Amsterdam Itinerary 3 Days Designed By A Local

Last Updated: May 30, 2023

Gerrit Vandenberg

Gerrit shares his love for the Netherlands from his home near Amsterdam, helping thousands plan unforgettable trips to the lowlands. Discover his inspiring journey "From a critical health scare to celebrating Holland's charms". If you want to send Gerrit a quick message, you can contact him here.

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Hi, I'm Gerrit

I enjoy sharing useful tips about the beauty of this county.

Are you looking for the perfect Amsterdam itinerary?

You’ve come to the right place. There are many 3-day itineraries out there, but most are either just trying to sell you tour tickets, or contain every activity possible. Neither is great.

As a private tour guide and a Dutch native, I know exactly what every first-time visitor likes to see and what is ideal in terms of time management and making the experience pleasant.

I get it, there are so many places to see in Amsterdam, it’s overwhelming.

Look no further, as I have put together the perfect itinerary in Amsterdam to help first-time visitors see Amsterdam from a local perspective. I’ve written this itinerary to keep overwhelm at bay.

Of course, not everybody is the same, so you still need to make a few choices but it’s narrowed down to keep it clear and make the process much easier.

It’s essential to plan since Amsterdam is one of the world’s most beautiful and busiest cities. And that is quite an understatement.

Amsterdam is home to some of the most well-known museums in the world, like the Anne Frank House, The Rijksmuseum, and the Van Gogh Museum. These sell out well in advance; same-day tickets are rarely available, even during the “low” season.

However, sightseeing in Amsterdam can be a wonderful experience with a good plan. Let’s dive in. 

What Is The Best 3 Day Itinerary For Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is a city with so much to see and do. Planning an Amsterdam itinerary can be overwhelming. But don’t worry. I have broken down the best way to spend your three days in this vibrant city.

This Amsterdam Itinerary 3 Days is what I do when my overseas friends come to visit.

Some itineraries out there are stuffed with suggestions. Even if it would be possible to do them all you know, you’ll run around like a crazy person not knowing at the end what you’ve seen. I think it’s much better to do less but the essential and savor each experience to the fullest. 

It’s also important to consider jet lag if you come from a long-haul flight from the US or elsewhere.

Another thing I often see in itineraries is a visit to the two major museums (The Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum) on the same day. And although that seems convenient, being right next to each other. It’s too much to take in on the same day. You will get tired and not enjoy the 2nd museum.

Three reasons for this. The museums are immense, especially the Rijks. They’re crowded, and oxygen levels are lower inside the museum to protect artworks. It will be more tiring because of that. 

Remember, Amsterdam is small. Of course, it’s usually best to group sights, but at the same time, it’s also not the end of the world if you need to come back the next day if it’s a better fit. Most city center attractions are close to each other. Because of the good public transportation network, it’s easy to get back where you left off the next day.

I bring all of this to this Amsterdam in 3 days itinerary. So you can relax and enjoy everything in one of the most beautiful cities in the world —my home.aPS: Consider buying an I amsterdam City Card. If you follow most of the tips in this itinerary, you will quickly earn back its price and more. It includes a visit to the “Rijksmuseum”, “This is Holland”, a Canal Cruise, and Public Transport throughout the validity of your card, even in other cities like Haarlem. To read more about this potential great deal, read my extensive post on the I amsterdam City Card.

Day 1 of Your 3 Day Itinerary Amsterdam

Morning

Start the first day in Amsterdam of your Amsterdam itinerary by exploring the charming canals and buildings. A walking tour around the beautiful central Jordaan area is the perfect way to start your visit. By walking through Amsterdam, you can take everything in at your own pace.

Amsterdam Jordaan walk.
Amsterdam Jordaan walk – Photo: © Hidden Holland

This is where many of the most iconic Amsterdam photos are taken. 

Walking in Amsterdam is a relaxing way to ease into your day, but I would like to add one warning (you’ll thank me later): be afraid of the bikes. It feels like bikes are everywhere. And you’re not wrong in thinking that.

