Have you been thinking about what to do in Amsterdam if you only had two days to do it all? Well you might like to take a look at this suggested step by step itinerary for making the most of your visit to the magical city of Amsterdam.
With more than 800 years of history to discover, Amsterdam is rich with fascinating sights. From ancient churches to magnificent museums, secret courtyards to quaint cobbled streets, and, of course, the city’s world-famous canals, there’s an overwhelming amount of things to see and do in Amsterdam. So pack your camera, pick up a map and get ready for an adventure!
Two days in Amsterdam will give you just enough time to explore all the city’s best attactions and enjoy the unforgettable atmosphere. Before we start though, it’s worth remembering that getting around by bicycle is the most popular mode of transport in the city, thanks to the flat terrain, so be prepared to see many of them. You may even choose to rent a bike for part of the following itinerary.
Amsterdam in 2 Days – Let’s Get Going!
1. The Van Gogh Museum
Here, you’ll find the world’s largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s artworks. It’s one of the most popular museums on the planet, receiving over 2 million visitors per year, and is home to 200 of his paintings, 500 of his drawings and 700 of his letters. In 2019, the Van Gogh Museum launched the Meet Vincent Van Gogh Experience, a technology-driven “immersive exhibition” on Van Gogh’s life and works, which has toured globally
If you book your tickets online then you can skip the queue. The museum opens at 9am and is generally open all day, sometimes until 9pm. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in the museum, so don’t get your hopes up there.
2. The Rijksmuseum
Unlike the Van Gogh museum, the Rijksmuseum is focused on Amsterdam’s broader art and history. Located not far from the Van Gogh museum, it’s an easy “next step” in your two day itinerary. People come from all over the globe to see its grand and prized collection of masterpieces from greats such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Frans, as well as artefacts and sculptures of cultural significance which take you back through 800 years of Dutch history.
For your enjoyment, the Rijksmuseum includes some newly renovated gardens, where you can relax while enjoying an exhibition of magnificent sculptures. Once again, to avoid the queues, it’s a good idea to book your tickets online.
This happens to be the most famous park in all the Netherlands. Every year, 10 million visitors come to Vondelpark, both locals and tourists. At times, you may even get to see an open air concert there. The park is named after Dutch poet Vondel and they’ve built a 3 metre statue in his honor. Vondelpark is where you’ll see people enjoying the usual outdoor activities such as walking the dog and sunbathing.
It includes a beautiful rose garden and a music dome, not to mention a selection of restaurants and cafes. Since it’s close by the above museums, it’s a natural outdoor break, which you can enjoy on foot, or with a bicycle tour.
4. Take a Canal Boat Tour
Amsterdam is known for its 165 canals – so much so that it is colloquially referred to as the “Venice of the North”. There are plenty of tours that operate on the canal, most of them taking about one hour, but some up to 75 minutes. Some of these tours are night-time candle-lit tours, which usually take a bit longer, so if this is your preference then you may wish to include this segment of your “Amsterdam in 2 days” experience, later on “day one”.
We recommend Those Dam Boat Guys. They get rave reviews on Trip Advisor.
While we’re talking about the canals, it’s worth mentioning that places like AirBnB offer boathouses to rent, so that if you’re really into living on the water while in Amsterdam, it’s all there waiting for you.
5. The Red Light District (optional)
Unlike more conservative cultures, foreign visitors to European cities may find the openness with which sexuality is viewed, somewhat confronting. The Red Light District in Amsterdam is no exception. Prostitution was legalized in The Netherlands in the year 2000 so those who are in “the trade” have no problem displaying what’s on offer.
The Red Light District is a network of brothels, sex shops, peep shows, coffee houses and museums. Strolling through the cobbled lanes, you’ll see women parade their bodies through window parlours and people from all over the world point and stare. You can do this on your own, or even with a guided tour. Amsterdam also has a liberal policy with regard to marijuana, so don’t be surprised if you smell the aroma of coffee mixed with cannabis.
You don’t need to worry about safety in this part of town either – it is well-protected with police and private bodyguards. The legalization of prostitution also appears to have minimized the “underbelly” criminal element normally associated with such areas in other western countries.
Probably not the sort of place you’d want to take your kids to, especially if they still believe in Santa, but it’s very popular with hens parties, Japanese tourists and even couples.
1. Visit Anne Frank House
Anne Frank was a young girl who lived closeted away with her family for more than two years, during the Nazi regime of World War II. During this time, she wrote a diary about her family’s experiences. They were hidden in a secret room in a house on the canal, which she described as “The Secret Annex”. It has become one of Amsterdam’s major attractions.
Transformed into a museum, the house and the Secret Annex contains a showcase of exhibitions, historical documents, film images, photographs and even Anne Frank’s actual diary. You will be able to feel the persecution and discrimmination against Jews during the war, learning about what it was like for one Jewish family during those dark times. The Anne Frank House is the third most visited museum in the Netherlands.
2. The Jordaan Neighborhood and the 9 Streets
The Jordaan was once a poor, working class district of Amsterdam, but these days, is home to a host of young artists, students and entrepreneurs as well as galleries, restaurants and boutiques. Walking through this area is simply a delight, thanks to it’s little canals and charming narrow streets.
You will come across hidden courtyards, art studios and small museums. The famous Dutch poet and writer, Joost van den Vondel (after whom the park was named) not to mention the famous artist Rembrandt, once made The Jordaan their home. Places worth mentioning are Westerkerk and the Homomonument. There is also a nice restaurant named Picniq, which serves gourmet sandwiches and soups. Very reasonably priced!
On the other hand, if you’re able to catch a food tour through the Jordaan, you can combine self education with the taste of some mouthwatering delights along the way.
If you love to shop, or browse, then “The 9 Streets” may be something that you wish to tack on to the end of your Jordaan experience. It has this name because it is comprised of 9 picturesque little street in Amsterdam’s canal belt that are full of quirky shops and wonderful eateries.
3. Dam Square and the Royal Palace of Amsterdam
The Netherland’s most significant war memorial is the National Monument, in the middle of Dam Square. Every year on the 4th of May, a national Remembrance of the Dead is held at this monument where people gather to pay respects to fallen soldiers.
Also in Dam Square, you’ll find the Royal Palce. Originally built as a city hall, it later became the palace of King Louis Napoleon and later still, the Dutch royal house. In more recent times, it is used for royal events such as prize-givings, the King’s New Year reception and the welcoming of foreign heads of state. Guided tours of the palace are available.
4. Museum Ons’Lieve Heer Op Solder
If you’re looking for one of the best history lessons in Amsterdam, this is where you’ll find it. Built in 1630, this canal house may look like any other on the outside, but once you step inside and make your way to the top level, you’ll find a secret Catholic Church named “Our Lord in the Attic”.
In the 17th century, Catholicism was outlawed in Amsterdam, so in order to keep things away from public view, people built churches in their homes. This particular one, is one of the largest and best preserved. Like many other historical sites in the city, it has been converted into a museum. As you proceed through this 400 year old house, you’ll receive a fascinating history lesson, culminating in a spectacular view of the church itself on the top floor.