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See the Best of Amsterdam in 2 Days: Things to Do, Itinerary & Map

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See the Best of Amsterdam in 2 Days: Things to Do, Itinerary & Map

Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands is a lively, vibrant place. With its beautiful canals, historic buildings, world-class museums, and lots of cultural attractions, a visit to Amsterdam is always an extraordinary experience. One you won’t quickly forget.

If you are planning to spend 2 days in Amsterdam and are wondering what to see and do in the city, this article should give you a good idea of how to best plan your time. For a shorter stay, please check our guide to the best of Amsterdam in 1 day.

Good to know: While we have been to Amsterdam many times, it’s always nice to get a local’s perspective as well. So for this guide, we also included tips from bloggers at Ask The Dutch Guide. They are from the Netherlands and helped us create this guide that will help you to see the very best of Amsterdam in two days.

Rain or shine, there are endless things to do in the city! In this itinerary, we included all the ‘musts’ and our best suggestions for what you can see and do in Amsterdam in two days. In addition, you’ll also find some alternative tips and ideas to suit your interests or the season when you travel. This itinerary will also be perfect for those looking to spend a weekend in Amsterdam.

Take a look at our suggestions, pick the places that interest you the most, and use this guide as an inspiration to help you plan your own dream trip to Amsterdam. At the bottom of this article, you can also find some essential tips for your visit. Find out!

2 days in Amsterdam
 

To help you plan your Amsterdam city break, we indicated all the locations and places of interest mentioned in this article on the map. That way, you have a better idea of where everything is and how to plan your trip.

And of course, you can switch things around and create your own perfect itinerary that best suits your interests.

How to Use This Map: Use your computer mouse (or fingers) to zoom in or out. Click on the icons to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the left top corner for the index. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu button, and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’.

 

So, how can you make the most out of your stay in the city? Here’s our suggested Amsterdam 2 day itinerary:

Day 1

On your first day in the city, we suggest visiting one or two popular museums, going on a canal cruise, exploring the canals on foot, and visiting the main areas of central Amsterdam. This will give you a good introduction to the city.

Here’s how your first day in Amsterdam could look like:

Anne Frank House

Anne Frank House is one of the most popular places to visit in Amsterdam. Many people come to Amsterdam just to see this house where a young Jewish girl and her family hid from the nazis during WWII. During that period (1942-44), she kept a diary where she described the daily life in their hiding place, her thoughts, and feelings.

In 1944, their hiding place was discovered, and Anne was deported to Auschwitz concentration camp and later to Bergen-Belsen camp. She died in 1945, a few months before the war has ended. From the whole family, only Anne’s father survived. He later published her diary which has been translated into 70 languages and is now known all over the world.

Good to know: As you can imagine, the original part of the Anne Frank House is a rather small place. So the number of visitors is very limited. If you are planning to visit here, you’ll have to reserve your tickets online in advance. Normally, there are also a few tickets available on the day itself as well (also to be booked online), but if you want to be sure that you can indeed visit, it’s better to book at least a few weeks in advance.

That’s why we list Anne Frank House as the very first thing to do on this Amsterdam itinerary. If you can, get the tickets for a time slot first thing in the morning. That way, you are more flexible during the rest of the day. But you can always make this itinerary work out depending on the availability of the tickets.

TIP: If you can’t get the tickets for the museum – or if you want to learn more about Anne Frank’s life and WWII history in the Netherlands -consider this highly-rated Anne Frank walking tour.

Alternative: If you are not interested in Anne Frank House, visit either Rijksmuseum or Van Gogh Museum. More info on day 2 of this itinerary below.

Anne Frank House in Amsterdam
Anne Frank House
 

Amsterdam Canals & Canal Cruise

No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without exploring its magnificent canals. Dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, Amsterdam canals are lined by some of the city’s most impressive buildings. Nowadays, the canals are where you can catch a glimpse of the authentic Amsterdam. Beautiful, chaotic, lively, and vibrant.

There are many ways to explore Amsterdam canals – on foot, by boat, or by bike. Keep in mind that there are many kilometers of canals and there’s no way to see them all on such a short visit. We recommend walking at least a few sections of the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht and taking a canal cruise to explore more.

