How to Spend 48 Hours in Amsterdam
I did not expect to like Amsterdam. In fact, I’d go so far as saying I really wasn’t too excited to visit the city. I know, I know, you probably think I’m crazy but Amsterdam never caught my eye like other European cities have. I assumed it would be very overrated. But boy, was I wrong. I was so wrong. Amsterdam is great and I’ve been raving about it for quite some time.
While I visited Amsterdam two years ago now (yes, it’s taken me this long to write a blog about it), I still remember everything we got up to which is why I wanted to share with you my ultimate 48-hour guide to Amsterdam. This is a pretty jam-packed schedule for a flying visit but you’re obviously welcome to miss things off the list and explore the city at a much slower pace if that’s what floats your boat. The wonderful thing about Amsterdam is that there really is so much to see and do so you’ll definitely not be stuck for ideas! If you’ve only got a day in the city, well, I sincerely wish you luck. Pick what most grabs your fancy from this blog or scrounge the internet for one-day itineraries for Amsterdam.
Wander around the canals
Yes, the typical “just get lost” advice. But seriously, if you’re gonna get lost in any city, Amsterdam is the place to do it. The city is home to over 165 canals and 1281 bridges, each of them very different from the last. On a beautiful summer’s day, you can just drift around, soak up the city’s happy-go-lucky atmosphere. There are so many cute independent cafes and restaurants in Amsterdam to stumble upon. This city is chockablock full of colourful buildings so you certainly won’t get bored of just wandering!
Go on a Museum Crawl
So this may not be your typical pub crawl but trust me, Amsterdam has so many cool museums. You could visit the city and just spend your entire time museum hopping if that’s your jam. Since we are students and money doesn’t grow on trees, we only visited two museums. And they were probably the two weirdest museums in Amsterdam. Or anywhere, to be honest.
The first place we visited was the Body Worlds exhibition, which you can find in over ten locations across Europe, Canada and North America. I don’t even know where to begin explaining this place so I’ll let this Google image search* do the talking. *Don’t click if you are really squirmish… Yes, those are real human bodies. More than 200 of them in Amsterdam alone. These bodies are skinned and go through the process of plastination before they are put on display.
The theme of Amsterdam’s Bodyworlds exhibition is “The Happiness Project”. As you explore the museum you begin to discover the secrets of happiness and its effects on the body. You learn about how exercise, food and sex (amongst many other things) impact our happiness and consequently our health.
Just a three minute walk away from Body Worlds, the second museum we visited was the infamous Sex Museum, which is pretty much an exhibit of what it says on the tin. This museum is the world’s first and oldest sex museum, and looks at many aspects of sensual love through the ages, displaying an extensive collection of erotic pictures, paints, recordings, photographs and more.
Visit the Anne Frank House
You’ll not be surprised that the Anne Frank House is on this list as it is obviously one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. Here you can see the place where Anne Frank went into hiding and wrote her diary, and it is a truly harrowing experience. Be warned though: the Anne Frank House is ridiculously busy and you can expect queues there all the time, especially in summer. I recommend buying tickets in advance using the official website as it allows you to skip the line.
Hire a canal bike
Is there anything more quintessentially Amsterdam than taking to the canals by boat? I don’t think so. Unless you threw some clogs, tulips and cheese into the boat too, that is. Hiring a canal bike was one of my favourite parts of the trip as we got to see the city from a totally new perspective. Plus it was so much fun. Like really bloody fun. We almost crashed the canal bike into a tree, other boats or bridges way too many times. But let me tell you: it was a freakin’ workout. Our legs felt like jelly by the time we finally clambered out of the boat an hour later. So if you’re looking for an alternative workout on your trip to Amsterdam, you know where to head…
You can hire canal bikes throughout Amsterdam. Just keep on the lookout as you wander past the canals. If you’re feeling a bit lazy (and who could you blame you, you will be walking a lot in Amsterdam), why not opt for a canal cruise instead to give your legs a bit of a rest and enjoy a glass of champagne.
