Choices, choices, choices
So you’re thinking of visiting Amsterdam? Excellent choice. Amsterdam is a pretty little gem nestled right in the heart of Europe. Due to its close proximity to other parts of Europe, it’s become immensely popular as a layover destination or any excuse to spend a weekend in Amsterdam. But location’s not everything. Amsterdam has so much to see and do, a wealth of history, fantastic attractions, world-class bars and restaurants and a free spirit to boot. Who wouldn’t want to come to this amazing city? So how many days should you spend in Amsterdam? Honestly, it depends on what you’d like to do. We believe the perfect period to spend in our fair city is 3 to 4 days.
Amsterdam on your mind
“What’s special about Amsterdam is that the city is able to connect worlds that are not otherwise connected.”
– Marcel Wanders, Dutch Designer
Amsterdam is known for its beautiful canals, the Red Light District and its open arms to just about everyone. But to us, the people who live here, it means so much more. It’s culturally rich and wildly diverse. With over 70 museums and endless sources of fun and entertainment, just scratch the surface of this fantastic city we call home.
The goldilocks option
The extended break of 3-4 days is what we call the “Goldilocks option”: Not too long, not too short. Just enough time to experience the best of Amsterdam without breaking a sweat.
In this Amsterdam travel blog, we take you by the hand and cover 3.5 days — whether it’s a long weekend in Amsterdam or midweek in Amsterdam.
Day 1 - Know the essentials
On Day 1, it’s always good to get used to the city’s vibes and experience the essentials. Of course, there’s nothing more synonymous with Amsterdam than riding a bicycle. It’s a must-do if you want to experience Amsterdam like a local. Black Bikes Amsterdam offers handcrafted Dutch bicycles for rent. With more than 15 locations in Amsterdam, they’re the originators of the “hop-on and drop-off” concept. Use promo code “Who is Amsterdam” to get 10% off your bike rental (excl. accessories and insurance) when you rent in person.
Float and feast
What better way to experience Amsterdam than on the water? Those Dam Boat Guys offer small-group, personal and unscripted boat experiences — BYOB and you can smoke whatever you wish (wink wink).
Hungry for local grub? After a satisfying boat ride, hop on your bike and hit Amsterdam’s bustling Latin Quarter — De Pijp — home to the Albert Cuyp Market. This neighbourhood has a dizzying array of some of Amsterdam’s best street food. So save your appetite for the good stuff and enjoy the stories behind them and exclusive deals and discounts with our Amsterdam self-guided food tour. From the nation’s favourite croquette to the * chef’s kiss* stroopwafel, enjoy Amsterdam’s best Dutch and ethnic “eat-ssentials” at beloved local mom-and-pop shops and market stalls. Not-to-be-missed for curious foodies!
Cycle through culture
After all that food, it’s time to burn some calories and cycle through some culture — literally! The Rijksmuseum is not only home to magnificent works like Rembrandt’s “Night Watch”, it’s also the only museum in the world with a tunnel you can cycle through. After that, hit up a museum of your choice. Our favourite is the Van Gogh Museum which houses the world’s biggest Van Gogh art collection. If street art is more up your alley, don’t miss out on Moco Museum which features the likes of Banksy and many more.
When night hits, it’s time to check out Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District. More than just a district of vice, it’s Amsterdam’s oldest neighbourhood with plenty to offer. Take a step back in time and enjoy a tipple at one of its many historical bars like In ‘t Aepjen — a monkey-themed brown bar housed in a 15th century wooden building. Love craft brews? Proeflokaal De Prael is a social microbrewery with heart and excellent craft beers and typical Dutch snacks. Of course, if you’d like to catch an adult show, Casa Rosso is oldest erotic theater in Amsterdam.
Day 2 - Explore beyond the canal belt
There’s so much more to Amsterdam than just the canal belt and city centre. So for Day 2, we recommend you get out and explore other parts of Amsterdam. You’ll be surprised by how different each neighbourhood feels and how close everything is.
Wild wild west
Take Amsterdam West as an example. Home to the bustling De Hallen (the Halls) — a former tram depot turned cultural space which now house a cinema, boutique shops, art spaces and Amsterdam’s first food hall. From fresh Vietnamese spring rolls to wood fired pizza, the bustling Foodhallen features around 20 exciting high-concept food stands, a well-stocked bar and a buzzing atmosphere. In need of nature? Our favourite park, Westerpark, doesn’t disappoint. It’s got wonderful spots to chill on sunny days. When the rain hits, hide out and enjoy award-winning local brews at a local favourite, Brouwerij Troost Westergas. Prefer seafood and cocktails? The funky Mossel and Gin is your cure.
