Amsterdam is one of the most charming cities in the world – the ideal destination for a city break. It’s hardly surprising that the city is a go-to European city break spot for visitors from the UK, and many parts of the world.
So, what to do in Amsterdam in 3 days? In short plenty, from its great nightlife, rich culture, and the picturesque web of canals. In this 3 days in Amsterdam itinerary, I’ll show you why Amsterdam is a marvel that has something for every visitor – young and old and is a great city break option.
With many guilty pleasures awaiting visitors on a long weekend visit to Europe’s ‘sin city’. From its liberal atmosphere to the cuisines, cafes, markets, and speciality shops, first-time visitors will definitely think they’ve somehow reached heaven (in more ways than one) and returning visitors like myself will discover new unique parts of the city.
This travel guide will show you why city breaks to Amsterdam are so popular.
How do you get your Amsterdam city break started? Read on.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Get to Amsterdam
- 2 Transport in Amsterdam/Getting Around Amsterdam
- 3 Where to Stay in Amsterdam
- 4 Best Places to Stay in Amsterdam for First-time Visitors
- 5 Westerpark
- 6 Best Place to Stay in Amsterdam on a Budget
- 7 Best Place to Stay in Amsterdam for Nightlife
- 8 Best Place to Stay in Amsterdam for Relaxation
- 9 Best Place to Stay in Amsterdam for Families
- 10 3 Days in Amsterdam: Amsterdam City Break Complete Travel Guide
- 11 Best Things to Do in Amsterdam
- 12 1 Day in Amsterdam
- 13 2 Days in Amsterdam
- 14 3 Days in Amsterdam
How to Get to Amsterdam
As an international tourism hub, getting to Amsterdam is easy. Since most of the international airlines connect to Schiphol Airport, finding a flight, there should be relatively easy.
The Schiphol Airport is an impressive structure, and with a train station underneath, visitors can travel into the city and anywhere in the Netherlands.
Transport in Amsterdam/Getting Around Amsterdam
The public transportation system is a great way to get around the city, and this comprises of the bus, metro, tram, and ferries. This is managed by GVB, the city-owned public transportation operator. Amsterdam is a very walkable city as most of the main things to see in Amsterdam are within walking distance of each other.
Amsterdam’s tram system is one of the largest in Europe and runs daily from 06:00 to 03:30. The Amsterdam city card (popularly known as ‘I Amsterdam’ card) gives its holder unlimited use of the GVB transport system, including the use of buses, metro, and the trams, and discounts/free access to many city attractions.
On my visits to Amsterdam, I found that buying a pass on the tram covering the number of days I was visiting was enough to get around and see everything.
You can get your ticket from the conductors as you board the tram and you can just say how many days you want on your ticket. Just always remember to tap in and out as you leave the tram.
You can also use one of my favourite travel apps Citymapper in Amsterdam. I use it every day in London and live and die by this app.
The GVB manages 55 bus lines in the city, running from 06:00 till 00:30 daily. You can access the main bus station in Amsterdam when you walk out of the Central Station towards the city centre. Bus timetables are strategically displayed at every bus station to make trips more accessible for users.
As a relatively small city, there are only four metro lines in Amsterdam. While the metro is typically a more convenient and fast way of travelling, it is more useful for those in Amsterdam who want to travel to peripheral districts rather than around the neighbourhood or city centre. There is a total of 52 metro stops, and the metro lines run from 06:00 till 12:30.
The ferry, also managed by GVB, transports travellers from the Lake IJ to various locations such as the IJplein (the square close to IJ). The lake IJ separates central Amsterdam from Amsterdam-north, and you’ll find the ferries just behind the Central Station. Good news is you wouldn’t have to worry about getting seasick since the trip only lasts five minutes.
You can get an Uber in and around Amsterdam but just be aware if you are going partying around Dam Square in the evenings/early morning, getting an Uber can take up to 45 minutes, and rates per ride are £45 to £50. Equal to want you would pay for an Uber at peak times in London.
Where to Stay in Amsterdam
While you could quickly settle for an apartment, a local guesthouse, hostel, or fancy hotel in Amsterdam, picking the best place to stay in Amsterdam can spell the difference between a successful weekend getaway and one to forget. Though relatively small, each neighbourhood in the city is different. Here are some of the best hotels in Amsterdam.
