3 Days in Amsterdam is the perfect amount of time for first-time visitors to get acquainted with one of the most beautiful, happening cities in western Europe.
Though in reality, there’s an absolutely staggering amount of things to do in Amsterdam. There are over 75 museums, a brilliant brunch culture, great beer, a silly amount of independent cinemas and much more besides.
This weekend in Amsterdam itinerary is designed specifically for the first time visitor who wants to tick off all thewith a smattering of those oft-talked about ‘hidden gems.’
This is my perfect 3 days in Amsterdam guide for the first-time traveller!
3 Days in Amsterdam
Please note: I’m a vegetarian, budget traveller so this 3 Days in Amsterdam itinerary reflects this. Though I have tried to offer options for omnivores.
And, because brunch is so good in Amsterdam, I’m recommending you have a big, delicious breakfast/brunch every morning and a light bite for lunch.
Flights to Amsterdam
There are so many transport options to get to Amsterdam for people in the UK. Many on the northeast coast may like to catch a ferry to Amsterdam and those in the southeast might prefer to travel to Amsterdam via the Eurostar train.
However, most find flying to Amsterdam Schiphol airport the cheapest, quickest and most convenient choice for a weekend city break. I always check flights to Europe using Skyscanner and I ended up flying with Flybe from Manchester to Amsterdam. My flights cost just under £80 altogether.
How to get to central Amsterdam from Schiphol airport
Catch the train to Amsterdam Centraal station! It’s so easy and cheap! Trains run 24 hours a day, several times an hour during the day and once an hour between midnight and 6:00.
And it only takes 15-20 minutes to get from the airport to central Amsterdam. Buy a single ticket from one of the many yellow ticket machines in the station (you’ll have to pay by card) for only €3.30.
Top tip: Amsterdam, like the rest of the Netherlands, is becoming a cash-free, card-friendly country. So, it’s vital you have the option to pay for everything you need with debit or credit card. Don’t turn up with hundreds of euros and expect everywhere to accept them because you’ll be stuck.
Transport around Amsterdam
Amsterdam is deceptively big, but I still walked whenever I could. It’s just such a beautiful city!
The only public transport I used every day were the free ferries across to the Noord side of Amsterdam (where my hostel was) from the mainland near Amsterdam Centraal Station. They depart every 10 minutes and very easy to navigate.
But if you want to use public transport a lot, then the tram/metro system is the way to go. Definitely get a GVB OV-chipkaart at the Centraal station or another GVB office. This is like an Oyster card (for those of you who have used the London underground) which can be topped up. The card is €7.50 initially and your journeys are significantly cheaper than if you paid for single tickets. And you can just keep topping up online or at the machines on certain stations. Check the I Amsterdam website for all options.
You can no longer use cash to pay for any public transport, you must use a card.
If you’re only planning on using the tram/metro once or twice, as I did, you can buy one-hour tickets from the driver or conductor.
Don’t forget to tap your card in and tap out of all journeys using the machines either on the platforms or on the tram itself.
I Amsterdam card
Now’s probably a good time to mention the I Amsterdam card. It’s a tourist city card that can be valid for 24 hours (€59) 48 hours (€74) and 72 hours (€87). It sounds expensive, but the card includes a huuuuge amount of museum entrance fees, attractions, discounts, canal cruises and yes, includes all your public transport for free. So it’s really worth considering if you’re going to visit tonnes of museums on your 3 days in Amsterdam and plan on using the trams a lot! You are about to find out just how expensive museums in Amsterdam are.
You don’t have to buy the I Amsterdam card online. I bought mine at the Amsterdam Centraal Station and it can be bought from Amsterdam Schiphol airport, too.
Accommodation in Amsterdam
Because I was visiting Amsterdam solo to attend the, I opted for a hostel. I’d read good reviews about ClinkNOORD hostel on the Noord side of the city and I really enjoyed my stay. I like hostels that are really modern and provide lots of facilities, like personal plug sockets. It’s the little things, you know?
I booked my stay at ClinkNOORD through Hostelworld, as always, so check it out here. If you’re spending only 3 days in Amsterdam on a solo trip, a nice hostel should be sufficient.
If you have the option, don’t include breakfast in your accommodation booking! Amsterdam has some of the best brunches in Europe and it would be a real shame if you missed out.
If you prefer to stay in a Boutique hotel for a really nice weekend in Amsterdam, I’ve heard really good things about the Canal House Hotel. I don’t know about you, but I’m in love with Amsterdam’s canal-side houses, so staying in one would be a dream. Check out Canal House Hotel on Booking.com.
