Amsterdam is the perfect European city to visit if you only have a few days. After you visit the main museums, you get to stroll the canals and parks, take your pick from trendy restaurants, and simply enjoy this European experience. With two days in Amsterdam, you have enough time to see the must-see sites and still have plenty of time to wander the canals and charming city streets.
About Our Amsterdam Experiences
We have been to Amsterdam twice, in 2008 and 2018. Our first visit to Amsterdam was perfect. It was late April, the skies were sunny, the tulips were blooming, and strolling along the canals was magical. In fact, this was the first city we ever visited in Europe, so it has a special place in our hearts.
Amsterdam was even better the second time around. This time, it was early April, it was more crowded, a little chillier, and the bulbs were still shut from the unusually long and cold winter, but we loved every minute we spent in Amsterdam. On our second visit, we skipped the museums and spent most of our time wandering the canals, trying new restaurants, and just enjoying Amsterdam.
On this Amsterdam itinerary, I combined the best of our experiences so you can have the perfect two days in Amsterdam.
We hope you fall in love with Amsterdam like we did!
2 Day Amsterdam Itinerary
We start in museum square, with the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. These are Amsterdam’s most popular museums, so expect them to get crowded, especially midday. By starting here first, you get to enjoy at least one of the museums without huge crowds.
9 am: Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum is enormous. On display are 8,000 objects of art and history, most of it Dutch, with masterpieces by Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Frans Hals. Most people spend 2 to 3 hours in the museum.
Should you purchase the I Amsterdam Card or Museumcard? At the end of this post we give you our recommendations.
Cost: Adults €17.50, 17 and under are free; included with the Museumcard and I Amsterdam Card
Hours: Daily 9 am to 5 pm; last admission at 4:30
Purchasing tickets: Purchase your e-ticket online in advance to skip the ticket line
11:30 am: I Amsterdam Sign and Lunch
Step back outside. By now, the museum quarter is probably crowded with people, especially if you are here during the spring and summer months.
The “I Amsterdam” sign is a very popular photography and Instagram spot. Midday, it will probably look like this:
11:45 Break for Lunch
A quick lunch is the perfect pick-me-up before visiting the Van Gogh Museum. There are several food stands on museum square. Kiosk Rembrandt Van Gogh gets the best reviews. You can also have lunch inside the Van Gogh Museum at the Museum Café.
1:00 pm: Van Gogh Museum
Step inside this modern building to view works of art by Vincent Van Gogh. In 2017, this was the most visited museum in the Netherlands.
During the spring months, you can only purchase your tickets online. Do this in advance of your trip because they can sell out days in advance. You will pick a time slot and can enter the museum within a half hour of your reserved time. This eliminates waiting in line to enter the Van Gogh Museum.
The average visit to the museum lasts about an hour.
Cost: Adults €18, under 18 are free
Hours: 9 am to 7 pm; Fridays open until 9 pm; Saturdays open until 6 pm
Time Slot Reservations: visit the Van Gogh Museum official website to book your time slot in advance
2:30 pm Vondelpark
Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s green space. This is where the local people relax and sunbath on warm days and where families go outside to play. It’s a pretty spot to visit, especially after spending most of the day inside of art museums.
Once you are finished at Vondelpark, walk or take Tram 1 to Bloemenmarkt.
3:30 pm Bloemenmarkt
The Bloemenmarkt is the only floating flower market in the world. About 15 florist shops sell blooming flowers, bulbs, and souvenirs. It is a bit of a tourist trap, but it’s worth a quick visit if you are looking for gifts to bring home or just want to see flowers in bloom.
By the way, all of the flowers in this photo are fake, wood Tulips
4 pm: The Nine Little Streets (De 9 Straatjes)
Spend the afternoon and evening exploring the Nine Little Streets of Amsterdam. The nine streets are really three streets that cross two canals, Keizersgracht and Herengracht. Go shopping, stop in a café for a drink, and explore.
5 pm: Optional Canal Cruise
A canal cruise is another popular thing to do in Amsterdam. However, I recommend skipping the larger boats with the big tour companies. These giant boats are enclosed in glass and the people packed on board never look like they are having much fun.
Instead, pick a smaller, open boat. You’ll be with less people and have a more intimate experience. Some of these companies even serve wine while you cruise through the city. We recommend Those Dam Boat Guys since they get rave reviews on Trip Advisor.
7 pm: Dinner
There are a lot of great restaurants in Amsterdam. If you need recommendations, here are 3 spots to try:
Vinkeles. A high-class restaurant that serves modern French cuisine. Located in the Dylan Hotel on Keizersgracht in the Nine Little Streets. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Foodhallen. This giant food hall is filled with small restaurants that serve food from around the world. This is the perfect place to try new foods and not spend a fortune on dinner. Located 10 minutes away from the Nine Little Streets.
Café de Reiger. Located in Jordaan, this restaurant and bar is popular with locals and tourists.
End the day with drinks at bar or strolling the canals at night. One of the best bars in the area is Proeflokaal Arendsnest.
