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2 Days in Amsterdam: A Perfect Weekend Itinerary

2 Days in Amsterdam: A Perfect Weekend Itinerary

I’ve always had an unexplainable passion for the Netherlands (hence why I did Dutch Studies). I visited multiple times at different stages of my life, learned Dutch, and eventually moved to the Netherlands for a few years living in both Leiden and Amsterdam.

So what is there to see and do in Amsterdam? There’s so much! With beautiful canals and historic homes, some of the world’s best museums, giant parks, and a fascinating biking culture, Amsterdam has something for everyone!

Regardless of whether you’re going for a party weekend, planning a solo cultural trip, or just taking the kids out, a weekend in Amsterdam is the perfect amount of time to explore and see what makes Amsterdam special. But I must warn you – you’ll want to come back for more. 

To help you plan your trip, I decided to write an honest itinerary full of everything you need to know for your weekend getaway. I’m not afraid to tell you if something is very boring (like the canal tour that everyone recommends for example) and how to make it way more exciting!

If you have more time I highly recommend actually getting out of Amsterdam on day trips as well as exploring some of the more unusual things to do in Amsterdam to see the real beauty of the Netherlands.


Practical Tips for Visiting Amsterdam

Before we dive right into the itinerary, here is some practical advice to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about visiting Amsterdam. 

If it’s your first time coming here, I also recommend you read my guide full of useful tips for visiting Amsterdam where I go more in-depth to help make your trip a little smoother. My guide to using public transport in Amsterdam is another great resource that can help a lot in your planning. 

Best Time to Visit Amsterdam

No matter what time of the year you visit you need to prepare for any weather. It will probably rain a bit during your trip because you know – if it doesn’t rain for 3 days in a row it makes it to the local news.

Spring would be the best time to visit if you want to catch the tulip season. I also love the beginning of the winter in November and early to mid-December. There will be very few tourists during this time and while it will be cold and rainy, this season has a special atmosphere and offers fantastic winter activities.

Is there the worst time to visit Amsterdam? If you want to actually see things and experience some “normal local life” in Amsterdam avoid two events: New Year’s Eve and King’s Day. It’s absolute chaos during these events with disrupted trains and crowds.

Traveler smiling on a cheese swing at the Amsterdam Cheese Museum, a quirky stop on your Amsterdam itinerary.

Is Amsterdam Safe?

Amsterdam is very safe if you compare it to any major city in the world. After years spent living in the city, I’m yet to hear about anyone getting seriously assaulted and I’ve seen a fair share of people doing very stupid things. It’s definitely a safe place for solo female travelers or young students, so don’t worry! That being said, Tourists do fall into canals when drunk quite regularly, so please be careful while drinking! 

Amsterdam isn’t totally free of crimes, however, there are thieves, but they commit strange crimes. Bringing your bike seat to work is not uncommon as they get stolen quite often. I even had my bike breaks stolen and a friend had a front wheel stolen!

So while the crime rate is low, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t purchase travel insurance. Your trip might get canceled, you might get sick abroad and you don’t want to be stuck with a lot of bills. Before I get to our Amsterdam itinerary, we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen!

Where to Stay in Amsterdam

If you’re only coming for a weekend I suggest staying within the Ring or near Museum Quartier. While neighborhoods like Oud-Zuid are great when you want to get off the beaten track, on a short trip you don’t want to waste your limited time getting around.

I have a whole post explaining where to stay in Amsterdam to help you find your perfect hotel, but here are some quick recommendations to get you started. 

Cyclists crossing a picturesque bridge over Amsterdam's serene canals, a must-see during your 2 days in Amsterdam.

Overview of the Perfect Amsterdam in 2 Days Itinerary

For this itinerary, I’ve included a little bit of everything including exploring the canals, some unique neighborhoods, and of course, the best museums in Amsterdam

Don’t worry, I’ve also given you all my best recommendations for where to eat and some local markets and other hot spots that you shouldn’t miss. 

The first two days of the itinerary cover all the must-sees in the city so you can cover everything without taking any time off work. But if you’re visiting over a long weekend, I’ve added an extra day of bonus activities to keep you busy. 

At the end, you’ll also notice I added some more popular attractions that I purposefully left out of this itinerary and I’ll tell you why I don’t think they’re worth your time if you only have a weekend. 

