What is there to see and to do in Amsterdam in 3 or 4 days? If you are asking yourself this very question and are currently planning your trip to Amsterdam, you have come to the right place! Welcome!
In this article, we share our day-to-day itinerary (100% doable by foot) as well as supporting maps. We also share some advice and ideas of where to stay/where to eat while in Amsterdam.
Let’s start with the conclusion: we LOVED our four day weekend in Amsterdam! We loved everything about this city which we were discovering for the first time: the canals, the architecture, the atmosphere, the ambiant “chill” attitude, the brunches, the small cafes, the park … We loved it so much in fact that for a minute, we imagined spending a few months or years in Amsterdam. Yup, that much!
As far as the weather is concerned, we experienced the city both under a very cloudy and windy weather (day 1 and 2) and during beautiful sunny days (day 3 and 4). Believe us when we tell you that the magic worked in both cases. This trip has left a deep mark on us. Because of the destination itself of course. But also because it was our first trip abroad with our baby. By the way, if you are planning to discover Amsterdam with a baby, check out the article we wrote on the subject.
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Our top 10 of things to do/see in Amsterdam
Stroll along the west and south canals and wander around the “9 streets”
Have some brunch at any hour of the day in de Pijp
Walk around the old city center and the red light district
Stop by Van Stapele and try their amazing cookie
Visit the Van Gogh museum (or the Rijksmuseum or Anne Frank’s house)
Chill out in the Vondelpark
Learn about the history of Amsterdam during a boat tour
Have a tea break or a drink in the lobby of the Conservatorium hotel
Walk around Jordaan
Take an aperitivo at FoodHallen
Our itinerary (day by day)
Old city center / Red light district / Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt)
We arrived in Amsterdam via Schiphol airport and reached the city center with the 397 bus (super convenient and 6.5 €), which brought us directly near all the city’s main points of interest. After checking-in at our hotel (see below), we wanted to “feel” the city. We therefore went for a stroll along the canals and around the streets of the old town. We came back to our starting point via the famous red light district.
For lunch, our hotel recommended The Pantry (traditional dishes, nice waiter). After a quick bite there, we headed to the Begijnhof. We were told it is a must but unfortunately, it is closed (no idea when it will reopen).
Near the Begijnhof
We took Kalverstraat, a busy street of the city center and walked all the way up to the Royal palace and the Dam Plaza. Let’s be honest, the royal palace is somewhat disappointing, at least compared to other buildings such as the Rijksmuseum, the train station etc.
The royal palace
From there, we wandered around some tiny streets to finally reach the train station.
There is a Diagon Alley vibe, isn’t there?
In front of the Beurs van Berlage, you’ll find a little port with gorgeous houses.
… and the train station in the back.
From there, we entered into the Red light district. Despite its sulphurous reputation, it is perfectly alright to wander around the neighborhood – even with a kid – at least during daytime.
In the middle of the red light district, make sure to check out the oldest church in Amsterdam : Oude Kerk. So weird to find a church in the middle of this “environment”.
To come back to the city center (heading south), we walked along the canal. Beautiful walk.
This first day was already coming to an end. It was time for one last stroll around the flower market, on the Singel. Actually you’ll see more bulbs than you’ll see flowers.
Very good dinner at the steak house Midtown Grill. Nice and quiet restaurant, great meat and delicious sweet potato fries!
On the map
Van Gogh Museum / South canals / Museum district
Since we were expecting some rain, we decided that the safest option was to schedule a museum in the morning. We therefore headed to the Van Gogh museum. You should know that you have to book your tickets online and in advance. This means that you can’t just show up when you’re walking by, some planning is actually required (at least during these crazy Covid times). If you want to avoid large crowds, go early in the day or right before the museum closes.
Amsterdam offers an impressive number of very good museums and cultural places to visit. We had to make a tough choice and decided on only one museum for this first trip. We really wanted to give the priority to discovering the city and its various neighborhoods. With a four month old, it was also the best way to go. If we had stayed one more day, we would have visited the Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank’s house, both very popular choices for those visiting Amsterdam for the first time.
The Van Gogh museum is big and full of crowd pleaser paintings.
The infamous sunflowers
From the museum, we walked a few meters to reach the beautiful and impressive Conservatorium hotel. The lobby of this 5 star hotel is quite remarkable with its old stones and modern elements. It’s a great place to stop for tea or to eat a bite. Very expensive. Clearly, you pay for the place.
The Conservatorium lobby
After this nice break, we walked towards the west for a while. It gave us the occasion to see a different part of the city. For lunch, we stopped at Little Collins. Friendly service and good food. Perhaps not as mind-blowing as I had expected after reading some stellar reviews. The place is apparently packed on weekends. During the week, we had no trouble finding a table.
Just a few steps away, you’ll find the Food Hallen, a food court with many little stands. Perfect for an aperitivo or a quick bite during the day. You’ll find food for every mood and of every type. Very cool place which reminded us a bit of Mercato Centrale in Firenze or Quincy Market in Boston, if you’re familiar with these places.
After our stop at Food Hallen, we resumed our long walk around the city. At that point, we had a new target: Van Stapele to try one of their famous cookie. “Made of a dark chocolate dough with a delicious white chocolate filling. The cookie is crisp around the edges, but soft and gooey on the inside”. Honestly, I am not a fan of white chocolate so my expectations were very low. However, I must confess that I loved it!!! The cookies are sold in the cutest shop in a dark alley. They are served warm from the oven. Worth a stop for sure!
THE Van Stapele cookie
To burn all these calories, we kept walking and explored the eastern portion of the city and the south canals. It took us a while but it was a soothing and beautiful walk.
We came back through the museum district which gave us the opportunity to admire the incredible Rijksmuseum.