Anne Frank House, Jordaan, Dam Square
9 am: Breakfast at the Pancake Bakery
For an over-the-top breakfast experience, visit the Pancake Bakery. This popular breakfast spot serves giant pancakes topped with almost anything you can imagine. If you have a sweet tooth, you can get pancakes topped with ice cream, hot sauce, and caramel. Or, if you like something savory, there are lots of options too. If you are traveling with kids, they’ll love this place.
If you really want to try something sweet, we loved the Dutch pancake, a pancake topped with stroopwafel chunks, cinnamon ice cream, and whipped cream.
Apple Cinnamon pancake
It helps to also order a savory pancake, because the sweet ones can be overwhelmingly sweet. We ordered the Hungarian, which was pretty good, but I’d love to try the French pancake on our next visit to Amsterdam!
10 am: Anne Frank House
Without a doubt, a visit to Amsterdam would not be complete without a visit to the Anne Frank House. And it’s just a short walk from the Pancake Bakery.
For two years and one month, Anne Frank and her family lived in a secret annex, hidden away from the Nazi’s. During this time, she wrote in her diary, which became a memoir and an important piece of history.
Tour the hidden rooms and see the movable bookcase that covered the entrance into the rooms.
Note for 2018: Currently, the Anne Frank House is undergoing renovation. It still remains open but some areas are temporarily closed and some artifacts are not on display. The original diary is not on display while the house is being renovated.
Currently, tickets can only be purchased online in advance. You will reserve a specific time slot, which eliminates waiting in line.
Cost: Adults €10, 0 – 17 years €5, include on the Museumcard, not included with the I Amsterdam Card
Hours: April 1 to November 1: 9 am to 10 pm; November 1 to April 1: 9 am to 7 pm, Saturdays until 9 pm
Website: Book your tickets in advance on the official Anne Frank House website.
12 pm: The Jordaan Area and Lunch
Spend the middle part of the day strolling through the Jordaan area of Amsterdam. Places to visit include Westerkerk and the Homomonument.
For lunch, we loved Piqniq. This small restaurant serves tiny gourmet sandwiches and soups, sort of like tapas for lunch. The food is delicious and the prices are very reasonable. This is a great restaurant to visit if you want quality food in Amsterdam without spending a fortune.
To get to our next stop (Our Lord in the Attic), walk across Amsterdam, past Central Station, in the direction of the Red Light District. To get from Piqniq to Our Lord in the Attic, it is a 17-minute walk.
3 pm: Museum Ons’Lieve Heer Op Solder
Say what? This museum, also called Our Lord in the Attic, is one of the best history lessons in Amsterdam.
This canal house, built in 1630, looks normal on the outside. But inside, on the top level, sits a secret Catholic Church. Catholicism was banned in Amsterdam during the 17th century, so people built small churches in their houses, hidden away from public view. This church is one of the largest and the best preserved of these schuilkerks.
During the audio tour, you will get a fascinating history lesson about Amsterdam and the Netherlands, as you walk through the rooms of this 400 year old house. The tour ends with a visit to the spectacular church on the top floor.
I loved this museum. It’s educational, thought provoking, and one of the most interesting history lessons in the city.
Cost: Adults €11, 5 to 17 years €5.50, under 5 years are free; included with the Museumkaart and I Amsterdam Card
Hours: Monday through Saturday 10 am to 6 pm; Sundays 1 pm to 6 pm
4:30 pm: Red Light District?
Our Lord in the Attic sits right on the edge of the Red Light District. If you are curious, here’s your chance to wander through the neighborhood. It’s pretty sedate during the daylight hours. Plus, it’s small and quick to visit (if you’re just here for a quick peek).
5:00 pm Dam Square
Dam Square is crowded and touristy, but it is the main square of Amsterdam, so I think it is still worth a very quick visit. Just expect large crowds and beware of pickpockets.
5:30 pm More of Amsterdam or Go to Haarlem
For the rest of the day you are free to explore more of Amsterdam. Wander the canals in the Jordaan area, rent bikes and explore the city, or consider making a quick trip to Haarlem for dinner and drinks.
Haarlem is just 15 minutes from Amsterdam by train. You won’t have enough time to really explore Haarlem, but you can sit in the main square in town, have a drink at a café, and have dinner.
Haarlem is awesome. The main square is beautiful, and on a nice warm day this is the perfect spot to just plop yourself down in an outdoor café, have a drink and enjoy the view.
For dinner we ate at the Wolfhound Irish Bar & Kitchen and it tasted like we were back in Ireland.
Getting to Haarlem: From Central Station in Amsterdam, you can take a 15-minute train to Haarlem. Trains leave approximately every 10 minutes and cost €5.40 one-way.
Read More: Haarlem, the Perfect Day Trip from Amsterdam
2 Days in Amsterdam: Mapped Out
What About Keukenhof?
In April and May, Keukenhof is a wonderland of flowering daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths. It is gorgeous and well worth the visit if you plan to be in Amsterdam during these two months.
With 2 days in Amsterdam, you have enough time to visit Keukenhof and the best of the city. On day 1, after your visit to the Van Gogh Museum, skip Vondelpark and the Bloemenmarkt and make the trip out to Keukenhof. It just may be one of your favorite experiences in Amsterdam.
