3 Days in Amsterdam Itinerary for First-Timers

I must be honest: I was uncertain whether or not to write this post because Amsterdam is my city and when I start talking about it I never stop. Thankfully, I did write everything you need to know to spend 3 days in Amsterdam without writing a novel. Yaaay!

Amsterdam city is a sweet place full of gingerbread houses and charming canals. A reasonably small capital where you can reach most of the attractions on foot.

Amsterdam is also the city of freedom, the city famous for being tolerant of what most countries spend millions on to forbid. Some people call Amsterdam the city of sin, but I disagree.

Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth, it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin. ― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

I’ve written below my perfect and detailed itinerary so you can copy and use it as your own Amsterdam trip planner. Also, I’ve included a lot of practical information, such as how to get around the city, day trips, places to stay, and a map of Amsterdam with all the locations mentioned in this article!

Are 3 Days Enough In Amsterdam?

Three days in Amsterdam won’t be enough to see a bunch of cool places (because the city only has cool places, okay?). In 3 days you get to see just the tip of the iceberg, but the most important attractions, I promise you!

Also, even if you’re going to spend only 2 days in Amsterdam, you can just adjust this itinerary with the things you like the most and use it. Now, in case you’re spending 4 days in Amsterdam (or more), I’ll also suggest additional things to do on those extra days. No need to worry.

Anyway, wondering what to do in Amsterdam in 3 days? Read on!

Orange houses in Jordaan, Amsterdam. Don't miss the best places to visit in Amsterdam!
Jordaan Neighborhood in Amsterdam
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Where To Stay In Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is by no means a cheap city, I know. But if you’re looking for budget options, hostels come in handy. The Shelter City Christian Hostel is one of them. Location is excellent, right in the center, breakfast included, and free WiFi. This hostel is excellent for those looking to enjoy the nightlife in Amsterdam.

A little mid-range hostel, but with a cool concept, is the CityHub Amsterdam. You sleep in a modern and small hub. For those who want a different kind of accommodation and to meet some people, this is the right place! Free WiFi available, coffee maker in the rooms, and breakfast included. The standard room is hip, and the hostel has an excellent bar too.

Well, if you prefer a little more comfort than a hostel, why not stay in a boat? That’s right, near the Central Station, the Passengership Avanti is a comfortable hotel boat right in the city center, but yet away from the noises and party. Honestly, a unique experience to make your time in Amsterdam even better! Breakfast included and free WiFi is available.

If you want to splurge (why not, right?), check out the ‘t Hotel. The hotel is in one of those traditional Amsterdam three-story buildings. Each room has a different and charming Dutch decoration, including the common area. Rooms have a private bathroom, coffee maker, tv, and towels.

Boat tour in Amsterdam. Check out the perfect itinerary for 3 days in Amsterdam.
Renting a boat in Amsterdam is also an option

3 Days In Amsterdam – Day 1

Be an early bird and start your day around 8 am. I promise it will pay off.

So, if there is one thing Dutch people can do very well, it is apple pie. Of course, there are way more things they can do very well, but I just wanted to add some drama. Anyway, start your day in the hippest neighborhood in Amsterdam, the Jordaan. This alternative area has cozy and quite exciting shops and eateries. Totally worth a second visit.

So head to this popular cafe, the Winkel 43, located along the same canal as the Anne Frank House. This cafe is famous in the city for having Amsterdam’s most delicious apple pie. You won’t want to miss it, right?

No, I thought so.

Visit the Anne Frank House

After you have had enough calories, head to the Secret Annex. Or how it’s known in Dutch, Het Achterhuis. Anne Frank, her family, and 4 other people hid from the Nazis in this claustrophobic place for 2 long years. The original furniture was removed, and now some replicas give you an idea of how they lived. Anne Frank House is one of the most visited places in Amsterdam. Around 1.3 million tourists pay a visit to it every year to be more exact.

Anyway, this house is what we call a dark tourism site, so respect the local rules: do not touch anything nor take photos inside the house.

