2 days in Amsterdam – itinerary for first-time visitors

Looking to spend 2 days in Amsterdam but no idea where to start? With so many museums and attractions to choose from, the number of Amsterdam must-see items on your list may be overwhelming. But don’t worry, we’re here to help. Whether you’re looking to explore the city with friends or with your loved one, this 2 day Amsterdam itinerary will help you make the most of your time in the capital of The Netherlands. It covers the most important sights and activities for first-time visitors. Excited to learn all about Amsterdam and its many highlights? Let’s dive in.

Timing-wise, two days in Amsterdam should do to see the city’s highlights. You could stay a bit longer by adding one or more day trips from Amsterdam to the travel planning. A visit to the most iconic tulip fields of the Netherlands and the popular Keukenhof Gardens, for example, is a must if you’re traveling in April or early May. We’ve included some options in one of the last paragraphs.

Taking a canal tour will be one of the highlights of your 2 days in Amsterdam itinerary

Amsterdam 2 day itinerary

This Google map gives you an overview of the 2 day Amsterdam itinerary suggested in this article.

Day 1 of your Amsterdam itinerary

For this first day of your Amsterdam itinerary, we’d suggest to explore explore these districts: Grachtengordel, Wallen & Jordaan. If the weather’s nice, it’s a wonderful walking tour. If not, then a hop on hop off boat is the perfect solution since all of the Amsterdam attractions that I selected for this day are located along the canals.
You’ll see that we included several museums options, all of which are small and intimate museums that can be visited in just over an hour. Therefore, you can easily mix and match several of them without overdoing this first day of your Amsterdam itinerary.

– Anne Frank House

This might not be the most cheerful Amsterdam must-see but it sure is an important one. A visit to the Anne Frank house will take you approximately 1 hour. All tickets come with a time-slot. It’s advised to purchase your ticket in advance. However, 20% of the tickets are last-minute and released every day via the website. So, even if spending 2 days in Amsterdam was an impromptu trip, you might still be able to visit this museum.

– Dam Square

Dam Square, the heart of Amsterdam and the perfect place to start your 2 days in Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s most famous square was named after the dam over the Amstel river which was built on this exact spot. Once a bustling market place and now home to the Royal Palace, the Dam is and has always been the heart of the city. A huge fun fair used to take place on the Dam every year in the months of April and October. We had no idea that, when we were on the ferris wheel in October 2017, it would be one of the last times ever that this attraction would operate in that location. The views from up there were just unparalleled.

– Royal Palace

The Royal Palace should be included in every Amsterdam itinerary 2 days

Built in the 17th century Golden Age, this Palace is open for visits most of the year. You can check the schedule here.

– Beurspassage

Beurspassage in Amsterdam with its incredible detailing is a must when you're visiting Amsterdam in 2 days

The arched passageway between Nieuwendijk and Damrak is an artwork in itself. It’s an ode to the canals of Amsterdam and the many treasures they hide. From sunken bikes until sailor men tattoos, you’ll find many references in the mosaic-tiled underwater-evoking artwork. Floors and light fixtures all complement the theme. It’s one of the lesser-known tourist attractions but definitely deserves a spot in any Amsterdam itinerary.

– Old Church

The Oude Kerk is the oldest building in the city and nowadays mostly used as an exhibition area. Its location, right next to the Red Light District, provides an interesting contrast.

– Rembrandt House Museum

Little girl preparing the paint the Rembrandt way at the Rembrandt House Museum, one of the more unique things to do in Amsterdam
See the statue of Rembrandt at Rembrandt Square in Amsterdam during your Amsterdam 2 day trip

A very interesting little museum in the actual house where Rembrandt used to live. A visit with an audioguide will take you about 1h. The museum hosts demonstrations in oil paint preparation and etching. I was there with my little daughter and they even let her prepare the oil paint, her second most vivid memory from our 2 days in Amsterdam (the other being the ferris wheel).

– Dancing houses

What to do in Amsterdam in 2 days is see the dancing houses
Most beautiful sight in this 2 day Amsterdam itinerary are the canal houses

Amsterdam was built on swampy soil. Therefore all merchant houses along the canals were built on wooden stilts all the way through the mud until the steady under-layer of sand. As long as these stilts stay under the level of the groundwater, the houses are steady. But as soon as those water levels drop then the quality of the wood deteriorates. It’s a problem with many Amsterdam houses but in these houses are the most known example which has earned them the title of Amsterdam’s Dancing Houses.

