What to do in Amsterdam in 3 days: the best things to see and do in the Netherlands' capital city
Amsterdam will most likely exceed your expectations. If you go with an open mind, you'll definitely fall in love with the city. This guide for what to do in Amsterdam in 3 days will help you make the most of your stay!
Feb 02, 2020
I am a 24 year old from the USA, currently living and working in Australia. I love writing about my travel experiences in Europe, South America, an...
Formerly known as Holland, the Netherlands is a quaint, small, and friendly country in Europe. The country is most famous for its progressive and vibrant capital city: Amsterdam.
Amsterdam has a place on pretty much every traveler's bucket list. The scenic rows of buildings, the winding canals, the prestigious museums, the locals whizzing by on bikes, the coffee shops selling marijuana, there are so many iconic things about Amsterdam that everyone knows about before they even get there.
While you will find all of these things in Amsterdam, you'll also find so much more.
You'll find a welcoming culture that is accepting of everyone and pleasant to be a part of. You'll find narrow alleyways, bustling public squares and lots of green parks. You'll find incredible architecture and interesting markets.
Amsterdam will most likely exceed your expectations. If you go with an open mind, you'll definitely fall in love with the city.
For every traveler in Europe, Amsterdam is a must. Whether you are backpacking around the Europe on a budget or just looking for a quick weekend trip, Amsterdam is just a short flight, train ride or bus ride away.
Three days is the perfect amount of time to spend in the city. Amsterdam is quite small, so you don't have to be here for a long time to see all the best attractions. If you're wondering what to do in Amsterdam in 3 days, this is the article for you.
Here is a list of what to see in Amsterdam in 3 days. You'll also find other useful budget travel tips for visiting Amsterdam, as well as a brief overview of available Worldpackers work exchanges in Amsterdam.
If you want to spend longer than 3 days in Amsterdam, consider doing a work exchange. By signing up for Worldpackers, you can volunteer to live with locals in Amsterdam or other places in the Netherlands. In exchange for your work, which is usually around 20 hours per week, you'll get to stay for free.
Volunteering is an amazing way to experience a new culture. You'll save money, make new friends, gain valuable work experience, and learn from the locals. So if you want a real, in-depth Amsterdam experience, consider volunteering!
General travel knowledge for the Netherlands
Language: Dutch, but English is very popular
Currency: Euro (€
Government: Parliamentary Democracy
Climate: Maritime Temperate (warm summers and cold winters)
Main Religion: Christianity is the main religion, with Catholicism and Protestantism being the main denominations.
Visa Requirements: Most nationalities do not need a visa for a stay under 90 days. Double check that your nationality falls under this list, otherwise you will need to apply for a short stay visa to visit the Netherlands.
Top things to do in Amsterdam in 3 days
Here are all Amsterdam's best attractions. You can mix and match them however is convenient for you. Maybe you'd rather skip the museums and spend more time relaxing in the public parks, or maybe you're a huge architecture lover and you'd rather just stroll around taking photos.
Amsterdam has something for everyone, so pick the activities that suit your travel style and stick them into your Amsterdam 3 day itinerary.
All these activities are located within the city center, so they are all close by and easy to reach by walking, biking, or by public transport.
1. Indulge in countless cheese samples in the Cheese Museum
Cheese is a huge part of the Dutch culture. It is made, exported and consumed all over the Netherlands and is loved by locals and foreigners alike. You'll find cheese shops all over Amsterdam, but the Amsterdam Cheese Museum is the best place to visit to learn everything about cheese.
The Cheese Museum is a small building that is completely free to enter! There are shelves completely decked out in different cheeses, and they are all organized into aesthetically pleasing displays. Every interesting cheese has free samples so you can try all the crazy flavors.
Downstairs, you can learn about the cheese making process, and you can dress up in funny outfits and take a Cheese Museum photo. This is definitely a must-do in Amsterdam!
2. Visit the iconic Anne Frank house
If you ask anyone what to see in Amsterdam in 3 days, almost anyone will tell you to visit the Anne Frank House. Everyone knows the story of young Anne Frank, a Jewish German girl who hid out in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.
You can tour the house in Amsterdam where Anne hid among other Jews, and see the real story behind the tragedy of Work War II. You can see Anne's original diary, where she recorded her stories and her thoughts about what happened during the Nazi Occupation.
The Anne Frank House and Museum is open daily from 9 am to 7 pm. It costs €10,50 and you have to buy your ticket online before you go. Tickets sell out very fast, so book as far in advance as you possibly can.
3. Experience the wild nightlife
Amsterdam has a very vibrant nightlife. Treat yourself to a fun night out while traveling through the city. Most clubs play dance music that includes techno and house, so you'll get a lot of that thumping-bass, crazy-lights kind of atmosphere.
