Looking for ideas of what to do in Amsterdam in 3 days? This 3 day Amsterdam itinerary was written especially for first-time visitors! Amsterdam offers so much to see and experience that it might be a little overwhelming to find the best spots, experiences that you cannot miss, and figure out where’s what.
This city guide combines the most popular Amsterdam spots as well as unique experiences that will set you apart from the crowd. Just perfect for your first visit! And if you’re planning on visiting during the winter months, check out my Amsterdam in December guide for seasonal activities to make your holiday extra festive.
Here are the contents of today's post:
- 1 Getting from the Airport to the City Center
- 2 Getting around Amsterdam
- 3 How to spend 3 days in Amsterdam: Day One
- 3.1 1. See the Gingerbread Houses
- 3.2 2. Enjoy the Aerial View from Oude Kerk
- 3.3 3. Explore the Dam Square
- 3.4 4. Find the Hidden Begijnhof Garden
- 3.5 5. Brunch With a Panoramic View
- 3.6 6. Stroll by the Munt Tower and the Flower Market
- 3.7 7. Check out the Rembrandt Square
- 3.8 8. Hop on a Canal Boat Tour
- 3.9 9. Shop Like a Local at the 9 Streets Area
- 4 Day Two of the 3 Day Amsterdam Itinerary
- 5 3 Day Amsterdam Itinerary – Day Three
- 5.1 18. Walk along the Amstel river
- 5.2 19. Explore the collection of the Hermitage Amsterdam
- 5.3 20. Eating Dutch Pancakes in the Royal Zoo
- 5.4 21. Have a blast at NEMO Science Museum
- 5.5 22. Grab a beer tour of the Brouwerij ‘t IJ windmill
- 5.6 23. Jump into the OBA to enjoy the view
- 5.7 24. Hop on a free ferry over Het Ij
- 5.8 25. Swing from the rooftop at A’DAM LOOKOUT
Getting from the Airport to the City Center
Make your way from Schiphol to the Central Station by catching a ride with the train or the bus. Any special offers for transport in Amsterdam are not valid for travel to and from the airport so you’ll definitely need a ticket. To get a train ticket you can either get it in a ticket booth or with a yellow ticket machine. It’s interfaced in English and you can either pay with cash or card. The train ride from Schiphol to Central would take about 15-20 minutes. There’s little overhead storage for suitcases but you will find plenty of space anyway.
If you want to take a bus, be prepared to buy a ticket in one of the kiosks or when entering the bus. The latter option might cost you a bit extra and unfortunately, you can no longer use cash.
Getting around Amsterdam
Depending on where you choose to stay you may be able to minimize the use of public transport. The city center is pretty small and easy to navigate while the trams and buses only go through the main streets. To use public transport you can use a plastic card called the OV-Chipkaart or cut yourself a great deal with the iAmsterdam City card.
iAmsterdam Card has the best value for your first visit. Depending on the length of your stay, you can buy it for 72, 48, or just 24 hours. You get unlimited access to all public transport within the city for the chosen length plus free admission to almost all the museums in the city! It’s super great.
If you don’t expect using public transport a lot (you can get along fine without it, most of the attractions are within walking distance) you can get yourself a temporary card or a plastic card which you’d have to charge with money.
All in all, the iAmsterdam Card really is the hassle-free way.
Why? Well, the thing about using public transport in The Netherlands is that you have to check in an out as you go into the trams, buses, and metro. Metro is easy to remember (thank god), but going into the tram you can only enter through 3 doors (back, middle and front of the tram) and you have to put your card against a scanner device right at the entrance that logs the information in. As you go out, you have to check out and then you can see how much the trip cost.
It can get pretty hectic so if you are unused to that kind of system you’d be better off with a card that has unlimited access and does not penalize you if you forget to check out.
How to spend 3 days in Amsterdam: Day One
1. See the Gingerbread Houses
Head straight down from the Central Station and you will pass the famous gingerbread facades on the Damrak. This is a starting point for many boat tours as well. Take a picture from one of the piers offering a view on the row of houses. If you want to see more examples of architecture, head down to the Nieuwebrugsteeg street that curves into the Sint Olofssteeg. From there a nice perspective opens on the typically Dutch rows of houses.
