Amsterdam, The Netherlands’ capital, is one of the coolest cities in Europe. Its iconic architecture, the world class museums, the friendly Dutchies biking around, the houseboats, the progressive vibe … all this makes Amsterdam unique among European capitals. To me, it all comes down to how laidback the city feels. 2 days in Amsterdam is probably not quite enough to discover the city thoroughly, but if this is all the time you have, you can still have a great time and get a good feel of the city. That is why I put together this essential itinerary for a perfect 2 days in Amsterdam, including iconic places to visit and some of my favorites cafes and restaurants. If you have more than 2 days, I highly recommend to go beyond Amsterdam and explore the Netherlands countryside too.
Disclaimer: As I write these words, in January 2021, The Netherlands are in full lockdown and all of the below mentioned museums are closed due to COVID 19. If you are planning to spend a few days in Amsterdam, please do your research to see what is open, if you have to book a ticket in advance or reserve a time slot. And as always please take the necessary precautions to keep yourself and everyone around you safe.
2 DAYS IN AMSTERDAM – DAY 1
RIJKSMUSEUM & VAN GOGH MUSEUM
Early morning: Start the day by visiting the iconic Rijksmuseum. The museums houses no less than 2,000 paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, including world famous Rembrandt’s Night Watch and Vermeer’s The Milkmaid. The Rijksmuseum building is a beautiful piece of architecture on its own as well. Count at least 3 hours to explore the many galleries at your own pace.
Adults: 20 €
Under 18 yo: Free
If you have time, visit the nearby Van Gogh Museum, dedicated to the Netherlands’ most famous painter. Founded by Vincent Van Gogh’s brother after his passing, the museum contains the largest Van Gogh collection in the world with 200 paintings, 400 drawings and 700 letters by the artists. Some iconic paintings you can admire there include The Yellow House, Sunflowers, The Potato Eaters, as well as 9 of his famous self-portraits.
Adults: 19 €
Under 18 yo: Free
THE 9TH STREETS
Lunch time : Head over to the 9 Streets, one of the cutest neighborhoods in Amsterdam, full of local shops, edgy international brands, and charming cafes and restaurants. 9 streets, 4 canals and 12 bridges, the 9th Streets are the quintessence of Amsterdam. Stop by Pluk Amsterdam for a delicious brunch. Highly recommended: Eggs Benedict & the Poke Salmon Toast. They also have a cute retail area selling home decor, stationary, mugs, custom jewelry etc…
ANNE FRANK HOUSE
Afternoon: After lunch and shopping in the 9th Streets, continue to the Anne Frank House. The hiding place of the Jewish teenager and writer is now a museum about Anne Frank’s life and her time in hiding during WWII. It is also an exhibition space focusing on persecutions and discriminations in general. The Anne Frank House is often fully booked, so I recommend you book several weeks in advance.
Adults: 14 €
10 to 17 yo: 7€
< 10 yo: 1 €
EVENING CANAL CRUISE
Dawn: Take an evening canal cruise. Cliché and touristic for sure, taking a Canal Cruise in nonetheless a must do to get a better understanding of the whole system of water canals, houseboats and canal houses. You will understand why the houses are all leaning for example! Taking the cruise by night is really nice as you get to see all the bridges lit up and to peek through the windows of fancy canal and boat houses.
A lot of the canal cruises depart from Damrak, straight down from Amsterdam Central Station. Don’t miss Amsterdam’s most famous canal houses while you are there!
Dinner time: Before going to dinner, stop by any bar to have a drink and try some bitterballen, the traditional deep fried meatballs, or the somewhat similar kroketten. Do it like the Dutchies and dip your Bitterballen into mustard or smash your Krokettens onto bread. For dinner, I highly recommend enough paying a visit to Pesca, a cool, trendy and delicious Sea Food restaurant in the Jordaan neighbourhood.
As you enter Pesca, the first thing you will notice is the fresh fish market display.
Pick you favorite seafood and the quantities you want, and the friendly staff will advise you the cooking style options they offer. You can choose some sides as well, from a large black board.
Once you are done with the food, head over to the drink market. Again, well advised by one of the staff pick your beers or wine from a selection of cool brands, small vineyards and organic productions.
Finally get seated and enjoy the delicious food and great service.
RED LIGHT DISTRICT
Late night: Take a quick tour of Red Light District. I am personally not a fan of the naughty night crowd in the Red Light District, but it is still a very iconic thing to do in Amsterdam. You can also consider taking a look during the day. You won’t see as many ladies, but you will avoid the cheap tourists crowd.
