My favorite itinerary for 2 days in Amsterdam, hitting the best museums, restaurants and shopping areas
A weekend in Amsterdam is one of my favorite treats to myself.
One of my closest friends lives in the city and I am her regular guest: in the last year and a half I have been to Amsterdam at least 6 times (!), for 2 days each time, and have spent each of those weekends discovering different parts of the city.
Out of all my Amsterdam weekend itineraries, there is one that I love most of all and that I keep pretty much following every time I go (with slight variations on the museum chosen).
Today I want to share it with you.
This is my favorite itinerary to spend 2 days in Amsterdam with a friend or your partner (for my recommendations for Amsterdam with kids, go here instead)
Please note: this post contains affiliate links and, should you make a purchase through them, I might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. The restaurant recommendations come from my own taste and experience and are in no way sponsored (I pay for all my meals and never even mention I may write about them).
Arrival: how to get from Schipol airport to Amsterdam city center
I live in Dublin so my arrival to Amsterdam is always by air, via Schipol airport.
Schipol is immediately outside of Amsterdam and it super well connected to the city. The easiest way to get into town is by train and this is my preferred mean of transport.
The train station is right inside the main airport arrival hall and there are ticket machines that accept cash or card: they are yellow and well visible, you cannot miss them.
The trains from Schipol to Amsterdam Centraal, the city’s main station, are frequent and the ride only takes about 15-20 minutes.
The train has first and second class and I personally always opt for the second class ticket although the train does get busy and this means you might have to stand.
For me, the length of journey doesn’t justify the extra cost of the ticket but this is something you may want to consider if you have any mobility issues.
If you prefer a taxi into town, they are available just outside the arrivals hall. In the evening, they can get you into the city center fast however, at peak traffic times you may get stuck in traffic.
I found this to be particularly true between 4pm and 6pm, when the many people working in the Schipol area get in the car to go home.
Especially if arriving at that time, I highly recommend you get the train instead!
How to get from Amsterdam central station to your accommodation
Unless you are staying very near Centraal, Amsterdam central station, chances are you will need to get a tram to get to your hotel.
I find trams in Amsterdam excellent and easy to use: just outside the station you have a large tram terminus and just in front you have the GVB Service & Tickets, Stationsplein Central Station info point.
Here you can get maps and all the info you need about transport in Amsterdam and, should you need one, the Amsterdam travel card.
If you already know what tram you catch and not need a travel card, you can just hop on the tram and get a ticket on board (payments are by card): super easy!
Do you need a travel card for 2 days in Amsterdam?
Amsterdam has several travel cards and transport tickets solutions for visitors and how much or how little convenient they are depend on your plans.
The main things to consider are:
Where is your accommodation? If you need to get the tram every day more than once, then a travel card is probably a good idea. A good value one is this public transport card, valid on all GVB trams, metro and buses, all day and night.
How many museums will you see? The I Amsterdam card is a solution combining entrance to museums and public transport. If you are planning on taking the tram more than once a day and plan on seeing 2 museums or more (of those included) then getting the city card is probably a good idea
If you are staying in a central area (I am usually near Rembrandt Plein) and do not plan on visiting more than one museum over the weekend, then you probably do not need the Amsterdam card and will find better to just pay as you go.
The best place to stay in Amsterdam for a weekend break
Amsterdam city center is pretty compact and, in general, once you stay inside the canal ring, you know you are in a convenient location for sightseeing.
However, withing this area you have different neighborhoods and depending on what you like, you will find some more suitable than others.
Personally, I am fond of 2 areas.
Jordaan: convenient, quiet and pretty
Jordaan is within the Amsterdam canal ring, on its Western side. This is a pretty, well off area with gorgeous canals and beautiful homes. Staying in Jordaan means you can pretty much walk anywhere or you can easily catch a tram.
This is a great area to stay in Amsterdam for a weekend and, if budget allows, I highly recommend you stay at The Pulitzer (if you can’t, I still recommend you get a drink there in the evening, I have it as a must stop on my itinerary below!)
Other good addresses in Jordaan are:
Mr Jordaan: a beautiful boutique hotel with neutral tones and amazing staff
Nine Street Inn, a great B&B in between Jordaan and the Center proper
Prinsengracht / Utrechtsestraat area: dynamic, leafy, well served
This area is at the opposite end of the canal ring from Jordaan and it is where I feel most at home.
What I love here is that you have the charm of the canals, you are in close proximity to pretty much anywhere in the city center but you also have easy access to hip areas such as De Pijp and the Albert Cuyp Markt, which is lovely for a cup of coffee and and herring on the go.
Addresses you might like in this area area:
Keizers Kanal, B&B, which stands out for excellent location and welcome
Hotel Dwars, which is not only beautiful and well located but also have rooms for up to 4 guests, which make it also handy for families
2 days in Amsterdam itinerary
Now that you have the basics, this is my favorite weekend itinerary for Amsterdam. It works pretty much in all seasons with a couple of adjustments needed for the winter, when the afternoon at the park or the evening in Noord are not very appealing.
When this applies, I have give you my winter in Amsterdam alternative, you so you can use this itinerary at all times!
2 days in Amsterdam itinerary day 1
Morning – take a walk in Jordaan
I love starting my morning in Amsterdam with a walk around Jordaan.
This is a wonderful area, full of canals and beautiful homes, and I find it also a great introduction to the city as it doesn’t get half as crowded as the city center proper and feels a lot less touristy.
My favorite way to enjoy this area is strolling around but there are also a couple of interesting sights here that I do recommend you visit, if this is your first time in the city.