2. Enjoy the Aerial View from Oude Kerk
The Old Church is located right next to the Red Light District and offers a great view of the Old City Center. The building is done in the Gothic style (don’t you just love medieval architecture) and is, in fact, the oldest building in Amsterdam (circa 1213) yet offers modern art exhibitions within its walls. Climb to the top of the tower to be rewarded with a great perspective! The entrance is free with the iAmsterdam City Card, otherwise be prepared to pay a €10 fee. Working day opening hours are from 10:00 to 18:00 so make sure to plan ahead.
3. Explore the Dam Square
The main Dam square is home to the Royal Palace, The Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and the National Monument. The heart of the city, it connects the Kalverstraat and the Nieuwendijk – the main shopping streets filled with all the main chain stores. You’ll also notice Madame Tussauds (which is a massive tourist trap) and De Bijenkorf, a huge luxury shopping mall (opened till late). Skip those for now and leave them for later but go ahead and explore the Square!
4. Find the Hidden Begijnhof Garden
The Begijnhof is a secluded garden built during the middle ages as an alternative to a convent. It is conveniently located near the Spui square, a bustling spot surrounded by shops and cafes. The houses surrounding the garden were private property and established for women who dedicated themselves to their religion while still maintaining relative freedom of choice. When visiting, you are required to keep silent as not to disturb the residents who live there and pay tribute to this unique place.
5. Brunch With a Panoramic View
Blue Amsterdam is one of my favorite cafe discoveries in the city. Hidden from sight in the very city center, it’s entrance is through the shopping center Kalvertoren. All you need to do is take the elevator up to the 3rd floor and climb one short flight of stairs. The menu offers a choice of sandwiches, the most popular food of the Netherlands, as well as salads, burgers, a breakfast menu, and dessert. Tourists don’t really walk in here unless they know where they’re headed – the entrance is not apparent from the outside. And that’s great because you get to enjoy a local experience while dining with a view of the whole center.
6. Stroll by the Munt Tower and the Flower Market
The Flower Market is one of the most widely known spots in Amsterdam. You will find an array of tulip bulbs, flowers, and trinkets. While it remains to be a go-to destination for tourists, it’s better to pay it a quick visit on your way to other attractions. Keep reading to find out which market you just have to visit instead! The Flower Market starts at the edge of the Munt Tower which is definitely worth your attention. “Munttoren” stands for “Coin Tower” as this is where coins were made. Destroyed during a middle-ages fire, the Tower received a makeover and continues to shine.
7. Check out the Rembrandt Square
A mere step away from the Flower Market, Rembrandt Square is worth a visit. There you will find a statue re-imagining of Rembrandt’s famous work “The Night Watch”. Head down the Reguliersbreestraat to reach the square. On your way, you will pass the Tuschinski Theatre, a really beautiful cinema building. While you can go inside, the facade is what makes it special! Continue walking: as soon as you see the Rembrandt monument you know you’re in the right place! Here you can take a picture with the famous painting re-enacted in sculpture form. The square is surrounded by cafes, stalls, and shops – plenty of spots to tickle your fancy.
8. Hop on a Canal Boat Tour
Regardless of the season, you must enjoy a canal boat tour when in Amsterdam. The best ones will take you through all the main spots but will give you a different perspective on the city. There are canal cruise stops all around Amsterdam, some situated near De Blauwbrug, a beautiful bridge over Amstel right next to Rembrandt Square. Depending on whether you are using the iAmsterdam Card, you might receive a discount for a boat tour. But I would definitely recommend going on a 1,5 or 2-hour boat tour in a smaller boat. There’s nothing like letting the Amsterdam canals amaze you while resting your legs from a day full of walking. Go for an open boat rather than an enclosed touristic route – it’s so much nicer and if the weather is great, it will be truly unforgettable.