Did you know there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam? Now you do. Look twice before you cross, and stay on the sidewalks, no matter how tempting it is to walk in the middle of the street. Be especially careful when finding your perfect angle for a photo.

The Jordaan was once a part of Amsterdam for poorer people (those who could not afford the stately Canal houses) but is now one of the most sought-after neighborhoods to live in. 

What makes the Jordaan special are the many cafes and restaurants that line the streets, outdoor terraces when the weather is good, flower baskets on the railings of the bridges over the canals, and many one-of-a-kind quirky shops (definitely do not skip the 9 little streets area, where Motel A Miio is one of my favorite stores to browse).

Tip: This area is also home to the best apple pie (Winkel 43) in Amsterdam, see my post on the best cafes in Amsterdam for more information), the tastiest cookie (Van Stapele), and Ice Cream (Van der Linde). 

Open Boat Canal Cruise Amsterdam. A must on every Amsterdam Itinerary 3 Days.
Open Boat Canal Cruise Amsterdam – Photo: © Hidden Holland

I would hop on a canal cruise after taking a stroll and your first pictures in this area. Of the most classic things to do in Amsterdam. And why walk if a boat can take you around one of the essential things to see in Amsterdam: The UNESCO World Heritage Listed Amsterdam’s ring of canals, or in Dutch: “De Grachtengordel.” 

This iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site was built at the beginning of the 17th century and was way ahead of its time. It was the city of Amsterdam’s answer to the rapid growth of the population during the economically and culturally prosperous Golden Age.

The ring of canals is shaped like a crescent moon, with 14 kilometers of canals and 80 bridges, on the IJ. It’s an urban and hydraulic masterpiece. Going on a cruise is a great way to experience the history of the wealthy trading city.

I would recommend going on a small boat – or weather allowing – an open boat tour for the best experience.

Easy boarding locations from the Jordaan area would be Flagship open boat tour next to the Anne Frank house. Or a small boat tour.

Afternoon

I suggest visiting the Van Gogh Museum in the afternoon to see some of the artist’s most famous works. I recommend this museum on the first day since it’s one of the major museums in the city but less overwhelming than the Rijksmuseum.

Van Gogh Museum Self Portrait Van Gogh.
Self Portrait Van Gogh – Photo: © Hidden Holland

Make sure to buy your tickets in advance and have a time slot reservation well ahead of time (you can book your tickets here) because this museum sells out days, and sometimes weeks, in advance. It’s rarely possible to get same-day tickets. 

At the Van Gogh Museum, you can stand before his original paintings like the world-famous Sunflowers, The Yellow House, Almond Blossom, and many of his distinct self-portraits. 

If museums are not your thing, you can also visit the beautiful Zoo Artis (tickets) or take a 5D flight over Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands at “This is Holland” (tickets), just across the water in Amsterdam Noord (free ferry). I always take my overseas friends here because it is a terrific introduction to The Netherlands. 

End your day with a nice dinner, and then call it a day early. You’re most likely tired from traveling, and today you already have a lot of beautiful memories to look back on. Make sure to be well-rested for the next day. 

The Second Day of Your 3 Days in Amsterdam Itinerary

Morning

After a hearty breakfast at your hotel, start day 2 of your 3 day itinerary by visiting The Rijksmuseum first. Unless you hate museums, this is one thing you must include in your 3-day plan.

Rijksmuseum Lobby.
Rijksmuseum Look Into Lobby Inspired by Vermeer – Photo: © Hidden Holland

The earlier you can go to the Rijksmuseum, the more pleasant the experience will be. This is one of the most iconic museums in the world. The place where you can see “The Milkmaid” by Vermeer, The Merry Family by Jan Steen, and of course “The Night Watch by Rembrandt. 

I always try to get a time slot at 9 am or 9:15 am. Because after 10 am, the crowds will only swell. It’s nice to have had a headstart by then. (you can book your tickets here)

The Rijksmuseum has over 8,000 works displayed in 80 rooms, spanning 800 years of history. It is massive. Avoid mistake number 1: trying to see it all. Choose wisely. Make sure to see the Gallery of Honor (first) with the museum’s most famous paintings.

