What To Do In Amsterdam: 3 Day Itinerary

Having spent four months living and studying in Amsterdam back in 2014, I'm often asked the best way to spend a few days in the city. Below is exactly how I would spend three days showing someone around. It's a tried and tested route that everyone enjoys.

Note: Just so I'm not sending you to places that closed four years ago, this list was updated in 2018 to make sure recommended restaurants and nightlife are still around. Are they still poppin'? That is to be determined by you. 

Day 1: City Center

  • Start with a free walking tour
  • Check out Dam Square
    • The Royal Palace is here, along with other famous monuments
  • Shop the Negen Straatjes (9 Streets) 
  • Visit Waterlooplein Open Air Market & haggle for some souvenirs 
  • Visit the Red Light District at night
  • What to eat around the city center: 

Day 2: Museumplein 

  • Either rent bikes or walk here, depending on where you are starting 
  • Get a photo with the iAmAmsterdam sign
  • Visit the Van Gogh Museum even if you arent an art fan
  • Maybe visit the Stedelijk Museum if you like modern art
  • Maybe visit the Rijksmuseum if you like history and classical art
  • Party through the Heineken Experience and drink free beer at the end
  • Bike or walk through Vondelpark (it's huge!)
  • What to eat near Museumplein:
    • Albert Cuyp Market: Get ten poffrijes for 2 euro, a stroopwafel chocolate truffle, free cheese samples, and a fresh waffle from Wally! 

Day 3: Jordaan Area 

  • Note: I would try to get a hotel in this area!
  • Explore the Anne Frank Museum (reserve tickets way ahead of time)
  • Eat endless samples at the Cheese Museum
  • Look across from the Cheese Museum, that's my old dorm building
  • Take a peaceful canal boat tour
  • Shop and dine on the trendy Haarlemmerstraat 
  • What to eat in the Jordaan:

Nightlife: Leidseplein

  • Paradiso: Renovated Catholic church with a clubby atmosphere and fun dancing
  • Lux: Upscale cocktail lounge to start your night
  • Café de Gieter: Where locals hang out and start their night. Go for the good looking Dutch people. 
  • Bubbles: A pretty Americanized bar, but Dutch locals go here too.

Outside The City

  • Amsterdam Noord: Take the ferry across the IJ to visit the restaurants, markets, and EYE Film Institute - this is a must! 
  • Keukenhof: World-famous Tulip gardens (open March – May)
  • Marken & Volendam: Old-fashioned fishing villages worth a visit 
  • Westerpark: If you’re feeling adventurous and wanna do legal truffles, this is the spot to do them. Just try to stay away from the families. 
amsterdam_spuistraatArt

City Center

amsterdam_WallysWaffles

Albert Cuypmarkt

amsterdam_prinsengracht

Jordaan

amsterdam_treeSwing

Noord

For more resources on what to do in Amsterdam, check out my Amsterdam City Guide, featuring a complete list of my favorite bars, restaurants, and things to do! 

Amsterdam: City Guide

Bars & Clubs

IMG_2314.JPG

Trouw: My group's favorite club during our time abroad, housed in an old newspaper printing building (read: industrial, scene-y). Two levels with a sound proof room on each playing slightly different genres of EDM. Do not dress too nice, or they will turn you away at the door. Do not be loud or obnoxious in any way, or they will not let you in. Sneakers and t-shirts all the way. Very Amsterdam. 

2017 Edit: Unfortunately, Trouw closed its doors in January 2015. But if it ever re-opens, you know where to go

Paradiso: My favorite club in Amsterdam, housed in an abandoned church with stained glass windows still intact. A lot of great musicians come through this venue. 

Lux:  Cool, chill, upscale bar near Leidseplein to grab a drink with friends or impress guests in town. Definitely check it out at least once. 

Disco Dolly: Very local progressive house club. It was relatively new when I was there in 2014 and attracted a lot of Dutch disco tech enthusiasts. Really cool and packed on a Tuesday night.

Cafe de Gieter: This place was absolutely packed on a Wednesday night with university students. Very much a place to go out and meet someone. Some of the cheaper beers in Leidseplein. A good place to start your night.

