Two Day Amsterdam Itinerary
How to get to 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.
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!
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
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 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.
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!
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
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
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
Wander the picturesque Jordaan
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!).
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.
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:
What to pack for Amsterdam
- 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?
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:
- Amsterdam Day Trips: the very best places to go during your Amsterdam vacation
- How to see tulips in Holland
- Kasteel de Haar: A beautiful castle and perfect day trip from Amsterdam
- Dutch Hidden Gems: Get off the beaten path with these incredible destinations
Did this help you plan your 2 day Amsterdam itinerary? Let me know in the comments below!
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Gabby is a native (Northern) Californian who spent the majority of her 20’s living the expat life in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, exploring Europe and beyond. 27 countries later, she’s relocated back to her home base in California where she explores her passions for the travel and the outdoors.