What else is there to see? Other diaries she wrote, family pictures, videos, and their story in the secret annex.

Pro tips: Buy your ticket in advance to avoid missing the day you planned. The Anne Frank House is jam-packed continuously with tourists. Also, they only sell tickets online and up to two months in advance.

Interesting places around the Anne Frank House: There’s a homomonument built behind the Western Church (Westerkerk). It’s a triangle on the ground that symbolizes the past, present, and future. It remembers the persecuted gays and lesbians around the world, it celebrates their freedom in the country, and it calls for vigilance in the future so that the world becomes a better place. Quite simple, but it carries a strong and powerful message.

Both of them are worth seeing, by the way. The church and the monument.

Anne Frank graffiti in Amsterdam. Check out the best things to do in Amsterdam.
Anne Frank Graffiti on NDSM
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Wander around the 9 streets (De 9 Straatjes)

After visiting such a touching place as the Anne Frank House, stroll along the 9 streets to cheer you up (De 9 Straatjes – the area between Hartenstraat and Huidenstraat, and Prinsengracht and Singel). These 9 streets have a bunch of antique stores and pleasant cafes. Highly touristic area, but still worth taking a look. And who knows, shop a little. At least for a warm cup of coffee.

Did you know that Amsterdam has over 2,000 houseboats? You can even stay in one, but I’ll talk about that later. For now, remember that you can visit a houseboat which is over 100 years old near the 9 streets. The Houseboat Museum is quite affordable (4.5 euros), and this is a way to learn about Amsterdam peculiar residence style: a houseboat. Here you can see how it works and everything. Very interesting!

Pro tip: The entrance is free of charge with the I Amsterdam Card.

Craving for some Dutch pancakes? Then stop by Pancakes Amsterdam near the Houseboat Museum, in the Berenstraat.

Traditional brown building, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Don't miss the best museums in this Amsterdam itinerary.
Rijksmuseum Facade

Visit a Museum in the Iconic Museum Square (Museumplein)

Walk towards the Leidseplein, one of the busiest squares in the city, especially at night. It’s often crowded and overpriced, so just walk by to see it, but I don’t recommend you stop by for a beer or so. Instead, choose one bar only one or two blocks away from this square, and you’ll see the prices getting more reasonable.

Anyway, head to the Museum Square (Museumplein) and prepare to spend the afternoon in one or two of the best museums in the Netherlands.

There are excellent museums here, such as the Stedelijk Museum, Modern Art Museum (Moco), the National Museum (Rijksmuseum), and the Van Gogh Museum.

The first I mentioned is about modern and contemporary art.

The second is a boutique museum about modern, inspiring, and contemporary art, as they call themselves. Meaning, they showcase the work of artists who use a lot of irony towards contemporary society, such as the mysterious Banksy.

The third museum is the largest one in the Netherlands and showcases the brilliant Dutch art and history over the years. They also have a small collection of Asian artifacts, but Dutch exhibitions are predominant here. Highlights of the Rijksmuseum: the library room and Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. Reserve 3-4 hours for this visit.

Ps: The IAmsterdam sign is right in front of it.

The latter is my favorite one. I just adore the Van Gogh Museum, and I certainly recommend you to visit it too. Highlights of the Van Gogh Museum: Almond Blossom and Sunflowers.

I bought a very fine looking jigsaw puzzle printed with his painting Almond Blossom in the museum’s shop.

Pro tip: The entrance for the Stedelijk, Rijksmuseum, and Van Gogh are free of charge with the I Amsterdam Card.

Library full of books in Amsterdam. Check out the best things to do in Amsterdam.
Rijksmuseum Library in Amsterdam

Dinner Time – Where to eat in Amsterdam

Reload your energy in the Cafe Restaurant In de Buurt. They offer some delicious dishes with great value for money, considering how expensive Amsterdam is.

