72 Hours in Amsterdam
Welcome to our 3 days in Amsterdam itinerary! 72 hours is perfect to make the most of this city. Planning a trip is fun but time consuming, however with this Amsterdam Travel Guide you won't have to spend much time thinking about what to see in Amsterdam. Just follow our suggestions and we are sure you'll have an amazing time. Enjoy!
Similar to many cities, prior to arriving in Amsterdam, curious visitors already have a vivid idea of what they will see based on the hundreds of available photos of the city at is most beautiful. The good news is that Amsterdam not only lives up to visitors’ expectations, but it often over-delivers on them. You’d certainly not be disappointed. With over 100 kilometres of canals covering a quarter of the city, it’s impossible to gaze upon every single one of the gabled canal houses that line them in 72 hours. Nor would it be possible to count the number of bikes you’ll find being ridden around these picture perfect scenes, it’s estimated there are over 800,000 bicycles in Amsterdam. Furthermore, with more museums per capita than any other city in the world, three days isn’t enough to soak up everything they have to teach you. However, 72 hours is more than enough to both enjoy the city’s key sights and overdose on its beauty.
Needless to say, cycling is a great way to get around Amsterdam during your 72 hour stay but walking or hopping on and off trams is just as easy and convenient. The following itinerary for a 72 hour stay can easily be enjoyed on two feet or two wheels, depending on how much of an Amsterdammer you want to be.
Beginning in the centre of town close to Amsterdam’s Centraal Station – an impressive looking building in its own right –take a short walk along the waterfront to the city’s largest public library (OBA) and head up to the café on the seventh floor. From here you can enjoy breakfast and a great view with which you can get your bearings. Be sure to look out for the striking architecture of the NEMO Science Museum – a must-visit for children as it’s a vast space filled with hands-on, play-based exhibits – and the tall ship you can see nearby is where you’ll find the Maritime Museum, which documents how Amsterdam’s history of seafaring and ship-making made it the world’s richest city in the 17th century.
Afterward, head into the centre of town along Damrak which offers one of Amsterdam’s most iconic views, namely the water of a canal lapping up against a row of typical canal houses, also called the “dancing houses” because of their crooked lines – a reminder that much of Amsterdam was built on reclaimed land. Here is a great place to hop on a boat to tour the canals, but don’t think you have to in order to see the city.
If you take one of the many roads to your left you’ll soon find yourself in the Red Light District, or De Wallen as it is known to locals. Wander along these narrow streets to experience everything you imagine the RLD to be home to; red lights above windows, fragrant smells emerging from coffee shops, and bright neon signs advertising sex shops, peep shows and more. In amongst these you’ll find Oude Kerk (“Old Church”), the oldest church in Amsterdam and Nieuwmarkt, a large market place surrounded by cafes and bars that has been a place for Amsterdammers to meet since the 1600s. A good spot for a coffee, De Waag café is housed in one of gates in the old city’s walls and it is the oldest non-religious building in the city. Leading off Nieuwmarkt is Amsterdam’s Chinatown, not something that many visitors know about before seeing it for themselves. If you’re there later in the day and feeling thirsty, head to De Prael, an independent brewery and social enterprise that has some of the city’s best beers and a cosy tasting room where you can enjoy free live music every Sunday afternoon.
Leave the Red Light District by heading down Damstraat and you’ll soon find yourself standing in Amsterdam’s main town square, Damplein, which is home to the Royal Palace, NieuweKerk and De Bijenkorf, Amsterdam’s most famous department store. Originally built as the City Hall, the Dutch royal family don’t spend much time in the Royal Palace so it’s open to visitors most of the year. Next door is NiueweKerk (“New Church”) which confusingly looks almost as old as Oude Kerk on account of its imposing gothic architecture. Even if you didn’t come to Amsterdam to shop, it’s still worth heading up to the cafeteria on the top floor of De Bijenkorf on a sunny day to take advantage of the terrace offering views of surrounding buildings’ spires and rooftops.
