Europe / Holland / travel

36 hours in Amsterdam: The perfect short weekend itinerary

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Over the past year, Holland has become like a second home to me. I have visited frequently to different areas and each time I have fallen harder for Dutch culture. I love the people, the buildings and just the general atmosphere.

Over the past year, I have been lucky enough to visit The Hague, Rotterdam, Den Bosch and Utrecht, each time flying into Amsterdam Schipol as it the cheapest access point from London. In turn, this has meant I have always added on an extra 24 – 36 hours in Amsterdam at the end of my trip, just to revisit and get to know it a bit better. 36 hours is a great amount of time to spend in Amsterdam if you have visited before, however, if it is your first visit then I suggest a full weekend in Amsterdam to get a real chance to see the city.

Remember, it is now possible to get the Eurostar direct from London’s Kings Cross to Amsterdam Centraal, it is longer than flying (3 hours 41 minutes) however you are taken directly to the centre of Amsterdam and on occasion, you can get some really good deals.

Check here to find the best Eurostar prices from London to Amsterdam. 

Read before you fly: 51 interesting and fun facts about The Netherlands and top fiction books set in Amsterdam 

Seeing amsterdam by boat is a great way to see the city on a weekend break

How to spend 36 hours in Amsterdam

Where to stay in Amsterdam

Deciding where to stay in Amsterdam, like most cities, is really going to depend on your travel style. I always tend to go for moderate hotels, as I now feel I am past staying in hostels but at the same time I do not want to pay out for a luxury hotel if I will not be spending too much time there. My go-to place to stay in Amsterdam is any of the Ibis hotels as they are fairly priced and have all the facilities I need.

If you are looking for a good hostel, I would point you in the direction of the StayOkay brand as I have heard nothing but good things about them. There are three in the city, two which are more centrally located and one which is closer to Vondelpark, if you are looking for somewhere in a quieter part of the city. Alternatively, if you are looking for luxury while staying in Amsterdam I would recommend The Hoxton or the Sir Adam Hotel.

Amsterdam is a moderately sized city but it is well connected and easy to get around. Therefore you will not need to worry too much about the location of your accommodation in terms of what you want to see. Most people tend to opt to stay in the De Wallen or Centraal areas as they are closest to all of the attractions, I personally prefer the Jordaan or De Pijp neighbourhoods as they are quieter.

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The best way to get around Amsterdam

If you are able, Amsterdam is a great city to walk, it is not overly large and it is fairly easy to navigate. I have personally always felt safe walking around the different neighbourhoods in Amsterdam throughout the day and evening.

If you prefer, the city is well connected via trams and you can purchase a travel ticket (1 – 3 days) which allows unlimited travel on the tram, bus, metro, ferry as well as the Airport Express. You can purchase these online prior to your visit or at various places in the city, including Amsterdam Schipol and Centraal.

There are also multiple places throughout the city where you can hire bikes (most hotels will offer a rental service). Amsterdam is a lot busier than other Dutch cities for bike riding and while there are dedicated bike lanes on the roads, I would only recommend city riding for more confident bike riders.

For the benefit of this 36-hour Amsterdam itinerary, I will plan it as if you were spending a short weekend in Amsterdam. Arriving Friday late afternoon and leaving early afternoon Sunday. However, everything in this itinerary is interchangeable across different days.

Friday evening in Amsterdam

After checking into your hotel or hostel, it will be time to go for dinner and drinks. If you are able, in Amsterdam I will always recommend walking to your destinations, the canals are beautiful to walk alongside and I always feel perfectly safe in the city. I would personally avoid walking through the Red Light District on a Friday evening as it will be full of loud stag-dos and generally very noisy, and not a fair representation of the Dutch city.

For dinner head to the Ellis Gourmet Burger, there are multiple throughout the city but there is a one in Jordaan just past the Anne Frank Huis which has an outside eating area by one of the canals. If burgers are not for you, then I also recommend the Little Thai Prince in the De Wallen area.

After dinner head for drinks at Tapzuid in the De Pijp neighbourhood which serves over 25 locally brewed craft beers. De Pijp is a great area to have drinks in the evening, it is away from the main tourist area meaning it will be slightly cheaper but most importantly it has a lot more local feel.

If you are looking for further things to do, I have a post on the best things to do in Amsterdam at night.

Saturday morning

Get up early and head for breakfast at De Pluk for a healthy breakfast bowl or pancakes, there always seems to be a queue so I would recommend arriving early. Alternatively, if you are looking for something a bit different then hop on board G’s brunch boat for a boozy breakfast along the canals (the brunch boat only runs on a weekend). The boat sails for 1.5 hours and will be a great choice if you were planning on doing a canal tour.