This is something you can do after visiting a museum in the morning. It’s a great way to get a quick view of the city. It will also give you a good overall perspective of where everything is.

All the boat tours last about 60-75 minutes and usually pass Herengracht, one of the most impressive canals in the city. During the boat ride, you will see a lot of landmarks and popular buildings as well. 

TIP: There is a canal cruise that starts right next to Anne Frank House (see here). This is an excellent option if you are visiting Amsterdam in the warmer months as the boat they use is open.

Alternative: If you visit one of the other museums instead of Anne Frank or if you are visiting in the colder season, take this canal cruise that starts close to Rijksmuseum. You can also easily walk there after visiting Anne Frank’s House. It will be a nice 20-30 minute walk along the beautiful Prinsengracht. After the tour, you can then walk back to the Jordaan neighborhood following one of the other canals.

Amsterdam canal cruise
Amsterdam canal cruise is a must!
Walter Suskindbrug at Nieuwe Herengracht in Amsterdam
Walter Süskind Bridge at Nieuwe Herengracht
 

Jordaan Neighborhood

After your canal cruise, now is the time to explore the city deeper. Get to know the real character of Amsterdam by checking out the side streets of the main canals! The best way to go about this is to explore Jordaan, a popular neighborhood in the city center.

Grab a cup of coffee or get some lunch at one of the cafes in this quirky neighborhood. This will give you that extra jolt because you will be walking a lot more here before you retire for the night. You should definitely try Dutch pancakes in this neighborhood!

You can easily explore this neighborhood on your own. Jordaan is famous for its arts, food, and architecture. Some parts of it are quite touristy, but if you head just a bit further away from the main canals, you’ll find a very local feel and authentic Amsterdam where there are (luckily) more locals than tourists.

TIP: Most walking tours also come to this neighborhood. But with just two days in Amsterdam, you’ll have to choose what’s worth your time and money the most. If you want to explore the city center with a local guide, probably a better way to see a lot in a short time is by taking a bike tour.

Egelantiersgracht in Jordaan neighborhood in Amsterdam
Egelantiersgracht, Jordaan neighborhood
 

The Nine Streets

Another nice place to see in central Amsterdam is the area called the Nine Streets (De Negen Straatjes). This is a series of old cobbled streets connecting the biggest canals between Leidsegracht and Raadhuisstraat.

The 9 Streets area is famous for its narrow streets, charming houses, and indie boutiques. Here, you can still find a touch of authentic Amsterdam and quirky stores that haven’t been taken over by big groups that have forever changed so many other places in the Netherlands.

Spend some time exploring the nine alleyways and surrounding canals!

Happy Bookieman bookstore in the 9 Streets Amsterdam
Happy Bookieman bookstore, The 9 Streets area
 

Amsterdam Begijnhof

If you are looking for another more authentic experience in Amsterdam, don’t miss the Begijnhof (Beguinage). This medieval inner courtyard where the women of the Catholic sisterhood lived is one of the hidden gems in the city center.

This small area houses a church, a few historic houses, and one of the two original wooden houses in Amsterdam. The last Beguine who lived here passed away in the 70s and the houses are now private residences.

It is not entirely unknown, but not nearly as busy as all the main attractions of Amsterdam. It’s a nice place to escape the hustle and the bustle for a few minutes.

Practical information: Begijnhof is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM and you can visit free of charge. It has two entrances: at the Northern side of the Spui and at the Gedempte Begijnensloot (at the end of the Schuttersgallery).

Amsterdam Begijnhof
Amsterdam Begijnhof
 

Damrak, Dam Square & the Royal Palace

Afterward, head on over to Dam Square, the main square of the city. On one side, you’ll see the Royal Palace Amsterdam and on the other – a National Monument.

This is a popular place to meet and there are often all kinds of events taking place here. It’s always crowded. Nevertheless, it’s worth a quick visit for a couple of pictures, just beware of pickpockets.

After that, continue northwards along Damrak, an avenue that connects Dam Square with the Amsterdam Central Station. Here, you’ll find the former stock exchange Beurs van Berlage, and some of the typical houses that you often see on the postcards from Amsterdam.

