A city intertwined in love; with cyclists and canals, Amsterdam is the glorious capital of the Netherlands. It is a city of unbelievable legacies and heritage, of museums and art and a place of historical importance. Truly unique as a city built on and under water, Amsterdam pulls millions of tourists every year. So much so that it is facing a mass tourism issue. I think as a traveler and visitor of countries we should be mindful of our actions to the environment and the historical and cultural ramifications to a new city we visit. Our 2 days in Amsterdam itinerary will make you want to visit Amsterdam and that is the goal of this post to help you plan your trip and itinerary, but it’s also a reminder that we all need to be responsible tourists.
2 day Amsterdam Itinerary – How to spend 2 days in Amsterdam
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How to get there? 2 days in Amsterdam Itinerary
There are many ways to get to Amsterdam Netherlands.
Airport: Amsterdam is serviced by Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (or Schiphol Airport). It is located 9 kilometers southwest of Amsterdam (Haarlemmermeer, North Holland). It takes around 20 minutes to arrive to the city centre from the Amsterdam Airport. Train is the quickest mode of transportation and it will cost around 5.40 euros (one way). You can also hire airport taxi to reach the city center, where we will be exploring most of the sightseeing attractions. Taxi fare costs around 40 euros and takes around the same time to arrive – 20-25 minutes.
- Book your private airport transfer to Amsterdam city center
- Combo Ticket: Amsterdam Airport Transfers and Public Transport – This is ideal if you are using the local transportation for 2 days in Amsterdam. This tickets allows unlimited travel on all GVB trams, buses, metros and ferries inside the city of Amsterdam (day and night) with round trip transfer included from Central Station to Schiphol Airport. Book Amsterdam Airport Transfers and Public Transport
Trains: We arrived in Amsterdam via train. We departed from Brussels Belgium early morning (06:30 am) by taking the high speed Thalys train and reached Amsterdam by 8:45 am.
Drive: You can drive or take a road trip to Amsterdam from a lot of neighboring countries and cities.
- From Brussels: 3 hours (or take a day tour from Brussels to Amsterdam)
- From Bruges: 3 hours
- From Cologne: 3 hours and 25 minutes
- From Luxembourg: 5 hours and 45 minutes
- From Paris: 5-6 hours
- From London: 6 hours
For Sightseeing: I Amsterdam City Card – this city pass card is so handy for 1 – 4 days in Amsterdam. This Amsterdam card includes free entry to over 44 museums, free public transport rides including sites like Haarlem, Zaanse Schans, Volendam and more, discounts at cafes and restaurants, etc. Learn more about I Amsterdam City Card and book here
Hotels and accommodation in Amsterdam
We highly recommend staying by the city center for your 2 days in Amsterdam. Staying in a central location makes it easy to access all the sightseeing spots. Keep in mind the central hotels will be expensive, we recommend booking hotels early once you have finalized the trip.
Here are our recommendations for hotels in central Amsterdam
NH Barbizon Palace (Luxury)
- Beautiful 5 star hotel located in central Amsterdam
- Great location, access to the canals, Dam Square and other sightseeing areas
- Standard are of decent size, clean
- Has restaurants on site. Also offers express check in and out options
- Book your stay here
iBIS Amsterdam Center (Mid)
- Modern hotel – iBIS Amsterdam is also located at the city center
- Great location and access to sightseeing areas
- Hotel is pet friendly
- Offers free airport shuttle
- Book your stay here
If the city centre hotels are expensive, consider staying at the Jordaan neighborhood, you will still be close to the sightseeing spots. For budget travelers – Noord, Bos de Lomer and Oud-Zuid are good options. Stay away from De Wallen for hotels (red light district area).
Search for Amsterdam hotels below
When is the best time to visit Amsterdam?
Amsterdam is great all year round. Usually shoulder seasons are great in visiting Amsterdam as the weather is pleasant and during spring – April to May – are great for visiting tulip fields of Keukenhof and also scoring a good hotel deal. Same goes for September to November. We visited in September for the first time and were blessed with great weather and no rains :). December is great for winter and holiday festivals.
