3 Days In Amsterdam: Things To Do On Your First-Time Visit 

How do you spend 3 days in Amsterdam? This is one of those European cities that offers diversity and influences everyone who visits it.

Planning 3 days in Amsterdam? Lucky you. Amsterdam is one of those European cities that offers diversity and influences everyone who visits it. Actually, explorers from The Netherlands were the first to establish the first big city in North America – Today’s New York. 

New York was originally called New Amsterdam but was later changed to New York as a tribute to the English Duke of Albany and York when the American territory was captured by the Dutch. 

I’m not going to get too much into history and how it all started, but I find it fascinating that a rather small European country produced so many explorers. Amsterdam is also the core inspiration for the architectural styles of many cities around the world, stretching from Indonesia to the U.S. So, let’s talk about the city that started it all – Amsterdam in the Netherlands. 

Why visit Amsterdam? 

Amsterdam is a one-of-a-kind European city, one of its major ports. It’s a city listed under the UNESCO Heritage Sites due to its famous canals. It’s often referred to as the Venice of the North. 

Visiting Amsterdam is like visiting a real-life museum, where people still live and work, and you get to explore a world in which the merchants built a city according to their jobs’ needs.

At its core, the canals were designed and built to provide water access to all the merchants in the City, pretty much like in Venice. However, the design of the canals is much more defined and still holds to this day. There are rules to obey if you want to navigate or live on the canal. 

Amsterdam houses have particularities that you might not find anywhere else, or at least not to the same extent. 

Amsterdam is a pure example of modern life comfort adjusted with functionality on the blueprint created in the Middle Ages. 

Amsterdam is a gorgeous city in Western Europe, and it’s definitely one of the top cities I recommend visiting in the world. I would dare to say that you could remove London or Paris from your Europe itinerary and add Amsterdam instead.

However, I am not the only travel blog recommending Amsterdam, so planning is key if you want to avoid crowds and enjoy your experience more. And lucky you, if you’re on a budget, I have some extra tips for you in this 1 month Europe trip cost experience. That trip was some years ago, but I keep the info ( and costs) up to date.

3 Days In Amsterdam: Things To Do On Your First-Time Visit 
Here’s a shy picture of me in front of the Central Station in Amsterdam

How many days do you spend in Amsterdam? 

The urban area has about 1 million inhabitants, and all sides of the canals are gorgeous. Given that Amsterdam is a very touristy city, the prices are also high, which might influence you when choosing how many days to spend in Amsterdam. 

You can spend a week in Amsterdam, and you will not get bored. The only thing that might not be to your liking is the weather. It tends to rain a lot, even in summer.

I have visited Amsterdam 3 times over the years during my European trips, and each time it rained a bit. But it was more of an English rain, not pouring. If you need more insights, check my guide on how to plan a Europe trip.

For a first-time visit to Amsterdam, try to spend at least two to three days in Amsterdam. That will allow you to see the most popular spots in the city and get to understand the special lifestyle people have in this city. 

But if you can afford it and the time permits, aim for a week in Amsterdam. You will then have time to explore its surroundings as well, which paints a more complete story of life in The Netherlands.  

3 Days In Amsterdam: Things To Do On Your First-Time Visit 

Top things to do in Amsterdam

If you’re planning your first trip to Amsterdam, this comprehensive list of top activities and sights will help you make the most of your visit:

Top Historical and Cultural Sights

  • Anne Frank House
    • This is a poignant museum dedicated to Anne Frank and offers an insightful look into the horrors of World War II.
  • Rijksmuseum
    • A must-visit for art enthusiasts, this museum houses Dutch Golden Age masterpieces by artists like Rembrandt and Vermeer.
  • Van Gogh Museum
    • The museum features more than 200 paintings by Vincent van Gogh and offers an intimate look at the artist’s life.
  • Royal Palace
    • A stunning example of Dutch classicism, the palace is open to the public when not being used for royal events.

Top Outdoor and Nature Spots

  • Vondelpark
    • Perfect for a leisurely stroll, a picnic, or people-watching, this is Amsterdam’s most famous park.
  • Canal Cruise
    • Navigate through Amsterdam’s iconic canals to see the city from a unique vantage point.
  • Bloemenmarkt
    • The world’s only floating flower market, offering a wide range of flowers and souvenirs.

Top Neighborhoods to Explore

  • Jordaan District
    • Known for its quaint canals and narrow streets, this area is perfect for a leisurely walk and boutique shopping.
  • De Pijp
    • This vibrant neighbourhood is a food lover’s paradise, known for its culinary diversity.
  • Red Light District
    • A visit in the evening provides a look into Amsterdam’s liberal attitudes towards sex work; remember to be respectful. Book a guided tour if you want more insights, it will probably blow your mind.
  • NDSM Wharf
    • A former shipyard turned into a creative hub with art installations and trendy cafes.

