How To Spend 72 Hours in Amsterdam : Everything You Need To Know
In a previous post on New Year's Goals, we shared one of the only resolutions that has ever actually stuck - to travel to a different place every month of the year. For the last 2 years, we have successfully accomplished this goal + have been able to visit the most incredible cities, see some of the most renowned landmarks + enjoy some of the best meals of my life. The greatest of all of these cities, for me, has, hands down, been Amsterdam! To this day, I am still researching jobs, neighborhoods to live, you name it. I would move there in a heartbeat! I am SO excited to share my itinerary for my trip to Amsterdam so that you can fall in love with this beautiful city too! This itinerary is perfectly crafted to group activities by neighborhood, so that you don’t waste any time between stops!
We landed in Amsterdam around 11am after a nonstop flight from Seattle with Delta. Delta has become one of my favorite international carriers + I would highly recommend this airline whenever it is an option. Hello unlimited complimentary wine + over 100 episodes of Real Housewives at the tip of your finger. (They also have one of our favorite airline specific credit cards - sign up here for an additional sign-up bonus!)
We checked in to Hotel Estherea, absolutely the cutest hotel that I have ever stayed in. The décor was so charming, staff was so attentive + all rooms have the perfect canal view. Every morning and every evening, we were greeted with fresh baked treats + a hot cup of tea or coffee.
After checking in + freshening up, we ventured out to begin exploring this beautiful city. We grabbed some coffee (to help us power through our jet lag) and got lost in the charm of the canals. Despite the 13 degree weather, we could not stop smiling and were completely infatuated by the city - can't imagine how much more we would have loved it without needing to wear 12 layers!
OUDE KERK - Literally means "Old Church" in Dutch. This is the oldest church in the city (built in 1203!!) + is located right in the center of the Red Light District. So crazy to see the most beautiful place of worship flanked by "coffee shops" and sex workers. In its early days, Amsterdam was a stop for sailors and the church was built in this location so that sailors could repent for their sins in the Red Light District before returning to sea. Would highly recommend paying a visit, just make sure to arrive before 5 pm!
DINNER: VAN KERKWIJK - Best meal I have EVER had. The menu changes daily + is not written down. There are three options for each of the three courses - starter, entrée and dessert - that the waiters recite to you. The portions were just right and, despite the three course meal, we left feeling very satisfied, but light and refreshed.
DAM SQUARE - After dinner, we ventured to Dam Square where the Royal Palace is located and where lots of shopping is centered - fine Dutch department stores, as well as fan favorites like Zara + H&M. The Palace was stunning and flanked by lots of sidewalk cafes where we stopped to have a drink and watch the hustle and bustle of the city.
RED LIGHT DISTRICT WALKING TOUR - Before arriving in Amsterdam, we had booked a walking tour of the Red Light, the city's center of nightlife and debauchery through Offbeat. I had heard mixed reviews of this neighborhood from friends who had visited and I wanted to make sure I learned about such a unique area from an expert. I am so glad that I did! I developed such an appreciation and understanding of the history of an area that many people would walk through and describe as seedy.
While in the Red Light, I would definitely recommend checking out one of the numerous bars and "coffee shops.” Even if this isn't your typical scene - definitely isn't mine- I think it is such a unique part of the city's culture + is a must to truly experience it. I would recommend Abraxas as it wasn't crowded with tourists, had a really cool vibe as well as knowledgeable and helpful staff.
We woke up bright and early, feeling refreshed and with, surprisingly, little jet lag! On day two, we ventured to quite a few different neighborhoods, but, Amsterdam is truly a city made for tourists - you can walk LITERALLY everywhere. Hardly anybody in Amsterdam drives and there are actually more registered bikes than people in the city!
BREAKFAST: PANCAKES! (Yes, there is an exclamation point in the title) This was the best breakfast of our entire trip. As you may have guessed from the title, their specialty is...pancakes! They had about 40 different varieties of pancakes - with an equal split of sweet and savory options. I was super excited to learn that almost every pancake came in a gluten + dairy free option as well. I enjoyed a goat cheese, pesto and pine nut pancake. So delicious. There are 3 locations around Amsterdam, so you are sure to find one close to wherever you stay.
After breakfast, we grabbed coffee to go and wandered through the Jordaan neighborhood. Jordaan was one of the trendiest neighborhoods we visited, definitely more local than tourist and where most young people choose to live. If you've ever been to NYC, I would describe it as the Brooklyn/Williamsburg of Amsterdam.