2 DAYS IN AMSTERDAM – DAY 2
Morning. Start the day with a delicious outdoor breakfast at Dignita, in the back garden of the Hermitage museum before going for a bike ride around the Vondelpark. Just outside the main canals, the Vondelpark is a breath of fresh air. As soon as the sun comes out, thousands of Dutchies flock to the park, to run, bike, exercise, or just have a picnic in a very laidback, family friendly atmosphere. All around the park are also some incredibly fancy houses to check out!
Lunch time: There are several spots to eat in the park, but I recommend to grab a lunch at T Blauwe Theehuis . This modern looking pavilion, with a gigantic terrace with bright blue tables, chairs, and sun loungers serves the ideal combination of ice cold beers and italian snacks in a very relaxed atmosphere. Grab a slice of pizzas, or some arancini. Fatty but delicious !
Early afternoon: Check out the Heineken Experience, a fun and experiential museum about the famous Heineken beers, its origin, the production process, the sports sponsorships etc. A surprisingly entertaining and engaging experience, with 2 free beers at the end!
Dawn & Dinner: Catch the sunset from the A’Dam Lookout. Behind Central Station, across the canal, is the Adam Tower. On the rooftop, the A’Dam lookout offers a 360 view of the city, and points towards to main buildings, places of historical significance etc. You can grab a casual drink there too or seat on the highest swing in Europe. Grab dinner from one of the 2 restaurants there : Madam and Moon in the 19th and 20th floor, with great views too. Alternatively I read great things about Stork, a casual sea food restaurant with an industrial vibe, with an outdoor seating by the canal.
A few more things you could do if you have more than 2 days in Amsterdam:
- Our Lord in the Attic Museum: Built in 1663 when the Catholics were not officially allowed to worship, this secret catholic church is hidden in the attic of a bourgeois house. Freedom of religion and tolerance are central themes at the museum today.
- WONDR: An immersive pop up experience, a playground for adults, and the most instagrammable place in Amsterdam!
- Nieuwendammerdijk: A very cute neighbourhood in Amsterdam North, with a 2 km lineup of traditional Dutch houses in all shapes and colors.
- Tropenmuseum: Focused on world cultures, Tropenmuseum was my favorite in Amsterdam.
- Visit the Netherlands countryside, starting with the windmills of Zaanse Schans, just 30 min outside of Amsterdam
Finally if you are a foodie, you can’t spent 2 days in Amsterdam without trying a few more Dutch specialities such as:
- Gouda cheese. Stop by any cheese shop to taste the iconic Dutch cheese. It comes in many forms, age, and flavor and the staff will usually be happy to help you try as many as you wish. The typical cheese slicers they use is also the perfect souvenir to bring back home.
- Poffertjes: My favorites! Poffertjes are mini fluffy pancakes, usually served covered in butter and icing sugar. Need I say more?
- Pancakes: Dutch pancakes are kind of a super thick version of the French crepes, covered in cheese, ham etc. Heavy but delicious.
WHERE TO STAY IN AMSTERDAM?
There are thousands of hotel, hostels, B&B and others in Amsterdam that cater to every budget. I recommend to stay within the main canals area (within Prinsengracht canal) to be able to walk and bike everywhere and not loose time in public transports during your 2 days in Amsterdam. Below are a few of my favorite places:
De L’Europe: An absolute dream if you like old European sophistication. We stayed in one of the blue suites directly looking onto a canal. The walls are covered in blue Toile de Jouy wallpaper and classic Dutch painting reproduction. The marble bathroom is gigantic and stunning! In brief, it is gorgeous. De L’Europe has a Michelin star restaurant: BORD’EAU, a French Mediteranean restaurant: MARIE, and an historical bar FREDDY named after the late Alfred “Freddy” Heineken. De L’Europe is pricey but it is an experience in itself.
The Hoxton: Young and cool, The Hoxton lived up to the hype for me. The room was quite small but very confortable. We had a few cocktails in the hotel bars and they were delicious. We passed on the overpriced breakfast but I must admit the breakfast room under a large ceiling window is lovely.
Andaz: We didn’t stay there, but Andaz is usually a safe bet, with a modern arty touch. The Amsterdam edition seems to be super quirky and cool.
Here it is … my recommendation for 2 perfect days in Amsterdam! I hope this will help you planned for your upcoming vacations, but if you have any question, don’t hesitate to leave me a message! Thanks for reading !