Some of the best clubs in Amsterdam are the Chin Chin Club, Club NYX, Club Church, JACK Amsterdam, Escape, The Box, Undercurrent, and AIR Amsterdam. There are tons more, but those are a few local favorites. There are also plenty of music festivals, LGBT specific clubs, and chill bars.
Just wander around at night and find the place that suits you best. But always be safe when going out in a foreign city. Stick with your friends, don't accept drinks from strangers and try not to get too intoxicated.
4. Explore the Rijksmuseum
This is probably the most famous museum in Amsterdam, so it is definitely one of the best things to do in Amsterdam in 3 days. Its magnificent, red-brick building is impossible to miss, and it showcases a wide range of Dutch culture and history.
Inside the Rijksmuseum, you can find artwork by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and other famous artists. There are also plenty of artifacts and sculptures that reveal the history of the Netherlands and other counties around the world.
You can relax in the landscaped gardens after exploring the museum, or head over to the famous I Amsterdam Sign in the back. The museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm, and costs €18 to enter.
5. Pose on the iAmsterdam Sign
Created in 2004, the iconic "iAmsterdam" sign painted in red and white letters is now a famous landmark of the city. It is located behind the Rijksmuseum on Museumplein, and tourists love to climb all over the giant letters for photos.
In this case, be a shameless tourist and get in on the fun. It is a really cool sign, and it is a symbol of Amsterdam's accepting attitude that brings people together.
6. Go to the Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum is another one of the city's most famous museums. Van Gogh is a world-renown artist whose work has earned a place on the wall at many of the world's most prestigious art museums.
At this museum, you can learn all about his life and see some of his best paintings, including "Sunflowers." It costs €19 to enter and the museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm. But the hours change depending on the season, so just confirm the opening hours before your visit.
7. Relax in a public park
Amsterdam is a very green city. There are lots of parks and gardens for chilling out during your stay so you can enjoy the natural world inside the city.
Vondelpark is probably the most famous park in the city, and it is home to a rose garden, an open air theater, a few cafes and lots of soft grass for napping and having picnics.
Other noteworthy parks in Amsterdam are Rembrandtpark, Frankendael Park, and Sarphatipark.
There are often outdoor barbecues, fountains, and biking trails in Amsterdam's Park. Oosterpark is another local favorite that hosts a yearly music festival, and Amstel Park has a beautiful art gallery inside.
8. Check out the Floating Flower Market
Located on the edge of Singel Canal is the Bloemenmarkt, also known as the Floating Flower Market.
This is an amazing place to visit in Amsterdam, and it has existed since the 1800s. On the houseboats that float in the canal, there is an enormous and fragrant flower market that is open daily from 9 am to 5:30 pm.
You can find flowers and plants of every color, shape, and size, and you can buy cool gifts here. There are a few cute souvenirs on sale in addition to the flowers, and you can also buy flower bulbs and seeds. Seeds make a great gift, as they fit easily into a suitcase and then you can plant a piece of Amsterdam at home.
9. Tour the city by bicycle
Bicycle is probably the most popular way to get around Amsterdam. Very few locals live in Amsterdam without a bike, and travelers should not miss the opportunity to ride through this bike-friendly city on two wheels.
If you plan on hitting all the best things to do in Amsterdam in 3 days, hiring a bike allows you to see even more. You'll be able to get around faster, and you'll blend in with the locals. This is a fun and enjoyable way to see the city.
You can either rent a bike to go on a guided cycle tour of the city. Bike lanes are frequent, so you don't need to worry too much about crossing paths with cars and buses. There are also plenty of parks for cycling.
10. Stroll through Chinatown
Most major cities in the world have a Chinatown, and Amsterdam is no exception. Chinatown in Amsterdam is a small district full of eastern immigrants, so you can catch a glimpse of their culture here through the landmarks and the food.
There are lots of Chinese restaurants where you can taste some authentic food, and there are also Malaysian, Thai, and Indonesian restaurants as well. The district's most famous landmark is the He Hua Temple, which is also one of the largest Chinese religious buildings in all of Europe.
11. Admire the architecture
Just walking around Amsterdam is an amazing activity because you can see all the sophisticated architecture of the city. The tall, slim brown-brick buildings with white-trim are found all over Amsterdam, and their narrow frames reflect in the glassy water of the canals.
If you are interested in architecture, visit Zevenlandenhuizen. This is a small strip of seven houses that are all designed to represent different countries. It is fascinating to see the unique styles of each house, and the countries reflected are England, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Russia, and Germany.
12. Visit the Tulip Museum
People often associate tulips with the Netherlands. Heading outside the city you can find those famous, colorful rows of Tulip fields, but inside Amsterdam, you can visit the Tulip Museum!
This cute little museum costs only €3, and it is full of unique photographs, paintings, and images of the delicate flowers. There are informational posters discussing the history and economic significance of tulips, so you can learn all about the country's favorite flower.
