I did not expect to like Amsterdam. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that 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 as other European cities have. I assumed it would be overrated. But boy, was I wrong. I was so wrong. In this guide to spending two days in Amsterdam, I will show you exactly why I fell hard for the Venice of the North.
This is a pretty jam-packed Amsterdam itinerary 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 got less than two days in Amsterdam, 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.
How to Get Around Amsterdam in Two Days
Amsterdam is home to transportation aplenty. No matter how you decide to see the city, you certainly won’t be short of options. By far my favourite way to get around Amsterdam is, of course, cycling.
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.
However, if taking to the city by bike makes your palms a little sweaty, there are plenty of other ways to get around Amsterdam. The main three are tram, bus and metro. Public transport in Amsterdam is completely cashless so ensure you always have your debit or credit card to hand. You can also buy GVB day passes or an I amsterdam City Card, which offers unlimited use of the GVB public transport system for 24, 48 or 72 hours.
Are Two Days in Amsterdam Enough?
As aforementioned, there is so much to see and do in Amsterdam. So it is absolutely possible to spend longer than two days in Amsterdam. However, as a first-time visitor, I think you can easily see Amsterdam in two days, especially if you are interrailing on a budget. In fact, you can see a good deal of the city with just one day in Amsterdam.
Sure, you won’t be able to see all the city’s nooks and crannies, but you will definitely be able to see all the main attractions in two days. This city will just leave you hungry for more! Any excuse for another trip back, right?
Day One in 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 different from the last. So kick off your two days in Amsterdam by getting your bearings and appreciating the sights whilst you’re at it.
On a beautiful summer’s day, you can just drift around, soaking up the city’s happy-go-lucky atmosphere. There are so many cute independent cafes and restaurants in Amsterdam to stumble upon too! So your stomach will not be missing out either.
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 money, unfortunately, does not 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 with 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. The 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 is the infamous Sex Museum. It’s pretty much exactly 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 to find that the Anne Frank House is on this Amsterdam itinerary – it has to be on every traveller’s Amsterdam bucket list! Here you can see the place where Anne Frank went into hiding and wrote her diary. It is a truly harrowing experience.
Be warned though: the Anne Frank House is ridiculously busy and you can expect queues there all year round, but especially in summer. I recommend buying tickets in advance from 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 is probably my favourite part of this Amsterdam itinerary 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 an embarrassing number of 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? This will give your legs a bit of a rest and you get to enjoy a glass of champagne too. What’s not to love?
Visit the Red Light District/Bars/Coffee Shops
The wonderful thing about Amsterdam is that it is great for both sinners and saints. If you consider yourself the former you might fancy checking out the ‘other’ side of Amsterdam. This could mean 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.
Day Two in Amsterdam
It’s time for day two of your two days in 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 are home to 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 which opens to the garden.
Followed by brunch in De Pijp
De Pijp is the cooler (yes, it gets even cooler!), creative, bohemian part of Amsterdam. It’s also one of the best places to eat in Amsterdam 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
Your two days in Amsterdam are practically incomplete 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.
If you are reading this article after December 2018, you will find that the sign no longer lives here. However, the set now tours the city, continuing to make appearances at various events, festivals and celebrations. So google where they are and when to snap that iconic shot!
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
Even if only for a few hours, you should still definitely include cycling in your Amsterdam itinerary. 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 (and easiest!) 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 two days in Amsterdam (sidenote: how has your final night come around so blummin’ quickly?) by visiting the A’DAM Lookout. The lookout is a slightly more sophisticated, though just as touristy, alternative to evening entertainment, a.k.a. the Red Light District. Boasting a 360° sky deck, Europe’s highest swing and a panorama restaurant and rooftop bar, there’s nothing not to love!
So are you planning on spending two days in Amsterdam? What is going to be at the top of your Amsterdam itinerary? Let me know in the comments below!
This post was sponsored by Last Night of Freedom but as always all opinions are my own.