– Rembrandt Square

This former dairy market used to be named Butter Market. When a statue of the famous painter was placed here, the name changed to Rembrandt Square – Rembrandtplein in Dutch. In the early 20th century, more artists discovered the area and ever since, more cafes opened their doors. Nowadays, it’s a popular nightlife scene.

– Museum Willet-Holthuysen

Visiting the garden of the museum Willet-Holthuysen is one of the best things to do in Amsterdam
Source: Flickr – Kristina D.C. HoeppnerCC BY-SA 2.0

I haven’t made it to this intimate museum yet but would love to one day. It’s actually a 17th century canal house that was turned into a museum. So it’s like stepping back into the Golden Age. The manicured garden is said to be extraordinary beautiful. I really regret not having visited this gem during my weekend in Amsterdam.

– Museum of Bags and Purses

Amsterdam and fashion go hand in hand so it comes as no surprise that the city is home to one of the world’s best fashion museums. What more excuse do you need to visit the cute little Museum of Bags and Purses (Tassenmuseum Hendrikje in Dutch)? Especially if these 2 days in Amsterdam are part of a girls-trip, this boutique museum makes for the perfect addition to your itinerary. And although I haven’t treated myself to one just yet, I’ve heard great things about the museum’s high tea.

Say Eat cheese

Visiting a cheese shop is a must when you're visiting Amsterdam in two days in Amsterdam

Cheese shops and delicatessen boutiques dot the city so what are you waiting for? Go taste the cheese! You’re in Holland, after all!

– Flower market

The flower market is one of the most popular Amsterdam attractions
Little girl in clumps at the Amsterdam Flower Market

The floating Flower Market – Bloemenmarket in Dutch – is the place to be to buy seeds, bulbs and souvenirs such as clogs. The location has remained on the canal ever since the old days when the farmers used to sell the flowers and bulbs in the city by boat. Back then they came and went but nowadays the floating Flower Market is stationary and open year-round.
Unfortunately, over the years, the market has lost its shine. It used to be a place that was frequented by locals as much as visitors. Especially during the weekends, Amsterdammers came to buy their fresh flowers here. But since it became overrun with tourists, locals stayed away. The last florist even closed up shop in 2019. That’s why you won’t find any more fresh flowers here. Only bulbs but often of questionable quality. So, consider it more of a souvenir market.

Delft Blue store near the Flower Market is the place to buy a souvenir during your Amsterdam itinerary

Just around the corner, you’ll also find this Delftware shop so you’ll basically find all Dutch icons and souvenirs in one place.

– Beguinage

Visiting the courtyard of the Begijnhof is a must when visiting Amsterdam 2 days

This courtyard of a former monastery is a haven of peace in the heart of the city, a welcome break during your Amsterdam itinerary. While the last Beguine died in 1971, the Begijnhof houses are still exclusively reserved for women.

– 9 Straatjes district

The Nine Little Streets quarter connects Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Singel. It’s a bustling neighbourhood with more locals than tourist, quaint little cafes, exclusive boutiques, and a lively atmosphere. I love the vibe here. The Negen Straatjes is UNESCO World Heritage and by far my favorite district in Amsterdam.

– Evening canal cruise

The highlight of your 2 day Amsterdam itinerary was the classic canal-cruise. If the weather allows it, opt for the open-boat sunset cruise because it’s an amazing photo op. We bought our tickets from the I Amsterdam Visitor Centre at the Stationsplein in the late morning. It was a sunny autumn weekend day. I can imagine that you’ll need to book earlier if you plan on being there during peak summer. In general, a cruise takes about 75 minutes.

– Seasonal tip (autumn / winter): Light Festival

If you happen to spend your 2 days in Amsterdam anywhere from the end of November until the second half of January then you can enjoy the yearly Light Festival. Dozens of artworks by both national and international artists light up the Amsterdam skies, buildings and / or bridges creating a magical atmosphere throughout the historic centre.