13. See the Red Light District
This corner of Amsterdam is very famous but is actually a very welcoming place despite the rumors.
The city takes pride in its progressive and accepting attitude, hence why marijuana and prostitution are both legal. Prostitution is only legal behind closed doors, which is why the prostitutes stand in the windows instead of out on the streets.
Other finds in the Red Light District are sex shops, strip shows, bars, clubs, and other related attractions. If you are curious, heading down here at night is a very eye-opening and interesting experience.
Even if you don't want to take part in anything, just witnessing this lively and eccentric place is something to remember.
14. Go on a canal cruise
What better way to see Amsterdam than from the water? The city is famous for its complex network of canals, so taking a riverboat cruise down a canal is absolutely one of the best things to do in Amsterdam in 3 days.
Amsterdam has 165 canals, and the area has actually been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Floating down the water and watching the city pass by above you is an amazing feeling. There are plenty of different tour companies that offer canal cruises in Amsterdam. Just do a bit of research to find the one that suits you the best.
Budget travel tips for Amsterdam
While visiting Amsterdam, walk as often as possible.
The city is very pedestrian-friendly, so you can reach most attractions on foot and there are plenty of sidewalks. Just always watch out for bike lanes. They run close to the sidewalks and it's easy to forget about all the bikers whizzing by.
It is very easy to get lost in Amsterdam while walking around. Every canal, every bridge, and row of houses start to look the same when you're lost, so always carry a map or have a navigation app on your phone.
If you plan on taking public transport often, buy an unlimited ticket and avoid paying for single journeys every time. This will save you money in the long run.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy Amsterdam for free.
Sightseeing is free, so if you're on a tight budget you can skip all the museums that cost money and just see them from the outside. Walking through the markets, the red light district, the public parks, the iAmsterdam sign, and even the Cheese Museum are free, so you can still have fun in the city without spending a fortune.
If you do plan on visiting all the museums and attractions, consider getting an iAmsterdam city card. With this card, lots of museums and attractions will be discounted or free, and you get unlimited public transport access for up to 96 hours. So you'll spend less money than if you buy tickets for all the attractions separately.
Food and drinks
Like any city, there are plenty of expensive and cheap restaurants. If you're trying to save money, stick to the cheap restaurants. Eat where the locals eat and avoid overpriced food in touristy areas.
Bakeries are great places to stop for a cheap, quick sandwich or pastry. If your accommodation has a kitchen, you can buy food at the supermarket and cook yourself, which will save you lots of money.
If you want a fun day out, try buying snacks and drinks from the store and having a picnic in the park. You're still out and about, but you're spending far less money than if you were dining out in a fancy restaurant.
The same goes for drinking. If you buy tons of cocktails out in a bar or club, you'll easily spend hundreds of euros. Buy from the store before you go out, and you'll save a lot.
Accommodation is often the biggest expense while traveling. Stay in a hostel for a much more affordable and sociable stay. Amsterdam is packed with cheap backpacker hostels that have a social vibe and cheap prices.
Other common amenities to find in a hostel are free Wifi, comfy common rooms with books, games and movies, free breakfasts, laundry services, free city maps and more. Most hostels are centrally located and even have private rooms that are still cheaper than hotel rooms.
If you are traveling with a big group, you can also consider staying in an Airbnb. You can rent out entire apartments or houses and the price is cheap if you split it with a few friends. With a larger group, Airbnb is still usually way cheaper than paying for a hotel.
Worldpackers experiences in Amsterdam
The ultimate hack for saving money while traveling is doing a work exchange. Your accommodation is completely free and you sometimes get other perks as well such as free meals, free laundry, and discounts on tours or activities.
In exchange for these benefits, you offer your host a few hours of work a day. Whether it be working in reception or housekeeping at a hostel, or gardening at an eco-village, there are plenty of ways you can help the local community.
The work is usually light and fun and your hosts will teach you everything you need to know, so you can often volunteer with no prior experience.
If you want to see other areas of the country, there are lots of other volunteer opportunities available in the Netherlands. Most of them are in hostels, as more and more backpackers are visiting the country and cheap accommodations are popping up everywhere. There are hostels in The Hague, Eindhoven, Groningen, Tilburg, Delft, and more!
At this hostel in Noordwijk, you can volunteer as a driver to transport guests back and forth between the town and Amsterdam. What better way to meet new people and get to know the country really well? You could also volunteer as a bartender, in exchange for a free bed, free meals and discounts on parties
There are so many Worldpackers experiences in the Netherlands where travelers can have an amazing, in-depth cultural experience.
So whether you want to stay for a few weeks and learn more about the culture while learning new work skills, or if you just want to hang out in Amsterdam for 3 days, you will definitely have an incredible experience in this small but charming European country!