  • Day 1: Canals, Jordaan, Museums
  • Day 2: Markets, Foodhallen, museums
  • If you Have more time: Get Out of Amsterdam on a half-day trip to Keukenhof or Zaanse Schans
Iconic Amsterdam canal houses with their reflections in the water, a classic view to explore on a 2-day Amsterdam itinerary.

Day 1 in Amsterdam

Day one is all about getting a feel for the city as well as seeing some of the best tourist attractions that even locals love.

1.1 Take a Walking Tour

Put on your most comfortable shoes and take a walking tour! If you want to wander freely around Amsterdam, by all means, I think it’s a great place to get lost, but a walking tour will help get you oriented quickly and give you a more in-depth understanding of the city.

There are various free walking tours to choose from (it’s customary to tip your guide) or you can book a private tour for a more personalized experience. Generally, they’ll show you the famous Damrak full of picturesque houses on the canal, historic Dam Square and Royal Palace, Oude Kerk from the 13th century. 

Most tours also stroll through Red Light District but I wouldn’t pay much attention to it to be honest, as much as it sounds hip to tourists. While you’re walking you should stop by the flower market. It’s found down on the Singel Canal, just off Damrak, where florists have traded on barges since 1862.

Recommended Tours:
Amsterdam Small-Group Walking Tour
Private Guided City Tour by Pedicab

1.2 Have a Canal Tour

I noticed that most articles recommend a big boat canal tour that takes you all around the city. I actually took this tour when my friends were visiting and I’ll warn you – I’m yet to see anyone who actually thought this was fun.

That being said, I still recommend hopping on a boat and exploring the canal, but there are better ways to do it than the big covered boat full of tourists

Instead, take a private tour or rent a small boat yourself! You can rent a boat with or without the captain and Dutch people do it on a regular basis so you know it will be enjoyable! 

Boat Rentals:
Click a Boat – has a huge selection of small local boats that you can rent for a day if you’re traveling in a group
Boaty & Canal Boats – cheapest authentic boats in the city, hourly rentals available

Friends enjoying a boat ride along the Amsterdam canals, a fun activity for an Amsterdam itinerary

1.3 Enjoy Your Lunch

Now it’s probably time for brunch (or lunch depending on how long you spent on the water). I’ll be real – Amsterdam and the Netherlands in general is not the best place for foodies. Dutch food is really not great as it’s mostly plain, heavy, and fried.

Most Dutchies eat a sandwich for lunch on the regular, but there are some great places to eat if you’re looking for something a little nicer. 

If you’re in the city center there are a few cool spots:

Tranquil garden seating outside a historic Amsterdam building, a peaceful retreat within your 2 days in Amsterdam visit.

1.4 Explore Some of Amsterdam’s Famous Museums

Recommendation: Save time and money with the I Amsterdam City Card. With this card, you get to visit Amsterdam’s world-class museums and attractions without extra cost (including those recommended on day 3), but you also get to enjoy unlimited access to Amsterdam’s public transport and rent a bike.

Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum needs no introduction and it’s a must-see in Amsterdam. I might be biased as I’m obsessed with Dutch art, but trust me, it’s surely worth a visit and locals go there frequently to admire the fantastic Dutch art.

Even if you’re not familiar with Dutch art just yet, you’ll easily be able to appreciate the incredible works on display. Rijksmuseum boasts 80 galleries full of art and artifacts that tell the history of the Netherlands

If you’re visiting in the winter, once you finish visiting Rijksmuseum step outside. There are always people playing music and a winter market in December. If it’s cold enough, a big ice rink is set up outside and you can purchase tickets on the site. Even if you don’t ice skate you can watch teams practicing curling which is a very popular sport in the Netherlands that involves getting a large puck as close to the center of a circle as possible (more or less – there’s much more to it actually).

Recommended Tours:
Rijksmuseum Small Group Guided Tour with Ticket
Rijksmuseum Private Guided Tour

Van Gogh Museum

Even though Rijksmuseum is THE museum, the Van Gogh Museum is the most popular among tourists. It’s not a huge place (despite having over 200 paintings and over 500 drawings), but has a great selection of Van Gogh works along with some selected works by other impressionists and post-impressionists.

Since it’s not too huge and you don’t need a whole day to see it, I recommend visiting in the late afternoon it will be less crowded and you get to enjoy it more.

Recommended Tours:
Van Gogh Museum Entry Ticket and Guided Tour
Private Guide – Rijksmuseum & Van Gogh Museum

Other Museums to Choose From

If the two museums above don’t satisfy your interests or you simply want to cram even more learning into your short weekend, here are two more museums that I can recommend you visit. 

