Planning a trip to Amsterdam? Get some inspiration on what to do while you’re there with our idea of a perfect three-day itinerary. History, culture, entertainment, restaurants… Pack it all in at a comfortable pace and don’t miss a thing!
The capital of the Netherlands and also the country’s largest city, Amsterdam continues to impress its visitors. A deeply cultural city, Amsterdam is full of museums and palaces that tell the story of the golden age of Dutch painting. A natural city, its inhabitants prefer to get around by bike, criss-crossing the canals. Amsterdam is also a liberal city, and in the twentieth century it became one of the most tolerant cities in the world.
Upon your arrival in Amsterdam, step back in time to the Middle Ages: start at the historic centre of the city, more specifically, the Dam, Amsterdam’s main square. You cannot miss the vast Royal Palace, built in the seventeenth century, a building that expresses all the power and glory of the city during its golden age. On the square is also the Nieuwe Kerk, the new church, which, despite its name, in fact dates from the fifteenth century. It is still used today for the investiture of the Dutch sovereign, as well as for exhibitions.
Next, have lunch near the Dam, ordering some kroketten or frikandellen (croquettes and patties) which are to Amsterdam what pizza is to New York: a simple and cheap meal that’s convenient and fast.
In the afternoon, choose between two modes of transport to explore the canals. You could either hire a boat, which is not too expensive and is a very pleasant way to get around on the water, or alternatively, do as the Dutch do, hiring a bicycle to explore the dense network of canals, designated by Unesco as heritage of humanity.
During your exploration, stop at the edges of the Prinsengracht and visit the Anne Frank House. This is where young Anne and her family hid for two years before being deported. Beyond the life of Anne Frank, the museum offers a reflection on all forms of persecution, a visit will be an emotional experience.
In the evening, step into one of the famous “brown cafes”, which are numerous in the Jordaan district, not far from Anne Frank House. These cafes dating from the seventeenth century take their name from the colour of their walls, burnished by centuries of smoking. Café Chris, for example, is the oldest of these brown cafes: it dates from 1624.
The next morning, it's time to hop on a bike again to explore the famous port of Amsterdam. Although you may not come across the sailors singing of their dreams that are said to haunt this area, you can still see the many alternative works of art featuring maritime activity in this authentic district.
At lunch time, cross the historic centre to the south, heading to the Vendelpark, and enjoy a picnic in the city’s most famous park. The park symbolizes the freedom of the people of Amsterdam, and the city’s very tolerant legislation. In summer, concerts and performances are held here regularly.
In the afternoon, as you return from the park to the historic centre, you will come across the Rijksmuseum. This is the largest museum in the Netherlands with its collection of more than one million works, including The Night Watch by Rembrandt and Vermeer’s The Milkmaid. The collection illustrates the Golden Age of Dutch painting, and comprises what is undoubtedly the finest such collection in the world.
For dinner, try an Indonesian restaurant: Amsterdam is renowned for offering particularly good Indonesian food. Take the opportunity to sample rijsttafel, a rice dish, at Templo de Loë in the centre, for example. Alternatively, dine at the Koevoet in the Jordaan district, which has served excellent Italian dishes since 1889.
The following day, visit the Van Gogh Museum, located near the Rijksmuseum, which exhibits many of the most famous paintings by the Dutch master, including his Sunflowers and Van Gogh's bedroom in Arles. Depending on how long you spend in the museum, you could complete this visit with a trip to the Stedelijk Museum, the museum of modern art located just next door, where you can see famous works by Malevich and Mondrian.
You probably still have some culinary specialties to discover before your departure, such as the Indonesian roti, not to be confused with the French rôti . It is a dish of chicken curry, with potatoes and beans. And as for cheeses, no visit to Holland would be complete without tasting some gouda, so - unless you are allergic - you must try some.
In the afternoon, wander as your mood takes you along the canals. A few interesting places to discover are: the Electric Ladyland Museum in the Jordaan district, which is entirely dedicated to neon artwork, and is therefore a psychedelic experience; the Tuschinski, an art deco cinema dating from 1921 that can be visited as a monument in its own right; the museum of maritime art, one of the most comprehensive in Europe; or the Cat Cabinet, an institution dedicated to cats in art.
And on your last night, it’s time to party. Nostalgic clubbers will head to Paradiso or Melkweg, two legendary clubs that have lost none of their appeal. Near the centre, Trouw will delight those looking for top quality electronic music. Not far away there is also Studio 80 which will easily win over fans of house and techno.
In three days, Amsterdam will not reveal all of its charms, but you can get a good overview of what the city can offer in terms of culture, and its liberal and pleasant way of life. If you have the opportunity to spend a little more time in the Dutch capital, take the chance to explore the surrounding countryside with its picturesque villages, or visit the northern parts of the city which have retained a charmingly authentic feel.