Begin your second day in Amsterdam by making your way to Museumplein with a scenic stroll along Reguliersgracht, one of Amsterdam’s prettiest canals which is also called Seven Bridges, for a reason that will become obvious! Museumplein, or Museum Square, is unsurprisingly where you’ll find many of Amsterdam’s best known museums including the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum, the city’s largest modern art museum. While you could easily spend all 72 of your hours in the Rijksmuseum alone, it’s also possible to soak up a quick flavour of the recently renovated space by walking or cycling through the tunnel that snakes through the middle of the museum, or by walking through the next door gardens which are open to the public and often have sculptures on display.It’s a good idea wherever possible to buy tickets online for these museums prior to your visit so you can avoid the long queues outside their doors. On the far side of Museumplein is Concertgebouw (“Concert Building”), the Netherlands’ premier music hall which offers free concerts on some weekday lunchtimes as well as evening performances.
A short walk away from Museumplein is Vondelpark, which is arguably Amsterdam’s most famous park. It’s certainly one of the most atmospheric and locals use it as a running track, a playground for their kids or a place to enjoy a picnic on sunnier days. Like many of Amsterdam’s other city parks, Vondelpark is full of modern art sculptures and has a conservation area so keep your eyes open for both wildfowl and artworks.
Looping back on yourself you can head a little further east to the area of Amsterdam known as De Pijp. Once a run-down working class area with a reputation for bohemian types and immigrant communities – it’s still sometimes called the Latin Quarter – De Pijp is now a thriving cosmopolitan neighbourhood. It’s also packed full of bars, cafes and restaurants many of which surround Amsterdam’s oldest daily market, Albert Cuypmarkt. While it’s popular among locals for buying vegetables, fish and meat, the Netherlands’ oldest daily market also has stalls selling furniture, fabric, clothes, and you’ll struggle to ignore the delicious smell of freshly made stroopwafels (Dutch caramel waffles). De Pijp is also where you’ll find the old Heineken brewery and home to the Heineken Experience, which tells the story of how the name of a small Amsterdam beer brewing family became a global brand. Of course, you don’t have to go to a museum to have a beer; in De Pijp you’re in the perfect place to end a busy day of sightseeing with a couple of biertjes.
West is the direction you should head in today to explore the Jordaan, one of Amsterdam’s oldest neighbourhoods and an area with lots of stories to tell, not least because it’s where you’ll find Anne Frank House, the museum dedicated to the life of one of Amsterdam’s best known residents. Found on Prinsengracht, the most outer of the three main ring canals, the museum is partly housed in the former offices of Anne’s father Otto, who wished for the so-called Secret Annex to remain in virtually the same state it was when they were sadly captured less than a year before the end of the war. Again it’s worth booking tickets in advance or you risk standing in a long queue, however, if this does happen you will have plenty of time to stare up at the tower of Westerkerk (“West Church”), the elegant Renaissance-style church that is still the tallest structure in the inner city. It’s well worth visiting the interior of the church and if you time your visit right you can climb up the tower for panoramic views of the surrounding canals and streets.
A short walk from Anne Frank House on the opposite side of the Prinsengracht is Noordermarkt, a small market square that hosts a popular farmer’s market on Saturday mornings and a flea market on Mondays. Also on this square is Winkel 43, a traditional Dutch brown bar cafe that serves up what is widely considered to be Amsterdam’s best appeltaart. What makes Dutch apple pie different is that the apples must be Dutch grown and the spices used as flavouring are many of those that Dutch sea merchants brought to Europe’s shores back in the 17th century.
Once full of apple pie, take some time to wander along the streets of Jordaan. Another historically working class area of Amsterdam, property in the Jordaan is now among the most characterful and sought-after. The name is believed to originate from the French word for garden, “jardin”, as once upon a time it was green farmland before it was built on to house the city’s growing population. If you look up at the houses you may see plaques displaying animals or other pictures. These will give you an idea of what professions the previous occupants used to have.
If you’re still hungry, you’re also in the best place to try other Dutch delicacies like pickled herring or if it’s later in the day seek out a brown bar where you can eat bitterballen with your glass of genever and toast 72 hours in Amsterdam very well spent.
Need more inspiration? Please browse through our range of things to do in Amsterdam. Expedia.co.uk also offers the best accommodation to make your 3 day break to Amsterdam extra special.