I also really enjoy the doll house (the details of it are insane, and the costs? The same as an actual canal house). I also love the Winter Scenery of Avercamp. And don’t miss the library viewing platform. It’s gorgeous and the country’s largest and oldest art historian library. Be quiet up here, but that almost goes automatic, except maybe for the wow look at this gasp.

After all this walking and taking in the artwork, it’s time for a well-deserved break. One of the best places to do so is at the Rijksmuseum Cafe. It’s a highly acclaimed restaurant that serves dishes aligned with the art on display. When I was there last during the Vermeer Exhibition 2023, they had dishes on the menu that Vermeer would have eaten in the 16th century. So cool. But no matter when you visit, there will be something special on the menu. PS The pastries from the menu might not be the cheapest, but they come from the Holtkamp bakery, the most famous in Amsterdam. It’s worth it.

If you like to take a tour, you can’t beat the €5 highlight tour offered by the Rijksmuseum itself. You book your slot at the information desk. It’s with a live tour guide and of high quality. These are official guides by the museum, ensuring knowledge and quality. You can also book a private tour at the museum, which is less than €100 for your entire party. Much cheaper than external tours recommended elsewhere, with the same or better quality.

Afternoon

After the Rijksmuseum, you can go two ways:

1) There is a lot to explore around the Rijksmuseum. The Spiegelgracht area is gorgeous (but busy), then the Reguliers Gracht. The Reguliers Gracht is a beautiful canal and is entirely outside the main tourist paths in contrast to the Spiegelgracht/street area.

Amsterdam Spiegelgracht near the Rijksmuseum.
Amsterdam Spiegelgracht near the Rijksmuseum – Photo: © Hidden Holland

Then the other direction of the Rijks is the hip Pijp area with Albert Cuyp market. You can try Dutch classics here, like a warm Stroopwafel. Another excellent shop to visit is the Flagship Store from Blond Pottery. If Heineken is your favorite beer, then the Heineken Experience can be a great visit. And Bakery Holtkamp has its only store in this area too.

Sir Hummus, my absolute favorite quick lunch/dinner spot, is an excellent place for a quick dinner in the Pijp area. I love the Sabich Hummus plate (add the homemade Falafel balls for just a small extra fee, and you won’t regret it). For a drink: their fresh lemonade is really good, but be warned, this is not US lemonade. It’s middle eastern, so it won’t be very sweet and will have a tangy mint flavor. I never tasted Hummus as authentic outside of Israel as here.

2) The other option is heading to the red light district, which is usually not my favorite area. I don’t care for the windows in red, it can be rough (especially at night) with drunk tourists, but it can be nice to visit during the day.

It’s the oldest part of the city, so many beautiful little streets and courtyards are all around.

Two major attractions in this area make it worth visiting. The Oude Kerk (The Old Church) is where Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia, is buried (tickets). Did you know this is the oldest remaining building in Amsterdam?

And the best-hidden attraction is also here: the very cool “Our Lord In The Attic” Museum (tickets)—a full-sized Catholic Church. But during the Reformation, The Catholic faith was tolerated, but churches could not be recognized on public streets. This is why rich people build churches inside their homes.

Lord in the Attic Museum Amsterdam.
Lord in the Attic Museum Amsterdam.

This museum is an exceptional example. It’s the most extraordinary sight you will see. A full-size church, with every detail of a real church inside a normal home. It also is a testament to how rich Amsterdam and the rest of Holland were during the 17th century, better known as the Golden Age. It is one of my favorite museums in the city. And something completely different than paintings for a change. 

Evening

At night, there are many things you can do, of course, depending on your interest. But here are a few suggestions:

If you enjoy classical music, as I do, there is no better place to enjoy it than at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. It’s one of the world’s most beautiful concert halls, with the Pipe organ in the main hall as the highlight. But also look at all the names of the masters around the balcony. The concert building is also renowned for its acoustics. 