Day 2 of your Amsterdam itinerary

On the last day of your 2 day Amsterdam itinerary, we suggest you spend your time in these districts: Oud-Zuid, Oud-West and The Pijp. Because the tourist attractions are a bit more spread out, we’d recommend to take public transport to the first stop (museum) and rent a bike to continue the rest of your journey. Black bikes offers bicycles at several locations around the city and you can return it to either one. You’ll fit right in… unless you decide to stop in the middle of the bike lane. That’s a big no-no in this bike-friendly city.

– Museumkwartier

Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, one of the city's most famous museums located at the Museum District and a highlight on any Amsterdam weekend trip

Some of Amsterdam’s most popular museums are located in the Museum Quarter, a wide public park in the south of the city: the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum and the MoCo Museum. Too much art for 2 days in Amsterdam, that’s for sure, so you’ll have to choose a favorite.
The I Amsterdam letters can no longer be found at this location. Check here where to find them for that perfect Instagram snap.


Tip: When you’re there on Wednesday, then you could head to the Concert Hall at 12.30 p.m. to enjoy a free lunch concert (not in July and August).

– Albert Cuyp Market

Treat yourself to some local delicacies such as fresh poffertjes (mini-pancakes) or a stroopwafel (some sort of caramel waffle) from the food stalls at the Albert Cuyp market in the De Pijp district. Named after the Dutch landscape painter, this daily market is one of the largest in Europe. If the weather allows it, pick up some fruits and enjoy a picnic nearby.

– Leidseplein

The fountain at the Leidseplein in Amsterdam is a great place to relax on your 2 day Amsterdam itinerary

Once the parking zone for horses and carriages, this is now the city’s liveliest square. In the area you’ll find theatres, bars and nightclubs. On a sunny day, the American Hotel does offer a nice lunch location next to the fountain.

– Foodhallen Amsterdam

If international street-food is your scene, then you should definitely check out the Foodhallen. This tram-service-station-turned-food-walhalla is a great place for an informal lunch and many locals hang out there too.

– Vondelpark

Little girl hugging a tree at Vondelpark in Amsterdam

This is the most popular park in Amsterdam. It might be good for a picnic during the summer months if you’re cycling your way through this side of the city anyway. If you’re walking, then there are better ways to spend your 2 days in Amsterdam. There’s really nothing special about the park, no vistas, no special vibe. Amsterdammers love it but, after having visited the park myself, I believe it’s more out of nostalgia.

– Spiegelkwartier

Quite conveniently located next to the Museum District, the Spiegelkwartier – which translates as Mirror District – is the heart of artistic Amsterdam. Feast your eyes on the many galleries and antique dealers you’ll find in this area.

– Cheers

Two nearby experiences that I didn’t try: The House of Bols Cocktail and Genever Experience & The Heineken Experience.

 

– Seasonal tip (spring): Flower Festival

If you happen to be in Amsterdam during the month of April, you can spot tulips at dozens of locations across the city such as museums, hotels, public buildings and even private residences. The Amsterdam Flower Festival is an ode to spring. All participating locations are gathered in a map which you can find here.

– Seasonal tip (winter): Go ice-skating

From mid-November until the end of Januari, the Museumplein is transformed into an ice skating rink. Find more information here. It’s a magical place to end your 2 days in Amsterdam.

Where to stay in Amsterdam

When you’re only going to spend two days in Amsterdam, then you need to make sure that your accommodation is both central and easily accessible. We stayed at The Dylan Amsterdam for our mother-daughter trip and loved it.

Little girl at the courtyard of The Dylan, a great place to stay in Amsterdam

Here are some other hotels I considered and some new additions that caught my eye:

I amsterdam City Card or Amsterdam Pass?

Mother and daughter in Amsterdam for 2 days

Spending even 2 days in Amsterdam can be pricey: To keep your budget in check, you might benefit from a city pass. Here’s a comparison of both options, based on the Amsterdam must-sees that I mentioned earlier. Do note, however, that both Amsterdam cards offer free and discounted entrances at many more attractions and museums.


Attractions

Anne Frank House

Royal Palace

Rembrandt House Museum

Museum Willet-Holthuysen

Museum of Bags and Purses

Rijksmuseum

Van Gogh Museum

Stedelijk Museum

MoCo Museum


Experiences

The House of Bols

The Heineken Experience


Transportation

Amsterdam Airport Express

1-hour canal closed cruise

1-hour canal open cruise

Hop on/off bus

Hop on/off canal boat

Bike rental

NEW! Keukenhof hop on/off


Prices

Adult (48 hours)
€80
€84

Kid (48 hours)
€80
€42


Find out more + buy


It’s clear that that, at least at the time of publishing, the Amsterdam Pass will get you the most value for money. This is especially true when you’ll be traveling with young kids.