North, or Noord as the Amsterdammers know it, is a requirement on any trip to Amsterdam. In direct contrast to the city, Noord is surrounded by nature but it also has an industrial vibe due to its vast history and current reincarnation as one of Amsterdam’s cultural favourites. A short ferry ride from central opens up a completely new world.
Noord is like a village across the Ij. Home to the infamous Skate Café and Pllek, Noord has something to cater for just about everyone! On the way back, check out This is Holland — an interactive 5D flight silmulation over the quintessential sights of the Netherlands. Definitely a fun ride for the family.
If you’re not so confident about navigating your way, we recommend taking a bike tour that takes you to hidden pockets of Amsterdam’s residential neighbourhoods like Westerpark and North and shares the stories behind them.
Day 3 - Discover the countryside
On day 3, we recommend getting out of Amsterdam for a change. Neighbouring cities like Haarlem or Utrecht are easy to reach by train and worth a visit. But if you’d prefer to escape urban living and steep yourself in the full Dutch experience, why not explore the beautiful Dutch countryside? You could, of course, hop on a train and visit the Zaanse Schans and be blown away by windmills by yourself. But having an experienced local guide brings you more insight and peace of mind in navigating the picturesque villagers, windmills and technicoloured tulip fields.
Leander is the founder of Amsterdam Countryside Tours, a firefighter and triathlon athlete in his spare time. He offers personal and exclusive small-group countryside tours all year-round, as well as a seasonal tulip tour from March to May. With him, you’ll meet the people behind the flowers, cheese, clogs and windmills, and enter spaces you can’t on your own. The maximum group size is 6, so it’s as intimate and exclusive as it gets. Book your tickets early to avoid disappointment.
Amsterdam after dark
All in all, it should take approximately half a day to see the countryside properly. Afterwards, you can come back to Amsterdam, recharge the batteries and explore Amsterdam after dark. If you’d like to hit the clubs, Chin Chin Club and Club NYX are two of our favourite spots to hit.
If a solid night cap is all you can muster after a day of exploration, you’re in luck. Amsterdam has an incredible range of drinking establishments for every palate and style. If you’re a craft beer enthusiast, hit up Café Gollem, Amsterdam’s first craft beer bar that specializes in Belgian and local brews, topped off with an irresistible grungy atmosphere. Love a good cocktail? Tales and Spirits is our go-to. For a quintessential local experience, go to a “brown cafe” to enjoy some Dutch gezelligheid (coziness). Cafe in De Wildeman combines that with a killer list of craft beers.
Day 4 -Time to say goodbye
For your last day, bring on the lazy Sunday vibes. We recommend getting out early and enjoying a coffee and pastry at one of Amsterdam’s many quaint little café terraces. De Koffieschenkerij is one of our favourites and a real hidden gem — tucked away in the garden of the Old Church in the Red Light District, this unassuming cafe serves up delicious java and homemade pastries in the oldest building of Amsterdam.
Alternatively, The Pancake Bakery near the Anne Frank House has been a staple for pancake lovers since 1973. They have some of the best pancakes in Amsterdam. With a wide variety of toppings and the classic crêpe-like Dutch pancake as a base, you’ll be spoilt for choice with their mind-boggling menu.
A walk to remember
Taking a walk in the city and simply enjoying the atmosphere is a wonderful way to spend your last afternoon in Amsterdam. From here, we recommend taking a walk by Rembrandt House, towards Waterlooplein market and the National Ballet and Opera hall. Sitting on the Amstel river, it offers some fantastic views and some beautiful final photo opportunities in the process. Go check out some of the cool cafés or the 9 Streets (Negen Straatjes) shopping district if you haven’t done so already.
And that’s a wrap
Although the weekend city trip of 2-3 days and the “The Warts ‘n’ All” 5-10 days are both possible, 3-4 days is enough without exhausting yourself and your options. Amsterdam is so unique, ever-growing and evolving. It’s the kind of place that can be experienced in any number of days — even short trips to Amsterdam can be a refresher.
We trust that this helps you to decide how long to stay in Amsterdam. Can’t decide what to pack for Amsterdam? We‘ve got you covered.
Coming to Amsterdam and looking for the best of our city? Check out the best Amsterdam experiences to make the best of your stay — whether it’s on water, wheels or foot.