Day 1 in Amsterdam: De Wallen, Red Light District & Noord
Breakfast: Start the first morning of your 3 days in Amsterdam with pancakes! The Happy Pig Pancake Shop is a great place to eat pancakes with a huge choice of flavours and toppings.
- National Monument and Royal Palace in Dam Square – Before heading on a Canal tour, stop by a couple of quick photo opportunities. Head by the National Monument and Royal Palace in Dam Square for a lil’ bit of culture.
- Keukenhof Express photo opportunity – This small patch of canal and the canal-side houses are gorgeous and they make a regular appearance on Instagram. So, make sure you stop and take a few snaps.
- Canal Tour Amsterdam Cruise – Hopefully, enjoying a 90-minute canal tour cruise, docking near Amsterdam Centraal Station, is the best way to learn and get you excited about seeing the rest of the city on your 3 days in Amsterdam. Don’t forget to see what cruises are available on your I Amsterdam card.
- Rembrandt House Museum or Body Worlds – You probably won’t have time for both, but these are two great museums in the De Wallen district of Amsterdam. Head to the Rembrandt House Museum if you’re looking for culture. The entrance fee is up to €12.50 (you can see how that I Amsterdam card soon pays off!) and open 10:00-18:00 daily. Body Worlds: The Happiness Project is great if you’re curious about learning more about our bodies and daily lives. The entrance fee will set you back €22.95 (a little cheaper online) and isn’t included in the I Amsterdam card. It’s open 9:00-20:00 and even later on Saturdays.
Lunch/Light bite: Hopefully, you’ll still be full from your pancakes, so grab some french fries with mayonnaise (the Dutch way) from Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx, the best fries in the city (apparently!). You can’t spend 3 days in Amsterdam without sampling the fries.
- Bloemenmarkt – Tulips are the Netherlands’ national flower, so if the weather is nice you could eat your fries while strolling around the huge Bloemenmarkt flower market. I do find it a bit weird, as a tourist, to be walking around looking at bunches of flowers and packets of seeds. But it’s free and doesn’t hurt anyone, so… *shrug emoji*.
- Original Dampkring Coffeeshop – Not really my thing, but I know trying legal marijuana is something a lot of tourists want to partake in on their weekend in Amsterdam. This coffeeshop is one of the OG coffeeshops in Amsterdam, and coincidentally the same coffeeshop used in Ocean’s Twelve (2004). Read this post about all the rules and etiquette in Amsterdam coffeeshops. And if you don’t want to check out a coffeeshop, you can head back to either the Rembrandt House Museum or Body Worlds, depending on which you visited this morning.
- AMSTERDAM Lookout and swing – Take a free ferry over to the Noord district of Amsterdam. If you want to wait until sunset to head up to the lookout, then you can eat dinner beforehand. AMSTERDAM lookout is one of the highest points in Amsterdam, overlooking the whole city, and boasts the highest swing in Europe over the edge of the highrise building if you’re not scared of heights! Open 10:00-22:00 every day and tickets are from €12.50.
Dinner: It’s a little out of the way, but Pllek on the Noord side of Amsterdam is one of the best restaurants in the city, in a beautiful location across the Amstel river. You can’t spend 3 days in Amsterdam without seeing a little bit of the Noord side.
These are a couple of bars back in the De Wallen neighbourhood if you wanted to extend the fun into the night:
- Tales and Spirits – One of the best places for cocktails in Amsterdam is Tales and Spirits.
- De Drie Fleschjes – With a cosy antique vibe, De Drie Fleschjes is famous for Dutch gin (Jenevers).
Day 2 in Amsterdam: Jordaan, Nine Streets, Bikes & Vondelpark
Breakfast: A few more fruits and vegetables than yesterday’s breakfast. To begin your day in the Jordaan neighbourhood, head to Pluk for brunch. They have a huge selection of eggs, avocado and yes, even pancakes!
- Anne Frank House – Rated the No. 1 thing to do in Amsterdam for good reason, you cannot spend any time, let alone 3 days in Amsterdam, without paying a visit to the Anne Frank House. 80% of the tickets are released two months beforehand, with the remaining 20% available online on the day. I would absolutely recommend booking a timeslot in advance because the queues are a nightmare. Open daily from 9:00 – 19:00, often longer, with a maximum of €10.50 per person.
- Westerkerk Church – Just across the road from the Anne Frank House is Westerkerk, the most famous church in Amsterdam. It’s free to enter from 11:00-15:00 every day except Sunday when it’s closed for services. To enter the bell tower, it’s €7 but you’re advised to pre-book in peak times.
Check out the Nine Streets in the Jordaan Neighbourhood
This district has some of the best independent and boutique shopping in the city! Definitely, spend the rest of the morning walking around this area because it’s just so beautiful.
