A spellbinding city of canals, gabled houses and glorious parks, Amsterdam seems, at first glance, to have changed little since its Golden Age during the 16th and 17th centuries. But this is no museum city preserved in aspic: Amsterdam is one of the most stylish, energetic and innovative capitals in Europe. Get your culture fix at the superb museums, take a breather in the gorgeous parks, then browse through vintage markets and boutiques and hit the cafés and clubs. Our insider guide to 48 hours in Amsterdam brings you all the highlights – and all the secrets – of the gorgeous Dutch capital!
Day one: morning
There’s no better way to get your bearings in this watery city than with a canal cruise – yes, it’s touristy, but Amsterdam was built to be seen from the water. Float through the city, gazing up at the charming gabled mansions and the spectacular Renaissance churches.
Then take in some of the sights in the old centre: perhaps the Anne Frank House, where the young diarist hid out with her family, or the floating Flower Market, or the Oude Kerk, the city’s oldest church.
Day one: afternoon
Amsterdam has several outstanding museums, but the Rijksmuseum (the Dutch national museum) outshines them all. You’d need days here to see the enormous collection in its entirety, but in an afternoon you can take in the highlights, including Rembrandt’s powerful The Night Watch (1642) and Vermeer’s beautifully observed portrait The Milkmaid (1654–58). Shake off the museum fever in the Vondelpark, one of Amsterdam’s largest and loveliest green spaces, which has plenty of places to stop for a drink. In the evening, head to the Leidseplein, the epicentre of the city’s restaurant and nightlife scene.
Day two: morning
Begin the day with another of Amsterdam’s great museums: the Van Gogh Museum. (Book tickets in advance online to avoid the lengthy queues.) Afterwards head up to the trendy Jordaan neighbourhood where the traditional houses and warehouses have been converted into stylish galleries, boutiques and cafés. Browse through the street markets, which have everything from vintage clothes to organic produce, and stop off for some lunch.
Day two: afternoon
Hop on the free ferry across the IJ to hit the Noord neighbourhood, which is home to some of the city’s best contemporary architecture, along with gorgeous green spaces and little villages. Take in the amazing views – and perhaps have a go on Europe’s highest swing – from the observation deck on the A’Dam Tower, or check out the EYE Film Museum, which is set in a stunning, sculptural building on the water’s edge. Then you could mosey over to the De Ceuvel café, a hippie hangout with organic food trucks, impromptu music and DJ sessions, pop-up shops and parties for lunch.