3 Days in Amsterdam: The Essential Guide

I’m sure you’ll agree:3 days in Amsterdam

3 days in Amsterdam is definitely not enough to see all of this beautiful city.

Unfortunately, this was all the time I had as I was heading to Utrecht to visit friends and see the start of the Tour de France.

I would have loved more time to explore the surrounds of the city as well as the many delights hidden in the dense network of the inner city.

There is so much to see and take in, that three days would never be enough. 72 hours in Amsterdam is certainly not enough!

However, if like me, you’re visiting Amsterdam for a brief period, there are a number of things I would recommend doing in this short time.

How to spend 3 days in Amsterdam

Getting to Amsterdam

As an international hub, travelling to Amsterdam is relatively easy. Most international airlines fly into Schiphol Airport, you should be able to find a flight there without too much trouble.

The airport is fantastic and with the train station underneath it’s easy to travel to the city and anywhere in the Netherlands easily.

Amsterdam is also well connected via train. Getting to the centre of the city and to destinations in the Netherlands and Europe is straightforward.

Inter-railing is popular on the European mainland and getting to Centraal Station from anywhere in Europe is not too difficult.

 

Amsterdam at night

Best time to visit Amsterdam

The best time to visit the Netherlands is definitely during the summer. The country has a climate which is similar to that of the United Kingdom with wet and cold winters and summers that can be hot but also have a fair bit of rain.

I visited Amsterdam during the summer and the weather was excellent. It was over 30 degrees nearly every day and there was hardly any rain at all. Obviously, this doesn’t that will always be the case, but the odds of less rain are higher during the summer.

The winter can be cold in Amsterdam, but that shouldn’t put you off. The city is just as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer. Plus, there might be fewer tourists in Amsterdam during the winter months, so that’s a plus point!

If it came down to a choice, I would suggest going to Amsterdam from May to September during summer. However, this is primarily based on the weather. If you’re not overly fussed about a bit of rain, then the best time to visit Amsterdam is anytime!

Whatever time you choose to visit Amsterdam, make sure you purchase travel insurance beforehand. It pays to protect your valuables and yourself as unexpected events can always happen, such as your canal boat trip getting stuck under a canal!

Where to stay in Amsterdam

When considering where to stay in Amsterdam, it can be difficult to sift through the sheer number of hotels and hostels in the city. As one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, there is no shortage of accommodation available in the city.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay during your trip to Amsterdam, I have a few suggestions for you below!

The BulldogThis is one of the most famous hostels in Amsterdam! It's a bit pricey, but it is smack bang in the centre of the city!
St Christopher's at the WinstonIt's a bit of a party hostel, but most people go to Amsterdam anyway! Great location in the centre!
Flying Pig DowntownAnother hostel close to the centre. Comes with its own downstairs bar, what's not to love!
NH Carlton Amsterdam A nice hotel in the middle of Amsterdam. Great facilities and staff.
Zoku AmsterdamBeautiful serviced apartments in the centre of Amsterdam. a good choice if you prefer your own private space!
Jaz AmsterdamA beautiful hotel that has its own gym, spa and sauna. If you love to be pampered this is the place for you!

Check out the latest deals at Agoda and here at Booking for more offers!

Amsterdam canal

Some of the best things to do in Amsterdam

3 days in Amsterdam is not enough to appreciate the beauty of this great city. There are so many things to do in Amsterdam, that I think 5 days would enable you to see most of the city!

However, as this guide is focusing on what to do in Amsterdam, I’ll list a few great places to visit while you’re in the Dutch capital!

This is my suggested 3 day Amsterdam itinerary for you to mull over!

Anne Frank Museum

Anne Frank is famous around the world for the diary that she kept during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The house that she hid in is now a museum, detailing the ordeal that her family went through.

The museum is popular and there are long queues outside for virtually the whole day. It costs €9 to enter, my advice would be to head there early in the day or pre-book tickets to avoid queuing for too long!

Canal Tour

Amsterdam is famous for its canal network. Doing a Canal Tour is a great way to explore the city. You get to see the city from a different perspective and the tours are very informative. This was one of the best things that we did during our 3 day trip to Amsterdam!

Our tour was a bit unique as our guide took a wrong turn and got the boat stuck under a bridge! This definitely made the trip more memorable. Don’t worry, this is a rare occurrence, but a funny one nonetheless!

Cycle Amsterdam

Another thing that Amsterdam is famous for its bikes. That extends to the Netherlands in general as well, but in Amsterdam, it’s more obvious. Bikes are everywhere, there are even multi-storey buildings dedicated to housing them, such is their popularity.

As a cycling-friendly city, this is another great way to explore Amsterdam. It’s easy to rent a bike and then you can set off around the city and see what you want. You can cover a lot of ground this way, and it’s great exercise too!