I think you’ll enjoy the restaurant’s atmosphere and their selection of beers. But don’t drink too fast! You’re going to drink some Dutch beers somewhere else. Just so you know.

Go to a Dutch Cafe

Dutch craft beer is as tasty as it can be. And thankfully there’s a bar I will forever recommend people to visit it. Proeflokaal Arendsnest only serves Dutch craft beers, but that’s not all. They offer over 50 beers on draft, cold and refreshing. The waiters can advise you which beer you should drink based on your preferences, but my personal choices are La Trappe Isid’or and Gerardus Blond.

They also serve Dutch liquor, whiskey, and gin, such as Jenever.

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3 Days In Amsterdam – Day 2

Assuming you have a headache from last night, you may start your day 2 a little bit later than yesterday. Head to a quiet place to take it easy, by that I mean a beguinage (Begijnhof). Not that the Begijnhof is empty or without tourists. Oh, no. Not a square meter in Amsterdam is empty. However, since the religious women still live there, most tourists do respect their privacy.

And so will you, right? Yaaay!

Anyway, the Begijnhof is an oasis in the middle of the chaos of Amsterdam. The crooked houses are squeezed next to each other around a tiny square. There are also two churches in this site, a Protestant and a Catholic one.


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Visit the coolest bookstore in Amsterdam

After you’ve fulfilled your curiosity about this peaceful place, head to one of the best and most beautiful bookstores in Amsterdam, the American Book Center (I love bookstores). They have a great selection of books in English about all subjects you can imagine. There’s an interesting personal touch in this store: a massive tree trunk running down the middle of the store (while the store in The Hague has an event space called Tree House). Why? Because it reminds where books come from (and the owners loved tree houses as children). How amazing is that?

Pro tip: Try their intriguing blind book date and surprise yourself with a good read (and souvenir).

Brunch Time – a hidden gem in Amsterdam

Food for foodies. Looking for a tasty brunch with a panorama view over Amsterdam? No, you weren’t, but now I got your attention. Head to the cozy Blue Amsterdam to find this hidden place. This cafe is on the third floor of the shopping center Kalverpassage. Slightly overpriced, but the 360 views of Amsterdam make up for it. Of course, the food and service won’t disappoint you either.

The place is small, so arrive before lunchtime to find a table. Also, look for a table on the second floor of the cafe for a better view. Enjoy your meal! Or in Dutch, smakelijk eten!

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Visit the only floating market in Europe – The Flower Market

After you’re done here, cross the canal behind this shopping center to find a floating flower market. Tulips are one of the symbols of the Netherlands, so maybe a flower should be a good travel souvenir? They also sell wooden tulips, which is easier to pack in your backpack.

Anyway, stroll down the Kalverstraat until the Dam Square. The most important square in the country houses the Royal Palace, the New Church (De Nieuwe Kerk), and the National Monument for the remembrance of WW2.

The Royal Palace is one of the three residences of the Royal family still in use. The palace is open for visitation most of the year (10 euros), and you receive a free audio guide to learn more about the architecture and rooms. I enjoyed my visit there.

Ps: I know you have just had something to eat, but I feel obligated to recommend the De Drie Graefjes, near the Dam Square. They have delicious pies! (I love their lemon pie).

Pink, yellow, and white wooden flowers in Amsterdam. Read the best things to do in Amsterdam.
Flower Market in Amsterdam

Go on a Canal Cruise

Now it’s time to check an item off of your bucket list: go on a canal cruise in Amsterdam! If you purchase the I Amsterdam Card, you’ll not only have free access to a bunch of museums in the city but also to a free cruise. Well, it’s not free because you’re paying for it, but you get what I mean. I can assure you that canal cruises are an enjoyable thing to do in Amsterdam. Mainly because you see the city from another perspective. It’s a unique experience!

Fun fact: Because of its rich history, the 17th-century Canal Ring Area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. This area includes the Singel canal through the Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal), and from the Haarlemmerstraat through a couple of blocks after the Amstel River.

