There’s no place like Amsterdam. Packed with narrow cobbled streets, green open spaces and a cool, eclectic vibe to every café (serving caffeinated drinks among other things) – well it’s a city that will always make you feel at home.
Known for canals, bicycles, red lights and coffee shops, The Netherland’s capital is a must-visit if not once, but twice, three times or more.
Having visited multiple times, I’ve experienced a fair amount of what the city has to offer in just a few days. So without further ado, here is the ultimate 3 day itinerary for Amsterdam, with some helpful hints and tips along the way.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
We picked a spacious AirBnb – no breakfast before 10am rules here – with a little garden and huge sofa, perfect for lazy evenings and even lazier mornings.
A beginner’s guide to Amsterdam’s coffee shops
Let’s get the green chat over with then shall we? We all know Amsterdam is famous for its coffee shops that sell a little more than beans, and I’m not talking about the smoothies.
Be sensible. You don’t want to waste a day lying on a bench – you can do that anywhere! (That’s legal of course).
Let me explain it. You’ll find a menu in each shop with the option of weed, hash, cakes and pre-rolls. If you are a beginner or very rare smoker, then go weak. This stuff is strong. The people behind the counters are always happy to help, they’re used to us tourists not having a clue what’s going on. If you can’t roll, get pre-rolls. If you can, get a small bag and go easy.
Note: you can’t smoke tobacco inside. Or at least you can’t roll with it if said café is more lax. You can buy herbal ‘baccy though which is basically like dried tea. Yum. The menus will have a rating, or at least the weaker stuff will be at the bottom. Decide if you want to be giggly/happy or extremely chilled. Then ask. I personally stuck with one called ‘Power Plant’. It made me want to explore endlessly and giggle in museums. Perfect. Right let’s crack on with your Amsterdam itinerary.
Day 1 of 3 in Amsterdam
Morning / midday
You’re tired, you’ve travelled. So let’s get straight to the chill. After a midday arrival (or once you’ve devoured brekkie in your accommodation), head out to the top of Vondelpark. This area is packed with restaurants, cafes and of course the famous coffee shops that you’ll find all over the city. It’s the perfect chance to see what Amsterdam is really like without throwing yourself into a tourist trap.
If you want to start your day experiencing coffee shop culture, head to Rookies. This place has an idiots guide to green menu and make a cracking hot chocolate. Once you’re feeling floaty, walk it off in Vondelpark. It’s the Hyde Park of Amsterdam and packed with couples, families, pups and potheads. Everyone’s chilled, everyone’s happy.
Grab a tasty toasted bagel from Bagels and Wraps close by to enjoy by the lake then mooch through the park until you reach the end. Enjoy the sunshine, the birdsong, the odd wiff of herb. If you fancy carrying on your park wanderings, make your way to Vondelpark’s next door neighbour (sort of), Rembrandpark. This pretty patch of green is dedicated to the famous Dutch artist. Various sculptures of him and strange objects are found within including a bridge with two gigantic dogs on either side (or did I dream that? No picture evidence was taken).
Time for another rest stop. At the top of the park you’ll find a small farm with goats and horses to give a quick pat before entering the Ramada Apollo. Nothing to look at from the outside, the hotel will surprise you with its offerings as you sliver past reception up to the 17th floor in the lifts.
The originally named ‘Floor 17’ combines a restaurant and sky bar with panoramic views over Amsterdam. Although the city isn’t Europe’s best for skylines and skyscrapers, it’s still a beautiful way to admire the parks and enjoy a cheeky drink with a view.
If like me you get that sushi craving, you’re in luck. Amsterdam has a surprising number of all you can eat sushi restaurants. We opted for Sumo, a Japanese sushi and noodle bar that had great reviews. I’d definitely recommend it for value dining at its best. It was packed, quick and excellent quality.
