2 days in amsterdam walking canals

2 Days in Amsterdam: The Best Things to See & Do

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Do you have 2 full days to spend exploring Amsterdam? Awesome! Although popular and hyped in the travel space, Amsterdam is still a spectacular city that exceeded all of my expectations. It’s popular for a reason.

I loved everything about Amsterdam from its world class museums, outstanding food, scenic canals, and friendly people. Seriously, the Dutch are hilarious. I loved their sense of humor and helpfulness. 

Truth be told, I’m beating myself up for not visiting Amsterdam sooner. 

2 days in amsterdam itinerary includes snapping lovely pictures
2 days in Amsterdam made me bright and happy!

I. Loved. It.

I know Amsterdam is popular for city breaks and short visits, especially in Europe, so I wanted to create an itinerary of my favorite highlights. This specific itinerary is enough to cover a weekend or 2 days in Amsterdam.

But, first, let’s tackle (of course) the most important tips to make your short Amsterdam trip worthwhile.

amsterdam is worth visiting even on cloudy days

Amsterdam Travel Tips

These travel tips will focus on the logistics like accommodation and transportation. 

Personally, I would also read Lonely Planet’s Amsterdam Guide to go along with this itinerary. I adore Lonely Planet guides and use them for the most up to date information about any given destination. 

Is 2 Days in Amsterdam Enough Time?

Hmmmm, to be honest, it depends on your goal. 2 days in Amsterdam can be enough time. Possibly.

Personally, I loved Amsterdam. I enjoyed the city’s chilled atmosphere so much that I could have easily spent five days in the city.

Yup, five days. Think that’s a lot of time? I don’t. I would have gone to lesser known museums, relaxed under shady trees in parks, and ate my way through food markets. I’m just a slow traveler at heart (as most of you know).

However, if you want to take a classic city break, Amsterdam is still a wonderful choice. It’s walkable with plenty of museums, great restaurants, and scenic narrow streets. Furthermore, Amsterdam has fantastic and timely public transportation, which makes going around the city a breeze.

If you only have 2 days in Amsterdam, you should be able to see and do everything you want, as long as you do your research and remain practical about your travel goals.

5 days in netherlands

Getting Around Amsterdam

Arrival in Amsterdam

Most international travelers will arrive at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport. This airport is big. Make sure you don’t plan any activities until later in the day. 

An airport taxi is the fastest and more expensive way to get to central Amsterdam. Although pricey, a taxi might be a good option if you’re traveling in a group and can split the cost.

Otherwise, I recommend using the train to reach central Amsterdam. Trains run on a regular schedule, and only take 20 minutes. Amsterdam’s public transportation system really is fantastic, and will help you zip all over the city. 

Transportation in Amsterdam

Truthfully, I spent a lot of time walking in Amsterdam. My own two feet are free and effective.

Most travelers will want to rent a bike to navigate Amsterdam. This city has the most bikes per capita. However, adhere to all safety guidelines on your bike. You don’t want to get into an accident on two wheels! Stay in the designated bike lanes and keep your eyes peeled for wandering tourists. 

Metros and buses are very accessible in Amsterdam. Amsterdam’s tourism board has a great guide to public transportation in the city. 

two days in amsterdam itinerary in the central area

Where to Stay with 48 Hours in Amsterdam?

Again, accommodation in Amsterdam depends on your goals. If you want more space, then feel free to use my AirBnB link for $55 off your first stay, and rent an apartment in a residential neighborhood. 

Another thing is to keep in mind that hotels, hostels, and apartments can all be very expensive, especially in high season. Not shocking, given this city’s immense popularity.

Therefore, it’s (very) essential to keep your eyes peeled for deals and to book well in advance of your travel dates. 

Accommodation Suggestion:

  • Highland House: For my visit, I stayed at Highland House which is a charming and friendly boutique hotel that’s close to the main train station. I adored Highland House. The room was spacious and clean, but the personal touches were wonderful at this hotel. For example, the hospitality workers would leave nice letters and chocolates in the room every day! The area was also very quiet despite it’s central location. I heard no noise at night. (Reserve on TripAdvisor.com or Booking.com)

2 days in amsterdam seeing row homes

Things to Do in Amsterdam

Not sure what to do with 2 days in Amsterdam? I completely understand. This city is jam-packed with incredible attractions. It’s hard to make a decision. 