TIP: Don’t miss Damrak Waterfront. It’s one of the most photogenic places in Amsterdam. Behind it, in the direction of the Red Light District, you’ll also find lots of restaurants. This is a good (although touristy) place for dinner.

Damrak Waterfront in Amsterdam
Damrak Waterfront
Damrak Amsterdam
Damrak street in Amsterdam
 

Red Light District

Towards the evening, it’s time to hit the popular Red Light District. Many people find a visit here a bit intimidating, so they prefer to go with a local guide. In the past, you could indeed go on a guided walking tour through the area, but the city has now banned tours that go around red light district windows.

At the moment of writing, there are talks of moving the Red Light District out of the city center altogether. For now, there are still several tours that visit the area, but they have to adapt to certain rules and probably skip certain places. Of course, you can always go and wander around on your own, book a private tour, or visit the Museum of Prostitution where you can learn more about this special place.

In this area, you will find about 400 red-light and blue-light windows, a lot of ‘coffee’ shops, and bars. Be mindful that the area gets really packed at night. Grab a drink and bask in the party scene before you call it a day. 

TIP: The Dutch are really creative. Instead of the Red Light District tours at night, they now also have ‘cultural’ Ganja tours of coffee shops. So if you want to get to know this alternative side of Amsterdam, this popular tour might be something to consider.

Red Light District in Amsterdam at night
Red Light District. If you want to experience what it’s truly about, it’s best to visit in the evening
 

Day 2

There are so many ways to spend your second day in Amsterdam! You can visit the floating flower market, check out some of its world-class museums, have a relaxing time in a park, and even take a 15-min train ride to Haarlem for dinner. Or you can end your trip with a relaxing canal cruise in the evening… This is the itinerary described more in detail further below.

Alternative: You can also start your day with a visit to the flower market, followed by a short half-day tour to the Windmills of Zaanse Schans. After that, you can still visit one of the museums and the park.

If you’re not interested in the museums at all, then consider taking a day trip from Amsterdam and explore more of the Netherlands. Here you can find our selection of the best day trips from Amsterdam. In that case, visit the floating flower market on day 1 of this itinerary.

TIP: If you are visiting Amsterdam in spring, you should definitely consider taking a trip to Keukenhof Gardens and Lisse Tulip Fields, just outside the city. You can book a transfer with the tickets (go first thing in the morning!) and then explore more of the city after you get back in the early afternoon.

Windmills of Zaanse Schans near Amsterdam
Windmills of Zaanse Schans, just near Amsterdam
 

Here is just one example of how your second day in Amsterdam could look like:

Bloemenmarkt – Floating Flower Market

Start your day with a visit to the famous floating flower market of Amsterdam. The Bloemenmarkt has various florist shops that sell many types of flowers, flower bulbs, and all kinds of Dutch souvenirs. 

This is the best place in the city to find the beautiful flowers that the Netherlands is so famous for. And, of course, the tulips. It’s also the most colorful of the Amsterdam attractions!

The flower market is a really touristy place with so many souvenirs and tourist groups flocking the area. But it’s also one of the places that are so typical to Amsterdam that you really shouldn’t miss it. Furthermore, if you don’t want to spend anything, you don’t have to! Just take in the beautiful views of flowers and make sure you take plenty of snaps for the ‘gram. 

TIP: Come here in the morning before the tourist groups arrive. The market is usually open from 9 AM (from 11.30 AM on Sundays). If you buy flower bulbs, make sure that they feel firm. Don’t buy flower bulbs that feel soft, show signs of mold, or are damaged.

Bloemenmarkt Amsterdam
Bloemenmarkt – Floating Flower Market
 

Van Gogh Museum

If you are looking for a nice museum to visit in Amsterdam, in addition to Anne Frank’s House, we suggest the Van Gogh Museum. Here, you can see the world’s most extensive collection of Vincent Van Gogh masterpieces. They also have about 500 drawings and over 750 of personal letters on display.