Heineken Factory

Heineken is the most famous beer to come from the Netherlands. The factory is home to the Heineken Experience, where you can learn about the history of Heineken and how it’s made! It’s one of the most interesting places to visit in Amsterdam.

If you’re a beer lover, then this is definitely for you. The tour is really interesting and you get quite a few free beers during it as well! It’s a bit expensive at €18, so if you’re not into beer then I’d give it a miss!

 

Heineken horses

Red Light District

The Red Light District is one of the most famous areas of Amsterdam. It’s quite a surreal place as you see women wearing not very much waving at you as you walk by!

The district is also home to a number of great bars, and it’s a great spot to spend the night. It’s definitely the liveliest part of Amsterdam. There are numerous sex museums as well, which are cheap at €4 if you want to have your curiosity piqued!

You can learn more about the area by going on a 2-hour guided tour at night when the district is at its liveliest!

Day 1

Walking tour

Depending on what time you arrive in Amsterdam, a free walking tour is a great way to get acquainted with the city. A tour normally lasts about 2-3 hours, and you’ll learn about the history of the city, as well as finding your way around. If like me, you’re not overly keen on walking tours you can just walk around yourself and get lost!

Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is one of the best things to do in Amsterdam. The building itself is incredible and very grand, while it houses some great pieces of art as well! This will take a few hours of your time, but it’s well worth it. The museum is paradise for an art fanatic!

Red Light District

A good activity for night time in Amsterdam is to venture to the Red Light District and check out the numerous bars there. The nightlife in Amsterdam is lively, so you’re sure to find some interesting places. The only problem is that alcohol is quite expensive. So, you could end up having an expensive night, if you don’t budget!

 

3 days in Amsterdam

Day 2

Van Gogh Museum

If you’re an art lover then visiting the Van Gogh museum will be high on your list of things to do in Amsterdam. The museum contains most of the artist’s most famous works, and has a great biography of his life! One thing to note is that it costs €17 to enter.

If you’re not much of an art fan, then I recommend giving it a miss. The queues are long and you’ll end up wasting a few hours of your day!

Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank House is another popular point of interest in Amsterdam. As it’s hugely popular, the queues outside are long. If you don’t get there early in the morning, be prepared for a long wait to get inside.

You can book tickets two months in advance, which is a good idea to beat the queues. Entrance is €9, which is quite reasonable for a museum on a famous historical figure!

Heineken Experience

The Heineken experience is recommended if you are a lover of beer. One drawback is that it’s not a working brewery, but you will learn a lot about the history of the company You’ll also learn that the Dutch are quite picky about how they drink their beer!

It costs €18, but you can pick up discounts cards around the city that you get you a €1 or €3 discount. Included in the price is two drinks at the end of the tour, so it’s worth the price in my eyes!

Day 3

Cycle around Amsterdam

This being the Netherlands, there are bikes everywhere!  It’s no exaggeration to say that there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam, they are literally everywhere. This is one activity you should definitely do in your 3 days in Amsterdam.

You’ll see the city from a different perspective and it’s great exercise as well! Cycling is definitely one of the best things to do in Amsterdam! You can do a 3-hour guided tour that will take in all the sights and teach you about the history of the city.

Canal Tour

Another activity that I highly recommend is going on one of the canal tours. This is a great way to see the city and learn a lot about the architecture of the buildings and why they are built the way they are. Our trip involved the boat getting stuck under a bridge, so they can be eventful trips!

Vondelpark

This is the largest park in Amsterdam, and definitely, somewhere you should check out! It does get quite busy during the summer, but that shouldn’t put you off visiting! It’s a great area for relaxing and there are lots of areas for sports if you need some more exercise!

 

Statues in Amsterdam

Other places to visit in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a big city and there’s a lot of interesting things to do here! If you’re not keen on doing some of the things above, then check out some options below for your 3 days in Amsterdam!

  • Amsterdam Arena – The Amsterdam Arena is home to Ajax FC, one of the most famous football teams in the Netherlands and Europe! If you’re a big football fan visiting the stadium is a must!
  • Houseboat Museum – As the name implies, this is a museum dedicated to living on a houseboat!
  • Jewish Historical Museum – This museum goes into detail about the history of the Jewish people in Amsterdam. It also has interesting exhibits about how the Jews suffered during Nazi occupation.
  • Rembrandt House Museum – The Rembrandt Museum is the house that the artist lived in between 1639 and 1658. If you’re a fan of Rembrandt, this is definitely for you!
  • Tulip Museum – Yes there is a museum dedicated to tulips in Amsterdam! This is a lesser known attraction and a cheap one, as it only costs 5€ to enter!