- Singel 166 House – While enjoying the area, head to the tiniest house in Amsterdam! The house at the address Singel 166 is comically thin and short, but you should hopefully learn about why on your canal cruise.
- The Fault in Our Stars Bench – Another photo opportunity when you’re walking around is to check out the famous bench from the film The Fault in Our Stars (2014). It’s not the original bench as that was unfortunately stolen after filming, but it’s been replaced.
- Spiegel Amsterdam 100% Dutch Shop – I have to recommend this shop as one of the best places in the city to pick up authentic, 100% Dutch-made gifts for yourself and friends. I bought myself my all-time favourite piece of jewellery in this independent shop!
- Hire bikes from Bike City – If you’re not aware, cycling is hugely popular in the Netherlands and it is how most locals get around. With that kind of infrastructure in place, you can’t spend 3 days in Amsterdam without hiring bikes from Bike City. Spend the afternoon leisurely cycling around Vondelpark, the most popular park in Amsterdam. Or if you’re not fussed about the cycling, just a walk around Vondelpark will be lovely!
Or, check out these options if you’re interested in a guided cycling tour in Amsterdam.
Top tip: I’ve heard from others who have visited Amsterdam that in order to hire bikes, you need a credit card. Companies need something to use for a security deposit and a debit card might not cut it. It’s worth thinking about getting a credit card if you travel a lot as this is a regular occurrence for a lot of activities where equipment hire is involved.
Dinner: Stay in the Vondelpark area and try De Hallen for dinner. It’s a posh canteen set up with a variety of restaurant stalls on around the building and shared seating in the middle.
After dinner, try these bars in the Jordaan neighbourhood:
- ‘t Smalle – Even though this is Amsterdam, sample a few Belgian beers at the traditional pub ‘t Smalle which has a huge selection.
- Hoppe – Another traditional pub, but this time, Hoppe specialises in a local Dutch gin, Jenevers.
Since I’m obviously a huge film fan, I have to recommend watching a film at one of Amsterdam’s charming independent cinemas, which you can read all about on my blog post here. I personally couldn’t spend 3 days in Amsterdam without squeezing in one or two screenings.
Day 3 in Amsterdam: De Pijp & Art Museums
- I Amsterdam sign in Art Square – A must-visit on any 3 days in Amsterdam guide! Stop by Art Square to take a picture in front of the famous I Amsterdam sign, just so your Facebook friends are 100% sure where you spent your weekend break.
- Rijksmuseum – And then hop over to the Rijksmuseum. I’ve scheduled the museum for the whole morning because it really is that big, and you won’t see everything. It can be quite overwhelming. Open from 9:00-17:00 daily, the ticket price of the Rijksmuseum is included in the I Amsterdam card or costs €17.50 for adults. I bet I’ve convinced you the I Amsterdam card is worth it, now!
Lunch/Light bite: You can either choose to visit Corner Bakery for it’s delightful ‘freak shakes’ and huge platters of fruit and pancakes, or Koffee Academie for a more civilised lunch and fancy lattes.
- Van Gogh Museum or Heineken Experience – Unfortunately, 3 days in Amsterdam means a streamlined itinerary. If you’ve grown tired of art after looking at Rembrandt paintings all morning in the Rijksmuseum, then head to the Heineken Experience for a tour of a former brewery. Open 10:30 – 19:30, with last admission 17:30 most days. Entrance fee is €21 with a €3 discount for booking online. Or, if you’re a culture vulture at heart, you’ll be content drinking Heineken in bars and will want to check out the Van Gogh museum. Open 09:00 – 18:00 daily with an entrance fee of €18.
Top tip: I would book your tickets to either the Heineken experience or Van Gogh Museum online. As you can probably tell, museums in Amsterdam are so expensive. And the tickets only get more expensive if you buy on the day, and the lines a hell of a lot longer.
And I would definitely book tickets in advance for peak times. Booking a timeslot in advance is becoming more and more compulsory for Amsterdam museums. The Van Gogh Museum introduced a new rule in Spring 2018 that tickets could only be bought online in advance, and who knows how long that will last.
Dinner: For meat lovers, while in the De Pijp neighbourhood you should order a decadent burger at The Butcher for dinner. Or, head in the opposite direction (figuratively) to sink your teeth into the plant-based burgers at the Vegan Junk Food Bar.
After dinner activities…
- Tunes Bar – Sip a cocktail or two at Tunes Bar in De Pijp to round out your wonderful 3 days in Amsterdam weekend city break!
That’s my extensive, perfect 3 days in Amsterdam itinerary for first timers, first-time visitors that is. Would you add anything else to my weekend in Amsterdam guide? Let me know in the comments below!