Best Places to Stay in Amsterdam for First-time Visitors
The Westerpark neighbourhood is close enough to Amsterdam’s city centre, yet far enough to allow for a more relaxed stay in the sin city. It is a perfect neighbourhood for first-timers because of its convenient location, with easy access to the city’s attraction, hotspots, restaurants, shops, and even the city’s nightlife without being put off by the offerings of the red light district.
Best Hotel in Westerpark: WestCord Art Hotel
The WestCord Hotel, an amazing three-star hotel, just a 15-minute walk from the city centre, and sits next to the green Westerpark. The contemporary rooms are all en-suite with the usual hotel amenities. The hotel also has a swimming pool and a bar plus sunbathing areas on the terrace. This is great if you are visiting Amsterdam in the warmer months.
Read Reviews: TripAdvisor
Best Place to Stay in Amsterdam on a Budget
Oud Zuid (South)
Oud Zuid is a major tourist area, yet it is the cheapest neighbourhood in Amsterdam. Made up of several neighbourhoods, you would find markets, parts, and even world-class museums in the area.
Best Hotel in Oud Zuid: Hotel Verdi
Hotel Verdi is a budget accommodation option that has rooms for two and four persons. Some rooms have en-suite while other have shared bathrooms. Some rooms have breakfast included in the price, Wi-Fi available, and there is also a garden for anyone to relax after a day’s adventure.
Read Reviews: TripAdvisor
De 9 Straatjes (The 9 Streets)
Best Hotel in 9 Streets: Hotel Hegra
If you are interrailing with friends and trying to save on accommodations, then this type of accommodation is great for a group of travelling friends. This is the hotel I stayed in on my first visit to Amsterdam and it was good enough for a new graduate with no money. The room I shared was with 3 other friends and included breakfast.
The rooms are small basic and clean and the staff there is friendly. Most importantly the hotel is centrally located, right next to the canals, 5 minutes walk from Dam Square. You will be within walking distance on most of Amsterdams main attractions even the red light district. This is a budget hotel right in the centre of Amsterdam.
Read reviews: TripAdvisor
Best Place to Stay in Amsterdam for Nightlife
Leidseplein is Amsterdam’s most popular nightlife spot, and this is hardly surprising since it is in the city centre. However, De Pijp, in South Amsterdam, is also a trendy area of the city with a nightlife that can rival that of any part of the Amsterdam.
Also known for its youthful and bohemian vibes, De Pijp has lots to offer for those looking to stay away from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam city centre.
Best Hotel in De Pijp: The Arcade Hotel Amsterdam
The Arcade Hotel brings the fun to you with its lively bar. It also features single to quad rooms, with each room having features such as TV, Wi-Fi, and a private bathroom.
Read Reviews: TripAdvisor
Best Place to Stay in Amsterdam for Relaxation
Sitting close to the heart of Amsterdam, Jordaan is a cool, quaint, and an authentic place with lots of stuff on offer. It has a traditional village-like setting, fabulous restaurants, local music scene, and vintage stores contributing to the appeal of the neighbourhood.
Jordaan is a more expensive part of Amsterdam where you’ll find all the Instagram worthy photo spots in the city.
Best Hotel in Jordaan: Hotel II Fiore
Hotel II Fiore has en-suite rooms with amazing features such as free Wi-Fi, TV, complimentary toiletries, tea and coffee machines, a hairdryer, and a separating seating area. There is also an on-site Italian restaurant and visitors can rent bicycles for their journey into the city.
Read Reviews: TripAdvisor
Best Place to Stay in Amsterdam for Families
As a predominantly residential part of the town, De Plantage is an ideal place for families. Usually calm and quiet, De Plantage has lots of family-friendly attractions and some important historical attractions. It is also a 20-minute walk from the city centre, but you can use the metro for easy travels to and from the heart of Amsterdam.
Best Hotel in De Plantage: Wittenberg
Comfortable, contemporary, clean, and airy – Wittenberg is home to various studios and apartments available for rent. With 24 hours reception, visitors can also enjoy other features such as free Wi-Fi, bike hire facilities, and luggage storage.
These are some of the best Amsterdam hotels and areas to stay while on your short breaks to Amsterdam.