  • Amsterdam History Museum – The permanent collection is very interesting but there are often great exhibits on top of it. 
  • Tulip Museum – This museum will show you the fascinating history of tulips in the Netherlands and help you understand this country’s love of this colorful flower. 

1.5 Enjoy an evening in Jordaan

Your day isn’t over yet! Head to the Jordaan district in the evening for some super fun nightlife and great food. 

This suburb has gone through gentrification in recent years and is now quite upscale and inviting. It has plenty of restaurants, stand-up comedy places, bars, and good local coffee shops. Most tourist crowds never reach Jordaan, which is a big mistake as this neighborhood is a lot of fun.

Recommended Tours:
Jordaan District Local Food Walking Tour
Food Tour Jordaan District


Day 2 in Amsterdam

Your second day in Amsterdam is all about seeing how the locals live and experiencing why this city is so great. I’ve given you plenty of recommendations below but also left it a little bit open for you to pick and choose what best suits your interests. 

2.1 Explore a Local Market

If your day 2 falls on a Saturday head to a local market. Local markets are what I miss most about living in the Netherlands as they’re very vibrant and always have a great atmosphere. 

Albert Cuyp Market in De Pijp is one of my favorites. It’s a very local area and consists of around 250 stalls. Make sure to try some typical Dutch foods like stroopwafels, fried kibbeling, or herring if you dare (it’s actually pretty good, just eat it quickly so it doesn’t get stolen by a seagull).

Alternatively, hit Waterlooplein Flea Market. It’s a local flea market with literally everything on sale – apparently sometimes including stolen bikes 😉 But mostly antiques, second-hand items, and snacks.

Bustling Albert Cuyp Market in Amsterdam, with locals and tourists shopping, a vibrant part of any Amsterdam itinerary.

2.2 Rent a Bike and Enjoy Amsterdam’s Parks

Now it’s time to see how the locals live so rent a bike, pack a picnic, and get ready to explore some beautiful outdoor locations around Amsterdam. 

Het Amsterdamse Bos

My top recommendation for this part of your trip is Het Amsterdamse Bos. You can think of it as the Central Park of Amsterdam, but much more remote. Don’t be surprised if you see a herd of Scottish Highlanders grazing around, they like to surprise you!

Grab some lunch or snacks at the Albert Heijn supermarket (it sells some delicious fresh bread goodies), rent a bike in one of various bike rental spots, and head to see some nature at Her Amsterdamse Bos.

Close encounter with a Scottish Highland cow in Amsterdam's green spaces, a unique experience in a 2-day Amsterdam trip.

Foodhallen & Vondelpark

If you prefer to stay close by here’s an alternative bike tour for you. You can either walk or rent a bike for this one, just remember to follow road rules and signalize with your hands if you want to turn while biking.

Start your biking tour with Foodhallen for lunch. Foodhallen is a classy indoor food market and bars serving up a range of high-end street food and beverages in historic surroundings. 

If the weather is nice enough you can load up your lunch in a bag and bike straight to Vondelpark for a nice picnic. Vondelpark is a pretty park, but mostly for those wanting to eat, enjoy a barbeque, or get high. 

It’s not an amazing park in itself, and this is why I personally recommend Het Amsterdamse Bos. That being said, throughout the park are fountains, statues, and plenty of locals exercising and getting together.

If Amsterdam’s busy roads intimidate you but you’d still like to experience biking around the city in a safe way, you can always join a bike tour. Here are some of my recommendations. 

Visiting vibrant purple heather fields near Amsterdam, a stunning natural sight for an extended Amsterdam itinerary.

Recommended Tours:
Amsterdam: 2.5-Hour Bike Tour
Private Amsterdam Bike Tour with a Local

2.3 Go Shopping for Local Souvineers

For those of you who like exploring the local fashion scene or simply need to designate some time to find the best souvenirs, now’s your time to shine. 

But before you get too excited, just note that regular stores close relatively early in the Netherlands so if you plan on going shopping, do it earlier rather than later. The exception to this is Thursdays which is Amsterdams late night shopping evening. Each Thursday, most shops on the main streets are open until 9 pm.  

2.4 Get Off the Beaten Path

In the evening you can fill your itinerary with one of the more unusual things to do in Amsterdam, like visiting a catboat or a very random museum. I’m not going to go into detail with the whole list as there is plenty for you to choose from in my other guide so pick something fun that tickles your fancy! 