Amsterdam Netherlands Packing tips
We have included a whole packing list with outfit inspiration under travel tips section of this post. Here are the basic essentials list.
- Anti theft day pack or handbag – They are super essential to safeguard your belongings from pick pockets. These bags are equipped with anti cut and RFID technology. Here is what we recommend – click for the backpack AND here for the handbag.
- Light Cardigan – A light cardigan in a neutral color will match with most of the outfits. Black and beige are my favorites. LOVE this cozy cardigan, click here to find out
- Waterproof and pack-able jacket – Carry a waterproof jacket or a trench coat to protect yourself from rains (unpredictable). Here is my favorite trench coat. Click here to shop our favorites FOR HIM & FOR HER
- Comfortable walking shoes – Amsterdam means TONS of walking by the canal side and so you have to carry comfortable walking shoes. You will see me wearing Adidas shoes in white or super walking shoes from Sketchers or in these amazing black slip-ons from Steve Madden – I wore Steve Madden shoes to Amsterdam.
- Multiport charging cables – Because you will be carrying your camera and cell-phone and probably some other gadgets, a versatile charging cable is a MUST. This superstar multi port cable can charge different types of electronic devices, without being bulky. Get yours here.
- Adaptor and convertor – If you are traveling from North America or Asia to Amsterdam, you will require an adaptor to be able to plug in your electronics. Click here to buy a travel adaptor perfect for Europe travel. Carry this adaptor-convertor duo if you plan on using shavers, hairdryers or any appliance with a different voltage then 220v.
- Travel Blanket – Keep yourself warm and toasty in a travel blanket, whether you are in a long haul flight or an overnight train to Amsterdam. No more sharing a blanket from in-flight! Click here to purchase your own
Day 1 Amsterdam Itinerary
Arriving at the Amsterdam Centraal Station
We arrived in Amsterdam, bright and early from Brussels. The Amsterdam Centraal Station is grand with many inter city and regional trains, tour operators, restaurants and shops on site. For the first day in Amsterdam, we have a jam packed day ahead.
Amsterdam Centraal is the largest railway station of Amsterdam. All the sightseeing spots in the city center area are within walk-able distance.
Exploring the center – Dam Square
The Dam as the name suggests was originally a dam built over the Amstel River. Over the years, the Dam was no longer used as it was meant to be and it emerged as a center of the city of Amsterdam – leading to trade, administration and other activities. The Dam and the Amstel River gave the city its name – Amsterdam.
At the Dam Square, you will feel the pulse of the city – it is definitely the center. There are tons of historical buildings located in and around the Dam Square. It also links the mouth of the Amstel called the Damrak. Starting with the Royal Palace at the west end of the square to the New church or the Nieuwe Kerk and National Monument – its all located by the rectangular square. The Royal Palace was originally used as town hall and then became a royal residence in 1808.
The Madame Tussauds Museum is also located at the Dam Square. A sprawling shopping space – De Bijenkorf is also located here.
Keep in mind that visiting each of these sites will take 1-2 hours each. So for a short 2 day Amsterdam Itinerary, we recommend choosing one (or two) based on your interests and time on hand. But definitely head to the Dam Square to look at all the historic monuments (even if it’s from the outside). As Madame Tussauds Museum is located by the square, you will find many artists dressed as movie stars ready to entertain and take pictures.
This square has also been a witness to many historical events – some good and some bad – shooting of Dutch nationals in 1945 to coronation resistance in the late 1980s – it had seen it all. The square has also seen great times like the Christmas markets and National Tulip Day every year.
Did you know that Canada and the Netherlands share a deep, special relationship? It was the Canadian troops who liberated the Dutch in the Second World war from the German invasion. Canada also provided refuge to the Dutch royal family and one of their princesses – Princess Margriet was born here in Ottawa, Ontario. The Dutch thanked us by sending thousands of tulip bulbs and hence we also celebrate a tulip festival here in the spring every year. It is a symbol of friendship and appreciation of each other’s culture and long standing partnership!