Top Activities and Experiences

  • Leidseplein Nightlife
    • A lively square filled with bars, restaurants, and clubs, offering a glimpse into Amsterdam’s nightlife.
  • Albert Cuyp Market
    • The largest street market in the Netherlands, where you can find a range of foods, textiles, and souvenirs.
  • Heineken Experience
    • A fun and interactive tour of the brewery, ending with a tasting session.
  • A’DAM Lookout
    • An observation deck offering panoramic views of the city, with an “Over the Edge” swing for the adventurous.

Top Off-The-Beaten-Path Experiences

  • EYE Film Institute
    • A modern museum dedicated to cinematography, featuring a collection of films from various eras and countries.
  • Micropia
    • The world’s only microbe museum, offering a fascinating look into the microscopic world.
  • Begijnhof
    • A secluded courtyard that offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
  • Museum of Bags and Purses
    • A unique museum that showcases the history of bags and purses from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Where to stay in Amsterdam?

When planning a trip to Amsterdam, one of the first things you need to do is to decide where you will stay. I recommend booking a hotel as soon as you know your travel dates because it’s hard to find a good hotel in Amsterdam last minute. 

When entering a hotel room in Amsterdam, you will probably have one of the first cultural shocks – it’s going to be a tiny room. 

The internet is full of comical stories of people staying in hotel rooms in Amsterdam that could easily pass as closets. With this information in mind, I will recommend some hotels that will not completely ruin you financially but also offer some moving space. The space is important, and remember that most buildings are old and don’t have an elevator. Stairs are narrow and as steep as they can be. Don’t bring a lot of luggage. 

€€€ – Hotel Estheréa

€€ – Weber Hotel 397 (this is where I stayed last time, and it was gorgeous)

€ – Volkshotel

Remember to book your hotel in Amsterdam in advance because the best rooms with the best rates are often booked months in advance. I booked my hotel only 2 weeks before my Amsterdam trip, and it was the last room available in that hotel for those dates. 

3 days in Amsterdam

3 Days In Amsterdam: Things To Do On Your First-Time Visit 

Day 1: Classic Amsterdam

9:00 AM: Dam Square

Cost: Free

How to get there: Walk or take Tram 4, 14, or 24 from Amsterdam Central Station (5-10 minutes).

Why it’s a must-visit: Dam Square is the beating heart of Amsterdam, featuring iconic structures like the Royal Palace and the National Monument. It’s a hub of activity where you can feel the pulse of the city.

10:30 AM: Anne Frank House

Cost: €16 for adults. Online booking recommended

How to get there: A 15-minute walk from Dam Square or Tram 13 or 17 to Westermarkt (5 minutes).

Why it’s a must-visit: This is the house where Anne Frank hid during WWII. It’s a moving experience that gives you a look into a poignant part of history.

1:00 PM: Canal Cruise

Cost: Around €20 per person for a 1-hour cruise. Book here

How to get there: Many cruises depart near Central Station or Anne Frank House.

Why it’s a must-visit: Amsterdam’s canals are one of its most defining features. A boat cruise gives you a unique perspective on the city, passing by historic houses and under charming bridges.

If you want a fancier cruise, choose a Boat Cruise with Cheese & Wine Option or a Canal Cruise with onboard bar

7:00 PM: Dinner in Jordaan district

Cost: €20-€40 per person

How to get there: A 10-15 minute walk from Anne Frank House or Tram 13 to Marnixplein, followed by a 5-minute walk.

Why it’s a must-visit: Jordaan is famous for its beautiful canals, hip boutiques, and diverse eateries. It’s the ideal neighbourhood to unwind in after a day of sightseeing.


Day 2: Culture and Parks

3 Days In Amsterdam: Things To Do On Your First-Time Visit 

9:00 AM: Rijksmuseum

Cost: €23 for adults. Book online in advance, tickets sell out fast. Timeslot reservation is needed, even with a museum pass. 

How to get there: Tram 2 or 12 from Central Station to Museumplein (20 minutes).

Why it’s a must-visit: This museum is home to some of the Netherlands’ most famous artworks, including pieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer.

11:30 AM: Vondelpark

Cost: Free

How to get there: A 10-minute walk from the Rijksmuseum.

Why it’s a must-visit: This expansive park is perfect for a leisurely stroll or picnic. It’s where locals go to relax and enjoy nature.

2:00 PM: Van Gogh Museum

Cost: €22 for adults. Book in advance, tickets likely to sell out for more than a month in advance. Timeslot needed. 

How to get there: A 5-minute walk from Vondelpark.

Why it’s a must-visit: The museum offers an intimate look at the life and works of Vincent van Gogh, featuring a collection of more than 200 paintings. This is by far the most visited museum in Amsterdam. It’s no longer included in the IAmsterdam card (a good option if you want to visit more museums), and it requires a timeslot reservation. 

If you didn’t purchase your ticket online for your travel dates, a last solution would be to book a guided tour of the museum which includes the ticket. It’s more pricey but might be the only way to visit the museum. On my last visit to Amsterdam, I couldn’t book a ticket on any reseller website because it was all sold out for five weeks or more. You have been warned! 

7:00 PM: Leidseplein

Cost: Free to walk around

How to get there: A 10-minute walk from Van Gogh Museum or Tram 2, 5, or 12.

