No other city can match the unique energy of Amsterdam. The “Venice of the North” artfully combines rich history and architecture with quirky art and subversively liberal core values, most evident in its coffee shops and Red Light District.
A good friend of mine lived in Amsterdam for a couple of years, which gave me the excuse to visit regularly—including on national holidays like King’s Day, when the city erupts into orange and locals take to the streets to celebrate Dutch-style. Whether you want to cycle serenely around the canal network, browse vintage markets in trendy north Amsterdam, or delve into the city’s world-famous art scene, this itinerary will help you make the most of the Netherlands’ capital.
Always carry an umbrella and be prepared to stop for a stroopwafel to avoid an unexpected downpour.
If you only have time for one thing, make it a canal cruise, which reveals the majority of the city in one fell swoop.
Spend your first morning letting yourself get happily lost as you explore the Amsterdam Canal Ring. Opt to walk on the banks of the Amstel, discovering the Red Light District and (Skinny Bridge (Magere Brug)](https://www.viator.com/Amsterdam-attractions/Magere-Brug/overview/d525-a18372#overview), or join a boat tour to cover more sights in less time.
After enjoying some Dutch pancakes—a staple breakfast choice—spend the morning exploring Jordaan. Crane your neck to see the splintering spire of Western Church (Westerkerk), then duck down a side street and into Electric Ladyland, the world’s first museum of fluorescent lights. Learn more about the city’s turbulent heritage during a visit to the Anne Frank House; book your ticket in advance to beat the lines and ensure your entry.
This afternoon, hop aboard the free F3 ferry (which departs from Amsterdam Central Station) to Amsterdam Noord, an industrial district that attracts artists and hipsters. Explore former shipyards now filled with quirky cafés, flea markets, and bohemian bars, then enjoy panoramic views—and a thrilling swing ride—from the A'DAM Lookout.
Escape the city this morning to experience quintessential Dutch culture in Zaanse Schans, home to windmills, quaint wooden houses, and tulip-filled meadows (in the spring). Sample local produce such as Edam cheese and chocolate and learn how to make clogs.
Spend your final evening enjoying the contrastingly high energy of Amsterdam’s world-famous nightlife. Kick off in the Red Light District before filling up on bitterballen (Dutch meatballs) and sampling locally-brewed craft beer at Brouwerij de Prael, a secluded brewery just off the busy strip.