Walk the Red Light District
The MOST talked about spot in Amsterdam is their main red light district. The Red Light district is located in the oldest part of Amsterdam. You will easily notice bright red neon windows with signs of sex services (see one below). From the windows, you will see barely-dressed prostitutes advertising their services and it is acceptable and allowed inside this designated part of the city.
Photographing the workers is not allowed, but as you walk through the lane you can photograph the buildings and history plaques.
You can visit a museum set in a 17th century building to learn more of the history of prostitution in Amsterdam. Learn about the museum tour here
Oude Kerk – the oldest church in Amsterdam
Located very close to the red light district (in De Wallen) is the oldest parish church in Amsterdam.
The Oude Kerk is the oldest church in Amsterdam. Oude Kerk literally means old church. This parish church was founded in 1213 and consecrated in 1306 by the bishop of Utrecht (with Saint Nicolas as its patron saint). Currently it stand as a Calvinist church.
Jordaan neighborhood is the beautiful stretch of area within the city center known for upbeat cafes and pretty houses. The word Jordan is derived from the French word ‘jardin’ meaning garden. This area was initially the land of immigrant families and the poor working class. The small blocks of houses, once upon a time, housed large families and with little to no sewage facilities.
In the 20th century once sewage plans were adopted, the face of Jordaan changed and it slowly became what it is today. Young professionals, students and artists started frequenting the area and a stream of stores, cafes and restaurants were set up to keep people coming.
A walking tour is the best way to explore this part of town. Learn more about walking tours in Amsterdam.
We highly recommend walking through the lanes and stopping by, where-ever you fancy – for fries or photos.
At the edge of the Jordaan neighborhood is the Anne Frank House.
Anne Frank Museum
The Anne Frank Museum is located in central Amsterdam – at Prinsengracht 263. This 17th century canal house is the same building where Anne Frank and her family along with four others were in hiding from the Nazis. They were hiding at the rear end of the building (called the Secret Annexe) for 2 years and 1 month. Anne and most of her family members didn’t survive the war, except for her father – Otto Frank and Anne’s diaries. Her diary reveals the stories and hardships that she and her family experienced in those times.
The building today houses a permanent exhibition portraying the life of Anne Frank. It also has exhibitions space for discrimination and other related human rights topics. I do recommend reading the Diary of Anne Frank before your visit to understand its historical importance in today’s world. I read this in my high school and still remember, sometimes these stories stay on. (Buy the book from amazon here)
In order to visit the exhibitions and the museum, you will have to book tickets online. No tickets are available on site. Tickets costs 11 euros per adult and it is recommended that you book tickets 2 months in advance. Get Anne Frank House tickets here. The museum is open from 09:00 am to 10:00 pm everyday. So they are open till late to visitors.
If you are unavailable to find tickets for any of the 2 days in Amsterdam that you are visiting, I still recommend heading to the site and taking a look at the building. The Anne Frank Museum is the third most visited museum in the Netherlands.
The canal area by the Anne Frankhuis building is perfect for a rest stop. It was breezy and cozy when we were there.
You can also book an Anne Frank tour that talks about the life in Amsterdam through the eyes of Anne Frank
Flower Market – the only floating flower market in the world
Amsterdam Flower Market called the Bloemenmarkt, is the only floating flower market in the world. It is located on the Singel canal between the Koningsplein and the Muntplein.
The flower stalls stand on the houseboats and has been in existence since 1862. This is one place where you will see pretty flowers and fragrances all year around.
Bloemenmarkt is open from Monday to Saturday from 09:00 to 17:30 and Sunday from 11:30 to 17:30. Free to explore.
Heineken Experience and a romantic evening canal cruise
In the evening, head to the Heineken Experience. Once upon a time, this was a brewery (yes the original brewery site), today it is a museum with interactive tours.
