Heading to Amsterdam? I think that’s a great idea! We recently enjoyed a 3-day weekend here and did our best to make the most of our time. Here’s a sample itinerary for you, too!
Day 1: Get Outside!
If you will be facing jet lag your first day in Amsterdam, I highly recommend planning to be outside as much as possible, even if it’s an overcast day! This will help you acclimate.
Stop 1 (Morning): Keukenhof Gardens (€24.50) or Zaanse Schans (€15.00 with the Zaanse Schans Card)
Keukenhof: If you’re visiting during tulip season, between mid-March and mid-May, definitely head down to the Keukenhof Gardens as soon as you land! It’s such an easy trip from the airport, and there are FREE lockers to store carry-on sized luggage. Larger luggage will have to be stored elsewhere. It’s about a 30 minute ride to Keukenhof from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, and you can easily spend 3-4 hours at the gardens. There are cafes, bathrooms, and plenty of places to explore within the property. For all the details, check out last week’s Guide to the Keukenhof Gardens.
Zaanse Schans: This is a large, open-air museum of Dutch history. If you want to see traditional Dutch life (and windmills!) this is the place for you. We did not have time to do both, so we chose Keukenhof, but next time we will definitely head out to Zaanse Schans!
Stop 2 (Afternoon): Check In and Get Acquainted
When you’ve had your fill of tulips and/or Dutch traditions, head into Amsterdam and check in to your accommodations. Room not ready? Ask if they will hold your luggage while you go out for the afternoon. Hotels will do so, but Air BnB, VRBO, HomeAway, and similar properties may have their own policies, so check before you go.
When you’ve stashed your stuff, get back out there! Again, staying outside that first day is very important! Grab a Deco Waffle or Stroopwaffle to go, or stop into a coffeehouse for a little caffeination if needed; just make sure you don’t accidentally go into a coffeeshop because that’s where they sell marijuana! Take your time admiring the canal homes, but watch out for bikes–they have the right-of-way, not pedestrians! For all my Amsterdam tips, check out What to Know Before You Visit Amsterdam.
Day 2: Museum Day
Fair warning: you will want to book your tickets for both the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House and Museum two months in advance and buy tickets online! Set a calendar reminder and get up early; tickets go on sale when the museums open on Amsterdam time.
Stop 1 (Morning): “I Amsterdam” Sign and Van Gogh Museum (Open 9:00am-7:00pm; €18 per person; plan for 1.5-2 hours)
Set an alarm so your body can get acclimated to the time difference, and start your day at a reasonable time. You will want to get to the “I Amsterdam” sign early if you want a slim chance of getting a photo with few people in it. If you wait until after you leave the Van Gogh Museum, you’ll get one like this:
The Rijksmuseum is also right behind the “I Amsterdam” sign, but I recommend planning to arrive when it opens on another day and spending 3-4 hours here to really get your money’s worth and give yourself time to see everything you want to see there. It’s the museum of the Netherlands, so there is a LOT of history to cover! More on that later.
We got our tickets to the Van Gogh Museum two months in advance and online, because online is the only option. There is no one there to sell you a ticket when you arrive! We wanted to purchase early so we could go in at opening time: 10:00am. I am not much of an art museum kind of girl, but this one was much better than I was expecting! The museum is about Van Gogh’s art, of course, but also very heavily about his life and death. There are letters to and from his family and friends, timelines explaining important events in his life, and special changing exhibits as well. While we were there, the Japanese artwork Van Gogh owned was on display. I had no idea some of his work was so influenced by Japanese art.
Now grab a little something to eat on the go and walk over to the Anne Frank House.
Stop 2 (Afternoon): Anne Frank House (Open 10:00am-8:00pm; €10.50 per person; 1 hour and 15 minutes from assigned start time to finish)
At the time of our visit, there was construction on-going at the Anne Frank House, so we had to purchase our tickets exactly two months in advance. If the Anne Frank House is high on your list of things to do in Amsterdam, you will find that setting a calendar reminder and an alarm will be worth your while. When you arrive, you’ll be allowed to line up within 15 minutes of your scheduled time slot. For us that was between 1:00 and 1:15. When we were allowed inside, our bags were searched, and we were given complimentary audio guides (in English for us).
The museum route is easy to follow–just fall in line with the hundreds of other people. Each room seemed decidedly more crowded, so if you struggle with claustrophobia, please be prepared for that. You will start in the factory that Anne’s father, Otto, owned. You will be led through some offices and learn about the people who worked there, especially those who helped the Frank family and the other four Jews hiding with them. You will come to the bookcase that hid their annex, and from there you will walk through the rooms of the annex where all eight people lived for over two years.
After your tour, there will be a bookstore, bathrooms, a cafeteria, and a place to return your audio guide.
Stop 3 (Afternoon): Amsterdam Tulip Museum (Open 10:00am-6:00pm; €5 per person; 30 minutes to 1 hour)
After a heavy museum like the Anne Frank House, take a little walk across the canal to the Amsterdam Tulip Museum! It’s small, but very informative. You can also purchase certified tulip bulbs here to take home with you! My favorite parts were the map noting areas where tulips grow naturally, the concise explanation of Tulip Mania, and the variety of tulips scattered about everywhere! It was definitely a bright spot on an otherwise gray day!
Stop 4 (Afternoon and Evening) Your Choice!
After enjoying Amsterdam’s notable history and culture, take it easy the rest of the day! Stroll over to the Bloemenmakt (or Flower Market), shop for cheese at the many Henri Willig Cheese Shops around town, or take a canal boat tour! Prices and experiences vary.
Day 3: Old Amsterdam
Okay, so all of Amsterdam is pretty old, but this is the day I recommend setting aside to explore the history of Amsterdam and the Netherlands as a whole! The two museums mentioned below will do just that.
Stop 1 (Morning): Rijksmuseum (Open 9:00am-5:00pm; €17.50 per person; plan 3-4 hours)
Get your tickets online, and aim to be here when the museum opens at 9:00am. We missed out on this museum on our trip, but it’s a museum I wish we’d visited. If you’re interested in history, you’ll want to plan for 3-4 hours here–there are centuries to learn about, and since Amsterdam has always been on the cutting edge of new movements (acceptance of all faiths, legalization of marijuana, gay and lesbian rights, etc.), it’s an interesting place for history to be made. And if you didn’t get the “I Amsterdam” sign yesterday, you can try again today!
When you finish, grab a Stroopwaffle or a plate of haring on your way to the next museum!
Stop 2 (Afternoon): Museum Van Loon (Open 10:00am-5:00pm; €9.00 per person; plan 1 hour)
This was the unexpected delight of our trip! The Van Loon family still resides here on the top floors, but the lower floors are currently a museum of their family and a showcase of old world Amsterdam. Who are the Van Loons? They are the family who helped found the Dutch East India Company, which was one of the largest and most prosperous trading companies in the world in the 17th and 18th centuries. The museum is home to many unique features you won’t find in other historic homes. Even the floors in the servants’ quarters are marble. That is a significant indicator of wealth! They also have a beautiful hidden garden between the mansion and the carriage house!
Stop 3 (Afternoon/Evening): One Last Jaunt
That rounds out a great three days in Amsterdam! Spend the rest of your time this last day just walking around, stopping in the little shops, and taking in those canalside views!
Have you been to Amsterdam? What did you love the most about it? Tell me below!
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