A few years ago, one of my travel buddies and I took a week-long trip to Amsterdam in April. It was peak Tulip season, and I cannot recommend it enough. Below is the itinerary we created, which ended up being pretty epic (if I do say so myself).
Day 1: Arrive in Amsterdam
- Take train from airport to Amsterdam Centraal Station
- The easiest (and likely cheapest) way to get from the airport to Amsterdam proper is to take the train. You can ride it all the way to Amsterdam Centraal station, which is right in the middle of the downtown hustle and bustle. You can easily grab a taxi or walk to your accommodations from Centraal.
- Our Lord in the Attic
- We arrived later in the day, so we didn’t want to bog ourselves down too much. Our Lord in the Attic is a catholic church that was set up in the attic of a massive house during the protestant reformation. It’s definitely worth a stop, but won’t take super long.
- Highly recommend picking up a Museumkaart at Our Lord in the Attic. The Museumkaart is essentially an entry ticket to all the major attractions in Amsterdam
- My Travel Lord and Savior Rick Steves has a walking tour of the Red Light District in his Amsterdam guide book. If you’re curious about the area, but don’t want to get too… involved, this is a great option for you. As always, Rick provides history, context, and very good directions about where you’re going.
Day 2: Anne Frank House and Canal Tour
- Anne Frank House
- You need timed entry tickets to visit the Anne Frank house, and you need to get them FAR in advance. If you’re looking at this and contemplating a trip to Amsterdam, go to the website now and see when the listed tickets are for.
- After taking in the Anne Frank House, I recommend walking to nearby Winkel 43 for a big slice of authentic Dutch apple pie to decompress
- If you want to learn more about the Dutch response to WWII, check out the Dutch Resistance Museum
- Entry is included in the Museumkaart (otherwise €10)
- A Canal Tour is an absolute must on your visit. There are tons of options, depending on what you’re looking for – there are large, traditional river boats that can fit large tour groups, or there are covered boats in case the weather is wet. We went with Those Dam Boat Guys Canal Tour, which offers a smaller, more intimate experience. (It’s also BYO refreshments, including beverages and any… herbal supplements you may have purchased from a local coffee house.)
Day 3: Get Your Art On
- Breakfast at The Avocado Show was one thing I basically insisted on. If you take a look at their website, you will see why. The millennial avocado lover in me nearly fell out with excitement.
- The Rijksmuseum is one of the world’s premier art museums. I’m not a HUGE art person (mostly because I have no idea what I’m supposed to be looking for), but I’m glad we spent some time here. I rented an audio tour and allowed it to guide me through the museum and hit the major highlights. This is a do not miss if you’re an art history buff with a taste for the Dutch Masters.
- Entry included in Museumkaart (otherwise €17,50)
- The Van Gogh Museum is right on the other side of the Museumplein, so it makes sense to do these both in the same day.
- Entry included in Museumkaart (otherwise €17)
Day 4: Countryside Bike Tour with Windmills and Cheese
- You can’t go to the Netherlands and not take a bike tour, or at least ride a bike. I’m sorry. You just can’t. And I highly recommend the Joyride Countryside Windmill/Cheese/Clog Tour.
- Recommended by my bestie Rick Steves, this tour takes you out of Amsterdam proper (which makes the biking portion less stressful). Among other highlights, you bike to one of the few remaining working windmills in the Amsterdam area, and taste fresh gouda from a farm.
- Following our morning of physical exertion, we decided to refuel at Foodhallen, a converted warehouse that now holds numerous food and drink stalls. My personal favorite stall was the Gin and Tonic Bar, which serves many variations on the classic. Make sure you stop by one of the Bitterballen stall as well to try out the traditional snack.
- Round out the day with a tiny bit more culture at Rembrandt’s House, if you’re so inclined. It’s definitely a neat look into the painter’s life.
- Entry included in Museumkaart (otherwise €12,50)
- If you’re looking for a night cap, Hiding in Plain Sight is a really cool cocktail bar not far from Rembrandt’s abode.
Day 5: Tiptoe Through the Tulips
- We have finally arrived at the main event: Tulip-palooza at the Keukenhof. The massive and absolutely breathtaking Keukenhof Gardens are only open for about 6 weeks a year. Get there during those six weeks. I have never seen anything like the floral displays, gardens, and exhibitions. Plus, they have all the tulip bulbs you could ever want to bring home with you!
- Located outside of Amsterdam, you can buy a combi-ticket from Amsterdam Centraal that includes a return bus ticket and tickets to the gardens.
- Upon returning from our floral extravaganza, we were very hungry, so we decided to try out a traditional Indonesian Rijsttafel (or rice table). There is a large influx of Indonesian food in the Netherlands thanks to a complicated history of colonialism, and the rijsttafel is essentially Indonesian tapas, where you have a bunch of tiny plates of delicacies to pair with rice. There are a ton of options, but we went with Sampurna and it was SO good.
Day 6: Pancakes, Genever, and Departure
- On our last day in Amsterdam, we decided to spend the morning brunching and doing some last minute shopping. Did you know pancakes are big in the Netherlands? We actually ate at several locations of the restaurant named “Pancakes!” several times, and I would definitely recommend it for a yummy and filling breakfast option.
- How better to follow up brunch than with liquor? Genever is a cousin of gin and a Dutch specialty. We found a little spot called Proeflokaal de Ooievaar not far from Amsterdam Centraal and had ourselves a genever tasting. Genever is definitely not as smooth as gin, in my opinion, but there are many varieties out there. Definitely worth a try if you’re looking for a fun, boozy activity.
If you’re been to Amsterdam, leave your recommendations down below!