Read Reviews: TripAdvisor
3 Days in Amsterdam: Amsterdam City Break Complete Travel Guide
Three days in Amsterdam is barely enough time to appreciate the charm and appeal of this beautiful city. However, this guide is designed to help you make the most of your time in the Dutch capital. Here are a few of the top things to do in Amsterdam.
Best Things to Do in Amsterdam
1 Day in Amsterdam
Museum Quarter Amsterdam
Widely considered the cultural hub of Amsterdam, the Museum Quarter is the city’s pinnacle of sophistication and home to three museums – the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, and the Rijksmuseum. These are also three of the best museums in Amsterdam.
The area promises fun because of the kaleidoscope of attractions and activities.
Learn about Dutch history at Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum, following years of renovation, is now a beautifully designed museum. The museum houses over a million-art work, craftworks, and historical objects, including a robust collection of classic Dutch painters such as those of Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, and Frans Hals. This museum is also great if you want to learn more about Dutch history.
I Love Amsterdam Sign
There is hardly anything more iconic than the iAmsterdam sign in the city. Just in front of the Rijksmuseum, at the Museumplein, you can enjoy the views of the sign from your ideal perspective.
They have removed the sign from this area, but you can still find various iAmsterdam around the city.
Learn to paint like Van Gogh Museum
Seated right behind or in front of the Rijksmuseum and where the iAmsterdam sign use to be (depending on which direction you are coming from) is the Van Gogh Museum.
The Van Gogh Museum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Amsterdam. The museum is home to many of Van Gogh’s best artworks and a biography of his life uniquely laid out in chronological order, from his earliest works to the last.
Although the Van Gogh Museum is not the biggest one you’d find, the artworks inside include those of famous artists like Manet, Monet, and Matisse, make it one of those absolute must-visit Amsterdam attractions.
If you have already visited the Rijksmuseum and iAmsterdam sign, then the Van Gogh Museum is another excellent place to see in Amsterdam. Get your tickets here for the Van Gogh Museum.
Take a Canal Cruise
Amsterdam is surrounded by water. In fact, its canals were built from the taming of the Amstel River. The canals are an engineering marvel, and there’s really nothing like having a feel of the city from a boat. To get a real understanding of the canal system, I recommend taking one of the many canal cruise tours that operate in the city.
You can get these canal cruise boats at various spots in the city. However my recommendation is to catch the canal cruise from outside the Central Station. This way you get to see the city start to finish.
If you are with a partner and want to take the romantic level up a notch, then a night canal cruise with 4 course dining experience should do the trick. This way you see the canals covered in fairy lights and have a romantic dinner that your partner will not forget!
You can try something different and try this evening pizza cruise in Amsterdam.
The Anne Frank House
If this is your first time to Amsterdam, then a visit to the Anne Frank House is one of the top things to do in Amsterdam. Visit this house should be a must on your list of things to do.
I visited the Anne Frank House on my first visit to Amsterdam, and it made me sad and in awe of how resilient human being can be. It really drives home what people were going through at this time, and it’s a lesson in history you will never forget.
If you have read Anne Frank’s diary, then you’ll want to see the house where she wrote her personal account of the Second World War while in hiding.
I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps last years in Krakow, Poland and this gave me an even greater insight into what conditions people were living in during this period in history.
You can only buy tickets to the Anne Frank House online, and you need to be on time for your time slot. Tickets are released two months in advance.
If you are spending more than 3 day in Amsterdam, then why not check out other cities in The Netherlands like Rotterdam. I’ve written this post on some of the best things you can do in Rotterdam.
Browse the flowers at the Amsterdam Flower Market
Since you’ll have limited time after your visit to the Anne Frank House, you can head to the Amsterdam Flower Market (The Bloemenmarkt) for a few Dutch souvenirs.
Ensure you ask the vendor check if you‘re allowed to take a particular flower variety back home as some flowers are not allowed outside of the EU.
Visit the Red Light District
Again, if this is your first visit to Amsterdam then a wander in the red light district and trying some ash cake is a must. Why visit Amsterdam without part-taking in the top two Amsterdam tourist attractions, (whether you’re a boy or girl).
Take in a peep show and visit a café – I did, just be respectful of the ladies in the windows and don’t take photos on them.