Below were some of my favorite things to see and do in Amsterdam. Feel free to adjust to suit your personal interests. 

Walking Tours of Amsterdam

I always like to learn about a new city as soon as my feet hits the pavement. I felt no differently about my visit to Amsterdam. Free walking tours are a great way to acquaint yourself with a destination. 

On my trip, I took the Classic Tour with Free Walking Tours Amsterdam and had a great time! The guide, Daphne, was knowledgeable, passionate, and hilarious. She did a great job even when it started to rain, haha! Gotta love unpredictable weather.

While on the tour, we learned about Dam Square, the Jewish Neighborhood, Coffee Shops, and the Red Light District. I think free walking tours are especially good for Amsterdam if you want to see and learn about the Red Light District, but don’t feel comfortable wandering there at night. 

So I highly recommend taking a free walking tour to learn about Amsterdam’s fascinating history and culture. 

Other Walking Tour Suggestions

  • Amsterdam Red Light District Tour: Go on a tour of the Red Light District to learn about this controversial area. This tour is especially great if you’re nervous about exploring the district yourself.
  • Food Walking Tour in Jordaan: Ready to eat till your stomach bursts? Then sign up for this food tour in Jordaan to eat Amsterdam’s best treats! 
  • Jewish Quarter Small Group Tour: Learn all about Amsterdam’s Jewish history and Anne Frank on this themed walking tour of Amsterdam. Admission to the Anne Frank house isn’t included.

with 2 days in amsterdam, you'll wanna see all the museums

Museum-Hopping in Amsterdam 

I’m a total fan of great museums. And Amsterdam didn’t disappoint! I especially loved Amsterdam’s many art museums (you’ll read about my favorites in detail later in this itinerary).

If you want to see lots of museums, then I personally recommend buying an iAmsterdam Card to skip the lines and save some money. 

Possible Museums for 2 Days in Amsterdam

Here are some of Amsterdam’s top museums:

  • Amsterdam Museum: A museum all about the history of Amsterdam! Great for city buffs!
  • Anne Frank House: A touching museum that serves as a memorial to Anne Frank. Reservations are required. 
  • Rijksmuseum: This Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam.
  • Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam: A collection for modern and contemporary art. 
  • Van Gogh Museum: A museum that is dedicated to the works of Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries in Amsterdam.

solo travel in Amsterdam is safe

The Best Neighborhoods

Amsterdam truly has lovely neighborhoods for you to get lost in without a plan. 

True, 2 days in Amsterdam is brief. However, strolling without an agenda is one of the best things you can do in this city. 

De Pijp is a great central option to take a walk with its eateries and boutiques. You’ll also find Albert Cuyp Markt, which is one of Amsterdam’s most famous markets. Oud-Zuid is another one of my favorite areas with all the art museums right at your fingertips. And, of course, who can forget the gorgeous Jordaan area? Those canals steal my heart. 

And if you’re traveling alone in Amsterdam, then soaking up the atmosphere in these neighborhoods will be even better for you. 

got 2 days in amsterdam? eat all the food

Food from Former Dutch Colonies 

Amsterdam is home to lots of delicious Indonesian food. It only makes sense to take advantage of the taste opportunities. 

On my trip, I had dinner at the Blue Pepper Restaurant which certainly didn’t disappoint in the slightest. However, there are an abundance of cheaper options available to suit your travel budget. 

Indonesian food is incredibly diverse, and the spreads are beautiful. Instagram-worthy, even, haha. Your taste buds will certainly enjoy the experience. 

things to do in zaanse schans

Possible Day Trips

Amsterdam has tons of day trips. Tons. And the places are easy to reach. 

So, what if you’re just really not a city person? Want to enjoy a taste of the Dutch countryside? Then Zaanse Schans is perfect for you!

Furthermore, as I’ve said earlier in this post, I added this particular suggestion for people who aren’t necessarily into art museums as much as I am. Instead you’ll experience an “open air” museum and see a brewery.

The breathtaking scenery is worth trekking outside Amsterdam, I promise.

As for seeing the windmills, it’s easy to reach Zaanse Schans using public transportation especially for independent travelers. However, for travelers concerned about time or logistics, plenty of small group tours go to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam. 

