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Are you visiting Amsterdam for the first time and looking for the best 3-day itinerary? There are so many things to do, see and experience in the city. The canals, the gingerbread houses, the museums, the shopping, the parks… It might feel a bit overwhelming. To help you discover the Dutch capital, we have put together a 3-day Amsterdam itinerary that will take you around the city’s famous sites and still leave you free to experience the city your way.
How to move around in Amsterdam
Before starting your journey, you should know that the tram is one of the most popular ways of transportation in the city center. The network is vast and reliable. There are also many bus lines in Amsterdam, although most of them operate just outside the (old) city center. Amsterdam has also a metro network that is especially efficient if you must travel to the edges of the city. Of course, you could just walk or explore the city by bike. However, remember to pack some rain gear. The Dutch weather is highly unpredictable. Better safe than sorry…
We recommend using a TripKey pass for travelling in (and outside) Amsterdam. TripKey is a pay-as-you-go public transport pass linked to your credit card that is valid nationwide on all public transport. You can even use it to rent an OV-fiets (public transport bike) that we recommend using in our 3-day itinerary.
Day 1: Start at Amsterdam Central Train Station
Walk straight down from the Central Station towards Damrak. On your way, you will see a lot of starting points for boat tours. How tempting it may be, we advise you to leave that for later. On Damrak, you will discover the famous gingerbread houses. Snapping some photos early in the morning is a great way to start your day. After a 5 minute-walk, you will arrive at Dam Square, the heart of Amsterdam.
Dam Square offers attractions for every taste and interest. Historic sites like the Royal Palace – no longer home for the Dutch Royal Family and the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), that hosts important art exhibitions. If you’d rather go on a shopping spree, Dam Square has a direct access towards 2 major pedestrian shopping streets: Kalverstraat and Nieuwendijk.
If you prefer small, original, exclusive shops, you will find them in the ‘9 straatjes’ (nine streets), which are located right in the middle of the canal belt (Grachtengordel), less than 10 minutes-walk away from Dam Square. Stroll around and maybe grab a lunch at one of the many restaurants, cafés and terraces in this trendy district.
Anne Frank House
After lunch in the 9 straten, you could visit the Anne Frank House, the museum with the famous story that you will experience through quotes, photos, videos, and original items. Please note that you must reserve your tickets and time slot in advance. When you’re done at the museum, head back towards Central Station.
Now is the perfect time to aboard one of canal boat tours you spotted in the morning. So sit back, relax and enjoy, because everything in Amsterdam seems even more magical when viewed from a boat. For your information: Most canal cruises take around an hour.
At any time during the day, you can choose to hop on a tram instead of walking. But remember to check in and check out every time you step in and out of the tram. You do this by holding your TripKey pass in front of the card scanners located at the entrances of the trams. To find out which tram you can take, where and when, either go to 9292 or download the app that is simply called 9292. The app allows you not only to plan your trip but also to check on the go if there are any changes or delays.
Day 2: The Dutch way
OV-fiets (public transport bike)
Biking is a typical Dutch way to get around. Amsterdam is perfect for bike riding. It is flat – except riding up and down the bridges – and you will find everywhere separated bike lanes. With TripKey you can rent an OV-fiets at Amsterdam Central Station. But before you start, make sure you read our tips for biking in the Netherlands.
Ride from Amsterdam Central Station towards one of Amsterdam’s most famous landmarks: the Rijksmuseum, a must-see. You will discover famous works from the Dutch Golden Age, including Rembrandt van Rijn’s Night Watch. 8,000 objects in 80 rooms tell the story of 800 years of Dutch art and history. You can spend days there, so our advice is: prepare your visit in advance (and reserve your time slot – required now due to Corona measures!)
After a few hours inside the Rijksmuseum, you will enjoy a bit of fresh air in the Vondelpark. This big and beautiful park located in the centre of the city is great to explore by bike. You can choose to picnic on its green lawns or have lunch at one of the restaurants located in the park.
After some relaxing time in the park, get back on your bike and ride to the Heineken experience. Housed in the first built Heineken brewery in the city centre of Amsterdam, the Heineken Experience offers self-guided interactive tours that end in tasting sessions. Since 1991 the Heineken Experience has been welcoming many visitors from all over the world.
The Heineken Experience happens to be located in one of the most vivid parts of Amsterdam: de Pijp. The beating heart of this district is the ‘Albert Cuyp’, one of the largest outdoor markets in Europe. You can buy everything there from foods and drinks to clothing, flowers and cosmetics. The Pijp also has the highest density of cafes and restaurants in the Netherlands. It is the perfect stop at the end of the day for a fresh smoothie, a good glass of wine or for dinner.
Day 3: Amsterdam Noord
With the OV-fiets on the ferry
Taking its name from its location north of the River IJ, Amsterdam Noord (which literally means ‘north’) is an area that has developed rapidly in recent years and is not yet on everyone’s itinerary. You can reach this district by ferries that depart from behind Amsterdam Central Station. The ferries are quick, easy and convenient to use. On your OV-fiets ride towards the IJ-side (water side) of the station and aboard the ferry with destination Buiksloterweg.
A’dam Lookout & Eye Film Museum
There you will find the A’DAM Lookout a tower that offers a breathtaking view of Amsterdam. To recover from this experience, sit for a cup of tea or coffee at the gorgeous terrace of the Eye Film Museum, overlooking the IJ harbor and Central Station.
Amsterdam Noord is your gateway to the region’s idyllic polder landscape of green fields and peaceful waterways. An easy bike ride eastwards will take you into the beautiful villages of Schellingwoude and Durgerdam.
Dinner at NDSM
The bike ride will most probably trigger your appetite. It’s good to know that there are many locations in Amsterdam Noord for excellent dining. One of them is the NDSM. Once an immense shipyard, this area is now one of Amsterdam’s must-see locations with many cafés, bars and restaurants. There is a direct ferry from NDSM back to Amsterdam Central Station where you will return your OV-fiets.