You can spend an hour or so here and then head to take a canal cruise tour in the evening. We highly recommend taking a canal cruise, if you have never taken one. We had done 1- 3 hour cruises in historic rivers and loved it. Amsterdam is no exception, it is in fact very beautiful due to the lights at the canals.
It is a good idea to take a canal cruise to experience the city’s core, by the canals. And even though depending on your schedule you may or may not be able to cover the entire neighborhood on foot, the cruise gives you a glimpse of the city in the most romantic and comfortable way possible. So we highly recommend it.
There are many different types of canal cruises available to choose from. We have highlighted the three most popular ones, which can fit anyone’s budget and time
- Take 4 course dinner canal cruise, great way to spend the evening and enjoy the city covered in night light’s glory. Check out the dinner cruise here
- Take an hour and half canal boat tour. We highly recommend this one, as it does a complete loop of the neighborhood and you get a good look at the city from the waters. Book the 1.50 hour evening canal cruise here
- Combo ticket: There is a combo ticket that includes the canal cruise and an entry to the Heineken experience, if you wish to cover both. Check the tour prices here
Dinner by the Canal
We enjoyed our beer and food at the canal and we recommend that you do so too. A dinner cruise like this one is great. Or opt for restaurants with outside seating areas for that romantic evening – Loetje Centraal ($$), Grand Café 1884 ($$). You will also find fast food chains like Burgerij and Exki, located close to Amsterdam Centraal.
Day 2 Amsterdam Itinerary
For day 2 in Amsterdam, head to explore the famous windmills of Netherlands. I know its a stretch for a 2 day itinerary for Amsterdam, but we so wanted to see the windmills that we couldn’t pass. The key to incorporating a short trip is to ensure you plan everything and book a tour in advance so that every sightseeing spot is hit during your stay.
Short trip to Zaanse Schans
And that is what we did. A short trip of 3 hours (with sightseeing included) is possible. So we chose Zaanse Schans to explore the countryside and the functioning windfalls. Zaanse Schans is located in the neighborhood town of Zaandam, about 30 minutes from Amsterdam. You can take the train or drive to arrive in Zaanse Schans in 30 minutes – one way.
We took a ‘half day tour’ of 3 hours, and we highly recommend it to to avoid wasting time figuring out the place. In 3 hours we arrived and explored Zaanse Schans with a guided tour of a cheese factory, clog factory and TONS of photo ops at the windmills!
Here are some tour options. We took the morning tour.
- 10:00 am AND 2:00 pm tours (for 3 hours from the NH Barbizon Palace Hotel) – Book here
- 11:30 am tour (for 3.5 hours from the A’DAM lookout) – Book here
Zaanse Schans is known for its historic windmills and distinctive green wooden houses. The site has one of the oldest windmills and you can talk to the wind mill care-takers and see how it operates. I actually climbed up a steep wooden staircase to reach the top of the windmill deck and in a dress – call me adventures. It was stunning from up there, so why not!
Zaanse Schans looks like it is out from a post card – so gorgeous. The Zaans Museum has model windmills and interactive exhibits on display as well. Netherlands has many windmills sites that you can visit, but for a short trip to Amsterdam – incorporating a trip to Zaanse Schans is definitely feasible. We did it, you can too!
If you have more time on hand or if you are in Amsterdam for more then 2 days, this hop on and hop off bus to many windmill sites including Zaanse Schans might be of interest to you. It also cover other sites like Edam and Volendam. Check out the tour here
Rijksmuseum is one of the most visited museums in the Netherlands. Rijksmuseum is an arts and history museum, located in the Museum Quarter of central Amsterdam area. The museum is grand and it will easily take 2-3 hours to explore most of the exhibition display and artifacts.
Museum hours are from 09:00 am to 05:00 pm everyday. So we recommend heading there right after the tour. The museum complex has a café and restaurant that is open to all visitors even without a museum entry ticket. You can grab a quick bite to eat and then explore the museum. Café hours are 09:00 am to 06:00 pm everyday.