If you are looking for a good night out, then the red light district has everything you could ever want.
2 Days in Amsterdam
Rent a bike and explore Amsterdam
As day one was jammed packed with some of to the top things to do in Amsterdam, we will be taking it easy on day 2 of our Amsterdam city break. If you are museumed (yes that is a word) out and looking for other magnificent places to see in Amsterdam. Then read on.
Another top thing to do in Amsterdam is to hire a bike and explore the city. You’ll feel like a local as you whiz along the canals, just remember to ring your bell for people walking in the streets to avoid accidents. I love that only in Amsterdam bike outnumber cars and people. It’s one of the top activities you should do on Amsterdam weekend breaks.
You can even do actual bike tours in Amsterdam with a local– This is great for getting around and is one of the best things to do in Amsterdam.
Visit Dam Square
A medieval centre and the most visited attraction in Amsterdam. Dam Square is known for its network of canals, traditional architecture, coffee shops, and shopping centres.
It is considered the ultimate centre as it is a historical hub and major area of attraction.
Royal Palace Amsterdam
At the Dam Square in the heart of Amsterdam is the Amsterdam Royal Palace. The palace built initially as a city hall for Amsterdam’s magistrates, and today, it is one of the three palaces which was placed at the King’s disposal by an Act of Parliament.
It is now a site for Royal Events such as the reception of foreign heads of state upon their visit to The Netherlands. Aside from the days of Royal Events, visitors are allowed access into Europe’s largest secular building of the 17th century.
Hidden in the heart of Amsterdam, Begijnhof Garden is a peaceful place with historic buildings.
Originally built as a residential community for lay women of the Catholic Church, the garden has been around since the 14th century.
While private residents still surround the garden, visitors are welcome to the notable structures such as the English church and a recently restored a wooden house that dates back to the 16th century. This place is great to get your Instagram photo session on.
3 Days in Amsterdam
Vondelpark, the largest and most popular park in Amsterdam is an excellent place for relaxation, biking, walking, or even people-watching. It is definitely a nice place to rest after a heavy night out in Amsterdam.
It has a playground where you can play sports, and during the summer, it is normal to find locals hanging out for drinks at the park’s café‘ Blauwe Theehuis.
Located in the western part of Amsterdam, Foodhallen (food hall) is an indoor food market where different vendor serves a variety of delicious foods. A place to try out some weird and experimental cuisine like a hot dog covered in cheese and popcorn!! Let’s just say it’s not something I’ll be trying again.
One of Amsterdam’s most famous squares, Rembrandt Square has a lot to offer visitors. One of the most popular features is the presence of fashionable clubs like Club Rain and Escape which attracts a host of impeccably dressed individuals. There are also bars, restaurants, cafes, and international food chains to keep you busy as you stroll through this popular leisure spot.
Visit the Famous Albert Cuyp Market
Your time in Europe’s attraction capital will not be complete without visiting the famous Albert Cuyp Market. It is the city’s largest street market with a lot of history.
The Cuyp Market has been in place since 1905 and is still a popular spot, even a century later. From fish and spices to makeup and cameras, you can get anything you desire at low prices.
Amsterdam City Center
The famous heart of Amsterdam is unsurprisingly the most visited place in the city. Though the place is not enormous, there are lots of attractions on offer here, including a chance to explore the canals on foot.
See the Gingerbread Houses
Head out of the city centre to the boats on the Damrak where you’ll find the famous Instagram gingerbread houses. Opposite a wide bike path and several bridges over the canals, the Gingerbread houses are a popular tourist site where you have an opportunity not only to enjoy fantastic views but take excellent Instagram photos.
You can also catch canal tour boats from in front of the gingerbread houses.
Say Hello to the 9 Streets Area
The Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets), an area on the corner of Lekkeresluis and Papiersmolenluis is a beautiful scene. Whenever you visit – whether it’s during the day or at sunset, the view is always exceptional. You can sit on any of the benches, relax, absorb all of its glory, and take pictures too.
Amsterdam is a city meant to be explored on foot slowly, this is how you’ll find the little undiscovered hidden café or charming street with unique shops. I hope this 3 Days in Amsterdam guide helps you fall in love with Amsterdam.
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