Why it’s a must-visit: This square is one of the city’s nightlife hubs, filled with restaurants, bars, and clubs.


Day 3: Modern Amsterdam

3 Days In Amsterdam: Things To Do On Your First-Time Visit 

9:00 AM: A’DAM Lookout

Cost: €14.50 for adults. Book online

How to get there: Free ferry from Central Station to Buiksloterweg, then a 10-minute walk.

Why it’s a must-visit: The panoramic views of Amsterdam from the observation deck are breathtaking.

11:00 AM: NDSM Wharf

Cost: Free

How to get there: Free ferry from Central Station to NDSM.

Why it’s a must-visit: This former shipyard turned creative hub is filled with art installations, food trucks, and unique architecture.

2:00 PM: Albert Cuyp Market

Cost: Free to enter

How to get there: Tram 4 from Central Station to Albert Cuypstraat (25 minutes).

Why it’s a must-visit: This is the largest street market in the Netherlands, where you can find everything from fresh produce to souvenirs.

7:00 PM: De Pijp for Dinner

Cost: €20-€40 per person

How to get there: The market is in De Pijp, so just walk to a nearby restaurant.

Why it’s a must-visit: De Pijp is a trendy neighborhood filled with international cuisines, making it a culinary hotspot.

Practical tips for visiting Amsterdam

While some European cities are easier to navigate and leave more room for spontaneity, Amsterdam isn’t such a city. Planning ahead is a must before visiting Amsterdam. One main reason is that most attractions will require pre-booked timeslots. 

These practical tips for visiting Amsterdam will make your trip smoother and more enjoyable. From my personal experience, here is what you should know before visiting Amsterdam, especially if you are planning your first trip to the city.

3 Days In Amsterdam: Things To Do On Your First-Time Visit 

Get an “I amsterdam” City Card

The I Amstercard City card card offers free admission to many museums and attractions, unlimited public transport, and various discounts. It’s a great way to save money and time.

You can book it here. I visited Amsterdam 3 times, and two times I got the card. I think it’s great value if you want to visit as much as possible (mostly museums) and save some money. The card includes public transport for the time it’s active, so plan wisely. 

Use Public Transportation

Amsterdam’s public transport system is efficient and covers the whole city. 

If you want to see all that the city has to offer, consider buying a multi-day travel pass for unlimited use of trams, buses, and metro.

Be Bike Cautious

Amsterdam is known for its biking culture, but if you’re not experienced, the bike lanes can be a bit overwhelming. Always look both ways before crossing. 

You will probably be like, “Yeah, whatever you say,” but you will see what I mean once you get there. Amsterdam is famous for its speedy bikers, and they will not stop. 

Please observe the bike lanes, which are clearly marked and usually have a different surface than pedestrian areas. Make sure you’re not accidentally walking in them to avoid getting yelled at or, worse, knocked over.

Watch Out for Pickpockets

Like any tourist-heavy city, Amsterdam has its share of pickpockets. Keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded places like the tram or popular tourist spots. 

I never had any issues, but please be careful. 

Tipping is Optional

In restaurants and cafes, tipping is appreciated but not mandatory. If you’ve enjoyed the service, rounding up the bill or leaving some spare change is a nice gesture.

Try Local Food

Don’t miss out on trying local delicacies like Stroopwafels, Bitterballen, and Dutch cheese. These foods are part of the Amsterdam experience. 

If you want to travel on a budget in Amsterdam, you can find these traditional local foods in any supermarket and then enjoy them in a park. 

Take a Free Walking Tour

Many companies offer free walking tours around the city. These are a great introduction to Amsterdam’s history and culture. Here is a good option. 

Go on Popular Day Trips

Amsterdam is perfectly located between other great cities in The Netherlands. Luckily, European countries are not that big, and you can even go on a day trip from Amsterdam to Bruges. 

Learn Basic Dutch Phrases

While most Amsterdammers speak excellent English, learning a few Dutch phrases like “Dank je” (Thank you) can be a polite gesture.

Bring a Portable Phone Charger

You’ll be using your phone for maps, photos, and maybe even ticket bookings. A portable charger can be a lifesaver when you’re out and about.

Respect the Red Light District Rules

No photography is allowed in the Red Light District, and it’s crucial to treat everyone in the area with respect. But if you want to learn more about this famous neighborhood in Amsterdam, book a guided tour. 

Always Have Some Cash

While many places accept credit cards, it’s a good idea to have some cash for small purchases or in case your card doesn’t work.

Check the Weather

Amsterdam weather can be quite unpredictable. Bring a small, portable umbrella just in case. And, as it turns out from personal experience, it’s always the case :). 

Pre-Book Popular Attractions

Attractions like the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum often have long lines. Booking tickets in advance can save you time. I cannot stress this enough! Amsterdam is a crowded place, and everyone seems to be interested in the Dutch art. 

Iulia Vasile

Iulia is a travel expert, blogger, engineer, freelance copywriter, and a curiosity-driven personality. She sees travel as the ultimate tool for self-improvement and personal growth, and that's the main topic of her blog, Juliasomething.com.

View stories