* Prices are correct at the time of publishing – Y = included – N = not included – % = discount

How to get from Amsterdam airport to the city centre

The Amsterdam canals are the highlight of any Amsterdam itinerary

If you only have 2 days in Amsterdam, then you better don’t get stuck in traffic. Here’s how to make a quick transfer to downtown Amsterdam:

  • If you’re arriving by plane from Schiphol Airport, then you could take Conexxion shuttle bus Amsterdam Airport Express bus n°397. This bus departs every 7,5 minutes from Schiphol Plaza and takes passengers directly to Museumplein, Rijksmuseum or Leidseplein. The ride takes 30 minutes and costs €5 per person.
  • Another option is to take the train from Schiphol to Amsterdam Central Station. You’ll get there in 20 minutes for €6,50.
  • Finally, you could also take a taxi at Amsterdam Airport to the city center for a fixed price of €39 (supplements may apply at night, for extra luggage…). You’ll find a designated taxi stand at the arrival’s hall.

Looking to spend more than 2 days in Amsterdam?

Day trip from Amsterdam to Gouda

Want to see more of the area? Here are some suggestions for day trips to add to your Amsterdam itinerary:

  • Spring: Tulips are the quintessential Dutch icon and the tulip fields of the Netherlands are so close to Amsterdam that you should definitely plan a day trip to Keukenhof Gardens when you’re there in April or early May.
  • Spring or summer: A visit to the traditional Gouda cheese market is a must when you’re in Holland. This classic event is held on every Thursday morning from April to the end of August. We wrote an entire article about the cheese market and all other gorgeous Gouda sights. You’ll see that it’s a true little gem.
  • Any season: The Hague is less touristy than Amsterdam yet just as international. Due to its many international institutions, it has just always attracted a different crowd. Check out our recommendations on things to do in The Hague.
  • Any season: Haarlem is located just outside Amsterdam. It might not be the most popular Dutch city but it certainly is a charmer. Here’s our selection of things to do in Haarlem.

When will you explore Amsterdam?

Is this the 2 day Amsterdam itinerary you were looking for? I truly hope so! Any Amsterdam travel tips that aren’t on the list but should be? Let me know in the comment box or drop me an e-mail.

Pinning this post would be much appreciated!

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11 Comments

    1. Sarah

      Amsterdam is the kind of city where you find something new and exciting every time you visit. And indeed ideal with kids since it has such a wide offer in small boutique museums, which is perfect for them timing-wise. If you have any recommendations that are not in this article, do let me know, Clare. I’d love to check them out.

  1. Such a lovely post with beautiful photos. I have been toying with the idea, whether should a weekend trip be enough for Amsterdam. Your post just makes me think it s possible. thank you so much for sharing this post.

    1. Sarah

      Thank you so much, Usha. I do believe that 2 days in Amsterdam is great for a first trip but of course, that will also depend on your travel style. There are many interesting museums and if you have a hard time limiting it down, especially when it comes to the bigger museums, then you’re better off adding a day or even two to your Amsterdam weekend itinerary. The fact that you can easily navigate the city, either by bike or by boat, does help you save time to actually see the sights. Hope you make it to Amsterdam soon!

  2. You’re right there is just so much to see and do in Amsterdam, I must admit I love boats, so a canal cruise would always be high on my list. Like you say at sunset it would be wonderful. #farawayfiles

    1. Sarah

      The contrast between the peaceful canals and the bustling streets is just perfect. Although in summer it can get pretty packed on the canals too. 🙂 But I agree, Janis, the Amsterdam canal cruise is one of my personal highlights too.

  3. What a great post! We visited Amsterdam a few years ago, and I LOVED it! I could live there, but as that’s probably not going to happen I will just have to find my way back. I am putting the museum of bags and purses on my list. By the way my parents recently stayed at the Twenty Seven and loved it. #farawayfiles

    1. Sarah

      So glad you like the post! I agree, it’s one of the coolest cities ever. Great to hear that the TwentySeven is every bit as good as I thought it would be. Now I just have to try it out for myself. Amsterdam, here I come (again)!

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