Museum tickets cost 17.50 euros or around 23 USD. It should be purchased and booked online. Free entry is included with the I Amsterdam City card or Museum Card (musuemkaart). Book tickets to the Rijksmuseum here
We were lucky enough to see the I AM STERDAM sign in September, before it was taken down in December 2018. It was too too crowded for a picture.
Van Gogh Museum
Ready for another museum? This one will be quick and it is located within the Museum quarter. It is the Van Gogh museum. The Van Gogh Museum is an arts museum displaying arts and paintings from the legendary post impressionist painter – Van Gogh. Van Gogh was a Dutch painter and he is well-known for oil paintings like the Starry night.
This museum is the largest collector of Van Gogh paintings in the world.
The museum is open from 09:00 am to 06:00 pm everyday and it is a must for all fine arts lovers. Even without fine arts knowledge, you can still appreciate the art work inside the museum. It will take 1- 1.50 hours to explore the museum.
The museum is open an hour later then the Rijksmuseum so definitely time it well, if you are visiting them late afternoon. Tickets can be purchased online. Book tickets for a 2 hour exclusive Van Gogh Museum Tour here
Explore the Vondelpark in the evening
Located very close to the Van Gogh Museum is a large green space in the centre – Vondelpark. Vondelpark is the largest city park in Amsterdam and it only a 6 minute drive (or a 12 minute walk) from the Van Gogh Museum.
This park was opened in 1865 and originally called the New Park or Nieuwe Park. Today it is called the Vondelpark – named after the 17th century playwright and poet Joost van den Vondel.
A very popular place to relax and hang out – this park attracts millions of visitors each year. The park has an open-air theatre and several cafes inside. June through September are popular times to hit the Vondelpark for theatre performances.
Amsterdam Sightseeing Map (Amsterdam Itinerary 2 days)
This Amsterdam sightseeing map highlights all the major tourist spots and the 2 most recommended hotels for your stay for 2 days in Amsterdam. When you zoom the map, you will see the Dam Square, at the heart of the city and in and around it are layers of ‘lanes’ almost like a peeling onion and layer by layer you will find spots that you can visit.
If you have more then 2 days, consider venturing outside of Amsterdam. Find things to do in Netherlands to explore more.
Travel Tips for 2 days in Amsterdam Itinerary
Amsterdam is located in the country of Netherlands. And Netherlands belongs to the Schengen zone of countries. So what it means is that if you belong to a non visa exempt country traveling to Europe, a Schengen Visa is required. This visa has to be applied for and approved before flying to the Netherlands. Learn about Schengen Visa here
All EU nationalities can visit Netherlands without a visa. U.S and Canadian citizens can travel to the Netherlands visa free for 90 days for tourism. After 2021, US and Canadian passport holders are required to apply for an ETIAS (electronic travel authorization system) prior to arriving in the Schengen Zone.
Use a document and passport organizer to keep all your travel documents in one place and organised. Buy yours here
Travel Insurance and a planned itinerary is essential for Schengen Visa approval. We always recommend that you insure your trip against medical emergencies or trip delays and cancellations. Check out travel insurance quotes below – they are affordable and minimizes the risk of paying huge sums of money, should anything go wrong in a trip.
What to pack for Amsterdam? 2 day Amsterdam Itinerary
Depending on the month you are visiting, you might have to tweak this packing list, so here are some MUST carry items for your Amsterdam trip.
