Amsterdam is a postcard perfect city. At every turn you’ll find tall elegant townhouses with large windows bordering beautiful canals. You’ll find flower boxes adorning canal railings with bicycles of varied colors tied to them. When you see these views there’s no mistaking that you’re in the easy-going, open minded and international capital of the Netherlands. It’s breath taking.
If you’re planning a short trip to Amsterdam, then you’ve come to the right place. There’s so much that you can do in Amsterdam that it’s very difficult to pack it all into a long weekend. However I think that I managed to cover the highlights.
Our Amsterdam Itinerary
Day 1: Do a free walking tour to get acquainted with the city and its history. Visit Anne Frank’s House followed by lunch at Vegabond. Visit the Rijkmuseum and Van Gogh museum in the afternoon and get a picture by the Amsterdam sign. In the evening do a boat tour and then have dinner in the city center, for example at Terrazan Centre.
Day 2: Rent some bicycles to explore more of the city. Head towards Vondel Park around lunch time and stop at Vegan Junk Food Bar for some food. In the evening head to the centre to get some Indonesian food and then go to Pathé Tuschinski cinema to watch a film.
Day 3: Take a day trip to see the Zaanse Schans Windmills, Marken and Volendam.
Where we stayed
As the boyfriend is living here at the moment we stayed in his apartment around Amsterdam Zuid, which is a main train station just eight minutes from the airport. I was a bit apprehensive about being out of the city, but it worked out really well. The public transport is frequent and reliable and you can always walk as it isn’t terribly far.
How we got around
The iAmsterdam card works well if you’re looking to pack in lots of museum visits (just note that the Rijkmuseum and Anne Frank’s House are not included), but otherwise you can use a disposable OV Carte which you can purchase from the machines at every station. You can use both the iAmsterdam Card and the OV Carte on metros and trams. I’d also recommend downloading the 9292 app which is a bit like CityMapper in the UK to help you map your routes.
If you’ve read any of my other blog posts then you’ll know that I really rate Sandeman’s for their free walking tours. They’re led by locals, are very informative and the tours tend to last about 2.5 hours. At the end you simply pay how much you think the tour was worth. Most people tend to give $10 a person but it is completely up to you. On this tour you’ll learn about the Dutch East India Company, the Red Light District, Anne Frank’s House, the Jewish Quarter, you’ll see the smallest house in Amsterdam and more.
After the tour I went to Anne Frank’s House.
Top tip: I highly advise that you buy your ticket online in advance to avoid a lot of hassle and time wasting standing in a queue. You simply choose an allotted time online and turn up at that time to be let in.
I found Anne Frank’s House informative and heart breaking but also empowering. Even if you find this period of history difficult to face I would still recommend visiting as it’s not graphic at all but does tell a story that drives the message home.
For lunch I popped to Vegabond. I then walked to the museum district with the intention of visiting the Rijkmuseum and Van Gogh museum. Now I have to admit that I only made it to the former. As I’m not a massive fan of museums I thought that I’d be able to whizz in and whizz out of the Rijkmuseum and see the main painting and then move on, but I got sucked in and before I knew it 2 hours had gone by. So if you are into your museums then you probably need a day to get through these two museums alone.
In the evening I did a boat tour. The 1 hour Amsterdam Lovers Cruise was free with the tour that I booked for day 3. It was good for a freebie and meant that you got to see the city at a different level. I wouldn’t say that this particular tour was worth the money if you actually had to pay for it though. I did notice a number of other companies that looked like they provided dinner tours, cheese tasting tours or private tours, so I would do a bit of research beforehand if this is something that you’re interested in.
For dinner I met the boyfriend and we headed to the Terrazen Centre which offers a mix of Caribbean and Japanese food. The food tasted fresh, homely and delicious. I’d recommend.
The thought here was why not try and join the mass of bicycles instead of nearly being hit by one every five minutes. There are so many companies that you can choose from and they usually let you rent bikes for a few hours or a day. The pricing is pretty reasonable too, you will just need a bit of extra cash for the security deposit.
Once you’ve got the hang of using the bicycle lanes and explored the city, head to Vondel Park for a bit of greenery and to relax with the masses. You’ll find a restaurant called Vegan Junk Food Bar alongside Vondel Park which I highly recommend. Just looking at the pictures on Instagram will have you drooling.
In the evening we headed to the city centre for some Indonesian food. In the 1800s Indonesia became a treasured colony of the Netherlands and consequently you’ll find a lot of Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam. We went to Tashi Deleg where we had a Rijsttafel which literally means “rice table.” You get a load of different dishes off a set menu that you can share. They were very acommodating and made all the dishes vegan for me.
Afterwards we headed to the cinema. Now you may be thinking “the cinema really!?” but I’m telling you that you have got to go to the Tuschinski cinema. It was commissioned by Abraham Icek Tuschinski in 1922 and the interior and exterior are a mix of styles including Art Nouveau and Art Deco. It is considered as one of the most beautiful cinemas in the world.
When you go make sure that you get tickets for shows in the Grot Zaal which is the main theatre. You can either choose seats in the stalls, which are good value for money at around €13, in the first ring, at the side, or in “love seats.”
Top tip: Buy tickets in advance for the Grot Zaal and try and get the “love seats.”
The love seats are a little more expensive at €22.50 each but I would highly recommend them. You get taken through a separate door where you are placed on a “couch” of sorts for two. You’re served a drink and some food of your choice, which is included in the price and you can snuggle up if the movie gets too scary. In our case that happened as we went to see the mummy in 3D. Such a good film but it made me jump many a time. I really enjoyed this experience and would recommend it to all of you if you have an evening spare in Amsterdam.
For our third day we had booked ourselves on a tour to see the Zaanse Schans Windmills, Marken and Volendam. We booked the half day tour via Viator and it cost just under £50 per person.
We chose to do a tour as it was an easy way to get around a lot of places in a short amount of time with minimal organisational effort on our part. It was a good tour which included going to a Clog Factory, a Dutch Cheese Farm (although I obviously didn’t do any of the tasting), seeing the inside of a Windmill and walking through the fishing villages of Marken and Volendam. It was enjoyable and informative, but I realise that this may not be to everyone’s taste.
Just like that, three days were over! Luckily my holiday wasn’t over just yet. I’d planned a few more days to visit the Hague, Rotterdam and Delft. I’ll write another blog post about them but I could quite easily have spent more time in Amsterdam. There’s an endless supply of museums, boutiques and restaurants to keep you occupied.
I hope that you have found this mini guide useful. If you do make a trip to Amsterdam then let me know what you discover. I have no doubt that this is a city that I will be retuning too.