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How to Visit Amsterdam in Three Days

While Dan’s parents visited last week, we spent three days in Amsterdam. We explored several museums, toured the city on our own and with a guide, and took a bus tour to the Alkmaar Cheesemarket & to see some windmills. I think it was a good trip and with some adjustments, it could be a great one for others.

This Amsterdam trip is best suited for adults since it includes a trip to the House of Bols and a walking tour of the Red Light District. It is pretty casual so you have plenty of time to pack in more museums if you want.

Day One

Historical Museum Entrance

Historical Museum Entrance

When you arrive in Amsterdam, be sure to drop off all your baggage at your hotel or hostel. While most won’t allow check-in before 1 or 2 pm, they will usually hold your bags for you until later. We arrived after noon, so we were able to check-in right away, but did have less time for exploring.

On the first day, it’s nice to just walk around and get to know the city. We used a Rick Steve’s book walking tour to explore the center of Amsterdam, but you can find free and cheap self-guided tours of Amsterdam both online or at the VVV.

Along your tour, you might find the Nieuwe Kerk & the Amsterdam Historical Museum. The church isn’t very interesting unless you like to visit historical churches, but it is a good place to pick up a Museumkaart (no line). Its also located on the famous Dam square where the first Amstel Dam was built. The Historical Museum, on the other hand, is very through, has English translations, and is worth a good visit. Give yourself an hour (more if you don’t have the Museumkaart) to explore before walking down to the Bloemenmarkt.

The Bloemenmarkt is a flower street market and the best place to buy tulip bulbs in Amsterdam. Most shops will close up by 5 pm, but a few will be open a bit later. After the Bloemenmarkt, enjoy the dinner of your choice.

Day Two

The Original Secret Recipe for Bols Jenever.

The Original "Secret" Recipe for Bols Jenever.

Day two is museum day. The major, public museums in Amsterdam are all clustered together on the Museumplein so it is a good idea to visit several at a time. If you want more time for each or between them, many are open late on Friday. We visited the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and House of Bols. All three were good, but for quick thoughts:
- In 2009, the Rijksmuseum is still being renovated but a significant portion is still viewable. Many exhibits include English translations.
- The Van Gogh Museum really is better if you spring for the audio guide but it can be long winded. Many exhibits include English translations.
- House of Bols requires visitors to be 18 years old and you get a cocktail & two shots of flavored Bols liquor included in your ticket. Its pretty interactive. Everything is in English as well as Dutch.

After dinner, wrap up the evening with a walking tour of the red light district. The Randy Roy’s Red Light District Tour is lead by an American woman who has been living in Amsterdam for 20 years and will run you 12,50 euros per person. It was an interesting tour, but rather awkward with the In-laws along. If this isn’t your thing try one of the museums in the evening or try visiting a café with live music.

Day Three

The cheese runners on the last day of the Alkmaar cheesemarket.

The cheese runners on the last day of the Alkmaar cheesemarket.

By day three you’ve been doing a ton of walking, so taking one of the several half-day bus tours out of the city will give your feet some time to rest and you the chance to take in some of the countryside. The Alkmaar Cheesemarket tour that we took was good (the market was smaller than I expected), but it is not available all year. You could also try a tour to Delft, a Windmill-oriented one, or (if you visit in the Spring) the Keukenhof flower show. There are several tour organizing companies in Amsterdam and you can also book some via the VVV.

After you return from your tour (bring snacks, we didn’t have time to lunch & got back around 2 pm), you can visit the Anne Frank Museum. The museum has restricted entry, so it is advisable to purchase advance tickets online through their website. Don’t try to do it through the VVV (like we did); they only have tickets available after 6 pm.

To kill time we visited the Woonboot (Houseboat) Museum. For about 3,75 euros you can tour this small private museum on an actual houseboat. It was neat, but I don’t know if I would pay for it; at least not again. They don’t take the Museumkaart, but do take the Holland Pass.

Some times during your visit, it is worth taking a canal tour. Lover’s has been recommended to me, but I haven’t tried them. Look for one with smaller boats and real tour guides to avoid getting a canned recording in six different languages.

Have you visited Amsterdam? Share your favorite attractions and activities in the comments.

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