hit the Red Light District. I promise you, it likely isn’t as exciting as you might expect it to be. The most exciting part of it is probably seeing all the drunk folks walking around. The area gets so jam packed at night, it can be hard to get through the crowds. My advice is to limit your time there, and opt for a beer at De Prael, a local brewery in the Red Light District.

Looking for more foodie tips? Check out this post on the best food tour in Amsterdam

Day 2 in Amsterdam

On your second of two days in Amsterdam, you have tons of options, so you can choose your own adventure:

I’d start the day with breakfast at one of Amsterdam’s popular breakfast destinations like Bakers and Roasters, or the Breakfast Club. After filling up, there are several great ways you can fill in the day – here are a few of my favorites:

Hit up Albert Cuypmarkt and explore De Pijp

The Albert Cuyp is the biggest street market in the Netherlands, and is ultra famous. It is located in the neighborhood, De Pijp (pronounced “The Pipe”). Head to the street market to admire the fresh food and flowers, and stop to indulge in a stroopwaffel, hot off the waffle press – this will be the best thing you eat in the Netherlands! Heads up, this market is not open on Sundays!

Linger in De Pijp a bit longer, hit up boutiques like We Are Labels, or grab a drink on an outdoor patio at Cafe Schilders, along Eerste van der Helststraat. If the weather is good, this street will be packed with young folks sitting on terraces and having a beer – so do as the Dutch do, and grab a place on the terrace!

Head to hip, industrial Amsterdam Noord

Amsterdam Noord is one of the most popular areas of the city, and is typically a place that tourists aren’t aware of – during your two days in Amsterdam why not already feel like a local?
plekk
photo borrowed from Pllek
Head to Amsterdam Central Station and at the back of the station (along the water), you’ll find the free ferries that run back and forth all day between the station and Amsterdam Noord. There are several ferries you can take – I’d recommend the ferry to NDSM Wharf.

NDSM Wharf is an old industrial wharf that is now home to some of Amsterdam’s most popular music festivals, and permanent cafes where locals bask on the few days that the sun breaks through the clouds. The ferry ride to NDSM will take about fifteen minutes. Once you arrive, head to Pllek or Noorderlicht (both to the right once you step off the ferry). Get yourself a beer, find a place in the sun, and chill out.

For a complete list of Amsterdam’s best terraces, check out my post on Amsterdam’s best outdoor bars.

See the windmills of the Zaanse Schans

zaanse schans
If windmills are on your bucket list, you’ll want to head over to the Zaanse Schans, in the neighboring city of Zaandam. The Zaanse Schans is an open air museum of preserved, picturesque windmills in a tiny village that feels straight out of a storybook. A visit will only take a half day out of your two days in Amsterdam, and will add lots of charm!
zaanse schans
One of the cute houses in the Zaanse Schans
Entry is free, but just try visiting without buying local cheese from one of the nostalgic stores there – I dare you. For a small fee to can tour in some of the windmills and learn about how they operated. For more information, check out my blog post on how to see windmills in Amsterdam.

Wander the picturesque Jordaan

jordaan
The beautiful Jordaan – the perfect place to explore during your two days in Amsterdam
When people think of Amsterdam, they think of the Jordaan. The Jordaan is one of the most beautiful areas of the city, and if you’ve gone on your boat tour, you’ll definitely have passed through. It is the perfect area to wander its narrow and winding streets – just watch out for bikers, please, and never walk in the middle of the street! (I can’t tell you how many tourists I’ve nearly run over on my bike!).

The darling of the Jordaan is an area called De 9 Straatjes – or the Nine Streets. The 9 Straatjes are lined with boutiques and cafes, some from brands you’d be familiar with, other are local. Browse the shops here, then stop into Winkel 43 for the best piece of apple pie you’ve ever had. Did you think we Americans invented apple pie? Think again! Apple pie is nearly a staple of the Dutch diet and is seen as a snack between meals here (don’t mind if I do!).