9. Shop Like a Local at the 9 Streets Area
“De Negen Straatjes” is an Amsterdam area filled with independent boutiques selling vintage and designer clothes, unique DIY stores, and any shopping experience you can imagine. The shops are all located in the main canal streets on the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, and Herengracht. Just so you know, Thursday is a long shopping day during which every store is open longer. Otherwise, the usual business hours are until 18:00. Some great cafes that you can check in the area are Ree 7 and Pluk, basically situated next to each other.
Day Two of the 3 Day Amsterdam Itinerary
10. Rent a Bike for the Day
Biking in Amsterdam is a great way to get around! Today grab a rental bike as you, my friend, have some ground to cover. We’re going away from the busiest canals as it’s a nightmare to cycle when you’re unused to the amount of traffic Amsterdam gets. Keep to the right, don’t stop in the middle of the road and signal with your hands when you’re turning left and right. Oh, and don’t forget to lock your bike before you leave. You’ll do just fine!
11. Visit the Famous Albert Cuypstraat Market
This is where locals go shopping! You will find everything here, my friend, from fresh fish to souvenirs. This is the place to stock up on kitchen magnets, tiny clogs and keychains. Souvenir shopping at Alber Cuyp’s – something you must add to your list. Also, this is the perfect spot to try the famous stroopwafels. Stroopwafels are a Dutch dessert – a thin waffle with a layer of caramel in between. Explore what the market has to offer and try the stroopwafels at the “Goudsche Stroopwafels” stall! They are homemade by an old recipe and are considered really really good. Also, get some snacks – think “picnic-ey”! This market has all the Typical Dutch food that you can’t miss, so go ahead and eat your way through it.
12. Cycle to the Museumplein
Load your bike with the acquired goodies and make the short biking ride to the Museumplein where you’ll find the famous iAmsterdam sign, as well as the biggest museums. You will find the Van Gogh Museum at Museumplein 6 and the majestic Rijksmuseum (truly impossible to miss) at Museumstraat 1.
13-14. Visit the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum
The two museums you just cannot miss! Get ready for some cultural tourism and head to explore the wonders of those world-famous museums. Be prepared to spend several hours here as the collection is quite extensive. Also, save yourself some time by buying tickets in advance to avoid the queues. If you have the iAmsterdam card you do have to register at the counter to gain admittance so avoid the midday hours as they can be the most crowded. Oh, and just so you know, the Iamsterdam sign was moved from this location. Want to know where to go? Check out my list of Amsterdam’s most Instagrammable spots.
15. Explore the giant Vondelpark
Vondelpark is a big beautiful park in the center of the city. It’s a great place to explore by bike especially since the park is quite big! So grab some snacks you purchased at the market and head out for a picnic. If you’d like to upgrade the experience to the next level, do a bit of research on Meetup.com as a lot of people meet up for yoga sessions, fitness boot camps, tea sessions and more.
Love meeting people who share my views. And when I say ‘views’ I mean that they hate the heat as much as I do ? @the_mindful_mermaid and I took our time strolling around Vondelpark last week. If you’re thinking to rent bikes in Amsterdam, this is where you need to go! You can park your bike, get a drink and chill on the grass ? summertime is best when it’s spent with good people! Who else here can’t stand hot temperatures? I often feel half-awake and super exhausted when the temperatures near 30. But some people just love those warm summers ?
16. Have High Tea at the Dutch Equestrian School Museum
Got your fill of culture? Time to head to De Hollandsche Manege! The oldest Equestrian school located at Vondelstraat 140 is open for visitors. Here you can get a riding lesson and try to ride side-saddle (every Tuesday from 20:00 to 21:00), enjoy demonstrations from experienced riders and also have high tea on a balcony overseeing the practice. Guided tours are available as well for groups. If you really love horses, how about a grooming and saddling course? The High Tea experience is available for €25 per person. Make sure to book in advance though! Check out other unique Amsterdam experiences for more ideas like this High Tea.