Spring (March to May), Summer (June to August) and Autumn (September to late October)
- Neutral and light color tops and blouses (1-2)
- Shirts (1-2)
- Pants (1)
- Dress (I actually took 2 dresses and 1 top for my 2 day trip)
- Leather jacket or denim jacket or all weather trench coat (better if its water proof for occasional rain). Check out this water proof trench coat
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Cosmetics – Light make up, perfume
- Raincoat, poncho or umbrella
- Zippered anti theft purse or
- Anti theft backpack
- * Cardigan – you can skip this for summer, but keep a jacket (as listed above) for evenings by the canal or walk at the Vondelpark
Winter (November to February)
Above list, with tweaks
- Instead of leather jacket or denim jacket or all weather trench coat GET wool coat or a warm parka
- Comfortable walking shoes – yes, but warm winter boots (waterproof)
- Warm beanie
- Warm soaks
- Mittens or gloves
Popular Festivals in Amsterdam ( Tips Amsterdam Itinerary 2 days)
Amsterdam is a FESTIVAL paradise. There is so much happening in the city all year round. We have shortlisted some of the best festivals in Amsterdam that are worth visiting.
- January – Amsterdam celebrates National Tulip Day at the Dam Square. The Dutch tulip season officially starts in January every year as everyone is invited to pick their own tulip for free (one day in January only).
- February – Celebrate Valentines Day in town by the canals
- March – March is tulip season – displayed across the city, from Noord to Zuidoost and Oost to Nieuw-West. Women’s celebration month is in March as well – Amsterdam celebrates with fun events. Film Festivals – LGBTQ, Opera and CineAsia film fests
- May – Food festivals and Liberation day celebrations. Hemeltjelief Festival (arrival of summer with food, music and activities for family)
- June – Red Light Jazz festival in Amsterdam and more music festivals in the Netherlands. Another flower festival – Aalsmeer flower and open garden festivals
- July -Vondelpark Open Air Theatre performances, summer festivals like Milkshake festivals, Amsterdam roots festivals, etc. Pride Amsterdam.
- August – Canal festival – Grachtenfestival Amsterdam
- November – Amsterdam’s luxury department store De Bijenkorf showcases “turn on the lights” to welcome the holiday season
- December – Awesome time to be in Amsterdam with Christmas market and Amsterdam light festivals. ‘Sinterklaas’ (Saint Nicholas) parade. And not to forget New Year’s Eve.
What to eat In Amsterdam? 2 day Amsterdam Itinerary
Much of the popular food in the Netherlands are also quite similar to the nearby Flemish countries. We are talking frites or fries here – offered with a plethora of sauces. Just like the Belgian waffles, the Dutch have the – stroopwafel – which is made of thin layers of dough, filled with sweet and piping hot caramel syrup. Mini pancakes (looks like mini donuts) are another sweet food item to try out.
Cod and herring (or haring in Dutch) is another popular food to try in Amsterdam. Bitterballen (like meat balls but crispy) are widely offered in bars. Ditch wings for bitterballen and pair that with a Heineken or any Dutch beer.
We went to a cheese factory and tried some gouda – one of the popular cheese – from the Netherlands.
Souvenirs to buy in Amsterdam
There are many things that you can purchase in Amsterdam and take home with you. Cheese is a popular item, however as it is a diary product so check if you are allowed to carry it in flight. Souvenirs of all kinds – key chains, post cards, fridge magnets, t- shirts, etc. Get canals, Jordaan neighborhood icons, I AMSTERDAM or clogs featured souvenirs. You can also get custom clogs designed to take home as souvenirs. If you are looking to purchase cheap but fashionable clothes – there is a Primark store, located in central Amsterdam.
Bikes Lanes and Safety
As you might already know about Amsterdam that it is filled with bikers and the city is mostly associated with bikes (cycles). Be very careful and aware of bike lanes. Here in Canada there are bike lanes as well, but it is a totally different feel, volume (or traffic), you can say. In Amsterdam there many bikes everywhere, so stay clear of the bike lanes and out of the way. It is normal to be mesmerized by all the buildings and canals while exploring Amsterdam, but watch out for bikes!
Amsterdam is a beautiful city and we definitely left a piece of our hearts back there. We know we will be going back soon and enjoy the city a bit more.
Can’t wait to visit again, Amsterdam <3
Last Update: May 29 2019
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.