After breakfast join a walking/bike tour of some form. Guided tours with a local are the best way to see any city in a short amount of time, you will learn more and it is a great chance to talk to a local and ask for recommendations on their favourite things to do in the city as well. Depending on your interests there are many types of tours to join in Amsterdam:

2-Hour Saturday Street Art Bike Tour
3-Hour Guided Bike Tour of Historical Amsterdam
Amsterdam Free Walking Tour

Alternatively, you can go take your own guided walk through the most Instagrammable places in Amsterdam.

Saturday afternoon

buying a stroopwafel is a must on a city break to amsterdam

Van Wonderen Stroopwafels


After this, I recommend either visiting The Anne Frank Huis or The Heineken Factory, both completely different of course but I do recommend both places out of all the tourist attractions in Amsterdam. Both get extremely busy therefore it is important to book your tickets in advance.

With regards to purchasing your tickets to the Anne Frank House, 80% of the tickets for your chosen date will be released two months before the date, the remaining 20% will be released on the website on the day. You cannot buy tickets at the museum on the day, you must purchase your tickets online

Depending on which attraction you opt to visit, you will have a few hours left in the early evening. The Heineken Factory/Experience is close to Vondelpark which is a great green area in the city to spend some time if the weather is bright.

If you choose to visit the Anne Frank House, spend some time after wandering around Jordaan, here you will find the canals with the bright colourful flowers lining the bridges making it a great area to photograph. In this area, you will also find the Amsterdam Tulip Museum alongside the museum is a shop where you can buy various tulip bulbs to plant at home.

Visiting Amsterdam on your own? Here is everything you need to know about solo travel in Amsterdam.

Jordaan is a fantastic place to get photos of the canals during your 36 hours in Amsterdam

Flowers alongside the Canals in Jordaan

Saturday evening

After freshening up at your hotel head for dinner and drinks at the Foodhallen. Foodhallen in De Hallen is a large indoor food hall with over 20 different stalls, varying from Michelin star concepts to international street foods.

Due to the stall aspect, you can purchase food and drinks in different places, then sit at the tables in the middle, this is a particularly good option if you are visiting as part of a group. After dinner stay inside the Foodhallen for drinks at the G & T bar and Wine bar.

How to get to Foodhallen from Amsterdam Centraal

To reach Foodhallen you can either walk from the city centre (about 15-20 mins) or take tram 17 from Central Station or tram 7 from Leidseplein to the “Ten Katestraat” stop.

Sunday morning in Amsterdam

Start the day right by heading to Bakers and Roasters for breakfast. They serve a wide variety of breakfast from healthy fry-ups, pancakes and my favourite the Huevos Rancheros – crispy tortilla topped with organic Brazilian black beans, melted cheese, two fried organic free-range eggs, avocado, fresh tomato salsa, jalapeños and sour cream.

After breakfast head to the Amsterdam Lookout for a panoramic view above the city. I have added this in at Sunday morning as it will be one of the quietest times to visit. Located in Buiksloterweg, the A’DAM Lookout Tower features a 360º Sky Deck and a 360º indoor panorama deck, 20 stories off the ground. This also where you will find the Amsterdam Swing ‘ Over the Edge’ where thrillseekers will swing 100 meters high, back and forth over the edge of the tower with Amsterdam below their feet. The Amsterdam Swing costs an additional €5 on top of your entrance fee into the tower.

After spending some time here, it will be time to head home. If you are travelling via Eurostar you will need just need to make your way back to Amsterdam Centraal station, however, if you are flying ensure you leave enough time to take the train back to Schipol Airport (Takes around twenty-five minutes by train).

If you can, I really recommend combining your short break to Amsterdam with another Dutch city to really get a feel for Holland. Holland is well connected by train travel and easy to navigate meaning travel between cities is simple. Potential combined Dutch city break ideas include:

Two days in Utrecht 
The Hague
A weekend in Rotterdam 

By spending 36 hours in Amsterdam you will start to get a real feel for the city which will hopefully leave you wanting to come back. As Amsterdam is quite an outdoors city, I much prefer visiting in the spring and summer seasons over winter, therefore, would recommend your first visit is during a warmer season. Amsterdam often gets a reputation of being a seedy place for legal highs, and if you want that you can find that, but away from this is a welcoming, elegant, pretty city with even more welcoming people.

You may also find this post useful: How much money do you need for a weekend in Amsterdam?

Use this ’36 hours in Amsterdam’ map during your visit to find all the places mentioned in this post:

a complete guide of how to spend a short weekend in Amsterdam, including where to stay, where to eat and what to do in Amsterdam.


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1 Comment

  • Connected Horizons
    September 18, 2018 at 5:06 am

    Loved amsterdam all the times I’ve been there! Great post about what to do there Sam, you should add the Van Gogh Museum to this list! It’s a really wonderful stop for those who like art!

    Marta & Max |


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