One is the vert famous Anne Frank House (advance booking needed, you can get your tickets from their official site here) and the other one is the Amsterdam house boat museum, which is cool as it shows how much you can fit into a tiny space and still live quite well!
You do not need to get tickets in advance for the Houseboat museum but it is good to know it is included in the IAmsterdam card offering.
Lunch – have a tasty break in Jordaan / Nine streets
Jordaan is full of places for lunch but some I recommend are:
Pluk: this is a lovely, Instagram- ready cafe serving salads and gorgeous pancakes. They have more than one address, all in the same part of Amsterdam, and they are perfect if you want a snack or a light lunch.
Burgermeister: if you feel like a burger this is a good address to have.
This is a simple yet good burger joint serving a good selection of burgers, toppings and sides. As well as more traditional burgers they serve a vegetarian option (falafel) and cater for kids or smaller appetites with the mini burger, a small size version of their main dishes.
Afternoon – 9 Streets, Dam square and the city center
After what I call a ‘soft’ morning in Jordaan and it leafy streets, I usually feel ready to tackle two of the busiest areas of Amsterdam: the nine streets and the center proper.
The nine streets are a series of, yes, 9 streets that are famous for their quaint architecture and beautiful shops. This area is vibrant, beautiful and packed with people and it is perfect if you want to go shopping as it is full of concept stores as well as well known brands.
Immediately to the East of the nine streets lies Amsterdam center proper. This is a very touristy part of town and I always need to somehow brace myself before coming here, but there are some really nice sights here that I believe are worth seeing.
The most famous is probably Dam square, which is a large square with the big royal palace, but my favorite site is a little less loud and visible: it is the Amsterdam Begijnhof.
Afternoon break – Amsterdam Begijnhof
The Amstedam Begijnhof dates back to the Middle Ages and is an inner courtyard overlooked by now historic buildings.
In its origin, the Begijnhof provided housing to the beguines, lay religious women who chose to live in this housing community, and now the Begijnhof if still inhabited but can also be visited as a historical attraction in Amstedam ciy centre.
The Begijnhof is a little hidden oasis and it is not only beautiful and interesting but also an easy plsce to escape the crowds, heavy in this part of town.
Not far from here you also have the Amsterdam Bloemenmarkt, the famous flaring market of the city.
Personally, I find this market overrated as a tourist attraction (if you are imagining a floating market Bangkok style, this is not it!) but it is in such a convenient location that I always find myself passing here.
It is also a great pale to buy flowers, should you want to bring them home or even just give a touch of color to your hotel room.
Evening – take a canal cruise + dinner in De Pijp
After all this walking I like taking it a little easy and one of the best ways to do so in Amsterdam is to take a canal cruise.
I have taken my first one during the Amsterdam light festival which happens in November / December but really, you don’t get tired of seeing Amsterdam from the water and it is not an activity that breaks the bank.
For dinner, I like to head towards the Amstel, take a short stroll and then head to de Pijp for dinner (Le Petit Caron is wort trying but there are lots of places here)
Amsterdam itinerary day 2
Morning – Brunch and visit to the red light district area
My tradition for my second morning in Amsterdam is to go for brunch and my favorite place lately is the Press Room.
This is a restaurant attached to the Ink hotel and has a great brunch menu (they also do lunch and dinner) in a location excellent for sightseeing.
From here, it is super easy to visit the famous Oude Kerk (Oldest building in Amsterdam and oldest parish church) and the red light district (which has surprisingly beautiful architecture!).
You absolutely do not have to partake into ‘red light activities’ to appreciate this ares and it is surprisingly clean and safe (I have only been in the morning, i cannot speak for the night, sorry).
Light lunch in Vondelpark
After the busy red light district i usually like taking it easy in a park (weather permitting) and there is no better place for it than going to Vondelpark.
I first went here with my kids but the place is lovely for adults too and has some cafes that make for a good break. It is a good walk from the center so you may want to consider public transport or factor in a good time at the park for recovering.
If the weather is not on your side, I recommend you take a restoring serving of ramen in Vatten Ramen instead. Their stock is delicious and truly worth it!
Afternoon – go to a museum
Amsterdam is full of museums and the area of Museumplein has some of the most famous.
I you have never been to Amsterdam before, I highly recommend you book skip the line tickets for either the Rijks Museum (Ducth masters, advance booking a must) or van Gogh (same, advance booking highly recommended).
Instead, if you have already seen those, you may opt for something a little less common such a s the super fun purse museum of Amsterdam, the Katten kabinet (all cat themed).
Dinner – Amsterdam Noord
My 2 day Amsterdam itinerary so far is suitable for rain or shine but this is not the case for this last recommendation, so I am going to make two.
If you are visiting Amsterdam in summer, my favorite way to spend the evening is heading to Amsterdam Noord.
This is the area of Amsterdam on the other side of the central station and has become very popular in the last few years because of its up and coming, vibrant atmosphere.
Here you have lovely art spaces, the famous Amsterdam lookout and many beer gardens and restaurants, especially welcoming in summer thanks you their leafy terraces.
If you are visiting Amsterdam in winter I recommend you opt instead for dinner in Amsterdam city center.
If you like Japanese, you can go to my usual hangout the KU (Japanese restaurant on Utrechtsestraat) or get dinner in the Pulitzer (restaurant or bar), making sure you top it up with one of the house cocktails!
I hope you enjoyed this itinerary and has given you a good idea on how to spend two days in Amsterdam. Safe travels!