Boat cruising in Amsterdam. Read the best tips to spend 3 days in Amsterdam!
Boat cruising in Amsterdam Canals

Visit a hip area in Amsterdam – NDSM

I’m showing you different sides of Amsterdam with this guide, so here’s another one: after your cruise, take the free ferry behind the Central Station heading to NDSM. This is a hip area with lots of street art and a enormuis flea market called IJ-Hallen (on Sundays).

Explore this underground area a bit, after all, it’s free, right? Also, look for the colorful mural of the artist Kobra. “Let me be myself” is an enormous graffiti of Anne Frank painted on the NDSM-Werf building. 

Then take a look at the Faralda Crane Hotel. As you might have guessed, it used to be a crane, but it’s now one of the most exclusive hotels in Amsterdam. Even if you don’t want to splurge (this is a 5-star hotel), there is also the possibility of bungee jump from a 50-meter platform.

NDSM hipster area in Amsterdam. Your best itinerary for three days in Amsterdam.
NDSM in Amsterdam, alternative and underground area

Have some drinks (or just tea) in alternative cafes

For a cup of coffee or tea, head to Noorderlicht Cafe, a cafe in a former greenhouse. From the outside, you might not have the best impression of this place. But trust me, the ambiance is welcoming. It’s an industrial look and hip vibe. On a side note, there are waiters, but they were quite slow when I was there. So, if it’s crowded, go to the counter to order because it might be faster.

For some food, I suggest you go to Pllek, a restaurant inside a shipping container by the water’s edge. Their menu is quite healthy, made of organic and environmental-friendly products. Around 75% of their dishes are vegetarian, of which 25% are vegan. This is an excellent chance to taste different and healthy meals. But if you prefer eating some meat, they also serve chicken, fish, and smoked sausage. Food and drinks are reasonably priced. This is a cool area to hang out on summer evenings, but they also have a bonfire for when it gets a bit colder.

Love the concept of this place!

Ps: the other ferry behind the Central Station goes to the Eye Film Museum. You’ll notice there’s a tall building with a platform on top of it. That building is called A’DAM Tower. The A’DAM Tower has a restaurant, a rooftop bar, an observation deck, and Europe’s highest swing. But it’s overpriced if you ask me. It costs 13.50 to go to the top; then you still need another ticket for the swing, 5 euros.

But if you want to go up in the A’DAM Tower anyway:

Pro tip 1: prepare your camera to make a video inside the elevator. You’re going to have a blast with those lights (it lasts around 20 seconds)!

Pro tip 2: don’t forget to lace your shoes or you’ll lose them in the swing.

Pro tip 3: there are alternative rooftop views, such as the OBA Library and the Blue Amsterdam, already mentioned here. But you can also enter the A’DAM Tower for free if you have dinner or a few drinks in the Madam panorama restaurant. They have a few rules for allowing entrance though. You must be over 21 years old and meet the casual chic dress code requirements. The bar opens at 10 pm.

Swing onto A'DAM Lookout building in Amsterdam. Your best guide for 3 days in Amsterdam.
A’DAM Lookout and swing
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3 Days In Amsterdam – Day 3

Okay, so, day 1 was the History Day. Visiting museums and historical places. Day 2 was the Chillout Day. Laid back, eating well, and walking around. Day 3 is what I call a Sinful Day.

Hmm, it’s getting interesting.

Visit the Sex Museum

Let’s start with the most crowded attraction of your Sinful Day. The Sex Museum, also known as Venus Temple, is nearly in front of the Central Station. Quite a quirky place, this museum has some educative displays talking about the history of naturalism and development of sexuality. Of course, you’ll certainly laugh at a few quirky mannequins and photos. The entrance cost 5 euros, and you should reserve around 45 minutes for a visit.

Now head to the Red Light District. There, as the name suggests, you’ll find the infamous red windows, but also sex-related stores and establishments.

Yes, it’s safe to walk around the Red Light District, you just need to respect a few rules. Read this article in which I explain them better.