For dinner, we tried Restaurant Momo (asian fusion). Small plates. Simply delicious. However, the restaurant gets quite loud. Not ideal if you’re with kids.
On the map
De Pijp / Boat tour / 9 Straatjes / West canals / Jordaan / Old city center
The third day was THE day because the weather was finally sunny. We planned our itinerary accordingly and made sure to maximize the number of spots we wanted to hit.
Amsterdam is apparently known for its brunches. You can find them everywhere and certain restaurants actually serve brunches all day long. For the brunch-lover that I am, that’s the dream! Initially, we wanted to try the brunch everyone talks about in de Pijp, that is Bakers and Roasters. However, we got there, the place was packed (even on a Friday at 9:45am) … And frankly, I didn’t care too much for the attitude … On our way there, we had spotted another cool café on the same street and decided to give it a go. We are SO glad we did. Locals, that’s the name of this café, was amazing. We loved the food which we enjoyed outside in the sun. On the weekends, the place is packed, so make a reservation.
After brunch, we headed to the Singelgracht, not far from the Marriott (our hotel, see below) to take the Blue Boat for a tour of Amsterdam’s canals.
The tour lasts 75 minutes. It was quite nice as we had the boat almost to ourselves. The boat stays on the main canals, which I found slightly disappointing but the comments are interesting and we got to learn a lot on the history of the city, its buildings, landmarks etc…
We had lunch at the Avocado Show, on the Keizersgracht. The name says it all: a restaurant where every dish is made with avocado. Again, a dream come true for me. Super fun and yummy. A huge plus is the terrace overlooking the canal: great setting!
From the Avocado Show, we were perfectly positioned to start our afternoon walk around the city. We had planned to stroll around the west canals area and its famous “9 streets”. These streets are cute and full of little boutiques and cafés. But frankly this entire zone is adorable. Look around and spot some incredible mansions, charming terraces, tiny bridges…
Walking up Prinsengracht to the Westerkerk, we reached Anne Frank’s house. We tried to see if we could visit it but at the last minute, it was obviously sold out. If you absolutely want to visit it (which was not our case to begin with), book ahead.
We also walked around Jordaan, the up and coming neighborhood which everyone talks about. We quickly understood why. Charming streets, narrow canals, good vibes … It was rather calm during the day but the place must get busy and trendy at night.
Heading east, we went back to the city center. I wanted to take some pictures of some spots I had liked, but under the sun this time.
Our next stop was Van Wonderen Stroopwaffels. We had heard a lot about the local traditional waffle (flat, served warm with caramel in the middle and some toppings) and our research took us to Van Wonderen, which supposedly sells the best ones. The shop is super cute but I’ll be frank, we didn’t like it. Way too sweet for our taste.
After one last drink by a canal, we went back to the hotel and got ready for our dinner at Umami by Han. Its main advantage was its proximity (right around the corner from our hotel). They served small plates to share. Good but not exceptional.
On the map
De Pijp / Vondelpark
We woke up early to make the most out of our last morning in Amsterdam. We went back to de Pijp for another round of brunch. This time, we tried Jacob’s Juice, just across the street from Locals (our spot from the previous day). Juices, bowls, toasts and really good coffee. Great time, great food … total bliss!
It was hard to leave Jacob’s Juice but we absolutely wanted to walk around de Pijp and see its market, which is one of the largest in the city. De Pijp is so charming with its restaurants, cafés and cool vibe. Moreover, it seems like it’s brunch paradise: Locals, Jacob’s Juice, the Avocado Show, Coffee and Coconuts, Bakers and Roasters or Little Collins: they all have restaurants in this up and coming neighborhood.
To finish on a green note, we went to Vondelpark, the Central Park of Amsterdam. Loved it, specially with the sunny weather.
On the map
What an incredible weekend! We loved Amsterdam, a city that has so much to offer! We liked the chill and benevolent atmosphere that you feel there, the beauty of the canals and alleys, the multitude of small intimate and trendy spots. Note to self for our next trip (because yes we will go back again for sure): consider renting a small boat with a few friends and exploring the smaller canals while taking an aperitivo in the sun.
Getting to Amsterdam
Train: Thalys from Paris or Brussels
By plane: Fly to Schiphol airport. From the airport, you can reach the city in 30-40 minutes by bus. It is super convenient. Take bus 397 to Leidseplein. 6,5€ for a one-way ticket. Much cheaper than taking a cab.
Don’t panic if you don’t speak Dutch. Everybody speaks English, and rather well I may add.
The local currency is the Euro. Note that strangely enough many restaurants, museums, and transportation do not accept cash.
Where to stay/ which hotel in Amsterdam?
As always, I have spent hours and hours going through all the hotels in order to identify the nicest hotels, those with the best locations, the best reviews etc… In the end, we went for the Amsterdam Marriott Hotel, which gave us full satisfaction. The room was large and comfortable, a baby bed was available upon request, and its location was great, near all points of interest (two minutes from the bus stop from/to the airport, one minute from the Vondelpark and five minutes from the museums). We found the value for money to be very good compared to other hotels with smaller and more expensive rooms. On the outside the hotel is super ugly but inside it is honestly very nice and the staff is very pro and friendly.
We had also spotted the mid-range hotel INK Amsterdam, a MGallery hotel in the historic center not far from the train station, and Banks Mansion just south of the historic center, also a great location. On the luxury end, we had on our list the Pulitzer (on Prinsengracht in the 9 streets area), and the Conservatorium in the museum district. However, they had no availability for our dates.
Where to eat in Amsterdam?
Check out our article for a recap on where to eat in Amsterdam.
Where to read in Amsterdam?
The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton
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