Bubbels: The "American bar" of Amsterdam. All the locals go here and joke that it's the "place to pick up 16-year old girls," so it has just the right amount of sleaziness mixed with good music and students trying to mix and mingle. A good place to end your night, if you're into that sort of vibe.

Cafe het Schuim: More of a bar than a restaurant, but I went for both coffee and beers. It's right near a university building and has the coolest vibe inside, with vibrantly painted walls and gaudy chandeliers. A cool place to meet up with friends.

Door 74: Underground, speakeasy-type bar. So exclusive, you have to make reservations in order to even get in the door. Cool cocktail combos and a very fun experience. Very expensive.

Escape: The infamous "American dance club" on the very touristy Rembrantplein. Do not waste your time here or anywhere on Rembrantplein. It's a lame venue and the bouncer in 2014 was very rude to me. On ladies night!

Restaurants

IMG_2275.JPG

Pancake Bakery: Obviously incredible pancakes and poffrijes, if not a little overhyped and overpriced. The pancakes are wider than your face, and there's a huge vat of molassesy syrup that you can drizzle and/or scoop onto your doughy delight of choice, which is fun and interactive.

Pancakes Upstairs!: Another place, another pancake, but the ambiance here is more traditional Dutch and therefore a little more authentic of an experience. Go at an odd hour during the week, or you'll wait forever to be seated.

Winkel: Decently priced authentic Dutch food, plus world's yummiest slice of apple pie. Not the friendliest of staffs, but that's just kind of Europe.

De Bolhoed: Insanely delicious vegetarian place on the Prinsengracht. Get their vegan meal of the day. They get bonus points for having a cafe kitty.

Kookoellektief: Another awesome, vegan-friendly place! Their menu is limited, but continually changing and so healthy-yummy.

Singel 404: The best sandwiches you will have in your life. In the words of the great Cait Dowling, "#44 changed my life." Truer words have never been spoken.

Broodje Bert: Super delicious sandwich shop for basically no money. Even their side salad is good.

Vinnie's Deli: World's cutest lunch spot. Think light, bright, with all vintage furniture. Delish open-face sandwiches, excellent vegetarian options and a really friendly staff. A little on the spendier side if I remember correctly.

G's Really Nice Place: Easily world's coolest brunch spot - Drake & The Weeknd playing, menu formatted in sexual innuendoes, trendy/urban decor, and food that is to die for delicious. Probably my favorite food spot in all of Amsterdam.

De Lastse Kruimel: The cutest sandwich/pastry shop in Amsterdam, right around the corner from UvA's Oudemanhuispoort (OMHP). Perfect place to pick up a slice of quiche or apple pie in between classes.

Kapitein Zeppos: Charming little gem tucked away in an alley very near OMHP.

Baut: Located right next to Trouw, this bar/restaurant has an equally cool vibe inside and serves really yummy open-face sandwiches for lunch.

Sampurna: Excellent Indonesian food, which Amsterdam is known for. Also decently priced, especially if you split a meal.

Cafe Bern: If you're craving yummy Dutch-French fusion fondue, this is your spot! Go on off-peak days/hours, because it's really popular.

Attractions

IMG_2289.JPG

Noordermarkt: An organic market off the Prinsengracht, open Saturdays and Mondays. Saturday is more of a food market and Monday is a linens market, but there's a lot of cool trinkets to pick through, as well. Prices are a little higher, due to the organic nature.

Albert Cuyp Market: Another open air market near Museumplein. Get 10 poffrijes for 2 euro, a stroopwafel chocolate truffel (or chocolate penis, whatever), free cheese samples, and a fresh waffle from Wally. Go hungry.

Van Gogh Museum: Speaks for itself. Some would advise you to take mushrooms before you go.

Heineken Experience: This is a MUST! You get at least three full glasses of beer throughout and end the tour in a bar with an awesome live performer. Overall, one of the more fun museum experiences I've ever had. 

The Cheese Museum: There are plenty of shops where you can sample cheese, but this one takes the cake. Not only can you try at least 20 varieties of cheese, the bottom floor is a fun, albeit tiny, museum dedicated to the cheese-making process and industry.