The Red Light District

Wander around this area to see the most infamous red light district. Perfectly safe to walk around, you’ll probably spot families with young children there. This is the oldest neighborhood in Amsterdam and the one with the most traditional architecture too. The houses here are quite narrow, and some are very crooked, sinking into the canals.

This area is jam-packed with tourists, which means is jam-packed with pickpockets. So beware of your belongings (and pockets). And by no means point your camera to one of the girls. It’s not allowed to take pictures of them, and you might get yourself into problems, no…you will get yourself into some serious problems if you try that!

Highlights: Onze Lieve Heer Op ‘t Zolder (a museum of a church hidden inside a house), the Old Church (De Oude Kerk) – an ancient church right at the Red Light, and the Bulldog Coffee Shop, the first in the city.

Fun fact: look for the female iron breast on the pavement next to the church. No one knows who placed it there, but the location is at least ironic.

Brown houses and canal in Amsterdam. Read the best tips to spend 3 days in Amsterdam.
Can you see the crooked houses on the left?
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Soft Drugs in Amsterdam

Well, it was about time we talked about it, right? Soft drugs, such as hash, marijuana, and hemp, are tolerated in the Netherlands. But what does that even mean?

It means they didn’t make these drugs legal, but they’re going to spend the public money on something else instead of fighting the use of soft drugs, which is smart if you ask me.

That’s why you may possess up to 5g and use it in specific places, such as a coffee shop, or at home.

Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum

The world’s first museum dedicated to hemp and marijuana is in the Red Light District, of course. The museum is highly informative, and you’ll learn about the history and culture of cannabis. Including its aspects and use, both medicinal and recreational.

The museum is fascinating and you’ll learn a lot about these taboo substances, so why not pay a visit?

Reserve around 1 hour to see everything.

Pay a visit to Condomerie

The Condomerie is a store of…condoms. They claim to be the world’s first condom store. If that’s true, I can’t say, but they do have all sorts of crazy condoms and hygiene products. I mean it. Female and male condoms, finger condoms, sponges, lubes, to name a few. This small funny store is a must-see and who knows, you’ll find something you like there. 😉

Condoms in a store in Amsterdam. Your best guide to quirky places in Amsterdam.
Crazy condoms store in Amsterdam

Lunch Time – Where to eat in Amsterdam

Lunchtime. Again. Yaaay! Head to the Omelegg at the beginning of the Red Light District, coming from the Central Station. This cozy place has a very friendly staff and mouthwatering omelets! Omelets are served with bread, salad, and additionals. Which have of all sorts of options, such as bacon, cheese, spinach, salami….hmmm. Ok, I’ll stop here…sorry, guys.

Anyway, this is undoubtedly a lunch of champions.

Okay, so now you can either go to a coffee shop or a brewery. And by a coffee shop, I mean the place where you can smoke weed.

No, the police won’t arrest you, and if you follow my tips, you’ll be just fine. Note that I’m not suggesting you should smoke weed. I’m saying that if you’re ever going to do that, it should be in Amsterdam where you won’t get in trouble for doing it. Get it? So I’ll describe both options below.

Visiting a coffee shop in Amsterdam

There are a bunch of coffee shops spread throughout Amsterdam. From the most expensive ones (these are in the very heart of the city, aka Red Light District) to the ones with reasonable prices.

I highly recommend (pun intended) the Amnesia Coffee Shop, a chill-out place with incredibly friendly staff. The cheapest joint cost around 4.5 euros.