Inside of the Grote Zaal Concertgebouw Amsterdam.
Inside of the Grote Zaal Concertgebouw Amsterdam – Photo: Hans Roggen

The main hall (Grote Zaal) is the most iconic concert hall in the building. But sometimes performances are also in the “Kleine Zaal,” the small hall, still gorgeous and much more intimate. You can find ticket availability here.

If you are here outside of the summer season (thus September to May), it’s worth mentioning that every Sunday at 11 am, there is a Sunday morning concert at a reduced price with lighter, more accessible music. It’s something I do about once every month. I find it a very relaxing way to start my Sunday morning. And I can highly recommend doing the same. And a drink is always included. 

Another great thing to do if you’re into movies is to visit the Tuschinski movie theater near Rembrandtsplein. Why would I recommend a movie theater, you might wonder. Am I out of ideas? Not entirely, but this theater is unique because it was a Royal Theater before. The entrance and the main auditorium (make sure to get tickets for this one specific room, whatever is playing) have spectacular decor and are worth your ticket.

If neither is your thing, I have another tip to avoid some of the worst crowds: to spend your evening visiting the Anne Frank House. This museum might be the busiest in the city, not in numbers but because it’s so tiny.

I always recommend making reservations as far in advance as possible. But if tickets are sold out (or even when you have a choice, selecting an evening slot (the later, the better), the crowds will thin out. Not many people will think about an evening visit. Most people try early morning or accept afternoon visits, seldom the evening. I advise going 2 hours before closure. I’ve written a post on spending a day with Anne Frank, including a section with tips on reserving tickets.

Day 3 Of Your Amsterdam 3 Day Itinerary 

Your final day in Amsterdam could be the most flexible day of your Amsterdam trip. You have seen the city’s most iconic sights in the center of Amsterdam already. I want to leave you with a few choices for this final day.

  1. You might do something you skipped from day one or two.
  2. Or why not venture outside the center today? The city has more cool suburbs to offer (see below).
  3. If this is your last day in the county, you might want to use it for a day trip outside Amsterdam.

2) Other suburbs: Amsterdam Oost is renowned for its cozy restaurants and, for example, murals. But it’s also home to one of the oldest Hortus Botanicus glass houses and one of the prettiest Zoos: Artis (tickets). You can take a relaxed Mural Art walk here or visit the Jewish Quarter, with its large museums and memorials. 

The I amsterdam card is valid for all attractions; see my Amsterdam Card review.

Anne Frank Mural at the NDSM Wharf Amsterdam.
Mural of Anne Frank in Amsterdam at the NDSM – Photo: © Hidden Holland

Amsterdam Noord is super trendy, especially the area just across from Central Station (catch the free 5-minute ferry) to Buikersloterweg. Have a drink at the Tolhuis cafe or the eye-catching Film Museum. This is also where the A’dam Lookout Tower is, and This is Holland.

Ready to venture out even more? Why not take a (free again) ferry to NDSM in just 15 minutes?  As a former ship wharf area, you’re far from the Amsterdam Canal houses cute. Still, they turned this industrial area into a vibrant hip neighborhood with many restaurants, outdoor waterfront terraces, and a fabulous oversized mural of Anne Frank. Worth taking a look at. 

Great places for dinner in this area are Noorderlicht or Pllek. If you’re a meat lover, you will also like Cannibale Royale Du Nord—a small chain in the city with great burgers, steaks, and spare ribs. I can also recommend IJver for a drink and some snacks right in the middle. Try Dutch Bitterballen (if you’re here during the afternoon).

In the city with kids? Or want to try Dutch Pancakes while on the water? Then consider booking the “Pancake Boat.” It is as it sounds, no fancy dinner here. But fun. Unlimited pancakes are included in your ticket, which are served in three flavors: plain, with bacon, and with apple. Then there is a buffet station to dress them up from Cheese to Sweets.

Don’t expect a well-rounded meal. But filling. You can book your tickets here. Boats leave from NDSM right next to the ferry dock.