Amsterdam canal cruise

During your stroll in the Jordaan, don’t miss out on visiting the most beautiful corner of Amsterdam – where Brouwersgracht intersects with Prinsengracht. If you can, get a seat on a bench and watch the traffic go by. This is also the location in the city where the most boat accidents happen – so keep an eye out for angry tour boat captains yelling to each other!

How to get around Amsterdam

The public transportation in Amsterdam isn’t great. I avoided it at all costs when I lived there. Amsterdam’s got trams, buses, and even a metro (although it is only underground in a few locations), but the city’s layout makes it preferable to either walk, or bike, like locals do.

Public transport in Amsterdam is safe, but boy is it expensive, and not entirely reliable. There were many times when I was on a tram in Amsterdam and for one reason or another it just could not complete its route – so it would just stop, and I’d have to get out and walk. If you’re trying to see a city, that’s going to be really annoying – I wouldn’t recommend spending your two days in Amsterdam waiting around for public transport.

Purchasing a single ride on a tram is also a bit pricey – last I checked it would run you about €2,80 for a single ticket, independent of how long your ride is. So, heed my advice and stick to your own feet! Unless of course, you’ve purchased the IAmsterdam city card – then I suppose you can afford to go on public transport!

Amsterdam is very small in size and is very walkable, but you might find yourself walking for 20-30 minutes between locations. If you’re up for that, great, if not, the city is filled with Ubers.

Amsterdam canal cruise



You can also rent a bike, but if you do, please take it seriously! Anyone riding a bike with a selfie stick or filming an Instagram story will be immediately banned from the city forever. Ok, maybe that is not an official law, but when tourists do that, it becomes dangerous for the people around them. You shouldn’t drive a car and be on your phone, so don’t ride a bike and be on your phone.

Where to stay in Amsterdam

Amsterdam has so many great neighborhoods, I can’t say there is really a place where you shouldn’t stay – although I would avoid staying near Central Station and the Damrak if you want to get an authentic experience. AirBnB’s across the city are a very popular choice, and we even rented our apartment out as an AirBnB while we were on vacation.

The best areas to stay if you want a local experience are De Pijp, Amsterdam West, and Amsterdam Zuid. Amsterdam Zuid (south) is where we lived, and is good for folks looking for a quiet, more neighborhood-y feel, which is great if you have kids.

I always book with Booking.com because they so often offer free cancellation! Check out their hotel overview below:



Booking.com

What to pack for Amsterdam

During your two days in Amsterdam there are a few must haves that you should bring with you:
  • An umbrella – preferably a storm umbrella that can withstand a decent amount of wind. The Dutch perfected these, so you’ll look like a local with one!
  • A European converter – if you’re bringing any electronics, don’t forget one of these at home – just don’t try plugging in your hair dryer unless you want to see a fireworks show
  • A guide book – My personal favorite is always Lonely Planet. I have a book for nearly every destination I’ve ever visited, and it is my go to!

What is the best time to visit Amsterdam?

Without a doubt, you should plan your two days in Amsterdam in the spring and summer, between April and September. That being said, Amsterdam has very unpredictable weather.

The weather during this time can range from cold and stormy (around 50 fahrenheit) to downright balmy (around 85 fahrenheit plus a lot of humidity). The balmy days are few and far between though, so you’ll be lucky if you’re around during one of those periods.

You can, of course, go during the winter, but keep in mind the days are short, and you likely won’t see the sun poke its head out the entire time you’re there! If you do want to visit in the winter, go at Christmas time – it will feel magical!

Looking for more great things to do in the Netherlands? Check out these posts:

Did this help you plan your 2 day Amsterdam itinerary? Let me know in the comments below!

Disclosure: some of the links on this page are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

2 Comments

  1. You are awesome!! My husband and I are planning our annual trip abroad and randomly decided on Belgium and the Netherlands. We would be lost without your site – we’re too young to be boring and only see museums, but too old to do it on the cheap. Your recs and preferences for seeing the city in a fun/drink filled way is exactly what we needed. Thank you!

    • Hi Margaret, I’m so happy that this post helped you! I hope you will have a wonderful time in my old stomping grounds! I’ve got quite a few tips on day trips from Amsterdam so be sure to check out those posts too!

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