In 2018, the park is open from March 22 through May 13 from 8 am to 6 pm. Online tickets are €1 cheaper than purchasing them at the ticket booth, at €17 for an adult and €8 for children ages 4 to 17.
To get to Keukenhof, take the bus to Schiphol Airport. Bus 397 stops at Museumplein and the Rijksmuseum and takes you to Schiphol Airport. From the airport, take bus 858, the Keukenhof Express, to Keukenhof.
Should You Purchase the Museumcard or I Amsterdam Card?
The Museumcard (Museumkaart)
The Museumcard is a card that gives you free entrance into 400 museums in the Netherlands. For Dutch residents only, the card is valid for one year. For tourists, it is valid for 31 days and can be purchased at a handful of museums.
The Museumcard costs €59.90. On this itinerary, the 4 museums you will visit in Amsterdam cost a total of €56.50. If you are only visiting Amsterdam in the Netherlands, there is no savings to buying the Museumcard, unless you plan on visiting museums that we did not include in this itinerary.
However, if you also have plans to visit Utrecht, The Hague, Rotterdam, or other cities in the Netherlands, this card may be worth the money. The Museumcard covers entrance to other popular museums in cities other than Amsterdam so this card may save you money.
If you plan on purchasing the Museumcard, you can buy it at your first museum, which is the Rijksmuseum on this itinerary.
I Amsterdam Card
The I Amsterdam Card covers your entrance fees into most museums in Amsterdam, a free canal cruise, and unlimited transportation on public transportation (but not to Schiphol Airport). It comes with a hefty price tag of €74 for 48 hours and does not include the €10 to visit the Anne Frank House. On this itinerary, the I Amsterdam Card is overpriced for what you will do.
Getting Around Amsterdam
One of the best ways to get around Amsterdam is on your own two feet. However, you can also take advantage of the trams and the metro to save some steps.
A GVB ticket covers unlimited transportation on buses, trams, and the metro during its period of validity. Single tickets, valid for one hour, cost €3. You can also purchase multi-day tickets, which are more economical and save you the hassle of visiting the ticket machines whenever you want to take the tram, bus, or metro. Once you activate the ticket (use it for the first time) the period of validity begins.
- 24 hours: €7.50
- 48 hours: €12.50
- 72 hours: €17.50
You can purchase the single and multi-day tickets at GVB service points, in metro stations and at tram stops.
For this itinerary, we recommend purchasing the 48-hour ticket. If you also need to use public transportation to get to your hotel when you arrive or depart Amsterdam, consider purchasing the 72-hour ticket or simply purchasing additional single tickets as you need them.
You can also get around Amsterdam by bicycle. Hotels and small shops throughout the city rent bikes by the hour or by the day. It’s a great to do if you just want to have fun for an hour, or you can use the bike as your mode of transportation during your entire visit to Amsterdam.
Best Time to go to Amsterdam
If you want to see the bulbs in bloom, visit Amsterdam in April and early May. The prime blooming season varies year to year, depending on the weather. However, the end of April is a fairly reliable time to visit if you want to see Keukenhof and Amsterdam carpeted in spring blooms.
April through June is one of the busiest times to visit Amsterdam, so expect larger crowds and larger prices during these months.
The summer months can also be quite busy. October is a gorgeous time to visit Amsterdam, with fall colors and cool nights.
During the winter months, the crowds fade away. It’s chilly in Amsterdam but very cold temperatures are rare.
Where to Stay in Amsterdam
The best area to stay is in Jordaan and the Nine Little Streets. This is our favorite area of Amsterdam and being on the canals at night is magical.
Luxury: The Dylan. Modern, trendy, luxurious, this hotel is located on Keizersgracht, within walking distance of the Anne Frank House. This hotel is also home to Vinkeles, the upscale dining experience we recommended for dinner.
Mid-Range: The ‘t Hotel. This is where we stayed on our first visit to Amsterdam. The ‘t Hotel has a perfect location, right on a quiet canal and within walking distance of the main sites in Amsterdam. Since our visit in 2008, the hotel has been renovated (and prices have gone up). The family room is the penthouse of the hotel with a loft for the kids.
Mid-Range: Crowne Plaza South. If you are looking for a clean, comfortable and quiet place to stay and don’t want to spend a fortune (or most places are already reserved when you start your hotel search) consider staying a bit outside of the city. On our most recent visit to Amsterdam, we stayed here at the Crowne Plaza. It’s a great hotel and we had a great stay, without any complaints. It took us 15 minutes by metro to get into town but we saved a lot of money by staying outside of the heart of Amsterdam.
Budget: Jordaan Suite Bed and Bubbles. This budget hotel has a prime location on Hazenstraat near the Jordaan neighborhood. It gets rave reviews and can be hard to get, so make your reservation as soon as you can.
The canals at sunset
Consider reading A Diary of Anne Frank before your visit to Amsterdam. It puts a lot of what you will see in and around the Anne Frank House into perspective.
Are you planning a trip to Amsterdam and the Netherlands? Comment below if you have any questions or need any travel advice.
Going to Amsterdam? You May Also Like:
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- England: The London Bucket List: 50 Must-Have Experiences
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