Things you should know:

  • Do not drink and smoke. This is not a right combination, and it can be dangerous for you. For that reason, coffee shops don’t sell alcohol.
  • Weed in the Netherlands can be quite a bit stronger than in many countries out there. So, take it easy! If you don’t know what to order, ask the staff, and they will help you. Also, I wouldn’t smoke a whole joint by myself, if I were you.
  • Watch out for the canals, bikes, cars, trams, and your purse. Pickpockets wait for tourists to get high to steal their stuff.
  • Do not get so stoned you won’t be able to get to your hotel. Seriously, you’re in a foreign country, take it easy.
Coffee Shop in Amsterdam. This is a local's guide to spend 3 days in Amsterdam.
Bulldog coffee shop in the Red Light District

Visiting a brewery in Amsterdam (under a windmill)

If you’re going for the alcohol instead of weed, head to the Brouwerij ‘t IJ. This brewery is under a windmill. Cool, right? Yes, it can’t get more Dutch than this!

The place is quite small, and most people stay on the terrace on sunny days. So, it might be difficult to find a table there.

They offer an excellent short tour, and you get a free beer of choice. Unfortunately, there are only 20 places on tour and, you can just buy the tour tickets at the bar on the day itself. So arrive there around the opening hour (opening hours: from 2 pm – 8 pm) and try to reserve your spot.

Also, you can order a sample tray of 5 beers and some snacks, such as diced cheese and sausages. Overall, the perfect place to finish your trip to Amsterdam.

Windmill in Amsterdam. Read this perfect guide for three days in Amsterdam by a resident.
Brewery under a windmill in Amsterdam

Do you have more time in Amsterdam? Are you spending 4 days in Amsterdam or even 5? Then read this post with a full list of things to do in the city to get some inspiration.

Things You Can Skip In Amsterdam

  • Madame Tussauds (extremely jam-packed with tourists and boring)
  • Heineken Experience (expensive and you can drink real beer with the same money, as explained above)
  • Swinging in the A’DAM Tower (costly and you can visit the tower for free as described above)

Public Transport in Amsterdam

How To Get To Amsterdam From Schiphol Airport?

Schiphol Airport is in Amsterdam, and you can easily reach the city center by train. Download the train app here (NS app) to check the timetables.

You have to purchase an ov-card (public transport card) for your trip at one of the yellow NS machines there. Also, you must check in and check out (place your card in front of the card reader and wait for a beep) when getting in or out of the train (bus and tram too).

How To Get Around Amsterdam?

I divided this itinerary into regions so you can do it on foot because the city is quite small. However, in case you want to visit some of the other attractions in Amsterdam I mentioned in this post, you’ll need to use public transport. In this case, purchase an ov-card (public transport card) in a supermarket or train stations.

Alternatively, you can purchase the I Amsterdam Card for the length of your stay because it gives you free use of bus and trams in that period.

To know which tram or bus you have to take to go to your destination (and where the stops are) download the 9292 app. The app will guide you.

Day Trips From Amsterdam

The Netherlands is a relatively small country, meaning you can easily visit other cities on a day trip. And yes, most cities in the country aren’t big either, so one day will be enough to see the main attractions.

My recommendations? Giethoorn, Maastricht, and Utrecht. Click here to read an article I wrote with all the information you need to go on the best day trips from Amsterdam.

Brunnete woman standing on a green path next to a canal in Giethoorn. Check out the best tips to visit Amsterdam in 3 days!
Me on a day trip to Giethoorn. Look how cute this place is!

Weather In Amsterdam

The weather in Amsterdam can be unpredictable, so always bring a jacket and a beautiful scarf to make sure you won’t be cold. Unless you’re traveling in the middle of a heat wave, of course. Moreover, know that it can be quite windy in the city. For female travelers wearing skirts or dresses, take care, or you’ll show your bum. 

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Things To Do In Amsterdam On A Rainy Day

Rainy days aren’t unusual in Amsterdam, unfortunately. If it rains indeed, then you can better spend your day in museums and cafes. For more ideas of places to visit, check out this list of things to do in Amsterdam.

If you want to have a deeper understanding of the city and its surroundings, recommend taking one of these tours I selected below:

Amsterdam Map

Now tell me, what do you think about Amsterdam after reading this itinerary? Also, when are you planning to go to Amsterdam? I’m curious about your answers! Let’s talk!

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