48 HOURS IN AMSTERDAM

Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most popular city break destinations. It may not get as many visitors as Paris, Barcelona or London but it still gets a huge amount. Once you get there, it is evident how popular Amsterdam is, especially on weekends. There is a clear contrast in popularity between mid-week and weekends there. Now, I realize that a high percentage of these city-breakers come to spend 48 hours in Amsterdam, make use of the activities that are illegal at home, before heading back to the airport in a very mind-altered state. However, for those more interested in truly seeing the city that they are in, this itinerary is, in my opinion, the perfect way to spend 48 hours in Amsterdam.

ACCOMMODATION

When choosing your accommodation, I suggest getting yourself a map of the city. You will quite clearly see the canal belts spreading across the city outwards from Central Station. When that stops, around the Vondelpark and Museumplein area, you have the edge of the city center. It is inside this area that you want to stay. Right in the center of this section is the Red Light District, the bulk of bars, shops, etc. In my opinion, avoid this. Move slightly further out, closer to the museums.
Better again, stay in the Jordaan area, just to the west which is still very central but a lot quieter. This area will give you a more local experience of Amsterdam instead of the tourist filled centre. Amsterdam has as many beautiful areas as it does downright tacky and overwhelming. The Jordaan area is definitely one of the the more charming parts of the city.

DAY 1 IN AMSTERDAM

MORNING

The best way to start your time in Amsterdam is with a visit to the Anne Frank House. This is by far the most popular tourist attraction in the city and for good reason too. For those living under a rock, Anne Frank was a Jewish teenager who hid in an attic with her family to evade capture during World War II. During her time in hiding she kept a diary which was later published. Booking in advance is essential and I recommend choosing the earliest time slot available.
The Anne Frank House should take you just over an hour. If you are there for opening it should be about 10:30 AM at this point. If you are yet to have breakfast then I suggest visiting one of the two fantastic pancake restaurants nearby. Both The Pancake Bakery and Pancakes are within walking distance and serve delicious savory and sweet pancakes. As it is breakfast time, I would go for the savory option. Some ham or bacon and dutch cheese is a great way to start your first day of eating in Amsterdam.

Breakfast at Pancakes!!

After breakfast, you are in the prime location to go on a canal tour. A canal tour is a great way to see Amsterdam from a different perspective. The tours tend to be both relaxing and informative. The accompanying audio guide teaches you the history of the buildings that sit on the waterfront as well as many facts about the city. On the same street as either pancake restaurant and the Anne Frank House is Lovers. These are one of the best companies for a canal tour in Amsterdam. Each tour lasts for an hour and twenty minutes, taking you slowly through the canals.

LUNCH

Your canal tour should conclude exactly where you started. Although visually you will have seen a large area of the city so far, I recommend getting your walking shoes on. To really experience a city, you need to walk it. This can also be an opportunity to pick up some classic Dutch food along the way. Walk back past the Anne Frank House and Westenkerk, turn left, cross the three canals and turn left again. This will have you walking along the Singel canal, the inner most canal of the three. Follow that canal all the way to its conclusion, turning left onto the last bridge. On this bridge should be a little food truck called Stubbe’s Haring.
Raw Herring has long been a traditional food in the Netherlands. For just €4 you can pick yourself up a raw herring sandwich with pickles and raw onions. This might not look the most appealing and most people turn their nose up at raw fish but it is surprisingly tasty. Its soft texture is complimented by the crunch of the vegetables. It is a great and inexpensive way to dive into the culinary scene of the real locals in Amsterdam. When done, keep walking the way you are facing until you get to the first bridge, Turn left before you cross it in the direction of Winkel 43.
This famous cafe serves up a treat that might be more appetizing to the common visitor. Their apple pie is legendary, the perfect combination of sweetness from the stewed apples and savory from the crumbly, thick crust. The cafe itself is very old-school and cozy. People are squeezed in and despite the much larger menu most are here for a slice of pie and a good cup of coffee. If the weather is good, try get yourself a seat outside. The quiet setting can make for a great place to relax for a while and people watch as locals go about their daily lives.

An apple pie too good to be missed

AFTERNOON

Keeping with the late morning’s theme, walking should be the activity of choice. Winkel 43 sits right on the edge of the Jordaan district of the city. Described to me as the real Dutch area of Amsterdam, the Jordaan was once the working man’s area. Rising house prices are bringing the area into a new phase. The Jordaan is fast becoming more and more hipster with art galleries, bars and restaurants constantly popping up. What makes this area so special is how it has remained virtually untouched by tourism. Very few visitors to Amsterdam venture into these streets, making it the perfect place to lose the map, take random turns and get lost. With each street you walk, your appreciation for Amsterdam increases. Little details will catch your attention, something which is unlikely to happen in the grubby streets of central.
When you are all walked out, use your map to take you back to basically where you first started, along the Prinsengracht canal. Further along from Winkel 43 is both the Amsterdam Cheese Museum and the Tulip Museum. Both are a fun, light-hearted experience as well as an opportunity to learn about important items in Dutch everyday culture. Cheese has been produced in the Netherlands for over 600 years. The museum gives visitors the chance to learn about the production and history along with some tasting. The tulip museum is located inside a small shop. Similar to the cheese museum, you can learn about the history of tulips in the Netherlands, how they came to the country and why their popularity has blossomed.