The museum is not your typical art gallery—instead, it tells the story of Van Gogh’s life through his art. You will gain a personal insight into his life and where he drew his inspiration from. Even if you’re not a big fan of Van Gogh and his art, the museum is so well done that it’s really enjoyable!

Count at least an hour for your visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Ideally, you plan 1,5-2 hours for a visit. If you plan well and get your tickets in advance, this will be the time well spent.

Good to know: The museum is open daily all year round, from 9 AM (closing hours vary per season). Tickets are only available online and the number of visitors is limited. So make sure to get your museum tickets online in advance! With an online ticket, you can visit both the permanent collection and any of the temporary exhibitions.

Bedroom in Arles painting by Vincent Van Gogh
The Bedroom painting by Vincent Van Gogh. He painted three almost identical paintings of his bedroom.
 

Rijksmuseum

Another extremely popular museum in Amsterdam (and the most visited museum in the country) is the Rijksmuseum. This is one of the main attractions in the city and is definitely worth a visit as well.

You can find world-renowned artworks on permanent display here, such as The Night Watch, The Milkmaid, and also some important paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. You will also find masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer. Moreover, they regularly change their exhibitions throughout the year.

Most of the people who come to the museum spend two to three hours here. But you could easily spend half of the day here. Rijksmuseum is enormous, with approximately 8,000 objects of art and history.

TIP: If you are really into art and you think that you might need more time here, then it’s probably best to come here early in the morning. That way it’s easier to plan your day and the museum is not that packed yet. After that, have lunch and then visit the nearby Van Gogh museum in the afternoon.

Practical information: The museum is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM. Also here, it’s best to book your tickets online as that will guarantee you a timed entry and will allow you to skip the ticket line.

Alternative: Instead of the more traditional Rijksmuseum, you may want to check out the nearby Moco Museum. It’s a great modern museum that – among many others – at the moment of writing features works of Banksy, the most famous street artist in the world.

Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
Rijksmuseum
 

Vondelpark

After your museum tour, check out Vondelpark. This beautiful park is just a few minutes walk from the Museumplein (where Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and many other museums are located).

The park is a scenic spot with a lake and variety of plants. It’s especially beautiful in spring when there are tulips everywhere. And while it’s very popular with locals and tourists alike, the park is so big that it never really feels crowded.

If you feel like it, you can even rent a bike to get around the park. Or simply go for a relaxing stroll.

TIP: There are several cafés in the area, so this is also a good place for you to have lunch. If you are visiting two museums on the same day, you may want to take a relaxing walk in the park in between your museum visits.

Alternative: In this same area, you can also visit Heineken Experience. Located inside Heineken’s oldest brewery, this is now an interactive museum. If you like this famous Dutch beer, this is a must! If you prefer to learn about (and taste) other traditional drinks, check out the House of Bols, the world’s oldest distilled spirit brand experience. It’s also located in this area.

Vondelpark in Amstredam
Vondelpark
 

Haarlem OR…

If you want to see a bit more of the Netherlands, for dinner, you can visit the nearby town of Haarlem. It’s only 15 minutes from Amsterdam by train, but you’ll first have to get to Central Station, etc.

In Haarlem, have dinner in the main square, stroll around the city center, and just relax. It’s a beautiful medieval town surrounded by a defensive wall, with old buildings, cobbled streets, and winding canals.

Haarlem is a very picturesque place. It is also referred to as a “scaled-down” version of Amsterdam.

Gravestenenbrug in Haarlem, the Netherlands
Gravestenenbrug in Haarlem
 

… OR Amsterdam Canals at Night

If you find the practicalities of getting to Haarlem not worth the trouble, just stay in Amsterdam and have a relaxing evening in the city.

You can go for a walk along the beautifully lit canals, find a nice restaurant for dinner, and you can also opt for an evening canal cruise. This way, you can rest on the boat after a long day of walking in the city and you can see the canals in a very different light.

Amsterdam canals lit in the evening
Amsterdam canals are magical in the evening
 

Where is the ‘I Amsterdam’ Sign?

