How to spend 2 days in Amsterdam

If you’re spending 2 days in Amsterdam as part of a ferry tour, or you’re taking a weekend trip to Amsterdam, we have highlighted a list of things to see and do in Holland’s great capital city.

Amsterdam Central train Station, Holland
A great place for a short break
If you’re backpacking Amsterdam, or on a tight budget, you will probably find ‘the Dam’ to be one of the most expensive cities in the world. Amsterdam is compact enough to explore a great deal in a fewer amount of days. There is something for everyone in Amsterdam.

In order to understand the geography of Amsterdam, it is best to look at the city from above.
Aerial view of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Image Credit: Theodysseyonline
The river Amstel ends in the city center and connects to more than 100km (or 60 miles) of canals. Amsterdam is about 2 meters (6.6 feet) below sea level.
2 days in Amsterdam Boat on Amsterdam Canal, Holland
2 meters below sea level
The city is divided into ‘rings’, which makes navigating via a map quite simple. Like Venice in Italy, the city is made up of a vast amount of islands (around 90) that are linked by over 1,200 bridges.
Canal in Amsterdam, Holland
Around 90 islands make up the city

The best things to do in the city can be done if you are spending 2 days in Amsterdam:

Go on a walking tour

We partnered up with SANDEMANs NEW Amsterdam, Free Walking Tour who took us on an incredible adventure across the city. The free walking tour starts in the central point of Amsterdam at Dam Square, where the Royal Palace can be seen.

Dam Square, Amsterdam, Holland
Dam Square
The first tips given to us by our free walking tour guide focused on the cycling culture of the city. Almost every citizen of Amsterdam owns a bike of some sort, mostly push bikes. Bikes are seen unchained across the city which has led to the development of a trusting culture. Do not move the bikes, and respect that cyclists have right of way in the many cycle lanes.
Statue and bikes in Dam Square, Amsterdam
Unlocked bikes
The free walking tour took us to the famous Red Light District and the Old Church where we were told the story of how the ‘women in the windows’ began.
The Old Church (Oude Kerk) and the surrounding square, (Oudekerksplein), is where the Red Light District started. Women can be seen offering their services from behind windows in an array of waterfront lanes and alley ways around the area.

The cobbled flooring outside the Old Church features a bronze relief of a hand caressing a breast that was set in the cobblestone at night by an anonymous artist.

Boob statue in pavement, Amsterdam, Holland
Boob statue near the Old Church
The free walking tour finishes close to the Ann Frank House. The story of Ann Frank is truly fascinating. In brief, Ann Frank was a Jewish girl who fled Germany with her family in order to escape the rising Nazi regime around the time of World War 2. When Hitler’s army invaded the Netherlands, Ann Frank and her family went into hiding in a secret annex at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam, now known as the Ann Frank House. Ann wrote diaries for two years as she hid from the Nazi regime as she stayed in the house. Ann and her family were eventually caught and deported to the Nazi concentration camps. Nobody survived except for Ann’s father, Otto, who later returned to the house. The house Ann Frank and her family lived in is now a biographical museum dedicated her diaries.
Ann Frank house, Amsterdam, Holland
Ann Frank’s house

Across the canal from Ann Frank’s House, you can find the widest Bridge and the smallest house in Amsterdam.
Other highlights of the tour include The Homomonument, Masterpieces of Dutch art, the world’s first Stock Exchange, leaning buildings and gable stones and the Jewish Quarter.
Big church in Amsterdam, Holland
Lots of interesting buildings

Find the Big Clog and The Iamsterdam sign

Two of the most quintessential photographs of Amsterdam include sitting in a big yellow clog shoe, which is located at the edge of Dam Square outside Dam Square Souvenirs

Giant clog, Amsterdam, Holland
The giant clog
and standing, sitting or lying within the letters of the ‘Iamsterdam’ sign. We found the sign by Vondelpark but it moves around periodically. Check the Iamsterdam website for the Iamsterdam sign’s current location.
I amsterdam sign, Amsterdam, Holland
Iamsterdam sign
There is also a smaller sign in Schiphol airport and one of the locations recently set up outside the Hermitage.
I amsterdam sign, Hermitage, Holland
Find the sign as it moves across the city

Coffee Shops and the Munchies

We are not in any way encouraging the use of mind altering offerings in Amsterdam, it is interesting to see this magnificent city for everything that makes it so unique. You only have to walk down the street or visit a souvenir shop to see soft drugs available for purchase. People often wonder what the legislation on drugs in Amsterdam really is. It’s quite simple. The Netherlands Police have a special tolerance policy on soft drugs that work with the following laws:

  • Possession of drugs is punishable, With a maximum of 5 grams of cannabis (weed, marijuana or hash), the police will seize the drugs, and if you give them up, you will not be prosecuted.
  • If you have more than 5 grams of soft drugs in your possession, you will be fined and risk a prison sentence
  • You must be 18 years old or over to buy drugs
  • Growing weed at home is illegal, however if you have 5 plants or less you can give them up and you will generally not be prosecuted
  • Hard drugs are not allowed (Ecstasy, heroin, cocaine, etc)
  • Import and export of drugs is illegal (don’t take the drugs in any format back home).
  • You cannot smoke drugs in public, it should only be consumed in the Coffee Shops
  • Legislation is subject to change, always check with local law resources before consuming drugs in Amsterdam. We accept no liability for the information above.

    Coffee shop, Amsterdam, Holland
    One of many Coffee Shops
    Amsterdam’s ‘Coffee Shops’ should not be confused with regular cafés. ‘Coffee Shops’ are establishments that use a grey area within the law to sell soft drugs to consumers. Coffee Shops have been around since the 1970s in Amsterdam, after the Dutch government legally defined ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ drugs.

    Amsterdam’s City Council have agreed with the Coffee Shops in the city that they can only operate with the provision of set, non-transferable licences which is shown by the display of an official, green and white sticker in the window.

    Coffee Shop Smokey, Amsterdam, Holland
    Green and white stickers in the window
    The High Times Cannabis Cup takes place every November during the week of thanksgiving, and this is considered to be the busiest week for the Coffee Shops where organised Coffee Shop Crawl tours are offered to locals and tourists.
    Amsterdam’s Coffee Shops are not allowed to advertise nor are they allowed to sell alcohol. The legal age to visit a Coffee Shop in Amsterdam is 18, and you must have a valid ID. Most Coffee Shops have a menu listing the drugs they are offering, and in what format.
    You will find cannabis by the weight, pre-rolled joints and space cakes in many forms (cupcakes, chocolate brownies, etc).
    The menu will also give an indication of the strength of the drug, always ask the staff if you are not sure on what to purchase.
    Coffee shop, Amsterdam, seeds, Holland
    Drug menus available

    After exploring the city for 2 days, we finally hit the nail on the head as to why there were so many deliciously enticing food shops on every street corner.
    2 days in Amsterdam Munchie shops, Amsterdam, Holland
    Muchie shops
    There are many bakeries with glass displays offering tempting cakes, pies, pizza and chocolate waffles. These eateries are known as the ‘Munchie shops’.

    When taking cannabis, whether it be via a joint or a space cake, the active ingredient THC (or Tetrahydrocannabinol) is said to trigger hunger, which is informally known as ‘the munchies’. Studies have shown that the chemical heightens taste and smell which makes food a lot more appealing when one is ‘stoned’.

    2 days in Amsterdam Bulldog space cakes, Amsterdam, Holland
    Chocolate space cakes
    The business people of Amsterdam have capitalized on the millions of visitors who arrive to take the drug every year and tempt them into their stores with their items that often have no prices on them.
    Munchies shops, Amsterdam, Holland
    Priceless Munchie items
    We first saw the new hot food vending machines in Amsterdam, offering burgers, croquettes and sweet treats to those who wish to access them quickly and with minimal human interaction.
    Munchies vending machine, Amsterdam, Holland
    Hot food vending machines

    Visit a museum

    The museums in Amsterdam and generally small and we managed to explore the Sex Museum in less than an hour, which was an interesting experience. The museum has historical artifacts including old chastity belts, and a room full of pictures of people embracing in sexual encounters and some inter-species relations!

    The Cannabis College is a non-profit information center and can be found at the heart of the Red Light District. The College opened in 1998 and features displays how cannabis and industrial hemp are used. Visitors can also learn the history of human interaction with the plant including everything from hemp building materials to medicinal Cannabis.

    Cannabis college, Amsterdam, Holland
    The Cannabis College

    The Hash Marijuana and Hemp Museum is popular with tourists and an estimated 2 million people have passed through the exhibitions since the museum opened in 1985. The museum hosts a cannabis garden, pipe collections, and a 1836 Dutch Bible made entirely of hemp.
    Hash and hemp museum, Amsterdam, Holland
    The popular Hash and Hemp Museum

    The Amsterdam Museum offers insights into the history of Amsterdam and it is located in an old orphanage. Exhibits and displays in the Amsterdam Museum include paintings, archaeological findings, photographs, a Witkar (environment-friendly vehicle from the 1960s) and a replica of Café ‘t Mandje (a famous pub in the Red-light district where prostitutes, pimps, seamen and lesbians socially united).