Concluding thoughts

Perhaps one of the best things to do and this is probably the case in any city, is just to wander around and explore. In my experience, this is the best way to see a city and can lead to you discovering places that you didn’t realise were in Amsterdam.

Of course, there is more to do than what I have listed above, but this is based on spending 3 days in Amsterdam or a few days less or more. For more ideas on what to see and do visit the I Amsterdam website.

If you fancy travelling to a neighbouring country while in the Netherlands, then check out Passport Collective’s guide to Belgium!

Need travel insurance? Don’t visit Amsterdam without it! I use World Nomads to keep me protected while I travel, and recommend you do too!

Need more info? Get the Lonely Planet guide to Amsterdam here

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3 days in Amsterdam

 

Tom

Tom is a travel addict who first left England to spend a year Down Under. Not satisfied with this, he then went to New Zealand, about as far away from home as he could get. He is now planning his next adventures in Europe and Canada while maintaining this blog.

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33 Responses

  1. Voyager says:

    Amsterdam is a place that we want to get to, the sooner , the better. Your post is a good introduction to the place and will help us when we do plan that trip.

  2. Lara Dunning says:

    So great to know there are discount Heineken tickets to be had as I heard the beer tastes much better there, and I’d love the canal tour.

  3. Ugo says:

    If you have kids, I suggest paying a visit to the Nemo.

  4. Jennifer says:

    We really want to visit Amsterdam. Would love to take the Canal Tour and visit the museums! Saving this post for trip planning : )

  5. melbtravel says:

    I love Amsterdam and have been a lot. You had some great tips on places to visit which I didn’t know so thank you for that. I

  6. Anouk says:

    Great round up on what to do in Amsterdam! What was your favorite activity if you have to chose only 1?

    • Tom says:

      I really liked the canal tour! It’s a great way to see the city and it was quite fun as well, especially when the boat got stuck!

  7. Sam says:

    Wow great guide! Loved amsterdam.. would love to go back and fit more in this time! Was only there for 2 days! 🙁

  8. Tanvi says:

    It is on our list for next year! Thanks for sharing. Bookmarking it.

    ❥ tanvii.com

  9. christine says:

    Great and very thorough guide on Amsterdam! Love it! It is such a beautiful city with so much to offer.

  10. This is a great Amsterdam itinerary! I agree that three days aren’t enough but you have a pretty comprehensive schedule. So glad you included Vondelpark and the canal tours – those were my favorite things to do in the city!

    • Tom says:

      Yep, you definitely need more than 3 days. The canal tour was my favourite that we did! Mainly because the guide went the wrong way and got the boat stuck haha!

  11. I love Amsterdam my husband is from there. The canal tours are great.

  12. sophie says:

    I spent four days in Amsterdam, but for the 2 days I was high smoking pot, but for the next time , I would consider visiting these places!
    Thanks for the tips mate!
    Cheers 🙂

  13. priya says:

    Great list, saving it! Hoping that we make it to Amsterdam next year!

  14. I love Amsterdam! It’s so beautiful and people are super friendly!

  15. Anita says:

    I like your guide with additional options provided. Amsterdam is a great city to visit. Thanks for sharing!

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Anita! There’s so much to do in Amsterdam it’s hard to fit it all in. Especially if you only have three days!

  16. Ray says:

    This is a great 3 day itinerary! Question about the Craft Brewery scene in the Netherlands. Aside from the Heineken Experience, were there any other nearby craft breweries that you would have loved to visit, but ran out of time? Lately I have been incorporating craft breweries into my travel itineraries to get a better understanding of the local culture, as well as speak with the locals as these places tend to not get visited much by tourists (i.e. the employees have a bit more time to talk with you).

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Ray! I’ll be honest I don’t know an awful lot about the Craft Brewery scene in the Netherlands, as I don’t know a lot about it in general! I know that there’s a lot of craft beer bars around Amsterdam. The Iamsterdam website has a list of 10 of the best to visit in fact. It may be worth checking that out and going from there! The Heineken experience was ok, but I agree, I think visiting a craft brewery would be more rewarding. I’ll try and incorporate this into future trips I think!

  17. Lisa says:

    I’m thinking about going to Amsterdam this summer! Thanks to the tips, they were really inspiring! Now I’m pretty sure to go!

  18. Donna Meyer says:

    Nice round-up post about Amsterdam, my favorite city in Europe. Many many years ago, I lived for awhile in Amsterdam. The Heineken Brewery was still in operation then and I lived nearby. Every time I walked within a block or two of it, I could smell the hops, that yeasty-beery smell. I actually missed it when they moved.

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Donna! I love Amsterdam as well, was a great city to explore! Ah that would have been great, I love the smell of hops!

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