WESTERKERK - Yes, another church and equally as beautiful. The tower from this church is visible from many parts of the city and its bell was the one that Anne Frank heard daily and wrote about in her diary! On Mondays, the day that we were lucky enough to visit, the church hosts a large market with lots of merchants setting up booths selling artwork, textiles, food and much more. Was really fun to walk around.
ZAANS SCHANSE - While wandering around Jordaan, we came across signs for a day trip to the Windmill villages located about 30 minutes outside of Amsterdam. We had left our afternoon open to exploring, so decided to book the tour and are so glad that we did! We took a drive through the beautiful Dutch countryside. Exploring the villages felt like a fairy tale and each of the windmills was still fully functioning. We were able to learn how to make real Dutch clogs, cheese, soaps and so much more!
ANNE FRANK HOUSE - Visiting this museum is a must for anyone visiting Amsterdam! Tickets sell out well in advance and you have to purchase your ticket for a specific time slot. By the time we bought our tickets, 6:30pm was the only remaining slot, but we were really glad to visit later in the day when it wasn't as crowded and we could take our time walking through. The house is the exact location where Anne and her family hid during World War 2 and many components of the house remained in tact, including marks on the wall measuring their heights and many of Anne's posters and pictures. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life and, although the tours were just audio guides, they were very well done and super informative.
ICE BAR - We grabbed another great dinner after the museum and then ventured to the Amsterdam Ice Bar which we had heard was a must. I would recommend NOT visiting this attraction. You enter into a large ice cave/igloo with jackets and gloves provided by the bar and tasted vodka poured into shot glasses made out of ice. Because the cave was so cold, you didn't feel the typical "burn" of the vodka, but it was super low quality alcohol - think Smirnoff - in flavors including Nutella. It would have been more fun to be able to order drinks of your choice and to not have a time limit inside the cave. Skip it.
Another day, another neighborhood to explore. For our third day, we started out in the Museum Quarter.
BREAKFAST: BAKERS & ROASTERS: Super interesting brunch spot, blending New Zealand comfort food and Brazilian street eats. They don't take reservations, so be prepared to wait. Even on a Tuesday morning, we had a 40 minute wait, but it is located in a super cute neighborhood, De Pijp, to explore and grab a coffee while you wait!
VONDELPARK: After breakfast, we wanted to visit some of Amsterdam's renowned museums and walking through Vondelpark was the perfect way to get there from brunch. Vondelpark is HUGE, approximately the same size as Central Park, with so much to do and see. There is no way that we could have seen it all in our walk and I'm sure in the summer months, you could spend a whole day there. Given the 13 degree weather, we just spent an hour walking through.
MUSEUMPLEIN: This is a super sophisticated neighborhood with stunning homes surrounding Vondelpark and where three of the world's most renowned museums are located. This was also home to the famous "IAMSTERDAM" letters. Sadly, as of December 2018, the letters have been taken down. However, there are still plenty of reasons to come visit outside of the museums, such as an ice rink during the winter! Given that we had just three full days in Amsterdam, we did not actually tour the museums, but would definitely recommend doing so and will add this to our list for next time!
A’DAM TOWER: At the top of the old Shell headquarters is the coolest rooftop bar with stunning views of the entire city, as well as Europe's highest swing. If you are even the slightest adrenaline junkie, I would highly recommend doing this. It only lasted a few minutes, but was so much fun and was just a few extra dollars in the cost of the ticket to go up to the lounge. After the swing, we grabbed a few drinks in the lounge and then continued on our way.
CANAL TOUR: The canals are such a quintessential part of Amsterdam. We knew we wanted to take the time to explore them + to learn a little bit more about the history. We boarded a boat + took a 1 hour cruise through the canals. I would recommend doing this earlier on in your trip. By day 3, we had already explored the city + seen so many of the canals. It would be more enjoyable to do at the beginning of your trip + get ideas for any neighborhoods or activities that you want to add to your list!
WINKEL 43: Post dinner + drinks, we stopped at this adorable neighborhood bar that is famous for the world’s best apple pie. If you're a pie fan, you HAVE to add this to your list. Plus it’s just a super charming spot near lots of restaurants + activities, so it’s an easy addition to your trip!
On Day 4, after breakfast + a little more exploring, we boarded a train to Paris. There is SO much more that we would have liked to see + do in Amsterdam. If you’re planning a trip, definitely try to visit in April + be there for Kings’ Day. We heard from locals that it is a party throughout the entire city + an experience not to be missed!!
Email us or comment below with any questions about planning your perfect Amsterdam itinerary!!