If you prefer to simply explore some more of Amsterdam’s best nightlife, head to Leidseplein or Rembrandtplein for a fun night. Both places are absolutely touristy, but locals also hang out there (we used to have company nights out there regularly). 

Once you’re done drinking and want to feel like a local, pick up a snack from Febo – here you can get a fried croquette from a vending machine 😉

Massive bike parking in Amsterdam, highlighting the city's cycling culture, not to miss on a 2-day Amsterdam tour.

Day 3 in Amsterdam

As I already mentioned, day three is a bit of a bonus day for those of you who have a little more time. With that said, I recommend you dedicate this day to actually leaving Amsterdam

Most tourists make the mistake of just visiting just Amsterdam and missing out on the beauty of the Netherlands. Small towns, nature, and getting to know the real Holland.

Because the country is so small you can see most places on day trips from Amsterdam as everything is just a short train ride away! Here are my two most recommended day trips you take on your third day in Amsterdam. 

Keukenhof

If you’re visiting during the tulip season (mid-March to mid-May), you simply must go to the tulip fields. 

Most people head to Keukenhof – a big seasonal garden, which I think is totally worth a visit once, but I also recommend you bike through all the tulip fields around it.

I’ve written an entire post on how to visit the tulip fields in the Netherlands so make sure you check that out before heading off. 

Springtime in Amsterdam with tulips in bloom along the canals, perfect for a spring Amsterdam itinerary

Recommended Tours:
From Amsterdam: Keukenhof Entry and Roundtrip Shuttle Bus
Keukenhof Gardens and Tulip Tour from Amsterdam

Zaanse Schans

One of the other most popular short day trips from Amsterdam is the village of Zaanse Schans. I absolutely love it. It’s an open-air museum of sorts, showing visitors what life was like in the Netherlands back in the 18th and 19th centuries.

With cheese shops, windmills, and the first Albert Heijn supermarket, there is a lot to see here and it’s also a very picturesque spot.

You can reach Zaanse Schans by bus, train, or boat (ferry is included if you get the iAmsterdam Visitor Pass). Or you can just book a Half-Day Tour of Zaanse Schans Windmills.

Idyllic view of Zaanse Schans with traditional Dutch windmills and a classic green wooden house reflecting in a tranquil canal, a picturesque scene to include in your Amsterdam itinerary.

Recommended Tours:
Half-Day Tour of Zaanse Schans Windmills
Zaanse Schans, Volendam, and Marken Day Trip


What Didn’t Make the Cut?

Anne Frank House

It’s always put as a must-see, but I’ll be real, it has become a tourist zoo. Lines used to be so long it would be 3h minimum wait time (now it can only be visited with a ticket bought online for a specific time slot) and the place is very small. Plus, it’s not easily accessible for anyone with mobility issues as you have to climb a ladder.

If you want to learn more about Jewish history there are much better places to do so like the Jewish Historical Museum.

Heineken Experience

If you have some spare time and extra cash or if you’re a beer lover, the Heineken Experience might be worth a visit. However in my opinion, if you don’t fall into any of those categories, I don’t think it’s really worth the time or money as it’s a very touristy attraction. 

Yes you get some beer and get to see the process it passes through to be made, but it’s not really any different to other beer factories in that way. 

Coffee Shop Tours

One of Amsterdam’s biggest draw cards for many tourists who choose to visit is the legality of weed. Coffee shops are located all over the city and provide a place where you can buy all types of marijuana-infused products like cakes, sweets, and of course, joints. 

While you can absolutely go to these if you’re a big weed smoker, the truth is that the tourist coffee shops that most blogs boast about like “Bulldog” sell bad weed at super high prices. If you do want to get high, it’s better to ask a local for a recommendation so you can find something a little more authentic. 

Alan Saul

Monday 25th of April 2022

Exact Amsterdam info...pleasing was my 24 times on Amsterdam...one day in September!

Vladan Z Nikolić

Tuesday 12th of April 2022

Great article

Tim

Sunday 22nd of March 2015

I agree with you about the festivals in Holland. There is one you shouldn't miss out on and that is in Den Hague and is the Indies fest (don't think that's the real name but is easy to find).

Anna

Sunday 22nd of March 2015

I think I know what you're talking about but I missed it last year (traveling has been prioritized hehe).

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