3) When you can only spend 3 days in Amsterdam before leaving home or going to another country, you might want to use this third day for a day trip from Amsterdam. Amsterdam is well-connected by train to most cities in the Netherlands, making a day trip a breeze.

NS train in Dutch landscape.
NS train in Dutch landscape – Photo: NS

You can quickly take a train ride from Amsterdam Central Station to, for example, Haarlem, only a 20-minute train ride from Amsterdam (½ day) – and where many of its attractions are included in the I amsterdam City Card as well). Or to “The Zaanse Schans” (½ day), or take a day trip to Delft, my favorite city in The Netherlands.

If you have a bit more time, why not take one day trip or more from Amsterdam after your Amsterdam 3-day itinerary?

Where to Stay in Amsterdam?

If you’re looking for places to stay in Amsterdam for your first-time visit, I would suggest a nicer hotel that is centrally located.

These are, for example, Tivoli De Doelen, which offers a suite where Rembrandt’s Night Watch actually hung. I also like the Amsterdam Central Station Doubletree Hotel. This new and modern hotel is next to Central Station, and the library with its amazing cafe with a view is right next door. Or the cool place in Amsterdam is Hotel Sir Adam, next to “This is Holland” across the water (free ferry). It’s in the A’dam Tower across from Central Station. This boutique hotel offers great views. 

One thing to look out for is to make sure your hotel in Amsterdam is not right in the middle of the nightlife areas like the Leidseplein or the even more rowdy Rembrandtsplein and its surroundings. It will be deep into the night before you’ll get some rest if your unlucky.

What Are The Top Things To Do in Amsterdam?

In this detailed 3-day Amsterdam itinerary, you have covered most of the major sights to see. You can never do everything the city offers during this short time in Amsterdam. Of course, you can always come back a second time. But if you make sure to include the following, you will experience the best of Amsterdam (the classics):

  • The Anne Frank House Museum
  • The Van Gogh Museum
  • The Rijksmuseum
  • A walk through the Jordaan Area
  • Walk along the Reguliersgracht (quite a hidden gem)
  • Take a (1/2) day tour outside the city 

Things Not To See And Do In Amsterdam

I would always avoid tourist attractions that offer no particular local experience or pretend to be a museum; that are in reality, a store. Things I would avoid are:

  • Madame Tussauds (is your time in a Unesco World Heritage City best spent looking a famous people in wax?)
  • The Amsterdam Dungeons (I will not comment)
  • The Ice Bar can literally be found anywhere.
  • Any restaurant that has staff outside to lure you in, especially on the main routes from central station.
  • Any Diamond factory visit > it’s a funnel to sell you.
  • Any Tourist Cheese Store (Henri Willig, Cheese and More, or the other touristy ones). I cringe at seeing people inside these stores. They are not local brands as they claim other than in tourist areas, and we don’t eat blue-colored cheese in Holland or Coconut flavored). Instead, visit an authentic cheese shop like de Kaaskamer, Kaasland, or the Zuivelhoeve.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Amsterdam?

Amsterdam can be enjoyed year-round, but some times are better to visit than others.

Spring is a great time when you want to see the amazing bloom that washes over most of the western part of the country: Tulips Season. If you’re visiting for the flowers, I highly recommend planning for more than three days in The Netherlands. Three days are great to spend in Amsterdam alone. And for the flowers, I would recommend at least two days more.

Gerrit at the Tulips in the Noord Oost Polder.
Me at the Tulips in the Noord Oost Polder – Photo: © Hidden Holland

The Keukenhof and the fields around Lisse are stunning. But the real, as far as the eye can see, production fields are located in a completely different area in the Noord Oost Polder (a one-hour drive from Amsterdam). Two days is a minimum to see the flowers well.

Flower season is short, though. The Keukenhof is open for six weeks, but the flowers in nature can only be seen for about three of them. To be sure, plan to see them at the end of April. Then you’re also here for Kingsday on April 27. A celebration like you might have never seen before.

The Downside of this time is that crowds are insane. And prices skyrocket. It’s worth it for the flowers. But if that is not why you’re visiting, avoid April and May. March is still less crowded, and the weather can be pleasant. June also.