    Amsterdam museum, Holland
    The Amsterdam Museum

    The Heineken Experience

    One of the most famous beers in the world came from Holland and Amsterdam is home to the first ever Heineken brewery. Though the brewery is no longer active, it has been transformed into an interactive tour for those wishing to learn the history of the popular beer.

    Heineken brewing tanks, Amsterdam, Holland
    Old brewing tanks in the oldest Heineken Brewery

    The Heineken brewery was established in 1864 and became one of the three largest beer producers in the world. Throughout its history, Heineken was run as a large family company, owned by Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken as the biggest stockholder.

    Heineken Brewery, Amsterdam, Holland
    Established in 1864

    The brewery was officially renamed ‘Amsterdam Heineken Experience’ after the addition of attractions such as interactive pint pulling and next generation TV chairs.

    Heineken TV chairs, Amsterdam Holland
    Interactive experiences

    Throughout the self-guided tour, visitors can admire the architecture of the 19th Century brewery building and original furnishings as well as historical photographs and artifacts. We were surprised to learn that the emblem on the Heineken cans and bottles came from a gold medal the Heineken family received from the The Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1889.

    Heineken experience, Amsterdam, Holland
    Self guided tour

    Adult tickets (over 18) include tokens for two glasses of Heineken, which are given to visitors at the bar near the end of the tour.
    Nicola in Heineken experience, Amsterdam, Holland
    Free beer with every ticket, age permitting!

    The admission ticket includes a 15-minute shuttle boat ride to the Heineken Brand Store near Rembrandtplein. We were taken on a short and scenic tour down one of the many Amsterdam canals.

    Heineken experience, Amsterdam, Holland
    Free boat trip with every ticket!
    If you tell them it’s your birthday, or a special occasion, they may give you an extra beer or two!
    Outside the Heineken brewery, Amsterdam, Holland
    One of our favorite Amsterdam experiences
    Buy tickets for the Heineken Experience

    Enjoy Vondelpark

    Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s 120 acre urban retreat, and although there are many other grassy areas to rest in the city, there’s something special about Vondelpark. The park is named after 17th-century playwright and poet Joost van den Vondel. Every year, the park has around 10 million visitors and features include an open-air theater and a playground.

    Vondlepark, Amsterdam, Holland
    A beautiful urban retreat
    The Vondelpark received the status of a state monument back in 1996 and it is very popular in the summer. An undocumented characteristic of the park is the recreational drug usage. As we rested at Vondelpark in the summer, we heard consistent sounds of balloons being inflated and immediately deflated. Everywhere we looked, groups of people were inhaling laughing gas, smoking joints and drinking beers. True to Amsterdam’s culture, everybody was relaxed and easy going. The park has true character and beautiful scenery and wildlife making it a perfect urban escape.
    Bird in Vondlepark, Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Beautiful wildlife at Vondelpark

    Statues of musicians at the Jordaan

    The area of Jordaan in the center of the city was once a poverty-stricken neighborhood that is now home to tributes of famous musicians at the Elandsgracht. Amsterdam is one of the most sung about cities in the world, and the Jordaan vibrato was one of the most popular genres in the Netherlands.

    Music statues, Amsterdam, Holland
    Once a poor neighborhood famous for its singing
    The songs that came from Jordaan were mainly about love, poverty, drink and drugs with an edge of social injustice. Singing took place primarily on the streets or in pubs and famous singers Johnny Jordaan and Tante Leen are honored in the area. These quirky statues are definitely worth stopping by to see. The Elandsgracht is a walk of less than 5 minutes from Central Station or Dam Square.
    Music park, Amsterdam, Holland
    Close to Dam Square and Central Station

    See a gig at the Ziggo Dome

    See this spectacular 17,000 seat arena and enjoy plenty of surrounding eateries and bars as well as the Amsterdam Arena (home of the soccer team), and the Art district.

    Amsterdam concert arena, Holland
    The colorful Ziggo Dome area
    The Ziggo Dome is the biggest entertainment venue in Amsterdam and the Netherlands since its opening in June 2012. There is a brilliant night club outside of the area that plays dance music until the early hours, true to Amsterdam’s party lifestyle.
    Nicola in Amsterdam, Holland
    Experience a dutch concert

    Check out the Ziggo Dome Event List.
    Amsterdamned cafe, Holland

    If you would like to know more about Amsterdam or Holland, we recommend the following books:

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      1. We sure did, thanks so much for reading our post, let us know if you have any great local tips we can share with our readers!

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