An irresistible combination of charm and grit, Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most attractive cities. Picturesque canals, historic townhouses, and cobbled streets set the stage for an atmospheric escape. And there are hidden gems waiting to be uncovered around every quaint corner.
We’d be remiss not to mention the more debaucherous elements – boisterous bars, “coffee shops” (marijuana is legal), and the Red Light District – but that’s just a small piece of the fascinating puzzle. Amsterdam also has a slew of world-class museums, chic boutiques, and an incredible dining scene. Plus, art galleries and craft breweries are giving previously abandoned buildings a new lease on life.
You could easily spend a week or more exploring Amsterdam. That said, frequent direct flights from the U.S. and competitive fares, plus the ease of getting around once you land, make the Dutch capital the perfect escape for a long weekend.
Read on for some of the top things to do and see if you’ve got 72 hours in Amsterdam.
1. Van Gogh Museum
A guaranteed highlight of any trip to Amsterdam, the Van Gogh Museum welcomes 1.9 million each year. Pro tip: be sure to book tickets in advance online or miss out admiring the world’s largest collection of works by the brilliant and tortured Dutch artist.
2. Canal Cruise
The ultimate way to admire Amsterdam? Cruising the canals. You can’t beat the experience of floating through the city aboard the Pulitzer’s classic salon boat, which dates back to 1909 and has hosted famous figures such as Winston Churchill.
3. Restaurant De Kas
Situated inside an airy greenhouse in Frankendael Park, Restaurant De Kas takes the farm-to-fork concept up a notch. The daily changing tasting menu – there are no à la carte options – spotlights organic, seasonal ingredients (herbs, vegetables, and fruit) sustainably grown in their own fields as well as locally sourced fish and meat.
4. Pulitzer’s Bar
Pulitzer’s Bar mixes up classic and signature tipples in a sophisticated, dimly lit space that’s reminiscent of an old-school drinking den. Dapperly dressed bartenders add to the elegant ambiance.
5. Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House gives patrons the chance to learn what life was like for Anne Frank during WWII, hear excerpts from her diary, and step inside the Secret Annex where her family and other Dutch Jews hid from the Nazis. Because it’s such an important and popular attraction, advanced booking is a must.
6. De Kaaskamer
There’s no shortage of places to buy kaas (the Dutch word for cheese) in Amsterdam. With an unwavering commitment to craftsmanship and tradition, De Kaaskamer, whose name translates to The Cheese Room, stands out from the touristy retailers. The compact shop is piled high with more than 350 kinds of local and foreign cheeses. Do they have Boerenkaas (a cheese made from raw milk)? You bet. Absolutely. Brie? Bien sûr!
7. Wynand Fockink
Want to imbibe like the locals? Head to Wynand Fockink. Discover the history of genever (a Dutch spirit similar to gin), tour the 340-year-old distillery, and sip antique bottles in Amsterdam’s oldest tasting room.
Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from sightseeing and just do nothing for an hour. When in Amsterdam, we allocate our downtime to Vondelpark, the city’s largest park.
8. The Hoxton, Amsterdam
With its prime perch on the Herengracht canal and character-rich rooms, The Hoxton, Amsterdam is a great spot to spend the night. Even if you’re not staying over, go grab a martini at the lively bar, snap a few fun pictures in the retro photo booth or swing by for disco brunch on Sunday.
A welcome addition to the burgeoning Oud-West neighborhood, Foodhallen is a former tram depot-turned-indoor market with a wide range of tasty offerings. Stop by to savor everything from bitterballen (Dutch croquettes) to Vietnamese banh mi. Thirsty? Sample local craft beer, wine as well as gin and tonic.
Browse an impressive collection of works by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn and Johannes Vermeer alongside treasures from the Middle Ages at the Rijksmuseum, which showcases Dutch art and history.
11. De 9 Straatjes
Amsterdam isn’t lacking in shopping opportunities. We especially love De 9 Straatjes. Better known as “The Nine Streets,” this photogenic canal-laced area houses many vintage stores, designer boutiques, and home goods shops, plus gezellig (meaning “cozy”) cafes for when you need to recharge in between purchases.
12. Door 74
It’s easy to walk past Door 74 without even realizing it. In fact, most people do just that because this reservation-only, prohibition-style speakeasy is hidden behind what appears to be a vacant storefront. The insanely inventive cocktails and cool vibe are worth the extra effort to locate.