The summer months can be hot and crowded, especially in August. Not the best time to visit, although The Canal Parade during Gay Pride is a spectacle worth coming for.

September again is great. After that, the weather declines rapidly. But October is gorgeous to see the autumn foliage in the country’s east.

Hidden Holland Tip: Visit Paleis Het Loo (tickets), an amazing Versailles-style Royal Palace in Apeldoorn (1 hour east of Amsterdam by train). The hunting grounds behind the palace show nature’s spectacle at its best. Another excellent destination for the Autumn colors is in the National Park: “The Hoge Veluwe.” You can also visit the Kröller Muller Museum (tips) in the middle of the park. They have the 2nd largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh paintings in the Netherlands, after the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Again, add at least two extra days to your itinerary.

And finally, if you don’t mind the cold, winter can be a beautiful time to see the city. Crowds will be “thinner.” The flip side of the early darkness is that the city’s festive lights lit up all around the city for the holidays, creating a magical experience. A great photo spot to capture this moment is at the corner of the Keizersgracht and the Reguliers Gracht.

Here are more tips for winter in the Netherlands.

How To Get Around Amsterdam For A Perfect 3-Day Itinerary?

Getting around in Amsterdam by tram.
Getting around Amsterdam by tram.

Getting around Amsterdam is easy. There are a variety of transportation options available. You can use the city’s efficient public transport system, walk, or take a canal cruise to see the city from a different perspective.

You can also rent a bike in Amsterdam, but I would be careful choosing to do that. You need to be an experienced cyclist in an urban area before you should try to do this.

If you’re looking for a complete guide to Public transport in and around Amsterdam, read my full, including the best tickets to buy and safety tips.

How To Get To Amsterdam

Train platform At Schiphol Airport.
Train platform At Schiphol Airport – Photo: NS

It’s easy to get from the Airport to Amsterdam. The two major ways of traveling into the city are either by train (a quick 15-20 minute ride to Central Station. Or, if you’re staying in the Museum Quarter/Leidseplein area by Amsterdam Airport Express Bus (397), to read more about this and other travel options, read my article on how to travel between Amsterdam Schiphol Airport And The City Center.

Conclusion

I hope this 3 day Amsterdam Itinerary full of Amsterdam travel tips has been a great source of inspiration to kickstart your own trip planning. I think it’s the best way to spend 3 days in Amsterdam. And can be a perfect 3 day weekend in Amsterdam. But how many days you need in total for your trip to The Netherlands depends on what you want to see beyond the city.

Planning 2 day weekend trips to Amsterdam can be a fun idea, but you have to skip some of the suggestions above when you only have 2 days in Amsterdam. My advice for exploring Amsterdam better is that 3 days in Amsterdam is a minimum.

To also enjoy the smaller but equally great attractions like the “Royal Palace of Amsterdam,” the “Resistance Museum,” and “Rembrandt’s House” or take it at a slower pace, four days would be even more perfect. You might then also have the chance to include Organic Market at the Noordermarkt on a Saturday morning into your itinerary (great to combine with Apple Pie at Winkel 43).

There is also plenty to see outside of Amsterdam too. If you want to see the real Netherlands, I would say plan for at least 7-10 days. There is plenty to see and do to fill that time. From the architectural capital of the country: Rotterdam, to the enchanting Royal city of Delft, or visit the Stately city of The Hague with its fun beach area, medieval Utrecht and Amersfoort, or beautiful natural areas all across the country, and don’t forget iconic places like the windmills of Kinderdijk.

Which Amsterdam Area Excites 🌟 You The Most?

I’d love to hear your thoughts: Are you going to follow this 3 day itinerary in Amsterdam? Or will you pick and choose? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and let’s start a conversation 💬.

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Gerrit shares his love for the Netherlands from his home near Amsterdam, helping thousands plan unforgettable trips to the lowlands. Discover his inspiring journey "From a critical health scare to celebrating Holland's charms". If you want to send Gerrit a quick message, you can contact him here.

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