You might have seen pictures of the famous white and red letters – ‘I Amsterdam’ and want to take a similar picture during your visit. And now you wonder why we didn’t mention the iAmsterdam sign as one of the landmarks to see in the city…

The reason is simple – the I Amsterdam sign that used to stand behind the Rijksmuseum has been removed in December 2018. It became the symbol of the overtourism in Amsterdam and all the bad things that come with it. So the city council decided to get rid of it.

TIP: If you are flying to Amsterdam, you can still find a similar sign at the Schiphol International Airport.

I Amsterdam sign at Museumplein in Amsterdam with lots of tourists taking pictures
Tourists taking pictures at the I Amsterdam sign a year before it was removed
 

Are two days enough for Amsterdam?

Yes, two days are enough for all the main landmarks of Amsterdam. You can see all the ‘musts’, visit several of its best museums, and a few lesser-known areas. In addition, if you plan well, you can even take a short half-day excursion outside the city. Amsterdam is, therefore, also a perfect destination for a weekend trip!

With these activities and places to visit, your two-day trip in Amsterdam will surely be worth it! And even though two days are not enough to explore the city thoroughly, you’ll get a very good view of what Amsterdam is truly about.

TIP: If you have more than 2 days in Amsterdam, I suggest to get out of the city and explore some of the Dutch countryside or other beautiful towns in the Netherlands. You can find all our best suggestions via the link below!

LEARN MORE: Best Day Trips from Amsterdam

 

Practical Tips

Book in advance! Amsterdam is an extremely popular destination, one of the most-visited cities in Europe. So make sure to book your hotels and tours in advance. By doing so, you can look forward to a smooth two-day visit to the city.

Pack comfortable walking shoes – you will be walking a lot.

Get a city card. With two days in Amsterdam, it might be interesting to consider the IAmsterdam city card. You can get a card for 24 hours, 48 hours, or longer. It includes a free entrance to 60 museums (also Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum), public transport, a canal cruise, big discounts for many other attractions and some restaurants, and many other perks. The longer your stay, the more sense it makes.

If you are not keen on walking, use public transport (you can get tickets online in advance). If you want to explore Amsterdam by bike, it’s best to go with a guided bike tour and a local guide. If you rent a bike, I’d try to stick to the parks and avoid the busy roads – it can be very chaotic and stressful if you don’t know where exactly to go.

If you don’t absolutely have to, don’t come to Amsterdam by car. We live in Belgium and with a big family and on a weekend, it’s cheaper and easier for us to simply drive to Amsterdam. But the parking fees are crazy. Last time we paid 50 EUR for (not a full) day.

Beware of pickpockets. As in any other bigger city in the world, beware of pickpockets. Be mindful of your belongings and don’t carry around anything you don’t absolutely need.

Check the weather forecast before you leave for the day. The weather can be very changeable in this part of Europe, especially during the shoulder season. Also, adapt your plans to the weather a bit if you can, but don’t stress about it too much. Even in the rain, Amsterdam is amazing! And it hardly ever rains the whole day anyway.

Stay in the city center – more info below.

Where to Stay in Amsterdam

If you are visiting Amsterdam for the first time and want to make an absolute most of your trip, stay as close to the city center as possible.

The best location to stay for sightseeing in Amsterdam is southwest of Central Station. It’s a nice area with lots of shops, restaurants, and within an easy walking distance to all the main attractions.

You can find the best deals for centrally-located accommodation here or see our hand-picked selection for all budgets below.

Here are some great price/quality/location hotels in Central Amsterdam, for all budgets:

TIP: Using the map below, you can compare hotels, B&Bs, and short-term rental accommodations in Amsterdam city center. Simply insert your travel dates and group size, and you’ll see the best deals for your stay. Check it out!

 
Amsterdam city break
Amsterdam canals in the evening. Staying in the city center, you can take the full advantage of the location and explore the canals at different times of the day.
 

So, this is our guide to the best of Amsterdam in two days. We hope that it will help you experience the bustling capital city of the Netherlands and get the absolute most of your short visit. It’s a place that you will never forget.

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More tips for visiting Benelux:

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How to see the best of Amsterdam in 2 days
Amsterdam 2 day itinerary

Image credits: personal collection and Depositphotos.com

 
What to see and do in Amsterdam in 2 days

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