Amsterdam is perfect for a quick Friday to Sunday city trip. While the city has a lot to offer, if you’ve only got 36 or 48 hours then I have the ultimate guide for you on where to stay, where to eat and what to see that won’t leave you too over- or underwhelmed. Here’s a custom-made itinerary I devised for a friend which went down brilliantly with her party of four.
PICKING YOUR AMSTERDAM ACCOMMODATION
I wish everyone could experience a stay at boutique hotel The Exchange, where the rooms are ‘dressed’ by fashion designer students, giving each room a character of its own. But if your budget doesn’t allow it, the Volkshotel is a great alternative. And the best thing? It features a cocktail bar and a rooftop terrace so you never have to leave. Chains like Citizen M, Hoxton and Generator Hostel are also present in Amsterdam, so if you like familiarity, they’re your best bet.
GETTING AROUND IN AMSTERDAM
Amsterdam is easily doable on foot, but you’ll probably end up on the tram when it starts to rain. Tram tickets costs €7.50 for 24 hours – you purchase them on board and only cards payments are accepted. If you think you’re a cat and have 9 lives, you can try cycling in Amsterdam. Download the Citymapper app to get around with getting lost, though losing yourself can be a fun diversion.
AMSTERDAM QUICK TIP I
Amsterdam has some top-tier museums and like in most cities I recommend booking ahead. As there’s a lot of choice, here’s a few of my faves in order of importance: Anne Frank House (doesn’t need explaining), van Gogh (obviously!), Stedelijk Museum (modern and contemporary art classics), FOAM (snaptastic photos) and Rijksmuseum (art and history, plus the famous I AMsterdam sign)
AMSTERDAM QUICK TIP II
Eating out three times a day can add up. A budget breakfast & lunch tip for your stay: find the nearest Albert Heijn to Go and get a selection of bread rolls, a jar of peanut butter (I recommend Calve extra crunchy) and a pack of cheese (Beemster jong belegen is a favourite) and you’re all set for a very cheap Dutch breakfast and lunch during your weekend. Fingers crossed for picnic weather!
How to spend 36 hours in Amsterdam?
FRIDAY IN AMSTERDAM
AMSTERDAM QUICK TIP III
Chances are you’re on a late afternoon flight/train, meaning there’ll have been some delay and you’re likely to arrive later than expected. If you’re running late when arriving at the Central Station, grab some food at Wagamama, Salsa Shop or Burgerij.
What’s a good Friday night in Amsterdam? If you feel like going out for a quick walk I’d recommend The Red Light District – famous for the windows and ladies of the night, or 9 Straatjes – known for its canals and cute houses.
Happen to be in Amsterdam on the last Friday of the month? Make sure to spend it at Vincent on Friday at the van Gogh museum. I know you’re like … ”Tea, why would I spend my Friday night in a museum?” Well…aside from the paintings, there’s jazz bands, silent discos, and ear painting workshops…not bad eh?
Alternatively, there’s Boom Chicago, an English comedy troupe performing topical sketches, improvisations and songs. Alumni include Seth Meyers, Amber Ruffin and Jason Sudeikis so it’s not too shabby. Check out their programme here.
Want to dance the night away? I don’t know where the cool kids go, but my favourites are Melkweg or Paradiso, both have club nights and themed music evenings where you’ll definitely look good on the dance floor until the lights come on at 4 AM.
SPENDING A SATURDAY IN AMSTERDAM
Kick-start your day with the 10.00 AM Free Sandeman Tour. The Amsterdam edition one of my favourite tour companies. During the 2.5 hours long walk you’ll be given a concise but attention grabbing overview of city’s history and culture.
The tour ends in the Jordaan neighbourhood, which is nice to stroll around on your way to the Foodhallen! An indoor market with loads of food stalls covering every corner of the world, I usually opt for burgers at the Butcher, but next time I want to consume everything Taqueria Lima can throw at me.
Time to walk off your meal or take the tram to the Central Station – on the way you can check out the Bloemenmarkt, or Flowermarket. I don’t really see the fuss, but it’s always crowded, so it must have some hidden charms? I reckon the countless flower stands filled with tulips must have some hidden mind-control powers of tourists.
Once you make it to the Central Station take the free ferry to Buiksloterweg to A’DAM Tower to really get your swing on – yes we’re talking the highest swing in Europe, plus a viewing platform (both have to be paid for separately). And when you’ve finished with the adrenaline rush, why not spend the rest of the evening celebrating at its bar?
Late Night Local Snack: In the UK you might stop by McDonalds for your late night cravings. In Amsterdam why not try out one of the food vending machines at FEBO. You’ll be in heaven! Deep-fried snack heaven that is. Make sure you keep €2 change in your wallet to try beef croquette, cheese soufflé or deep-fried bami.
SUNDAY IN AMSTERDAM
On Sunday get your culture on and visit a museum or two you’ve already pre-booked. Depending on when your flight/train leaves you might want to spend the afternoon at:
- Hortus Botanicus – the city’s botanical garden, filled with pretty plants and insta-worthy glasshouses.
- Brouwerij IJ – a little brewery wtih tours and tastings all in the shadow of the giant De Gooyer windmill.
- Willet Holthuysen – 19th century-style canal house with a tiny Versailles garden
- Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder – a pristine Catholic church in the attic of a canal house, where worshippers hid during the ban on their religion.
Now sloooowly make your way towards the station and walk via 9 Straatjes, even if you’ve seen it on your first evening it will look very different during day light. There’s more than enough small boutiques, vintage shops and coffee places to keep busy.
Before heading back to the station, treat yourself to a big and fancy lunch as no one has time for airport food. Head to the Insta famous MOOK Pancakes or Coffee & Coconuts if you have enough minutes to spare, go for Vinnies if you have less time and need to stay close to the station, or fries at Manneken Pis if you are really in a hurry.
Your journey back is the perfect time to plan your next visit, because Amsterdam is going to leave you wanting to go back over and over again.