With its picture-perfect canals, bustling shopping districts and historic landmarks, there’s so much to do and see in the incredible city of Amsterdam that it’s impossible to squeeze everything into a single visit.
So, where does one even begin if they only have three days in Amsterdam?
Turns out, with a bit of planning you can still fit in quite a lot! From the best tours to must-do sites, here’s the ultimate 3 day Amsterdam itinerary to help make the most of your visit.
3 day Amsterdam itinerary: Day 1
Canal tours in Amsterdam
Kick off your 3 day Amsterdam itinerary with a canal tour, which gives a great overview of the city so you’ll be more familiar with its layout and know where to head later in the trip.
There are dozens of tours throughout the day, which typically last one hour and include an audio guide for about $15 per person. There are also all sorts of special packages available, which include extras like museum admission or dinner and drinks:
- One hour canal cruise with audio guide
- Canal cruise with wine and cheese
- River cruise with all-you-can-eat Dutch pancakes
- 75 minute canal cruise
- Luxury canal cruise with onboard bar
- Evening canal cruise
Be sure to pay special attention when the boat passes through the Prince’s and Gentleman’s canals—the surrounding houses are nothing less than impressive!
Tour Amsterdam’s Museum District
The famous I Amsterdam sign is what usually lures travellers to this area, but it’s well-worth sticking around to enjoy the gorgeous museums and laneways in the Museum District.
Start by crossing the canal in front of the gargantuan Rijksmuseum, which houses exhibitions detailing Amsterdam’s long history, and stop to take photos from the beautiful bridge.
Passing straight through the museum, you’ll find yourself behind the larger-than-life sign, which is literally crawling with tourists who hang off of it like monkeys trying to get a good photo.
The plaza in front of it is simply vibrant, and a hotbed of activity. A great place to grab a drink or lunch, there’s also a pool of water, a playground and a pathway leading towards other attractions such as the Van Gogh Museum where a large collection of artwork from the famed artist is on display.
Globe Guide tip: Buy the I Amsterdam City Card if you plan on seeing at least a few Amsterdam attractions, which will save you a ton of money on admission fees and also includes a free canal cruise and public transportation.
Visit Anne Frank House
Arguably one of the best known landmarks in the entire city, Anne Frank House is where young Anne hid with her Jewish family for more than two years during World War II, and chronicled the entire ordeal in her now famous diary.
The site holds numerous exhibitions including information about those who tried to help the Frank family, explanations about the persecution of Jewish people, and of course Anne’s famous hiding spot.
The Anne Frank House is extremely popular which can mean long lines, but it’s possible to buy tickets online ahead of time to bypass the line:
It’s also open almost every single day of the year, but beware if you’re planning your visit around a Jewish holiday as you might be confronted with this sign:
Walking tours are also available, where expert guides detail Anne Frank’s life and the city’s World War II history while exploring areas like the Jewish Quarter. Click to book
The Red Light District
Finish the day in Amsterdam’s notorious Red Light District. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you venture down here in search of, ahem, ‘adventures’, but it’s worth a quick walk through to get an idea of what all the fuss is about.
Taking up only a few blocks near the Central Station, the Red Light District has plenty of the adult stores, ‘coffee shops’ and brothels that are seamlessly mixed in with more innocent spots like donair stalls and souvenir shops.
You can easily walk through the entire district in less than 10 minutes—but rest assured it will be an experience you’ll never forget!
Book a guided tour of the Red Light District in Amsterdam:
Amsterdam 3 day itinerary: Day 2
The 9 Streets
Grab a coffee in the morning, then head to the 9 Streets where Amsterdam’s trendiest residents can be found.
The 9 Streets refers to a hip shopping area in Amsterdam’s canal belt, which is overflowing with cute cafes, beautiful storefronts and incredible boutiques. But be warned: it’s not cheap!
Cheese, wine, flowers, vintage clothing…you’ll find it all in these picturesque shopping alleys, which make it a must-see spot for fashionistas enjoying weekend trips to Amsterdam.
De 9 Straatjes is located just behind Dam Square (another great shopping area), and dates back more than 400 years.
Heineken Brewery Tour
For an adult experience that’s decidedly less risque than the Red Light District, head to the world famous Heineken brewery.
This fantastic tour takes a couple of hours and includes details about the history of the beer empire, a VERY cool interactive video about the brewing/bottling process, the chance to make your own music video (hilarious) and of course—tasting!