The Amsterdam Cheese Museum

DINNER

Foodhallen is a food experience not to be missed. Set in a former train depot, Foodhallen has something for everyone. International cuisines ranging from Chinese Dim Sum to Pizza and Pasta are sold by the many individual vendors. Their is an expansive seating area as well as a couple of bars selling beer, wine and cocktails. The atmosphere is always vibrant. Locals and tourists come here, eat some really good food, have a drink and enjoy their night. The portions don’t tend to be huge so you may find yourself visiting more than one food stall throughout the evening. My personal recommendation is both The Rough Kitchen and Le Petit Gateau. A night eating and drinking in Foodhallen is the perfect way to end day one in Amsterdam.

DAY 2 IN AMSTERDAM

BREAKFAST

After spending much of day one walking the streets of Amsterdam, day two promises to be slightly different. If your accommodation does not serve breakfast or if you wish to venture out for it, go to Broodje Bert. This tiny café has a fantastic selection of salads and sandwiches that are great for the start of any day. The cold sandwiches are deconstructed with your choice of fillings coming on a plate overflowing with salad and a fresh baguette on the side. The alternative are the fresh out of the oven sandwiches. Cheese, eggs and meats are all common toppings on these delicious looking plates. The menu is quite extensive so you won’t be short of choice. A breakfast at Broodje Bert is a healthy alternative to most of the other options available across Amsterdam.

A filling and quite healthy breakfast at Broodje Bert

MORNING

Amsterdam is full of amazing museums. Most of the top museums in the city are centered around art. Use your second morning to visit the two biggest and best in the city, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. The Rijksmuseum contains paintings from artists such as Rembrandt as well as many historic items on display from Dutch colonial times. Some of the paintings on display at the Rijksmuseum are very dark and chilling. Even as a person that wouldn’t be too knowledgeable when it comes to art, I found this museum to be fascinating.

The Rijksmuseum is full of fascinating pieces of art

Van Gogh is possibly the most famous Dutch painter, especially among the younger generations. There are not many people who would fail to recognize some of his works, The Sunflowers being one of them. Van Gogh was insane by self-proclamation and this shows in many of his works. Again, even as a person not too interested in art, this museum really impressed me. During peak times, the queue can get quite long for both.
If you are keen on seeing each of these museums to their full potential, it will take more than one morning. I suggest visiting one before lunch and one after. This timescale is for the average person, those more interested in art will need considerably longer.

LUNCH

As you finish up in the museums, use this time to get some lunch from the nearby market. The largest day market in Europe, the Albert Cuyp Market is being visited by more and more tourists. Luckily to this day, it has still kept its local feel to it. The market is a glimpse into daily life in Amsterdam as many locals go about their business picking up some fresh fruit and vegetables or meats and fish. Fortunately for visitors, there is a considerable amount of food ready to be snacked on. Walk up and down the street, see which stalls are busy and then try them. Make sure you leave room for a piping hot stroopwafel from Original Stroopwafels. These were the best I had in Amsterdam.

AFTERNOON

The majority of the morning has been spent indoors, for that reason I would suggest getting back to nature in the early afternoon. Vondelpark, by far the biggest park in Amsterdam, is a great place to take some time, slow down and recuperate some energy. On a hot day, expect to see Vondelpark packed with locals basking in the sunshine. Free music and dance performances are also a regular occurrence in the open-air theatre. If the weather is really good, bring the food you bought at the market and have yourself a picnic!!

Nature is at its finest in Vondelpark

Fresh and ready to hit the city again, it is about time you make your way into central Amsterdam. The tone of the city will certainly change but this is a major part of the city that visitors must see. After all, this is the center of the city you came to visit. Walking straight from the main entrance of the park will lead you to Bloemenmarkt. The world’s only floating flower market gives visitors a chance to see the beautiful flower arrangements that the Netherlands is so famous for. Tulip bulbs are also sold to those that wish to grow their own at home.
For the rest of the afternoon, drop the map and walk the streets of Central. Dam Square, Rembrandt Square, Central Station, among this overrun area, there is some amazing architecture to find. Take a walk over to the Skinny Bridge, the smallest bridge in Amsterdam. This picturesque area is a nice place to grab a beer or a coffee, sit along the canal and watch the world go by.

DINNER

After last night’s dinner being based around international cuisine, your second meal should have more of a local feel to it. Meatballs are commonly found in most local Dutch restaurants and it is thought that Mister Meatball do some of, if not the best in the city. This tiny restaurant in central Amsterdam has just three tables so you may be in for a very worthwhile wait. They have a selection of meatballs that include chicken and spicy (not sure what meat) but the traditional beef and pork was good enough for me. They came with a side of potatoes mixed with sauerkraut and a good helping of gravy covering the whole thing. The food here is fresh, wholesome and filling, all for just €12.

A wholesome dinner at Mister Meatball

EVENING

By following this itinerary, you will have, up until this point, avoided the infamous side of Amsterdam. The side that attracts thousands of visitors each year. Whether you agree with it or not, The Red Light District is a huge part of Amsterdam, especially tourism in Amsterdam. Located in the oldest part of the city, De Wallen is a sight to behold. The girls line the streets in their small doorways waiting for customers from morning to night. After dark, the area really comes alive. The red lights reflect on the canal, making for a very picturesque and almost beautiful area. As can be expected, it regularly attracts the wrong crowd. If you feel uncomfortable, come, see and go. It would be foolish for anyone to visit Amsterdam and not see this part of the city.
Amsterdam is a city of huge contrasts. One street can be full of untouched beauty and the next, a dirty overrun tourist attraction. To truly appreciate the beauty you need to see both sides. The city has so much to offer visitors. Even those that only spend 48 hours in Amsterdam, have the time to do so much and cover a lot of ground. This itinerary is not designed to be followed minute by minute. A huge part of travelling is making your own way. However, by using this guide you will see the best that Amsterdam has to offer, you will eat really well and come away with a huge amount of satisfaction that you really made the most of the time you had there.