By reserving your tour for Zaanse Schans, you’ll have a chance to see the beautiful Dutch countryside without going too far.

chilling at a bar in amsterdam

2 days in Amsterdam Itinerary

Let’s break everything down in a nice summary! I hope you’re excited for these 2 days in Amsterdam. You’ll really create a lot of travel memories. 

Time to travel! Buckle in!

plenty of places to eat in amsterdam

Day 1

For your first day, I’ve compiled a list of tours, museums, and cocktails! Oh my! Talk about a triple threat. 

As always, I encourage you to do your own research in addition to this post, and add or remove things that don’t stir your complete interest and excitement. 

After all, this is your dream getaway to Amsterdam. It should be perfect, right? Right!

Familiarize Yourself With the City

I would start off your trip simply by wandering Amsterdam’s main streets.

In my opinion, the best way to learn about a new city is to go on a walking tour.

Definitely refer to the tours that I have already mentioned in this guide. You’ll learn about the city, make new friends, and develop a sense of direction.

I truly think walking tours are always worth the cost of the ticket, as well as the cost of the tip.

amsterdam worth visiting for the small squares

Discover Amsterdam’s Religious Past

Amsterdam’s religious history is fascinating.

One of my favorite surprises was Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder or Our Lord in the Attic. This fascinating museum is tucked right in the center of town, not too far from Amsterdam Centraal Station.  In 1663, Catholics lost their right to worship in Amsterdam. However, secret churches were created in private homes so believers could still gather and celebrate Mass in their own way. 

At Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder or Our Lord in the Attic, you explore an old canal house that hides a clandestine Catholic church. The free audio guide is brilliant. You learn a lot, but the same time, the audio doesn’t ramble, which gives you plenty of time to look around and contemplate history. 

Next I’d suggest going to a quiet gem: Begijnhof. 

This scenic area of historic, mostly private dwellings was originally established for the Beguines who were religious unmarried women (not nuns, though). It gave them their own sanctuary in the middle of a bustling city. The last Beguine died in 1971.

Today you’ll still find a sense of peace in Begijnhof. It’s perfect for whenever you need a break from the chaos. 

However, please respect your limitations as a tourist. You’re not permitted to stroll close to private homes and start snapping photos.

waiting to go into the anne frank house

Visit the Anne Frank House

Although crowded, I would absolutely recommend taking a visit to the Anne Frank House. I remember (vaguely) reading Anne Frank’s Diary as a child, and now I think it’s due for a reread now that I’m an adult and educator.

Personally, I found the Anne Frank House remarkably touching. The audio is very well done and explains each of the family members, as well as the people who risked their lives to hide them from the Nazi Regime.

When you’re in the attic itself, the audio shuts off so you can fully appreciate the small rooms, including where Anne slept. Don’t feel embarrassed if you need to cry. For me, the pictures of bygone celebrities on the wall are stark reminders that Anne was only a young teenager. It broke my heart.

You need to reserve tickets well in advance to see the Anne Frank House. For example, I booked my mid-August ticket at the end of June. Anne Frank’s quarters are tiny, which results in limiting the number of tourists who pass through its doors.

Lastly, photography is also not permitted inside. Please respect the rules. 

enjoying a drink at house of bols

Sample Some Delicious Cocktails

Time to take a break and enjoy a classic cocktail at House of Bols. You’ll embark on a self-guided tour of this Dutch gin museum. It’s easy enough to hop on a tram from the Anne Frank House to the House of Bols. And you guys? I had a blast here, especially in the quirky tasting rooms!

Anyway, on my own visit, I wasn’t sure what to expect at the House of Bols, but boy, it’s super fun and tasty! You’ll learn all about Lucas Bols who is the founder of Amsterdam’s longest standing distilled spirit brand.

Not to mention, a cocktail is included in the cost of your ticket. Win/win!

The House of Bols is popular, but, in my opinion, less packed and overwhelming than the Heineken Experience.

exploring amsterdam's canals
I Love Amsterdam Sunsets.

Snap Photos in Jordaan

Jordaan is understandably one of the most popular areas in all of Amsterdam. I loved this neighborhood. Without a doubt, it’s the Amsterdam we all see splashed across postcards. 

