When you’re planning for 2 days in Amsterdam you have to be very organised so you don’t miss the best parts of the city. If you come prepared, 2 days is enough time to see the best bits that are on offer.
I’ve created this guide to show you what I believe is the best way to spend your 2 days in the city. I also realise that everyone has different interests and budgets. As a result, I have included a list of alternatives, along with a rough time estimate, so that you can swap activities in and out of your 2 day plan to tailor it to your interests..
2 Day Itinerary Summary:
- Day 1 Plan
- Day 2 Plan
- Alternative Activities
- General Amsterdam Tips
- Budgeting Tips
Day 1 – Bikes
Amsterdam is famous for a few things, and arguably none more so than cycling.
Walking around the city, it feels like it was built for bicycles rather than cars. It’s definitely the fastest and most enjoyable way to get around.
Amsterdam isn’t actually that large, and so by hiring a bike for a day you can cover pretty much the entire city.
There are bike rentals all over the city, and for a day you’ll be looking at about 10 euros hire cost.
Cycle the Western Canals
Get your bike early, and head into the city centre. Ride over the beautiful bridges on the Western Canals, stop off for breakfast or lunch at one of the many cafes and just get your bearings within the city. If you’re into your photography, now’s the time to get your iconic Amsterdam shot (above).
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Next, I’d suggest riding to Dam square. There’s always something interesting going on there, whether it’s a fun fare or street performances. You can also ride to the Bloemenmarkt, which is where you’ll be able to see and buy some famous Dutch flowers.
After that, you should cycle a little bit out of the centre to Vondelpark.
Previously a private park for the wealthy, Vondelpark is open to everyone these days. It’s one of my favourite parts of the city, and like a lot of Amsterdam, it’s built for cyclists. There’s cycle tracks going around the whole park, but be wary as in peak season it gets really busy, like a bicycle version of rush hour traffic.
Weather permitting, I’d suggest picking up some food for a picnic and relaxing in the park for a while.
Spend the rest of the daylight hours enjoying riding your bike around such a gorgeous city. You can cycle from Vondelpark to the Museum area, visit the IamAmsterdam sign, and much more.
Once you’ve dropped your bike off and got ready for the evening, I’d suggest heading to Leidseplien tram stop. This is a buzzing and lively part of the city, especially at night. With plenty of restaurants, bars and entertainment, it’s a great place to spend your evening.
Day 2 – Museums
Usually museums aren’t really my thing, but this certainly doesn’t apply to Amsterdam. Even if you’ve only got 2 days in Amsterdam, you should be visiting at least one of the museums on offer.
I recommend visiting 1 museum in the morning/early afternoon, and another in the early evening.
Firstly, you should visit one of the museums in the ‘Museum area’ of the city, at Museumplien tram stop. These include:
Rijksmuseum: A huge museum featuring the very best art and history of the Netherlands.
Van Gogh Museum: This is THE museum for art lovers. Here you’ll find the largest collection of work by Van Gogh, one of the most famous artists of all time. I’d recommend it even if you’re not particularly crazy about art.
Stedeljik Museum: Extremely famous art museum dedicated to the best modern and contemporary art you can find.
Spend a couple of hours in one of the three, and then have some lunch. There’s some great spots around the Museumplien area to eat.
Next, I’d suggest you take the tram into the town centre and go to Ann Franks’ House.
Ann Frank House
Of all of the museums in Amsterdam, my favourite is the Ann Frank House. This is the actual house that Ann Frank hid in during WW2 as she and her family hid from the Nazi’s.
The way they’ve set out this museum is absolutely fantastic.
Somehow, they’ve managed to build the museum around the house, maintaining it extremely well in the process. As a result, you can walk around the house itself, and even up into the loft space where Ann and her family hid for several years. There’s also a brilliant audio guide that gives you a lot of information as you go around. A truly unique experience.
IMPORTANT – All of these museums in Amsterdam require you to book your tickets online in advance. If you turn up without a ticket, you’re going to struggle to get it in. Plan a few days ahead which one(s) you want to visit, and book them up!
When you’ve finished in the Ann Frank house, you’ll be well positioned, almost in the centre of the city. I’d suggest getting any shopping and wandering that you want to do out the way now, before dinner.
Finally, I’d eat somewhere near Dam Square. There’s plenty of options around there for all budgets.
Located on the way to Dam Square from Amsterdam Central station, I found the sex museum pretty funny and definitely worth a visit if you’ve got time. Warning: There’s not a lot left to the imagination here, so if you’re easily offended or worried by that, then it’s probably not for you.
Time: 1-2 hours
Red Light District
Again, this won’t be for everyone, but I personally was intrigued to see what this place was like, coming from the UK where places like this don’t exist. It’s definitely worth having a walk around in the evening. It’s located just a short walk from Dam Square, so a good idea can be to have dinner around there and then walk over afterwards.
Time: 30 mins – 1 hour
If you’re into your sports, then this will be right up your street. Ajax Amsterdam are the biggest club in the Netherlands, and Johan Cruijff is argubably their most celebrated player of all time. The stadium tour will show you around the world-class stadium, into the locker rooms and show you how it operates. All for 15-20 euros.
Time: 1-2 hours
If you’re not keen on cycling, then on the first of your 2 days in Amsterdam I recommend a canal cruise. It’s a beautiful, relaxing way to see the city. There’s cruises for all budgets, from cheap and cheerful to champagne and caviar.
Time: 2-3 hours
An interactive tour through the world of Heineken. Learn all about how the beer is made and bottled, the history of the company, and of course, try some samples!
Time: 1-3 hours
This is the biggest collection of diamonds that I’ve ever seen! Spend some time looking over the jewels, or if you’re like me, spend the time trying to guess how much they’re all worth! It’s quite a cool place to visit, and you can even try on some of the diamonds yourself.
Time: 1 hour
General Amsterdam Tips:
- Utilise the trams: The tram system in Amsterdam is nothing short of exceptional. It’s really easy to use, and if you get stuck, every tram has a friendly ticket person who can help you out. You can get pretty much anywhere in the city within 10 mins on the tram and if you’ve only got 2 days in Amsterdam, speed is important. Make sure you tap in and out when boarding and leaving the train to avoid being fined.
- NO PHOTOS in the Red-Light District: This should really go without saying, but if you do decide to go for a walk around the red-light district, make sure you don’t take any photos of the girls, or even the buildings. The security guys there are really strict and will come down hard on you if they catch you.
- Look, look, and look again when crossing the road: Cyclists and trams are both much quieter than cars, and seemingly come from all over the place when you don’t really know the city. Just be on alert at all times that a tram or bike could be coming up behind you!
Amsterdam is not an ideal place for a travelling backpacker when it comes to prices. It’s all pretty expensive! That said, these tips will help you keep yourself in the black:
Consider staying in a cube: This may sound a bit odd, but I found a place where you can stay in a little container within a hotel, bang in the middle of the city and for cheaper than anywhere else. These cubes are actually pretty sweet. They’re clean, warm and comfy. I’m not sure I’d want to spend a month in there, but for 2 days in Amsterdam, it’ll do just fine.
Get your food from the underground supermarket: Right next to the main museums is a rather cool underground supermarket. Here you can get all sorts of nice food to have for breakfast and/or lunch for a fraction of the cost of eating out. If the weather’s good, take some food to Vondelpark and have a picnic!
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