A short walk away is Amsterdam’s most beloved bar, Vesper. Known for its James Bond influence, the small boutique corner in the trendy Jordaan area serves a small range of creative cocktails. We went on a Tuesday evening, so it wasn’t exactly buzzing. But I liked the relaxed vibe in what was essentially a small intimate wooden room, one wall covered in exotic bottles. Naturally I picked a delightful twist on an Old Fashioned, my favourite drink. Note: the menu on the website is not always the one in printed form.
Day 2 of 3 in Amsterdam
Good morning! Hope you’re feeling fresh. And I hope you’ve pre-booked your tickets for Anne Frank’s Museum if you’re hoping to go along? We didn’t. So we missed out on one of Amsterdam’s top places to visit.
If like me you didn’t get the memo, instead find yourself to the area of ‘The 9 Streets’, the famous lanes that connect Amsterdam’s parallel canals. Start by grabbing a bite to eat, because food always comes first. There are so many incredible cafes in Amsterdam, each with a uniquely branded front that look like they were created by the coolest hipster going. Our personal favourite was Aardbei. If you speak Dutch you’ll know what’s coming. The entire menu is strawberry themed. Smoothies, froyo, pie, salad or just the ingredient in question dribbled in chocolate. We were in heaven.
Next let’s experience Amnesia, literally. Amsterdam’s ‘best coffeeshop’ is the place to forget all your woes as you puff on the sidewalk looking out along the canal, where a tour leader will point you out to his mob of mac wearing boat riders.
Stoned? Excellent. It’s time to get cheeky. Via Dam Square and the Red Light District (not exactly the most dreamy walk you’ll ever take but you can now say you’ve seen it) we’re heading to the Sex Museum. It’s worth every cent. Some bits interesting, some bits down right shocking. But hilarious. Always hilarious.
Now you’ve seen it all, we’re going for a drink to discuss our bizarre day. Tales & Spirits, a bar so popular they had to employ someone just to turn you away. Luckily we were first in line so took a seat on their outdoor bench whilst we waited for someone to have one cocktail too many.
The menu was everything. Each spirit had a tale, along with an illustration. Not one for breaking traditions, Allyn ordered the gender opposed Fallen Lady, sweet raspberry and bitter dark chocolate. I on the other hand was whisked away with Mary Poppins, who treated me to a fizzing lollypop to dunk in my rhubarb gin. I also couldn’t help ordering from the Old Fashioned Menu… I mean seriously did they want me to leave? I went for a Nutcracker, sold on the hazelnut honey syrup made in house and serving of honeycomb. I sat there like Pooh Bear, two cocktails in.
Oh dinner. How could I forget? If you’re saving the penny’s then stock up at one of the city’s droolworthy cheese shops to enjoy with a loaf later on. I ate every sample in the Amsterdam Cheese Company, finally deciding on a truffle goat’s cheese.
Day 3 of 3 in Amsterdam
Top tip: get to Amsterdam Central station early to grab a locker to store your suitcases.
Hopefully you’ve already got tickets for the Van Goph Museum but don’t worry if not. Avoid the queues by sneakily pre-booking online for an hour or two ahead. It’ll give you just enough time grab a bite to eat at the Stedelijk Museum’s Urban Restaurant. It’s spacious, casual and a great lunch time choice. And don’t forget the obligatory photo with Amsterdam’s famous sign – lucky folks will have an initial to pose with!
I would also highly recommend a visit to the Moco Museum, Amsterdam’s modern art gallery. During our visit the highly popular Banksy and Dali exhibition had taken over the beautiful mansion. It housed a fantastic contemporary collection of both artists’ work, displayed in small rooms dotted around the venue. Although busy, we were able to join a short queue.
There is of course a list of other parts of Amsterdam I didn’t have time to explore however it immediately felt like a city I would return to and so the desperation to see it all was lessened. Next time I’ll be back for the fascinating Bodyworks, the nearby Keukenhof tulip gardens and of course more of the city’s irresistible café culture (the food and drink kind, I mean it!).