Visit the Red Light District/Bars/Coffee Shops
The wonderful thing about Amsterdam is that it is great for both sinner or saints. If you consider yourself the former you might fancy checking out the ‘other’ side of Amsterdam, whether that’s immersing yourself in the Red Light District, going on an Amsterdam coffee shop crawl or heading to one of the city’s insane nightclubs. You do you, boo. Top tip: If you fancy visiting the Red Light District when it’s a tad calmer, you can avoid the crowds by visiting during the day instead. Also be aware that you cannot take photos in the Red Light District due to maintaining privacy for the workers.
It’s time for day two of your trip to Amsterdam! If you’re in Amsterdam for longer than just 48 hours, I’d recommend taking a day trip to see the tulip fields. However, if your time in the city is limited, head to Bloemenmarkt (the Amsterdam Flower Market) instead to feast your eyes on bunches of Dutch flowers! Besides flowers, a number of shops around this area sell fun, affordable souvenirs, such as local cheese.
Next head to Hortus Botanicus
Amsterdam is home to one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, Hortus Botanicus. So if you’re a fan of botanical gardens you’ve come to the right place! Hortus Botanicus was established in 1638 by the city municipality as a herb garden with medical plants for Amsterdam doctors and pharmacists. Today the garden and greenhouses have more than 6000 different plants. It’s a quiet, relaxing place to stroll around, to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, and to nurse last night’s hangover. Hortus Botanicus also has a beautiful café with a large outside terrace open to the garden.
Followed by brunch in De Pijp
De Pijp is the cooler (yes, it gets even cooler!), creative, bohemian part of Amsterdam and the perfect place to pick up a bite to eat before another afternoon of exploring! Home to a diverse mix of labourers, immigrants, intellectuals, sex workers and young urbanites, De Pijp feels more like its own little village than a city. Here you will find the city’s largest street market, an array of amazing eateries and a ton of awesome graffiti. Just wake me up when I’m famous, yeah?
Visit Rijksmuseum/the Van Gogh Museum and the iconic Iamsterdam Sign
Can you say that you visited Amsterdam without taking a photo with the iAmsterdam sign? I kid, but you’ll find the famous iAmsterdam sign here in Museumplein, a public square in which the city’s most famous museums cluster. I particularly loved lounging on the grass under the sun with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s after exploring the museums. In the summer months, there is always so much going on around this area so it’s fun to immerse yourself in the buzzing atmosphere.
The two museums you can’t miss out on are Rijksmuseum, a Dutch national museum dedicated to Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages to the present day, and the Van Gogh Museum. Admittedly, admission for both is pretty steep so it’s probably wise to just visit one! You can see a few of Van Gogh’s pieces in the Rijksmuseum anyway so I’d recommend just visiting Rijksmuseum if you’re short on time and/or cash.
Hire bikes and head to Vondelpark
Cycling is the best way to get around Amsterdam, and no visitor should leave without experiencing the city’s world-famous bike culture. If you’re going to hire a bike and go cycling in any European city, it’s got to be Amsterdam. There are over 800,000 bikes in Amsterdam (that’s more bikes than people!) and the city is really cycle-friendly. So even if you’re not that confident at cycling you’ll be fine! Either rent a bike at one of the city’s many hire shops or take a guided cycle tour to visit the must-see sights. The best place to cycle is the beautiful Vondelpark, the largest park in Amsterdam and the most famous park in the Netherlands.
Head up to the A’DAM Lookout
End your second, and unfortunately last, night in the city (sidenote: how has it come around so blummin’ quickly?) by visiting the A’DAM Lookout, a slightly more sophisticated, though just as touristy, alternative to evening entertainment a.k.a. the Red Light District. The A’DAM Lookout boasts a 360° sky deck, Europe’s highest swing and a panorama restaurant and rooftop bar.
So have you ever visited Amsterdam before? Is it on your bucket list for 2018? Let me know your favourite things to do in Amsterdam in the comments below!
This post was sponsored by Last Night of Freedom but as always all opinions are my own.
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