17. Taste everything at the Foodhallen
The best alternative to a food court in a nearby mall (Amsterdam is fresh out of those anyway) is heading to the Foodhallen. This large space on Bellamyplein 51 has a variety of kitchens, from steaks to Dim Sum, from amazing waffles to falafel. My recommendation: after you’ve had your fill, grab a dessert waffle at I-Scream Waffle. Afterward, head out to explore the Oud-West neighborhood of Amsterdam. This is your chance to see a neighborhood slightly off-center where people just go on with their lives.
3 Day Amsterdam Itinerary – Day Three
18. Walk along the Amstel river
On the third day just go ahead and relax while exploring the city without any rush. Start by strolling down the Amstel where you will see the Carre theater, watch the Skinny Bridge or “De Magere Brug” open up to let the bigger boats through and enjoy your day.
19. Explore the collection of the Hermitage Amsterdam
The smaller cousin of the world-famous Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Dutch Hermitage is also worth a short visit. Because of the relationship between the two museums the Hermitage often opens up exhibits showcasing works of art from its bigger counterpart. This is your chance to see some interesting exhibitions! Also, the museum has a really cool cellar with a typical Dutch kitchen. I really love museums that are more interactive and allow you to immerse yourself in the experience.
20. Eating Dutch Pancakes in the Royal Zoo
Head to Artis, the Royal Zoo which is located right in the middle of the city center to enjoy the sights and tranquility. Make sure to grab some poffertjes at one of the stalls. Those hot pancakes garnished with fresh butter and sugar powder are an iconic Dutch staple. My favorite part of the Artis Zoo? The large enclosure of elephants and giraffes and the open animal zones where you can walk amongst kangaroos and lemurs. In summer the zoo is open longer on Saturday evenings. The zoo hosts concerts, offers evening excursions, hosts events in the Planetarium and stays open till sundown.
21. Have a blast at NEMO Science Museum
NEMO is one of the most fun places to go to! An interactive science museum filled with experiments, it’s just impossible to say no to! If you have a free entry with an iAmsterdam card, feel free to pop in and explore as much as your schedule allows (it’s quite time-consuming), if you’re paying for entrance you might want to make sure you don’t over plan your day because, let me tell you, you’re not going anywhere else for a while! If you’re just passing by, check out the open-air terrace at the top of the building which offers a beautiful view over the old buildings.
22. Grab a beer tour of the Brouwerij ‘t IJ windmill
Instead of going to the overcrowded Heineken Experience why not see how a small local brewery operates? Brouwerij ‘t IJ makes local craft beer and has a local pub for everyone. It’s also conveniently located underneath Amsterdam’s biggest windmill, at Funenkade 7. Check two boxes at once by seeing how a brewery works and also inspecting Molen de Gooyer, a 16th-century windmill. The group tours are hosted on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 15:30 sharp. Make sure to buy a ticket at the bar early the same day as booking in advance is not possible. You will also get to taste a beer of your choice. Since the groups are pretty small (20 people only) do plan ahead!
23. Jump into the OBA to enjoy the view
The Central Department of the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam which is the public library is open for all visitors. Wander around this 6-floor building with glass windows to enjoy a unique view over the city.
24. Hop on a free ferry over Het Ij
A free ferry goes every 10 minutes from the Central Station to the other end of Het IJ. This short 5-minute boat ride will get you to the other side of the city, closer to the yacht haven and living areas.
25. Swing from the rooftop at A’DAM LOOKOUT
Once you’ve crossed the river head to the A’DAM Lookout and enjoy a crazy panorama on the city. It also offers a crazy swing over the top of the building for the bravest of us all (I chickened out but a lot of people had fun!). It’s supposed to be Europe’s highest swing – I’ll take other people’s words for it! A’DAM Lookout also has a restaurant so they’re all set to satiate your hunger for adventure and otherwise!
Congratulations! When it comes to Amsterdam, you definitely know your way around by now. Check out my list of notable Amsterdam shops if you’re hungry for more!
Wanna get my free map? You can find it through the link HERE!
If you’re looking for more fun things to do in The Netherlands, consider going on a day trip to Efteling, discover Utrecht or Rotterdam and enjoy the flowers at Keukenhof. There are lots of things to do outside of the city!
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