You can even make your own personalized Heineken beer bottle, and a trip to the brewery is one of the best things to do in Amsterdam even if you don’t consider yourself a beer lover.
Visit the Amsterdam museums and Jordaan district
The rest of the day can be spent leisurely wandering around the charming city streets, checking out the world’s largest street art museum, touring the Royal Palace or enjoy a yummy Dutch cheese tasting at Henri Willig paired with wine and beer.
Another one of the best places to see in Amsterdam is the trendy Jordaan neighbourhood, known for its leafy canals lined with 17th-century houses, boutiques, cafes and quirky specialty shops.
Home to landmarks like Dam Square and Anne Frank House, a guided walking or food tour is a great way to learn more about the district:
Amsterdam in 3 days: Day 3
Now that you’ve knocked off the best things to see in Amsterdam, take this final day to head out on a day trip or explore the unusual attractions and areas beyond the main sites.
Some top picks include:
- Oosterpark: The large park located in the east part of Amsterdam is the perfect place to go for a run, long walk or enjoy a picnic.
- Seven bridges: Found along the street Reguliersgracht, these seven brick bridges make for a pretty picture.
- Magere Brug: The Skinny Bridge was originally so narrow that people could barely pass by each other. It has since been expanded, and is now a popular spot for couples during a romantic night out thanks to its illuminated frame.
- De Pijp: For a fun night out, head to this district in south Amsterdam which is overrun with lively pubs and bars.
- De Bijenkorf: This department store in Dam Square attracts fashionistas from near and far. Hosting luxury retailers such as Burberry and Louis Vuitton alongside more affordable options, De Bijenkorf is a must for those who appreciate the finer things in life.
Best day trips from Amsterdam
If you’re looking to explore more of the Netherlands beyond the big city, there are some cute spots just outside of Amsterdam that make for a great change of scenery.
The charming village of Zaanse Schans is one of the most popular excursions, and has some of the best windmills near Amsterdam. Haarlem is 30 minutes from Amsterdam, and this tour combines spots in southern Holland including Rotterdam, The Hague and Delft.
Other fun Amsterdam day trips include:
How to get around Amsterdam
It’s no secret that the Dutch love their bikes. In fact with nearly 900-thousand bikes in Amsterdam, it’s not cars, trams and buses you have to watch out for as a pedestrian—it’s the cyclists speeding by!
With that in mind, it can be fun to rent a bike for the day and explore the city on two wheels. There are 513 kilometres of dedicated bike lanes throughout the city, and most importantly, no hills.
If that seems like too much of an effort, Amsterdam is surprisingly walkable (though it can be tough to track down specific addresses as the city is not on a grid system).
Trams are another option for getting around Amsterdam, and they’re frequent, fast and easy to navigate. One-way tickets or day passes can be purchased for buses on board using credit or debit, or online ahead of time.
Book on GetYourGuide:
Amsterdam travel tips
Save on your trip to Amsterdam: Aside from buying an I Amsterdam Card to get discounts on transportation, attractions and restaurants, tourists can also enjoy tax free savings at many retailers when they spend minimum €50 at a single store.
If you qualify, you can get cash back at Amsterdam’s airport by presenting your stamped shopping cheque.
Photography tip: Amsterdam is overrun with tourists, which means it can be tough to get a clear photo of major landmarks without dozens of people in the way. However, if you get out and about by around 8 a.m. you’ll have the quiet streets all to yourself.
Currency: The euro.
Language: Dutch, but most people also speak English very well.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
The hub of activity is near Dam Square and the Central Station, and both areas offer good food, lodging and shopping options along with being on the major transit lines. However, hotels in Jordaan or near Oosterpark can give you a reprieve from the swell of tourists, and have a quieter, neighbourhood feel. Some top-ranked options include:
- Pillows Maurits at the Park: Bright, airy rooms provide a welcoming reprieve from the bustling city, which makes this one of the best rated hotels in Amsterdam. The location beside Vondelpark means it’s in a quiet area yet still walking distance to the main attractions. Click to book
- Ambassade Hotel: The Library Bar is a standout spot in this hotel, which contains 5,000 books, including some signed by authors who have stayed here. Guests love the cozy rooms and canal views. Click to book
- The Sixteen: This quirky, boutique hotel (formerly known as Mauro Mansion) in a 16th century canal house has only nine rooms, each uniquely designed. Its location near the central station is fantastic, and the rooms are well priced. Click to book
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