As for me, I personally loved Jordaan for shopping. Indy and vintage boutiques line the streets making it very easy to spend money on all the things. Please don’t yell at me if you come back home broker. Just saying.

In particular, you’ll want to check out Westerstraat which has an awesome market (200 stands, whoa) on Mondays. 

I’d even plan on going to Jordaan for dinner. Like I said, you’ll have your pick of many wonderful restaurants and leave with a full, content belly. 

learning history in the art museums amsterdam

Day 2

Be prepared, scholars. Your second day in Amsterdam is jam packed with art. I picked the two most visited art museums for today so wear comfortable shoes.

Of course, if art isn’t your “thing,” I’ve included an optional surprise at the of this post. While my surprise isn’t in Amsterdam itself, this beautiful place is super close and accessible to anyone staying in the city’s center. 

Let’s get to it!

amsterdam has the best apple pie

Eat Lots and Lots of Apple Pie

Mmmmm, you guys, I have the world’s biggest sweet tooth. I’d give up a lot of things in exchange for unlimited delicious desserts that magically have zero calories. I’m not even kidding. 

So eat an apple pie breakfast at Winkel 43. It’s considered a delicacy. I honestly think Winkel’s apple pie is the best that I’ve ever eaten on my 32 years on earth. 

This treat will give you the necessary sustenance to trek through the next two big attractions. Onward!

see all the art museums in amsterdam

Learn All About Great Art 

Amsterdam has two very popular art museums: the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum.

Van Gogh Museum

Vincent Van Gogh is one of the world’s most famous artists, and he was born in the Netherlands. Therefore, you can find the artist’s largest collections right here in Amsterdam.

Be warned that the Van Gogh Museum is popular, and like the Anne Frank House, you must reserve your tickets in advance. For example, as we were going inside the museum, I overheard the staff telling other visitors that tickets were completely sold out for the next three days.

Trust me, book tickets ahead of time. I know having reserved time slots kills a bit of spontaneity, but I wouldn’t leave see this attraction up to chance. 

Inside the Van Gogh Museum, you’ll learn all about the artist’s tumultuous life and see some of his most famous works. I was fascinated reading about the mental health aspects myself. Things truly have come a very long way.

The Rijksmuseum

Not far from Van Gogh is the Rijksmuseum. Here, you’ll see the great works by the Dutch Masters.

The most popular piece in the Rijksmuseum is Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. This painting is huge, taking up an entire wall, and the majority of tourists linger here so be prepared for crowds. Also, as of summer 2019, The Night Watch has been undergoing renovation so it’s hard to see the painting, which kinda sucks, but what can you do.

The Rijksmuseum is enormous, much larger than the Van Gogh Museum, so pick what wings you want to see ahead of time, and go into the exhibits knowing that it’s impossible to see the entire art museum in a single visit. 

If you want to save time, it’s possible to book a tour combing both the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum, so you can efficiently see all the best masterpieces without hopelessly wandering from room to room. 

Note: If you come in the summer, you might be lucky enough to see the Rembrandt Art Market. Spend time and money to support Amsterdam’s local artists! I bought a gorgeous print for my living room.

a big happy grin in heineken
Smiles for 2 Days in Amsterdam!

Learn All About Great Beer

Haha, there’s literally no way to talk about spending 2 days in Amsterdam without referencing the Heineken Experience.

I mean, a lot of people in the United States love Heineken and make this attraction a big priority in their itinerary. And hey, if Heineken’s your thing, you should go on the Heineken experience. 

You’ll learn all about the history of this world famous brewery and participate in interactive exhibits. And, of course, at the end of the tour, you’re able to enjoy two glasses of crisp cold Heineken beer. Yummy!

who can say no to this delicious milkshake

Act Quirky in De Pijp 

Another neighborhood you should visit with 2 days in Amsterdam is De Pijp, which isn’t too far from the Heineken Experience. De Pijp is very lively, and on my trip, I didn’t encounter too many tourists, which was a super cool change.

De Pijp is Amsterdam’s former Latin Quarter, and walking along the narrow streets, you can easily understand how this area draws creativity. You’ll encounter plenty of cool cafes and eateries. 

Take your time here. It’s great being outside after three big attractions, am I right?

lovely walks in amsterdam

What would you do with 2 days in Amsterdam? Have you ever visited this amazing city? Leave all your thoughts in the comments!

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